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Old Cottage Grove church gets familiar leader

Pastor Bryan Olson, who has returned to serve as pastor of Cottage Grove United Church of Christ where he was an intern 10 years ago, is pictured in front of the church in Old Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

As he looks out of his office window, Pastor Bryan Olson sees the Old Cottage Grove Cemetery and is reminded that the church he serves is full of many years of family connections.

"There's a feeling of community here, of being included," Olson said in an interview last week. "People help one another."

Olson, the new pastor of Cottage Grove United Church of Christ, is returning to the congregation where he served his seminary internship 10 years ago. His assignment was to develop a youth ministry in the church and at Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park.

As a teenager, Olson "felt God's call," but knew he needed more time to consider entering the seminary. He accepted a job in minor league baseball in North Carolina. All through high school, Olson had a high interest in sports. "But I was never good enough as a player," he said.

After four years, he was at a crossroads in his life and decided to enter the seminary. "I haven't looked back since," he said.

After he was ordained, he and his new wife, Emily, a professional pianist and vocalist, took "a leap of faith," Olson said, and, after much prayer, accepted a call to grow a new church north of Philadelphia.

Accepting a call for what is considered mission work is something most ministers do later in their work experience, but Olson tackled it as his first job.

A month before the couple's 2-year-old son was born, Olson accepted an interim position in a Wisconsin church for a year, hoping he and Emily could return to the Twin Cities. Olson then accepted the call to return to the Cottage Grove church where his work serving others began.

"When you serve a church, you never really sever ties," he said.

Before going into the mission field, Olson bought a townhouse in Woodbury. Because of the depressed real estate market, he became a landlord. After accepting the current call, he and his family moved back in.

"I'm excited to be back," he said. "The response of the congregation has been fantastic."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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