Story Magazine - Fourth Quarter, 2003

Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Honorees

The Faithfulness in Ministry Cross award was established in 1991 by the Luther Seminary Alumni/ae Council to "identify, recognize, celebrate and give thanks for alums, both clergy and lay, who have lived lives of faithfulness in ministry." Candidates must be alumni/ae of Luther Seminary or its antecedent schools, and are nominated by fellow alums or other colleagues. It is with thanksgiving that Luther Seminary honors this year's recipients: Rod Anderson, Ed Nesselhuf and Bruce Williams.

Rod Anderson, urban/suburban ministry

Rod Anderson, '74, knows that ministry in the suburbs isn't just about location, location, location. It's also about being a visible presence in the community, and about establishing a reputation as a place where people's needs are met.

Anderson, the senior pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., is being recognized for his faithfulness in urban/suburban ministry.

During Anderson's 26-year tenure as senior pastor, St. Andrew has grown from just a few hundred members to more than 9,000. It has become an anchor for a community that is heavily influenced by both business and housing expansion.

Thanks in part to a recent feature article in The Lutheran, St. Andrew has developed a national reputation for its work transition group, a ministry for those seeking employment of which Anderson serves as the group's host.

"Rod's faithfulness in ministry compels him to connect the employed of St. Andrew and those in a job search. Each week, there is a group of anywhere from 75 to 125 at the church for lunch and time to network," said Mike Zacher, a major gifts consultant in the Office of Seminary Relations at Luther Seminary. "Each session begins and closes with prayer and scripture, the group celebrates when any find employment; it offers a word of grace and hope in a challenging time."

Anderson's service stretches beyond his congregation, however. He serves on the board of trustees at Gustavus Adolphus College and at Luther Seminary, and on the board of the local food pantry. He also is a weekly contributor to the Eden Prairie newspaper, writing on current and theological issues.

"In an era when large congregations and their pastors have a tendency to operate on their own, Pastor Anderson has demonstrated a consistent pattern of being a partner with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America," said Richard Mork, ELCA Division for Outreach. "He is an encourager of those who take on challenging positions for the church."

Ed Nesselhuf, specialized ministry

"I was sick and in prison, and you did not look after me."

Ed Nusselhuf, '71, takes Jesus' charge personally. His ministry has not only been a model of what it means to bear the burdens of another; it has been the model for doing so with those in prison. His aim: to create congregations that provide ministry with inmates, not to them or for them.

"He understands grace, the wideness of God's mercy, and the theology of the cross. He has been obedient to a call that has meant an insecure paycheck," said Bishop Emeritus Norman Eitrheim. "His avocation and gift of writing poetry--especially cowboy poetry--has opened doors of ministry for him."

After 12 years of parish ministry (with two congregations in South Dakota), he was called to be the pastor-developer of the first prison congregation in the U.S. His first work: to build a Lutheran congregation in a prison in Maryland that initially had only two Lutherans. As the ministry grew, congregations were started in two prisons--one for men, one for women. A decade of dreaming, praying and grass-roots research and development led to the development of Prison Congregations of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to lifting up Jesus' call to reach out to people in prison. To this point, PCA has been instrumental in developing congregations in prisons across four states.

The road has been a challenging one. His efforts have included countless meetings with church and civic leaders, extensive fundraising, covering administrative details, and personal fiscal and emotional investment.

"Throughout the struggle and the stress, Ed has remained hopeful. He continued to believe in his dream," said Leroy Iseminger, a colleague from the South Dakota Synod. "He has demonstrated for me the tenaciousness of faith. In many ways, he has been a prophetic voice. He has had to convince others that God has truly called him to this work and given him this dream and passion that burn deeply within him."

Bruce Williams, small town/rural ministry

If small towns don't grow, they die. The same is true with churches. In more than 30 years of parish it a mission that the church in South Dakota would grow. His work, particularly as mission developer and senior pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, helped realize that vision.

Even as Gloria Dei was dedicating its first building, it designated the offering from the service for new mission start congregations in the state. "In spite of our state's flat population, Bruce has had the foresight and vision to lead and encourage synod and national offices to continue to develop mission congregations here in South Dakota in areas of potential growth," said Ron Beckman, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. Since then, Williams has been a part of encouraging and supporting the start of seven new congregations. "I saw firsthand Bruce's vision and wisdom at work. He has been a precious mentor to the pastors of these mission start congregations."

Williams' passion for serving the church has led him to be involved as a member of the Augustana College Board of Regents, an active participant in South Dakota's Lutheran Camping ministry, and a member of the board of directors of Lutheran Social Service of South Dakota.

"His passion for the ministry of the whole church was the focus of his doctoral thesis...one only needs to look at the ministry of Gloria Dei in Sioux Falls to see that these concepts were not just theory, but were at the very center of the development of this congregation. Pastor Williams was able to take a vision and make it a reality," said Robert Hansen, a colleague in ministry.

Williams retired from parish ministry in 1999--but even now, he remains "open to serving the church through a faith-based organization utilizing the God-given abilities and experience I have received."