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Erin Anderson spreads his wings

"'Synod' means working together," explains Erin Anderson, longtime Calvary Lutheran Church youth director.

As he prepares to leave his position at the Perham church, Anderson reflects on the significance behind the direction he is headed in. Anderson has accepted a position where he will be working with the Northwest Minnesota Synod. The synod includes 10 conferences, covering all of northwestern Minnesota.

Anderson will serve as one of three assistants to the bishop, responsible for overseeing some 270 ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in American) congregations in the synod. According to Anderson, he is the only assistant who isn't an "ordained pastor."

It's his twelve years of experience at Calvary that Anderson sees as crucial to his opportunity to help others in his new position.

"Our synod has a strong youth and family focus," said Anderson. He plans to use the skills and understanding he has garnered during his time at Calvary to help the greater Lutheran church. He will officially begin his new job on March 15.

Among his many duties, Anderson will help create stronger youth and family programs, assist with the development of a lay school of theology, and serve as a point person on a new initiative to get people back into the Word in a fresh way.

The primary difference Anderson sees between what he has been doing at Calvary and what he will be doing as assistant to the bishop is that his new role will involve working much more closely with the leaders in the synod.

Anderson, who is originally from Hawley, went to the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. It was there that he felt called into youth ministry.

"I grew up Lutheran. St. Scholastica was a Catholic college that happened to have a really great non-denominational bachelor's program in youth ministry," said Anderson.

He and his wife Teresa currently live in Perham, along with their three children: Gunnar (6), Soren (3), and Kaia (4 months). Teresa is a first grade teacher at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School in Perham.

During his time as Calvary's youth director, Anderson has been recognized for the energy he put into existing programs with "Rap"--a more contemporary Sunday morning session for junior and senior high students, the development of real faith-building relational ministry for junior and senior high students, and life-changing youth and family service projects.

Some of the church's many ministries that Anderson helped develop include: Pumpkins for Purpose, Youth Loft, K-6 ministry, and Lenten suppers. Anderson also supervised a monthly mission trip to the Salvation Army in Fargo where they helped serve the meal.

"What I hope I brought to Calvary was the knowledge that, together in ministry, we can be an example of Christ to others who need to see him...and to ourselves," reflects Anderson.

One outlet Anderson found for sharing his faith with those around him was through his six-member band "Eyewitness." The band, which started in Omaha in 1995, has included several different faces throughout the years.

In the current group, four of the six members are in parish and youth and family ministries in churches. Anderson released his own cd in 2006 called "The Hope Sessions".

He also plays guitar and sings with Calvary's worship team, helping to bring Sunday morning contemporary worship and informal Sunday evening worship into the church.

"I'm leaving a position here, and yet, I'd love to remain an involved member at Calvary," said Anderson. Although he will need to commute to an office in Moorhead several times a week, and spend much of his time traveling to the various congregations in the synod, he and his family will continue to live in Perham. While he has no plans to leave the church, he will have to step down from his current position as youth director.

"I wish to thank Calvary Lutheran, the pastors that I've had the opportunity to work with, all of the other churches in the community, and the city of Perham as a whole for being a beacon of light," said Anderson. "I look forward to continuing to walk alongside these ministries."

Members of the Calvary congregation gathered together on Sunday, March 9 for a celebration in honor of Anderson's twelve years of serving the church. While Anderson certainly has devoted himself to the Calvary community, he is also known for all of the ways he has touched the greater community over the years.

One example of this outreach is his involvement with the Angel of Hope memorial in Perham. Anderson was commissioned to write a song for the dedication of the memorial. He has performed the song, titled "Angel of Hope", each year at the memorial service, sharing his hope and faith with those in attendance.

"Anyone's ministry needs to be beyond whatever walls they're in," Anderson surmised. "That's the adventure of the gospel."