St. Paul Lutheran church

Over 100 years of worship in Central Montana
By 
Miriam Campan
Reporter
Thursday, December 31, 2020
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Pastor Wiegert and his wife Kim stand in front of a beautiful stained glass window in the front of the sanctuary at St. Paul Lutheran church located at 125 C Street in Lewistown.
Photo by Miriam Campan

This article is part of the News-Argus Faith Builders series, highlighting Central Montana’s faith community, and how spiritual beliefs are helping people deal with difficult times.

Pastor Mark Wiegert, of Lewistown’s St. Paul Lutheran Church, was reluctant. In hindsight it was a natural progression of his life’s path to follow in his family’s tradition of serving Christ and the church he was raised in.
“My father and his father were pastors and I was asked if I would follow in their footsteps,” said Wiegert who originally hailed from Missoula and has resided in Lewistown for 18 years.
Initially, Wiegert considered the calling, but his marriage and family took precedence over moving to St. Louis, Missouri to attend seminary school. Years later and frustrated with an unfulfilling position, he pursued the calling. With four years of seminary training and education (mostly distance learning) he was able to continue the family tradition, first as a vicar in 2016 and then as an ordained pastor in July 2018. He now serves as pastor at Lewistown’s St. Paul Lutheran church – Missouri Synod, (a more conservative form of Lutheran theology) and at Trinity Church in Stanford and at Our Savior Lutheran in Denton.

What does it mean to be a Lutheran?
According to Wiegert to be a Lutheran means following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“Being a Lutheran doesn’t mean we are followers of Martin Luther. We follow Jesus,” said Wiegert.
In the 1500’s, Martin Luther a monk and theologian, began a reformation of the church that he believed had lost its way.
“Before the reformation [in the 1500s] the church had lost its way in the sense that there was closed access to God’s grace and a lack of access for the common people.
The churches hierarchy had more authority than scripture, the church language was Latin (a language the common people didn’t understand) and then there was the sale of indulgences. The basic message of the reformation was God’s grace is available to all through the Gospel’s message. We are justified or made right with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ,” said Wiegert.
He added, “Being Lutheran means being freed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to love and serve our neighbor. It means faithfully following Jesus in that we listen to him, we trust in him and we look to him rather than to ourselves. It’s not that He was just a good teacher for how we should live, but he’s our Savior. Lutherans believe that scripture is the inspired word of God.  We believe that salvation comes from beyond ourselves. Out of love, God sent Christ into the world to save us. We don’t have to do something to please God. First and foremost our faith rests in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.”

Technology assists with the message
The diversified congregation of St. Paul Lutheran church faced a disruption in their regularly attended Sunday services once the pandemic became present in Central Montana. For Pastor Wiegert and his wife Kim, incorporating technology helped church members stay in touch with their fellow parishioners as well as a regular connection to God’s word through the worship service.
The back of the church sanctuary resembles a recording studio with cameras and recorders. At her command post behind the equipment, Kim Wiegert manages the technology required to reach church members unable to congregate in the quaint chapel or to provide visuals to accompany the audible message provided by her husband at the pulpit.
“I use Facebook live and music with I-tunes. I do power point slides on the sermon,” said Kim.

On providing answers during a challenging time
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the trials of regular day-to-day living and answering difficult questions is one of the many responsibilities associated with being a spiritual leader.
One of Wiegert’s challenges is pastoral care, “. . . how do I apply God’s word to this person’s situation? What part of God’s word does this person need to hear?”
 With the challenges also comes the rewards, “Seeing God at work in and through the people he’s entrusted in my care,” said Wiegert.

On looking towards 2021 and an encouraging word
Wiegert describes his congregation as, “Faithful, in the sense that they value what the church family is here for. It’s important for them to be with their fellow Christians at St. Paul. It’s a priority to come together to receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.”
During the pandemic and as the year closes and a new year begins, Wiegert is aware of the many questions surrounding the pandemic and turns to Romans 8:28 (ESV) for assurance that in all things Jesus is working for our good even though we don’t always understand or know all the answers.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

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