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Faith Lutheran welcomes new pastor

Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3355 MacArthur Road, Whitehall, has a new pastor - Vicar Tom Busteed.

The Allentown resident is a 2009 graduate of Lebanon Valley College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in music. He continued his education at Lancaster Theological Seminary and received a Master of Divinity in 2013. Additionally, he earned a Master of Arts in religion with a concentration in liturgical studies from Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn., in 2018.

Busteed was previously vicar at St. Matthias Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlisle from January 2019 to June 2020. He has also been a church organist at several churches since 2001. With his background in music, he also plays piano and percussion.

Within every denomination, there is a different process of how a pastor becomes the leader of a church.

“The senate serves the role of match making,” Busteed said. “My profile was given to the church, and the church’s profile was given to me, and we began an interview process.

“The first interview was with the call committee of the congregation, and the call committee recommended me to the church council. Then I interviewed with the church council, and the church council approved me to present to the congregation,” Busteed said.

After receiving a vote of more than two-thirds, Busteed accepted the call and has been working with the church since Aug. 2, when he conducted his first regular sermon.

“I’m so happy and excited to be at Faith at this moment in its history,” Busteed said. “I hope to serve it well.”

An ordination will be held 4 p.m. Oct. 4 at the church. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 100 people will be allowed to attend. The service will be livestreamed as well.

When asked how he feels coming into a new church during the coronavirus pandemic, Busteed said, “It is not the way I imagined things, but at the same time, there’s a lot of excitement and opportunity in these times. We’re basically forced to do church in a different way.

“The great thing about this congregation and what attracted me is how they’ve approached the pandemic. Some churches haven’t had worship services or done ministry since March, and this particular congregation has a very strong lay leadership. That has been a real blessing,” Busteed said.

In a lot of professions, a person goes looking for the job. Busteed said pastoring found him.

“Having worked at churches as a musician for so many years, I was part of the leadership of the congregation. Working with choir members and other people of the church, people have always approached me as a good listener and such, so I was encouraged by others to attend seminary and develop skills,” Busteed said. “Ultimately, I’ve ended up in the process because there is such a major shortage at the moment in the Lutheran church of pastors.”

Another challenge is trying to change the role of church in people’s lives.

“I think we’re, here in the 21st century, kind of faced with a new reality of church,” Busteed said. “For the most part, in the 20th century, we couldn’t enlarge our buildings fast enough to congregate all the members and kids.

“Here we are in the year 2020 when all the churches are experiencing a drop in attendance, and we’re having a harder time nationwide attracting kids and youth to congregations,” he said. “I think a challenge right now is adapting to the new context of where we are in the 21st century.”

Busteed also added the position of church and religion has altered dramatically in the past 20 or 30 years.

“You can’t make the assumption that people are just going to join a church or go anywhere on a Sunday morning because there isn’t the same social pressure as there once was,” Busteed said. “What may have worked a generation ago may or may not work today.”

With the challenges also comes many joys of being a pastor, one of which is seeing his efforts of sharing the good news of God shine through in others.

“My greatest joy [involves] watching people get excited about being at church, doing ministry and lifting up people’s gifts,” he said.

Busteed shared an example of this when he served his previous church. A woman attended the church her entire life, but it was not until Busteed came along that she realized her role. She joined the council and became excited about growing the ministries of the church.

“That’s the real joy for me - when people have that ‘aha’ moment and they realize their gifts and how they’re called to serve in God’s kingdom,” Busteed said.

For the first step in beginning his leadership, Busteed is looking forward to prayerful discernment, seeking the ways God can use the people of the church and goal setting as a congregation. In specific areas, Busteed particularly is looking forward to growing the youth and young adult ministries and working with seekers, those who have questions about church and are struggling with their faith.

Busteed also is anticipating the fellowship at the church, such as potlucks, social conversation and get-togethers.

“Food and conversation go well together,” Busteed said. “It worked for Jesus.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Vicar Tom Busteed is the new pastor of Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3355 MacArthur Road, Whitehall.