The congregation of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, the quaint little church in Albrightsville, spent Sunday bidding a fond farewell to their pastor of four years.
The Rev. Doug Holtz is originally from northeast Illinois. He attended Augustana College and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Prior to coming to St. Paul's he taught band for 14 years in the public school system in La Cross, Wis.
This move, as lead pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Sherwood, Wis., will take him back to his Midwestern roots.
Holtz describes his four years at St. Paul's as a learning experience for both himself and his parishioners.
"When I arrived the parish was very much closed," said Holtz. "I believe that I helped the parish family to look outside the walls of the church to see what the community around them needed, to take a more universal approach."
Under Holtz the parish developed an annual clothing drive, which takes place every July; an ongoing food drive, in connection with nearby Christ Lutheran Church in Penn Forest Township; as well as providing volunteers for Carbon County Family Promise.
Holtz feels he is taking away as much as he gave.
"I now have an increased sense of myself as a leader. They were able to put up with me for four years, even when I made mistakes here and there. I am already missing these people, this family," Holtz added.
"Pastor Holtz is a mentor, teacher and friend" said church council President, Cathy Fitting.
The church will now be serviced by "supply pastors," Fitting explained, pending a decision on a new pastor by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, which oversees the evangelical Lutheran churches throughout the area.
"We just really don't know what will be the outcome, but we are looking forward to the future," said Fitting.
The celebration of Holtz's tenure at St. Paul's was topped off with a luncheon in his honor on Sunday following services. The banquet was held at the Whispering Pines catering hall at Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 1.
The parishioners provided Holtz with a monetary gift, a few speeches, a few laughs and a few tears. Holtz shared a few gifts and stories as well.
The message that Holtz wanted to leave behind was a simple one.
"Keep loving God and others and everything else will take care of itself."