Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands honored the life of Reverend Paul Youngdahl Friday afternoon.
Youngdahl, the senior pastor of the largest evangelical Lutheran congregation in the country, had a sudden medical problem while camping near Lutsen Sunday. He later died at the hospital.
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church is the place where thousands made a spiritual connection with Reverend Paul Youngdahl every weekend. On Friday, it was the place where thousands said their goodbyes.
“He turned it into a small congregation within the big one. So, you never felt like you were in this huge conglomerate,” said Carol Rognlie, a family friend.
His reach spread so far that one memorial service couldn’t hold all who wanted to pay tribute. And even with two services, parishioners still filled the pews.
His biggest impact may be felt among the younger members of the congregation. Rev. Youngdahl spent his summers at a youth camp
“I just know how many lives were affected up at camp and it’s all thanks to him,” said Kate Jensen, who attended Cathedral of the Pines Camp.
“We’re all going to miss him a lot up there,” said Erik Peterson, who attended the youth camp.
While many were focused on what they’ve lost, his daughter, Kristie and Bishop Craig Johnson still found a way to make people smile.
“How did that guy know every single time you were in church and when you weren’t? Honestly, 13,000 members and the dude knew if you were there!” said Kristi.
His passion for faith will not only be his legacy, but some believe it will also be his reward now that he’s home.
“We can picture God saying to Pastor Youngdahl, ‘well done, good and faithful servant,’” said Bishop Craig Johnson, who gave the eulogy.
Youngdahl, who had been ill in recent months, died from an aneurysm.