New pastor takes over at Chapel of the Lakes Lutheran Church

The Rev. Will Hooper, who recently took over as pastor of Chapel of the Lakes Lutheran Church, poses near the church marquee in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

MORTON TWP. — The Rev. Will Hooper isn’t necessarily the most by-the-book pastor in the Lutheran faith.

For example, he said, you might see him in public, digging a trench or working on a car — his favorite hobby. He might not be wearing the customary robes, rather, he would be wearing an old pair of work jeans.

But that hasn’t stopped him from being a great fit at Chapel of the Lakes Lutheran Church, where he has served as pastor since July. Hooper took over from the interim Rev. Dick Collin, who had served since the retirement of longtime Rev. Paul Schneider.

“He’s just settled right in,” said church secretary Mary Chuhran. “He’s firm, but he has a gentle soul. He’s a man of God and we are excited to have him here. The congregation continues on with an interim pastor, but it doesn’t grow until someone is here full-time. So to have someone like him here means a lot.”

Hooper, 58, comes to Morton Township from Christ Lutheran Church of White Cloud. He and wife, Becky, who are natives of the Bay City area, were drawn to Mecosta County due to the natural beauty evident to them during drives along M-20 to visit relatives.

But Hooper had a particularly good feeling about joining Chapel of the Lakes because of its forward-thinking philosophy, he said.

“We use a video-based service — we read off a video screen instead of a hymnal or a bulletin,” Hooper said. “Statistically, it’s appealing to the younger folks who can’t juggle a book and a kid in each arm. The music, the prayers, your hands are free. Not all congregations are willing, or of an age group, where they think it’s necessary.”

Hooper said he feels it’s particularly important to get young families involved in the church, both in order to ensure the long-term health of the church as well as society on a whole. That feeling may have something to do with how he came to become a pastor in the first place.

Hooper said while he is a lifelong Lutheran, his faith took a backseat to other priorities as a young man — namely, getting married, starting a family and working as an aerospace engineer on military projects.

“I bought a house and was making good money. I was doing good work. But in the middle of all of this, God’s poking me, and through it all, I’m resistant,” Hooper said. “I would lead a Bible study at church and have little old ladies coming up to me after, saying, ‘You’re really good, how come you’re not a pastor?’ I guess that’s how God speaks to us.”

Hooper finally became convinced he should become a pastor when his son, Kale, was born, saying “his entire worldview changed.” Kale graduated from Michigan Tech University the same year his father graduated from seminary.

Now, Hooper hopes to make his mark on the church in a positive — if slightly unconventional — way.

“I have a simple philosophy when it comes to how myself and the congregation get along,” he said. “I just want to be in a place where I can love the congregation and the congregation can love me. A lot of times, there’s animus, but I hope we can work things out. It’s a natural state to guard yourself … but I hope to maintain and improve our outward focus.

“People here have been very warm and friendly, very glad to have a full-time pastor. And I’m glad I’m here.”

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