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New pastor shares her hopes for Hope

The Rev. Sandra Johnson (left) stands with the Rev. Amy Odgren at her installation service June 26 in the Newman Chapel. Odgren installed Johnson as pastor of Hope Lutheran Church. <i>Submitted photo</i>

The Hope Lutheran Church's softball team has a new member, and so does Hope Lutheran Church. But she's not just any member.The Rev. Sandra Johnson is Hope Lutheran's new pastor.

Prior to her 2007 ordination, Johnson was an elementary teacher in Osceola where she lived with her husband Jed Reiten and her two sons.

Johnson said she felt called to switch from elementary education to being her parish's Christian education director. That was what set her on the path to becoming a pastor.

"I think it spilled over into sensing a call into ordained ministry," said Johnson.

Johnson attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul and began her ministry as a pastor at in Prentice.

She accepted the call to Hope Lutheran this spring and was installed as minister there on June 26 during a special service.

One of the reasons Johnson said she accepted the call to Hope Lutheran was how active the members of the Hope Lutheran congregation are and not just in the River Falls community.

"One of the most important kinds of outreach," said Johnson, "is touching the lives of people in the broader community and the world."

That outreach to the broader community is one reason Johnson said she is glad she is a part of the ELCA.

"We can do so much more together," said Johnson, "than one congregation can do on its own."

Johnson said she is still learning about all of the ways Hope is active in the community, including working with Our Neighbors' Place, Tuesday Banquets, Grace Place, and various missions the church supports.

This isn't the first time Johnson has been to River Falls, though. She got her elementary education degree from UW-River Falls in 1995. Johnson said she's grateful to be able to be here in River Falls, closer to her two sons and four grandchildren.

Johnson is still getting to know the Hope Lutheran congregation but said she is impressed with its drive and activism.

Hope Lutheran has purchased land for a church building. But Johnson said it is more than a church building, because Hope Lutheran wants to see if there are other ways it can meet the needs of the community in addition to providing a place for weekly services.

She said she is looking forward to being able to look back and see how things have progressed for Hope in five years, but meanwhile, she's going to enjoy her ministry.

"It's about being available to people and celebrating with them their God-given gifts and working with them to serve their neighbors."

Hope Lutheran holds services every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in the Newman Center on the UW-RF campus.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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