Trinity Lutheran's Pastor Haakana celebrates 25 years in the ministry
Kevin Cederstrom firstname.lastname@example.org Pastor Jon Haakana is a likeable and outgoing church leader who wants his congregation to be an important part of the community. Being the leader of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills can be stressful at tim...
Pastor Jon Haakana is a likeable and outgoing church leader who wants his congregation to be an important part of the community.
Being the leader of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills can be stressful at times for Haakana, but a recent reconnection to his spirituality has brought him back to what is most important - his connection to God.
Haakana celebrates 25 years in the ministry and this Sunday (Sept. 28) his congregation will honor him in this milestone. Sunday services will center around him and his 25-year career. Members of the church have also put together a dinner and program for Haakana later Sunday at City Hall. Social hour starts at 4 p.m., with dinner served at 5 p.m.
What's the best part of his job?
"Being able to apply God to everyday people's lives," Haakana says. "And the joy of being able to share the comfort, strength and word of God with other people."
Although he hasn't spent his entire career in New York Mills, Haakana has a history with the town dating back decades.
His dad grew up in Mills and is a 1945 graduate of NYM High School, and Jon's grandfather was pastor at Trinity in the 1920's. His name was John Haakana as well.
The current pastor Jon Haakana (spelled without the 'h') graduated from Concordia College in St.Paul with a B.A. in American History and Biblical Languages in 1979.
He attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis where he graduated in 1983 with a Masters of Divinity. He did his vicarage for one year in Des Plaines, Ill. Then served parishes in New Berlin and Hudson, Wisc. from 1983 to 1988.
Then in 1992, Haakana was called to start a congregation in Houlton, Wisc.
Haakana says the challenges and rewards in starting a congregation are much the same. The rewards are being able to start something from scratch, and the excitement of creating something from nothing.
The challenges were similar in all the work it takes to build a congregation from the ground up. Little money and manpower, and having to take on all aspects of the job. That's where Jon says his wife, Mary, became a key. She was the secretary, the organist, the Sunday school supervisor, and Jon's personal secretary.
The congregation first met in the school library and held their first worship in the town hall in 1991. The church built its first building in 1996.
Haakana was called to NY Mills in the fall of 2000.
Since coming here his philosophy his goal is to get his church more active in the community.
They've expanded the ministry to include more things for young families and the parish has grown. Membership has increased about 250 to close to 1,000 people. Church attendance is up. Something Jon calls a, "real blessing".
He's tried to expand the church's presence in the community through various activities and with things like getting more involved with the school, serving on boards, entering a float in the parade.
"We want people to see us as a friendly place where they can feel very welcome," Haakana says. "If I've had any part of that caring and loving spirit, then thank God."
Jon says one thing that's stoking his fire right now is the idea of creating a coffee house atmosphere where young adults can come to the church and relax, listen to music, and ask questions. Through this coffee house idea Haakana is promoting what he calls the 3 C's - Coffee, Conversation in Christ.
All the dedicated work to the church hasn't come without a price for Haakana.
He recently took six weeks off because, as he puts it, "found myself neglecting my own spiritual needs." This caused a number of spiritual, physical, and emotional issues.
Haakana spent one week at a non-denominational pastor's retreat center in Wisconsin where he concentrated on spiritual reflection and meditation.
"This was very important for me," he says of the self-directed retreat. "Basically, it's a chance to reconnect with God, and get some rest physically and spiritually."
This Sunday's at Trinity Lutheran and City Hall will pay tribute to Haakana's 25-year career and his hard work in NY Mills.