Pastor Scott Siefert has religion in his roots. He grew up the son of Reverend Neil Siefert, who was ordained in the United Church of Christ and was eventually named Pastor Emeritus at the Penn West Conference of the UCC.
So yeah, his dad was kind of a big deal.
Pastor Scott hails from Pennsylvania but moved to Minnesota in 2020 with his wife, Dr. Christine Wing, to be closer to her children who live in St. Paul and Woodbury. Siefert, who seems right at home at St. John’s, says, “I come from generations of German Americans who had a deep commitment to the well being of their communities. The church, and a number of those in our community came from similar backgrounds. But, not only is their commonality in our historical backgrounds, but also in our visions for the future of being a community that is open and has a desire of being an important and affirming space for others for generations to come.”
He wasn’t always a pastor. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maine. Then later, he earned his Master’s of Divinity at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, where he and Chris were living before moving to Minnesota.
Pastor Scott, as he is called by members of the St. John’s congregation, is extremely proud of the farmer’s market that occurs every Wednesday during the summer months. He says, “I see this as a great way to be out in the community, which is something that we are called to do.” He adds, “I feel blessed to have found such a wonderful and welcoming congregation at St. John’s UCC. There is a long history of traditional Christian worship. We have a commitment to Jesus’ greatest commandment to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbor (all of our neighbors) as we do ourselves.”
It’s that kind of unity that makes St. John’s a great fit for church-goers in the area. Siefert says one issue facing the modern Church is “the overall feeling of division in our culture. We try hard to make our church a place of extravagant welcome where no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome at St. John’s.” Along those lines, Siefert says, “I feel that there are a lot of people that would love to feel part of a community that are too often isolated or don’t feel heard or welcomed. Apart from wanting our own church to grow and inspire, we hope to be a church that works together within the community with other faith groups and organizations. Our church, and the United Church of Christ as a whole, has a commitment to ecumenical engagement and working together with others. We want to live into the saying of Jesus that we shall all be one.”
In addition to the farmer’s market and general sense of unity, Siefert is also proud of St. John’s sign along Highway 212. It has provided both comfort and laughs to lots of people over the years. Siefert received a letter recently from a woman who went by the sign en route to a hospital in the Twin Cities—“she said she was touched and moved by the sign that said, ‘Peace I Leave With You,’” which was the sermon that week; it’s also based on Jesus’ farewell discourse in John.
Last Easter, the sign got the Church in a bit of trouble. Siefert says, “People sign up to be the ones to place the messages each month. One message we had was misinterpreted by some of the people who read it, and we changed it once we were notified that some thought it a little indecent. The message was Easter Comes Once a Year, How Often Do You?” Siefert adds, “It did go kind of virile, however.”
Oh well. Everyone makes a mistake sometimes. You don’t create a sign with mega-personality and lasting popularity without making a few blunders along the way.
“Overall, the main thing here,” says Siefert, “is the way the public seems to have responses to the messages on our sign that come from members of our church and express the feelings they want to share with all of those who pass by.”
Despite having lots of laughs and joyous occasions at church events, Pastor Scott admits the church has a few problems to solve. He fears The Church, overall, has an aging population and isn’t necessarily replacing its numbers. He thinks the solution is to focus on religious education for both adults and children. He’d like St. John’s to be a multi-generational place, where people can teach and learn together, where “there is space for all the energy that comes with youth and for all the wisdom that comes from the more mature,” where all can share in the generosity of spirit. St. John’s plans to start a new youth education program called “Growing in God’s Love,” which will launch in September.
And this is in addition to the children’s story series that launched at St. John’s this summer. Pastor Scott reads kids a story every Wednesday at 5:00. A St. John’s member, Jenna McGinnis owns a company called Usborne Books, and she brings in the books every week. Pastor Scott gathers the children near an inflatable carrot from the farmer’s market and begins telling the story. The whole thing is done in combination with the PowerOfProduce (PoP) program, where kids get a free token for the farmer’s market, a shopping bag, the recipe of the week, word puzzles, and a special treat. Siefert says, “We do events with the kids every week that are designed to engage them and teach about fruits and vegetables and their importance to our health. I love it as it is a way to get to know so many in our community.”
“Last week,” Siefert says, “all the books had a theme around manners, and next week it will be dinosaurs.”
Plus, St. John’s runs several programs that allude to the farmer’s market: “The Fruit of the Spirit,” “Bee One in the Spirit,” and “Pollinators of the Spirit.” Siefert says, “I particularly love the mental image of us being pollinators who, given the Spirit ourselves, go out to share and bring new life.
He has some profound ideas about what The Church needs to do. Siefert believes the “new” church should be about how it interacts with the world—it should do so in a way that “meets people where they are.” Pastor Scott thinks St. John’s farmer’s market is a perfect example of “being part of our community and providing space for a variety of small vendors as well as promoting healthy options and activities for kids and for seniors.”
In addition, the Shoe Bus will visit the church and the farmer’s market on August 17. This is second time it has been to the market. Siefert says it provides an opportunity for people “to bring in their gently used shoes, purchase inexpensive gently used shoes, and to have shoes for those in need in our community. A real win-win-win for all involved.”
St. John’s also has plans to help school children in need. The congregation is in the process of raising funds for both the Compassion Fund at Cologne Academy and the Raider Room fund for the Central High school system. Siefert says, “We recently participated in a mission activity of helping Feed My Starving Children in Chaska, which helps feed children in a variety of countries around the world.”
Perhaps Pastor Scott’s most impressive characteristic is his all around sense of genuineness. “We really try to live out our mission of loving God, connecting with others, serving others, and living in abundance,” he says. “Too often life comes as a zero sum affair where someone has to win and others have to lose. We want everyone to live a life with enough abundance to share with our neighbors, and we want to be that place that lives into the teachings of Jesus Christ.