Rev. Eric Bakken, the new pastor at West Koshkonong Lutheran Church, said he has finally returned home.
After leading churches in North Dakota, Minnesota and around Wisconsin, Bakken returned to Cambridge, his hometown.
Before Bakken, Rev. Richard Dowling served for 17 years at West Koshkonong Church, which serves the area around Stoughton, Cambridge, Evansville and Edgerton.
“Most of us are on some kind of journey headed home ... some place that we return to that we feel safe and accepted,” Bakken said. “For me that has had a literal dimension”
Bakken’s first sermon was Sunday, Sept. 1. He remembers telling church leaders during his interview that his political views come through while he is preaching. His message is centered on social justice, human rights and equity.
Bakken said he has been a gay rights activist since the 1980’s, way before it was something that was well recieved, he said.
He graduated from Cambridge High School in 1975, and most recently, he was the pastor for a church in Black River Falls that had a 1,500 member congregation. But now, he returns to a church which is just seven miles from the one he attended as a child.
And Bakker said he is happy to serve the 240 person congregation at West Koshkonong because it’s the people he grew up with.
“It is small and intimate,” Bakken said. “And it is all about relationships and I suppose that is what I like about it. It is about relationships more than programs.”
Bakken wants to be realistic about the future of congregations and church attendance, he said. Congregations don’t look the same as they did 20 or 30 years ago, Bakken said, but he believes new life can be resurrected, he said.
“How do we create a presence that is not judgemental and that is not self righteous?” Bakken said. “A presence that is caring and welcoming but in a deeper way. How can we be truly inclusive with the people who so often don’t feel welcome in church?”
Bakken said this his “last call” and he is excited to work with a congregation that has humor and receptive to being challenged.
“This congregation has many gifts,” he said.