Pastor Pete’s retired? No… He’s re-fired

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Pastor Pete, served as Senior Pastor of Canyon Lake Community Church, above, for 40 years. In retirement, he continues to help those in need. Photos provided by Pat Van Dyke.

Pastor Pete, served as Senior Pastor of Canyon Lake Community Church, above, for 40 years. In retirement, he continues to help those in need. Photos provided by Pat Van Dyke.

Canyon Lake Community Church (CLCC) experienced a change of leadership one year ago this month. Pastor Pete Van Dyke, who had been installed as the pastor of CLCC on January 9, 1977, retired on January 10, 2016. He served 40 years as senior pastor of CLCC. Pastor Dave Dick assumed Pastor Pete’s duties.

Pastor Pete and his wife Pat, who had retired three years previously from her administrative position at Riverside Christian Schools, were looking for ways to fill their retired days. Pat kept very busy with her photography, writing for The Friday Flyer’s Unsung Hero and Pat’s Funny Bone columns and adding to her crafting skills. Pastor Pete, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to discover a new passion.

One of Pastor Pete’s passions was gardening, but his “postage-stamp-sized yard,” doesn’t require much time or care. He then considered other possible answers, but he always came to the same conclusion, which is that he wanted to do what he loved most and that was caring for the emotional needs of others.

The word “pastor” derives from the Latin noun pastor which means “shepherd.” Pastor Pete is just that, a “pastor-shepherd.” A shepherd unselfishly cares for his flock and Pastor Pete filled and continues to fill that role for many.

In February, Pastor Pete was named the Pastor of Congregational Care of CLCC. He finds himself working more than 30 hours a week visiting and encouraging those with medical needs, meeting the needs of those who have experienced the death of a loved one, conducting funerals, counseling and performing weddings.

In short, in retirement, Pastor Pete is doing what he loves best, his passion: caring for others both locally and in the extended communities. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Pastor Pete.

Pastor Pete at the Artesian Christian Home praying with Pastor Depot who was one of Pastor Pete’s mentors when he first arrived in Canyon Lake. Pastor Depot led the Sunday Services at CLCC before Pastor Pete and is the one who asked him to preach at CLCC for one Sunday. Because of Pastor Depot, Pastor Pete’s time went from one Sunday to 40 years. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke.

Pastor Pete at the Artesian Christian Home praying with Pastor Depot who was one of Pastor Pete’s mentors when he first arrived in Canyon Lake. Pastor Depot led the Sunday Services at CLCC before Pastor Pete and is the one who asked him to preach at CLCC for one Sunday. Because of Pastor Depot, Pastor Pete’s time went from one Sunday to 40 years. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke.

When asked what his greatest reward is now that he is retired, the Pastor says without hesitation, “Teaching my bereavement classes. I feel privileged to help so many walk through this process no matter if the loss has been only a few months before or years later. It’s a time that I can help people have a victory over the stress that they are experiencing. It’s a time that I can bring comfort as well as provide resources to help overcome that stress that is associated with grieving.”

Stress has been identified as America’s number one health problem causing a person to experience many negative issues. A person’s physical and mental health is greatly affected by the stress that one may be enduring at that time. One of the greatest stress factors in life is the death of a loved one.

Pastor Pete has found many of his congregants in exactly this position. Many were dealing with the loss of a loved one, but did not have the tools to help them get through this difficult life experience.

The loss of a family member or close friend breaks one’s heart and understandably, one will find themselves grieving with little knowledge regarding a healthy way to deal with this life changing experience. Unfortunately, every person will have to deal with grief sometime in their life. Some will fully recover and deal with their “new normal,” but others will find themselves in a situation in which they cannot function or deal with everyday life.

There has probably been no other Pastor in the community who has ministered to the hearts of Canyon Lake families more than Pastor Pete. His ministry as Pastor has given him access to the lives of many Canyon Lake residents. He’s shared their happiness while performing weddings, their grief while officiating funerals of their loved ones and their saddness as he prayed with them through some of the darkest days of their lives.

During his 40 years as senior pastor of CLCC, Pastor Pete has conducted over 1,100 funerals and had the opportunity to comfort families during this difficult time of their life. He saw the needs and counseled and comforted them. He says he feels blessed to be able to help families through their difficult transition.

Steve and Judi Sellers say Pastor Pete was such a comfort to them and their family when their parents and brother passed away. He stood with them during this difficult time with prayer, love and understanding. The Sellers say Pastor Pete not only gave so much of himself to them, but to others as well. “For this we are eternally grateful,” say the Sellers.

Four years ago, Pastor Pete discovered “Grief Share” and saw a need to make it a part of his ministry. Grief Share is an international organization formed by Church Initiative located in Wake Forest, North Carolina. There are thousands of active Grief Share support groups in the United States, Canada and 10 other countries.

Pastor Pete is not a stranger to losing a loved one. The Pastor experienced the loss of his parents, brother, daughter and granddaughter. These deaths have ranged from illness to tragedy and through this, he is able to relate to the needs of those suffering the death of their own loved one.

Grief Share is a 13-week class during which time a person learns how to deal with his emotions, fears and frustrations that are occurring now in their life. Helpful, practical information is provided, such as why a person’s grief experience is harder than they imagined it would be. How the death of a loved one can affect friendships also is discussed.

Participants learn how to deal with false guilt, handle conflicted relationships and cope with grief-related anger. Why a person’s grief is so overwhelming and how their thinking affects their emotions is addressed.

Many feel blessed by this ministry as it has helped them process their loss, some as new as only a few months and others as long as 20 years ago. Many have expressed how the support group has made a difference in their lives.

“Why in the world,” Carolyn Knight wondered, “would I want to join a grief support group? Grief is a very personal process and I am a very private person. However, at the urging of friends and family, I called Pastor Pete and signed up for his support group. It is the best decision that I made after the death of my husband, Vick Knight, three years ago. Not every lesson applied to my situation, but I was able to take at least one praise or thought to ponder all week. Pastor Pete is a gifted facilitator and I would recommend his group to anyone who has lost a loved one.”

The present 13-week session began Monday, January 9, with duplicate classes being held at 10 a.m and 7 p.m. The classes are held at Canyon Lake Community Church, building C (chapel), located on the first parking lot as you enter the church property.

Participants are not required to be a member of  CLCC to attend. Meetings are open to everyone who has a need. For those who can’t attend at the beginning of a 13-week session, each week is “self-contained,” so a participant doen’t have to attend in sequence. A participant will find encouragement and help whenever they begin.

Pastor Pete’s retired? No… He’s re-fired.

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Donna Ritchie