Story Magazine - First Quarter, 2009

Legacies of Quello and Hanson Honored in Future Preachers

by Shelley Cunningham, '98, M.Div.

H.B. Hanson

The Revs. H.B. Hanson, '30, and Julius Quello, '37, inspired many a listener with their strong, faithful preaching during their long ministries. Now their families are carrying on their legacies and, in turn, hope to build up current preachers so they can do the same.

The H.B. Hanson Preaching Seminar
The H.B. Hanson Preaching Seminar began as a pilot project three years ago. Eight pastors were selected by the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synod bishops to participate in a year-long cohort group that would focus on two of the hallmarks of H.B. Hanson's ministry: preaching and vocation, and how both glorify God and serve God in the world. This year, the seminar was expanded to include four pastors from each of the six synods in Minnesota.

"The hope was that these pastors would go out and meet with church members where they work to learn more about their vocations and the daily challenges they face," said Mary Brown, assistant director of the Center for Biblical Preaching. "These personal conversations between pastors and parishioners in turn would help the pastors in their preaching to be more relevant to the ministry of the laity."

Hanson spent many years as a campus pastor at St. Olaf College, where he mentored a number of students and encouraged them to consider ministry as a career. "He was a very strong encourager of young pastors in their preaching," said Brown. "This seminar aims to capture that spirit."

Barb Hanson said she and her husband, John, started the seminar because "we have experienced some very strong preachers over the years and we feel it's important for many more pastors to develop and grow in that area."

John Nelson, '02, leader of the Minneapolis Area Synod's group and senior pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins, Minn., said the two-day retreat that began this year's seminar definitely carried on Hanson's legacy of encouragement. "[It] was very affirming of our callings as pastors. They acknowledged the challenges we face and encouraged us to work together to support each other in facing those challenges."

Nelson also appreciated the emphasis placed on the intersection of preaching and vocation. "We talked a lot about taking faith to work and how the lives of our congregants engage our preaching," he said. "As pastors, we need to spend time in their workplace so it informs how we see ours."

John Snider, '82 and '02, was part of the original group that started in fall 2006. Snider, who serves as senior pastor at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, Minn., said he was initially intrigued by the concept of focusing on improving preaching through direct feedback. The group would watch one another's sermons on videotape and analyze everything from content to style to delivery.

"At first, when it was time to view our sermons, the anxiety level went through the roof," Snider said. "But we turned out to be a very pastoral group and we quickly learned how to hear each other's comments as the truth spoken in love. I found that even when watching someone else's sermon, I was still learning a ton about my own preaching."

In fact, the group found the process so helpful that they have continued to meet once a quarter since the pilot ended. Though they've developed into more of a small group, they continue to talk about - and watch - each other's sermons. Snider said it's been one of the most helpful things he's done in the course of his ministry.

"I am getting quality feedback on something my congregation and my calling have lifted up as important," said Snider. "And I've come to understand more about how my preaching reaches my congregation. It has been a tremendous opportunity to grow."

The Julius Quello Academy of Preaching
After Julius Quello passed away in the late 1980s, the congregation he'd served in Sarasota, Fla., established a trust fund in his name to honor his gifts as a preacher. For years these funds were used to underwrite preaching-focused continuing education opportunities. Recently, Quello's five sons - all of whom attended Luther Seminary and four of whom were ordained into the ministry - wanted to create a more meaningful event to hold up their dad's legacy. Their vision became the Julius Quello Academy of Preaching.

"As a family, we knew preaching was a real passion for my dad," said Chris Quello, '66. "He was part of a generation that identified themselves as preachers, not pastors.

"That was in the day when pastors truly knew how much they were appreciated. His congregations constantly affirmed his ministry. We agreed we wanted to find a way to show our appreciation for the churches that appreciated him, and to hold up the importance of preaching today."

Over the course of the three days in November, 14 pastors from the East Central Synod of Wisconsin gathered at Ellison Bay Lutheran Church in Door County,Wis., for renewal, conversation and presentations on the craft of preaching by Bruce Foster, pastor of Ellison Bay and Luther Seminary's David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Professor of Biblical Preaching.

"There was a real sense of partnership between the synod and the seminary," said Chris Quello. "It set the tone that good preaching is important; that it truly affects the life and future of the congregation."

Lose cited the benefits of time spent together, both in building relationships between colleagues and in renewed commitment to the time, scholarship and creativity good preaching requires.

"Preaching is an important, challenging and sometimes lonely enterprise," said Lose. "In a relatively short time, we were able to enter deeply into the nature of our shared calling, its struggles and its opportunities. What a wonderful way to affirm and strengthen the preaching of our church."

During the gathering, the Quellos were able to spend time talking about their dad and his legacy. "It was very special for our family to remember his life and ministry like that," said Chris Quello. "And the thank yous we have received indicated how appreciative they were of my dad, and of our gift. I was expecting a real meaningful event, but it went beyond everything I'd hoped for."

The Quellos aim to continue this academy in the future, ideally at each of the congregations their father served. "We hope to make this an annual event," said Chris Quello. "The opportunity to enhance the ministry of current pastors would be a wonderful way to honor my dad."

Julius Quello