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Sat, Aug. 17

Column: Bidding a fond farewell to pastor, wife

It’s transitioning time for Dave and Mary Alberts.
Courtesy photo

It’s transitioning time for Dave and Mary Alberts.

There’s a big bash brewing this Sunday, June 26, at the Prescott United Methodist Church – a Lollapalooza luau at which congregants will congregate for a send-off soiree honoring Pastor Dave Alberts and his wife Mary.

Yes, the hula hullabaloo (actually, no hula dancing is programmed during the event … it just hangs well with “hullabaloo”) … will kick off at 12:30 p.m. that day on the church campus on West Gurley Street and will follow a single 9 a.m. worship service (instead of the traditional 9 and 10:30 a.m. services) so as to allow attendees to don Hawaiian-style garb before returning to the scene, assuming that they aren’t already so garbed at the 9 o’clocker. Whatever works.

Preparation of the Hawaiian-themed meal of the day – for which there is no charge – will be spearheaded by “Big Kahuna” Paul Wolfe, who along with his wife Susan and numerous other volunteer helpers prepare the weekly “Wonder Full Wednesday” dinners at the church – tasty repasts which – at only $3 a pop – qualify as the best bargain in town in my estimation.

Sunday’s sermon will cap off 40 years of ministry for Pastor Dave, the last enriching five years of which have been spent at the PUMC’s helm. His four-decade-long odyssey began in Quincy, Ill., where he and Mary are natives of that city which hugs the Mississippi River. And his ministerial lifework was launched following graduation with a Master of Divinity degree from the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.

During an interview last week at the church, Dave mentioned some parallels that exist with him and Garrison Keillor, of all people. “Some people think that I look and sound like” the longtime host of the Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” show, he mused, while noting that “he’s not a bad guy to be compared to.” Further along, they both share Midwest roots and also liquidity, based on Garrison’s Lake Wobegon and Dave’s Old Man River. But there’s more. You see, the two of them share the same 1970s era in their career starts, with Garrison broadcasting his first Prairie Home Companion show in 1974, while Dave began his ministry in our nation’s bicentennial year of 1976. Then, to top it all off, our Dave is now retiring from his ministry, while Garrison announced last year that he will cease hosting his popular show in the current 2016-17 season.

As similarities go, Dave’s wife also is a phenom. Not only does she share a given name with the folk-singing “Peter, Paul and Mary’s” Mary, but she’s a person who closely resembles the trio’s “original” Mary as she appeared in the 1960s. So, “where have all the flowers gone?” Well, they’re blooming afresh through our Mary, who sings like a lark herself and is a member of the MacDougal Street West group that revives, among other traditions, MacDougal Street’s Greenwich Village vibes of the ’60s. She and guitarist Ron Skelton are the lead vocalists with the group, with backing from guitarist Rick Shore and bassist Maxine Eldredge. They participate in lots of gigs, with the next biggie slated for July 18-19 in Sun City West’s Stardust Theater.

As an aside, Pastor Dave also is blessed with a winsome singing voice and on occasion has sung illustrative songs – a cappella, in fact – that tied in with his sermons. And a few weeks ago he strummed a guitar and vocalized with Mary as they presented a Wonder Full Wednesday program of pop music for an appreciative church crowd. From here on out he promises to toil as a “roadie,” though, while helping move musical equipment and cheering on the MacDougal Streeters during their performances.

As of July 1, Dave and Mary, who have relocated from Prescott to Prescott Valley, will not be frequenting the PUMC at all in the near term. This is established policy within the United Methodist framework in order to provide a seamless transition of transferring pastorates. And Dave’s successor in the pulpit – the Rev. Dan Hurlbert – promises to be an excellent choice. After all, he’s sort of “coming home,” as he began his ministerial career at PUMC as the associate pastor in January 1994. In this month’s church newsletter, Pastor Dave wrote that Dan “is a very capable, caring and compassionate minister. He has forged a reputation for excellence in leadership, partly here in this congregation in earlier times. You can put your trust in him and all will be served by your open-hearted welcome for Dan and Susan (his wife).”

Dave capped off his newsletter article with this farewell: “We leave you blessing the day God sent us to you and this congregation. I particularly am thankful for the very many friends and great staff member relationships that have come with the job – you will always remain in a special place in our hearts. It is a tremendous understatement to say that we have enjoyed our time with you as senior pastor and spouse and will pray for your continuing success every day.”

Contact the columnist at editorial@prescottaz.com.

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