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UP CLOSE: New pastor hopes to connect with Lake Placid
November 10, 2017

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LAKE PLACID Underneath the stained glass windows depicting important Christian figures at the Adirondack Community Church is an enormous prayer book - beige and faded, some pages slightly torn from the binding - and it seems like the slightest touch could turn the tome into ashes.

The church's new pastor, the Rev. Derek Hansen, said he doesn't use the book too often, only when he loses his place during service.

Hansen started his new job in September. He's a rather soft-spoken man with an agenda for the church to become more engaged with Lake Placid, but he also admits that he's in a learning phase.

"I try not to come with a lot of preconceived notions about what the community may need," Hansen said.

He likes to observe the town and people and discover what he can offer both over time.

Growing up in western New York, Hansen has always been involved with ministry. Both his father and maternal grandfather were ministers. Hansen led camping and retreat ministries and operated as a youth pastor for a few years before attending seminary at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

"I look back and realize I was probably born for this," he said.

Hansen went through multiple phases before deciding to be a minister.

"It takes a while to hear God's call and respond," he said

Hansen loved the church but didn't initially plan on a career in ministry. Graduating from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in political science, he thought running for office would be the best decision.

Once while leading a youth camping retreat at Camp Asbury in Silver Lake, New York, a minster asked Hansen, "Have you ever thought that the church needs leaders, too?"

After his father died in 2009, Hansen said he started to hear God's message more clearly.

"It came through at a really difficult time," he said, "but through a time that I heard God's call in a new way."

Sunday is the big day of the week for the church, but Hansen said being a pastor is a 24/7 job.

"Ministry is not a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5," he said. "It's a life."

Hansen and his wife, Becky, have three children - sons Liam, 5, and Sam, 3, and 1-year-old daughter, Hollis - and as much as they would like their family to be involved with the church, they understand family time is just as important.

"Sometimes you feel the weight of expectations to be involved with everything going on," he said. "We do want to be a part of the church community, but we also know we need to take time to ourselves."

That's why Hansen tries to take every Friday off for personal days with his family. Their go-to vacation spot for the last couple of years has been Old Orchard Beach, Maine, which is actually where he got the a phone call from the Rev. Bill Mudge of the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church asking him to consider the position in Lake Placid.

One of the major concerns for Hansen and the ministry today is that people just don't go to church like they used to.

"We're living in a post-Christian society," he said. "People would go to church very much out of obligation."

Hansen said the church often asks itself, "How do we live out our purpose in a world where people aren't coming to us the same way they used to?"

To engage potential church goers, Hansen and the Adirondack Community Church have set up programs and events to connect with the community. A recent winter clothing drive, Wednesday community lunches and a youth program that will soon send students to Delaware and Cambodia for service projects are all ways they are looking to recruit new members.

It's a younger crowd Hansen is hoping to connect with during his time as minister. The church offers two services on Sunday - the earlier Mass's music is led by a traditional organ while the later mass has a contemporary band and worship group with keyboards and a guitar. He said the different instruments and music have definitely helped drawn younger generations to church.

Hansen said that during his father's day of ministry, the church was mainly about the church and care taking for it's current members.

Despite that being helpful, Hansen said he believes the church got a little too comfortable.

"It became more about the church and its members and less about building bridges to the community," Hansen said. "For a while, we thought the church would be full. People would just come, and now that's not the case. How do we stay vibrant, vital, strong and healthy in a world that's different and that's what keeps me up at night. It's hard work."

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