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Answering the call

DETROIT LAKES - When Mark Kuether was entering his senior year at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he had his eye on law school.

So how did he end up at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J.?

"It wasn't my idea," said Kuether, a southern Minnesota native who has served as pastor of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit Lakes for the past nine years.

"I was called."

As in, called by God.

"During my senior year (in college), I felt God's tap on my shoulder, if you will," Kuether continued. "So I set aside my law school applications and the LSATs (Law School Admissions Test) and started looking for seminaries."

Roughly two decades later, he has no regrets.

"It's been an interesting journey," said Kuether. "It (the ministry) has its challenges, but it's also very exciting."

Kuether is particularly excited about his most recent challenge: in June, he was elected as moderator and chairman of the board of directors for the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ.

This two-year post, which expires in June 2010, has two parts. As moderator, Kuether will preside over the annual conference meeting at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

Besides worship and Bible studies, workshops and speakers, conference attendees also deal with business including budgets, clergy compensation, bylaws and matters concerning Pilgrim Point Camp, the church's camp and conference center on Lake Ida in Alexandria.

"In addition, we deal with proposed resolutions," said Kuether. "This year, we passed three... 'A Minnesota Without Poverty,' 'Earthwise Congregations' and a resolution regarding Minnesota's Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary of statehood) and the establishing of ongoing relationships with Minnesota Native American communities."

As chairman of the board of directors, Kuether will meet with board members every other month, usually in the Twin Cities, to discuss personnel, development and finance issues. Basically, the board is the business arm of the conference, he noted.

"I've been active on a variety of conference boards and committees for a lot of years, and I served as the vice moderator for the last two years, so this (becoming moderator and chairman) was kind of a natural thing," Kuether said.

It's been a busy year for the Kuether family, which includes wife Teresa, daughters Hannah and Mollie and son Isaac. Hannah is in the process of completing a journalism internship at Valparaiso University in Chile, and will be a senior at Hamline University in St. Paul this fall, studying international journalism. She returns from Chile on July 20.

Mollie has been a Rotary International exchange student in Campina Grande, Brazil, this past year, and returns home on Aug. 8. She will be a senior at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.

"My wife Teresa just returned from a three-week trip to South America to visit both of them," Kuether said. "She had a blast."

While Teresa was gone, Mark took vacation time from his work as pastor to spend time with son Isaac, whom Kuether jokingly said had "survived" the experience.

"We got along just great," he said. "We spent a lot of time at the pool, horseback riding, and did a lot of things together."

Kuether, who grew up on a farm between Minnesota Lake and Wells, Minn. (south of Mankato), graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1984. After graduating from seminary at Princeton, he served congregations in Washington State and Iowa before coming to Detroit Lakes nine years ago.

Teresa is a preschool teacher's assistant and paraprofessional at the Lincoln Education Center in Detroit Lakes. Isaac will enter fifth grade at Rossman Elementary School this fall.

"We love it here," Kuether said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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