by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The bells are continuing to toll for the fallen soldiers at Church in the Maples UMC in NYA.
While Pastor Wayne Swanson has left the church, Pastor Rod Stemme has taken the call to lead the congregation.
Starting three months ago, Stemme, 61, is still adjusting to the position and leading Arlington UMC as well.
A native of Byron, he attended college at Sioux City Morningside.
His dad, Robert, who now lives in Phar, Texas, was a pastor but Stemme did not always know he wanted to be one himself.
It was in junior high when he took the Cooter Preference Inventory test, that indicated he would teach math or be involved in ministry.
As a student, Stemme then wrote a paper called “Ministry or Mathematics” that drew the attention of the district superintendent at the time, Edward Foote.
“He called me and said he wanted to have lunch with me,” he said. “My dad and I went and had lunch and he spent the lunchtime telling me why he thought I should choose ministry and not mathematics.”
His pursuit was further redefined in a camp at Northern Pines near Park Rapids the summer after his sophomore year when witnessing a pastor officiate a re-baptism time.
“As I’m walking out of the chapel with my friend and we’re rather emotional as you can sometimes be at that time, there was a woman from my home church who said ‘I’m going to see you ordained someday,” said Stemme. “I don’t think she had a clue I was considering this at all.”
Those two key life events led Stemme to pursue preaching, earning his license to preach as a college student.
He then attended seminary at Illif near the University of Denver and had a variety of unique experiences working with youth and adult education in Alan, Neb., and other congregations.
Since his return to the state, Stemme has preached at numerous different locations in Minnesota, most recently at Peace UMC in Pipestone. He said all of his positions helped to reaffirm his decision.
“I’ve served all over,” he said. “We started in the northwest part of the state. I’ve been in the Twin Cities and the southwest part of Minnesota.”
Stemme and his wife Ginger have two kids, Jessica (Doug) Eucken of Apple Valley and Alison (Rod) Scofield of St. Paul, and one grandson, Ira.
Thus far, he has enjoyed his time at Arlington and NYA, appreciating the congregations.
“It’s not a large number of people but they are very faithful folks,” he said of the NYA congregation. “They are pretty serious about their faith and want to grow and want to learn and to study. They are pretty clear about that.”
Officiating the two services in Arlington and one in NYA keeps Stemme busy on Sunday, but he enjoys the experience.
“There are some people that are very committed to actually growing in their faith,” he said, crediting Swanson for helping them grow.
Swanson not only helped grow the congregation, but saved Church in the Maples UMC from closure in 2007, helping it to remain open.
“You have to be committed to be here,” he said, mentioning the 8 a.m. service time. “That’s not that attractive to new people but they are very welcome.”
Helping that welcoming spirit is the attitude of the about 30-member congregation, who Stemme describes as “warm and caring folk.”
“They want to do things for the community and we have folks who are involved,” said Stemme, adding the bells ring every week for soldiers who have died in the last week, a tradition also taking place in Arlington. “The bell continues to toll for that. They do that each Sunday in worship… That’s an influence that this congregation has had on its sister congregation that kind of special.”
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]
Rev. Rod Stemme is helping keep the bells tolling at Church in the Maples UMC in NYA. (NYA Times staff photo by Adam Gruenewald)