Rev. George Ferch figured it was time to turn over the leadership at Bethlehem Lutheran.
“I turned 70 in March, so probably two years ago I told the congregation (about retiring),” Ferch said. “We’ve been planning ahead for this.”
Ferch, who lives in Carmel with his wife, Nannette, has been the pastor for 21 years at the Carmel church at 1481 W. Main St. Bethlehem Lutheran is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Ferch plans to retire from full-time ministry June 30. Rev. Seth Bode was installed as pastor June 3.
“We’re going to stay here and stay members of Bethlehem,” he said. “I’ll do some fill-in preaching. I’m serving a congregation in Kokomo (Peace) that doesn’t have a pastor right now, so I’ll be doing that for awhile.”
Ferch has watched Bethlehem Lutheran grow and expand. In October 2015, the congregation dedicated an expanded worship facility and remodeled its original building into classrooms for the church and its preschool.
“When we got here all they had was land, and they had probably about 50 members,” Ferch said. “We’ve been able to build two buildings, and the church has grown to about 200 people. The Lord has been good to us over those years.”
Nannette retired as the preschool director in 2017. She now works with two other women as part-time assistants in the preschool.
Ferch is helping Bode through the transition at the church, which has one service at 10:15 a.m. Sundays.
“People here are super generous,” Bode said. “(Ferch) has been great to assist with what is going on. He’s been here for 21 years and built up a good base by the grace of God. I’m trying to bring on what I have to offer, a cheerful sound and work with the gospel.”
Bode, a 2011 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, has five years of experience as parish pastor and two years as a police chaplain. He comes to Carmel from his role as lead pastor at Christ Alone Lutheran Church in Dardenne Prairie, Mo.
“I’m looking to support this church, and if I get a chance, (to support) those who serve and protect our community,” Bode said. “I’m looking for ways we can participate more in the community and reach out to see who else might be looking for comfort and consolation and looking to spread the good word of Jesus.”
Bode and wife, Ellie, live in Noblesville.