Lyla Klee says she had to leave her hometown farm in Hanska, Minn. kicking and screaming. However, with a picture of the family farm hanging in her office at Messiah Lutheran Church for the past 35 years she really just brought the farm with her.
Klee's journey away from the family farm began with her receiving a B.A. in music from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. At that time, choices of careers for women were limited to teachers, nurses and secretaries, none of which appealed to her. She credits the path of life she has traveled to the meeting of Bea Friesth, the wife of a pastor in her sister's congregation, who had been a parish worker also. Klee has not only been a parish worker, but a director of ministries and associate in ministry as well.
Lyla Klee will retire Oct. 2 after 35 years of service at Messiah Lutheran Church.
When she first came to Messiah Lutheran, Klee was the church secretary. She played that role for two years and then went on to take on many other roles during her remaining 33 years.
Overall, she has served the ministry for 43 years. She assisted the American Lutheran Church in establishing procedures and requirements for the commissioning of non-ordained professional church staff; and did mission developer training. Klee has served as president of the National Church Staff Association; member of the Design Task Force on Specific Ministry and Commission for a New Lutheran Church; facilitator for the Potomac Cluster of Clergy and Associates in Ministry (before ordination was a requirement); Synod Representative to Region 8 Continuing Education Committee for the Metro D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
IN THE WIDER COMMUNITY, she has been the facilitator for the Venture in Community of Mount Vernon, an ecumenical group which studies the bible regularly and plans events such as the outdoor Easter Sunrise Services. Recently, Klee served as the spiritual director for the Rainbow and Vineyard communities of Via de Cristo.
Rev. Bill Perry, pastor of Messiah, said, "She has had a remarkable, noteworthy career."
Another member of the congregation, Realtor Brad Kintz, said "I've known and loved Lyla since my baptism."
Klee cited three events as her most meaningful moments through the years. One was a ministry she established for young stay-at-home moms called Eurisko, which is Greek for "discover", which is what women would do at the meetings through discussions of cooking and child care techniques.
Another was leading the music program for the now-defunct weekday school. The third was a special Way of the Cross devotion for Good Friday, years ago led by Father Quinlen from Good Shepherd Catholic Church, where everyone drove around on a bus to various sites in the area. She still remembers the stop she led, which included a song called "Little Boxes" that described people’s values.
Klee considers it a privilege and blessing to have served at Messiah all these years. In her farewell letter to the congregation, Klee welcomed everyone to visit her and her husband Charles in Minnesota, where she is planning to retire. She also expressed her hope for Messiah's congregation in the future to become more involved in Bible study and then live out their calling as "tellers" of the Good News of Jesus. Even though, her journey through life hasn't been filled with financial gain, the reward of working in two of her favorite areas — evangelism and education — has been very fulfilling to Klee and the congregation she has served for the past 35 years.