On Saturday, November 19, 2022, a joyous celebration of ordination for Ruth Sanders was held at First Presbyterian Church in Crookston, MN. The joy was shared by not just one church but three churches who have joined together to form the Northern Lights Ministry Collaborative.
In 2015, Trinity Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church began discussions about a Shared Pastor between the two. Rev. Gregory Isaacson, the Senior Pastor at Trinity, was looking to fill a half-time associate position, and First Presbyterian was looking for a half-time pastor. A joint call committee was formed, and candidates were interviewed from both Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions. Rev. Elise Pokel, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, started in August 2017.
In 2020, the two churches again found themselves in the call process, but the pandemic delayed the search for their next pastor. A call was extended to Rev. Michael Ozaki, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA, who started in September 2021.
In May 2022, Wesley United Methodist Church in Crookston had a pastoral vacancy. They expressed interest in joining the collaborative to assist in their search for a half-time pastor. It just so happened that Ruth Sanders, a Crookston resident, was completing her Master of Divinity degree at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, and was looking to become a pastor in the Presbyterian tradition. Leaders from the three churches discussed ministry needs and possibilities. Presbyterian and Methodist processes needed to approve Sanders to serve in the position of Pastor of Congregational Care for the collaborative and point pastor for Wesley United Methodist. She is called to implement a lay visitation program for the collaborative.
Rev. Ozaki becomes Pastor of Adult Education and Youth Ministries. He coordinates adult education opportunities and works closely with Trinity’s Director of Children, Youth, and Families Ministries in developing programs. He is the point pastor for First Presbyterian. Rev. Isaacson serves as Executive Pastor for the collaborative and is the lead pastor for Trinity Lutheran. He oversees the preaching rotation between the three churches and provides supervision for the collaborative efforts that the three churches share. He is excited to have the churches participate in a Lily Endowment-funded program called The Nourishing Vocation Project. This project will first engage individuals in further faith development and then involve leaders from the three churches in identifying missional and congregational goals as they share in ministry together.
The ordination service was spirit-filled with joy. Rev. Elise Pokel returned to share the sermon. Representatives from the three church bodies were present to extend greetings. All clergy present from the three church traditions shared in the “laying on of hands” in calling the Holy Spirit to fulfill Rev. Sanders call to ministry. The Northern Lights Ministry Collaborative has a bright future moving forward.