New Associate Pastor at American Lutheran Works to Rebuild Youth Ministry, Launches Busker Band – The Globe

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WORTHINGTON — With a self-proclaimed fear of public speaking and an outspokenness about imperfection, Jeremy Hallquist settles into his new role as associate pastor at the American Lutheran Church in Worthington.

As he stands before the congregation on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, that fear of public speaking fades, but there will always be imperfection.

“That’s part of the beauty of what God calls us to be,” he recently said from his church office. “If worship is perfect, you feel you must also be perfect. But, God says “Come as you are” – come as God created you and we will accept it.

Hallquist grew up in a bi-denominational home north of the Twin Cities, her mother a Catholic and her father a Lutheran. He spent his youth attending services at both churches and after high school pursued his Bachelor of Music Education at Concordia College in Moorhead.

“I have a passion for music and working with people and children,” he said. “It’s a life-giving thing for me.”

This passion led him to Luther Crest Bible Camp in Alexandria while still in college, and the experiences there convinced him to pursue the ministry.

“I changed my major my last part of senior year to religion,” he said.

Hallquist began his career in youth and family ministry, feeling comfortable talking about God with children. And then one day he was asked to do palliative care for a family and he realized that his true calling might be traditional ministry – sharing the word of God with people of all ages.

So, nearly 18 years after beginning youth ministry, Hallquist enrolled in seminary.

“I had kind of avoided being a pastor for my entire profession and again, God is laughing at me,” he shared. The shunning came from having “shabby” pastors and a “tainted image of the church,” he said.

While doing visitation ministry as a seminary student, Hallquist discovered a love for preaching and visitation and all the cogs and bolts, the behind-the-scenes work that pastors are called to do.

He was offered his first post-seminar position at the American Lutheran Church in late spring and moved with his family to Worthington in mid-July. He and his wife, Ellie, have two sons, Weston, a fourth grader, and Clayton, a first grader, and a 12-week-old yellow Lab named Leo. Ellie teaches kindergarten at Prairie Elementary, and the boys are football fanatics, with Clayton playing on a YMCA team and Weston in a competitive city league.

“(Ellie) loves connecting with the kids and just the diversity of this community,” Hallquist said, adding that they’re both enjoying what they’ve been through so far in Worthington.

“I really liked what I discovered as a community, as well as this church,” he said. “I find the American Lutheran to be this congregation that is very welcoming but bubbling with new ideas. I spend time trying to understand what the church is hoping for and helping to direct and guide that.

As an associate pastor, Hallquist said his initial goal was to rebuild the church’s youth program after some personnel transitions and a more normal church routine in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also emphasizes visiting members of the congregation who are hospitalized or homebound, and is rebuilding the contemporary worship team.

The American Lutheran Church holds worship services at 8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on Sundays, with Sunday School and Adult Education programming at 9:15 a.m. An abbreviated Wednesday evening worship begins at 6 p.m. h 30, with a meal served at 5:30 p.m. at the church. In this service, youth and young families lead much of the curriculum in what Hallquist calls a teaching experience.

“We give children a chance to serve communion and lead the way,” he said. “We try to teach that faith is here and now.

“Serving in the church creates fear. We try to break it down – if the kids can do it, you can do it; it is a place where children can feel part of the church and connected to the church,” he added.

Hallquist started a band of buskers at the church, featuring individuals as young as 8 and adults who “jump and play” instruments such as saxophone, clarinet, piano and guitar.

Busker is a term for a busker who does things like an offering or a giveaway. The group performs traditional and contemporary music during the contemporary church service at 10:15 a.m. on Sundays.

“There’s tons of musical talent in the community,” Hallquist said, a guitar at the ready. “It was just fun.”

While Hallquist can play a variety of string instruments – guitar, bass, mandolin and banjo – his second real passion is tinkering under the hood of a car in his spare time. He has a 1966 Dodge Charger that made the trip with them, and loves working on it and driving it.

“I think I spent more time under the hood of a car in high school than in the classrooms,” he laughed. “It’s kind of fun to tour downtown in the old hotrod.”

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