Klatt returns to shepherd his home congregation
It could be said Reverend Michael Klatt is returning to his roots.
Klatt, a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, recently accepted a call to St. John Lutheran Church of rural Elmore. It is the church he was baptized, confirmed and ordained in. The farm where he lived until leaving for college is only two miles from his new residence at the church parsonage.
“I never dreamed I would come back as the pastor of my home church,” Klatt says.
And even though it has been over 40 years since he left to embark on his pastoral career, he is not a stranger in the area.
“I have kept in touch with many people and I came back often to visit my parents and family,” he comments.
Klatt was born in Blue Earth. His parents, Virgil and Carmen, have both passed but he still has family in the area. David, a younger brother, and his wife Shari, reside in Albert Lea. His younger sister Sheryl and her husband Joel (Eckhardt) live on a farm east of Blue Earth.
Klatt, who is six-feet-five, graduated from Elmore High School in 1974, where he played basketball for his high school team. He graduated from Concordia College, St. Paul, in 1978 and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1982.
He did a year of vicarage at Bethel Lutheran Church in Dallas, Texas, from 1980-1981. He was ordained into the office of the Holy Ministry on July 18, 1982, at his home church and accepted his first call to a church in Nebraska.
“I met my future wife, Holly, while serving a church in Pierce, Nebraska,” Klatt shares. “Holly grew up on a farm north of Pierce and we were married in 1985.”
In addition to the church at Pierce, Klatt also served congregations in Hoskins, Nebraska and was an associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Illinois before returning to Nebraska to be the pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus. Klatt served Peace Lutheran for 29 years before accepting the call to come to Elmore.
“It is nice to be back home. Holly and I have four children, Nathan, Caleb, Colin and Rachel and our move to Minnesota means we are actually closer to two of them,” Klatt shares. “They are all in their 20s and have not really settled down so they could end up living closer or further away from us.”
For now, Klatt is living the life of a bachelor while Holly ties up loose ends involved in selling the house back in Nebraska.
“There are always things which come up but I am looking forward to her moving here soon,” Klatt says. “We have moved some of our belongings here but have professional movers lined up to complete the move.”
He smiles as he says he has already been able to connect with family and friends.
“Sheryl was operating the combine the other day and I was able to ride around with her for awhile,” Klatt comments. “We sold the building site after my mom died but we still own the farmland, which has been in the family since 1878. It is nice that Joel and Sheryl are able to farm it.”
He was also looking forward to Sunday, Oct. 18, when he would baptize his great niece, Ruby. She is the daughter of Joel and Sheryl’s daughter Amanda and her husband Cody.
“Being able to baptize Ruby is something I would not have been able to do if I was still in Nebraska,” Klatt comments.
Asked how he became interested in the ministry, Klatt tells a story his parents used to share with him.
“They said I was 3-years old and after a church service Pastor Krause, who was serving St. John at the time, asked me what I learned that day,” Klatt recalls. “My parents said I answered, ‘We are like sheep and Jesus is our Good Shepherd.’ Pastor Krause then said to my parents, ‘Your son is going to be a minister.'”
He says he has been enjoying getting reacquainted with members of his congregation and other people he knows who still live in the area.
“St. John’s is a special place,” he states. “It always has been and always will be.”
Having grown up in the church he now serves he says people sometimes wonder how they should address him.
“They will call me Mike and then apologize and say Pastor Mike,” Klatt says chuckling. “I tell them I do not care what they call me, just do not call me late for dinner.”
Klatt, who is 64 years old, played competitive basketball until he was 61.
“I played in college, on church teams and in three-on-three leagues,” he says. “It was a great way to connect with people but I started having some balance issues so it was time to hang up the basketball sneakers.”
He says he never stopped being a fan of Minnesota’s sports teams and moving back to Elmore will make it easier to follow them.
When addressing the problems such as COVID-19 the world is facing today, Klatt refers to a verse in the Bible from Romans 8:28.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” he says reciting the verse.
One of his goals is for people to be empowered to share their Christian faith with each other.
He says it is important people see him as more than someone who wears a robe on Sunday morning.
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Klatt concludes.