Catching up with Pastor Josh Nelson

by Pastor Josh Nelson
Greg Van Dunk and Jane Lane happened to attend a concert by noted Lutheran folk musician, John Ylvisaker. Since John and I had known each other for some years, he recruited me to be his pianist for a handful of Ohio concerts, and though I was serving a church in Akron, OH, I jumped at the chance to be on the road for a few weeks with John. Well, at this concert, Greg and Jane sought me out and they must have started scheming about possibly getting me to come to Epiphany as a musician/pastor. That idea didn’t pan out, but later, when Greg took a new call to Wisconsin, Epiphany contacted me about considering the Associate Pastor position. I had indeed begun interviewing back in the Iowa and Minnesota areas, thinking I would head back to my old home region, which was home areas for Beth as well. But we agreed to interview at Epiphany anyway, and had such a fantastic and enjoyable interview experience (over Super Bowl weekend), that we decided if the church offered to call me, we would take it. Which is indeed what happened. And we moved down to the Centerville area in June. One additional funny memory I have of the interview is that when the first question was asked, my wife Beth – who is not a shrinking violet – jumped in and said, “Let me take that one,” and so she answered the very first question that was asked!  
I served Epiphany from June 1991 to February 1995, just shy of four years.  By then we had had two children, and were feeling quite homesick to be closer to our respective families. I often told people that I wanted to pick up Epiphany and move them with us.  We did very much love the church and I cherished the time I served there, knowing that it was too short. I dreaded the day I told Larry Hoffsis that it was time for me to move back to Minnesota, and I did so over black bean soup at a nearby Mexican restaurant. It was a place that had free popcorn, and Larry and I would often clean out the popcorn bin of its supply.  I vacuum up popcorn—one of my favorite foods. But Larry outdid me in how fast he could eat the stuff!  It was a fun competition! I’ll add that I always saw Larry as a wonderful mentor to me, and a model of what kind of pastor I wanted to be.  
My wife, Beth, is a teacher at Discovery Elementary school where she teaches a flex class of 3rd-5th Graders. When we were in Ohio, she helped with the initial work on the Epiphany Preschool as it prepared to launch. She did a lot of the leg work, and helped secure the necessary licensing for the school. She has loved seeing how the Preschool became the vibrant ministry that it is today. We had two boys born to us before we left Dayton. Bergen is our oldest, now 26, and has just completed his first year of seminary at Luther in St. Paul, MN.  He is a fine pianist, a great singer, an enthusiastic and philosophical fellow, and has been working in Campus Ministry at the University of MN. Leif is our middle child, and is 24, and he has just completed his second year of seminary at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, IL. He is a fine vocalist, plays a pretty mean cello, and even picks up an accordion now and then, plus loves dabbling in animation art. He is getting married in July, 2019, to a med student named Andrea. Our youngest child, Solveig, is 21, and is going to college at St. Cloud State University, which is about an hour from our house. She is a wonderful singer, has a vibrant personality, loves creative writing, calls our cat the love of her life, and is dating a guy who is 6’ 3” which is a fun contrast to our more height-challenged daughter.   
I’ve served two churches since leaving Epiphany. But one of them, I’ve served twice! I’ll explain. After leaving Epiphany, I began serving as an Associate Pastor for Family of Christ Lutheran in Chanhassen, MN (southwest suburb of Minneapolis) and served there from 1995-2000.  My family then moved to Buffalo, MN (smaller town northwest of Minneapolis) where I served as a Mission Developer Pastor, helping start a church that became called Spirit of Joy.  Epiphany was a regular financial and prayerful supporter of that young congregation. After 11+ years, Family of Christ in Chanhassen called me back, this time to serve as Sr. Pastor, which I have been doing since 2012. Along with serving these churches, I continued my love of music and even made a couple of home studio CD’s of mostly original music.  I continued my love of books, movies, softball and hiking.  I loved being an involved Dad and attended a great many concerts, plays and musicals in which my kids were involved, both in high school and in college.  These days, I still find musical outlets, and though I no longer play softball, I have become a cat wrangler, walking our 4 year old Marshmallow most every day (she wears a harness), even in wintry weather!     
Thank you for the chance to do some remembering of my time at Epiphany! Best Regards!

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