By Ana Alexander
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Pastor Aaron Holmgren of Bethel Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie may have been born in Cincinnati, OH, but he has Minnesota roots that tie him to the region.
“I’ve known Minnesota my whole life,” Holmgren said. “I visited here at least once a year.”
Holmgren grew up in Sidney, OH, but his father was raised in Willmar, where Holmgren’s grandparents lived.
Not only does he have ties to Willmar, but he has a connection to Lester Prairie, as well. Holmgren’s sister, Mary, worked in Lester Prairie after she graduated from college. She got a job through Head Start in Lester Prairie, and taught preschool while living in Winsted.
Holmgren decided to attend St. Olaf College after he graduated from high school, and his parents moved to Willmar.
While at St. Olaf, Holmgren pursued a bachelor’s degree in religion, with a concentration on film studies. After taking the first-year religion course, Holmgren felt his calling, and declared a religion major.
“I just fell in love with it, and I just had to get more,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren was born and raised Lutheran, and his parents have always been active in the church. His mother played piano and helped direct the children’s choir in Sidney, while his father was the church president.
“If the church doors were open, it was most likely that we were there,” Holmgren said. “I never really made that connection of how big church was in my life until college, when that class just got me so excited.”
Originally, Holmgren wanted to become a choir director, but eventually decided to go to seminary.
“After some discernment and prayer, by November of that first year, it was kind of set in stone that ministry was the way to go,” Holmgren said.
What helped him make his decision to go to seminary was a conversation he had with his former pastor from Sidney, Pastor John from St. John’s. He called Pastor John and told him what he was considering.
“I said [that] I’m thinking I’m going to go into the ministry, and the thing he said was, ‘Well, I knew all along,’” Holmgren said. “That was the affirmation that I needed. Ever since that, I’ve had other moments of affirmation, but that was what set it in stone for me.”
Holmgren went to Luther Seminary in St. Paul for four years, including a one-year internship during which students are intended to serve as if they are full-time pastors. Holmgren did his internship at Augustana in West St. Paul.
Holmgren noted that studying religion in college was more analytical, from a historical perspective, while studying at seminary is just as informative, but more immersed in faith.
“It was faith informed, it was lived-out faith,” Holmgren said. “It was very life-giving to take on this study of what it takes to be a pastor.”
Holmgren was ordained at Bethel Lutheran Church Saturday. He has been in Lester Prairie since Aug. 22.
“What most excites me is getting to know the people,” Holmgren said. “I want my door to always be open. I want to be a resource for people in need of conversation. I’m just excited to do ministry here with the people of Lester Prairie.”
Holmgren is also pursuing a love of music. He sings with the National Lutheran Choir in the Twin Cities, and also plays piano.
Outside of his work with the church, Holmgren also enjoys fishing, which is a skill he picked up in Minnesota. He has yet to try ice fishing, but has tried his hand at fly fishing. He also enjoys running, playing board games, and has an obsession with trivia. Additionally, Holmgren considers himself a die-hard Vikings fan.
“Definitely a Vikings [fan]. It was like a gut punch to hear about Teddy Bridgewater,” Holmgren said. “I was raised a Vikings fan by my dad.”
Holmgren is also excited to experience more of Lester Prairie and the community. He will be holding office hours at Bethel Lutheran Church Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The hours are still to be determined, but he will be updating the Bethel Lutheran webpage with that information, and more.