From fire and brimstone to tattoos and spiky hair

Pastor Melanie Greengo stands by an art piece she made in class. The scripture it represents is Psalm 66.

Pastor Melanie Greengo stands by an art piece she made in class. The scripture it represents is Psalm 66.

By Marcie Klomp

New Lime Springs and Chester United Methodist Church part-time pastor, Melanie Greengo, admits she got away from the church for a while, but she’s making up for lost time!

She grew up in Albert Lea, Minn., which is where she met her husband, Larry. She attended a “fire and brimstone” church. That wasn’t her style she laughed. She does that a lot—laughing. A person can tell Pastor Melanie is a happy individual, and her upbeat attitude will be good for the local churches.

She is also excited about her first charge, especially after backing away from religion for several years.

After graduation, she started to live her life. She went to nursing school, becoming an RN. She worked in Austin and in Washington State, where Larry was stationed in the Navy. The couple has been married 15 years and have two children, Dylan, seventh grade, and Emma, sixth grade. The couple then moved to Hawaii, where both children were born. Pastor Melanie stayed home with the kids at that time.

There were some more moves. “Emma lived in five states by the age of five,” she joked.

When the kids got older, the couple knew they had to start introducing God into their children’s lives in a more structured manner. While living in Virginia, Melanie starting subbing at Sunday School.

After retiring after 20 years from the Navy in 2007, the Greengos decided to move closer to home. They chose Osage because it has a good school district. Larry got a job with a trucking company, and life settled down. Or did it?

Thanks to Pastor Anna Blaedel, Melanie kept getting more and more involved in the church. “I kept thinking there was more, and Anna kept encouraging me. I’d never had a female pastor.” She decided to go into lay ministry. The three-year program requires four weekends a year with intense classes. “After one year, I decided that wasn’t going to be enough.”

Although Melanie says she is “petrified of public speaking,” she went forward with her dream. She signed up for seminary school at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

Larry found a job as a diesel mechanic, working nights.

Pastor Melanie began her charge on July 1 but was absent much of the time as she had to intern as a Chaplain in Rochester. She found that is not what she wants to do when she graduates. The Chaplain comforts families who have a loved one close to death. “You either have to put up a wall or take it in. I tend to take on the emotions.”

She is now two-thirds of the way through school. She is still two years from graduating. Instead of taking 10 classes a year, she is taking five and working part-time in Northeast Iowa. “This will allow the kids to stay in the same school for at least another two years,” she explained.

It’s a good thing the family is used to military living because life can get a little hectic in the Greengo family. Currently Melanie has classes on Tuesday and studies the other days. She gets the kids off to school on Thursday then makes the 150-mile trek to Iowa. She turns around after services on Sunday, to start the week again.

Larry on the other hand works Sunday through Wednesday nights. This works well for this semester, but next semester, Melanie has classes on Thursdays and Fridays so the family has to be flexible . . . and so does the congregation! Different committees of the church have found they have to change meeting nights from Wednesday to another evening if they want the part-time pastor to attend.

The family’s full-time apartment is in Shoreview, a suburb of North St. Paul. Dylan and Emma will be coming down during days off and vacations throughout the year. In fact, many may have seen Emma, who has her mother’s same spunky personality. She colors her hair pink or blue or whatever color strikes her at the time!

Pastor Melanie’s style shines through in more ways than her spiky hairdo. Her focus for Lime Springs and Chester is to change along with society, which she admits can be hard for an older congregation.

She adds, “I’m a collaborative leader. I want them to tell me what they want to get behind. My goal is to find our nitch . . . to see what this church can do for the community.”

Some of her ideas include using the empty lot owned by the church as a community garden, starting a prayer shawl group and getting a website. “I would not normally go to a church that I couldn’t research on the web first. Now I am the pastor of one!”

During the fifth Sunday, which is normally a combined service between the two congregations, Melanie wants to meet at Brown Park. That is the plan for Sept. 29, when there will be a celebration of God’s creation and a blessing of the animals.

She is open to new ideas. “They may flop, or they may work out. But if you’re not willing to try, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

The pastor’s biggest challenge is her hours. “It’s going to be challenging because I’m half-time. I feel I’ll just be doing maintenance. I have to dedicate 10 hours to prepare a sermon, three hours for church services. That leaves seven hours, and right now I have nine people at the care center and three at Evans.”

She is definitely busy when she is in Iowa, but she brings a piece of home with her, namely Magoo, her snaggle-tooth dog!

At this point in her life, Melanie is almost too busy for hobbies, as well. Her biggest ones are “being a parent and going to seminary!” She does admit, “I try to knit. I used to swim, but not so much any more. I ride my bike and read.” Although much of her reading is school-related with about 400 pages each week.

Pastor Melanie must be on the right track. One gentleman from the congregation said of her, “I really like her spiky hair, tattoos and take-charge attitude.”

“That’s just me,” she laughed. Perhaps this breath of fresh air will entice more folks to attend church functions. A pastor—and congregation—have to keep trying.

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