When The Rev. Day Hefner steered away from the Lutheran church during her college years, she never thought she would find her way back. But she did.
The Coleridge native joined St. John’s Lutheran Church, 821 Denver St., in early August, just before she was ordained on Aug. 30 and after completing her internship at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The church was in the middle of a transitional period after its former pastor retired following 10 years of service when the Nebraska Synod, one of the 65 synods within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), recommended Hefner.
More than 70 percent of the Schuyler population consists of Hispanics and Latinos, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent statistics collected in 2018. Because of that, St. John's Lutheran Church Council President Vicky Borman said the board was looking for ways to be more inclusive and connect with the different ethnic groups living in the community.
“She seemed to be a really great fit for what we are looking for … because of her bilingual skills,” Borman said.
Inclusion will be one of her many priorities moving forward. She said she wants the church to positively reflect Schuyler’s diverse population for the foreseeable future.
The decline in youth participation, Borman said, resulted in the end of Sunday school at the church approximately three years ago. But Hefner said she is determined to bring back Christian education by coming up with different approaches based on community needs.
Returning to the church and Nebraska was never part of Hefner’s plan growing up. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in music from Nebraska Wesleyan University, Hefner spread her wings by traveling. In the past 11 years, Hefner said she has traveled and moved at least 11 times.
“I was just ready to get out and see the world,” Hefner said.
Hefner ultimately joined the Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the U.S. government, and spent four years in the Dominican Republic. Throughout her service, she taught English and computer classes, among other things.
Hefner found her way back to Nebraska when she accepted an ethnomusicology – a study of music from different cultures, especially non-Western ones – position at the Nebraska Folklife Network in Lincoln. Although it was a career relating to her longtime passion for music, Hefner realized it was not for her.
Hefner said she initially left the Lutheran church because how closely religion and conservative values were tied together, especially in rural Nebraska.
“I am just not a very conservative person,” she said. “I never have been.”
During this period of time, Hefner took the opportunity to explore other religions, noting she was looking for one that’s open-minded and accepting but still living out the message of Jesus Christ.
“So I was definitely looking for something,” Hefner said.
Twenty-six-year-old Hefner eventually found her way to Grace Lutheran Church in Lincoln. That’s when Hefner met a pastor who was working on the church’s redevelopment. Hefner said she still remembers one of his sermons that God is open to all, including the LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer.
“I had never, never heard a church person say that, much less from the pulpit,” Hefner said.
During the sermon, Hefner said she looked around and was amazed by how much support the pastor received from his parishioners. Hefner said she realized how much the Lutheran church changed.
From there, Hefner said she knew she wanted to return to the Lutheran church, prompting her to join the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
“That was just really eye-opening,” Hefner said. “The (Lutheran) church wasn’t always what I thought it was.”
And because St. John’s Lutheran Church is redeveloping itself to follow the same message, it was an easy decision for Hefner.
“It’s a great blessing to be here,” Hefner said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recent resignation of Holly Hild has left an empty seat within the Schuyler Board of Education, but officials are on the search for someone to fill the position.
The reason for Hild’s resignation was not made clear to the Schuyler Sun. Despite that, board president Richard Brabec said Hild has been a very supportive member of the board and her service was much appreciated. In the past 10 years, Brabec said the board has experienced two board members resigning in the middle of their term.
“It’s part of life,” he said.
After running uncontested in the recent election, Hild was about to start her second four-year term with the board serving on the Americanism, Curriculum, Assessments, Board Policy, Public Relations, Planning & Calendar committees.
Her replacement will only have to serve the two years remaining on her term on the board. If he or she wishes to continue serving the board, he or she will have to go through the election process.
Those interested in the position have until Jan. 30, 2019, to submit their applications to the Schuyler Community Schools superintendent’s office inside Schuyler Central High School, 401 Adam St. Eligible applicants must be a registered voter prior to accepting the board appointment, have established primary residence in the Schuyler Community Schools district and must be at least 19.
Application forms are available for pick up from Sally Jakub at the superintendent’s office or on the district's website at https://www.schuylercommunityschools.org. Each application will be reviewed by the board during the Feb. 11, 2019, public meeting and he or she will take a seat on the board on March 11, 2019.
“It’s a great opportunity for somebody who would like to serve and not have to go through the election process,” Superintendent Daniel Hoesing said.
Hoesing said new and re-elected members will be sworn into their positions this month, followed by the election of officers. Hoesing said Brabec will also be accepting requests from members wanting to change committees so the new member might not end up serving on the same committees as Hild.
The responsibilities of the board, according to the district’s official website, include improving curriculum articulation with an emphasis on developing reading, writing, and math skills by working with the curriculum coordinator and all schools in the Class 3 district, identifying and prioritize expenditures of the district, improving the facilities within the district in need of upgrades and improving unity of students, staff and patrons toward all educational programs.
Hoesing said the new member should be willing to donate his or her time to attend public meetings and conferences, be up-to-date with district policies, be fiscally responsible, as well as committed to ensuring transparency between the board and the general public.
Brabec said board members are responsible for leading area youth and preparing them to lead the community in the future.
And Hoesing said he couldn’t agree more. He said the youth is the baseline for the future workforce and development of the community.
“I think of all the responsibilities in the community, the education of youth is always important,” Hoesing said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at email@example.com.
For the second year, the Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce is adding a bit of pizzazz to its annual banquet by hosting a table decorating contest.
The idea is pretty simple. Local businesses and residents who have the inkling can market themselves or just have a bit of fun by decorating the numerous tables present during the community celebration being held on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at the Oak Ballroom in Schuyler, 175 Higgins Drive.
“This is the second year that we’ve done this. It’s something I came up with to try last year and everyone just had so much fun that we decided we wanted to do it again,” Chamber Executive Director Jackie Farrell said.
This year’s theme is “Light It Up,” tying in with the holiday and New Year festivities. Thirteen businesses participated in 2017 and Farrell said she hopes to have at least that many participants this year, noting that she already has some that have registered.
A limited number of tables are available, so those with interest or looking to make a table reservation are being asked to contact Farrell at 402-352-0123, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply swing by the chamber office at 1119 B. St., Suite No. 3. Those interested in learning more about the Chamber Banquet itself can follow the same channels.
Farrell said that participants are being asked to design a table centerpiece that ties directly in with the “Light It Up” theme. Those attending the $20 banquet have the opportunity to vote on what they deem the best design, and ultimately, the top-three table layouts will receive prizes.
The idea is for people and business organizations to promote themselves and have the community learn more about what they do, and because of this, those involved with decorating a table won’t sit at their decoration's location while enjoying the prime rib dinner, Farrell said.
Those participating will decorate their tables from 4-6 p.m. Friday at the venue leading up to Saturday’s celebration. Farrell said the banquet is always a fun time, noting that the evening is a community affair. There will be great food and entertainment provided by a comic magician, along with performances from dancers associated with Studio A Dance Academy.
“It’s also not a super long evening, so people can come out for some fun laughs, good food and socialize with some people they may not normally see,” she said. “The awards are also good, too, because you can see what a difference so many people make in the community.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at email@example.com