Reflections on the farewell of a beloved pastor

By Chaplain (LTC) Todd Cheney, USAG Rheinland-PfalzFebruary 2, 2024

Reflections on the farewell of a beloved pastor
Chaplain (LTC) Cheney (right), U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, bids farewell to Pastor Burkhard Zill, Protestant Christian senior pastor at Baumholder, after a farewell service held in honor of Zill on Jan. 28 at the Baumholder Protestant Church. (Photo by Bernd Mai, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

BAUMHOLDER, Germany – The average tenure of a Protestant Christian senior pastor in the United States is less than four years. In other words, much like professional sports coaches, ministry in the U.S. is a revolving door.

The COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2022) exacerbated pastoral care and ministry and sadly, many U.S. churches closed their doors. Several pastors – due to burnout – left pastoral ministry altogether.

Pastor Burkhard Zill is a bright, shining example and exception to the above, dreadful statistic. Pastor Zill and his wife, Heike, arrived in Baumholder, Germany, in 1993, just a few years removed from German reunification.

This past Sunday, Jan. 28, the Zills were farewelled by their adoring church family and also Baumholder village friends who could count on Pastor Zill during times of trial and tragedy.

Pastor Zill’s devoted pastoral leadership and ministry to Baumholder and beyond lasted 33 years! And the fact that the Evangelische Kirche in Baumholder was packed, with an approximate attendance of 300 people, is a tribute to Pastor Zill’s impact.

Some of my favorite historical heroes are local church pastors. They are spiritual leaders that may not rise to the level of celebrity or powerful politician. However, they are the unassuming, selfless, care-providers that keep a community moving forward during adversity and change.

The German-American friendship in Baumholder has lasted more than 70 years. So much has changed in those years and with it many threats to freedom that both Germans and Americans cherish. And I believe it is because of community leaders and spiritual care providers like Pastor Burkhard Zill that has enabled the bond of shared interests and values between our two nations.

To my fellow pastor and friend – Pastor Burkhard Zill – well done, good and faithful servant. May the Lord bless and keep you and Heike as you enjoy a much-deserved retirement.

From a Grateful American,

Chaplain (LTC) Todd Cheney

United States Army Garrison, Rheinland-Pfalz