By Bonnie Niemela
HOWARD LAKE, MN The congregation at First Presbyterian Church in Howard Lake welcomed a new pastor, Jacob Van Pernis, Sunday, Sept. 1. This is Van Pernis’ first ordained call.
As pastor, Van Pernis’ main responsibilities are preaching, leading worship, and caring for the congregation. He will also be involved in confirmation programs and youth activities.
Van Pernis grew up in Ashland, WI. He graduated from Hope College in Holland, MI, with degrees in psychology and sociology.
Unsure of what he wanted to do after college, Van Pernis spent a year as a ski bum/photographer on Big Mountain, outside Whitefish, MT, which enabled him to combine two of his interests: skiing and photography.
“It was a good experience of learning the difference between needs and wants,” Van Pernis commented.
Van Pernis moved back to Ashland and became the youth director at United Presbyterian Congregational Church.
After four years as youth director, Van Pernis attended Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.
Van Pernis and his wife, Kate, were married in June 2010, after he finished seminary. They moved to the Twin Cities area when Kate received her graduate degree in school counseling. Van Pernis accepted the position of youth director at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington.
After passing the four ordination exams, Van Pernis was ready to receive a call. Since he and his wife like the area, and Kate has a job she loves, working for a nonprofit organization, Van Pernis began looking around the area for an opening. When the Howard Lake position came up, he applied for the opening and was accepted.
The Van Pernises live in Linden Hills, but are in the process of building a house in Delano. They will move into their new home sometime this winter.
Path to ministry
While in Whitefish, Van Pernis was weighing two job options for the summer of 2003. One was photographing white-water rafting; the other was at CrossWoods, a Christian adventure camp in northern Wisconsin. Van Pernis had worked at CrossWoods previously, leading white-water canoeing trips and rock climbing trips.
Van Pernis said he’d go back to CrossWoods if he could once again lead the trips. The camp director said he wanted Van Pernis to be in charge of leading worship.
That is when Van Pernis felt his journey to ministry started, though he did not realize it at the time.
A pastor of a Presbyterian church in Whitefish, with whom Van Pernis had struck up a friendship, suggested he try leading worship at the camp and see where it took him.
Van Pernis decided to do so, but during his time leading worship at the camp, when asked if he had thought about ministry, he’d reply, “No, I’m just trying to find my path and direction.”
When he moved back to Ashland and became the youth director at United Presbyterian Congregational Church, Van Pernis began to think, maybe he should explore ministry.
“And here I am, a pastor,” Van Pernis said. “I’m excited for the work that comes with that title.”
Since he’s been in the area for only a few days, Van Pernis hasn’t had much time to explore Howard Lake yet.
“I came here because I love small towns,” Van Pernis commented. “I’m looking forward to getting to know people and the community of Howard Lake, and getting involved in the community.”
First Presbyterian Church has a membership of more than 100, and an average worship attendance of 50.
“The church is very welcoming,” Van Pernis stated. “I hope people know the door is always open to them and that they’re welcomed.”
Van Pernis enjoys reading, cooking, and photography, and loves making bread. He and Kate especially enjoy spending time outdoors.
Biking, downhill and cross country skiing, and being on the water are some of their favorite outdoor activities.
In summer 2010, after their honeymoon, Van Pernis and Kate biked from Seattle, WA to the Cascades, approximately 350 miles.
This past summer, the Van Pernises canoed 50 miles on the Namekagon River in northern Wisconsin.
The Namekagon River is a tributary of the St. Croix River, and the St.Croix flows into the Mississippi River. The Namekagon’s course is protected as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The couple hopes to canoe the St. Croix and Mississippi sections of the riverway in the future.
The Apostle Islands in Lake Superior are a favorite place of the Van Pernises to kayak.