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By Marlys Kruger
Although the Colfax/Tainter Methodist Churches have a new pastor, he is not exactly new to the area. Pastor Craig Conklin, age 56, who replaces the retiring Jeanne Jones, grew up in the Wheeler area, and yes, he is from the same family associated with Conklin Tree Farm.
His father owns the farm and Craig spent many hours working on it as a youngster.After graduating from UW Stout with a degree in industrial arts, Craig decided to stay and work on the farm, then got his calling to serve in the ministry.
“I was in my 30s and the feeling I wanted to serve God and go into the ministry was very strong so I entered Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul,” he said. “I graduated in 1997 with a Masters of Divinity, and while I was in school I served the Prairie Farm, Ridgeland and Dallas United Methodist Churches as a student pastor. After graduation, I went to serve at Neillsville/Granton and my wife Mary Anne, who I met while attending Stout, went back to school in Dubuque, Iowa to become a pastor also. I served nine years in Neillsville and partway through, Mary Anne began serving the Methodist Churches in Greenwood and Christie which was close to my churches. We actually ended up merging the four churches so we pastored together for a while. They ended up closing the Christie Church, however so we were down to three.”
Pastors of the Methodist faith are assigned every few years to a new parish so from there Craig was assigned to Pecatonica which was a four point parish while Mari Anne served at Mineral Point.
“I had three services on Sunday morning and one on Saturday night so that was a challenge getting schedules straight. I was there six years and was appointed to Colfax/Tainter as of July 1 and Mary Anne was appointed to the Barron Methodist Church. It is a given we will be in close proximity because we are the presenting clergy couple for the United Methodist Marriage Encounter movement in Wisconsin which means we do weekend encounter sessions for married couples quite often.”
Craig and Mary Anne have two grown daughters, Cathy Bauer who works at the family tree farm in Wheeler and together with husband Adam have five kids, and Virginia who lives in Marshfield. They are sharing two parsonages and also have a converted granary they turned into a cabin in Wheeler. In his spare time, Craig enjoys working on the tree farm and does some hunting on their land in Wheeler. Craig is getting acquainted with church members and is looking forward to meeting others in the Colfax community.
“I have a little knowledge of Colfax from earlier days and I plan on getting involved in community events,” he said. “The Bishop and conference are looking at longer appointments for pastors now so I will stay here and in the ministry as long as they see fit to keep me. Colfax may be a small town but it looks like it is growing and there is a lot of activity going on,” he concluded..