Some folks have to be dragged kicking and screaming. Others move on and never look back. But most folks who are moving to a new place, fit somewhere in the middle.
After 16 years of deep involvement in the community, Pastor Norm Shrumm, along with Wendy, Kevin and Mikaela, definitely fall somewhere in the middle Â—torn somewhere between the future and the past.
Norm Shrumm was 32 years old when he, his wife Wendy and 2-year-old son Kevin came to La Grande to minister at the First Presbyterian Church. They were young and excited. A new home, a new pastorate, a new life.
"This has been a wonderful, wonderful place for Wendy and me to raise our kids," Shrumm says, admitting to a lot of trepidation in moving on.
Their family has made a good life here, he says, and been deeply involved in the community and the schools.
"My wife is a big part of this community," Shrumm says. "I know she will be deeply missed."
Wendy Shrumm, who works as an architect, raises two teenaged children and is the pastor's wife in a high-profile congregation, has still found time to volunteer on the site council for the school system, the budget committee for the hospital, and to be involved with the Grande Ronde Youth Orchestra. Her love of music, and performing with hand bells, has been a gift to the entire community as well as the church.
Making the decision to leave was one the couple made together, Shrumm says.
"We told our kids before we told the church," he adds. "We wanted them to have some time to get their heads around it before we went public."
Surprisingly, he says, it was their son Kevin Â— who graduates from
La Grande High School this May Â— whose initial response was something they did not anticipate.
"He said, Â‘I'll never come home again.' Wow!" Shrumm slaps his hand over his heart Â— wounded all over again at the profundity of it. "Man! I hadn't thought of that, but you know? He's right."
Mikaela, 14, starts high school next year Â— a tough time in life anyway. She has understandably struggled with the move.
"She kept telling us that we were ruining her life." A troubled look flits through the pastor's eyes. "She seems to be getting a better handle on things, though," he says.
Pastor Shrumm has a big, welcoming smile and gentle, open, seemingly transparent eyes. It is no wonder La Grande's First Presbyterian Church has been content to keep him around for 16 years.
"It is unusual," Shrumm admits about his lengthy tenure. "The average stay for most pastors in any denomination is usually just a few years."
The long history of the First Presbyterian Church, dating to 1886, reflects the truth of that statement. Except for one notable exception Â— Rev. Louis Samson, who stayed for 20 years Â— the church has seen a change of ministers every two to five years. Until Norman Shrumm came to town.
Shrumm jokes how after he had been here four or five years, a few in the church innocently started questioning him about his next move.
"It was just what they were used to," he laughs.
Now that the time has really come for him to move on, he says there seems to be a "sense of no surprise" from many of those who know him best. They believe what lies in store for their pastor is a calling.
"They know I love to do chaplaincy," Shrumm's smile is relaxed. "It's ironic."
Shrumm explains. Although he believes he is responding to God's will for his ministry, he is still understandably apprehensive about such a big change for his family. The congregation, on the other hand, has the utmost faith in his ability to succeed in this new chapter of his life.
And though many in the congregation are at a loss over his leaving, he says there is such profound wisdom and strength of faith in those who will guide the church, he has no doubt that this will be a good thing for them.
"I had begun to ponder," he reflects," that both for my sake and for the church, it might be time to defragment." He is metaphorically referring to the process a computer uses to tear its hard drive down to the basic building blocks and then put it back together so things run better. When he began to wonder what he should do for the next phase of his life, a ministry dear to his heart seemed an obvious choice.
For the past six years, Shrumm has supervised a chaplaincy ministry program at Grande Ronde Hospital, which has grown to include 15 local pastors. During that time, he says, he found himself loving the work more and more.
This summer, he and his family will move to Boise where he has been accepted to study in a residency program for chaplains at St. Luke's Hospital. He believes this is what God has called him to do.
He tries to describe what it means to comfort the sick and dying. Listening to him, it is evident he has great empathy for his calling and a gift for being in the here and now.
"When I'm with someone who's in a health crisis," he explains, "what is no longer relevant goes to the back burner. There comes a pure sense of faith."
Older people, whom the pastor sees as a vast untapped resource of wisdom and strength, are particularly adept at cutting through to the heart of what does and does not matter.
He sees them reach out time and time again to others experiencing a loss of some kind or other. Many of them already know how it feels. There are no words necessary, he says, in a time like that Â— only a sharing of the burden.
"Just being with these people who are in wordless places," he says, "there is presence in nurturing the spirit of people who are entering into difficult places in life."
Shrumm talks like someone who has spent hours contemplating life, death and how faith is found in both places. He talks a lot about living in grace.
He talks about the convergent themes of the simplicity and complexity of God. He talks about diverse Christians coming together in a common love of Christ and a desire to serve Him by loving His people. All of His people. He talks a lot about finding common ground in Christ.
"One of the things I am most proud of this church," he says, "is the bridge it serves in the community reaching out to everyone."
Excited about the opportunities for change, and with an impish grin, Norm Shrumm says he is looking forward to "church shopping" in Boise. He jokes about being the worst kind of critic and taking his time to find a fit.
But growing serious again, he says what he really wants is to be one of the flock. To have a new perspective in the sanctuary. To sit with his family and worship together for the first time in years.
"I see this as an opportunity to worship with my wife and children in a way I haven't been able to for a long time," he says simply. "This move will be an opportunity for me to be there for them."
Rev. Shrumm's last Sunday at the La Grande First Presbyterian Church will be May 30.
Story by Mardi Ford / Photos by Phil Bullock