In Staff Announcements, Synod News

The Rev. Joel Pakan has been called to serve as the Director for Rural Ministry for the South Dakota Synod. As Director of Rural Ministry, Pastor Joel will build upon the work of former Rural Ministry Liaison Rev. Alan Blankenfeld, who announced his resignation earlier this month.

“It is with great joy that we now welcome Pastor Joel Pakan as the Director for Rural Ministries,” said Bishop Constanze Hagmaier. “Pastor Joel comes to this work with a vast experience as a musician bridging the rural and urban divide through music. The synod team is eager to welcome Pastor Joel and share in ministry with him.”

Pastor Joel shared the following greeting:

Hello South Dakota Synod,

Let’s get to know one another a little better. I was first called as the associate pastor at East Side Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls in January of 2021. I served there until November of 2023 then took leave from call to support my parents during a time of need. I am married to Rev. Aimée Pakan, associate pastor of Brandon Lutheran Church and Split Rock Lutheran Church. Aimée and I spent our first 20 years together as a musical duo called Tangled Blue. We’ve performed all around the world including multiple South Dakota Synod Assemblies and as guest artists at Outlaw Ranch for over 20 summers.

I grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin and come from a family of health care workers, pastors, teachers, mechanics, and musicians. I was 19 in the summer of 1993 when I had my first job away from home as a Lutheran Bible camp counselor in upstate New York. One of the songs on the radio that summer was “If I Had a Million Dollars.” I could not have dreamed that thirty one years later I’d be living into those song lyrics by helping to direct over a million dollar grant toward the health and vitality of congregations in South Dakota. This call to be your Director for Rural Ministry is in many ways a dream come true. It’s a dream come true to follow after the good work of Pastor Alan Blankenfeld. It’s a dream come true to join a Synod staff (together with our Bishop) that so faithfully embodies journeying together in Christ. And it’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to travel the state, fulfilling my call by meeting you where you are called to live and grow in the fullness and richness of our shared gift of faith.

That song from all those summers ago ended with the line, “if I had a million dollars I’d be rich.” But we know something about riches that’s more than dollars and cents. We know something about the riches that are found in family, community, and congregations that never walk alone. The subtle lie embedded in that closing line is the idea that wealth is for the individual. But we have a better song to sing. We have a better story to tell. We know that true riches are always shared. I look forward to sharing more with you when we next meet face to face, journeying together in Christ.

Pastor Joel will officially begin his call on July 1. You can welcome him by sending him a note at

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