As a youngster growing up in Rosebud, Texas, Pastor Harold Vanicek could often be found with dirty hands working in his grandparents’ large garden. As farmers, grandma and grandpa invited their grandson to join in the work of growing food and caring for the land, which gave Pastor Harold an early introduction to creation care.
His view of creation expanded from the ground to the skies when he went off to university to study aerospace engineering, and he later worked for NASA. Immersed in the world of equations, mechanics, and stardust, Pastor Harold says, “science became my first language of God.”
Though his plan was to be an engineer and, as he puts it, “build cars in space,” over time God kept knocking on Pastor Harold’s door with the calling to a different vocation. He answered that knock and attended Wartburg Seminary in Iowa where he gained a new language for God. Now, his understanding of creation is shaped by both science and theology, and for him, those two languages are not opposites. Each language enhances and amplifies his faith.
Today, Pastor Harold’s ministry blends his roles of pastor and engineer. A children’s sermon includes a lesson on earth’s magnetic field and how it reminds us that God’s unseen presence affects our everyday lives. When a child from the church’s school stops by his office to share that Noah saw a rainbow after the flood, Pastor Harold gives them a small prism to hold up to the light and see the full spectrum of color present.
As a member of Lutherans Restoring Creation, he helps develop resources for people to learn more about how human activity impacts creation and how we can faithfully respond, and he also contributes to the synod and churchwide efforts to advocate for and act in the best interest of creation. “It’s all connected,” he said. “What we were doing on the farm was connected to the planet, was connected to the universe.” Just as his grandparents invited him to care for their garden, Pastor Harold invites others to care for our earthly home as a matter of science and faith.
Written by Pastor Lisa Hoelscher, associate pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Marble Falls, TX