Grace Lutheran pastor to retire after 18 years CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

February 01, 1993|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

The day-to-day ministry that has been a part of the Rev. Frederick Eckhardt's life for more than 40 years will come to an end Feb. 27.

After serving the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster since 1975, Pastor Eckhardt will officially retire from the pulpit to write, travel and spend time with his family.

"I have planned a lot of things for my retirement," said Mr. Eckhardt, 67, of Westminster. "My wife, Nancy, and I want to travel a bit more than we have in the past, and we want to go and visit our five children. I also plan to remain active in the ministry in one way or another."

Mr. Eckhardt came to Grace Lutheran Church after 23 years as pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Greenwich Village in New York City.

"My wife's family and my family are from this area and we both grew up here," Mr. Eckhardt said. "I went to Western Maryland College, where I received my B.A. degree in 1948, and when I got the call I knew I wanted to come back and serve at Grace Lutheran."

His interest in the ministry surfaced while he was a U.S. Navy radarman.

"I was in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II and I think what happened over there directed me into this work. I saw a lot of nightmares during that war with the Japanese," Mr. Eckhardt said.

"On-board ship I taught Sunday school and held prayer services, so when I came back in 1946, I decided that I wanted to go into the seminary."

On his return from the South Pacific, Mr. Eckhardt entered Gettysburg College where he received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1952.

His first long-term ministerial assignment took him to Manhattan, where he served the congregation of St. John's Lutheran Church.

For almost a quarter of a century, Mr. Eckhardt served the St. John's pulpit and became active in the community as a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, and the unions representing the transit police and electricians.

He also started programs to help the less fortunate in Greenwich Village.

"We had a program called Operation Eye Opener," said Mr. Eckhardt. "Greenwich Village was a mecca for runaways in the 1960s, and the kids from the church

would recover them [the runaways] and I would counsel them."

He continued to tailor his ministry to the needs of his congregation when he returned to Maryland.

Upon his arrival, Grace Lutheran Church had an active membership of some 700 people. The church now boasts 1,100 active members. In the course of 18 years, Pastor Eckhardt has made important changes to meet the needs of a diverse congregation.

"We went from two to three church services on Sunday to accommodate the people and we started our healing service, which takes place on the second Sunday of each month," Mr. Eckhardt said. "This service is a regular service which incorporates communion, and we have special prayers for those who request them."

In addition to the healing service, a contemporary service is held on the third Sunday of the month. That is a departure from formal services in which contemporary music is played and lay people assist in leading the worship.

Jim Hively of Westminster, who has served on the church council throughout Pastor Eckhardt's tenure, praises the pastor's efforts.

"He has envisioned many good things and he has allowed them to happen," Mr. Hively said.

Greg Hare, the church council president who has worked closely with Mr. Eckhardt for the last three years, noted his dedication to not only his large congregation but to shut-ins as well.

"Pastor Eckhardt has run a perpetual marathon of visits to our members and nonmembers who are hospitalized in Carroll County, Baltimore City and surrounding areas," Mr. Hare said. "He regularly carries a small portable fire and ambulance radio scanner so that he can be immediately aware of emergencies involving our members and others in the community."

Attending to his many ministries and his involvement in community organizations has kept Mr. Eckhardt stepping. He's worked with the Westminster Kiwanis Club and the Raymond I. Richardson Foundation, which operates the Bowling Brook Home for Boys, and is a founding father of Carroll Lutheran Village and an early member of the Carroll County Ethics Commission.

It is this rigorous schedule that the pastor will miss.

"I'll miss the routine, the regimen of the day," Mr. Eckhardt said. "A lot of my ministry is emergency and hospital visitations. I'll miss the people and the one-to-one personal relationships."

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