Hollandale pastor juggles responsibilities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2002

Life often brings unexpected changes, and for Jeffrey Kuddes, his wife Michelle, and their three children, life brought an unexpected move from Arkansas to Hollandale and Waltham, Minn.

Kuddes is the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hollandale and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church near Waltham. But he was satisfied with his work in Arkansas, and wasn’t even looking for a new church to serve when he was contacted by the search committee for the two congregations.

Although he doesn’t know for sure how his name came up here, he figures his experience serving dual parishes was the reason. Since being ordained, Kuddes has taken on two other dual-parish assignments &045; in Arkansas, and before that in South Dakota.

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&uot;I keep telling my wife I don’t want to serve another dual parish,&uot; Kuddes said. But he keeps saying yes when he thinks it’s for the right reasons.

Despite having all the work that comes with serving two parishes, Kuddes also thinks being an active parent for his own children is an important part of his work.

&uot;I need to be there for them, too,&uot; he said. Children are only with us for a relatively short while, and we need to make the most of that time, he said.

Saying yes to his family sometimes means saying no to opportunities to join other community organizations, but he sees family needs as a priority.

One reason that Kuddes feels at home here is his deeply felt commitment to rural ministry, despite the challenges of rural life in the 21st century.

&uot;The temptation for pastors is to want to serve congregations in urban and suburban areas, where there is a greater potential for growth,&uot; Kuddes said.

As he sees it, the challenges of rural life include the weakness in the agricultural economy and the uncertainty and dependency on government programs it fosters in rural communities. Kuddes also sees the problems caused in congregations by declining population, as young people move away to find work and build families of their own in larger communities.

The focus here has to be on helping people become stronger in their faith, and to reach out to those in need of support, he said. And that sort of ministry energizes him.

&uot;I love ministry with rural people. I love being here with them,&uot; Kuddes said. But Kuddes is among the first to say he is a &uot;city boy&uot; at heart, who grew up in and loves city life.

He also hadn’t lived in a place with so many Lutherans before moving to southern Minnesota. The contrast with Arkansas, especially, is unbelievable, he said. He appreciates having Lutheran colleagues nearby he can meet with and not having to defend the sacrament of baptism or tell non-Lutherans that &uot;yes, we are Christians.&uot;

Even though he comes from a long line of pastors, it took Kuddes awhile to take up the vocation himself. He worked for UPS for three years after high school, before deciding to go on to college and then seminary.

Even with the delay, though, he had often thought about becoming a pastor when he was younger.

&uot;I always had a quiet sense that ministry would be something to consider doing. It’s just what I wanted to do,&uot; he said.

&uot;I really do believe that the gospel &045; the forgiveness of sins &045; makes a difference in people’s lives, spiritually, emotionally and physically. With forgiveness we can live life more fully,&uot; said Kuddes.