For All the SaintsOctober 26, 2023 Newsletter
In this month of November with its bookend festivals of All Saints (November 1) and Christ the King (November 26) – with the Thanksgiving holiday (November 23) sandwiched between the two – I would like to dedicate this blog to my late colleague and dear friend, Rev. Dr. Bernard F. Nass. Pastor Ben Nass passed away last year on June 15, 2022. Having served his country with honor and distinction in the United States Army as a Chaplain, his committal service at Arlington National Cemetery will take place this month in the week of Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 21. It will be my privilege to officiate at this service.
Reflecting on Ben’s life and ministry, I would like to share his background and biography with those who did not know him. Bernard Frederick Nass (aka “Ben”) was born on January 31, 1936, in a farmhouse outside of Blue Hill, Nebraska, the middle of three children of Harold and Druella (Buss) Nass. Following elementary education at Trinity Lutheran School at Blue Hill, he entered St. John’s Academy and College in Winfield, Kansas in 1950, to begin studies that would lead to graduation from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1961 and ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry. On June 25, 1961, he married Elizabeth (Betty) Zelez, at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seaford, New York. Ben and Betty were blessed with two daughters, Lisa and Christa, as well as three grandchildren.
Ben served four years as a mission developer in the Clio/Mt. Morris area of northern Flint, Michigan, establishing Messiah Lutheran Church in Clio. He then accepted a divine call from his church body to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. In 1965, he entered active duty at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. Significant assignments were battalion chaplain with the 25th Infantry Division in Viet Nam; brigade chaplain with the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; division Chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division, Wurzburg, Germany; Installation Staff Chaplain at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; and EUSAREUR Personnel Chaplain in Heidelberg, Germany.
For his final assignment, in 1991 he was selected to serve as the Director of Personnel and Ecclesiastical Relations for the Chief of Army Chaplains in the Pentagon. In this capacity he exercised supervision over all recruitment, accessioning, professional development, assignment, and release of over 1500 chaplains representing over 120 church bodies. Additionally, he served as liaison for the Secretary of the Army to the ecclesiastical groups that serve and interface with the active and reserve components of the United States Army.
Among his military awards and decorations included the Legion of Merit (2 OLC), the Bronze Star, the Joint Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (1 OLC), the Air Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (1 OCL), the Soldier’s Medal, a Meritorious Unit Citation, a Valorous Unit Citation, and the Korean Presidential Citation. He also earned the Senior Parachutist (54 jumps) and Air Assault badges.
Pastor Nass’ educational accomplishments included Bachelor of Arts, Master of Divinity, Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Ministry degrees. He served four years on the Staff and Faculty of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School as instructor, group leader, and lastly as manager/dean of the advanced chaplain course.
Following his retirement from Military service in September 1993, he and his family continued to live in the Alexandria area. In May 1997, he accepted a Divine Call to serve as Associate Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, a position held until his retirement in July 2006. Prior to and following that position, he served as interim pastor at a number of congregations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, including: Grace Lutheran Church in Woodbridge, VA; Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Bethesda, MD; St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie, MD; Messiah Lutheran Church in Germantown, MD; Living Savior Lutheran Church in Fairfax Station, VA; Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Reston, VA; and Calvary Lutheran Church in Silver Spring, MD. Additionally, he continued to serve in emeritus status both for St. John’s Lutheran Church in Alexandria, VA, and the Southeastern District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).
On December 26, 2021, St. John’s congregation honored Pastor and Betty Nass on the occasion of his sixtieth ordination anniversary. Already in failing health, he passed away at home on June 15, 2022. His memorial service took place at St. John’s on July 9, 2022 – the anniversary of his ordination – with guidance that he himself had provided. He chose the Scripture readings and hymns in advance, and wrote the following: “I request a worship service of thanksgiving to be held at St. John’s led by clergy designated by my family. Invite the congregation to praise the goodness of the Lord for my life… I request that, if a brief homily is offered, it would emphasize the grace of God and hope of the resurrection – one that does not dwell on or stress my few accomplishments but what God is able to do and is still doing through his people with his abundant grace.”
Giving thanks to Christ our King for all the saints in this month of November, I am indebted to this beloved colleague for his dedication and faithfulness in ministry, as well as for the example that he set in life. It was my privilege to serve with him in team ministry for ten years. His gentle and caring manner, his broad life experience, his understanding of what was important and what was not, his confident faith and trust in Christ – all of these things are his legacy to me and to many others. I give thanks to God for the life and witness of the Lord’s faithful servant who together “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven,” joins us in eternal praise and thanksgiving to God.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2).