Concordia’s new pastor excited to be a part of Steamboat’s culture, community
New Steamboat Springs resident Jon Muhly spends a lot of his time listening these days.
He arrived in Steamboat Springs in March when he replaced Craig Henningfield as pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church. Henningfield retired after eight years leading the local denomination, and now Muhly wants to learn about the town and the people in it as he serves the congregation.
“I’m asking a lot of questions, and I’m doing a lot of listening,” Muhly said. “I want to learn because I don’t know what I don’t know. I sense from just listening to people that there are things that we should be doing.”
Steamboat Springs is the latest stop in Muhly’s lifelong journey serving the Lutheran Church and the Lord. He said the journey has given him a unique global view, and he hopes it will help him bring a fresh perspective to the mountain community.
He got his start in the late 1990s working at camps in upstate New York designed to introduce people from Eastern Bloc countries to the West. He also traveled around the world to places like London, Poland and Germany before he spent 11 years working in Russia and Central Asia, where he was dedicated to bringing the messages of the church to populations turned upside down by the fall of the Soviet Union.
“I knew about international missions and opportunities in general,” Muhly said. “I love traveling. I love seeing the world and took advantage of the opportunities I was given.”
He met his wife, Julie, while on a mission trip to London. When they returned, the two finished up their undergraduate work and were already looking to find an adventure before entering graduate school.
“We were young, newly married, and we didn’t have any kids or the ties,” Muhly said. “I didn’t really want to go right to graduate school, so we took two years, and we taught in southern Poland.”
While living in southern Poland, the couple taught English and experienced the former Soviet world.
“Everything was transforming and changing in the former Eastern Bloc,” Muhly said. “It was a really interesting time to be there because there were a lot of transitions.”
Jon and Julie lived in Poland from 2000-02, before returning to the United States. Muhly completed graduate school at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
The couple thought they would stay in the United States, but found themselves headed back to Eastern Europe.
Muhly took a job working with the church as an intern. However, when his boss was promoted to the head of the Eurasia region, Muhly became a field leader for Russia. His work covered not only Russia and Georgia but over time was expanded to include areas of Central Asia including Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Muhly said during that time, he lived inside and outside of Russia because the religious visas he held only allowed him to stay in the country for three months every six months. His sons David and Nathan grew up transitioning between Russia and homes outside of Russia. By the time the couple welcomed twins Hannah and Rebecca, 12, and Abigail, 9, the family was based in Poland.
“We would live three months in Russia and then we would go to Kazakhstan — three months in Russia, and three months in Poland, and three months in Russia and three months in America,” Muhly said. “It wasn’t very good for the stability of family.”
Muhly said it helped that Julie was a teacher and could home school the children, and the boys were young enough that they didn’t notice the moves. However, with the addition of the twins and Abigail, they realized the time to settle in the United States had come.
The family moved back to the United States, and Muhly took a job as associate pastor in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. His great uncle had been a pastor at that congregation in the 1960s and 70s.
“My job was to be engaged in all of those pastoral activities,” Muhly said. “Then the senior pastor left, and I became the senior pastor there.”
He led the congregation in the resort community of Coeur d’Alene for more than eight years, the last four as senior pastor. When Henningfield retired, Muhly was called to Steamboat Springs.
“I came down in January and interviewed,” Muhly said. “I shared about my vision and what I want. As a pastor, I feel God has made me, so I’m very interested in the larger community.”
Muhly’s installation was March 26, and he has been working to learn about and get involved in Steamboat Springs. He recently became the chaplain for the Routt County Sheriff’s Office and is doing his best to come to grips with the challenges that the Steamboat Springs community is facing. He hopes his journey to get here will make him better equipped when it comes to reaching out and connecting with the community.
Muhly’s oldest son, David, will graduate from high school in a few weeks, and the rest of the family, including Julie, son Nathan and daughters Hannah, Rebecca and Abigail will move to Steamboat Springs when the school year ends.
“I’m just so excited to get to know this culture in this community,” Muhly said. “I’ve been to every state in America, and each place has something unique and beautiful to offer. It’s not hard to find it here. This is a fantastic place to land, and we’re very thankful that God has led us here.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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