Grace welcomes new interim pastor

Grace Lutheran Church welcomes Mark Brynestad as its new interim pastor, succeeding Rev. Mark Rowland, who retired July 1 after serving here 18 years. Brynestad is a second-career pastor, having recently retired from the Navy and Navy contractors.

He is now completing a master’s of divinity degree with Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., taking most of his courses on line through a distributed-learning program. His six-month term (October-March) with Grace Lutheran will serve as his internship in his degree program.

(By the way, the “e” in the middle of “Brynestad” is silent, so the name is pronounced “BRINN-stadd.”)

Brynestad is a lifelong Lutheran, born and reared in Washington state, near Tacoma. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1977 and spent most of his Navy career as a shipboard helicopter pilot. His wife, Susan, also served in the Navy.

Mark and Sue have been married 34 years and have two children, Erika and Carl, who are now out of the nest. Erika is a high-school Spanish teacher in Okinawa, while Carl is a merchant marine, working for an offshore drilling company.

For the past 18 years, Mark and Sue have lived in Sierra Vista, Ariz. (near Fort Huachuca), where Mark worked for TRW and Northrop Grumman as an aeronautical and test engineer. During that time, he became increasingly involved in the life of his congregation, Sierra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Vista.

He served the church in numerous roles and began to sense a recurrence of God’s call into ministry, which he had previously experienced in his teen years and at various times throughout his life. In discussing these feelings, he was encouraged by his pastor, many seminary interns and many members of the congregation to act upon God’s calling.

So in 2009 he embarked on his degree program with Luther Seminary. This sense of call has been affirmed through his course of studies, and now Grace Lutheran has a chance to be part of that continuing discernment process.

Mark said he is glad to serve his internship here and is looking forward to the next six months, as Grace prepares for calling a new permanent pastor. During this time the Pastoral Call Committee will continue to review and assess potential candidates for senior pastor, with the congregation finally issuing a formal call sometime in the next few months.

Mark and Sue have already arrived in Ridgecrest and are becoming acquainted with the people and life at Grace. Mark will begin preaching and presiding at services on Oct. 7. Membeers of the congregation — and the community— say they are very much looking forward to having him here at a critical time.

Mark said he senses that being able to come to Grace Lutheran, and serve as interim and intern pastor, is an answer to a prayer. And it is also a blessing that brings him new meaning to the peace that the apostle Paul refers to in the familiar salutation in his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Likewise, many people at Grace are already sensing that Mark Brynestad is an answer—and a blessing—to their prayers.

Story First Published: 2012-10-03