Glen V. Wiberg

by Phil Johnson

Glen Wiberg, Pietisten Patriarch

1925 — 2017

Glen Wiberg, our friend, and man of story and song, has taken his leave. Glen knew the magic and importance of stories. It must have been a native gift. He cultivated this gift joyfully. He read extensively, practiced his art, and studied the Bible. He was a key member of a pastors’ study group that gathered monthly for many years to read Bible with Pietisten’s David Hawkinson.

portrait of Glen Wiberg

Glen exhibited beauty, grace, and vitality, and he gave us biblical preaching of highest order. His study of the text invariably liberated the human story at the heart of it, and he delivered that story to us. Story and song were at the center of his fresh preaching, sermon after sermon.

When Glen stepped into the conversation that is Pietisten, he lifted our hearts. His presence at our monthly meetings was a sweet, tender, and lively blessing. I smile to think of it. I see him sitting in his favorite chair across from the fireplace. Glen, along with Art Anderson, and Elder Lindahl, blessed us with maturity and respectability. It was difficult to think lightly of Pietisten with such a threesome involved. Some years ago, Willard Berggren, late beloved pastor, commenting on Pietisten, said to Bob Bach, Roving Reporter, “Pietisten’s great, and why not? Have you seen who they have over there?”

Glen embraced the Pietisten Premises. He chose our first premise—“To intend blessing”—for the subtitle of his memoir, Born to Preach. He proclaimed another Pietisten Premise, “to bless all forms of human endeavor,” reflecting his generous, universal spirit, that brings to mind what Jesus said to the woman at the well:

. . .[Y]ou will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21–24)

I recall the Sunday Glen preached on that text in Bethlehem Covenant Church. It is especially memorable because Jane Wiberg read the Gospel lesson—the entire story found in John 4. No one reads better than Jane. When she completed the reading and announced, “This is the word of the Lord,” we were well prepared for Glen’s sermon.

Not only did Glen bring perspective, wisdom, and good humor to Pietisten, he brought his auto-harp. For example, the Annual Meeting of 2007 [see the report in Spring 2008] at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul concluded with a vigorous hymn sing featuring Don Franklin at the piano, Dave Hawkinson with his violin, and Bob Elde and Glen Wiberg playing auto-harps. Glen interjected stories about the songs—veritable verbal “Sightings”—as we sang; joy filled the room. A grand time was had by all! One person who had plenty of experience said, “That’s the best party I’ve ever been to.”

Glen’s flair for story and song led to his book, Singing the Story. Who but Glen could have given us the beloved column, “Sightings in Christian Music”— the writing and research from which Singing the Story is comprised? Glen’s activities through the years on behalf of the Covenant Church include serving twice on the Covenant Hymnal Commission, writing the Confirmation text, Called to be His People (1970), and much more. In addition to his books Born to Preach and Singing the Story, Glen gave us This Side of the River, a centennial history of Salem Covenant Church and his succinct thoughts on preaching in Housing the Sacred (reviewed by Ryan Eikenbary-Barber, Summer 2009). He has made Pietisten, the Covenant Church, and pietism wealthy.

To the Mission Covenant Church in Princeton, Illinois; First Covenant Church in Youngstown, Ohio; Haddam Neck Covenant Church, Connecticut; North Park Covenant Church in Chicago; and Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota, Glen was a beloved Pastor.

Jane, Glen’s great life-time partner, daughters, Kathie Frank and Sarah Betz, and their children survive him. Son Carl preceded him in death.

Typical of Glen’s welcome to young people has been his enthusiastic support of Pietisten’s new and current publishing team that took charge of this journal in 2010. We miss Glen Wiberg’s wit, wisdom, and friendship. He was a giant. Bless you, Glen. You will give the heavenly host a big boost.