by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Six years after being called to serve as minister of the Church in the Maples United Methodist Church in NYA, Pastor Wayne Swanson is moving on.
Swanson, 56, who was also pastor for Arlington UMC for 14 years, will begin preaching at Fridley UMC starting June 30, taking over for Rev. Diane Olson.
For him, the decision came quickly, yet at a good time to move with his wife, Holly, and family, since two of his children are about to enter junior high.
“We knew we had one more longer pastorage in us,” he said. “We felt we have one more move in us.”
Swanson’s original move to start his work in NYA was fortuitous as the church was considering closure at the time.
Living in Arlington, Swanson would frequently drive through NYA on his way to St. Paul to the Galleria where his wife worked once a week as a tailor.
“When I was driving through, I passed through Norwood,” he said. “I had a sense and intuition that I was going to be able to assist and help serve that church.”
He then talked with Arlington UMC who agreed to accept his call to serve the congregation, and his family got on board too, understanding his desire to help. Since then, in a fairly unusual situation, he has started Sundays in NYA for 8 a.m. services, before showing up later in Arlington for two more services and Sunday School.
For Swanson it was a continuation of his life’s work.
He grew up in North Dakota before moving to St. Paul at the age of 6, attending Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights. He then went to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna and Bethel College in Arden Hills.
“I knew right around college that God was calling me into ministry,” he said.
After that, he served in several churches before living in Arlington with Holly’s kids, Mikalynn, Dylan, Andrew and Kaidra, and his three, Evie, Linnea and Madison. Together, they have twins Eli and Izak.
Leaving Arlington, where he and his wife were married on Aug. 5, 2000, and where they raised their twins, now 12, will be difficult.
“We just had nothing but good memories,” he said of Arlington. “We got to do some wonderful things.”
Also difficult for Swanson will be leaving the NYA community.
“I’m not good at saying goodbye,” he said. “The people of Norwood have been so gracious. It’s not easy in this culture.”
What will make the goodbyes easier for Swanson is the membership is strong at about 35 and he believes that the congregation is there to stay.
“The people are just gracious,” he said. “They’re an older congregation but to me they’re warm and friendly, and they have love for Jesus and love for each other.”
He certainly has no regrets about his acceptance of the call to come to NYA.
“Right away it was confirmed,” he said. “I’ve built good friendships and we’ve shared time of laughter, worship, prayer and spirited preaching. Over the six years, it’s been a joy. On Sunday morning, I can’t wait to see the families together.”
His fortuitous coming to NYA is not lost on him either, as he calls the happening a work of God.
“God put me within 20 miles and they needed a pastor,” he said. “I was sure going to help them.”
He admits that instead of following traditional procedure, he took some initiative as well.
“It kind of happened not going through the proper channels,” he said. “Sometimes a church feels alone by itself. Then they heard a Pastor Wayne is saying: ‘Hey can I help you?’… It’s good for them. They found out that God did care.”
A key part of his time in NYA has been a small five-member Thursday Bible Study group, which follows the works of John Wesley, spending time asking “How is it with your soul?” and praying and studying the Bible together.
Thus far the congregation’s response to his announcement has been filled with appreciation and thankfulness.
“There was great sadness,” he said. “They’re sad to see it come to an end, but more joyful that it happened.”
Swanson’s successor at NYA is Rev. Rod Stemme, with wife Ginger, who comes from Peace UMC-Pipestone.
“With a new pastor I think that there would be more people giving it a look,” he said. “The community thought it was going to close… It’s still going and we ring the bell and share the Gospel and are part of God’s family. Each Sunday, we ring the bell for service men and women and remember them and toll the bell for each name. The bell is still ringing and we’re still singing.”
Church in the Maples UMC is located at 224 Hill Street West and morning service on Sunday is at 8 a.m., with Bible Study at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
For more information, visit www.churchinthemaples.org.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]