We had the best guide.


If you want to start fishing at age 72, I recommend a guide.  We took Max (16) and Emilie (11) to central Wisconsin, along with their parents, to a family reunion.  The kids and I wanted to go out on the local waters and try casting for muskellunge – or something smaller, maybe even something to cook.  Pat Pierce is a well-known certified guide, so I arranged for two days, one on a lake, another on a river.

Pat also is an ordained minister.  He serves two churches, a brick and mortar one just large enough for its surviving 53 members, and Deep Water Lutheran Church, a church-without-walls, responding to the needs of people who are homebound, have strayed beyond their strict religious upbrings, or never had one.

This “without walls” concept appeals to me.  Like many of our generation, I dropped away from organized religion in my 30s.  I never doubted there is a God, and I have had many contemplative moments in cathedrals, ruined abbeys, deep woods and the desert.   But now I wonder:  What was my life all about?  Did I do the right things?  What next?

Pat makes himself available to all, bringing Word and Sacrament services, often to the sick and dying and their families, but also to teenagers contemplating love and marriage.  He officiates at interdenominational weddings anywhere, but specializes in outdoor settings.  Between our trips with him he buried a 90-year-old man who had Alzheimer’s Disease for 11 years.

Officially, he is a Prepare-Enrich Facilitator for the Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church.  He is a relief minister in more than one sense of that word.

In his drift boat, which he refuses to spoil with a noisy motor, he shared thought-provoking stories while he handled the ten-foot oars, untangled our lines from tree branches, introduced us to various baits, and measured each catch.  Some were too big, some too small, some too bony, but we had enough crappie (pronounced “croppy” and very mild and delicious) for hors d’oeuvres.  I suppose catching fish is a bit like catching a congregation.

Max and Em were pleased with the peacefulness of the places we went with Pat and all they learned from him about the sport and local landscape.  Along with Northern Pike, a Large-mouthed Bass, and the others, I think – I hope – they caught a drift of our adult talk about the value of spiritual life.

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