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Here and back again: Pastor Kristen Schlauderaff

Pastor Kristen Schlauderaff1 / 2
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Editor's note: This story is part of Faces A to Z, a series highlighting familiar — and not so familiar — faces around Goodhue County. Check back to the A to Z page for stories, history lessons and Q&As.

Growing up on the east end of town as the youngest of four siblings, Pastor Kristen Schlauderaff knew she wanted to get out and explore.

"I couldn't wait to get out of town," said Schlauderaff, smiling. "I was ready to leave and go somewhere where everyone doesn't know who you are."

For 30 years, Schlauderaff did just that, going to college out of state and to Yale Divinity School on the East Coast, before slowly making her way back to Red Wing.

It's not that Schlauderaff disliked living in Red Wing as a child. On the contrary, she valued its persistent sense of community.

"Growing up, I didn't feel like there were a lot of barriers between people. I enjoyed a mixture of friendships, no matter the walks of life," said Schlauderaff. "There's a lot of engagement across cultural boundaries in Red Wing, especially compared to larger communities."

While on the East Coast, Schlauderaff realized she was a Midwesterner at heart. Her first call to lead a congregation was in Iowa, before serving a suburb outside of Chicago for 10 years. While she enjoyed her time there, she and her husband, Larry, wanted their son to attend school in a smaller town.

"While Larry enjoyed watching the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan's heyday, he made the sacrifice to move," said Schlauderaff with a grin.

Initially, Schlauderaff and her family moved to Viroqua, Wis. While she found the area beautiful, the town ended up being too small for a family accustomed to the Chicago suburbs. In goldilocks fashion, Red Wing turned out to be the right fit.

"I was very comfortable with my son attending Red Wing public schools, and I had a wonderful opportunity with St. Paul's Lutheran Church," reflected the pastor.

Schlauderaff has been senior pastor at St. Paul's for 11 years, although did not always imagine herself as a future member of the clergy. Women were not ordained in the Lutheran church until 1970.

"I didn't think about it," said Schaluderaff. "I had a good formative experience at St. Paul's while I was growing up, but parish work wasn't on my radar during high school. Even when I attended seminary school, I was thinking about other opportunities, like teaching."

However after wrapping up her studies, Schlauderaff felt a call to serve. She became the second ordained woman to serve the Lutheran church in Iowa.

"About a year after I was ordained, I realized it was the right decision," said the pastor.

While work and family officially brought Schlauderaff back to Red Wing, she's quick to note that she had been interested in returning for a while.

"In Red Wing, you have the advantages of a small town with access to a metro area. We have great cultural resources like the Sheldon Theatre, but you know your neighbors," said Schlauderaff.

During the winter, Schlauderaff enjoys skiing up the Mississippi National Trail to see the house where she grew up. It was a 30-year journey across the country, but Schlauderaff returned to serve where she began.

"It's been a joy to come home," she said.