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Photo by Rachelle Klemme The Revs. Cheri and Marli Danielson stand in the sanctuary of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Wadena. Marli Danielson is the new pastor of that church and Faith United Church of Christ in Bertha.

New pastor arrives with pastoral partner

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Marli Danielson is the new pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Wadena and Faith United Church of Christ in Bertha.

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His wife, Cheri Danielson, is also an ordained pastor and she is currently on sabbatical.

Marli Danielson started as a pastor of the two churches in November 2010.

Marli recalled that Cheri had already decided on sabbatical when he was contacted by the Wadena and Bertha churches.

"The first comment Cheri makes to me is, 'I'll arm wrestle you for those two congregations!'" Marli Danielson recalled.

All in jest, of course.

Cheri said before then, they had driven through Wadena but were otherwise unfamiliar with the town.

They have a camper and like to travel and camp.

"We've been up and down Highway 71 and enjoy exploring," Cheri said.

Previously, the Danielsons had served in a nine-church parish in North Dakota.

They arrived in Wadena only a few months after the tornado devastated much of the town. Marli Danielson said that Bob Gregs, the interim pastor, left helpful notes and minutes from the Long Term Recovery Committee.

Cheri Danielson is a thyroid cancer survivor and recovering from the effects of treatments. She said the first few months were very difficult, and that the new churches has been very gracious and supportive during the process.

Cheri Danielson was ordained in 1992, and her first parish was in the same community where Marli lived. At that time, she was divorced and Marli had lost his first wife to breast cancer. They have been married for 17 years and have children and grandchildren on both sides.

Marli Danielson had been working as a county assessor in 1996 when he was "grousing" about work.

He said Cheri asked him, "What is the desire of your heart?"

Marli at first wanted to teach second career adults, but then looked into a Master of Divinity program and became a pastor as well.

Marli is a 2003 graduate of United Theological Seminary in New Brighton and is originally from McGraff in the Mille Lacs area.

Cheri, who is originally from California, is a 1992 graduate of Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

They are both Presbyterians, and the Presbysterian Church (U.S.A.) is in full communion with the United Church of Christ.

Marli Danielson said the two congregations have their own interdenominational history: the Wadena church has roots in the Congregational movement of the Puritans, and the Bertha congregation is from the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The two denominations merged in the 1950s.

Cheri said the congregations knew who they were and had a commitment to their mission.

"The congregations are both blessed with people whose hearts are true. Their hearts lean toward God and other people, and they have a commitment to do good with what they have," she said.

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