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Pastor Peterson retires after 50 years in ministry
June 17, 2013

Special service Sunday to honor his service to the DC community

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, COKATO, DARWIN, MN – After 50 years of ordination, and one previous retirement, Pastor John Peterson is retiring again, but not entirely.

Peterson has served the Dassel-Cokato community for the past 26 years, beginning at Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Prior to that, Peterson took various calls following his ordination in 1963, including Fraser, MI; Austin, TX; Carlton, MN; and Brooklyn Center.

Peterson’s first retirement came in 2000, four years after he and his wife, Lynda, were severely injured in a house explosion.

“Only by the grace of God, did we survive,” Peterson said.

He and his wife had been staying the week at a parishioner’s lake home on Lake Sylvia as part of a gift.

In the middle of the night, Peterson woke up to use the restroom, flipped on the light switch, and the house exploded around him.

Lynda was buried in the rubble, and Peterson went in search of her, unaware of his own injuries. He said it was due to the Lord’s gift of adrenaline.

The couple was taken to the hospital by ambulance and Lynda underwent several surgeries. “She was planning her funeral,” he commented, adding that she still, and will continue to have complications from the injuries.

Peterson’s nephew and firefighter said they were lucky the house exploded, otherwise they would’ve died that night by asphyxiation from the gas leak.

That was one of the “compelling reasons” for Peterson’s retirement, since he became physically unable to keep up with a 60-plus-hour work week.

No more than a couple months later, Peterson said, he was asked by Pastor Paula Geisler-Jones of Gethsemane Lutheran Church to become the visitation pastor for the Dassel church. He was also asked to serve as Litchfield Area Hospice chaplain.

Peterson said it was God’s answer to his prayers, because he wasn’t ready to fully retire.

He has “loved doing both of them,” Peterson said. “I wish I could do it all over again.”

After 13 years with Gethsemane, Peterson is officially retiring this time.

“It’s time,” he said, adding that he had still been working about 45 hours a week.

“I love being a pastor. I suppose it’s my calling,” he commented. “It’s not a job, it’s a joy.”

He gives a lot of credit to his wife for keeping him on task.

“She’s been a great pastor’s wife,” he commented.

In his 50 years of ministry, Peterson has particularly enjoyed sharing the Gospel, and has found it particularly fulfilling ministering to those in the hospital and the dying.

Pastor Steve Olson has also been a good friend and colleague in ministry, Peterson noted, “We have a very good relationship.”

Peterson and Olson first were introduced to one another while Peterson was serving at The Lutheran Church of the Master in Brooklyn Center. There, Peterson served at a boys’ group home where Olson was working as a social worker.

Olson said it has been “a dream” working with Peterson. “He has been a true gift to this community.”

Which is why Peterson will be honored during a special service Sunday, June 23 and given the title of Pastor Emeritus. This title is given only occasionally, and will allow Peterson to remain on the masthead of Gethsemane Lutheran Church for the remainder of his life, Olson explained. It will also allow Peterson to perform weddings, and funerals if requested.

“We just want to give this man the honor that is due him,” Olson said.

The service will begin with worship at 9 a.m. at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel. Following, Peterson will officially retire as visitation pastor and be installed as pastor emeritus during at a social hour in his honor. Dean of the Crow River Conference, Paul Lutter will also bring greetings on behalf of the synod.

Everyone is welcome.

Recently, Peterson was also honored for 50 years of ordination by the Southwest Minnesota Synod at Gustavus Adolphus, where he received his bachelor’s degree.

Peterson doesn’t plan on just sitting around in his rocking chair during retirement, however.

Last summer, for example, Peterson’s cardiologist advised him, after being injured riding a Jet Ski at his Lake Washington home, against sitting around. He said that because of Peterson’s Type A personality, he should remain active to stay healthy.

Instead, he will remain chaplain at Dassel Lakeside Health Care Center and provide communion, as well as fill in for vacation requests at the pulpit.

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