BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Delano United Methodist Church Pastor Matt Sipe’s career brought him to Delano twice, and is now taking him to Minnetonka.
Sipe grew up not far away, on a farm in Greenfield, and graduated from Rockford High School in 1996.
After receiving a music education degree from the University of Minnesota Morris, Sipe became a band director at Montgomery-Lonsdale High School, which is now Tri-City United. While there, he felt called to the ministry.
“Working in the school system and dealing with all the things school systems deal with, I wanted to share my faith more with kids, and I knew I couldn’t do that as a teacher,” Sipe said. “The broken homes, broken families, and all the heartache and pain you see as a teacher, especially when I was at Montgomery-Lonsdale . . . that’s where my call to ministry came from. Dealing with all that in small-town Minnesota, is where I felt God was calling me into the ministry.”
But, Sipe wasn’t quite sure the timing was right, as he received a job as band director at Delano High School. So, he spent some time getting to know the Delano community a little better before attending Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, not knowing he would be called back to Delano three years later after serving First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge, IL, for two years while in seminary.
“The bishop said, ‘You’ve been in Delano before. Is that going to be a problem?’” Sipe said. “I was like, ‘No, not a problem at all.’ I love Delano and I loved teaching here. It was good to be back. I really enjoyed my time here. It’s a really lovely community.”
Sipe said he especially has been impressed with the strength of the faith community.
“We’ve worked together on so many different projects to address issues of poverty with starting Love INC, to address issues of bullying in our schools, and to address divisive topics like the marriage amendment in 2012,” Sipe said.
Most recently, the Delano Area Clergy Ministerium organized the Diversity Task Force in response to an up-tick in racist rhetoric and behavior over the past six months.
Sipe said many communities do not have as strong of a faith community, and he said he is looking forward to working with other pastors in Minnetonka to create that atmosphere there.
In addition to serving on the Delano Area Clergy Ministerium, Sipe has been active in the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer on the Community Education Advisory Counsel, active with Tiger Kids Club, and a volunteer at Delano Elementary School.
At Delano United Methodist Church specifically, Sipe has seen the congregation grow, add staff, and increase the children ministry program over the past nine years. One sign of growth is the large number of young people who will be confirmed in the fall.
“This church, in particular, has always been one of the smaller ones in the community until the last 15 years,” Sipe said. “Now, we’ve been steadily increasing. We’re growing and vibrant and healthy, and it’s a great place for families to come.”
Sipe is the second-longest serving pastor at DUMC, with nine years of service, but he’s looking forward to his new job at Minnetonka United Methodist Church.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing United Methodist churches in the Twin Cities,” Sipe said. “It is a progressively evangelical church. They see themselves as a progressive leader for the Twin Cities.”
Sipe said he has a heart for progressive evangelism, as well, which was one reason the bishop appointed him there.
His last service in Delano will be 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 4, and will be followed by a celebration of his service that all community members are welcome to attend.
He will begin serving in Minnetonka Sunday, June 25, which is the same day Christina “Stina” Koppes will begin serving at DUMC. A feature on Koppes will appear in a future edition of the Delano Herald Journal.
Sipe said he, his wife, Julie, his 9-year-old daughter, Nora, and his 7-year-old son, Marshall, will miss Delano once they move, but know the change is meant to take place.
“One thing I have made my mantra is ‘Change is constant; growth is optional,’” Sipe said. “The world is always changing.”
He is thankful for his time in Delano, and hopes the community is, too.
“I want to say ‘you’re welcome’ because you have been so generous to me and my family,” Sipe said. “The community has reached out to us and welcomed us. My kids have loved the school, Tiger Kids Club, the community, the sports, the churches, and we have loved being a part of this community. So, thank you and you’re welcome. I graciously have received your love and care. We don’t say ‘you’re welcome’ enough. Part of my saying ‘goodbye’ is trying to say ‘you’re welcome.’”