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Randy Haas makes sandwiches at his home in Tacoma, Wash. He has taken on a two-point urban ministry brought together by hard times but filled with potential.


parked outside. But with a twist.


Two-point parish with a twist


In hard times, these congregations look to a pastor who’s had a hard life


Text and photo by Rachel Pritchett


best. A rare sight for a pastor, Randy Haas, 61, has taken on an even rarer, two-point urban ministry at Salishan Eastside Lutheran Mis- sion and Hope Lutheran Church, where he appears to fit in. Financial woes have brought the two churches together. “What this is is rural ministry in the inner


H


city,” Haas said during a visit in his mod- est rental where his Harley Street Glide is


Pritchett is the communicator for the Southwestern Washington Synod.


e’s got tattoos head to toe, wears a Harley thrill-ride T-shirt and any smile he can muster is a deep grimace at


In rural two-point ministries, he explained, you deal with long distances and established churches with strong self-identities. Salishan and Hope, both in the heart of Tacoma, Wash., are redefining themselves. Salishan, just 25 years old, is in a poor, crime- infested section of the city where some members show up for worship already high and others are burdened with criminal pasts, joblessness and poverty. “We have this core of broken people who come to this church,” Haas said, “but honestly, we’re all broken sinners.” Until he retired as pastor, Ron Vignec led Salishan for years. He became famous for helping dig this part of Tacoma out from the depths of gang control and vio- lence. The church has suffered since he left. “I can’t be Ron,” Haas said. That’s fine with the people of Salishan, who are looking for somebody who


doesn’t fit the mold to bless them with a new beginning—on their terms. Haas, broken himself, seems to fit. He did two tours of Vietnam in the ’60s when he was no more than a boy—he wasn’t even old enough to enjoy a beer on the plane ride back to the States.


What followed was a life full of bad choices, sadness, broken relation- ships and loneliness.


“I am the vilest of sinners,” Haas said, quoting Paul. He later attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., to become a pastor.


Then there’s hope


Just a few miles away is Hope, an old inner-city church that has lost mem- bers over the years to the suburbs. Despite their different roots, the two congregations get along “amaz- ingly well,” said Haas, who was installed at a combined Salishan and Hope service last fall.


While the congregations look to Haas for direction, he holds the mirror up to them. His wants them to use undiscovered talents to build a future together. “Most people are filled with wonderful gifts, wonderful talents. They just don’t know it,” he said.


Not long ago, both congregations enjoyed a performance of the hard- core Christian rock band Convicted, made up of former prison inmates. “We had kids dancing in the aisles with their moms. Everyone was mov- ing to the music. There was the spirit of the Lord in that sanctuary that morning,” Haas said. “It proved to me that they’re open to new ideas.” Peel away Haas’ rough exterior and you discover a man utterly devoted to God. His tattoos that span three decades are of God and the Bible. Now, he’s also devoted to these fledgling congregations. “I will do my best to try to link the DNA of these two churches,” said Haas with what passes for a smile. “That’s all I can do.” 


16 The Lutheran • www.thelutheran.org


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