If you venture near the coffee in The Gathering Space between church services on Sundays, you probably have seen Craig Remmen. Besides keeping our members caffeinated here at Trinity, he is a volunteer extraordinaire. Craig is this month’s choice for our Servant Spotlight!
Remmen grew up on a dairy farm near Decorah, and life in those days consisted of family, church, and work. He remembers going to Washington Prairie Lutheran Church, where his aunt was the church organist. A typical Sunday afternoon consisted of horseback riding adventures and playing softball at church. Along with his two older brothers, he learned the importance of hard work and honesty, two attributes that carry over into his life today.
After moving to Mason City in 1971 to attend Hamilton Business College, he worked for 31 years at Stoyles Printing Co. and another 10 years at Principal. “The best part yet,” Remmen said with a twinkle in his eye, “I got old and retired!” He joined Trinity in the late 70s and was “very content” just to sneak in the back of the church…until one day when Pastor Hanson caught him after church and remembered his name every day after that!
His first foray into volunteering at Trinity consisted of making soup and delivering it to people who had just come out of the hospital. Later, his efforts included making full meals! His next volunteer experience began with a simple request from Pastor Kathy to visit Trinity members who were in the hospital. Remmen said, “It got me out of my comfort zone! It surprised me because I’m really kind of an introvert, but a different side of you comes out when you’re serving people.”
Once a month, he’d visit people who were hospitalized… up until Covid entered the world, and then he switched over to calling elderly and shut-in members on the phone to check in with them. Remmen shared a few stories about people he talked to on a regular basis. “One guy just liked being called; one moved and wanted updates on the building [during construction]; one guy talked about Pastor Kathy doing his funeral…and then later, she did,” he said.
From a person who wanted to just sneak in, attend the service, and then leave, Remmen is now in his 5th year of being on the Ministries Committee, where he serves as chairman. This committee is responsible for coffee between church services, Easter food boxes, and New Member lunches. “It’s fun because it’s mostly social!” Remmen exclaimed.
The coffee ministry is always looking for more volunteers and is turning into a well-oiled machine with the help of the Ministries Committee. Remmen explained that each member of the committee took a turn learning and revising the procedures for serving coffee in the new space. “We needed to do it for ourselves for the first couple of months to see what worked and what didn’t,” he explained. Now he tells potential volunteers, “It’s a great thing, and not to worry—we make it easy for you!” One member from the committee usually helps a couple of volunteers and even picks up the much-loved donut holes from Hy-Vee, so there is a treat to go with the coffee. “It’s fun when you come in the new entrance and see people talking and laughing,” Remmen said. “The new space is what it’s supposed to be!”
Another important ministry that this committee leads is preparing the Easter food boxes. “This is the 3rd year we’ve done it with monetary donations. We buy the food and set it up,” Remmen explained. Amy Jones, a nutritionist, helped develop well-thought-out meals, and the committee members buy as much food as possible at Aldi’s. Food is ordered in bulk and is brought back to Trinity to assemble in the
“Mike Baker laid out the first year’s boxes, and I get to follow in his good footsteps,” said Remmen. Deliveries are made on the Saturday before Easter and are welcomed by many people.
The final responsibility that Remmen and the Ministries Committee take care of is organizing the New Member Lunches. They arrange for the food for this meal offered to the new members and their sponsors. Typically, it’s been a sit-down meal with sandwiches, salad, and a dessert. Everyone eats and then tells a little bit about themselves. “When I talk to other people from other churches [about the new member lunch], they think this is the nicest thing they’ve ever heard!” Remmen said.
In fact, he has become so familiar with serving and cooking that he volunteers to serve funeral lunches as well. He thinks this is such an important ministry, too. “You can see the gratitude in the family. It’s something taken care of that they don’t have to think about,” he explained.
It seems that many of Remmen’s volunteer opportunities revolve around food, and his 5-year role in helping with lefse-making for the Scandinavian Bazaar fits in quite nicely. He mixes flour into the cold potatoes to get ready for “the rollers.” The ladies in the kitchen love to see him there, and “they also enjoy giving me a hard time!” he laughed.
He is well-known for his phenomenal chocolate cake and a fruit salad he made for a New Member Lunch that has been proclaimed “so good I could eat it for a main meal!” according to Trinity’s own Lou Ann Rossler. Food is really a huge specialty in Remmen’s volunteerism.
Another of Remmen’s volunteer activities involves not food, but music! He plays the saxophone in the New Horizon Band. After listening to one of their concerts, he thought, “They’re playing this wonderful music…I wonder if I could do that.” His high school saxophone was long gone, so he rented one until he discovered he needed to buy another. Remmen also fills in with the band at church and plays with the jazz band, Nonsemble.
A humble man, Remmen is very well-regarded by others. Pastor Dan said, “He is such a wise, faithful servant with just a big heart for helping people feel valued and connected.” Besides pointing out Remmen’s amazing cooking skills and the fact that he is also a cancer survivor, Lou Ann Rossler complimented him on his “strong faith and caring servant heart.” Remmen’s response was to laugh and say that people probably just think he’s a mean and cranky guy. And then a perfect beat… “Well, I’m going to be someday!” he laughed.
Regarding his significant volunteer work, Remmen simply says, “I’m healthy; I’m able, and it’s fun! I’ve been blessed with a good life.” †