Gordon Rankin (’91), UCC Conference Minister, South Dakota

[Editor’s note: Since this interview was conducted, the Conference has joined with Iowa & Nebraska, and changed it’s name. Gordon now works with Nebraska churches.]

Tourists and visitors passing through South Dakota may get distracted by billboards for Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore, and other frequented sites in the state. Pastors, however, are often focused on the needs emerging from South Dakota’s rural towns and villages.

Gordon Rankin – and the 77 churches that he is responsible for in his conference – make their rural communities a priority.

Some communities are so isolated that he has been unable to find pastors willing to serve them. “So,” he says, “we have to train folks in the community.”

“We have a collaboration with the local college, who help us with some of the training,” he explains. “We are now developing a regional theological network.”

Gordon graduated from Andover Newton in 1991. More recently, he has been working with South Dakota’s UCC conference for the past eighteen months. In this role, he connects with various people and groups in the state and focuses on their needs.

“Part of my role is that at any given moment you’ll have a conversation you wouldn’t expect,” he explains. “One minute we’re talking about church governance, and then the next about agriculture.”

Each day of ministry in this context is different than the last. Gordon finds himself opening to new experiences and insights all the time.

A short time ago, Gordon had an epiphany about race relations in his state. “I went to an event recently to see a presentation by Jennifer Harvey of Drake University, who spoke on issues of racial equality. The premise was that in order to move towards racial equality, it can’t be about reconciliation, but restitution. I suddenly realized how much context has changed me.”

Drawing from his education and experiences from Andover Newton, Gordon daily uses tools that he developed there. “I’ll always value what Andover Newton has given me. Through my career, I now understand how to use the tools they gave me.”

May it continue to be so.