The Rev. Mark Cerniglia
The relationship between a Pastor and their congregation has some similarities to marriage. Although sometimes the match may not be a good one and can be filled with friction, for the most part the Pastor develops a deep love for his or her parishioners and is likewise usually loved by them in return. I am well aware of how keenly you all love Pastor Nipper and how well he has served you and loved you as your Pastor for the last 26 years.
I was ordained 39 years ago and have experienced that bittersweet time of saying goodbye to a congregation that I have served and loved for many years. I have also served a couple of Interim assignments since my retirement, and I have been surprised to discover the depths of those bonds even during those short terms of service.
I feel honored to have been recommended by the Southeastern Synod and accepted by the Council to serve you all during this time of grieving for your beloved Pastor and starting to re-orient yourselves to accept a new called Pastor in the future. I have known Pastor Nipper since we were in seminary together (he was a year ahead of me), and I have always had great respect for him.
My name is Mark Cerniglia. My last name is Italian and is pronounced “sir-nil-ya” with a silent “g.” Howev- er, most people just call me Pastor Mark. I was born in Miami, Florida, but now own a home near the Lutheran seminary in Columbia, SC. The Council has arranged for an apartment for me in Johnson City.
I am the father of three sons and the grandfather of nine grandchildren. My oldest son, Ben, was a Captain in the US Marine Corps who was killed in a helicopter crash while training for deployment to Afghanistan nine years ago. His two children are now teenagers who live with their mother in Memphis.
My second son, Joe, is a social worker who lives with his wife and their five children in my house in Columbia, SC. Once a month I plan to travel to Columbia to visit with them. They also look forward to visiting Johnson City.
My youngest son, Adam, is a Captain in the US Air Force. He is currently stationed in Monterey, California, with his wife and two children, but they will be moving to Tucson, Arizona, in a few months. My daughter-in-law is a US citizen who was born in Brazil, so they speak Portuguese with the children at home.
I have been privileged to have traveled extensively in my life and have preached on four different continents– beginning in North America, of course. I have also preached in Martin Luther’s church in Wittenberg, Germany, while leading a Luther tour in Europe. And I have preached in several places in Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia). In Asia I preached in my socks because it is the custom to remove one’s shoes before entering the church building.
The fourth continent is South America. As the coordinator for the companion synod relationship between the South Carolina Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia, I have preached on many occasions and in many places in Colombia in both English and Spanish.
Throughout my travels, I have witnessed that same love for Christ and for one another in the Christian community that you all experience at Our Saviour. As I said, I feel honored to be a part of that and use my experience to help you all navigate this period of transition. I look forward to getting to know you all better as well, although we recognize that is complicated by the necessary health protocols during this pandemic.
~Pastor Mark Cerniglia