Rushford Lutheran Church welcomes new pastor

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Rushford Lutheran Church welcomed a new lead pastor this week. Pastor Steven Chellew made the nearly five-hundred-mile trip from Sterling, Nebraska with his wife Lisa and yellow lab Levi.

They were greeted by a contingency of RLC members ready to help unload the U-Haul. The Chellews had just shy of a week to get settled in to the red parsonage before the Pastor’s first official day on the job October 1st. Pastor Chellew will begin preaching Sunday, October 7th at the 9:00 service.

The idea of working in the ministry is not a foreign one for Steven Chellew, who comes from a long line of Lutheran pastors. Chellew’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and four uncles have also served the church.  The thought that he might follow in their footsteps first came to Chellew when he was a young confirmation student, growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. “There were several vicars at my church that told me I should really consider becoming a pastor,” he recalls. “That was when I first started thinking seriously about it.”

After high school, Chellew went on to Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he completed his pre-seminary coursework with minors in psychology, education, and communication.

After graduation, Chellew attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he earned his Master of Divinity in 1990. In addition to his pastoral work, Chellew has worked with Boys Town of Nebraska and the Iowa Department of Human Services as a child safety caseworker. These valuable experiences helped to round out his ministry.

Growing up with a Missouri Synod background, Pastor Chellew served congregations of that denomination in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. In 2006, Chellew began ministering at an  church in Harlan, IA, where he remained for seven and a half years. Most recently Chellew was serving at St. John’s Lutheran Church in the small town of Sterling, Nebraska, when he received the call from Rushford Lutheran.

The adjustment will hopefully be a smooth one for the Chellews, who describe RLC as similar in size and staffing to his previous parish. “It’s a nice-sized church,” Chellew relates. “Small enough to really get to know people, but big enough to have plenty of goings-on,” like the annual codfish supper which will took place last weekend.

This corner of Minnesota may even feel like home for Lisa Chellew, as she once lived in Rochester when her father was a pastor there. Lisa Chellew is a rehabilitation counselor who has worked with both the VA and with state vocational rehabilitation agencies. Most recently, Lisa was employed by Aging Partners in Lincoln, NE, an agency that advocates for the elderly. Pastor Chellew declares tongue-in-cheek that his German blood may make him not nearly as likeable as his Norwegian wife.

The move also brings the Chellews closer to their five children, the youngest of which is a sophomore in college. They have three children that reside in Iowa, one son in the Air Force, and a son-in-law in the Navy. The couple has three grandchildren, all girls. “We just watched the six-month old learn to crawl before our very eyes,” beams Chellew, describing their most recent visit.

When asked about his vision for RLC, Chellew had a ready answer: “Christ-centered, Bible-based, family-focused, mission-minded.” Beginning on October 7th, Chellew will be sharing with the congregation about that vision, and just what it means to be a Christ-centered church. He is also eager to get started with other pastoral duties and pursuits such as teaching 8th and 9th grade Confirmation classes and getting to know all the members of the community. Chellew also has a background in Stephen Ministries.

Chellew is well-aware of the challenges of coming in after the departure of a long-term pastor, noting that it’s not uncommon for the next minister to have a much shorter stay. “We want people to know that we don’t want to see that happen,” he says with a smile.

The couple is looking forward to exploring the beautiful Rushford Peterson valley. They enjoy spending time in nature, fishing and hiking in particular. “The plains were starting to wear on us,” he jokes, referring appreciatively to the scenic beauty he’s been enjoying here. “This is the kind of place we’ve always wanted to live.”