Helland retires after 18 years
A longtime Lakeville church has a new pastor at its helm.
The Rev. Andy Smith started at St. John’s Lutheran Church Nov. 1, replacing the Rev. Gregg Helland who retired in May after 18 years leading the congregation of about 1,400 baptized members.
Smith, who has served as pastor in four other Lutheran churches in Minnesota, the most recent in Nisswa by Gull Lake north of Brainerd, said the transition has been smooth.
“We had a good interim pastor here for five months, and he did a super job of getting the congregation ready for someone new,” Smith said, referring to the Rev. Lon Larson.
Smith said he was welcomed into the position “beautifully.”
“It feels like we’ve hit the ground running,” Smith said.
He said his preaching style varies with sermons that may be topical, expository or based on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s lectionary readings.
“All my sermons are Bible-centered,” he said. “So, even if I do a series, it would all come from the Biblical material.”
During Helland’s tenure, the congregation grew and moved from downtown to its current location off Heath Avenue.
Congregation members have been focused on community outreach, a tradition Smith said he plans to continue and encourage.
“My vision for the church has always been to, figuratively, have the doors of the church open as far as they can be,” Smith said.
He said the church should be as welcoming as possible to the community, welcoming everyone, no matter the reason, including for community events.
“We as a church would turn ourselves outward and serve the community and do our part to make our Lakeville community, even the south metro, better,” Smith said.
Some members have volunteered for local food shelves and Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization that allows volunteers to pack meals that are sent to malnourished people around the world.
Smith said they recently worked with three other churches to develop an ecumenical Thanksgiving service and said they will continue to join forces with other groups and churches to serve the community.
“We want to make our relationships with each other stronger, more vibrant and energized,” Smith said. “That’s the heart of what the church is, all the people coming together, fellowshipping, worshipping and coming together.”
Smith and wife Paula Smith have seven children, ages 7 to 23.
For more information go to sjlcl.org.