Longtime Bethel Lutheran Pastor Van Bredeson died Thursday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul after suffering a brain aneurysm on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at his home in Hudson.
Van Bredeson, 54, was currently serving at Christ Lutheran Church in Somerset.
He left Bethel in Hudson in June 2013 after 22 years at the church.
He was a youth and family pastor at Bethel. Bredeson also served as the youth and family pastor at Bethany Lutheran in Rice Lake for nearly five years before coming to Hudson.
He grew up in Rochester, Minn., where he attended Mayo High School and Rochester Community College before moving on to St. Olaf College to complete his undergraduate degree. He then attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
Bredeson worked most of his career at Bethel with senior pastor, the Rev. Dennis Nelson. He also worked with the current pastor, the Rev. John Lestock for about a year.
“Van Bredeson was a good man and a good pastor…one of the very best!” said Lestock. “In his years of faithful ministry he had had a profound impact on scores of people, young and old. Van had a folksy and unassuming way of sharing the faith, using humor, and asking some of the hard questions of life and faith.
“He had a knack for reaching out to the hurting and those who may have ‘fallen through the cracks’ with his genuine care and compassion.”
Lestock said Bredeson was “the real deal” and earned the right to be heard with so many.
“The double tragedy of his untimely death is that Van had just turned the corner on a new phase of ministry (in Somerset) and was coming into his own as a solo pastor,” Lestock said. “He was well received and appreciated there, and I think he realized he was more than capable in this new role, and had more gifts and talents and resources to draw from than he may have thought he did.
“The Church and the world are a better place today because of Pastor Van!”
Former Bethel Pastor Nelson wrote this message to the family on Bredeson’s Caring Bridge site: “Many are saddened by Van's death, I most assuredly among them. We all want, in as large a measure as possible, to share in the massive loss that comes most particularly to you in his family.
“Death intrudes sometimes with unanticipated swiftness, and leaves us freshly aware of the fragility of life, even the lives of those most vigorously enjoying and extending it in pursuit of God's preferred future as followers of Jesus.
“I am proud to have been his partner in ministry for 21 years and his friend for even longer. Know that you are always in my prayers, that you will find the Spirit's comfort in the memories of a splendid husband and father, and in the affirmation and affection that is on the lips and in the hearts of so many who have known Van as an excellent pastor and friend."
There were many tributes written on the Caring Bridge site. One by Cheri Monette summarizes what many wrote: What great years I had working with Van at Bethel. His laughter was heard daily and always brought a smile to my face. He had such a gift with children and made a positive difference in the life of all three of my kids. I am so thankful for the years they had with him, and he will be so deeply missed.
When Bredeson left Bethel Lutheran in June 2013, hundreds of parishioners and friends came to bid him farewell in an hour and-a-half program that included music, videos, skits, speakers and a lot of laughter and tears.
At the 2013 celebration Bredeson said the highlight of his ministry at Bethel was when the congregation made a conscious decision some 15 to 17 years ago to be more outwardly focused.
“We moved to being a church that really cared more about bringing people in than maintaining membership,” he said. “That just opened up ways for us to continue to reach out and think about, are we doing this just for ourselves? Or are we inviting people?”
As a youth and family pastor at Bethel, he said his goal was to help parents raise children in the faith, and also to create opportunities for children to practice their faith and care for others.
“It’s not just about knowledge,” Bredeson said. “It’s about immersing yourself in the activity of the church. Even the children are reaching out to others and caring for them. Every part of our congregation is included in that. Helping them have a sense of call is really important – knowing that God has a plan that they can be a part of.”
Among others, Bredeson is survived by his wife Kathie and daughters Megan and Kaitlyn. His funeral was Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Bethel Lutheran Church – Highlands Campus in Hudson. The service was officiated by his good friend, the Rev. John Hanson from Peace Lutheran Church, Baldwin.