He serves 4 area churches
Rev. Woyen is at Good Hope Parish
Reverend Steven Woyen may not have grown up in the Kiester-Bricelyn area where he now serves as the minister for Good Hope Parish. But, he did grow up on a farm in North Dakota so he can identify with the rural area residents of these communities.
“Farming has changed a great deal since I left our farm,” Woyen says. “I remember back when we got a tandem-axle truck and thinking we were pretty big stuff. Now, most farmers have their own semis and the amount of capital it takes to farm is incredible.”
When Woyen graduated from high school and left the family farm near Esmond, North Dakota, he attended Concordia University in Moorhead to obtain his bachelor of music degree.
“I have always loved music,” Woyen explains. “I wanted to be involved as a church musician.”
And he was.
“After graduating from Concordia, I worked full-time or near full-time as a church musician in North Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio,” Woyen comments.
It was in Columbus, Ohio, where he was working at the time that he met his future wife, Eileen, who is a native of Ohio.
“She was attending seminary,” Woyen shares. “She graduated, was ordained and became a minister in a suburb of Cleveland.”
The couple married and Woyen felt a call to go to seminary and become a minister.
“I decided I wanted to go to the seminary in Philadelphia with the East Coast Lutherans,” he says smiling. “I graduated in 2005, was ordained and served three congregations in Ohio before we made the move to Minnesota.”
Woyen says they chose Minnesota so they could be closer to his family.
“We are not exactly half way between Eileen’s family and my family but we are at least closer than we were to my family,” he explains. “My dad (his mother died from cancer years ago) is retired and lives in Bismarck, which is also where my brother and his family live.”
His wife is currently serving as the pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Albert Lea. The Woyens have two boys, Jake, who is 13, and Martin, who just turned nine.
“We enjoy sports. Jake knows more about the NFL (National Football League) than I do,” Woyen says. “Being from Ohio, my wife is a big Ohio State fan while I somehow became a Notre Dame fan. And yes, I know Notre Dame should not have been one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff. It should have been Texas A & M.”
However, when it comes to professional football, Woyen is definitely a Vikings fan.
“When Brett Favre was a Packer I could not stand him,” he chuckles. “But when he became a Viking I thought it was pretty great.”
The family also has become big fans of soccer, especially the Premier League and specifically the team from Manchester United.
“It has been nice to root for a champion,” he says.
The boys enjoy soccer and living in Albert Lea has given them the opportunity to participate in the sport, according to Woyen.
Prior to beginning to serve Good Hope on Jan. 6, of this year, Woyen was an interim pastor for a two-point congregation outside of New Richland.
“I grew up in a three-point parish so I am very comfortable in this type of setting,” he explains. “Good Hope was formed in October of 2019 so it was not in existence very long before COVID hit.”
Good Hope parish is comprised of four congregations. They are: Bricelyn Lutheran, North Blue Earth Lutheran, Our Savior’s Lutheran in Kiester and Trinity Lutheran, a country church located across the Iowa border south of Kiester.
“The congregations are located close enough they overlap,” Woyen says. “Many of the people already know each other.”
Woyen says the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns have resulted in a limited ministry.
“But as we come out of this, I think there will be many opportunities to grow,” he states. “I think we will need to continue the live streaming because we have learned many people who have moved out of the area view our services and it is also a great way to reach shut-ins who are unable to get out and attend services in person.”
While he is thankful for the technology which allows for virtual services, he says there was a learning curve.
“There was some trial-and-error in getting things to work properly,” Woyen comments.
He says they are utilizing Google Meeting to hold their confirmation classes and while it is working well, he is looking forward to being able to meet in person.
Another aspect of COVID he has had to deal with is the inability to visit members in the hospital or nursing homes.
“It can make pastoral care a challenge,” he notes.
Good Hope Parish holds two Sunday services each week except when there are five Sundays in a month.
“We always hold one service at one of the churches in town every week and one service at one of the rural churches each Sunday,” Woyen explains. “Then on the fifth Sunday of the month we will plan on holding one united service for all of the churches and rotate things so each church gets a united service during the year.”
He is also looking forward to teaching some adult classes.
“One of the classes I teach is titled ‘Humor in the Bible,'” Woyen says. “I have also taught a class on ‘The gospel according to The Simpsons.’ But the last couple of years I do not think the show has been as good.”
So, although he lives in Albert Lea, he is happy to be serving these churches in the rural community.
“It reminds me so much of where I grew up,” Woyen says. “I really like it here.”