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2017-07-14 / Features

Local churches host Hog Roast and Concert Vespers benefit on July 19

MT. IRON – Local churches are coming together to raise money to offer scholarships and debt relief for new pastors. The event—Hog Roast and Concert Vespers Benefit, Freed from Debt for Vocation— will take place on Wednesday, July 19, at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mt. Iron from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Lutheran churches of the Laurentian Conference in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), this benefit will bring people from many congregations and communities together for a mid-summer evening of sharing food, live music and worship. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The Hog Roast from 5 – 6:15 p.m. will feature live music from local favorite, The Hutter Bunch, and the Praise Band from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Hibbing. Dinner will highlight the hog-roasting talents of Scooby and Pr. Liz Cheney of Cook, with the hog slowly cooking all day on site. The pork will be complimented by sides, fruit, and locally-brewed root beer from Pastor Andy Berry of Littlefork. A $15 donation is suggested for dinner.


Pastor Andy Berry is a first-call pastor serving at Littlefork Lutheran Church. Pastor Andy Berry is a first-call pastor serving at Littlefork Lutheran Church. The Concert Vespers from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. will feature a mass choir directed by Patti Stoddard of Tower. The choir is composed of vocalists and musicians from across the Iron Range and from many of the 27 congregations of the Laurentian Conference, stretching from Hibbing to Ely and from Toivola to International Falls. The evening will also feature special music selections from soloists and small group ensembles. Offering from the worship service will be designated towards “Seminarian Debt Relief.”

The benefit will support Seminarian Debt Relief as part of the Renewing the Promise appeal of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. Local congregations are experiencing a clergy shortage. As baby-boomer pastors retire, seminaries are graduating too few students to fill the open pulpits. Those students who do accept calls, especially in rural communities like those on the Iron Range, face the weight of crippling debt accrued in eight years of higher education. Debt can limit the effectiveness and availability of many first-call clergy, particularly in underserved areas of the church.


Bishop Tom Aitken is shown baptizing the daughter of Pastor Ben and Melissa Schori. Pastor Schori is a first-call pastor at First Lutheran Church in Hibbing. Bishop Tom Aitken is shown baptizing the daughter of Pastor Ben and Melissa Schori. Pastor Schori is a first-call pastor at First Lutheran Church in Hibbing. By supporting this cause, the community and congregations assist local clergy to be freed from debt for vocation, many who are faithfully serving in the Laurentian Conference and other places in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, as well as future pastors yet to come.


Pastor Liz Cheney is a first-call pastor serving at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tower. Submitted photos. Pastor Liz Cheney is a first-call pastor serving at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tower. Submitted photos. Pastor Peter Kowitz of Proctor wrote, “There are many great first-call pastors in our synod. They each bring a unique set of skills to their congregations. But they also each bring student debt with them. Since beginning my call, our Synod’s Seminarian Debt Relief Fund has helped me pay off a portion of what I owe in student loans…The less we have to concentrate on our debt, the more we can concentrate on leading the mission and ministries to which we have been called.”

Messiah Lutheran Church is located at 8590 Enterprise Dr. S. in Mt. Iron. For more information, visit www.messiahmtiron.org.



Pastor Katie Slack is a first-call pastor serving at Grace Lutheran Church in Ely. Pastor Katie Slack is a first-call pastor serving at Grace Lutheran Church in Ely.

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