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Story Magazine

Third Quarter 2006

Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Honorees 2007

by Allison Schmitt, Master of Arts Student

The 2007 honorees of the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Award represent three different generations of ministry, but they are united by the exemplary service they provide their congregations and communities. The award, established by the Luther Seminary Alumni/ae Council in 1991, seeks to "identify,recognize, celebrate and give thanks for alums, both clergy and lay, who have lived lives of faithfulness in ministry." In 2005, the council voted to recognize alums in three ministry categories: 10 years or less, 25 years or less, or more than 25 years. 10 years or less: Rev. Sherri Sandoz, 1996 Bethel Lutheran Church Lester Prairie, Minn.

10 years or less: Rev. Sherri Sandoz, 1996 Bethel Lutheran Church Lester Prairie, Minn.
Sherri Sandoz

A new pastor's first call can be a daunting experience. Now imagine that call coming from a church in crisis. Rev. Sherri Sandoz not only accepted that challenge but has remained in that parish for nine years, which has healed and grown under her leadership. Nominating Pastor Michael Short, '01, said Sandoz has "served well to bring God back to the center of [the congregation's] mission."

In addition to serving as Bethel's pastor, Sandoz is a trainer and leader for Healthy Congregations workshops and serves on the synod stewardship committee. She is active in her local text study group, apparently uninhibited by being the only woman in the room, Short wrote.

"She does it all with a good spirit," wrote Rev. Harvey L. Nelson, '71. She is a "breath of fresh air," he said, bringing insights from her Roman Catholic background and business experience to the table. She has helped her congregation look outward to engage in new kinds of ministry employing persistence, good judgment and sound Lutheran doctrine.

"Sherri has worked through lots of issues with her congregation at Lester Prairie and in the  process has helped them develop a solid ministry," wrote Pastor Tim Hansen, '87. "In an age and era where it is much easier to flee rather than educate, Sherri has demonstrated a faithful response to important issues. Her involvement with Healthy Congregations and her work on the synod stewardship committee are reflections of her passion in ministry."

25 years or less: Jeffrey L. Hawkins, 1980 HOPE CSA North Manchester, Ind.
Jeffrey Hawkins

North Manchester, Ind. As pastors go, Jeffrey Hawkins truly is a man outstanding in his field--a farm field, to be specific. Since 2003, Hawkins has been executive director of HOPE CSA, or Hands-On Pastoral Education using Clergy Sustaining Agriculture. HOPE CSA is a working farm and teaching ministry for pastors who spend one day a month working and studying at the farm. The objective is to "teach an 'organic' way of thinking about all of life, from the vantage point of hopeful Christian conviction," according to the program's brochure.

"Throughout Jeff's ministry, he has been a farmer at heart," wrote nominator Rev. Dr. Dennis Wenzel, '80. Wenzel cited Hawkins' "innovative approach in parish education for the sustainability and growth of agricultural issues and increasing the health of parish pastors."

Before creating HOPE CSA, Hawkins served several Wisconsin and Indiana parishes since his 1980 ordination. He inherited his grandparents' 99-acre farm in north centralIndiana in 1987, eventually moving there and adding farm duties to his routine. Hawkins then felt himself torn between his love for the people of God and for the land. The solution came not by eliminating one or the other but by combining them in HOPE CSA.

"By engaging participants in a rhythm of work, rest and reflection, many have grown in their ability to lead the church in its mission," wrote Rev. Dr. James Stuck in support of Hawkins' nomination.

Rev. Stephen Flynn concurred  enthusiastically in his letter of support. HOPE CSA provides "a very special opportunity for church leaders to grow in faith and spirit in an on-going way that is more effective and  far-reaching than any other continuing education I have been involved with in my 13 years of parish ministry," Flynn wrote. "His approach deals with the whole person--physical, mental and spiritual. This is an integrative approach that touches upon all aspects of one's ministry, life and faith."

More than 25 years: Rev. Dr. Dick E. Hamlin,1958 Cave Creek, Ariz.
Dick Hamlin

Pastor Rod Anderson, '74, describes Rev. Dr. Dick E. Hamlin as a pastor with a heart "as big as the house of God." Anderson nominated Hamlin for the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross for his 45 years of passionate and energetic ministry, culminating in his "transformational" work as interim pastor in parishes across the country. "Countless legions of lay people would join me and other church leaders in thanking God for Dick's interim ministry that changed their lives permanently," Anderson wrote. Since retiring at Shepherd of the Valley in Phoenix, Hamlin has continued to mentor church leaders and laity through Hamlin's Horizons Ministries, in addition to holding interim positions in the Southwest and Minnesota. While in the active ministry, Hamlin created and led "Life in G-major" evangelism conferences attended by hundreds,Anderson wrote.

Rev. Mark Hanson, ELCA presiding
bishop, has followed Hamlin's ministry since they served concurrently in the St. Paul Area Synod. Hanson describes Hamlin as bringing "a passion for the gospel, a commitment to mission that is infectious, an ability to discern when to challenge and when to console. He has been a strong partner with the larger church."

Hamlin, according to Rev. Michael J. Neils, former bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod, came to him shortly after his call as bishop, and said, "I am now 70 years old, and I just want to go over my plans for the next 10 years of ministry," Neils wrote.

"Dick is a faithful and effective pastor. He brings great honor to Luther Seminary as an alum," wrote Rev. Jack Niemi, '72. In the 1980s, Hamlin received an honorary doctorate  from California Lutheran University alongside the late Sen. Paul Simon and entertainer Bob Hope.

Hamlin has been "a blessing unimagind before in the expectations of every parish he has served," Anderson wrote. "I can't imagine one more deserving and appropriate for the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross than Rev. Dr. Dick Hamlin!"

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