On Sunday, July 5, the Rev. Mark Hillmer delivered his final sermon to the congregation at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church.
For Hillmer, who became interim pastor of the church last July, the past year has been an eventful one.
He blessed approximately a dozen dogs and cats at his first “Blessing of the Animals” event last October.
He taught a confirmation class for seventh- and eighth-grade students and officiated at least seven or eight weddings. He led two services every Sunday, one traditional and one contemporary. He has led a congregation of up to 600 members on Sundays during season and as few as 100 members in the off season.
“It’s a very generous congregation,” Hillmer said.
Hillmer has been an ordained clergyman for all of his adult life and became a professor in 1967 at Luther Seminary, in St. Paul, Minn., where he taught Old Testament.
According to Lynn Blackledge, president of the church council, Hillmer’s academic background enriched the church.
“Having been a scholar most of his life, his sermons and his Bible studies were rich and upbeat,” she said.
Later this month, Hillmer will assume a one-year interim post at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, in Superior, Wisc.
In the meantime, services will be led on an alternating basis by the Rev. Robert Mursch and by supply pastors, who fill in as needed. The church is currently finalizing plans for a permanent pastor.
Blackledge praised Hillmer for his service as interim pastor.
“He was a stable force for us during this period,” she said.
He was a part of the church’s elaborate celebrations for Christmas and Easter and experienced the active social scene that the congregation enjoys during season.
The year before his interim term at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church, Hillmer served as interim pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church, in Spencer, Iowa. He applied for the position at the St. Armands church in part because he was eager to live in Florida, having spent five winter seasons in Cape Coral.
“I was thrilled to come back to Florida for a year and happy to get to know the Sarasota area,” he said.
In Sarasota, Hillmer has enjoyed watching sailboat regattas in the bay, swimming and the local cultural events, such as the opera.