Ask anyone who has been around Trinity for a long time just WHO makes the church run smoothly, and this couple’s name will certainly enter the conversation. Paul and Mary Charlson have played large roles in several of the ministries at Trinity and are two of the most humble people you will find.
“Trinity has really been a blessing to us,” Mary said. “While we might have been involved in a lot of things, the friends we have made and the support of the staff and friends during the various stages of life’s joys and sorrows have meant the most to us.”
After living in Rochester for 40 years (with a one-year move to Colorado thrown in), the Charlsons retired and made their home in Clear Lake at the urging of their children. Looking for a new church home was important, so this couple visited various ELCA Lutheran churches in the area. It took a funeral to show the way to Trinity.
Paul happened to attend a memorial service for an acquaintance at a funeral home where Trinity’s Pastor Steve Palo gave the message. It struck a chord with Paul and was the impetus for a visit to Trinity. Paul’s cousins (and Trinity members), Norma Mattheson and Marian Erickson also sang Trinity’s praises, so all signs pointed to Trinity. Once the Charlsons were here, they “felt so welcomed by the members and staff” and knew they had found their church home.
Since Paul and Mary didn’t have much time to volunteer while they were working, they were excited about the opportunity to branch out. Mary said, “At Trinity, there are so many areas one can serve based on [a person’s] interests. I have been involved in the Health Cabinet, a Saturday evening usher, lefse making and the annual Scandinavian Bazaar, a member of the Generosity committee and their representative on the Council, funeral serving groups, and Wednesday Night Alive food preparation. I was also a member of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Hungary Global Mission committee, and I’m currently on the Women’s Ministry Cabinet.”
Mary pointed out that these are but a few of the opportunities at Trinity, and there are many, many more. She advises people to find something that interests them because they’ll be so glad they did. “Get involved, and you will be richly blessed!” she says.
When Paul talks about his involvement at Trinity, it’s like he’s talking about his family. With a gleam in his eye, he shared how Pastor Jim Magelssen knew his former pastor at their church in Rochester and discovered that Paul was slated to be in a leadership role there just before they moved. Pastor Jim’s connection made Paul feel even more at home. Soon, he found himself on the Health Cabinet, the Buildings and Grounds committee, Vice President/President-at-Large/President of the Council. During his 3-year tenure as an officer, the courtyard was completed, the kitchen was remodeled, the Rognes house was taken down, and new carpet was installed in the Fellowship Hall. He was part of the T150 capital campaign committee and, with his good friend Gary Wattnem, spent countless hours ensuring things at Trinity ran smoothly. In fact, Paul and Gary were the only two allowed in the church during COVID as they worked daily with Snyder Construction during the remodel. “He could be here all day, every day!” Mary exclaimed. With a grin, Paul said, “We’ve got a lot of trimming to do!”
Retirement has been more meaningful with Trinity’s opportunities for volunteering, according to this couple. They love the fact that Trinity is a servant church that helps others in need. Some highlights for the couple include Mary’s participation in getting the Bazaar ready.
“It’s a fun time!” she said. One of her first volunteer activities revolved around making lefse in preparation for the Bazaar. She pointed out, “It’s been such a gracious thing. The older women taught us younger women a lot.” She paused for a moment and then laughed, “Now WE’RE the ‘older women!’”
Paul shared that not only does he enjoy the volunteer opportunities, but he also loved going on a men’s trip that Pastor Tom Dettmer arranged and would love to do that again sometime. The couple has also been on Mission Jamaica. There is a big picture from that trip on the Gathering Space gallery that shows Paul grinning from ear to ear while holding a little boy on his lap. Paul has gone on the trip twice but said, “THAT was the most fun trip…my first time!” He joked, “We had to work much harder the second time!”
To a couple who is as much a part of Trinity as the building itself, the pride they have in their church home is evident. They sang their praises about their love for Trinity once more: “We’ve met so many people here! In fact, all our friends are here! If you ever need someone to help you out in life, they’d be there in a minute. Trinity has been more of a blessing to us than we have been to Trinity…and we are so grateful for the blessings we have received in our life. Volunteering is something that we can do to show our gratitude.”
Thank you, Paul and Mary, for being such great examples of volunteering your time and talents…and making friends while doing so.†