Daryl Thompson said he “heard the call” when he was seven years old. He just managed to say “not yet” for several decades. “I still remember the exact spot I was sitting when I heard God’s voice speak to me saying ‘you will be a pastor for my church someday,’” said Thompson. “I always knew the calling was there.”
Thompson, who has assumed the position of full-time pastor for Calmar Lutheran Church in Calmar and Springfield Lutheran Church, rural Decorah, has lived a lifetime of service – but largely not in the pulpit.
“My previous career was that of a registered nurse,” Thompson said. “I have worked in transfusion medicine, outpatient treatment centers, intensive care units, emergency rooms and flown on the helicopter. I was also a volunteer EMT for three different ambulance services for over 40 years.”
Thompson’s also flown as a corporate pilot, run a heating and air-conditioning business, done survey work, been a sales manager for a national truck manufacturer, taught electronics and repaired large main-frame computers.
“I’ve even managed to play a little football,” he added.
It was following this myriad of life experience that Thompson began seminary studies. At a time when many would choose retirement, Thompson picked up the call he’d heard as a small boy, graduating in 2008. The years after graduation took him to Honduras, where he dedicated himself to mission work. He served as a pulpit-supply preacher (pastors who fill pulpits, often in multiple locations, in times of congregational need) and a nursing home chaplain.
“I became a long-term pulpit supply preacher at Decorah Lutheran Church from January through March in 2020 prior to the arrival of Pastor Peter Kowitz, and following that stint, Calmar called me up and asked if I would be a long-term pulpit supply provider for them. I agreed and began Sunday, May 17, 2020.”
By November, 2020 Thompson said he knew he wished to remain serving the Calmar congregation.
“It became apparent to me that this was where I belonged,” said Thompson. A call committee, two church councils and parish membership voted to extend a call for him to become the full-time pastor of both Calmar and Springfield Lutheran congregations. “We accepted each other and here I am as of February 1 of this year,” he said.
Thompson looks most forward, he said, to guiding all members, at all ages, of his congregations in their spiritual journey. And it’s a congregation’s youth, he noted, that holds a particular stake in the future.
“My goals here at the churches are to serve every generation in meaningful ways,” said Thompson. “I can visit about old times in a rocking chair with nursing home residents, and I can play a mean game of ping-pong with a teenager. The youth are the future, not only of these churches, but of the entire Christian faith. I want all our young members to feel welcome here, for support, love, direction and learning. I want them to have a stake in the future of the church and contribute their special skills for the good of the community.”
A large crew of human beings of all ages is something Thompson is accustomed to. He and his wife, Mica, have been blessed with six grown children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with another on the way. Favorite family activities and personal hobbies include: wilderness canoeing, mountain hiking, flying, sky diving, woodworking and music. He can run a ham radio and has played in a bluegrass band for 10 years. His love of music led him to play in an alphorn quartet. The alphorn’s legacy as a classic, mountain horn instrument used by shepherds to call animals home is fitting for this shepherd of souls.
The Thompsons live in the Calmar Lutheran parsonage on East Street in Calmar. Thompson said he and Mica love to share a cup of coffee with whomever shows up at their door, friend or friend-to-be.
“That is truly an invitation to all members of the community and beyond,” he said. And “Oh,” he added, “I love lutefisk.”