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Permann says 'goodbye' to UCC

Dr. Delbert "Del" Permann has spent the last three years as interim pastor for Roberts Congregational United Church of Christ. Roberts UCC has now called Rev. Melinda Feller to serve as their minister. In recognition of Permann's service the past three years, Permann said the Roberts UCC congregation gave him an honorary certificate of pew ownership, so he will always have a place to sit when he returns to visit Roberts UCC. Permann stands next to the pew.

Dr. Delbert "Del" Permann is slowly packing up his office at Roberts Congregational United Church of Christ. This is far from the first time he's found himself packing up an office, preparing to leave his post as pastor of a church.

"It's always very strange," Permann said. "I get close to people and I'm going to miss that."

Permann said he doesn't like good-byes, but he did appreciate the celebration the Roberts UCC congregation had for him and his wife Judith after worship on Sunday, Jan. 13. In addition to presenting Permann with the certificate for his own honorary pew, Permann said the congregation also gave him a giant card of well-wishes and a large laundry basket of clothes to be donated to a homeless shelter at which he frequently volunteers. The congregation also donated $500 to Our Neighbor's Place homeless shelter in River Falls in Permann's name.

Permann has been in ordained ministry for 53 years. He said he has retired several times over the years. He spent several years as pastor for First Congregational United Church of Christ in River Falls. Since coming out of retirement in 2002, Permann said he has served as interim pastor in Tucson, Ariz. Albuquerque, N.M., Prescott, Sheboygan and Sparta, in addition to Roberts UCC.

Permann said he has good memories he's taken away from each congregation he has worked with. He said he will most remember the Roberts UCC congregation's enthusiasm.

"They have lots of meals here. They're called the church that eats," Permann said. "They have a fun auction kind of thing that they raise money with every year and those are a lot of the things that I will always remember."

In his three years at Roberts UCC, Permann said he has helped the church through a financial crisis, helped add new members to the congregation and helped begin and complete the process of calling a new minister to the church.

"And also got heat into the bathrooms," Permann added.

Permann said he also worked on emphasizing the importance of family and modeling good Christian behavior. He said being a good role model involves a good sense of humor.

"We take ourselves far too seriously," Permann said. "And when we take ourselves too seriously, then our own personality quirks and everything else can get in the way of our growth as Christians."

Permann said he always strives to make a difference in each of the parishes for which he serves as interim minister.

"It's easy to go into a situation and just maintain it until somebody else comes. I've never viewed what I do just as maintenance," Permann said. "There's got to be some long-range planning."

Permann said he hopes the planning he has started will help make for a smooth transition for Roberts UCC's new pastor, Melinda Feller, when she arrives in about two weeks.

When Feller arrives, Permann said he plans to retire -- for a while.

"Right now there's all kinds of... speculation as to how long I'll stay retired," Permann said. "I've retired six times already."

Permann said he and his wife plan to spend some time visiting family, especially their granddaughter, who lives with her parents in Tacoma, Wash.

"I just want to kind of recuperate," Permann said.

As for the future of Roberts UCC, Permann said he hopes the congregation will continue to expand who they are as people of faith.

"And they will, because they know what they're doing will attract others to be with them." Permann said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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