By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Whether it’s serving cake and strawberries to residents at Golden LivingCenter or learning about Love INC Heartland, Bridget Haefner’s ministry extends beyond Sunday morning services.
She became pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ (UCC) in Delano the end of January, and although her congregation is small (about 54 members), its presence in the community is evident.
“We’re not a huge group, but if you can make someone’s life a little more enjoyable for an hour or a day, then I think you’re doing the kind of work you ought to be doing,” Haefner said. “We’re looking for ways to both nurture our members and make the community a better place.”
Haefner grew up Catholic, and her husband was raised Methodist. As young adults, they had both fallen away from regular church attendance, but decided to go back when their children were young.
At the recommendation of friends, they joined a UCC church in Battle Creek, MI, where they were living at the time.
“We didn’t know anything about the UCC, but we felt very comfortable when we got there,” Haefner said.
The UCC was one of the first church bodies to ordain women and openly gay clergy, and “tends to be open to new things a little sooner than some of the other denominations,” according to Haefner.
“It’s been a very interesting church, and a very interesting time to be in it I really enjoy it,” she added.
Haefner is a second-career pastor, and spent her first 20 post-college years as a lawyer. When she decided to pursue ministry, Haefner scaled back her job to part time, and attended seminary school at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, located in New Brighton.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Haefner said of seminary school.
For her first seven years as a pastor, she served at both St. Matthew’s UCC in Forest City, and Peace UCC in Eden Valley (both near Litchfield).
Then, in January 2010, she decided to look for a position closer to her home in Chaska.
While waiting for an opportunity to arise, Haefner worked odd jobs, including almost two years at Super America.
“You wouldn’t think anything as ordinary as a gas station/convenience store would be a big deal, but I really enjoyed my customers and coworkers,” she said.
As pastor of St. Paul’s UCC in Delano, Haefner is looking forward to building relationships with parishioners and community members.
“There are a lot of churches in Delano and the surrounding areas, and not every church has to do everything. You look at what your gifts are and what you can do for the community,” she said. “Together, we can do a whole lot more than anybody can do by themselves.”
St. Paul’s UCC is located at 201 Buffalo St., with worship services Sundays at 9:15 a.m. Haefner’s regular office schedule is Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday mornings, and the church phone number is (763) 972-6689.