Granite Falls Advocate Tribune
  • Meet new Hazel Run Lutheran pastor Owen Derrick: New member Sunday is this weekend, April 15

  • There is something so easy to like about new Hazel Run Lutheran pastor Owen Derrick––and the novelty of his accent plays but the slightest role in that. It’s the ease of his presence. The calm vibe that accompanies those who harbor wisdom alongside a playful wit, revealed ever so...
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  • By Scott Tedrick
    News Editor
    There is something so easy to like about new Hazel Run Lutheran pastor Owen Derrick––and the novelty of his accent plays but the slightest role in that.
    It’s the ease of his presence. The calm vibe that accompanies those who harbor wisdom alongside a playful wit, revealed ever so naturally without the slightest hint of pretense.
    And so it is no surprise that his arrival at Hazel Run Lutheran Church has coincided with a resurgence in congregation numbers. Though Derrick assures he’s not the primary reason why.
    “There’s something deeper in the congregation itself,” he asserts. “It was going on well before I got here.”
    From Scotland
    to the United States
    The rural reverend’s road to southwest Minnesota has been long in terms of both time and distance. It hasn’t always been smooth, nor a straight line to ministry.
    Born in Glascow, Scotland, Derrick said that he had always wanted to be a pastor, but that teenage rebellion originally diverted him from the path. In fact, he came to believe he missed his opportunity to respond to the inner calling, and it grew dormant over the years.
    “Really it was a dissatisfaction with feeling that I?had to do what my family expected me to do,” he says in hindsight. “I would have been the first one in my house to go to college. My mom and dad were both very faithful people, and the idea of a minister in the family was very attractive to them.”
    There was a fear, too, Derrick admitted––a belief that he may not be intellectually capable of handling such a profound responsibility.
    “It was years and many a conversation with God, before I figured out that being a pastor is not about intellectual ability,” he said.
    Derrick would eventually find himself married with two children, working in the Information Technology (IT) field and living in the central Scotland city of Perth where he would spend the next thirteen years.
    It was at the approach of the new century when his marriage ended, and in March of 1999 he arrived in Minnesota for a new start. Greeted by 17-inches of snow, he was ready to explore new ambitions in America.
    Continuing to work in the IT?field, Derrick would meet his second wife, Diane. Each brought a pair of children, now in their 20s, from previous marriages. Later, the two would adopt their then five-year-old daughter, Elaine.
    For a little while, Derrick had to have wondered if his marriage would last––as he admitted more than a little trepidation as to how Diane would respond when his long latent calling to the ministry returned.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We settled into a nice suburban lifestyle in suburban Chicago,” he recalled. “She had married a relatively successful IT consultant. Not a pastor.”
    The calling
    The first major nudge from above came while Derrick was sharing a pint with his pastor at Quigley’s Irish Pub in Naperville, Illinois.
    “He and I would occasionally go to the local pub for a beer,” he said. “I believe pastors are allowed to be human.”
    Amidst their discussion, Derrick recalled that, “I must have said something profoundly theological––because he looked at me and said: you should be a pastor.”
    This caught Derrick’s attention because he had never divulged his youthful aspirations to the minister. There was something about the comment that resonated deeply.
    Now he was standing at the edge of the cliff, and it took only the following Sunday’s sermon to push him from the precipice.
    The homily, offered by the church’s other pastor, asked the question ‘what did you want to be when you grow up?’ and was all about ‘unfulfilled expectations.’
    “I began to realize God was beginning to talk me,” he said.
    No others clues were needed.
    Spending ample time in prayer, Derrick confirmed his decision before working up the courage to tell his wife of six months. Taking her out for dinner at none other than Quigley’s Irish Pub, he broke the news and braced for her response.
    “I told her, I?think God is telling me to become a pastor.”
    “She replied... ‘of course you should,’” he recalled.
    “I was happily surprised,” he said grinning.
    Becoming a minister
    With the support of his wife, Derrick set out to receive his Masters of Divinity in 2003. Without a bachelor’s degree, he took an entrance exam allowing him to enter the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Four years later, he had earned his accreditation.
    His first calling was to a small congregation near Lincoln, Nebraska in Pickrell. After two-and-a-half years, he moved onto the Central Illinois town of Flanagan where he would spend two years before deciding to take a sabbatical to discern the sort of pastor he wanted to be.
    The Derricks moved to New Glarus, Wisconsin. And during the roughly year away he completed an online Masters program in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Harbor University, in Michigan.
    Derrick explained that the course was about how to grow spiritually and have the disciplines necessary to live a Christian life and effect the world.
    He attended church in New Glarus and occasionally would minister to the congregation when the presiding pastor was away. The response was always positive, and in effect, the parish encouraged him to get back into the proverbial game.
    Page 3 of 3 - Hazel Run Lutheran
    Meeting with calling committees of a variety of churches, Derrick found that the desires he held for his role in the congregation were akin to those of parish members of Hazel Run Lutheran.
    “The Church has a habit of putting preachers into a functional role where spirituality isn’t the primary goal of a leaders’ attention. You become also a business leader,” said Derrick.
    “I didn’t want to be that kind of leader, and I don’t believe that many pastors do. I feel that pastors are spiritual leaders of spiritual communities, and I actually see that as part of the calling now––to encourage other pastor in their spiritual leadership.
    Hazel Run Lutheran was Derrick’s first choice, and the sentiment at Hazel Run proved likewise. His thoughtful approach and focus toward what a congregation should be, not where many churches are heading, proved a perfect match for the changes occurring at Hazel Run.
    Last year, Hazel Run Lutheran made the decision to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)?and in turn the now five-congregation member Healing Waters Parish.
    “Our church is about 120 years old. We started out as the old Norwegian church, and we’re trying to get back to the same roots,” said congregation member Sandra Weber. “We are a very community minded church and as people come in with different ideas it kind of changed the way we were thinking and doing things. We wanted to get back to that old way where everybody was welcomed and felt good about what we were doing.”
    In that respect, Pastor Owen had a blessing.
    Former congregation president, Bob Weber said that Derrick and the impact of the church’s re-found focus can be seen in Sunday attendance. “There was a time when we were running 20 or 30. Last Sunday there were 79 parishioners in attendance, and that has been pretty consistent,” he said.
    “We are gradually growing.”
    An exceptional speaker, Derrick’s wit and wisdom shines brightly in his Sunday sermons. Focusing on the congregation, homilies carry a message honed for the church’s ears specifically.
    “There’s a real positive feeling about the congregation in the surrounding area, People who are looking for a church to call home are finding it here,” Derrick said.
    For individuals looking for a church, the perfect time to visit Hazel Run Lutheran is just around the corner as April 15 is ‘new member Sunday,’ and all who are seeking a congregation are encouraged to attend.

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