By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN After nearly 14 years, the Rev. Lee Hallstrom is leaving Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Delano.
When he came to the local congregation, he said he was led by the Holy Spirit and he is citing the same calling in his departure.
“It’s something I think God has been kind of stirring in me for a while,” Hallstrom said. “My leaving is solely seeking to follow the leading of God. Certainly, after countless prayers, discernment, and wise direction, it was very evident to me this is how God was leading. I came here because I felt led by God and I’m leaving because of that as well.”
Hallstrom is originally from South Dakota. Growing up, he said a pastor was the last thing he wanted to be.
“My mother would ask me what I wanted to be and I said, ‘I know what I don’t want to do,’” Hallstrom said.
He maintained that position as he attended and graduated from Augsburg College and became a loan officer.
“When I was a loan officer, I knew there was something more,” Hallstrom said. “I was going to be a therapist. I had a brother-in-law in seminary and he said, ‘Come hang out in seminary for a year.’ I was young and adventuresome, so I did.”
He enjoyed his first two years at seminary, but still was not sure if he wanted to become a pastor.
That changed as he graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and accepted a call in Dovray.
“I ended up in a congregation of 1,700 people where both pastors left and I was alone for four months,” Hallstrom said. “That’s when I felt this was what I wanted to do.”
He spent more than three years in Dovray before moving to First Lutheran Church in Renville, where he served for 15 years.
“I had no desire to move from there,” he said. “I was asked to interview here. They had been going through some hard times. I came here solely because I felt the call of God.”
Over the years, Hallstrom has seen the church double in size to more than 1,350 members. The physical footprint of the church also grew, with a 10,000-square-foot addition for offices and Sunday school rooms.
“What I’ve enjoyed the most is the majority of this congregation really seeks to see God’s grace lived out unconditionally to really believe the fullness of the Bible,” Hallstrom said. “The congregation has a wonderful vision of proclaiming a living god’s unconditional grace.”
While Hallstrom is at peace with his decision to leave the congregation, he is not yet sure which direction he will go.
“The good thing is I’m very fortunate to have options of opportunities before me,” Hallstrom said. “Before I commit to any of those or jump back in, I’m just going to take a bit of time.”
He is not sure if he will continue to live in the area, as some options are in Minnesota and others are not.
Hallstrom said his decision to leave the church was not influenced by reactions to the congregation’s vote to allow same-sex weddings in the church.
“I’m not leaving over that,” Hallstrom said. “I don’t know if people can understand. I feel a leading from God and I’ve always sought to follow God’s leading in life.”
Looking back at more than 30 years of being a pastor, Hallstrom is proud of each place he has served.
“I’ve had three wonderful congregations,” Hallstrom said. “I’ve been very blessed.”
He will preach his last sermon Sunday, April 19.
The congregation is creating a call committee to search for a new pastor.