BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN As a teenager going through confirmation, Bruce Kuenzel did not want to be a pastor. In fact, he decided he didn’t believe in God.
“Through my teenage years I was an atheist, though I didn’t make a big deal about it,” Kuenzel said. “I just didn’t believe the things I had been given as a child.”
That all changed when Kuenzel attended Concordia College in Portland, OR. Not only did Kuenzel determine he did, in fact, believe in God, but that he wanted to help others come to the same conclusion as a pastor.
He graduated from Valparaiso University in 1978, married his wife Cynthia that fall, earned a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1983, and earned a Master of Theology from Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
Fast-forward 32 years, and Kuenzel is now returning to Minnesota as pastor of Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Delano.
Between then and now, Kuenzel served as an associate pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Master in Edina for four years, served as an associate pastor and senior pastor at Granite Falls Lutheran Church until 2004, and served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, NM for the past 12 years.
The decision to move back to Minnesota was an easy one for the Kuenzels.
“My wife, Cynthia, and I had talked about moving back to the Twin Cities area after I retired,” Kuenzel said. “Our oldest daughter and her family are in St. Paul. Our son is in Chicago. Our middle daughter is in Seattle . . . We decided not to wait another 10 years to move closer.”
Kuenzel said Delano was appealing because they prefer “to live in the country and visit the city.”
“Delano still has the small-town, semi-rural kind of feel which is very appealing to us,” Kuenzel said. “We’ve lived in small towns for 30 years.”
He is also looking forward to serving at Light of Christ.
“I like the fact that it’s a joyous community and a congregation that’s committed to making a difference in the lives of others,” Kuenzel said. “There are a lot of young families . . . One of my passions is kids and families. For my first 12 years, I was a youth and family pastor. I want kids to know they are beloved children of God.”
Kuenzel said he is looking forward to the musical aspects of the church.
“If I were not a pastor, I would probably be a choir director someplace. The musical gifts of the congregation appeal to me,” Kuenzel said. “I’m looking forward to doing different things musically.”
More importantly, Kuenzel was impressed by the people he met at Light of Christ, and is excited to meet new people.
“When I came and interviewed, I really enjoyed all the people we met and got acquainted with,” Kuenzel said. “We’re really looking forward to getting to know everyone and writing this new chapter in Light of Christ and seeing where the Holy Spirit will take us.”
His vision for Light of Christ is for it to be “a community in which and by which people are transformed by the love of Christ, that we are becoming more like our Lord. That’s the whole ballgame in a nutshell.”