A farmer for more than 30 years, Alan Blankenfeld is now cultivating souls as the new pastor of Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Flandreau.
After his late-in-life trip to the seminary, Blankenfeld, 57, served Lutheran congregations part-time in Colman and at Midway. His quest for a full-time calling brought him to Our Saviors where he started on Aug. 16.
Blankenfeld’s interest in serving a congregation dates back to his college days.
“My wife and I actually went to the seminary and visited on two different occasions,” said Blankenfeld, who is originally from Trent. “But I kept going back to the farm.”
Seven years ago, Blankenfeld was helping out at his home parish, leading worship once a month, when his church’s pastor died.
“It was actually during his funeral that I decided if I was going to do this, now would be the time,” Blankenfeld said.
Shortly after Blankenfeld and his wife, Diane, arrived at Our Saviors, they got a good indication of the type of congregation they would be serving when Blankenfeld’s mother had a stroke and died.
“This congregation has been so loving to myself and my wife—it has been unreal,” Blankenfeld said. “Just to be part of the community here at Our Saviors has been a blessing for us.”
As a father of three grown children and the grandfather of four, Blankenfeld has made a commitment to the children of his parish.
“My wife and I go to various sporting events because I don’t feel I can be a pastor to the kids of this congregation if they only see me on Sunday morning,” Blankenfeld said. “I like to go to where they’re at and show them that I am interested in what they are doing.”
Blankenfeld credits a lively youth group and an active women’s group for bringing enthusiasm to the church.
“There’s excitement here,” Blankenfeld said. “It’s just fun to be involved in.”
For his role as pastor, Blankenfeld believes his time on the farm has shaped the way he delivers a message from the pulpit.
“My job is to proclaim the word of God,” Blankenfeld said. “But I do that in such a way, I think, that people understand it. Coming from 33 years on the farm, I just kind of say things the way they are, in more down-to-Earth terms.”
Blankenfeld estimates the size of the Our Saviors congregation at about 700, but he knows that nationwide churches are struggling to hold on to and attract parishioners. His message to those who have fallen away is that they are welcome at Our Saviors.
“We’re a pretty nonthreatening congregation and would love to have visitors,” Blankenfeld said.
“People, if they’ve been away from the church for a while, may feel like it’s hard to come back again. I would love to have them come; come and check it out.”