Remembering Jim Norlie
A year ago today, July 3, 2019, the person we knew as Jim or Pastor Jim took his final leave from us. We were able to spend only a little over ten years getting to know Jim as a pastoral colleague, a caring pastor, an earnest teacher, a provocative preacher, a thoughtful worship planner, a creative thinker, a hiking partner, a faithful friend, and one who appreciated good wine, well-played music, and carefully-crafted art. Many at Grace knew Pr. Jim as a guest preacher, teacher and worship leader as well as a faithful, caring member of this congregation.
Grace Lutheran was his congregation. It was the community of faith in which he both received and occasionally presided over Holy Communion and shared in our sung and spoken prayers; the community in which he received the preaching of others and offered his own; the community in which he rejoiced over baptisms and baptized others; and the community in which he was nurtured in faith and nurtured many others in faith.
What was not publically known and acknowledged by us, his community of faith, until the last year of his life was the heavy burden he carried that no one should ever have to carry. At the time in his life when Jim found that one person to whom he chose to give his heart, from then on, he had to live with a divided heart. Jim also had given and continued to give his heart to the church he served as an ordained pastor. Yet, at that time, to reveal and publically acknowledge the one would mean to lose the other.
Jim loved both too fiercely to forsake either, so he chose that heavy burden of covering, protecting and closeting a relationship that should have been known, celebrated and shared. Jim and Steve Bender were married in November of 2018 in a private ceremony shared with close friends. Jim greatly desired to have a public celebration of their marriage to which the members of this community of faith were to be invited. Yet, the rapid progression of Jim’s cancer prevented that dream from coming to fruition.
We are so grateful for that Sunday when, during a Sunday morning worship service at Grace, we could publically announce Jim’s and Steve’s relationship. It was moving beyond words for the members of this community of faith to then rise to their feet and give a standing ovation in affirmation of this highly respected brother member of the congregation and his 22 year loving relationship with Steve.
We rejoice that, before he died, Jim’s burden of keeping such an important part of his life secret from all but family could be lifted. Yet, with this rejoicing also comes the pain that it took so long, and it came at a time when the quality and longevity of Jim’s life was being taken from him. As a church body, as a congregation, as individuals, may we, in memory of Jim, vow that we will do that which we are able to prevent others from carrying such burdens.
From us who were privileged to have shared cherished and important days of ministry with Jim,
Pastor Netsie and Pastor Wendell