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Chris Kneen becomes United Methodist Church pastor

Hastings United Methodist Church's new pastor, the Rev. Chris Kneen, and his family look forward to serving the church and becoming involved in the community. Left to right they are, Julia, Sue, Sophia, Chris and Johannah. Not pictured is daughter Christina, who lives in Guam.

He is a fifth-generation United Methodist Church pastor, but the Rev. Christopher (Chris) Kneen took a slight detour through the business world first. Still, God was calling his heart and soul, and Kneen listened.

Today, more than 20 years later, Kneen still has the desire and motivation to do God's work and help to bring God to others. At the end of June, he became the senior pastor at the Hastings United Methodist Church.

Originally from White Bear Lake, Kneen said he was always interested in faith, had a conversion when he was 18, but decided to enroll at the University of North Dakota. He graduated with a business degree and went to work for 3M in its building services and products division. He stayed two years.

"I really was interested in faith; I had taught Sunday School; and I had had talks with my pastor," Kneen said. "My heart and desire were there, and it was a calling from God."

He enrolled at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., one of 11 Methodist seminaries in the United States. It was the closest one to Kneen's Minnesota home. There he earned his master of divinity degree. He also has a doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminar in Pasadena, Calif.

In Illinois, he served the congregations of Armstrong and Penfield United Methodist churches from 1987 to 1989. Then he returned to Minnesota - to Zion United Methodist Church in Lydia. He served the church from 1989 to 1995. Following that, he was appointed pastor at North Branch United Methodist Church. He was serving this church when the appointment to the Hastings church was made in February.

In the Methodist church, the district bishop appoints pastors. All appointments are effective July 1. It is not as rigid as it seems, Kneen said.

He and his wife, Sue, met with church staff and officials here to learn more about the church and its ministries. They liked each other.

"This church has a long tradition in the community," Kneen said. "It is growing and has held to the tradition of helping families and working for the church."

At the end of June, the Kneens moved to Hastings with three of their four daughters - Sophia, who will be a junior at Hastings High School; Johannah, who will be a freshman at the high school; and Julia, who will be in the sixth grade at Hastings Middle School. A fourth daughter - Christina Stanalund - is married, and she and her husband, Casey, and child, Caspiana, live in Guam.

Kneen met his wife when he was working for 3M in Houston. She was a legal administrative assistant. Following their marriage, she spent years being home with the children before returning to Augsburg to earn her degree. She then entered Luther Seminary in St. Paul, earning a degree in church history and theology. She is interested in handling pro bono work. She also volunteers as a chaplain at the University of Minnesota, and enjoys it.

What motivated and held Kneen's interest as a pastor when he was appointed to his first church in Illinois 22 years ago remains true today, he said.

"Initially, my primary motivation was the joy of seeing someone become aware of God's grace for themselves for the first time," he said. "Then, too, it was seeing someone who has been unconnected to God become connected to the body of Christ.

"I am also a true believer in the goodness of congregational life; people living their lives together for service and community."

As pastor of the Hastings United Methodist Church, Kneen is responsible for preaching the word and sacraments, overseeing the congregation and working with the church leaders as they continue their "vision for the future." As the church continues to meets its challenges, it is optimistic and vital. It has a wonderful ministry service already in place and continues to grow, he said.

As a chaplain in the Naval Reserves, Kneen also hopes to become involved with the veterans organizations in the community.