'Northfield's Pastor' Will Healy bids Emmaus, community adieu - Northfield MN: News

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'Northfield's Pastor' Will Healy bids Emmaus, community adieu

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Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013 3:11 pm | Updated: 10:20 am, Tue Jul 9, 2013.

Will Healy loves to preach.

Be it from the pulpit at Emmaus Church of Northfield, as an emcee surrounded by a group of people, or just talking one-on-one with somebody, the longtime Northfielder feels comfortable conversing with and listening to people.

Many Northfielders say it’s his gift.

“I can’t wait for Sunday mornings,” Healy said of getting up in front of the Emmaus congregation each week. “Preaching is a dialogue. The congregation listens with intent and openness. So speaking in the pulpit has been such a privilege for me here.”

That is one of the things Healy will miss most as he says farewell to Emmaus and Northfield on Sunday after 26 years at the church. Often referred to as “Northfield’s Pastor,” Healy is moving on to the next chapter of his life where he will be pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.

The move took many people by surprise, including Healy in some ways. However, the longtime Northfield pastor believes with all of his heart that he made the right choice, even though he is going from a small town ministry to a church with much more diversity in a metropolitan area.

“I felt God call me to this,” said Healy, who grew up in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood before attending college and landing in Northfield. “I needed to say yes.”

When Healy started his career in ministry here in 1987, he didn’t think he’d be here going on three decades. Early on, Healy had an opportunity to spend a week with a mentor who asked him about his thoughts about the future. Healy told Eugene Peterson at the time that he thought he was “going to unpack my bags and stay for 10 years or so.”

More than 16 years beyond that, Healy found himself at a crossroads.

“This is the soil I’ve been given to work,” Healy said. “Until recently, I thought that I would be here even longer. I feel this has been an opportunity here in Northfield to have a long relationship with the congregation and the community that has profoundly shaped me.”

A Northfield ambassador

As pastor of Emmaus and a member of the community for 26 years, Healy has developed somewhat of a following because of his story-telling skills, quick wit and caring and compassionate demeanor. It’s those traits that ingratiated Healy with community leaders and residents alike.

Healy was named the Defeat of Jesse James Days Joseph Lee Heywood Award winner in 2010 and gave back to the community in many other ways by serving on the Northfield Area YMCA advisory board, the Northfield Area United Way and the Northfield Hospital board of directors. He also emceed numerous fundraisers, galas and spelling bees in Northfield.

For that, he will be missed.

“He was always a security blanket,” said Scott Richardson, director of community relations for Northfield Hospital & Clinics and an old friend. “You always felt comfort in Will’s moral compass. He used his pastoral skills well beyond the walls of Emmaus. He made the community better and always challenged us to act on our best instincts.”

Richardson said one of Healy’s best attributes was the uncanny way he helped keep the community connected, through good times and in bad.

“He was such a great bridge builder,” Richardson said. “He was able to help people realize how much we had in common. He was just an exceptional community builder.”

The same can be said about his time at Emmaus.

Rob Ryden, director of worship and administration at the church, said it was those attributes that drew him to Emmaus in 1999 and led him on an unexpected call from education to a career in ministry.

“We will certainly miss his preaching,” said Ryden, who is in his fifth year as director of worship. “We’ll miss his sense of humor that is infused into his ministry and one of the things that makes him so accessible.”

As Emmaus looks for a replacement for Healy, Ryden said that in the short term, the void left will be filled by committee and an interim pastor.

And as Healy leaves his congregation and many friends in Northfield for the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis and a new call, he leaves us with a thought often told to his parishioners:

“May God go before you to show you the way, above you to watch over you, beneath you to uphold you, behind you to nudge you and beside you to befriend you,” he said. “I feel that as I take this step. I pray this for Emmaus and Northfield as well.”

Reach Managing Editor Jerry Smith at 645-1136, or follow him on Twitter.com @NewsNorthfield

© 2015 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Dan Dimick posted at 3:40 pm on Tue, Jul 2, 2013.

    Dan Dimick Posts: 9

    A thousand thanks to you, Will! I am excited for you and Julie as you begin a new chapter of your lives. You have truly been "Northfield's pastor" for so many years. Thanks for your healthy leadership, your positive demeanor, your absolutely side-splitting humor, your gentle listening presence, and your consistent message of a gracious God. No one will be able to fill your shoes, both figuratively and literally!

  • barkingdogs posted at 8:01 pm on Sun, Jun 30, 2013.

    barkingdogs Posts: 15

    The void you will leave is immense, Will. You have touched so many lives and left many skeptics turning to God.

  • paddle posted at 7:49 pm on Sun, Jun 30, 2013.

    paddle Posts: 1

    What an incredibly great man and a huge loss to the community. I went to his church a handful of times and thought he was awesome. If I were the churchgoing type, and I'm just not, this would be the church I'd go to. Will is loving, smart, open-minded, compassionate, engaging, funny and shorter the average NBA center. He's one of those guys I wished I knew better. My best wishes to you, Will!

  • parentvoice posted at 10:00 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 439

    You've given so much to this community. You and Julie will both be sorely missed.


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