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Published: Wednesday, 2/24/2010

Couple get special Valentine

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
The Rev. Lars Olson, right, and the Rev. Katherine Olson, left, husband and wife Lutheran ministers, are the new pastors of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran in American Church downtown. The Rev. Lars Olson, right, and the Rev. Katherine Olson, left, husband and wife Lutheran ministers, are the new pastors of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran in American Church downtown.
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Serving as pastors of two churches 25 miles apart was a logistical challenge for the Rev. Lars Olson and his wife, the Rev. Katherine Olson. Making things even more complicated was the need to balance their pastoral and parental duties, serving two congregations while raising a family - their 2-year-old son, Carl, and a second child due in May.

Mr. Olson, 36, was pastor of St. Luke's ELCA Church in Lima and Mrs. Olson was the pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Delphos.

The partners in ministry and marriage are looking to simplify their schedules starting tomorrow when they will be installed as co-pastors of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The installation service is set for 10 a.m. tomorrow at the historic Toledo church, located across Erie Street from the Lucas County Courthouse.

The couple will preach on different Sundays but have not yet determined how to divide their other pastoral responsibilities.

"We're still trying to figure that out," said Mrs. Olson, who will work part-time at St. Paul's while her husband works full-time.

The couple are quite sure, however, that things won't be as hectic now that they are both working at the same church.

"That is one reason we came to St. Paul's - to be together," Mr. Olson said.

In an interview this week in the church's "resource room," where sunlight streamed through rows of large windows, the Olsons discussed the different paths that led them into ministry.

Mr. Olson, 36, grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California-Santa Barbara.

He had many theological questions and, feeling dissatisfied with the answers he got from ministers, decided to enroll in seminary for his own education, not thinking it would lead to a new career.

"I had a lot of questions about who God is and what God does," Mr. Olson said. "Now I find a lot of fulfillment in turning that around and making theology understandable to people."

Mrs. Olson attended Anderson University in her hometown of Anderson, Ind., where she majored in Christian ministries. The couple, who had met at a Lutheran camp in California, both enrolled at Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul in 2002 and were married in the summer of 2003.

Mrs. Olson said being a pastor "is very fulfilling. I can't really imagine doing anything else. I like sharing the Gospel and being part of a faith community is very important to me."

After ordination, the couple's first pastoral assignments were at the churches in Lima and Delphos.

In August, 2008, Mr. Olson preached to a very special guest: future U.S. President Barack Obama.

"He was on the campaign trail then, Mr. Olson said, adding that the visit "came out of the blue."

Several members of Mr. Obama's campaign staff stopped by on a Friday afternoon and asked if it would be OK if the Democratic presidential candidate attended the upcoming Sunday morning service at St. Luke's.

Mr. Olson said it was fine "if he's coming to worship and receive the gift of Christ," but not if Mr. Obama wanted to use it as a campaign stop.

The candidate showed up early and sat in the second row, flanked by Secret Service agents.

Mr. Obama's presence was recognized during the exchange of peace, Mr. Olson said, "and it got a little crowded down front."

After church, the Olsons walked Mr. Obama to the door and asked if they could pray for him.

"He said to just pray for his family and also that he could be who God wants him to be in the midst of all the craziness," Mr. Olson recalled.

Leaving Lima and Delphos for Toledo was not an easy decision, the couple said, but they are looking forward to serving an urban church that has been struggling in recent years.

Although there are 800 members on the rolls, Sunday attendance has been averaging around 100 people, Mr. Olson said.

The Olsons are looking for ways to minister to the people who are downtown, from courthouse workers and visitors to the people waiting at the bus stop, as well as the regular members who drive in from the suburbs.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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