Contributed photo
Pastor Justin Whitmore was recently installed as the new pastor at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Corliss. 

By Tucker Henderson


After a relatively short search for a new pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Corliss Township has found the man for the job.

Pastor Justin Whitmore preached his first Sunday of worship on July 31 at St. John’s and already, he is feeling the warm welcome of the congregation.

“They’ve been making us dinners since we got here. Different people have made us dinners. We have been able to unpack and not have to worry about that stuff, which has been really nice.”

Justin Whitmore on the welcome his new congregants are showing his family

Whitmore is originally from Santa Rosa, Calif., but has called the Midwest his home since the age of 18 when he moved to Chicago, Ill., to attend college. There he met his wife and since then they have lived in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota, a few of those states more than once.

Whitmore attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and has since served as a pastor for 10 years throughout the Midwest. During his vicarage year (student preaching), he preached in Rochester, Minn. He has served congregations in Clarinda and Shenandoah, Iowa which were a dual parish as well as Columbus, Ind.

Settling into the quaint parsonage in Corliss with just over 1,200 square feet are Whitmore with his wife and children.

“We have 11 children. Some people are a little surprised to hear that. Eleven blessings,” he smiled. “We have seven at home.” The other four are attending high school and college. One studying to become a teacher and the other enrolled in the Deaconess program at Concordia Seminary in Chicago, the eldest children are certainly following in their parents’ footsteps.

“I was a teacher before I went into seminary,” said Whitmore. “I became a teacher and taught junior high school down in a rural community in Indiana for six years before I went to seminary. My wife was also a teacher at that time.”

Though the Whitmore family has lived in Minnesota in the past, they haven’t lived as far north as Otter Tail County. Despite the stories of blizzards and deep-freeze-like temperatures, Whitmore is excited to see a winter in northern Minnesota.

“I’m looking forward to the first winter,” he said. “I’ve never experienced it before.” 

More importantly, Whitmore is eager to build new relationships with his congregants.

“I’m looking forward to building relationships with the people here and bringing the love of Christ into this community,” he said. “That’s what I’m most looking forward to.”

That is one of Whitmore’s favorite parts of the job: building relationships. 

“I like to build relationships, to sit down and talk to people,” he said. 

With his parishioners spread out accross Corliss Township and the surrounding area, he should have great opportunities to do just that. The highlight of his job, though, holds a special place in his daily life.

“Bringing Christ’s love to a sinful person,” he explained of his duties, “when they see their sin and I tell them ‘Christ died for you,’ and them understanding that. That is my favorite part.”