March 5, 2022
Through preaching and practice, Brooke Solberg passes the baton of Christian ministry to the next generation. He's my former pastor, mentor and friend, a city boy who preached at a little country church. By the time he left, 31 people, myself included, had committed ourselves to Christian service.
A "Festschrift" compiled by the congregation in Brooke's honor includes the writings of people influenced by Dr. W. Richard "Brooke" Solberg, during his 21 years serving what is now David's Community Church in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. In his written tribute, a seminary dean recognized Brooke as a young Timothy and wrote, "But you, man of God . . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." I Timothy 6:11.
And Brooke, who grew up in Brooklyn, had taken that scriptural admonition seriously from the get go. We watched him and his wife Ruth raise four children. In everyday life, they showed our congregation the spiritual maturity the apostle Paul wrote about and inspired us to grow in Christ.
Brooke also inspired us to serve beyond church doors. If someone shared with him a burden they had for ministry, he told them to run with it and supported them in prayer. He helped them use secular skills in ministry within and far beyond the church.
One man offered a sign language class; some of us taught after-school Bible clubs and released time classes. One woman developed a Good Samaritan ministry to offer transportation, meals and support in various ways. In time people left our flock to serve as pastors, missionaries and church planters throughout the world.
Brooke's faith in Christ as "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) showed up throughout our region. He served as a chaplain in the 193rd PA Air National Guard, Middletown, and he combined Harrisburg Hospital visits with playing basketball at the YMCA. Fellow Guard members and basketball players sometimes visited our church, where Brooke preached from scripture, often verse-by-verse.
He became known for saying "watch my hands" as he gestured to illustrate sermon points. Many times he made fun of himself in ways that made us laugh.
When we asked Brooke about puzzling Bible passages, he always said, "Let's look at it in context," and off we went to solve the puzzle.
Brooke and Ruth saw potential in me and others that we didn't see in ourselves. I felt challenged when they asked me to organize and lead a Christian education committee. I was, at the time, a public school teacher, and while I was comfortable speaking to high school students, I was terrified in front of adults. The Solbergs led me from small speaking venues to larger settings and helped me overcome that fear.
During the Solbergs' ministry with us, my husband and I experienced the greatest crisis of our lives, the death of our only daughter a few hours after her birth. The congregation had prayed for us. How could this happen?
But Brooke counseled, "We ask; we don't demand." He and Ruth offered tissues, shoulders to cry on and a faith that did not waver. Their prayers calmed and soothed our souls—and the souls of many in our congregation and in the wider community who suffered losses and sorrows.
In time, Brooke suggested I fill the void left in my life by our baby's death by taking Christian education courses at a seminary. I was in my late thirties and nervous about returning to the classroom. But with his encouragement, I eventually earned a master's degree in that field and served on that church staff.
As a staff member, Brooke respected my input, shared his ideas with me and encouraged
me to develop programs. He and Ruth served as close, trusted and experienced counselors. I am grateful my children grew up with their children and enjoyed the Solbergs' teaching, friendship and leadership.
After he left our congregation, Brooke served for 12 years at a city church, where many more entered Christian service. Throughout his ministry, he has often served as a guest speaker and retreat leader for other churches and denominations. After retirement he served as an interim pastor for his denomination and later served an inner city church, counseling many who came to Christ after overcoming addictions and other struggles. Now 86, he was named pastor emeritus at Faith Evangelical Free Church, Allentown, and serves part-time as pastor of the older generation.
More than 100 people wrote tributes to Brooke in the Festschrift. Like Timothy, Brooke's life attests to a faithful and fruitful ministry as a disciple of Christ. May those of us he discipled continue to pass on the baton of faith and ministry.
If your life has been touched by Brooke, leave a message below, and I'll be sure he reads it.