Pastor Thomas Weitzel has retired from his role as the Transition/Interim Ministry Training Lead Facilitator after almost 11 years of service. The Transition Ministry Leadership Team was formed by former Assistant to the Bishop Paul Lutze in November of 2011. That team of four pastors, which included Pastor Weitzel, brought their diverse experience in transition ministry to build a program of regular and quality training, support, accountability, collegiality, and mentoring. As the lead, Pastor Weitzel maintained interim pastor lists, convened monthly conference calls, led the training, mentored pastors, and oversaw Transition Manual updates. Pastor Weitzel stated, “It was something of a God-thing that I wound up in the position of helping to steer interim ministry and keep the Transition Manual up-to-date when I had helped to write the first version of that manual with Bishop Ed Benoway nearly a decade before.”
Pastor Gary Grindeland, who retired from 42 years of ordained ministry in 2021, has been appointed by Bishop Suárez as the new Transition/Interim Ministry Training Lead Facilitator. He is the former pastor/executive director of Seafarers International House in New York City and the former vice president of program development/church relations/state coordinator for Lutheran Disaster Response for Lutheran Social Services, Wisconsin & Upper Michigan. Pastor Grindeland has 25+ years of parish experience and has supervised 14 seminarians. “I am very excited to continue to be a part of the church. The Florida-Bahamas Synod has a vibrant program for interim work,” Grindeland commented. “Ministry is in a constant state of transition, whether it is Sunday to Sunday or from pastor to pastor. We are looking for pastors who have the energy and commitment….supply preaching or as an interim pastor.” Retired pastors…heads up.
Pastor Richard Dow is a veteran member of the Interim Ministry Team. He was ordained to ministry of Word and Sacrament in 1979 and has served parishes in Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. He graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois and Luther/Northwestern Seminary (now Luther). The author of two books, “Madame Cat” and “Lessons From A Red Convertible,” he has recently served as President of his Rotary Club, where he has continued to pursue childhood literacy efforts in conjunction with the public school system. Pastor Dow has taught public speaking and religions at a local college. Married to Melissa, they reside in St. Augustine, Florida where he serves a congregation full-time after completing almost a decade of interim ministries. They have two children and four grandsons.
Pastor Ross Worch is a new to the Interim Ministry Team. He was born and raised in central Ohio and is an Ohio State graduate. Pastor Worch served our country for 22+ years as an Army officer and then attended Trinity Seminary from 1994-98. He has served seven churches in five different synods over a period of 24 years. Pastor Worch has been married to Cheryl for 51 years and they have three adult children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He is currently serving as an interim pastor at Advent, Orange Park and Dean of the First Coast Conference. Pastor Worch is committed to interim ministry. In his words, “Interim ministry is essential for providing a smooth, effective, Holy Spirit-filled transition from one pastor to the next.”
Deacon Connie Schmucker, Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership, joined the Office of the Bishop in 2012. She serves on the Transition/Interim Ministry Team as Bishop Pedro Suárez’s representative. Deacon Schmucker guides pastors and congregational leaders through the resignation/retirement process, participates in the Transition/Interim Ministry Training and accountability, facilitates the bishop’s appointment of an interim pastor or pastoral team, accompanies congregations through the transition process, seeks pastoral candidates and engages in the interview/vetting process with Bishop Suárez and assistants, and provides oversight of the congregational meeting to call the next pastor.