E-lert - November 2011

Faithfulness in Ministry Award: Philip Holtan

The Rev. Philip Eugene Holtan, according to many, is always on the "cutting edge of ministry," an appropriate phrase for a pastor and master woodturner. Holtan,'76, truly a jack-of-all-trades and pastor to all, is a recipient of the 2012 Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Award recognizing his 35 years of innovative and creative ministry.

Rarely has Holtan held only one title at any point in the past four decades. Holtan currently serves as pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham, Minn., with nearly 1400 members.

In his six years at Calvary, Holtan has also served as founding chair of Feed My Starving Children in Perham, chairperson of Lutheran Coalition of Public Policy in Minnesota, and was recently elected Perham's Rotary President for 2011. Not to mention that Calvary, under Holtan's leadership, recently received the 2010 Servant of Christ Award from Lutheran Social Service for outstanding ministry projects.

"Pastor Phil has been an instrumental force at Calvary and in the community in demonstrating that the gospel is alive when put into action," nominator Cindy Olson said. "He encourages creativity, new ideas, and supports these ventures with solid leadership and support."

Prior to his call at Calvary, Holtan spent 23 years at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. as campus pastor, where he worked with worship bands of different genres as well outreach teams and a worshipping campus community. He incorporated a variety of resources into worship life at Concordia, including Taize, Iona, Holden Evening Prayer, Lutheran Book of Worship, With One Voice, and others.

During this time he was also the founding president of Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity in Fargo-Moorhead and led the Concordia contingent of Habitat for Humanity, which had the largest number of volunteers from any institution.

"Phil was a primary resource in the development of the Vocation program at Concordia," nominator Paul Dovre said. "He always takes an affirming 'let's get it done' attitude to the challenges of ministry."

Along with his dynamic ministry, his passion for woodturning has remained constant for more than 30 years. Holtan sees deep connections between his call and his art.

"For me, it is an act of both faith and imagination to turn a bowl," Holtan said. "In my callings as pastor and artist, I am reminded that God doesn't work with perfect materials either, and so I must also trust that in this distressed and unlikely wood, burled, decayed, worm-eaten, twisted, bird-pecked, in this least-likely looking material, most of all there is the promise of beauty. This is my calling, to be a good steward of the things and people God has placed in my care."

In addition, Holtan notes that his wife and three children are a huge part of his life and ministry. "I have always worked very hard to balance my family life with my ministry," he said.