Lutheran pastor marks a milestone of his own

EVERETT — As a pastor, he has been present to others for countless transitions in their lives.

Baptisms and preschool chapel times, marriages and ministries at elder care facilities, Pastor Jack Richards has presided over many milestones since being ordained 36 years ago.

Those aren’t always joyous times. Once, Richards said, a congregation member asked if he would be there when an elderly parent was asked to permanently give up driving.

Richards, 62, is retiring this month as pastor of Everett’s Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, where he has served since 2007. His final services as pastor at the Eastmont area church will be Sept. 22.

Before coming to Prince of Peace, Richards spent 14 years as pastor of Marysville’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church. For three previous years, he was chaplain at Bethany at Silver Lake, a senior care facility. And from 1976 to 1990, he served at Lutheran parishes in rural Minnesota and North Dakota.

“I’ve had the privilege of being in urban, rural and suburban settings,” he said Thursday.

A new pastor, Gib Botten of Fremont, Neb., will soon take over at Prince of Peace, which has a membership of about 300. The church was built in 1958, when the Eastmont neighborhood was new.

Richards isn’t about to quit serving in other ways. He is part of the Everett Police Department Chaplaincy Program, volunteering as an on-call chaplain. He plans to continue that work.

There are about six volunteer chaplains in the police program. “We’ll get called out when there’s a tragedy, at the officer’s discretion,” Richards said. “We’re there for the officers, too.”

In retirement, he will have more time for his wife, Joneen, who worked as a Spanish teacher in the Shoreline district, and for his children and grandchildren.

His transition out of full-time ministry coincides with another church milestone. Prince of Peace Preschool, part of the church complex, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Prince of Peace Preschool’s first classes were held in September 1973. There were 50 children and one teacher. By 1974, the preschool had a waiting list.

Michelle Nilsen has been Prince of Peace Preschool’s director six years. For 30 years, that job belonged to Sue Baxter. A 40th anniversary preschool open house is scheduled for Oct. 5.. Nilsen hopes to see anyone who attended over the past four decades, and former teachers.

Today, Prince of Peace Preschool has six satellites at area churches, with about 350 students in all. Other established church preschools — including Everett’s Central Lutheran and Marysville’s Bethlehem Lutheran — began as satellites of the Prince of Peace program.

Nilsen, 55, said that with today’s emphasis on academics in the early grades, preschool matters more than ever. “Kindergarten isn’t kindergarten anymore, it’s more like first grade,” she said.

At Prince of Peace Preschool, 3-year-olds “are just learning how to learn,” she said. Four-year-olds learn the alphabet, numbers, and much more.

As pastor, Richards has gotten down on the floor with 3-year-olds at chapel time. That has happened on days when he also visited a dementia unit at Bethany. It’s all part of a pastor’s life, which for Richards began when he was a lay minister in Minneapolis 40 years ago.

Raised in the Elgin-Dundee area near Chicago, Richards graduated from Augustana College, a Lutheran school in Rock Island, Ill. He went on to Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

He laughs when he recalls being “a city kid” as a young pastor in rural Minnesota. Once when he visited a farmer from his church, he found the man in a barn. Richards was pressed into duty — helping as a cow gave birth.

“Anyplace I’ve been, I’ve received much more than I’ve given,” Richards said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Milestones at

Prince of Peace

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Pastor Jack Richards is retiring. His last services as the church pastor will be at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sept. 22; those services will be followed by an 11:30 a.m. potluck reception.

Prince of Peace Preschool is celebrating its 40th anniversary. An open house is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Oct. 5 in the church’s Fellowship Hall. All students, former students and staff welcome. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church &Preschool is at 9320 Meadow Way, Everett. Information: www.pplc.org

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