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The new pastor at First Presbyterian Church walked into his office for the first time Nov. 13 to find it filled with sticky notes and a welcome poster covered in colorful handprints.

The children of the downtown Bismarck church offered advice to help the Rev. David Reiter adjust to life in the capital city.

"I recommend a pizza burger from Big Boy," a girl named Emily wrote on a purple note.

Reiter said he'd make sure to order one.

The 64-year-old pastor has spent a week in his new job at First Presbyterian. He delivered his first sermon about serving.

Last Sunday, he drew upon the slogan of Red Wing Shoes: "Work is our work." Before coming to Bismarck, he served as pastor at a church in Red Wing, Minn.

"At some point, it clicked with me there's a real parallel with the church," he said.

For a church, the slogan might read: "Mission is our mission."

"If a church is not about serving others, it is not about anything," he said. "That is our purpose."

He had a special message for kids, too.

Before hanging it on his wall, he showed them a framed copy of Norman Rockwell's "Golden Rule" mosaic on display at the United Nations in New York City. He recalled visiting the building and stumbling across the piece, which displays the words: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

"It startled me in a place as diverse and worldly as the United Nations that there would be a quote from Jesus there," he said.

Reiter's official title is "designated pastor" at First Presbyterian, which places him somewhere between an interim and permanent pastor. He has worked as a pastor on an interim basis at churches in the Midwest for several years.

As a designated pastor, he has a one-year contract with First Presbyterian that can be renewed.

Several pastors have come and left First Presbyterian during the past few years, Reiter said.

Dale Hoerauf, who chairs the church's administrative and personnel committee, said it can take a significant amount of time to go through the call process to find someone permanent.

"We were not in a position to spend two years finding a pastor," he said.

The church opted for a designated pastor, instead. Hoerauf said designated pastors typically stay two or three years, during which time a church can look for someone permanent if the designated pastor indicates a plan to leave.

It's not his first time serving in North Dakota. Reiter used to be the pastor at a church in Jamestown.

"I had been in North Dakota before and had a very good experience," said Reiter, who had his first interview with the Bismarck church during the summer. "I had lived in Minnesota, so I am not afraid of winter."

He said the Bismarck congregation seems to care deeply about the church. He hopes to bring stability.

Hoerauf said Reiter has experience developing relationships with the community. He anticipates that increasing membership and bringing back people who have left the church to be the biggest challenges for the new pastor.

His personality is a good fit for that, Hoerauf said.

"He is very approachable, and you feel comfortable talking to him," he said.

Reiter's wife, Brenda, continues to live in Hastings, Minn., where she works as a nurse practitioner. Reiter has an agreement with the church to leave his job in Bismarck for five days a month to spend time with his wife. She also visits here, he said.

"It's not as ideal as being home, but it works," he said.

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(Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8267 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.)

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