May 2019 - Served by Pastors of Our Saviour’s

As was noted at the 100th Anniversary of the congregation, Our Saviour’s has been blessed with some truly amazing servant-leaders as pastors over the years.

Our first pastor (Niels Th. Ylvisaker) was actually a part-time missionary who was serving a parish in Red Wing at the same time. The first few were either Norwegian born or first-generation Norwegians, and nearly all of our following pastors have had some Norwegian heritage. Many have then gone on to be leaders for their synod (including Han Stub who became President of the Norwegian Lutheran Synod, and Don Rudrud as an assistant to our Bishop) as well as professors or leaders at Lutheran colleges (Thoralf Hoff, Raymond Olson). 

There were 11 pastors during the first 100 years (all male) and 9 associate pastors (all male).  During the last 50 years, of the 12 who have served in pastoral and associate roles, 7 have been male and 5 female (including Laurie Eaton, our first female senior pastor).   Over the years, Our Saviour’s has also included four visitation pastors on staff.  Our Saviour’s has also been served by 9 different interim pastors.  This includes one who will likely hold the record for longest interim (9 years), Janet Tidemann, until we were able to convince our Synod to drop a rule to allow us to call her as an associate pastor.

Of the 14 people who have served as our lead pastor, three were called directly from their ordination (Ole Vangness, Herman Preus), with one (Hans Stub) at 23 years old, the youngest as well.  Only once has an associate pastor risen to fill the role of senior pastor, that being Warren Sorteborg who followed David Quill.  Our oldest pastor to be called (Alf Kraabel) was 56 years old.  The range of years of service has been from 3 to 22 years (J.W. Preus).  The average years of service works out to around 10.   Notably there have been two periods of very lengthy pastorates – 20 and 22 years, as well as 17 years, and one transition time in the 1950’s in which there three calls during a 12-year span.  In what will be another “story” told in the months ahead, one of our associate pastoral staff on a three-year contract, lost a vote to be re-called by the narrowest of margins.  And also notably, not just our first pastor, but another (Hans Lee) was called to serve a congregation that had no physical building.

While our pastors have been historically praised for their preaching, teaching and worship leadership, we should also be aware of the other ways we have been blessed by these leaders.  During our 150 years, we have had excellent administrators, program leaders, supervisors and counselors, as well as social change agents and dynamic witnesses for social justice. 

The May anniversary display table includes photos of each of the pastors and interesting biographies for each, so I won’t go into further detail except for a listing of the 14 and their years of service here.

 -Daniel Swenson-Klatt