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The Bredeson family watches the activities from the front row at Bethel Highlands Lutheran Church. The family members are, from left, Pastor Van, daughter Megan, daughter Kaitlyn and wife Katherine.

Bethel Lutheran bids Pastor Bredeson a fond farewell

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Bethel Lutheran bids Pastor Bredeson a fond farewell
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Rev. Van V. Bredeson will give his final sermon as a member of the staff at Bethel Lutheran Church on Sunday.

After 22 years as the church's education, family and youth pastor, Bredeson is looking for his next call.


"The sky's the limit, I guess," he said with a laugh on Monday, the day after a well-attended farewell program for him at the Bethel Highlands Church.

Hundreds of parishioners and friends came to bid him farewell in the hour-and-a-half program that included music, videos, skits, speakers and a lot of laughter and tears.

"It was quite an honor. It was quite a blessing," Bredeson said over the phone from a mini-MBA conference (sponsored by Augsburg College and Luther Seminary) in the Twin Cities that he was attending on Monday.

"I felt well-loved by the people of Bethel, and they show it. So I sure appreciated all they did," he said.

Bredeson might be remaining at Bethel Lutheran if not for the retirement of former Senior Pastor Dennis Nelson last year. As part of his call and contract when he came to Bethel in 1991, he agreed to leave the church when Nelson, who retired at 70, left.

Bredeson and his wife, Katherine, will continue to reside at their Hudson home until another position for him might take them elsewhere. Katherine is a phone triage nurse for Entira, a health care organization with clinics in the East Metro.

Bredeson said he's currently considering some part-time ministry possibilities, but is open to continuing in full-time parish ministry.

Or, he might put his master's degree in marriage and family therapy to use in some capacity.

The number of possibilities brought the "sky's the limit" quip.

He said he feels good leaving the congregation to the care of new Senior Pastor John Lestock and incoming youth and family pastors Ben and Alicia Hilding.

"Pastor John is doing great things with them. I think (the church) has a good lively spirit, and I appreciate that," Bredeson said. "I can go and feel comfortable about that."

He said it's "a delight" for him to be replaced by the Hildings. Ben, a Hudson native, came through Bethel Lutheran's youth programs under Bredeson's leadership.

Bredeson said the highlight of his ministry at Bethel was when the congregation made a conscious decision some 15 to 17 years ago to be more outwardly focused.

"We moved to being a church that really cared more about bringing people in than maintaining membership," he said. "That just opened up ways for us to continue to reach out and think about, are we doing this just for ourselves? Or are we inviting people?"

He said the confirmation program was revamped, and the music, worship and hospitality of the church changed.

"For me, it has all been about relationships with these awesome people that God has inspired to do his work on the earth and make it a better place," Bredeson of his ministry.

The addition of the Bethel Highlands campus in the town of Hudson was a milestone, he said, but the purpose of it is to care for people.

"It's all about creating an atmosphere where relationships can blossom and that connection with God can blossom," he said.

As a youth and family pastor, his goal was to help parents raise children in the faith, and also to create opportunities for children to practice their faith and care for others.

"It's not just about knowledge," Bredeson said. "It's about immersing yourself in the activity of the church. Even the children are reaching out to others and caring for them. Every part of our congregation is included in that. Helping them have a sense of call is really important - knowing that God has a plan that they can be a part of."

Bredeson served as the youth and family pastor at Bethany Lutheran in Rice Lake for close to five years before coming to Hudson.

He grew up in Rochester, Minn., where he attended Mayo High School and Rochester Community College before moving on to St. Olaf College to complete his undergraduate degree. He then attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

The Bredesons' two daughters returned to Hudson for Sunday's open house honoring their father.

Megan is an intern at Minneapolis Institute of Art after having receiving earned a master's degree in art history and Italian from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Kaitlyn will graduate from Hudson High School on Saturday. She will enter St. John's College at Annapolis, Md., in the fall.

Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
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