Putting the pastor out to the pasture: Fritz Wehrenber

by Logan Roberts

Chaplain Fritz Wehrenberg announced last week that he will be retiring at the end of the academic year.

Fritz has been involved in ministry for over 38 years, having worked at several churches, the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota Minneapolis before coming to Simpson in 2009.

“I would not use the word ‘career’ to describe my time at Simpson or in any other ministry setting. For me, ministry is a following and a service,” he said. “Ministry is a gift that is given to me by the communities that I have served, it is not something that I created or accomplished.”

Many students will miss Fritz’s presence on campus, including Austin Roy, president of the Religious Life Community [RLC].

“Fritz has an amazing gift to be able to talk to any student, prospective student, parent, professor, or anyone else. He just has a way of being a great welcoming face at chapel,” Roy said. “I will miss his warm smile and greeting voice in the chapel every time I come in.”

During his time here Fritz feels that his biggest involvements have been creating a sense of hospitality, providing lightness to the atmosphere in the chapel and spreading that sense campus-wide and engaging with the variety of activities across campus.

“Over the last four years Fritz’s presence in the chapel has helped strengthen RLC and our programming,” said Roy. “His ideas, energy and experience in campus ministry have been valuable tools for us to use.”

He’s also worked to increase the number of chapel interns from six to 10 and preparing for the recent Holy Grounds Coffee Shop and Dirlam Lounge renovations to take place.

“If anything, the community of Simpson has experienced a modicum of care and is a bit more joyful, delightful, as a result of our work together,” Fritz said. “That is what I find rewarding!”

Fritz informed the Simpson community of his retirement plans with an e-mail including these lyrics from Neil Young’s song “Comes a Time”:

Comes a time when you’re driftin’
Comes a time when you settle down
Comes a light feelin’s liftin’
Lift that baby right up off the ground.

Oh, this old world keeps spinning round
It’s a wonder tall trees ain’t layin’ down
There comes a time.

Fritz said he found these lyrics fitting about his feelings on his decision.

“It was the only way I could think of telling everyone, true and genuine,” he said.

His campus-wide e-mail also encouraged students to actively participate in the search for a new chaplain.

“I encourage you all to pray daily for the process,” Fritz said. “Pray daily for the search committee, pray daily for the candidates and participate fully during the interviews that will occur.”

With the spring semester just around the corner, Fritz looks forward to enjoying his last few months here. He says it has been a deep and blessed privilege to serve as the chaplain and that he will deeply miss the community.

“What I will miss the most is the relationships with people I have come to know, love and trust,” Fritz said. “It has been a wonder to see the creative, dedicated, hard work that is done by the faculty and staff; it is truly breathtaking.”