As Ralph and Grace Gliege prepare to retire from almost 44 years of serving in church ministries they reflect on the joy of seeing God’s leading in their lives.
At the end of June Ralph is retiring as the director of church ministries for the Saskatchewan Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He has served in this position for 22 years. Prior to this work, he served as a pastor in four churches in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“A calling from God to ministry is essential for longevity,” says Ralph. “As we reflect on our ministry we can see how God prepared us for the task.”
Throughout the years Grace has found meaningful ways to use her gifts and interests to work alongside her husband whenever possible. “God’s keeping power has been incredible,” she says. “God has sustained us through the highs and the lows.”
Reflecting on God’s faithfulness, they see how real-life experiential learning shaped their ministry skills and personal development.
Ralph recalls Bible college had not prepared him for his first funeral—the accidental death of a toddler who was tragically run over by her grandfather’s tractor. Her mother had witnessed the accident. The funeral took place a day before her third birthday.
“We were not only supporting the girl’s mother but also her grandparents,” he recalls. “Her mom asked, ‘why did God allow this?’ You never know why God allows these difficult situations in life.”
One of the more challenging adjustments in their ministry was moving from small rural churches to a larger church where Ralph was part of a ministry team and working in an office outside the home.
Ralph and Grace draw on these personal experiences as they encourage and support pastors, their spouses and the churches they serve.
One of the memories they treasure is presenting hand-knitted toques to new pastors and their spouses. This tradition began at the 1997 annual pastor’s retreat when Erna Jantzen of Arelee, Sask., surprised a pastor by knitting a toque for him. Over the years, she has knitted 386 toques that have been presented to pastors and their wives.
Another highlight of their ministry is the spiritual growth in their lives during sabbatical leaves. During the first sabbatical Ralph memorized 1 Timothy. Since then he has also memorized Philippians and Jude.
In their retirement, Ralph and Grace look forward to investing more time in the lives of their two children and their families, people in their community and their church family in Living Hope Church.
Ralph sees his ordination as a pastor as lifelong commitment to ministry. “I’m retiring from a position, not from ministry,” he says.
He summarizes the blessings of church ministry through quoting Psalms 16:6: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
He adds: “As we recall these and many more memories, we certainly have reason to rejoice in the goodness of God. He deserves the glory and the praise.”
Gladys Terichow is the staff writer for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches|