River of Life pastor retires

River of Life United Methodist Church celebrated the retirement of Pastor David Carlson with a drive-up service on Sunday. A stage was set up in front of the parking lot at 2345 Prairie Ave. and sound was broadcast to cars through FM radio. Pictured are Master of Ceremonies Shirley Sweet (standing) with Rev. Carlson and his wife, Barb.

BELOIT—The Reverend David P. Carlson, of River of Life United Methodist Church in Beloit and Clinton, is retiring from the ministry as of the end of June.

Following his last online Sunday service broadcast on June 28, a drive-up celebration of Pastor David’s ministry was held in the church parking lot at 2345 Prairie Ave.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and former Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Carlson attended Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pa. During 41 years of ministry he served churches in Pennsylvania and in Juda and Sparta, Wis., prior to his last 10 years in Beloit-Clinton.

His tenure at ROL UMC saw a move from the downtown church at 511 Public St. to the church on Prairie Avenue following a merger, and the subsequent remodeling and building addition at the new location. The move to the smaller facility meant giving up some ministries, including a church-based daycare and being a host site for Hands of Faith. But it led to a new ministry, an after-school tutoring program serving students from Aldrich Middle School. It also led to the collaboration between River of LIfe’s choir and First Congregational Church for the community-outreach presentation of its Christmas and Easter cantatas.

Pastor Carlson has written: “For me, faith is pretty useless and lifeless if it isn’t moving me to doing the good that I can..... The same is true for a church. That [was] part of my sense of ministry and purpose in coming to Beloit: leading the church into seeking out and doing the good we can in terms of sharing the Gospel, feeding, comforting, healing, supporting and educating our community.”

The drive-up service of celebration had parishioners sitting safely in their cars in the parking lot. A stage was set up on the church grounds, with sound broadcast through car radios. Master of Ceremonies Shirley Sweet led a program of stories, gifts and presentations that included a wall hanging with the pastor’s favorite Bible verse and a memory book. A pre-recorded men’s quartet from the choir was broadcast, and liturgist Kelly Clark led the closing farewell ceremony.

The event, carefully planned for safe social distancing, was the first large-group gathering the church has held since in-person worship services were suspended in March.

The church will welcome a new pastor, the Reverend Brenda Whitford, beginning July 1.