Emil Leising will celebrate 60 years as Lutheran pastor
It’s hard to imagine doing any one job for 60 years, but 84-year-old Emil Leising would probably do another 60 as a Lutheran pastor, God willing.
Leising was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Gardnerville from 1955 to 1981. Tomorrow, members of the church will be honoring his 60 years in the pastoral ministry, and no one is more honored than the pastor himself.
“To be a part of the joys and sorrows of people’s lives as a pastor has been a great privilege,” he said. “I see them at all their highs and lows – at their baptism, then their confirmation, and then I may marry them and be there when they bury their parents, and baptize their own children and so on. It’s a privilege.”
n Midwestern farm roots. The oldest of seven children raised on a farm in Arapahoe, Neb., Leising grew up going to church every Sunday.
“It was just expected of us by our parents,” he said. “There was no question about it.”
Winning a speech contest (“No one was more surprised than me,” he said) his sophomore year of high school gave him the confidence to choose the ministry for his own career, Leising said. So, in 1940 he graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. He drove his Model A Ford to his first assignment in Provo, Utah, a $60-a-month position with no frills. After he was awarded a raise to $65, he married his sweetheart from back home, Bernice Henrietta DeWall, and brought her West.
In 1942, Leising became the first resident pastor of First Lutheran Church in Porterville, Calif., where he stayed for eight years. After that, he went to Lindsay, Calif., and then on to Martinez and Gregory Gardens, later called Pleasant Hill, Calif., where Emil and wife “Bernie” took their sons Tim and Nathan on the adventure of walking house to house, ringing door bells and sharing the gospel.
n Welcome to Gardnerville. In 1955, Trinity of Gardnerville issued a call, Leising said, to serve as pastor of the mother church of Lutheranism in Nevada, so from Dec. 11, 1955 to Jan. 31, 1981 he served as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church.
While here, Leising saw the congregation through landscaping the church grounds, paying for the church and parsonage, purchasing a Schlicker pipe organ, introducing the annual Vacation Bible School, and reaching the goal of giving 30 percent of the Sunday morning offerings to the missions of the district budget.
After leaving Trinity Lutheran Church in 1981, Leising filled pastoral vacancies in Nevada, California and Oregon and installed a total of 34 new pastors. He has acted as interim pastor in Elko, Yerington, Hawthorne and Tonapah, and in California towns including Auburn, Susanville, Bieber and Portola, where he has served at the St. Luke Lutheran Church for the past 13 years.
At 84, Leising is lively, articulate and engaging. His eyes shine when he speaks of his family – Tim and Bernie both died and Nate lives in the Carson Valley and is active in the church, according to current interim pastor Russell Howen, who replaced retiring pastor Larry Miller in August.
Leising still drives every weekend to Portola and lives most of the time in the Johnson Lane area, where he can rarely be found due to his busy schedule. One of his favorite Bible passages, “By the grace of God, I am what I am,” describes his accessible and straightforward personality.
n Come celebrate. Sunday’s celebration of Pastor Leising’s 60th anniversary will be at both the 8 and 10:30 a.m. services, with guest preacher Rev. Robert M. Visser, special music, and refreshments offered at the fellowship in between the two services, from 9:10 to 10:10 a.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 1480 Douglas Ave. in Gardnerville. The public is welcome.