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Sherri Richards, Published May 12 2007

Cobber calling

Grand Forks, N.D. - A line of well-wishers snaked through the sanctuary of Christus Rex on Thursday, all wanting to bid farewell to their campus pastor.

Whether a University of North Dakota student, administrator or friend from the community, the Rev. Tim Megorden greeted each with a hug, and listened intently to their goodbyes with a gentle pat on the arm.

“I think people will miss his ability to really listen,” says Ashley Beller, a graduating medical student. “He makes you feel wanted and accepted and listened to.”

This seemingly effortless way of connecting with those he shepherds is a characteristic Moorhead’s Concordia College is looking forward to welcoming.

Megorden was selected last month by a search committee to become the Lutheran college’s next campus pastor.

“I think the thing that was most compelling about Pastor Tim was just the presence he has with people and his ability to connect and relate,” says Jim Meier, Concordia’s associate dean of students who headed the search committee. “And then you add to that his very successful tenure in two campus ministry programs … and you have somebody who has a lot of extraordinary experience that he can bring to the situation here at Concordia.”

Megorden was campus pastor at the University of Wisconsin – Stout for more than 12 years and at UND for the last 17. Sunday will be his last service at Christus Rex. His start date with Concordia has not been finalized.

“I’m looking forward to coming home, recognizing that home is way different than when I left,” says Megorden, a ’67 graduate of Concordia, who wears the ubiquitous red-and-gold college ring on his right hand.

Concordia’s previous campus pastors, the Revs. Phil Holtan and Gretchen Person, left their positions last August following a review of campus ministries.

The search for a new campus pastor was a bit like hiring an academic dean and a bit like calling a pastor to a congregation, reflecting the dual role a pastor for a Christian college plays.

The search committee narrowed a field of 25 official applications to seven who received phone interviews, and eventually down to three in-person interviews.

“We were saying all along we were hoping someone would stand out to us,” says Kyle Sell, one of two students on the search committee.

Megorden seemed to be that person.

“He’s been in that position (campus pastor) for a long time. I think he understands what needs to be done,” Sell says.

Megorden says his first inclination toward vying for the Concordia position came in the midst of the search process when he was invited to bring his experience to the table.

“It felt like initially it was a call for someone a little younger than I am,” says the 59-year-old Megorden. “But after some conversation with people at Concordia, it felt like the ministry could get some traction fairly quickly.”

The work done there already can be built upon, he says. And a campus ministry at a private Lutheran college has a more direct connection with the school’s core leadership.

But his role will be similar in proclaiming the Gospel, administering sacraments and providing a welcoming atmosphere.

“The two hallmarks of the ministry here are hospitality and the fact that students are an incredibly gifted group of people who God invites to be active in doing ministry,” Megorden says.

Rather than thinking of students as a population at risk, Megorden says he views them as a gift and asset to the university, community and church.

“These gifted new students are going to be future leaders of our church,” he says. “So how we encounter them and engage them while they’re at Concordia, how well we listen to them is going to determine how they’re going to be gifted participants and leaders in the church in the future.”

Megorden says he also wants to expand the service-learning projects at Concordia, such as Habitat for Humanity projects, and encourage diversity within the college community.

“He’s a very thoughtful person, very genuine,” Meier says, “and he has a deep, deep passion for his role as a pastor and his interest in commitment to working with students.”

Bio box

- Name: The Rev. Tim Megorden

- Age: 59

- Education: Concordia College, 1969; Luther Theological Seminary, 1973

- Campus ministries: University of Wisconsin – Stout, 1977 to 1990; University of North Dakota, 1990 to 2006

- Family ties: His brother, the Rev. Dan Megorden, is pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525