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Afton church welcomes new pastor Fossey

Derek Fossey, a native of Eden Prairie, was installed Sunday as the new pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton.

Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton has a new face at the altar.

Derek Fossey was installed Oct. 28 by the Rev. Peter Rogness, the bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

"I see loads of potential here," said Fossey, the church's new pastor. "I'm going to bring a positive, joy filled abundant attitude where we can come together and celebrate -- I'll bring a lot of fun and a lot of energy."

A lifelong calling

Fossey, who grew up in Eden Prairie, said becoming a pastor was always the path for him growing up, even though he didn't have anyone in the family that followed that path.

"For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a pastor," he said. "I have a little sheet that I have from when I was in kindergarten where I wrote in crayon that 'when I grow up I want to be a pastor.'

"Whenever I tried to think about doing something else I always got pulled back into thinking 'you know, I want to be a pastor' - I've always felt that calling."

Fossey said he was drawn to the role of being a pastor for a number of reasons, but primarily he wanted to be able to share God's message.

"I want to share God's love and God's grace with the community and the world," he said

Fossey received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He received his master of divinity from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul.

During his career, Fossey has interned at St. John Lutheran Church in Kailu, Hawaii, and spent the past five years at Hope Lutheran Church, in Palm Desert, Calif., where he was the associate pastor.

Building relationships

Fossey said his favorite aspect of being a pastor is the many relationships he makes.

"I love being able to connect with people," he said. "Getting to know people in their life and being there for them in their celebrations and their joys and being there for them when they're struggling.

"Being a pastor is really about relationships and getting to know people and forming those bonds of love."

Fossey said he always enjoys teaching the gospel.

"I love to give thanks for the many blessings God has given us," he said.

Answering the call at Memorial Lutheran

Fossey said he decided to take the position at Memorial Lutheran Church because he and his wife, who is from Lake Elmo, felt compelled to move back to Minnesota with their two sons - a 3-year-old and an infant.

"We just felt the spirit calling us to be closer to family," he said.

Fossey delivered his first sermon on Sept. 9.

In addition to delivering Sunday masses, Fossey will also be responsible for leading adult education and Bible studies, leading confirmation and youth ministries, visiting the sick and planning ways to get the church out in the community.

"Every day is different, every day there is something new," he said. "Every day is an adventure - you never know what you're going to get."

Fossey said he has some ideas on what he wants to bring to Memorial Lutheran Church, such as holding a "blessing of the animals," which he has already done.

During the event, Fossey said he blessed horses, chickens, dogs, cats and even a hamster.

Additionally, Fossey said he could see the church incorporating a "blessing of the snowmobiles" and a "blessing of the boats."

"I'm hoping to try some new things here and really shake things up," he said.

Most importantly though, Fossey said he is looking forward to meeting new people and bringing Memorial Lutheran Church out into the community.

"I'm looking forward to getting to meet new people and having them come and join us and be a part of this family here," he said. "My job as a pastor is to remind people that the church isn't just a bunch of people in the pews here, but the church is the people out where you are.

"It's not just a bunch of pews in the sanctuary, it's in your everyday life - God is with you wherever you are, not just on Sunday mornings."

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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