Tributes to Willard Berggren upon Retirement
God is Good. Do you know Willard Berggren? These words surround his comings and goings. He is called by God to be a pastor and a clear witness of the Father's love, salvation, and eternal life. Willard preaches that message over and over. He is a memorizer of the scriptures. He consistently reminds us that God is Good. There is no doubt in my mind that he is guarded by angels in any season.
Tom and I met Willard and Dorothea in the hills of Virginia one summer at the Mountain Mission. (We ruined four tires on our car.) Later we met again at Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis. They have been part of our lives ever since. Those of us who are close to the Berggrens have many "Willard" stories — some hilarious and some more serious. In each incident, it is God and Willard acting out their love for one another. God is Good.
One of these stories began thirteen years ago. Our families were celebrating a birthday with a meal together — Swedish meatballs, corn, horseradish sauce, herring, pickled beets, rice pudding, marzipan cake, and so forth. During that elaborate consumption, Willard remarked, "If I have to go, what a way to go." By morning he was in the hospital with a serious infection in his body. A malignant cancer was discovered. After eventual surgery, chemotherapy was suggested as the next step to recovering health. God is Good.
We need to keep repeating our collection of 'Willard" stories. They give us courage to keep on doing good. God does watch out for His own.
Willard has been called to another beginning in his life, continuing the witness. Someday God will probably send His chariot for him. Like Elisha, may we see it. God is Good to us all in giving us a friend who is a friend who is Willard Berggren.
— Joan Marie (Lindquist) Carlson, Life Skill Instructor for Developmentally Disabled Adults and member of Community Covenant Church.
On January 27, 1991, Willard Berggren preached his last sermon as pastor and shepherd of Elim Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Many friends gathered in the afternoon (between 2 and 5 — Super Bowl game started at 5:18) to pay tribute to Willard and Dorothea for their friendship and support in our lives. Willard's ministry began many years ago when Willard re-dedicated his life to God at a Billy Graham crusade. He has said he knew then that he wanted to go into Christian service in some capacity. He received his education at North Park College, Roosevelt University, and North Park Seminary in Chicago. Willard and Dorothea served congregations in Rockford (South Park), Illinois, the Mountain Mission in Virginia, Community Covenant in Minneapolis, and Elim Covenant in St. Paul. They have been good and faithful servants to God wherever they have served. In his "retirement," Willard will continue to serve as chaplain at Bethany Home in Minneapolis, where he has ministered for several years. Willard has also been a faithful supporter of Pietisten. A few years ago, one half-hour before he was leaving for the airport on a trip to the Middle East, he wrote a check to make sure his subscription was paid before he left!
We wish Willard all the best in his "retirement" and God' s continued blessing on both Willard and Dorothea, as they have been a blessing to so many of us.
— Tommy Carlson, Contributing Editor.
When I think of Pastor Berggren, I think of a person who truly follows Christ's teachings "to go into the world and preach the gospel" and "to love your neighbor as yourself." Pastor Berggren was always there to lend a helping hand when a parishioner or a member of the community was in need. Many times I remember coming to work and listening to him tell about getting up at 1-2-3 am to help out someone who had been beaten by a spouse, been thrown in jail, or was just in need of someone to talk to. He didn't inform me to pat himself on the back but because I was his secretary and might need to know.
There is another side of Pastor Berggren that brings tears of laughter to my eyes each time I reflect upon him. He had a way, sometimes, of putting his "foot in his mouth." During the first energy crisis in 1974, I routinely walked to work from my home on 11th and Upton North to Community Covenant. One winter morning, I came upon a knife laying on Olson Highway. I carefully picked it up and carried it with me to church to show Pastor Berggren. When I showed it to him, he said we had better call the police. Willard held the knife as he talked with the policeman. "It sure looks like quite a 'pig sticker,' doesn't it?" he said. I had to hold back my laughter as Willard began to stammer words to cover up his blunder. You see, in the 1970s, many referred to police officers as "pigs."
Those who have read the book about James Herriot's adventures as a country vet in All Creatures Great and Small, have laughed with him over the funny events he encountered. A book about this (extra) ordinary pastor would bring laughter to many people also. Not only would stories about Pastor Berggren bring laughter to the hearts of many, but also would be a testimony about a faithful servant of Christ who, through it all, never took his eyes off the cross.
Pastor Berggren was a pastor who gave his whole being to the church and the surrounding community. He was a pastor who may have questioned why some of us did the things we did, but he never condemned us for our actions. He always pointed out that God loves us regardless of our faults. Not once did I hear Pastor Berggren say an unkind word about another person.
I feel very privileged to have been a member of Community Covenant during Willard Berggren's pastorate and to have known him, his wife, Dorothea, and their children. Pastor Berggren is truly an extraordinary pastor, person, and friend.
— Anne Peterson, Cambridge, Minnesota. Former Secretary for Community Covenant Church, Minneapolis.