Mammoth’s Lutheran Church welcomed Pastor Kent Puls to the parish on December 7 with an installation and commissioning service. Puls has served as an ordained pastor for the Lutheran Church for 27 years; 17 of those years at Grace Lutheran Church in Bishop.
“I was ready for a new challenge,” Puls said of Mammoth’s Lutheran Church. “This church has struggled to keep pastors for a long time. Because this is a resort area, we don’t have a lot of the same people coming through.”
In spite of this, Puls noted the generosity of members both local and visiting. Together, they raise roughly $80-90,000 per year to keep the church open. “The church is fortunate to have good givers,” he said.
Mammoth’s Lutheran Church offers weekly worship, as well as communion and baptism ceremonies, and preschool, to which Puls said he hopes to add mid-week school for kindergarten through third grade.
The church will also be offering Christmas Eve services at 4, 6, 8, and 11 p.m., and Christmas Day services at 8:45 a.m.
Puls will be pastor to a dual parish, and said that while the Bishop and Mammoth communities are different, the churches are similar in their emphasis.
“We’re a hospital church, not a gymnasium church,” he said. “We don’t try to teach people techniques … The main thing we talk about is the cross, and forgiveness of sins. I think that’s a unique perspective that our church brings to the area. It’s the same old message: that God loves you, and forgives your sins, no matter how bad you feel about yourself.”
Puls said he was inspired to become a pastor by the example of his father.
“I had aspirations to play pro football, and I had an opportunity, but I’ve always loved to be around the church,” he said. “My dad, who was also a pastor, made it so fun … He didn’t bring any of the bad home. He just brought the good jokes, the riddles, and what people thought about God’s love.”
Puls graduated from Cal Lutheran and served as a pastor in Canoga Park, San Fernando Valley, for 10 years before coming to the Eastern Sierra.
“When I got the call from Bishop, my son was going into high school, and I thought this would be a great place to raise kids,” he said. “It has been.”
Puls’ introduction to the Mammoth Lakes community on Dec. 7 was a success, he said. “My brother was preaching; he came all the way from Indiana. We had seven or eight other pastors, some who came from over 250 miles to get here. It was great to have a magnet event like that, to propel everyone in the right direction.”
Puls said it is the people who have made the ministry a joy for him. Between leading services in Bishop and Mammoth, and reaching out to both communities through jail and hospital visits, “There’s a lot of variety in my work,” he said.
“I’m very appreciative of my family and schooling; the professors I had who really equipped me for this work by giving me a deep rootedness in the meaning and value of church,” he said. “All of my kids [Puls has four with wife Sheri] are in the church. They’re joyful; they enjoy their relationship with the church and with God. I wish that for everybody.”