“I will make a pathway in the wilderness for my people to come home.” —Isaiah 43
NEWPORT — The men who gathered around the Rev. John Buhr and placed their hands upon him knew exactly what kind of moment it was.
“This is a holy moment, a sacred movement,” the Rev. Carl Bergman said the day before Pentecost Sunday. “It is the moment when God says, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’”
That holy moment was the installation of Buhr, 46, of Orono as the pastor of a small Newport congregation, Pathway Community Church, located in a former Chinese restaurant on Elm Street. One month after his graduation from the seminary, Buhr was installed on June 11 as the minister of the young church.
“This is a growing church and a new church,” Buhr said after the service. “We’re both just starting out. In the beginning, I want to get a sense of what [the members’] needs are.”
Until being called to pastor the Newport church, Buhr attended United Baptist Church in Old Town, where on May 11 he was awarded his Master of Divinity Degree from Grace Evangelical College and Seminary, which is located in Bangor. He was the first student to earn what is known as an M.Div. in theological circles since the seminary was founded 10 years ago.
In addition to his ministerial duties in Newport, Buhr works as a certified nursing assistant in Orono. He began taking classes at Grace Evangelical in 2006.
“I went to the seminary because it was in a practical location for me,” he said the day of his graduation. “I also felt we shared a lot of the same ideas, beliefs and theology.”
Buhr considers himself to be Baptist. Because Pathway is an emerging or mission congregation, its pastor does not have to be credentialed with the Christian Reformed Church, said Bergman, pastor of New Hope Church in Bangor. New Hope serves as Pathway’s “mother church” within the denomination, he said.
“Pathway Community Church is one of nearly 1,000 Christian Reformed Churches across the country,” according to information on its website. “We are a church that professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, which is the source of the word ‘Christian’ in our name.
The word ‘reformed’ in our name refers to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century during which the Protestant church was born.”
Pathway was founded about six years ago, Earl Sorensen, 62, of St. Albans, who is an elder in the church, said after the installation. Sorensen’s son-in-law, the Rev. Tony Brown, was the first pastor. He left recently to work in a large urban church in New Jersey.
“[Buhr’s] a very kind person, a very grace-filled person,” Sorensen said of his new minister.
The next step for the congregation, the elder said, is to “grow in grace and kindness” and in numbers. He estimated the congregation has about 35 members.
“[Buhr] has excellent pastoral skills and is a very loving person,” Bergman said when asked why Buhr was a good choice to lead his new flock. “That’s the nature of this congregation.”