Saturday, September 1, 2012

Smoky Mountain Reflections
September 2012

            A couple of weeks ago, the Scoutmaster of Troop 119 which meets here at St. Paul Lutheran Church sent me an e-mail. He was requesting the use of our Fellowship Hall for a scouting potluck on the 12th of August.  This short notice request was unlike him.  He knows I need time to ask the Council about such things.  That should have been my first clue that something was afoot.  I decided that since we had nothing planned for the 12th, I would just let the troop have their potluck and let the Council know at the meeting on the 21st.

            On a separate occasion, Pastor Dettmer offered to do the liturgy if I was ever feeling tired.  He said later that I had a puzzled look on my face as I thanked him for the offer.  I was puzzled....did I look tired? ...I did not feel tired.  This was another clue that something was afoot.

            On August the 12th, things got even stranger.  As we were finishing up the Bible study between services, someone arrived with a pot of hot beans.  As I started to put things together, I thought I may have to apologize after the service as we may have two potlucks scheduled for the same time in the same place!!!  I was sure to come out of this with egg on my face and better break out my "I am sorry…it is all my fault speech" which I am embarrassed to say, I am very experienced at making.

            As I was puzzling over this and making the pre-service announcements, all of my worries were about to come to an end.  Our head elder, Dave Roberts, came forward and started making a speech that was making my head very big as he said all kinds of nice things about me.  Then Pastor Dettmer entered all robed up and was ready to do the service liturgy, Then Pastor Derek Roberts from Praise Lutheran Church in Maryville entered, all robed up ready to preach.  Then our head elder told me that in appreciation for my service and in recognition of the 5th anniversary of my ordination, I was welcome to have a seat in the pew next to my beautiful wife and enjoy the service as a parishioner.

             Not only was I very surprised, because they pulled this off very well and I was clueless, but now I was relieved that there was no potluck conflict following the service!  All of these things had been coordinated; there was no Boy Scout potluck.  The people I am blessed to serve decided to have a fellowship meal in gratitude for our time of service together.  All involved did a very good job of fooling me!  Thanks for the surprise.

            It has been a great pleasure to serve as your Pastor these past five years, and if it be God's will, I look forward to many more years of service in this place.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude to God for the opportunity to serve as your Pastor, and to you all for your kind cards and gifts in honor of this occasion.

            What follows is some of the information I sent to the paper to announce my ordination and it contains some interesting history.  Enjoy a brief walk down memory lane.  On 10 November 1483 Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany.  After being frightened by lightning in 1505, he vowed to become a monk and was ordained as a priest 500 (and five) years ago in 1507.  On 31 October 1517, he posted the famous 95 Theses that started the Reformation. 

            Fast forward to 3 November 1817.  On the very edge of what is now Sevier County, very close to what many of us know as the location of “Forbidden Cave”, there was a German settlement at Bird’s Crossroads.  Henry Jacob Eli and Jacob Bird acting as officers for the church, purchased an acre of land for $2.50 near Jacob Derrick’s grist mill, and on that land was a meeting house called Saint James Lutheran Church.  Very few Lutheran pastors made it to the East Tennessee frontier, so most of the German descendants start appearing on local Methodist church roles by the late 1840’s. 

            Fast forward another 100 years before another the Lutheran church would again establish itself in Sevier County.  In the late 1950’s, Our Savior Lutheran Church was started in Gatlinburg. In the 1980's, Holy Trinity (now Celebration) was established in Seymour.  Then in 1994, a small group of Lutherans started worshiping in the wedding chapel at the Holiday Inn in Pigeon Forge.  They later purchased and worshiped in a home just off McCarter Hollow Road for 5 years.  On Christmas of 1999, they celebrated Christmas in their new sanctuary at 1610 Pullen Road.  Then in July 2006, I was blessed to become part of the history of this family of believers as their Vicar.  On August the 12th, 2007, only one week after the 500th anniversary year of Martin Luther’s ordination, the first Lutheran ordination in the history of Sevier County took place at Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Sevierville, Tennessee.  This was a wonderful day in my life and I am very pleased that you all took the time to make the 5th anniversary of that event a wonderful day as well.

In Christ,
Pastor Portier  

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