Longtime pastors to leave

Published 10:30 am Friday, March 2, 2012

Twenty-eight years of ministerial leadership will soon end in Austin.

Pastor Ron Barnett

Both Pastor Andy Lindahl of Westminster Presbyterian and Pastor Ron Barnett of St. Olaf Lutheran will leave their posts in Austin to assist new churches that can use their help. Lindahl, who has been with Westminster for 18 years, will serve a growing Presbyterian church in the Portland, Ore., area. His last day will be March 15. His congregation will hold a farewell service for him this Sunday. Barnett, who has been with St. Olaf for 10 years, is going to a small church in Ottumwa, Iowa. His last day will be Sunday, March 18, when his congregation will also hold a farewell service.

While leaving their churches after so many years obviously isn’t easy, both pastors mentioned they felt a calling to help new churches.

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“It’s a personal, faith decision,” Lindahl said about he and his wife moving to Portland. “We felt God calling us to another challenge. (Westminster) is going well and strong, and so now we are moving on to another challenge in the Portland, Ore., area.”

Andy Lindahl

In the meantime, Westminster still has the support of Associate Pastor Mike Olmsted. Lindahl said after serving Westminster’s congregation for 18 years, he noticed the members become more involved with their faith both in and out of church — especially with mission projects. That’s something he hopes to bring out of his new congregation in Portland. However, Lindahl has inevitably grown close to many Austinites, which will make the move tough, as it often is for any pastor.

“It won’t be easy,” Lindahl said. “We’ve grown to love these folks. We raised our children and our family here in Austin.”

Barnett will also leave behind familiar faces — a lot of them. St. Olaf is the largest Protestant church in Austin, with more than 3,000 members, and Austin is Barnett’s original hometown. He grew up under the guidance of many local teachers, coaches and parents. And his experience has come full-circle, as he’s been the pastor for many of those same people, presided over their funerals and performed weddings for their children.

“It will be very tough,” Barnett said about leaving. “The way I deal with it is to know that I did good ministry here, made positive impact in many people’s lives.”

Barnett will experience quite the change, as he will move to a church with just about 100 members. In his absence, St. Olaf still has the guidance of Associate Pastor Kristi Koppel.

Though Barnett said he could have stayed in Austin, he feels like he has unfinished business and that he can do more for God.

“God just kept laying this on my heart that I was to go to southeast Iowa,” Barnett said. “I felt the spiritual pull to serve the church in this way.”

And that feeling is by no means a burden for either Lindahl or Barnett. Lindahl is ready to encourage his new congregation to serve more missions. He already met with some of the members and said the new adventure is “exciting.”

Though Barnett doesn’t know the members of his new congregation, he’s also excited.

“You just begin to shake hands and get out there and introduce yourself,” he said. “It’s something I actually enjoy doing