Pastor Carol Baumgartner enjoying her role as Lutheran minister, faith leader in Hollandale and Blanchardville’s ‘heart of four counties’ rural  community.

Pictured above is interim New Hope Lutheran Church Pastor Carol Baumgartner. Readers undoubledly may have seen her leading services or may have seen her lead the ecumenical service at the Blanchardville Father’s Day Chicken Barbecue last summer – or walking in the Blanchardville/Pecatonica Homecoming parade or in other appearances in and around the Hollandale/ Blanchardville communities.

Now closing in on well over 10 months of helping out both the Madison-based Southwest Wisconsin Lutheran Synod and the parishioners of Blanchardville and Hollandale’s New Hope Lutheran Church, interim Lutheran Pastor Carol Baumgartner says it has been a blessing for her to have been working in the Hollandale and Blanchardville area, assisting the congregations as they prepare to call a new minister. Baumgartner says it continues to be a positive experience – one she has always welcomed in working with new people, new church families and in learning more about a new area. “Pastor  Carol” was raised in the Saint Peter, Minnesota community,  a rural, farming  community and she met her husband, Michael Mueller, (also a Lutheran minister) while they were both at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. “My future brother-in-law introduced  us at the time and as careers have evolved, my older sister is a pastor, my younger sister is married to a pastor and Michael and I are both pastors – and we both graduated from seminary, together, in 1990.”  The couple has three adult children and with jobs, now  hours apart, they have maintained a home in Racine, but with Carol, in Hollandale, they shared devotionals, daily, by phone, converse twice most days and they often spend a couple of days a week together,  alternating between time at the local parsonage in Hollandale – or at home, back  in Racine.   “Michael loves coming and visiting in Hollandale – calling his trips here  his ‘Hollandale retreat,” shares Pastor Carol. When Pastor Carol accepted the one year interim role  and moved to Hollandale in mid-January, Michael was, at that time,  an interim pastor at a very large West Allis church, in the Milwaukee area, but in the time since, has, more recently,  accepted a pastoral position serving a congregation in Janesville. (An installation Service for Pastor Michael Mueller was held at First Lutheran Church in Janesville, WI.  on Sunday, November 10.) As for Carol’s term here – “I first arrived here back during that polar vortex we experienced, with a U-Haul, in mid-January, having  signed a one-year contract and I will admit, I’d never heard of the these two villages until a discussion with our synod leaders (discussing parish needs and openings)  and with them, ultimately  offering me this post, shares Baumgartner” Baumgartner had, more recently, been serving as a Hospice Chaplain, (at St. Luke’s/Milwaukee) a role she describes as very powerful work. She also became immersed, for a time, in  Emotional Intelligence Competencies studies and professional education programming as a sub-section  of  Chaplain Residency training  and ultimately, decided, after self-reflection,  that she felt an urge to get back into working with a parish and congregation. “My goal here has been  to give stability  and to reduce anxiety and to help church members enter into preparation for the transition and for the calling of a new pastor.” She has been working with the Parish members to identify themselves and roles, and to help the members of the congregation construct a clearer understanding, all with the hopes of finding a new minister to lead them. “I’ve met in counsel with ministry to strengthen the leadership and to understand where they are, as a community of faith, helping the members of the Church here to know who they are and to help them address their main goals.” She says she has been also working on a couple of phases of her own professional development, helping the transition process, looking at and reviewing pastoral roles focusing on processes, rather than on  problem-solving, which she says can be a band-aid, so-to-speak. “I have been able to observe  and to learn and I understand the history of these congregations and my goal is to help them evaluate their faith and evaluate the learned behavior in our church lives that impact our life together, across many years.” Baumgartner is no stranger to working in similar situations to help church congregations and the transition phase involves slowing the process down, in some cases, so that premature decisions are not made and so that there is ample time spent on articulating the needs and the direction of a particular congregation. Baumgartner says an important goal is just to lead a church to identify its strengths and attributes, to engage congregations, and to assist those men and women in helping them to thrive, not just to survive, as a church congregation. “I’ve really enjoyed this small town, rural setting – because any time one, as myself, is called upon to serve and to help, one quickly also realizes the relationships and history of knowledge of one another within our congregations that is already present and in place.” She says the 2019 First Communion service, the development and enhancement of the Wednesday Night Faith Formation activities for youth, teens and adults have been a blessing she has expecially enjoyed being a part of, witnessing various generations all gathering together and developing  a greater understanding of faith and of leadership development – through friendly, educational participation.