Pastor Joe’s Memories

Looking back at Saint Peter years.

When I had the honor of attending the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Saint Peter Lutheran Church, I was asked if I would write up some memories of the time I served as pastor here during the years from 2000 through 2011, the years of my pastorate.

I came to Saint Peter after serving two city congregations consecutively for 18 years in the city of Philadelphia, PA. The first thing to mention is how this area has grown since the year 2000! This beautiful Southport area in which we live has expanded over and over again. That was the reason for the plans to build the new sanctuary in which you now worship as well as to renovate the former sanctuary into what is the fellowship area, kitchen, class rooms, etc.

One of many documents that kept Pastor Tursi busy shortly after his arrival at Saint Peter.

By now you know the history of all that and the wonderful work the committee did in thinking through and executing the plans in coordination with the architect and construction company. We broke ground in August, 2001 and moved into the new sanctuary in June, 2002.

Irene Robinson, charter member, uses the ceremonial shovel in the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, August 12, 2001.

The new campus now hosts the sanctuary and fellowship hall as well as the splendid additions of the columbarium, labyrinth, community veggie garden, etc. I can say that the goal of that entire project, that we kept before us, was to create a beautiful and functional place in which the worship and praise of God could continue and grow.

Following the use of the new sanctuary and its dedication by the (now retired) bishop of the NC Synod, Leonard Bolick, in November of that year, the congregation experienced continued growth as more and more people found their way into Brunswick County from other parts of the country. All the churches of our area experienced this growth and many denominational churches also underwent construction programs during the early 2000’s. However, the brakes were tapped and then hit hard as this area experienced the recession of 2008-10 in which all new construction suffered from the economic downturn. We, as a congregation, seemed to survive that crisis and, happy to report, our members remained faithful in both service and support of Saint Peter Church.

As the years and clergy have moved on, the congregation has continued to grow to the healthy church it is today with the guidance of the Spirit of God lived through each and every member then and now, who are served by the current faithful pastors.

On a personal note, I have always been grateful for the ways in which the congregation cared for me over the years I served here. During that time, many of the older members will remember, I received exchange students ​from Europe, Thailand, and Brazil for 9 consecutive years. Each student attended his junior year at South Brunswick High. Those young men are now in their early 30s and I am in still in touch with them. Amazingly, for teenagers, they loved attending Saint Peter every Sunday — even Nat, the Buddhist boy!

I was asked for photos, and of course that made me look through my albums which always brings back memories. All of my exchange students were so great. Here’s Mads from Denmark with my dog Tica. I found Tica lost and hurt hanging around the church during my first year at Saint Peter, and we had 12 years together until she died of cancer the same month I retired in 2011. All my students loved her .

Mads and Tica

Also, many of you will remember the relationship we all entered into when I brought a troubled young man named David to Southport from Philly in 2005. A young man with no family and a past, yet even as I formally adopted him in 2007, you all became his parents and watched as he blossomed into the mature, caring man he is today. Currently he works for the construction company which is undertaking the massive 211 project.

Pastor Joe’s adopted son David

I continue to live in Costa Rica as a resident for part of each year as well as travel to see the world in the remaining years that I have. One particular adventure I’m remembering as I look through my photos is my class of English students at a language school in Heredia, Costa Rica where I was a volunteer for a few years until the pandemic closed the school. This was a great group of young people trying to learn English for various types of jobs available for English speakers in Costa Rica.

Pastor Joe and his English students

I have enjoyed most of Central America, Cuba, Europe, Vietnam, Turkey, Mexico and most recently Egypt. I have more travel scheduled for 2024! I am thankful to Almighty God for the wonderful and blessed years I spent as pastor here in Southport and for the faithful who have gathered each week over those years to worship, serve, and love one another as Christ has loved us.

Remember, I still serve the Lutheran church as needed in the synod, so I look forward to stopping in for worship now and then on special occasions as time moves on for all of us.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Joe Tursi


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