Interim Senior Pastor
Pastor Odermann has been on staff since May 1, 2012, filling the role of interim pastor. His duties include continuing the ministries of St. Olaf while also leading the congregation through a self-study and the call process for a new senior pastor.
He has been in ministry for 34 years following a career in broadcasting. The past 13 years have been devoted to full-time intentional interim ministry in Minnesota and South Dakota. According to Pastor Odermann, interim ministry was a calling he did not choose---it chose him. “I fought with God about it and lost – go figure!” He has also served two years as an adjunct professor of Bible at Bethel University in St. Paul. He nearly finished a Ph.D. in Old Testament but says he ran out of time, money, interest and energy before he could write the dissertation!
Pastor Odermann finds the greatest reward in his calling is when he senses the Holy Spirit say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It’s what he lives for! A second reward is gaining so many new lifetime friends and relationships by virtue of having been in so many parishes and places, probably more so than most permanent pastors.
He says, “Serving at St. Olaf is feeling like a ‘gift from God’ to me - incredible people and a very gifted staff! I am truly blessed.”
He also offers this personal quote. “If it ain’t fun, I quit!”
Kristi Koppel began work at St. Olaf in November of 2005. She is responsible for leadership, preaching, and presiding at weddings, baptisms and funerals. She works with the Growing Board, staff, and congregation members.
She graduated from the University of Nebraska in Environmental Science and graduated from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, with a Master of Divinity degree.
Pastor Koppel says, “A great joy is to be a part of someone’s spiritual ‘a-ha’ moments. I have found this to happen frequently when one gets out of one’s comfort zone – whether it’s right here in Austin or in Mexico – and gets to know their neighbor!”
Director of Senior Ministry
Todd Portinga became a full time member of the St. Olaf staff in July 2006. For the six months prior to that, he interned with this congregation. He assists with worship and preaching, provides leadership to the Caring Board, and works closely with the Caring Ministry Team. He is available for visitation and counseling.
He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in sociology. He has twenty years of professional experience in human services with more than half those years in administration and program development. Todd served as executive director for Shepherd’s Center, a non-profit, senior volunteer organization in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Todd is also a graduate of Luther Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in Aging Ministry. He has completed Clinical Pastoral Education at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis.
Todd and his wife Kris own a small farm near Red Wing, Minnesota, where he nurtured a flock of sheep for fourteen years. In addition to farming and gardening, Todd’s passion is “chickin pickin” on one of his favorite Telecaster guitars.
Todd says, “Nothing propinqs like propinquity.”
(You’ll need to talk to him about that.)
WLC Director and Office Support
Jann graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, with a BS in Education with endorsements in English, Language Arts, Speech and Journalism. She did additional class work earning her teaching certificate at Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska. Before she took her present St. Olaf position, she was Chairman of the Board of Youth Education and a member of St. Olaf Church Council. In 1995 she began teaching Sunday School here.
Jann says, “I accepted the call at St. Olaf because I believe every child needs a strong faith foundation. I want St. Olaf to help children and their families grow together in Christ."
Director of Music Ministry
Neal worked at St. Olaf from 1981-1984 and again from 1996 through the present. His responsibilities include playing the organ for worship, weddings and funerals, directing the St. Olaf Church Choir and Grace Notes and High School and Middle School Bell Choirs. He accompanies the Saints, Jubilation and Children’s Choirs. Neal also plans worship for both the traditional and blended worship services.
He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Concordia College, Moorhead, a Master of Music from Drake University, and an MBA from Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He has held organist and choir directing positions at Plymouth Congregational, Fargo; St Mark’s Lutheran, West Des Moines; First Methodist, Des Moines; Catholic Ministries of Muskogee-Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Prince of Peace Lutheran in Roseville, Minnesota. Neal also spent ten years in Minneapolis with First Bank System (now US Bank) in consumer product management and Training and Development.
Neal says, “The most satisfying part of the job is leading the congregation’s song (St. Olaf sings splendidly.) and inviting/training the many talented vocalists and instrumentalists of our congregation and community to participate in worship leadership roles.”
Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry
Ashley began her work at St. Olaf in October, 2011. Her duties include overseeing Sunday School (pre-k to 5th grade), Can Do Kids (Wednesdays, pre-k to 5th grade), Confirmation (6th-8th grade), Senior High (9th-12th grade), and all the other family ministries. She is also a recruiter of volunteers of any capacity since these opportunities require help to run smoothly and successfully.
She is from Forest Lake, Minnesota, the only child of Casey and Kim Corbett (two amazing people). She has a B.A. in International Business and Graphic Design from the University of Minnesota Morris and has experience as a counselor at Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp, as a Youth Encounter volunteer team ministry member (Captive Free West Lakes), and as Interim Director of Senior High Youth at Hosanna Lutheran Church, Forest Lake, MN.
Ashley says, “I have multiple passions in life, but my faith in God has always been at the center of it all. While my education was not in ministry, all my experiences have lead me down this path, and my goal in my work and throughout my life is to be transparent to God’s love and grace. I absolutely love working with youth of all ages, helping them to meet Jesus through their experiences in the church, and hopefully equipping them and their families to live a Christ-centered life. I also love taking pictures, playing guitar, leading worship, and playing sports of almost any kind (especially softball)!”
