New pastor takes the pulpit at Aspen Lutheran church |

New pastor takes the pulpit at Aspen Lutheran church

Naomi Havlen
Matt Switzer is installed Sunday as the new pastor at Aspen's Messiah Lutheran Church, which is celebrating its 50th year. Aspen TImes photo/Devon Meyers.

Aspen’s Messiah Lutheran Church, which turns 50 years old this year, welcomed a new pastor on Sunday after a yearlong search.Matt Switzer, 30, moved to Aspen with his family after spending four years as the pastor at a Lutheran church in Fort Wayne, Ind. His wife, Nikki, will work at Aspen Valley Hospital part time as an intensive care nurse.

Nancy Birkholz, the church’s organist who is also in charge of public relations, said the church’s last pastor, Rev. Eric Ahlemeyer, left about a year ago after spending approximately a year with the local congregation. The church has had a number of guest pastors in the interim.”We didn’t know if we were financially going to be able to support a pastor because we’re a pretty small church, with probably around 70 members,” Birkholz said. “It costs a lot more to have a permanent pastor than guests. We talked about it and felt that if we could get Matt back, we’d try to support him.”Switzer actually lived in Aspen in 1998 and 1999 while he was completing a vicarage, or internship, with the church. She said the church grew with Switzer as a vicar, and the congregation loved his ability to get involved with the Aspen community.

“The seminary assigns where people go for their vicarage, and they thought I would be a good fit [in Aspen] because I’m laid back, low-key and nonconfrontational,” Switzer said. “I returned because the church called me to be a pastor, and I spent a lot of time in prayer and felt I couldn’t say no. I feel God wants me to make an impact on the valley.”When Switzer and his wife lived here in the late ’90s, he said his wife helped coach volleyball at Aspen High School, and he helped announce at basketball games. Now the couple has two children – Emily, who is 3, and Elijah, 18 months.Switzer said he has a lot of visions for the church’s future, including starting evening services, having informal Bible studies and working with residents in the midvalley who are interested in the Lutheran Church.

Messiah Lutheran Church is planning a number of events this fall to celebrate its 50th anniversary in the valley, including a lineup of well-known Lutheran speakers. For more information, call the church at 925-7725.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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