By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Is there really a hell?
Three Winsted pastors might be asked to answer that question at an upcoming religious forum to take place in the banquet room at the Blue Note Tuesday, April 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Winsted pastors Fr. Tony Hesse of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Pastor Mark Loder of St. John’s Lutheran Church, and Pastor Tom Starkjohn of Harvest Community Church will be brushing up on the Bible over the next few weeks as they anticipate questions people might ask at the forum about their respective religions.
Having the three pastors in attendance at the same time, hosting this forum, gives the community a unique opportunity to learn and explore the similarities and differences between the three Christian Churches in Winsted.
It would also be a good time for questions about spiritual and religious matters people may be wondering about.
“Everyone is welcome to come,” Starkjohn said. The pastors will offer appetizers.
This is the first forum hosted by the Winsted Area Ministerial Association (WAMA). The organization was started by the Winsted pastors about a year ago in their effort to better serve the Winsted community.
“We have been trying to think of things that we can do together that would be of benefit to the community and this was one of our ideas,” Starkjohn said. “Here is something that doesn’t require us in any way to compromise our convictions. We can partner together in this with the hope that people will understand us better.”
The Blue Note was chosen by the pastors for the forum because it’s a neutral location that has accommodations for a large group.
Questions may be sent, anytime before the forum, by e-mail to WAMAquestions@gmail.com or submitted at the WAMA Facebook page.
The forum will not be a debate. Questions will be chosen based upon their appropriateness. Questions of a contentious or argumentative nature will be dismissed. Questions on controversial topics, if deemed appropriate for discussion, will be answered.
“What we are trying to avoid are questions specifically designed to get an argument going,” Loder said. “Don’t get me wrong. We are not trying to avoid the topics that we disagree on. But we might look at it and say, ‘you know, that is a good question for us to talk about, but I don’t know if at this point in time we necessarily need to dive into this one.’”
Questions may be submitted in writing during the forum itself, but questions submitted prior to the forum will have precedence. Verbal questions will not be answered.
“Having questions submitted earlier, before the forum, gives me a chance to do some research,” Hesse said. “I can’t speak for the other two, but we (Catholics) have a lot to follow a lot of our primal teachings and understanding of theology. I can definitely share my own interpretation. What I hope to be able to say is, ‘this is what the church teaches and this is my interpretation of what the church says, and keep the two separate,” Hesse said.
The pastors encourage questions that seek to understand what their respective churches believe, teach, and practice.
Questions may be submitted to a specific pastor or to the group in general. However, even if one pastor is directly addressed in a question, any pastor may add his comments if he desires.
“I am really hoping that we are able to do this and show the integrity of each church. It’s okay for us to disagree on different things,” Loder said.
“I want to reiterate about sending in questions ahead of time so we can prepare,” Loder said. “If there are questions important enough for people to ask, then I want to make sure that we answer it in a very clear way.”
And all three pastors are hoping people come with an open mind.
“Come without an agenda,” Hesse said. “Hopefully, people can accept the answer and be able to walk away knowing the reason why the church says what it says.”