Pastor, wife receive 'Minneota Nice' welcome
Sitting outside their home across the street from Hope Lutheran Church, Pastor Allen Campbell and his wife Sally reflected on life in the "big" city.
The big city they were referring to is Minneota. Although boasting a population of only 1,200, it is over three times larger than the city the Campbell's have spent the last 12 years.
The Campbells have now lived in Minneota for a month. Taking over as pastor two weeks ago at Hope Lutheran and St. Paul's Lutheran churches, Allen and his wife have already developed a liking for the community.
"We love it here," said Sally. "Everyone has been so nice to us. We went to Brad's Market and Gislason's Hardware and everyone was so welcoming and extremely nice to us. I guess there is something about Minnesota Nice."
The Campbells spent the last dozen years in Maddock, ND, a town with a population of 382 in the middle of the state.
Or, if you ask the Campbells, in the middle of nowhere.
"There isn't a Walmart for 45 miles," Sally laughed. "There wasn't much in town to do at all."
And although there isn't an abundance of retail outlets, a movie theater, or specialty shops in Minneota, the Campbells feel this is the place for them.
"Something about this town just feels right for us," Allen said. "And we're much closer now to a bigger city like Marshall."
While tending to his congregation at North Viking Lutheran Church in Maddock, Allen filled out the necessary paper work and entered the "call process" in which he would be notified if there was an opening for a pastor in any of the designated locations he preferenced.
"I had a preference for southwest and northwest Minnesota," Allen revealed. "I got a call from the Southwest Synod in Redwood Falls recently and was told of openings in Lowry and Minneota."
Campbell interviewed in Minneota first.
He first spoke with Barry Gronke, the head of the Call Committee, and then set up a Zoom meeting with six committee members on Aug. 27; three from Hope Lutheran and three from St. Paul's.
The committee then requested a personal meeting with the Campbells. They met outside Hope Lutheran Church on Sept. 6 before touring both churches.
"They told me they were interested in hiring me and I told them I was interested in being their pastor," Allen told.
The Call Committee recommended Pastor Campbell to the Church Council, who approved hiring him. The council, in turn, spoke with the congregation at services at each church on Sunday, Sept. 27. The congregation also voted in favor of having Pastor Campbell serve their churches.
"I got a call offering me the job and I said 'yes' right away," Pastor Campbell said with a smile.
"A resounding yes," echoed his wife, with an even bigger smile.
Preparing for the move from Maddock to Minneota, Sally checked the weather report.
"I saw there was a big snowstorm predicted on Oct. 20, so we moved to Minneota the day before," she said.
Upon arrival, the snow hit. But four Minneota football players who were part of the church congregation were on hand to help them move their belongings into the house.
"That was so nice," said Sally. "We knew right away we were in the right place."
Hope and St. Paul Lutheran Churches had been searching for a pastor for some time. Pastor Lance Isaacson has been the interim pastor and has been livestreaming his services from his home in Jackson during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I felt they were waiting for me," said Pastor Campbell about the two churches, "and I was waiting for them."
The Campbell's have no children together. Pastor Campbell has one son, Michael, from a previous marriage. His son lives in Portland, Oregon.
Pastor Campbell's first service was Sunday, Nov. 1. He holds service at Hope Lutheran at 9 a.m. and St. Paul's Lutheran at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday.
There will be no major changes to any of the services under Pastor Campbell.
"The one thing I miss is the singing," he noted, referring to the pandemic. "I heard they have a very good choir here, but singing is an easy way to spread the virus. We are looking forward to having the singing back in church some day."
Pastor Campbell was selling electronic supplies in Georgia where he grew up when he felt a "calling" to join the ministry after turning 39 years old, the same year his father passed away.
"I had felt a call to the ministry as a teen," he said. "But I didn't go into it right away."
Sally, an Illinois native, moved to Georgia and met Allen in 1989. Allen grew up a Baptist and Sally was a Lutheran.
"I converted to Lutheran in 1993," Allen noted. "When I felt a calling to join the ministry, I didn't know what Sally would think about it."
But she knew it was the right move for him, and them.
"I just knew," she said, referring to women's intuition.