New pastor enjoys 'diverse' congregation
In his office in the basement of French River Lutheran Church, Mark Peters keeps three different pairs of hiking boots tucked away for one of his many hikes into the woods.
Peters started serving as the pastor at FRLC in September and has tried to take advantage of all the North Shore has to offer. A typical day for Peters involves getting his kids ready and off to school, hitting some cross-country ski trails, and visiting congregation members who are ill or in the hospital. He tends to take his dogs on three walks or so a day down to Lake Superior or up the French River.
Peters grew up in Madison, Wis., and attended the University of Wisconsin, studying political science and education. He eventually went to seminary school at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and served his first church 25 years ago in Willmar, Minn. Since serving in Willmar, Peters has interned at the Minnesota Interfaith Ecology Coalition, served on the founding board of Lutherans Restoring Creation, a faith-based environmental advocacy organization, and was more recently the executive director of Luther Point Bible Camp in Grantsburg, Wis.
FRLC's long history and generations of members as well as the variety of people at the church were one of the things that attracted him to the small North Shore congregation.
"There are people that have grown up here, moved away and come back," he said. "It's a really interesting community that's got roots but is also diverse."
Another attractive feature for Peters was the "benevolence" of the congregation — the money and community support that flows out of FRLC. Over the past few years, the church has doubled the amount of money it has provided to various community organizations. The church has supported the rebuilding efforts of both Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Duluth and Zion Lutheran Church, now Baptism River Community Church, in Finland. The church also raised more than $1,500 last fall for the Two Harbors Area Food Shelf and is active with CHUM, a Duluth-based nonprofit providing emergency food, shelter, advocacy, support and outreach throughout Duluth.
He also wants to continue advocating for the "theology of stewardship" of the environment, and he found a willing congregation at FRLC.
"I was keen on finding a church with an outward, community focus," Peters said. "I also wanted a church that focused on caring for the natural beauty that surrounds us."
In addition to three pairs of boots and a couple of walking sticks, Peters' office is decorated with models of Star Trek's Starship Enterprise as well as figurines of Capt. Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy. Peters said he even met Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s and has always liked the series' outlook on where mankind is headed.
"I like things that look at the future in a positive way," he said.
Peters is also passionate about music, having sung "professionally or semi-professionally" throughout his life; he brought with him to the North Shore 48 boxes of vinyl records. He says he enjoys anything from jazz to classical to "western yodeling" and he looks forward to sharing his love of music with the congregation.
"Music is a big part of who I am," Peters said. "I love being in a vocation that values that."