‘I was called to be there’

Here is one of the few articles that was published in the Herald & Tribune for this week. I went to Reverend Edward Wolff’s house last week and had a very nice interview with him. Another example of someone passionate about what they do.

Local minister says goodbye to the pulpit,  but not to  the message

Article published in the Herald & Tribune Jan. 7, 2014 issue

After helping get Cross of Grace Lutheran started in 2010, Reverend Edward Wolff is retiring. His last worship service was on Jan. 5 at the Jonesborough Area Senior Center.

“I’m going to come home and put my feet up,” Wolff said.

The idea to retire came to Wolfe, he said, because he and his wife Frankie have four children in four different parts of the country that they wanted to see more. With retirement, they are also looking forward to having the flexibility to travel and take more cruises.

Wolff said he will still do ministry, but in a different way. He wants to promote a greater sensitivity towards the environment, as well as help the poor and those in need.

“Jonesborough is a great community,” Wolff said, adding that there are some organizations that really develop that sense of community. “I would like to help that further, if possible.”

Wolff, who is originally from Chicago, left the city in 1983. He went to work for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in Birmingham, Ala.

“I was the general manager,” he said. “I made all the arrangements and it was very successful.”

Wolff was the general manager for seven years before moving to manage the symphony orchestra in Charleston, S.C., where he stayed for two years.

“I enjoyed the music, great music,” Wolff said.

Wolff said the pinnacle of his musical career was when the Alabama Symphony Orchestra was able to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for a performance and received very good reviews.

Wolff received his calling to become a pastor on March 8, 1992 while sitting in church.

“That thought came to me that I needed to enter the seminary,” Wolff said. He was 55 years old.

Wolff was ordained at 59. While he was in the seminary, he was minister at Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in South Carolina.

He eventually began traveling to the Town of Jonesborough because of the mountains and the storytelling festivals.

“I fell in love with it and came back and visited a couple of times and ended up buying a house,” Wolff said.

He continued to travel 280 miles once a week to South Carolina once he moved to Jonesborough. The traveling stopped once he took the mission pastor position at Cross of Grace Lutheran in Jonesborough. The first service was held on Jan. 3, 2010.

“I was called to be there, to help get it started,” Wolff said.

Although he was asked to be a part-time pastor, his position soon changed to full time.

The church unfortunately is struggling, Wolff said. The services are held at the Senior Center, so church members put up and take down every Sunday. One of the greatest challenges for the church since 2010 is renting a place for a permanent location where they could hold services, have Bible study groups and a place to meet people.

“We started worshiping in 2010, and in 2009 two major things happened: the economy went south and our national church voted to permit gay people to be married or live in a committed relationship,” Wolff said. “Both of them have had an effect.”

The first two years the church was doing fairly well before they plateaued.

“We welcome everybody because that’s what Christ told us to do,” Wolff said.

The number one thing that stood out to him during his five years at Cross of Grace Lutheran was the community dinners, one held in April and another in August.

“We provided a community dinner for the whole community,” Wolff said. “That has really been the highlight.”

Although the church’s principal focus was on those who could use a good meal, members did not want to have a segregated population, so they opened it to the entire public. Nearly 100 people attended both dinners, Wolff said.

Since those dinners, another church has decided to host a community dinner as well.

“It would be incredible if other churches would join in,” Wolfe said.

He remembers when the church hosted the viewing of “The Last Mountain,” a documentary about the mountaintop removal in West Virginia, at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. Wolff said they had more than 100 people in attendance to watch.

Wolff believes it is important to host events from time to time to present some major issues to the community.

On a personal note, Wolff said a highlight has been seeing some people strengthen their personal relationship with God and that one of his favorite sayings is “Jesus accepts us just the way we are and loves us too much to let us stay that way.”

With Wolff’s retirement, the search for a replacement has begun.

“There is a leadership group in Cross of Grace who will be leading the congregation in that transition stage until they figure which direction they can go,” he said.

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