The recognition is in observance of the 50th anniversary of Carlson's ordination as a minister, which took place on June 17, 1956, in Moorhead, Minn. Carlson graduated from the Augustana Theological Seminary in Rock Island, Ill. in May of that year, and the entire graduating class was ordained at the synodical convention in Moorhead. This was, says Carlson, the beginning of "an eventful and fulfilling life in the ministry of our Lord."
Carlson had already led an eventful life prior to ordination, though. Born in the small Nebraska town of Stromsburg, a town with a strong Swedish heritage, Carlson graduated from high school in Stromsburg, and then began school at Luther Jr. College in Walther, Neb. After two years there, he finished his undergraduate studies at Bethany College in Lindsburg, Kans. - a town which bills itself as the "Swedish Capital of America."
From Kansas, it was on to Rock Island, Ill., and years of study at the seminary, with a goal of entering the ministry.
One of the "lowlights" of his time there came when chicken pox and mumps epidemics broke out in the dormitory, where all the students resided, and Carlson and several of his classmates were subsequently hospitalized. In Carlson's case, the malady was the chicken pox. As it turned out, though, this perceived "lowlight" eventually turned into one of the highlights of his life. You see, while he was in the Lutheran Hospital in Moline, Ill., one of the nurses treating him was one Zona Goodrich, a second-year student at the hospital's Nursing School. The two became friends, and continued their friendship after Carlson's discharge.
On August 5, 1956, less than two months after his ordination, Rev. Delmar Carlson took Zona Goodrich as his bride. They were married in Keokuk, Iowa, and Carlson began his ministry with a new mission congregation in Albia, Iowa. While in Albia, the Carlson family added two new members, daughter Lynnette and son Brian.
Four years later, on Sept. 1, 1960, Pastor Carlson began one of the two lengthy ministries in his life. Carlson says that, while there are some ministers who like to move about from one congregation to another, he personally prefers a long-term ministry, because it enables him to get more deeply involved with the members of his congregation, as well as in the community. That, plus, said Carlson with a grin, "I guess I just don't like to move."
Carlson served St. John's Lutheran Church in Madrid for seventeen years, during which time he also served as Chaplain of the Iowa Lutheran Home for the Aged in Madrid, and also, for four years, as a member of the Conference Youth Committee. The Carlson's third child, daughter Lynnea, was born during the Madrid years.
Carlson's final pastoral move came on Sept. 1, 1977, when he became Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cherokee, succeeding Pastor Robert Hurty. Ironically, a former member of Bethlehem's congregation, Eugene Schipper, became the pastor at St. John's in Madrid after Carlson left, and subsequently served the Madrid congregation for sixteen years.
Carlson had begun a four year doctoral course in 1975, and received the degree of Doctor of Ministry on June 3, 1979 from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. On March 14, 1982, he was elected to serve as the Dean of the Northwestern Iowa district of the Lutheran Church in America, a position he describes as "a combination of pastoral ministry to other pastors and administrative work."
After they settled in Cherokee, Zona Carlson worked from 1978-1996 as an instructor with the student nursing program at the Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, and also served as the choir director and occasional piano accompanist at Bethlehem.
Pastor Carlson says of his time in the ministry, "Although I had an opportunity for a wide-ranging ministry, my real love and joy has been to serve my congregations through Word and Sacraments, and to minister to individual members of three congregations. I was privileged to give Pastoral ministry at 493 baptisms, 254 weddings, and 518 funerals."
He is also proud of two members to whom he taught catechism class, Kendra Mohn and Lissa Peterson, who have themselves gone into the ministry.
Carlson retired from the active ministry on Sept. 16, 1996. He remains a member of the congregation at Bethlehem. In 2005, he received training in St. Louis in the Christ Care Small Group Ministry, and now serves on the "Equippers" team for Christ Care Small Group Ministry at Bethlehem. The Carlsons purchased the church's parsonage in 1980, and continue to live there, having recently added a sun room. They enjoy traveling to visit their daughters and grandchildren, Ian Carlson and Karelyn Peterson.
The special service for Pastor Carlson will be held at 9 a.m. on Sunday Oct. 18. All members and former members of Bethlehem Lutheran, as well as everyone in the community of Cherokee and surrouding communities, is cordially invited to attend. Following the service, there will be brunch and a brief program, and again, all are welcome to attend.