April 17, 2010 in Features

From microphone to ministry

Former newsman makes transition from television to church leader
By The Spokesman-Review
 
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON photo

Brian Albrecht takes a few moments from his duties as vicar and pastor In training to sit for a portrait in the new St. John’s Lutheran Church earlier this week.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

What: Open house for St. John’s Lutheran Church and its Meadowlane Christian School.

When: Today, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, dedication and worship service, 4 p.m., followed by reception.

Where: 5806 S. Meadowlane Road, just off U.S. Highway 195.

More information: (509) 995-8083

Last fall, Brian Albrecht – TV weatherman turned pastor-in-training – was preaching about the significance of the rainbow that appeared after those Noah’s Ark rains.

“I gave them a five-minute lecture on the microphysics of rainbows, and I used a power point with it, because you want to reinforce that with pictures,” he said.

Albrecht, 52, made the transition from media work to God’s work a year ago.

He’s now vicar and ministry director of St. John’s Lutheran Church. That’s the church that sold its downtown location three years ago for $1.9 million, during the peak of the commercial real-estate boom.

After their move from downtown, church members met in temporary quarters – a large rancher on the eight acres of property they bought off U.S. Highway 195, near Qualchan Golf Course.

Today, from 1 to 4 p.m., they’re welcoming everyone to see their newly built church, filled with remnants of the downtown church. Same steeple, pews, lectern, organ, altar. Same art-glass and stained-glass windows.

“We’ve merged the old with the new,” Albrecht said.

Inland Northwest folks run into him all the time, recognize him from his TV days and ask: “Where did you go?”

His short answer: “I’ve got a different life now. I’m working for my church.”

There’s a longer story behind it, of course.

Albrecht, born and raised in Wisconsin, grew up Lutheran. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in meteorology and found his way into weather journalism.

In the late 1990s, he was working for a TV station in Jacksonville, Fla., and very involved in his Lutheran church there.

“We had a young pastor, and he got married on a Saturday, and he was going to be off on his honeymoon Sunday. I filled in and preached that day,” Albrecht remembered.

“It was the first time I’d ever done that. It went over pretty well. People said, ‘Hey, you missed your calling!’ It’s one of those things when the voice starts in the back of your mind very faintly, and then it gets a little louder.”

In April 2000, Albrecht, his wife, Kay, and their daughter, Beth, moved to Spokane for his job as meteorologist on KHQ. He joined St. John’s Lutheran Church, which had been a mainstay at the corner of Third Avenue and Division Street since 1900.

Albrecht’s volunteer work at the church was almost equivalent to a second job. His call to ministry continued.

“But I had signed a contract to work at a television station,” he said. “I don’t believe God would call you to break your word in order to go into service to him.”

He loved his KHQ job. He worked there nine years. Then, in April 2009, he was informed his contract wouldn’t be renewed.

“They said, ‘We want to go a different direction.’ It wasn’t my choice, let’s put it that way,” Albrecht said.

“Was I disappointed? Yeah. But they gave me a chance to say goodbye on every newscast my last day. That’s unheard of. Usually, people just go away. I was honored by that. Obviously, things have turned out very well.”

St. John’s pastor had recently left for a church in Wisconsin. Two days after Albrecht got the news about his TV job, the chairman of the congregation, Spokane attorney David Eash, said the church had a job offer for him.

Would he consider leading the congregation as ministry director while studying to be ordained?

“He was already a lay minister, and in that capacity he had demonstrated both his inclination for ministry and his capabilities,” Eash said.

The Lutheran Church is experiencing pastor shortages in some locations, so it has adopted a “grow-your-own” plan. Albrecht’s daughter jokingly calls her dad a “PIT” – pastor in training – but it describes the process well.

Albrecht is getting on-the-job experience at the church while working on a demanding, four-year seminary program online through Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He’s never been busier. In the past year, he led the congregation and helped oversee the new church construction. He and other church members are trying to build a vibrant preschool and kindergarten, Meadowland Christian School, on church property.

And he spends between 10 and 20 hours a week on his seminary studies.

Albrecht hasn’t given up meteorology. He teaches an aviation weather course for University of North Dakota aerospace students who attend class in Spokane.

He also referees middle- and high-school basketball games. And he has a blog – brianweatherornot. blogspot.com – that mixes his musings on weather, church and God.

St. John’s congregation is made up of about 60 families.

“We’re mostly older. Our average age is over 50,” Albrecht said.

But the church is surrounded by family-filled developments, including Eagle Ridge and Qualchan Hills.

“We have this wonderful valley with all the young families,” he said. “We reach out to them. I tell them: ‘We’re a brand new, 110-year-old church.’ ”

Said Eash, a lifelong member of St. John’s whose grandfather was pastor from 1902 until the 1930s: “There’s tremendous momentum at this point. I’ve never been as excited about the possibilities for ministry.”

What does Albrecht miss from his old life? Firm deadlines, because they help organize a person’s day. And he misses many of the people he worked with at KHQ.

“But I love the people here,” he said. “I look out on Sunday morning, over all the faces, and I just have to smile.”


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