Church of Peace pastor steps down

IMG_2049by ADAM GRUENEWALD
NYA Times

Pastor Lynda Johnson remembers her first days well at Church of Peace in NYA.
Not only was it her first experience as pastor, but she arrived just after the tragic events of 9/11, so she helped the community through a difficult time.
“Everybody was so badly shaken by that,” she said. “It was a factor in the life of the church as well as the community and the whole country. It preoccupied people’s attention for a very, very long time. It was destabilizing for everybody and confusing. We didn’t know what hit us.”
Now, after almost 12 years of leading the congregation through different struggles and celebrating their happy moments, Johnson, 61, stepped down on June 30.
The experience has been everything Johnson expected and more as she developed the passion for the ministry late in life.
“It has been spiritually extremely rewarding,” she said. “Honestly, there is nothing I would rather be doing with my life than this. It’s the work I was meant to do and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve here.”
A resident of Bloomington, Johnson is originally from St. Paul but grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn.
She later attended Furman University in Greenville, S.C., getting a BA in English.
Johnson then spent 20 years raising her kids, Drew, 34, and Courtney, 32, before changing her path and beginning a second career.
Even with three generations of ministers in her family before her, all male, her decision came as a surprise to herself.
“I was not expecting to become a minister, although I had done just about every volunteer job at the church before I began seminary,” she said of her time at Colonial Church in Edina, where she also had an internship after receiving her master of divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
God then called her to work at Church of Peace in NYA, where she took over for Jim Sullivan.
“Really it turned out to be a good match theologically between this church and me,” she said. “You come to a point in ministry where you realize this is not something I would have imagined, it’s probably not something the church would have imagined, but it’s something that God had in mind for them and for me too.”
Johnson brought a different point of view to the congregation as she was the first full-time female pastor of the church over its 117 years of history, but said from the beginning it was more about the ministry.
Her preaching has drawn upon and helped her understand her past experiences, which she said has been both rewarding and challenging.
“In spite of all the time and energy I’ve put into preaching and teaching over the years, I would guess I’ve learned more from them than they have from me,” she said. “For me it’s been an amazing growing experience.”
What hasn’t grown as much is the congregation, which has about 80 active members. and Johnson estimates she has taken part in as many as 50 funerals as members have passed away or those that have lost family and friends.
While those have been tough, Johnson has enjoyed working with people of all ages as there have been births and baptisms.
Johnson, who has taught confirmation and Bible Study, also led a worship service at Peace Villa and The Harbor for the past four years and said she treasures working with people of all ages, getting to know them and being part of important moments in their lives.
Looking ahead to the future, Johnson said she is looking forward to spending time with her kids and three grandchildren and also enjoying the summer.
“The first thing I’m going to do is enjoy the summer and go outside and play,” she said. “That is the next step… I’m not sure if this is an interlude between the second and third career or if this is it.”
Retired Ridgeview Hospice Chaplain Bob Haskin has been preaching at Church of Peace in the short term and a replacement has not been named.
Church of Peace is located at 424 Franklin St. N. and offers a traditional worship service at 9 a.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 467-3946 or visit http://churchofpeacenya.com.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at adam.gruenewald@ecm-inc.com.

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