By Ivan Raconteur
The new pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie represents a change for the church in more ways than one.
Pastor Erick Thompson will not only provide a new face for the congregation, but he was hired as a part-time pastor. The church has previously had the service of a full-time pastor.
Thompson, originally from New London, now lives in Plymouth.
He said although he works part-time, he tries to arrange his schedule to accommodate the needs of the congregation.
He is at the church every Sunday, as well as two days per week. Normally, he is in Lester Prairie on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he tries to remain flexible, and the days change if necessary. He also works at home on Thursdays.
Because of the nature of the work, Thompson is also technically on-call for emergencies, even outside of his regular office hours.
Thompson did his undergraduate work at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, and earned his master of divinity degree and a master of theology in church history degree at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
He is working on a doctorate degree at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. If all goes well, he said, he will finish the degree in two or three years.
He has served in several parishes since being ordained in 2000. His first call was in Waseca, where he spent 14 months.
Thompson said his mission for his first year in Lester Prairie is to get to know the people in the congregation.
“They seem to be positive, warm people with a sincere desire to reach out to the community. They are definitely welcoming,” Thompson said of his new congregation.
One of the challenges facing the church today, Thompson commented, is that more and more people are adopting a “self-authored” religious structure, and there are a variety of belief systems.
“The worldwide church, especially the mainline protestant churches, are facing an identity crisis. They are struggling with the question, ‘How do we understand the church in this day and age,’ Thompson said.
On the local level, people are asking the question, “What is God’s mission for this church?” he added.
Thompson and his wife, Kara, have two cats and a dog, and hope to start a family soon.
Kara works in St. Paul, and they are considering moving from Plymouth to Chanhassen or Chaska to reduce the distance they commute to work.
For now, Thompson is concentrating on getting to know his new congregation and, due to construction, becoming familiar with a lot of county roads on his way to church.