By Elizabeth Sias
When the Faith Lutheran Church call committee heard Clifton Hanson preach, they knew: he would be church’s new pastor.
Hanson did receive the call, and he started officially at Faith Lutheran Church in Isanti on June 1.
“The sermons make you think,” Council President Don Johnson said. “You pay attention because he has the ability to make you think about the sermon.”
And the congregation seems to agree; after nearly a month serving the church, Johnson said he hasn’t heard a single negative report.
“He has the ability to communicate with both youth and elderly,” Johnson said of the 28-year-old. “He works well with people — he works with all of us, not just some.”
Hanson said he’s excited to get to know everyone in the community and hopes to pastor at Faith Lutheran for years to come.
The second of six children, Hanson grew up in Goodridge, a small town in northwestern Minnesota, with a Christian family. After high school, Hanson received an associate’s degree and broadcasting diploma from Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls.
He worked at a radio station out of Ada, Minn., before attending Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minn., where he finished his undergraduate studies with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical and Theological Studies.
He always knew he wanted to preach, saying he received his calling at the time of his baptism.
“Every Christian receives a call to preach and proclaim Jesus Christ, and it just so happens that some people end up doing it for a living,” Hanson said. “As far as my call to preach, that came in my baptism.”
The next logical step was to attend seminary, and he did just that when he started classes at Luther Seminary in St. Paul the summer after graduating from Crown College. As part of his studies, Hanson spent a year in Buhl, Minn., at First Lutheran Church for an internship, and after one final year of classes, he graduated from seminary in May 2010.
While waiting for a call to pastor a church, Hanson said he worked for Service Master doing water damage mitigation. He decided to restrict himself to taking a call in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas because his wife has a job in Maplewood.
Several interviews and a council and congregational vote later, Hanson is happy to be part of Faith Lutheran Church in Isanti.
“I really like the town; it’s got its own character,” he said. “I cannot stress enough how happy I am to be outside of the metro.”
Hanson moved to Isanti from St. Paul with his wife. As pastor, Hanson spends part of his time preparing his sermon and preparing for Bible study, as well as working on the Sunday bulletin and arranging Baptisms with parents, among other things.
Sunday worship is 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., and Hanson leads a Bible study group on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. He’s also hoping to start an evening Bible study in the near future.
One of his favorite parts of being a pastor, however, is visiting with people individually, whether at the hospital or in their own home.
“It’s kind of a blessing to be able to go out and sit down with someone and hear their stories, to talk with them about that and to sit down and read scripture together,” Hanson said. “There’s something special about that. I consider it an honor to be able to come into somebody’s home and sit with them.”
He also said he loves preaching, a fact evident to the call committee. One committee member said Hanson comes about the message in a way no one would have thought he would go and enlightens the audience.
Hanson said many people have told him his sermon style is conversational. He’ll prepare by reading and re-reading the scripture for the coming Sunday, then read anything it reminds him of. The passage will usually remind him of something that’s happened in his own life or a story he knows, and he tries to bring that into his sermon.
“I find myself asking questions of the scripture, and then try to look at those questions and see what kind of answers we get when we read it,” Hanson said, adding that he tries to find something in the passage that may not be immediately obvious.
Right now, the biggest challenge he faces is becoming acclimated and getting to know everyone.
“There are lots of new faces and people that I haven’t seen,” he said. “There are people who are home bound who I haven’t had a chance to meet yet and I’m trying to make my way out and see everybody.”
Hanson isn’t the only new part of Faith Lutheran Church. With a handicap seating area in the sanctuary, automatic doors and an elevator, the church has been made more handicap accessible in recent years.
Johnson said there’s also a new projection system and updated security system. The next project might be remodeling the kitchen to modernize it, but Johnson said that would be years down the road.
He said he’d like to see more young people attend church, and hopes the young pastor will help bring in fresh faces to Faith Lutheran.
As for Hanson’s own goals, he simply wants to spread the word of God.
“Ultimately, the one thing that I want to be able to do, and the only thing that I really know how to do, is to proclaim Jesus Christ,” he said. “Wherever the proclamation of the cross takes us, that’s where we go.”