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Pastor takes long route to Enumclaw's Hope Lutheran Church
Dan Wilson has been known to refer to his journey from young agriculture graduate working with Del Monte to pastor at Enumclaw's Hope Lutheran Church as "From Pineapple to Pulpit."
Since growing up in Toppenish, Wash., Wilson took the long way to Enumclaw, about 25,000 miles.
After graduating from Oregon State University, Wilson worked as an executive for the Del Monte Corporation in Hawaii, the Philipines and South Africa. When he returned to the mainland, he found "there wasn't much work for pineapple growers," so he tried his hand at publishing, but settled on retirement.
"I couldn't fish and I couldn't hit a golf ball straight," Wilson said of his stab at a life of leisure. He listened to his heart and followed it to seminary.
His second career took him to an internship in Stevenson, Wash., a church in Gig Harbor, Wash., and now Hope Lutheran, where he started in May, but was officially installed Aug. 9. He replaces the Rev. Mark Karle, who retired in December 2007.
During that 18-month period, the congregation of between 80 and 100 took a deep look at itself and where it wanted to go. The process began with the formation of an eight-member Call Committee that sifted through the Washington Lutheran Synod's Call roster. They reviewed applications. Wilson, who came highly recommended, floated to the top and was selected by a vote of the congregation.
"Everyone I've met is friendly and welcoming inside and outside the church," said Wilson, who brings with him his wife of 38 years, Lois, who works for Franciscan Health Systems in Tacoma. "I have not had this much fun in my life."
Wilson's enthusiasm and positive approach to his role, not only as a pastor but as a person, was a primary draw, said Harley Ruff, vice president of the 100-plus-year-old church's council.
Ruff said Wilson brings a passion for mission work that not only includes reaching out to those in need, whether in this community or across the world, but bringing people to the church.
"He knows we have room to grow," Ruff said. Both Ruff and Wilson pointed out statistics that Washington is one of the most "unchurched" states in the country with one in six people attending a service on a regular basis.
"We want to reach out to the community, invite and welcome, and develop a serving community," Wilson said.
Wilson spent five years as a lay leader for senior youth and looks forward to working with the Hope Lutheran's younger population.
"We want to get a really good youth program going," he said, "that focuses on mission in the world."
He and others are already planning a joint mission trip with neighboring Trinity Lutheran Church to the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana.
There are a few more weeks of Hope Lutheran's summer service schedule, but starting Sept. 20 Wilson will lead two Sunday services, a contemporary service at 9 a.m. and a traditional service at 11:15 p.m. with Sunday School nestled in between. The weekend prior, Sept. 13, will feature a sending off for Hope Lutheran member Chelsea Globe, who will be off to seminary.