After 37 years as a parish pastor, 10 of those at Ezekiel Lutheran Church in River Falls, Senior Pastor Mark Hall is ready to retire. Hall said the congregation is in a good place and it's a good time for a transition. But there was more to his decision to retire than that.
"We kind of as pastors, I think, operate with a sense of call," Hall said. "God is calling us to ... serve in a church, and I think there's a sense in which too, that the gifts I have that I brought to this congregation were for a time, and now it's time for another leader, another pastor to bring gifts that are different than mine to help the congregation."
Hall said he told the Ezekiel congregation the world minister comes from the same root as the word minstrel.
In medieval times, Hall said, a minstrel was a travelling musician or storyteller, who would go from village to village.
"And stay the length of time that was needed for that particular village," he said. When they finished what they came to do, it was time to move on.
Similarly, Hall said, serving God and God's people as a pastor is "for a time."
That time with Ezekiel, Hall said, has been a "very good" 10 years.
"I'm very, very thankful for the time that I've had here," he said.
As for what's next?
"In a way, I don't really know," Hall said. "But at least for the short term, I'm planning to do some backpacking."
Three years ago, Hall took a sabbatical and hiked a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, a national scenic trail running from New Mexico to Canada. He plans to go back and hike the Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which he said, is about 500 miles.
In the beginning
Hall's father, the late Marshall Hall, was also a pastor. That was a factor in Mark Hall becoming a pastor himself.
"My father was instrumental in that in some obvious ways," Hall said.
He said many people in his life encouraged him to really consider his calling to the ministry, including a farmer he worked for, a youth group leader, and more.
After college, he attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
Hall's first congregation was in Montana. Then he served other parishes in Minnesota and Wisconsin, coming to Ezekiel about 10 years ago.
Saying "goodbye" is one of the hardest things for Hall, he said.
"Not only having to say goodbye and leave them, but leaving that role and being their pastor," he said. "I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing after I get back from my hiking out West. I think that's one of the things I need to discern what God wants me to do next."
He said he hopes he will figure out what God wants him to do next while he's hiking.
"There's a lot of time for meditating while you're hiking," he said.
Though Hall isn't quite sure of specific plans, he said he will continue to live in River Falls for at least a while yet. His wife Naomi is a nurse at Hudson Hospital, and will continue to work for a couple years, he said.
He said people may see him out and about around River Falls.
"I won't be in the role of their pastor anymore, so it'll be a change," Hall said.
But, he's looking forward to being on friendly terms and being friends with Ezekiel members, even though he's no longer their pastor.
A farewell worship service with tributes and music was held Sunday, June 16, on Fathers Day.