Meet the Legislature’s chaplain: Hockey buff and family man
By Andrea Langworthy
Dan Hall used to ignore the nudge he felt to become a minister because he wasn't like any minister he knew. Then he read about a juggler who was different from other jugglers but was the best juggler of all. The juggler realized it was okay to be his own type of juggler and Hall saw he could be his own kind of minister.
Hall, 57, grew up in low-income housing in Minneapolis. "My parents divorced and we moved a lot when I was young," he says. There were many fights in the projects, but he learned to get along with people and turn bad experiences into good.
A hockey player active in student leadership at Roosevelt High School, Hall was "the Typical Ted in the yearbook." He didn't know what he'd do after college but majored in physical education while playing hockey at Augsburg. The team went to the national tournament (Augsburg's first) and Hall and his older brother, Corky, were named All-Americans. Even so, Hall, one of four puck-chasing brothers, decided there had to be life off the ice.
"Plus, I was in love," he says, referring to Valerie, the woman he'd met when her car ran out of gas and he drove her to a gas station. After graduation, Hall worked as program director at the Hiawatha YMCA across the street from his old high school and at the same Y camps he'd attended as a youth.
Hall and Valerie, a nurse, married in 1974 and moved around as Hall took various jobs. One, in Minneapolis, was for his father's blacktopping company. In Northfield, where he was ordained, he worked as associate pastor and principal of a Christian school. In Clam Lake, Wis., he and Valerie ran a year-round church camp. Valerie worked until their eight children began arriving. After their third child, Hall says, "We were pulling our hair out. But after the fifth, three more didn't make much difference." All were home-schooled after the oldest, now an attorney, cried every day to and from school his first month of kindergarten.
In 1984, Hall was asked to serve the nondenominational New Testament Church (now City Hill Fellowship) in Eden Prairie. An active participant in the church, Hall was just what the leadership was looking for — someone with a calling who led others in God's way.
Since 2002, Hall has served the Minnesota Legislature. "I'm an active chaplain [at the Capitol] three days a week." Hall says his job is to relate to the legislators and staff as a chaplain and friend — especially in time of crisis. "Many have personal and private stress-related issues they are working through and I try to help them or find someone who can."
Hall also directs the Capitol Prayer Network. "I really believe in prayer. Before I was a minister, I prayed, but not like I do now." The prayer network consists of intercessors around the state who pray for the lawmakers. Hall tells them which legislators would like prayer and "any major issues they [should] pray for."
Hall says they pray for lawmakers personally, privately, and publicly.
"The Bible says if their family is in order they will have an easier time, so we always want to pray for their family." Since the presidential inauguration in January Hall tells the intercessors, "Now, we need to really pray for President Obama and his family."
Along with leading a weekly prayer meeting focused on legislators and legislative issues, another of Hall's responsibilities is leading the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday in May when the governor and many legislators pray on the State Capitol lawn.
Hall says he is a Christian and prays as a Christian minister. "If [someone is] not a Christian, I can still pray with them if they would allow me to." He feels it is important to "ask the Lord for His will to be done in our lives." He adds, "I hope people can be open to the Holy Spirit working in their lives."
No matter what someone's faith, Hall believes there are basic things we can all believe in. Like treating your neighbor as yourself. "None of us want to offend anyone," he says, "But some of us could learn to relate to one another better."
His work and ever-expanding family — three grandchildren will soon be joined by two more — keep Hall "always busy and wondering how I can cut back." A self-professed people person, he is a lay minister at River Valley Church in Apple Valley and connects with old friends on the Internet networking site Facebook. And every week, he laces his skates to play hockey with the Burnsville police and fire departments.
"I'm just a happily married guy who loves the Lord and really enjoys my family," he says.
Andrea Langworthy lives and writes in Rosemount.