Wee Learning Center Teacher
Sara began work at St. Olaf as an assistant in August of 2007. In August 2009, she became the teacher.
She coordinates and plans the curriculum for the students of the Wee Learning Center. She assists the WLC Director with new student registration and administrative duties as they relate to the overall function of the center.
Sara says, “I love children and have always wanted to be a teacher; I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do so in a Christian environment. I have coordinated and developed curriculum for all age groups at my home church. My interests include music and movement, faith formation, arts and crafts and academic development. I strive to provide the children new experiences that enrich their spiritual, social and cognitive development.”
Wee Learning Center Teacher
After some earlier volunteer work with the Wee Learning Center, Sarah joined the WLC staff in August, 2010 as a teacher for three and four year olds.
She is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Early Childhood Education as well as Elementary Education, with endorsements in Early Childhood Special Education and Reading. Her experience in the teaching field includes Holy Cross Lutheran School where she taught kindergarten and first grade and a charter school in Rochester where she also taught first grade.
Sarah says, “I love teaching preschool! The biggest privilege of working at Wee Learning is having the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with children and their families. And the best part of my job is seeing the children’s growth in so many different areas. Nothing compares to seeing joy in a child as they learn, play and grow. What a blessing!”
Eric M. Buntrock
Eric is responsible for accounting and financial operations and personnel and payroll administration. He assists the Executive Church Council in strategic planning, short and long term budgeting, and investments. He purchases and administers maintenance contracts and administers information technology. He purchases supplies, and plans and manages facilities and equipment.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree, in Business Management from Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, and is also a graduate from Riverland Community College. He plans to complete his MBA within the next couple of years. He previously worked retail management and has served the last thirteen years in the Army National Guard with one deployment to Iraq. Eric also serves on the Austin Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans board as the Financial Director.
Eric says, “It’s been very exciting and rewarding to be a part of St. Olaf’s strategy shift from boards to core areas. Along with that has been a dramatic esthetic transformation of St. Olaf, a six million dollar addition and expansion project which netted an additional twenty thousand square feet in which to increase ministries. The retirement and loss of some long time staff has been a very humble experience; however, the addition of new staff has brought along some new joys.”
Hannah began working at St. Olaf Church in April, 2012. Her duties include general office work, publications, and assisting Eric with financial matters.
She is a daughter of the congregation who is a graduate of Austin High School as well as Luther College where she received a degree in Art/Management. In her spare time, Hannah enjoys reading, photography, and spending time with her husband.
Hannah says, “I look forward to helping the congregation grow and opportunities for fellowship. “
Larry started work at St. Olaf in October of 2006. His duties include cleaning in the building and maintenance, if needed.
He graduated from Austin High School in 1970. Previous employment includes: Lead man, preventative maintenance at Cretex Plastics (1969-1982), welder, assembler at Akkerman Manufacturing in Brownsdale (1982-1985), Lead man, welder-assembly at Hydroax in Owatonna (1985-2001), and appliance delivery, warehouse at Sears in Austin (2002 to 2011).
Larry says, “I really like working at the church.”
Sara started her work at St. Olaf in August of 2009. She works with and provides assistance to couples for their marriage ceremonies at St. Olaf.
Sara graduated from Austin High School and earned a BA degree in English Writing from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She has worked in management roles in several organizations and companies over a period of years and is currently employed with the Austin Public Library . She has worked with engaged couples in the past as a wedding consultant for a bridal shop in the Twin Cities.
Sara says, “I feel very fortunate to have a role in assisting couples with their wedding preparations, as well as with the rehearsals and the ceremonies themselves. It is a blessing to have this opportunity to provide a connection between the church community and these couples during such a joyful time, as they make their commitment and begin to plan their lives together.
Children's Choir Director
Sonia started her work as Children’s Choir Director some time in the early 1970s. She helps the children in grades 2-4 prepare anthems for worship services selecting songs they will enjoy singing which enhance the day’s scripture readings and focus.
She has a Bachelor of Arts in Music (with a concentration in piano performance) from Eastern Washington University and a Master of Fine Arts in Vocal Performance from the University of Minnesota. Sonia has had a private piano/voice studio in her home for 45 years. She has worked as adjunct faculty at Riverland Community College for 25 years and was part of the adjunct voice faculty at Luther in 2001-2. She has been Chorusmaster with the Austin Symphony for 12 years.
Her great joys are children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends. My hobbies are singing, playing the piano, biking, hiking, gardening, knitting, and watercolor painting.
Sonia says, “I love working with children's voices. To me, their singing is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth. And the members of St. Olaf Church love music and are most encouraging to the music staff. That means a lot to me.”
Director of Saints (grades 6-8) and Jubilation (9-12) Choirs
Coni began directing at St. Olaf in the fall of 1980. In her work, she selects and prepares music for worship services, invites singers to share their talents, and serves as a model to our youth emphasizing that music is a gift from God meant to be returned to Him in praise, thankfulness and joy.
She earned a BA plus 45 in Music Education. She has thirty-seven years of teaching experience K-8 in Orange City, Iowa, Southland School District and Austin Public Schools. She is a private voice teacher as well as a frequent soloist in our area.
Coni says, “I feel that music touches many hearts during times of celebration as well as during difficult times in our lives. I count it a blessing to offer this gift of song to God every worship service.”