By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Pastor Dave Erbel could have retired earlier this year, but the thought of missing out on December with his congregation prompted him to postpone.
“I love Christmas so much,” he said. “I wanted to be here for it.”
Erbel will officiate at his last service at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie Sunday, Jan. 13 at 9 a.m., followed by a time of fellowship and a potluck brunch in the church basement. The public is encouraged to attend.
Until a new seminary graduate accepts a call to the church (most likely in early summer) retired pastors Rev. Layton Lemke and Rev. Roger Klemz plan to fill the vacancy.
St. Peter Lutheran Church was Erbel’s first call after graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary in 2008. Erbel said he loved the church right away, and has enjoyed his time there immensely.
“One of the highlights has been seeing how God has worked in people’s lives here,” he said. “It’s been great to see spiritual growth, and to see people’s desire to worship.”
Although Erbel pursued other careers before becoming a pastor, ministry was never far from his mind.
“When I was 10 years old, I’d tell my family I was going to be a pastor,” he recalled.
Erbel initially sought a pre-ministerial degree after graduating from high school in Florida, but later switched to teaching. He then taught in Christian schools in Minnesota, while working part time for the Carver County Sheriff’s Department.
Ten years later, Erbel took a full-time position with the sheriff’s office, and stayed for 21 years.
“This is my second retirement,” Erbel said. “I actually retired in 2000, from the Carver County Sheriff’s Department.”
Erbel’s first post-retirement job was teaching at Zion Lutheran School in Mayer for a year.
The attacks Sept. 11, 2001, however, prompted him to switch back to law enforcement, and he accepted a position with the Minneapolis Airport Police.
From there, Erbel went off to the seminary.
“I’ve been so blessed with many careers,” he said, adding that God’s timing was perfect for the start of his pastoral ministry.
“I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Erbel said. “The Lord never gave up on me.”
While at St. Peter Lutheran Church, Erbel has had many opportunities to share the Gospel and reach out to the community.
“I enjoy preaching greatly, and ministering to people one-on-one,” he said.
Although he’ll soon be retired, Erbel is open to continued ministry work, whether through mission trips or fill-in pastoral positions.
“I enjoy traveling, both nationally and internationally, and I’ve been on mission trips to the Philippines,” he said.
In retirement, Erbel is also looking forward to spending more time with family including his eight grandchildren.
“There is always some way to serve the Lord,” he said. “I’m looking forward to what he’ll surprise me with next.”