Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 31, 1999

New pastor at EUCC in Lester Prairie

By Luis Puga

The Rev. John Hogue said that currently many denominations are facing a shortage of pastors.

This may explain why Evangelical United Church of Christ (EUCC) in Lester Prairie has gone without a pastor for the past two years.

Hogue said, "In any mainline denomination, there are very few ministers. It's a consequence that all mainline denominations are suffering."

He adds that even the Catholic church is suffering from shortages of priests. He estimates that the ratio is one priest for every 500 members.

In his own denomination, he noted that there are 6,800 churches across the 50 states and Puerto Rico, and only 3,800 ministers. Thirty-five percent of them are expected to retire in the next two years.

He added that he is impressed with EUCC in Lester Prairie for functioning so long without a pastor. He said that sometimes congregations dissolve because of a lack of pastors.

He added that in his denomination, at least half of the pastors are women and most of them are second career ministers.

He, himself, was a financial planner, as well as a minister. He jokes that he can provide financial advice as well as moral.

Hogue, who is to be installed as the new pastor of EUCC in Lester Prairie is a welcome addition to the congregation. The installation will coincide with the church's 100th anniversary.

The time period between now and the installation, called standing, is in part both for the congregation and minister to get to know each other.

Hogue explained that it also allows the congregation, in the denomination's tradition, to essentially do a background check on the minister to see if he or she has violated any codes of conduct.

He notes that there was a period of time when his denomination did not enforce the process of checking into prospective pastors, but in the last 15 years, the practice has been followed more diligently.

Hogue began the applicaiton process by circulating a profile which was essentially his resume. After that, he narrowed his option to about 11 churches. Choosing one was the hard part.

He said, "I didn't really know where to turn. So I asked God for divine inspiration."

At first, he said, nothing came to him.

One night, he had a dream and envisioned a chalice, or communal cup, on a banner or stained glass window. It wasn't until he saw the chalice in this church's stained glass window that he knew he had found his place.

As for the shortage of ministers, Hogue sees it as a crisis. Part of his role as minister has always been to encourage young people into the ministry.

One of his endeavors has been to take young people to Puerto Rico, where EUCC is the only Protestant church in the country. He said the focus of the trip is to teach diversity and teach "that God doesn't look upon background, that He is non-judgmental."

Through the experiences of mission work in Puerto Rico, two youths have joined the ministry. He adds that for those interested, there are scholarships available.

Hogue believes that a call to the ministry requires patience and understanding ­ Understanding that everyone has a unique gift to offer, no matter what position in life.

Hogue said that in the three weeks he has been in Lester Prairie, he has found both the community and congregation very warm and receptive.

In his previous position in Ohio, Hogue worked at a inner city church, which he described as busy and stressful. Born in a rural setting, he said he's happy to be in a smaller community.

Hogue has already become involved with the community, particularly the school. His son, Daniel, is enrolled in the Little Learners Pre-school and Hogue envisions a long tenure for his children in the school disrict.

As such, he has attended a number of school board meetings and participated in Lester Prairie School's public meetings for long range planning.

He said, "You cannot put a price on education. I know some people worry about taxes, but you cannot put a price on education."

He said that he has been impressed with Minnesota's education, noting that Ohio's education system was ranked 49 out of 50.

He said he was also impressed with Lester Prairie's commitment to keep its school local.

As for his own role, he notes he is a teacher as well as a pastor and plans to start educating children through Bible study.

His primary role is that of the shepherd through pastoral care. Hogue said he will be available when people, members and non-members, need him for support.

He hopes to be a community leader who encourages cohesion in both his congregation and the city.

Hogue said, "There is so much pain in the world and suffering. I see myself in a position to alleviate some of that suffering through the message of hope. That's what my sermons are. No negative aspects. I believe in the power to uplift."

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