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Moving faith forward

Rev. Jon Larson has been elected the lead pastor at King of Kings Lutheran Church, having spent five years as the church's teaching pastor. Larson is filling the position left by founding pastor Rev. Ralph Olsen who left the church in May.

When Rev. Jon Larson first came to King of Kings Lutheran Church five years ago after spending seven years at as a teaching pastor at a Wadena, Minn., church, he said he was excited about giving the Saturday evening sermons.

"At the time, I wasn't really looking for anything and the call came across my desk," he said. "Preaching on Saturday nights and teaching was something totally different than what I was doing - Saturday night church is not a bad deal.

"Plus I didn't have to wake up on Sunday mornings, which is cool."

That routine is now over. Larson, 38, was elected by the church's congregation Jan. 8 to serve as King of Kings' lead pastor, meaning he'll have to give up those Sunday mornings.

"I'm truly humbled by this opportunity," Larson said. "I thank so many for that - and the pastor in me says let's thank God in this too."

Larson lives in Woodbury with his wife Rachel, who works at Woodwinds Health Campus, and their two children, Erin and Corbin.

Larson is filling the lead pastor position left by Rev. Ralph Olsen, who left last May after having spent 30 years with the church.

Olsen, who founded King of Kings, agreed to a "negotiated transition" in June 2010.

Some church members and officials have said previously the separation was the result of a congregation divided over its response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's changed stance on non-celibate gay clergy.

At its national assembly in 2010 in Minneapolis, the ELCA voted to allow gays and lesbians who are in monogamous relationships to serve as clergy, if called by a church.

That vote split congregations across the country, and King of Kings and other churches suspended or severed financial support of the ELCA.

Larson has been doing much of the lead pastor duties since Olsen's departure.

Larson said he hopes to carry on Olsen's legacy.

"With any transition comes challenges, twists and turns," he said. "We are so grateful for Pastor Ralph and his ministry here and the gift he was to this congregation - we continue to build on that legacy."

Joining the clergy wasn't initially Larson's plan in life, even though his father was a pastor.

"My dad asked my brother and I, 'What do you think about being a pastor,'" he said, "and I said there's no way."

However, as Larson continued in life, he slowly found the pastoral path.

"Later on in life, after an internship and walking with people on their journey, it was something I wanted to do," he said. "In a roundabout way, it got a hold of me."

Larson completed his undergraduate degree at Concordia College and completed his seminary education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

"The thing I enjoy most about being a pastor is walking with the people," he said, "walking with them and journeying with them in the midst of their struggles."

Larson said he has greatly enjoyed his time at King of Kings.

"Seeing the heart that this congregation has for others is just overwhelming," he said.

As lead pastor, Larson is responsible for making decisions related to the church, overseeing staff and is responsible for establishing the vision of the church.

Larson said he doesn't have any immediate plans to make changes to King of Kings.

"We won't be changing worship times or anything like that," he said.

However Larson said he will continue to help grow King of Kings, in his new role as lead pastor, in addition to maintaining the church's presence in the community.

"Right now we are really excited about the stability, health and vitality of the church," he said. "We're looking at holding fast to who we are called to be.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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