‘Flying’ pastor finally lands

The “flying’ Pastor John Lindsay is now retiring. - Contributed photo
The “flying’ Pastor John Lindsay is now retiring.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Rita Larom

Special to the Journal

Frequent flyer miles have not been awarded to “flying” Pastor John Lindsay during his 11 years of service to The Lutheran Church in the San Juans, but he has certainly compiled them.

The pastor has anxiously peered through the fog, rocked with the wind, and watched rain bounce off the wings as Jackie Hamilton’s Island Air carried him to congregational branches on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands, during 1,300 flights.

After traveling in the air or on the water to fulfill pastoral responsibilities, Lindsay is now retiring.

A a celebration and dinner in Pastor Lindsay’s honor will be held on Friday Harbor, at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Sat., Oct. 1, 3 to 5 p.m.

In addition to Lindsay’s full schedule of travel, delivering sermons and attending ecumenical and island events, he has acted as his own secretary.

His book and film studies, open to the community, have wrestled with complex questions.

Lindsay has relied on several pinch-hitters in the pulpit as he has tried to cover his clerical bases, subject to the whims of weather and the ferry system.

One memorable Christmas Eve, Morry Dalton, a retired Lopez pastor, received a late night call.

Aboard a grounded ferry and responsible for the midnight service at Center Church, Lindsay requested Dalton’s assistance.

Technical challenges with cell phones and moody computers were finally met and the planned homily was in Dalton’s hands just in time.

“He is always prepared and his ability to meet the logistical challenges in the San Juans is remarkable,” Dalton said. “It can leave one exhausted and drained.  His writing pastoral thoughts in island newspaper church ads are apropos for the times. His influence is community wide.”

Dick Schoenman, the Lopez escort for Lindsay, waited at the airport on a recent Sunday while the Pastor said a quick goodbye to Friday Harbor parishioners.

About 10 minutes later, Lindsay left the plane, and greeted Schoenman with a bearded smile and handshake. Within moments, Lindsay’s frame filled the doorway and his voice filled the sanctuary of Center Church.

“He was more somber earlier this year.” Schoenman said. “Sinus infection plagued him while his father and brother suffered terminal illnesses and died days apart. I don’t know of anyone who would bear up any better.”

No stranger to unique or remote situations, Lindsay served in Sitka, Alaska, for seven years and in White Center, Seattle, for 19 years, before moving to Friday Harbor.

Lindsay and his wife, Kathryn, were married in 1968, before he started seminary.

Self-motivated and independent, Kathryn has enjoyed gardening and expanded her art interests to photography while living in the San Juans.

“I’m looking forward to having my husband available again,” Kathryn said about the upcoming retirement.

The couple has two daughters and a young grandson. With more time together, they plan to explore the islands and the Pacific Northwest.

“It will be enjoyable to step out of the role,” Lindsay said, “and just be an ordinary couple while we decide what we’ll do next.”

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