May 17th, 2024

Celebrating 60 years of ministry

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 31, 2021.

Herald photo by Al Beeber - Pastor Phil Jorgensen will celebrate his 60th anniversary in ministry by preaching Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church.


Phil Jorgensen will be celebrating a special anniversary Sunday morning at Immanuel Lutheran Church on the city’s west side.
Jorgensen will be guest preaching at the 10 a.m. service in celebration of his 60th year as a pastor.
The native of Brooklyn, New York came to Canada decades ago and has served in ministries both here in Lethbridge as well as Olds, Edmonton, Canmore and Toronto.
In the service, he will tell parishioners how he became a pastor. Visitors will have to wear a face mask and sign in at the door of the church located on the corner of University Drive and Rocky Mountain Boulevard West.
In 1934, his mother prayed she’d have a son who would grow up to be a pastor, Jorgensen recalled Wednesday.
“She thought that was the best job in the world. And then in 1935, she had a baby and it was a boy so her prayer was on track,” said Jorgensen, whose father Marius was a pastor in a New York City church.
When he got older, Jorgensen attended St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts college of the Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minnesota, founded in 1874 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants.
“I was there as a chemistry major,” said Jorgensen, adding the college is famous for chemistry, philosophy and music.
He got his BA there and then went to graduate school in philosophy at the University of Minnesota before attending seminary at St. Paul, Minnesota.
He came to Canada “because I really loved Alberta. I’d been here as a middle school boy,” he said.
While a student pastor, he went to Olds “and it was in terrible shape but by the end of the year, we had a good-sized church. I had a beautiful Studebaker, called one of the top 10 by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and I sold that and gave it to the church and that was enough to buy a little schoolhouse for Sundre and got the fund going for a beautiful new church in Olds. I put in $5,000 but one of the rich farmers 10 times that much and a beautiful church was built.”
After his last year of seminary, he was called to come back to Olds and in five years, the church became self-supporting, Jorgensen recalled.
He then moved to Edmonton for seven years and preached at the 10th largest in its synod. He went to Toronto to a church that was in terrible shape with a pastor who had some problems.
The church “went way down,” he recalled and 17 pastors turned down the opportunity to preach there. Jorgensen heard about it at a convention and decided to go there.
“It was a great experience. People were so desperate to see the church go, they were willing to go visiting and so we had four teams of visitors that went out every week,” he said.
“The church got well-known and big” and hosted two televised Easter services by CTV and CBC with Jorgensen preaching, he recalled.
He left that parish ministry to “be a head office guy” for seven years before coming to Lethbridge as a pastor preaching at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. After seven years here, he started a new church in Canmore.
After a debilitating illness – diabetic neuropathy – he had to quit preaching. He’s been a longtime member of Immanuel Lutheran but was never the pastor at the westside church.
“I really had, worldly speaking, a good career; everything seemed to go right then I got disabled with diabetic neuropathy,” said Jorgensen who experiences pain walking and standing.

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