Dean Aponte-Safe is originally from Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and now lives in La Crescent, Minnesota. He received his B.A. from Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, an M.Div. from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, an S.T.M. from Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and is working on a forthcoming D.Min. from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. He is in his first call, serving Henrytown and Union Prairie Lutheran Churches in rural Lanesboro and Canton, Minnesota. On the Synodical level, Dean is an active member of the Global Ministry Table and the Tanzania Accompaniment Table. Outside of parish ministry, he enjoys cooking, baking, kayaking, hiking, and playing the piano.
Maggie Berndt-Dreyer has lived in Minnesota since 2016 when she was called to serve at Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Hills, MN, the most southwestern town in the state, after earning her M.Div. from Wartburg Theological Seminary. She currently serves as congregational life pastor at Celebration Lutheran Church in Sartell. She was raised in Pennsylvania and holds undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and German from Lehigh University. Her favorite thing in the world is watching her two sons learn, grow, and love. She is forever grateful for her partner in life, Alan.
Andy Berry grew up Walker, Minnesota, attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and then Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, graduating in 2012 with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). That year, he and his wife Rachel moved to Littlefork where he continues to serve as Pastor of Littlefork Lutheran Church ELCA. Andy is an avid hunter, fisher-person, hiker, camper, canoeist and canoe restorer, wood carver, wrangler of Mabel (their fluffy Newfoundland dog), and a homebrewer. He is privileged to teach a world religions and ethics course at Rainy River Community college, serves as the chair of the Northeast MN Synod ELCA Candidacy committee, and is a member of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s Team Ministry. Pastor Andy is excited to sit on the board of the Falls Hunger Coalition to help expand food availability in greater Koochiching County.
Adam Carnehl is the associate pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fairmont, Minnesota, where he’s been serving since August 2017. Adam is married to Lisa, and they have two children: Gwen (3) and Theodore (1). Adam is in the Spiritual Direction certificate program at St. John’s School of Theology and has been taking assorted Theology classes there since January of 2019. He received his M.Div. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and his M.Th. from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. In addition to offering spiritual direction as part of his practicum through St. John’s, he also teaches religion at a local high school and is involved with a local youth coalition that empowers teenagers in the area.
Heather Culuris is a Lutheran pastor in southeastern Minnesota at Holden and Dale Lutheran Parish, located between Kenyon and Wanamingo. She and her husband are a clergy couple that have served in central Pennsylvania and northern Minnesota. Heather has a degree in Theology from Loyola College in Maryland and her Master’s in Divinity from St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. Heather is married to Chris and they have a daughter and son as well as two small dogs.
Mindy Czycalla serves as pastor of Beckville Lutheran of rural Litchfield, First Lutheran of rural Cosmos, Trinity Lutheran of rural Hector, and as Dean of Crow River Conference in the southwestern Minnesota Synod ELCA. She resides in rural Litchfield with husband Brian, and is blessed to be mother to two adult sons. Mindy has a BA in Social Science from SCSU (1993), and a T.E.E.M certificate from Wartburg Theological Seminary (2017). Ordained in 2017, she has also served as a Deacon in the ELCA in the area of faith formation at Zion Lutheran in Litchfield (2007-2014). Along with being a child of God, and ambassador for Christ’s mission, Mindy enjoys walking, kayaking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, pontoon rides, lakes, beaches, quilting, listening to music, watching movies, reading, and spending time with loved ones.
Hans Dahl is fortunate to serve as the Lead Pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Minnesota (www.calvaryalex.org) alongside an incredibly gifted staff and congregation. He is a graduate of Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) and Luther Seminary (St. Paul, Minnesota). Prior to arriving in Alexandria, he served in youth ministry (Fargo, ND), as an associate pastor (St. Paul, MN), and in the business world at Microsoft/Great Plains (Fargo, ND). Hans is married to Katharine and they have two sons. In 2020, Hans led a team from his church that applied for and received a Lilly Endowment Grant, allowing Calvary to develop the Calvary Partner Network (www.calvarypartners.org), equipping underserved congregations in rurality so they can thrive.
Nikoli Falenschek currently serves as Associate Pastor of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Saint Peter, Minnesota. He received a M.Div. in 2015 from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (Berkeley, CA) and B.A. in Art History in 2011 from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN). He gets to do life with his spouse Rev. Maggie Falenschek and two dogs, CeeLo and Watson. In his free time he enjoys woodworking, reading, and everything else creative.
David Lick is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church (St. James, MN) and has recently served as moderator of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys (2020-21). David is a father of one, a dog father of one, and a happy husband of one to his wife Carissa (married 2010). David graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College (2009) with majors in religion and English and a minor in music; his M.Div. is from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (2013) in Evanston, Illinois. While a proud Presbyterian (and perhaps showing in this bio), David was once described by a pastor as an “ecumaniac” for his diverse theological background. Originally from Milwaukee, David is a proud Wisconsin sports fan, a dog lover, and will happily talk your ears off about Marvel movies.
Tony Romaine has been serving First United Church of Little Falls, Minnesota since 2017. He was ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 2016 and loves being at First United, which is a dually-affiliated UCC and United Methodist Church. Tony lives in Little Falls with his wife and two children. He serves on the board of Oasis Central MN, Morrison County Food Shelf, and the Little Falls Ministerial Association. Tony holds a B.A. from Winona State University, an M.S. from St Cloud State University, an M.A. from St. John’s University School of Theology and Seminary, and an M.Div. from United Theological Seminary. Or, as Tony will tell you, way more education than anyone ever needs!
Bryan Taffe is a husband to Becky Taffe. They both grew up in Morris, Minnesota. They are parents to three of God’s rambunctious blessings. After graduating from Luther Seminary in 2015, he took his first call as Pastor of Prairie Star Lutheran Parish, a four-point parish near Watertown, South Dakota. He served on the Bryant Volunteer Fire Department while there for five years. In November of 2020, he began a new call at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lowry, Minnesota where he also serves on the Lowry Fire Department.
Nathan Wicks is a 2007 graduate of Luther College with a BA in English and Philosophy, and a 2019 graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary where he received a M.Div. In the between years, he was married, grew vegetables, and milked cows in Minnesota and Iowa. He is grateful for his higher education degrees and his marriage but misses tomatoes and cows sometimes. He currently serves as pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Gackle, North Dakota. He is husband to Sarah and dad to Karl (8), Ellis (4), and Philip (3).