>Second Retirement for URC Pastor

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Rev. James Admiraal has probably heard a lot of naval rank jokes, and he may be hearing even more about being a “retired admiral” when he retires from his position as Senior Pastor at Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, on December 31, 2010.

This will actually be the second retirement for Rev. Admiraal. He retired in 2002 from Second CRC in Randolph, WI, but was called out of that retirement in September of 2003 to serve as Interim Pastor for Cornerstone URC. The Cornerstone congregation called him as its Senior Pastor a few years later and he was officially installed in that capacity in January of 2006.

According to Cornerstone elder Mr. Al Veurink, members of the church are grateful for Rev. Admiraal’s more than seven years of faithful and humble service.

“The overwhelming response of the members is our gratitude for his serving as a faithful undershepherd, student and preacher of the Word with great clarity as a messenger of our Lord,” says Elder Veurink. “Another of the qualities that has distinguished Pastor Admiraal as an effective leader among other gifted Reformed pastors and teachers is his humility. An exceptionally gifted man who possesses the rare jewel of humility is exceptionally hard to find.”

The congregation may miss Rev. Admiraal’s full-time leadership and regular preaching, but they will not miss him and his wife, Rita, since the couple intends to remain members of the church. Rev. Admiraal also intends to continue a limited pastoral ministry while the congregation searches for a new pastor. He then hopes to serve as pulpit supply for other churches as needed.

Rev. James Admiraal graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1971 and was ordained at Trinity CRC in Rock Valley, where he served from 1971-1976. He subsequently served the following churches: Pleasant Street CRC in Whitinsville, MA (1976-1980); Second CRC in Kalamazoo, MI (1980-1987); North Street CRC in Zeeland, MI (1987-1992); First CRC in Prinsburg, MN (1992-1998); and Second CRC in Randolph, WI (1998-2003, retired 2002). He and Rita have been blessed with seven children, all of whom are now married, and 20 grandchildren.

Reflecting on his years of ministry, the two most difficult aspects for him have been: 1) the heavy responsibility and time commitment; and 2) serving so many years in a denomination that was moving away from his biblical beliefs.

A major factor in his heavy work load was that most of his pastorates were large congregations with over 600 members.

“In all these churches, I served as the only full-time pastor, or even as the only pastor,” he explains. “I am certainly not complaining nor implying that the churches were not very understanding as to my workload. I am only indicating that this was a real challenge, and God alone gave me the strength to do my best and be of blessing to His people. My wife was of great support to me, especially in unselfishly and cheerfully taking care of the needs of our children as they were growing up. At the same time, she remained active and involved in the church and its activities.”

Although Rev. Admiraal enjoyed his ministry within congregations that were primarily of the same theological persuasion as he was, he found himself increasingly “swimming against the [denominational] tide.” Participation in classical and synodical meetings became “a source of tension and discomfort.”

“My last years in the URC have offered me a sense of renewed joy and peace,” he says.

Rev. Admiraal is quick to add that while his ministry has had challenges, it has had more joyful and rewarding aspects: “The joy of preaching the Word of God for so many years, and knowing His Word never returns to Him empty; the reward of knowing and perceiving, and parishioners themselves telling me, that they were fed and enriched by God’s Word and were growing in their faith and devotion to their Lord; being able to learn and grow from God’s Word personally, having to study and proclaim that Word each week;” and “being able to minister pastorally to God’s people and making a spiritual impact upon their lives, especially in their times of trial and sorrow.”

Asked what advice he might give young pastors or men considering God’s call to ministry, Rev. Admiraal says, “[They] must remember their own inadequacy and approach their work daily with humility before the Lord. They must learn to submit also to the wisdom and direction of those whom they serve, particularly the consistory which has the task of overseeing them. They must spend their best efforts making sermons that are biblical and clear and organized and relate to the lives of their congregations. They must be thankful for the support of the congregation and avoid the temptation to become greedy.”

There are two main reasons that Rev. Admiraal anticipates his retirement.

“One is,” he says, “it will give me relief from the daily responsibilities and burdens of the ministerial task and give me more time to enjoy my family and other meaningful aspects of earthly life.”

“The second is,” he adds, “it will enable me to serve Christ and His church in many profitable ways—as long as the Lord gives me health and strength and provides me with opportunities to serve Him in His church. So, I look forward with joyful hope, even as I look back with joyful gratitude for what God has done for me and through me. To Him be all glory!”

This article appeared on pp. 18 & 19 of the November 24, 2010 issue of Christian Renewal.

© Glenda Mathes, 2010

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