2017-05-20 / People

Meet Dan Hans, the Little Stone Church’s New Pastor

By Cathryn Lien

Reverend Dr. Dan Hans, moved with his wife, Beth, from Lexington, Kentucky, to serve as lead pastor at the Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island. The Hans live at the Little Stone Church parsonage on Cadotte Avenue, just a few doors from the church. They are eager to begin serving and getting to know the Mackinac Island community. Reverend Dr. Dan Hans, moved with his wife, Beth, from Lexington, Kentucky, to serve as lead pastor at the Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island. The Hans live at the Little Stone Church parsonage on Cadotte Avenue, just a few doors from the church. They are eager to begin serving and getting to know the Mackinac Island community. On a recent May morning, the Reverend Dan Hans, new pastor of Mackinac Island’s Little Stone Church, received three telephone calls and an impromptu visit by a couple who had eloped and been married at the church several years ago, and he was scheduled to perform two afternoon weddings.

Rev. Hans moved to the Island just in time to give a sermon at the first service of the season, and in his first week, he already had officiated at seven weddings and a funeral. That doesn’t appear to be an easy schedule for a clergyman in semi-retirement, but he welcomes the change of pace this new position has given him and said he is excited to join the Mackinac Island community.

In its 113th year, the history-laden Congregational church on Cadotte Avenue, downhill from Grand Hotel, is a busy place in summer. The granite and cutstone structure, a popular setting for weddings and for married couples who want to renew their vows, opened for the season May 14. It was built in 1904 with the formal name Union Congregational Church, but soon became better known simply as Little Stone Church.

Worship services will be held through October 1, and weddings through October 7.

Previously the pastor of a large Lexington, Kentucky, church, Rev. Hans (pronounced “Hands”) a year ago saw a job posting for the position at Little Stone Church in a National Association of Congregational Churches magazine. He says he feels a connection to Michigan as his earliest vacations were spent on Lake Huron, he worked summers in Cadillac trimming Christmas trees, and once was a tennis instructor at Pine Lake in Bloomfield Hills.

“Small churches teach you how to do the job,” Rev. Hans said. “You have a lot of freedom and you really learn the ropes

“Little Stone Church is a special case. It’s small, but because it’s a seasonal place, it’s perfect for pastors like me at the end of their careers.”

Born and reared in Ohio, Rev. Hans planned to go into medicine like his father and grandfather, who both worked as physicians in Cincinnati. In his senior year of high school, he joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was involved with the organization throughout college. Hoping to work with high school and collegeage athletes, he considered coaching as a possible career avenue and form of ministry.

His passion for athletics led him to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he originally intended to play tennis, but instead became a member of the lacrosse team. By his senior year, he was captain of the team, All-American, and nationally ranked. His decision to enter the ministry came at the cost of giving up his plans to go into medicine or coaching, but Rev. Hans said he trusted this calling for his life. While he had considered medical school after seminary, he always had worked in the church.

“I wanted to make faith something authentic and genuine in churches,” Rev. Hans said. “I didn’t want it to be all about politics, piety, or pretense. I wanted it to be about people.”

Following his undergraduate studies, Rev. Hans attended Gordon/Cornwell Seminary, where he became an ordained Presbyterian minister. During this time, he met his wife, Beth, who grew up in Massachusetts and worked as a teacher north of Boston. Rev. Hans worked in campus ministry in the Pittsburgh area for three years and received his doctorate at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

After he accepted a position at a small church in Milford, Connecticut, his first daughter, Laura, was born. Sadly, Laura died at the age of three from a brain tumor. The church community in Connecticut supported the family during this difficult time.

From Connecticut, they moved to Pennsylvania, where he became the pastor of Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. They served and lived in the tourist town of Gettysburg for 20 years and reared two children, Amy and Jim. Rev. Hans, a history buff, always had been interested in the Civil War and was particularly fascinated with the life of Abraham Lincoln. During his time at Gettysburg, he became part of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, a group devoted to interpreting Lincoln’s time in Gettysburg, and was its president for a year. He also established a Habitat for Humanity for Adams County, and served as president of the group for five years.

With the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, Rev. Hans served on yearly mission trips to Honduras with a team of 50 to 100 North Americans. For two weeks, 10 to 12 hours a day, his team and about 30 Hondurans provided medical, eye, and dental care to about 4,000 patients. They worked to improve nutrition, hygiene, education, and family relationships within Honduran communities. While the mission organization was Christian faith-based, the North American team was comprised of Jews, Muslims, people from a variety of Christian denominations, and some without faith.

“I believe God is revealed in all religions,” Rev. Hans said, “but that God’s greatest self-revelation is in the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ we see the full expression of God’s grace.”

After ministering in Gettysburg, Rev. Hans became head of staff at Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. His daughter, Amy, after working as a fashion model in Chicago, married a U.S. Marine, and his son, Jim, worked in law enforcement for national parks in South Dakota. Rev. Hans continued his missionary work in Honduras and he and Mrs. Hans adapted to life in Kentucky. The church in Lexington had a larger congregation than Gettysburg, however, and he said he never felt fully connected to the community.

“When I took a walk down Gettysburg, I left with fifteen minutes to spare in case I got caught up in conversation on the street,” Rev. Hans observed. “I didn’t have that in Lexington.”

He wanted to get back to what he loved most about ministry: being with the people.

Now semi-retired, Rev. Hans says his position at Little Stone Church is a different kind of work. Here on the Island, he can focus on preaching, leading worship, and being with the people, he said. During the offseason, Rev. and Mrs. Hans will divide their time between the house they are building just south of Pittsburgh and a cabin in Western Pennsylvania. The cabin has been a winter getaway for the family for about eight years, and the house near Pittsburgh is close to where his daughter and son-in-law live with their two young boys, Wally and Wesley.

Rev. Hans says Mackinac Island appealed to him and his wife because of “the close community, the friendliness, and the beauty of it. I’m looking forward to focusing on the people… and, of course, all the weddings.”

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