The Nevada community’s loss is soon to be Bethany Life’s gain in Story City.
Unpretentious as the bald, 58-year-old Dave Burling is, especially in his often-worn “Mr. Potato Head-style” glasses, those who know him and have had the opportunity to be counseled or pastored by him know the huge loss that Nevada’s Memorial Lutheran Church will experience as their associate pastor leaves for a new post in Story City.
Burling, who has been with Memorial Lutheran, working alongside Senior Pastor Myron Herzberg for the past 15 years, said he was invited to talk to someone at Bethany Life about the opening. When he got there, “I just walked in, and I said, ‘Yep, this is where I need to be,’” he shared. “It’s that sense of the spirit leading me to what I need to do next.”
Sitting in a conference room at Memorial Lutheran, Burling reflects on the places his career has called him to. He moved to Nevada in 1994 when he started the chaplaincy program at Mary Greeley Medical Center. It was a great experience, he said of Mary Greeley, which just celebrated its 24th year of chaplaincy and now has two dedicated pastors for the program, which has always included hospice care as well, Burling said.
He and his family — wife Chris and sons, Josh and Ben — had joined Memorial Lutheran Church when they moved to Nevada, and in 2002-03, there was an opening for an associate pastor. He was asked by Herzberg if he would consider applying. “I agreed only after other candidates being considered had said ‘no,’” Burling said. He knew that he had an edge on all others because he was known at the church. So after other candidates had been considered, it came down to him and he accepted. At the time, he was ready for the change, having been on call 24-7 at Mary Greeley, he thought the congregational job would allow him a little more family time.
For Burling, the position at Memorial was always about building relationships, and working with people in good times and bad times. “That’s been the best.” He’s enjoyed working with people of all ages, from kids all the way to elderly folks. He’s also been an active volunteer in the community on behalf of the church, often seen at events, Harmony Clothing Closet and serving the local Public Safety Department as its chaplain.
He said, while he and Chris, who is director of the Nevada Community Resource Center, plan to remain living in Nevada, he will leave behind many of the things he’s done in the community. He does so, he noted, so that the next associate pastor will have the opportunity to fully engage in those things and make his or her place in the community. Also, Burling said, he will need the time to be fully engaged in the Bethany Life community.
Bethany Life Ministries, he said, serves people who are in independent living units, assisted living units, nursing care and memory care. “They are a faith-based organization,” he said.
With a Burling smirk that many have seen, his eyes light up when he tells how he’s going to “the greatest job in the world” because he can drink coffee all day long. Then with a more serious tone, he leans in to say, “I’ll be listening to stories, honoring people’s lives and recognizing the journey that they’ve been on. I just love that.” The chaplaincy and one-on-one visits, he said, “that’s where my heart lives.” He also noted that he will still preach every Sunday in the chapel at Bethany.
Burling will follow longtime Bethany chaplain, Sandy Anenson, who he said has done a fantastic job. “I expect it will take time for them (the Bethany residents) to grieve that loss and make room for a new guy.” He’s understanding of that transition.
Burling will preach his last sermon and end his career at Memorial Lutheran on Sunday, July 17. While he wants to save most of what his message will include that day, he shares that it will be based on “hope vs. fear — for us personally and as a world.”
The entire community is invited to join with the Memorial Lutheran congregation at that service and/or following the service at an open house, that will start right after the church service and last until around 1 p.m.
Burling’s journey in Story City will start on July 2. He makes it seem like it’s not that big a deal. When he leaves his house on the north edge of Nevada in the mornings, “I’m just turning north, rather than south.”