As much as I enjoyed my job as a truck-driver, I somehow knew I would not stay in that field. When we became Lutheran, I began to wonder if maybe the Office of Holy Ministry was the vocation for me. So I began the process and waited for a hurdle too big for us to get over. It never came.
Leaving the home we loved to begin seven years of schooling was very difficult but I’ve never regretted it. Going through Seminary with a wife and children is not easy, but we were always supported and prayed for.
Seminary can be hard, and the Ministry is often difficult but it’s also extremely rewarding. I’m where God called me to be, and don’t regret it at all.
-Rev. Todd Guggenmos (CLS ’13)
When I was five or six-years-old, our extended family would often gather for meals to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Being the youngest in the group around that time, I was always asked to pray before our meal. And so I prayed the table prayer taught to me by my mother, a prayer that I still use today. When I was finished, my grandmother would inevitably say, “He’s going to make a fine pastor some day!” I recall that I would frown, and think that I wanted to be a policeman or fireman, or anyone else more interesting than a pastor!
I believe it was then that the seed was planted. That notion of becoming a pastor was nurtured by Christian parents and God-parents who subtly encouraged my Christian growth in faith and life. They gave me the gifts of a Bible and hymnal, and generally put me in situations where a shy boy and youth spoke in front of strangers. When I was in confirmation class, I became friends with my pastor’s son. We ended up running off Sunday’s bulletin, folding it, and inserting it in the members’ mailboxes. Since I was not a “PK” (“preacher’s kid”), that friendship gave me a behind-the-scenes look at life in the parsonage. I discovered that they faced all the same problems that my family did.
My church had a good youth group at that time. My pastor, Rev. Raymond Mantynen, even took us on several field trips to Concordia, Ann Arbor, MI. I think that glimpse of studying theology and other subjects in a Christian environment did a lot to entice me to do the same someday.
As I began to more seriously consider studying for the pastoral ministry. I wasn’t sure if I was “pastor material” because of my shyness, and nervousness speaking before people. I was also concerned that I did not have the financial resources to undertake such a journey of study. My mother confided that if God wanted me to be a pastor, He would provide the money to make it happen. With sacrifices by my parents and good-paying summer jobs that came my way, I was blessed to attend college and seminary debt-free. This was indeed a blessing because I didn’t need a part-time job while at seminary, but could focus my time and effort on my studies.
When I set my sights on being a pastor, my home pastor would occasionally have me read a lesson or two in the Divine Service. One summer I helped him for a few weeks with some door-to-door evangelism.
While attending Concordia, Ann Arbor for two years, and then Concordia Senior College for another two years, I had my Greek and Hebrew language foundations solidly set in place. What a blessing to arrive at seminary with such a good start in the Biblical languages! At the seminary (St. Catharines), my favourite classes were in exegetics and homiletics. I loved to be able to really dig in to the Biblical texts! God was able to take that study, together with my limited creativity, and enable me to produce sermons that I hoped would touch people with the answer they needed for life’s problems.
One of my greatest joys in the ministry is teaching an Adult Instruction class. It is gratifying to engage in discussion with people who are seeking answers to the bigger questions of life now and hereafter. It is quite an experience to witness someone have an “Ah, ha!” moment when it comes to their eternal salvation.
As I continue to serve in whatever capacity my Lord desires of me in His church, I will always remember the phrase “sin and grace—my sin and God’s grace.” Throughout my life and ministry, I have brought Him my sin and have received my Saviour’s free and wonderful grace: His undeserved love shown to me through His cross and empty tomb.
That’s what I’ve tried to tell others throughout my ministry.
I started seriously thinking about entering the pastoral ministry in my last year of university at the University of Regina. While there was no specific person who spoke to me I was certainly encouraged by the pastors I had at that time, such as Rev. Brian Dill, Rev. Irwin Pudrycki and Rev. Dennis Aubey, all of whom served at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Regina. One of my professors in university, Dr. Roland Miller, was also a great encouragement to me.
Finances were certainly a challenge. God provided me with the means by way of a summer job, a couple of small student loans and some funds from my congregation.
Informal preparation came mostly by way of the Christian friends I associated with and the pastors that I had who were wonderful servants with caring hearts. God also gave me the desire to serve Him and other people. I now believe this was the work of the Holy Spirit although I didn’t necessarily see that at the time. I just knew I wanted to serve God and others. In terms of formal preparation my seminary experience provided me with a solid grounding in Lutheran theology and practice which, obviously, is essential to serve in the Holy Ministry. If there was any surprise it would have only been that the work load was heavier than I had expected. However, with God’s help, I was able to complete my seminary education in 1986.
He blessed me with a wonderful wife who was able to work while I was going to school. As noted above I also had a summer job waiting for me each year as soon as I was done school. As a result I was able to complete seminary debt free, which was a blessing as well.
I think my greatest fear came at the time of my vicarage since I was serving a three point parish on my own in northern Saskatchewan, only meeting with my vicarage supervisor once a month. In spite of my concern, God blessed me greatly during that year and helped me meet the challenges of serving His people during my vicarage. While it was not the sort of vicarage I would recommend, in my case, it was definitely a year of great personal growth and learning.
Certainly, one of the greatest joys is preaching and teaching. It is also a real joy to be part of people’s lives during some of the high points (baptisms, confirmations, marriages, anniversaries, etc.). In addition, although “joy” may not be the best word, it is certainly a great privilege to be part of people’s lives at some of their lowest moments such as when they may have experienced loss through death or other means. Being able to bring the Word of God to all of these situations is both a joy, as well as a great privilege. Being in a position to assure a guilt ridden conscience that their sins are forgiven through Jesus is a particularly profound and deeply meaningful part of serving in the Holy Ministry.