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Local pastor leads new congregation

A well-known figure in the River Falls community will now be a familiar face in Roberts.

The Rev. Delbert Permann was hired as interim pastor of Roberts Congregational United Church of Christ Sunday, Feb. 14.

He replaces the Rev. Mary Schmotzer who left the church for a new pastorate in Danville, Pa., earlier this year. She was with the Roberts church for five years.

Permann comes to Roberts with decades of experience in pastoral work. In June 2002 he retired after 19 years as senior minister of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in River Falls.

Since retiring, he has served as an interim pastor in Sparta, St. Paul, Minn., Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz.

Before his new post in Roberts, Permann was the interim director and CEO of Kinnic Falls Alcohol and Drug Assessments Institution. He's also a board member.

Permann has five post graduate degrees, including his most recent Doctor of Ministry through the Minnesota Consortium of Theological Schools.

Permann has been a leader within the United Church of Christ on a national level, and was part of the national committee that developed the denominations statement on human sexuality. He chaired a committee that raised $6 million for conference ministries, and was a member of the second endowment drive.

Permann has served on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ for 10 years, five of which he was chairman. He's served on committees and as a delegate to General Synod twice.

Permann's reach has gone beyond his church's walls. He's been part of school and community advisory committees in River Falls, helping pick the superintendent of the public school system and chancellor of UW-River Falls.

Locally, he's often called upon for mediation and interventions.

Permann has led numerous mission trips, including four to work with the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt.

"During all my years of ministry I have had a keen interest in the ministry beyond the boundaries of my local parish," Permann said.

While Permann was unsure about future mission trip plans in Roberts four days into his work there, he said he will return to Egypt.

Permann said he sees two challenges that face the church.

"The first challenge is continuing to remind them of our Christian faith and their adherence to it," he said.

Second, Permann said the church needs to continue to work at growing and reaching out into the community.

"They need to have ownership in whatever the program," Permann said of future plans.

The more than 200 members of the Roberts UCC come from nearby communities, including River Falls, Hammond, New Richmond, Baldwin and Hudson, Permann said.

"It is literally a community church," he said.

The Roberts UCC parish is smaller than others he has worked with, but that doesn't bother him, Permann said.

"Every church of whatever size is a source of excitement for me," he said.

Permann and his wife will continue to live in River Falls. They have had seven teenage girls stay with them as foster children for extended periods of time, and two birth daughters. The Permanns have one granddaughter.