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Kneeland joins Hope, Bethesda Lutheran churches

Jesse Kneeland is the new pastor for Hope Lutheran Church and Bethesda Lutheran Church. Photo by Jillian Gandsey.1 / 2
Pictured is Rev. Jesse Kneeland with his wife Paula and their children. Photo by Jillian Gandsey. 2 / 2

When Jesse Kneeland thinks of his journey to northern Minnesota to be a pastor, his youngest daughter Chara comes to mind.

Chara was named after the Greek word for joy and that stems from the Bible verse James 1:2, which reads: Consider all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.

Kneeland faced several trials before and after his eighth child, Chara, was born during his internship, which led him to becoming the pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Northome and Bethesda Lutheran Church in Mizpah.

Kneeland began as a youth director at Solid Rock Free Lutheran Church in Anoka, Minn. before attending seminary at the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations in Plymouth, Minn. in 2009.

“I just realized that God was doing work in the youth area but the kids would go home and that’s where the most impact was so I really just felt like my greatest call wasn’t the youth but the families,” Kneeland said. “To reach the families is to reach the youth.”

Before attending seminary, Kneeland was trying to sell his house, which he ended up short selling before eventually moving onto campus. From there, he took classes for three years, which he admits wasn’t an easy task while raising a family.

“God taught me patience and time priority and work ethic,” Kneeland said. “It takes a lot of work to get through seminary; well it takes a lot of work to get through college.”

When his coursework was nearly complete and he was being assigned to an internship in Beulah, N.D., his wife, Paula, lost her father.

“He had pancreatic cancer and so we just went through three years of trials in seminary, trying to raise a family and then we’re moving to a small house in the middle of who knows where.”

After all of that struck the Kneelands, illness came. Kneeland said that eventually everyone in his family had some kind of illness and it lasted for almost an entire year throughout his internship.

Despite those struggles, Kneeland enjoyed serving four congregations in small-town North Dakota.

“We were so excited and we fell in love with the congregation, in love with the people there,” Kneeland said. “We were blessed with a lot of people and they love steak and meat out there people would bring bags of meat to our door so God really provided through.”

Before his internship was over or he was eligible to become a pastor with a congregation, Kneeland received a letter from from the congregations in Northome and Mizpah.

“Well, we just had to pray about it and read the word and wait for the Lord to call and the more that we were in North Dakota, the more my heart just longed to come back (to Minnesota),” he said.

Kneeland grew up in Corcoran, Minn., which is 20 minutes outside of the suburbs of the Twin Cities and Paula is originally from Champlin, Minn. While growing up, Kneeland said that he spent a lot of time at his family cabin in Merrifield, Minn., which he said reminds him of his new home in Northome.

“I want people to stop by and I want people to knock on my door,” Kneeland said. “I want to get to know people. That’s my biggest goal is to get to know and grow in relationship with the people here.”

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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