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God's goodness shines through in Hanson's ministry

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson, 2022. Photos courtesy Facebook.

Christopher Hanson lived out his life as a servant of God through his music, organizational skills, and ability to connect with everyone and show goodness and kindness. He served as the worship leader, office administrator, youth coordinator, and financial person at Faith United Methodist Church in Fargo, North Dakota.

"We are all the better for knowing Chris. His goodness shined through for all of us here at Faith UMC and the Fargo community," said Jay Hoherz, a member at Faith UMC. 

Christopher Hanson, 45, Fargo, North Dakota, died Sunday, November 20, at Sanford Medical Center. After suffering a massive stroke on Wednesday, November 16, from which his doctors said he would not recover, he was taken off life support early Sunday morning, November 20, 2022. 

Christopher invited many people into ministry with him, including The Big House Band—the worship band at Faith UMC. He was a keyboard player and vocalist in the group and served as the director and leader of the band.  For Kate Naujokas Hanson, he was a long-time friend and mentor. 

Big House Band 1

The Big House Ban played regularly at Faith UMC and all around Fargo, ND.

"I think one of the most special things about Christopher is that once he formed a relationship, that relationship never disappeared," said Naujokas. "He could maintain relationships, unlike anybody I've ever met. There was never any question about where he wanted to be when he was spending time with you."

Naujokas shared military service and music with Hanson. They served in the North Dakota National Army Guard in The 188th Army Band. The two met back in 2000 at North Dakota State University. He had spent four years active military duty with the U.S. Army Band. Christopher was seeking a degree in music. 

Hanson and Naujokas

Chris Hanson with band member Kate Naujokas.

"He was just so gifted in music. He was always very confident in what he was doing," said Kate. "He never did complete that degree in music. However, he formed strong bonds with all the professors and connected us. They are donating the use of the NDSU Festival Concert Hall to Christopher for us to use for his funeral, based on the relationships he built while he was there." 

Christopher maintained a busy schedule performing on multiple instruments in various bands. He performed as a trombonist and vocalist in the FM Kicks Band and the Imperial Big Band of the El Zagal Shrine, as a bassist in the Jazz Nickel Combo, and as the band leader, bassist, and vocalist in the area horn band Helena Handbasket. In addition, he was active as a freelance performer and clinician in the area. 

"He could have played with only the most talented musicians in Fargo in North Dakota. It was more important to him to share this love of music and worship with his friends. He wanted to encourage and mentor. He would ask people, 'come play in the band.' A lot of us would think, why? We're not the best musicians. You want to share that musical journey with us. Never once did I hear him say, 'this person wasn't good enough to play.' That thought never even crossed his mind," Kate said. 

Hanson left his 22-year full-time career in the U.S. Army and the North Dakota National Guard to be in ministry full-time at Faith UMC. He built relationships, invited people to be part of worship, and because a friend to many.

"He was genuine. He had a kindness and goodness about him that just felt good. He invited you to do things and wanted to be with you," said Hoherz.

Baker Hanson

Rev. Ray Baker and Chris Hanson.

In 2017, Christopher welcomed Rev. Ray Baker to Faith UMC and made Pastor Ray feel at home. 

"My first Sunday at Faith UMC, I was very appreciative because he was the worship leader and had everything mapped out. He told me exactly how things worked and what his role or my role was," said Baker. "I could see right away that he was the light of the church, the spark of the church."

A spark that lets people see Jesus in simple, subtle ways. He was ready to serve and responded to the call to help at a moment's notice. 

Naujokas shared an example of that servant heart. "So, at the end of a gig in downtown Fargo, it's 2:30 a.m. A friend goes out to her vehicle, maybe not one of the best places in Fargo, where you don't want to be out at night alone, she comes out to her car, and she's got a flat tire. The only person that even crossed her mind to call was Chris. She called, and he said, 'I will be right there.' Some people would grumble at 2:30 in the morning, leaving your nice, warm house to help a friend– but not Chris." 

That mission heart was present for anyone who called the church. "The Friday before his stroke, a woman called and asked if there was ‘anyone at the church who could come and help me,’” said Pastor Ray. “‘I have to lift a vacuum cleaner into the back of my car, so I can take it down to get fixed.’ Christopher just said, 'I'll be there in five minutes.’”

Hanson Youth

Chris Hanson with Faith UMC youth group.

Hanson's ministry at the church grew. When COVID hit, he updated the technology at Faith UMC and put things in place to assist volunteers. Hanson created checklists so that volunteers could step in and feel confident. During the pandemic, he would do a Facebook Live session called "The Hymn of the Day." 

"Playing those songs on Facebook was not just about the singing but being able to articulate his faith," said Baker. It was a time of sharing and a place where you got to understand his theology and understanding of God, the church, and who we are called to be as believers."

Hanson continued to serve at his death as an organ donor. Before he was taken off life support early Sunday morning, November 20, his liver nd kidneys were removed to be donated to different recipients.

Hansons Wedding

Sara and Chris Hanson on their wedding day, September 2, 2022.

Hanson's legacy is the goodness, kindness, and genuine sincerity in his relationships with people and God. The impact of his ministry continues.

"Christopher got married this fall. It was a day of celebration," said Pastor Ray. "I celebrate his ministry. The consistent, steady example that he was for all of us. The way that he lived out his faith. He was one of those people who just lived it out in everything he did. He wasn't overboard evangelistic or anything, but you knew, you understood his ethics, and he understood his committment to God and the church."

"Christopher had a huge impact on my faith. As I moved into my adult life and tried to balance everything, including church, Sunday morning came around, and I was beat," said Naujokas. "Chris would not give up on me. Over the years, faith is more and more an integration of who I am and my life because of him.  One day he said, 'Well, you're bringing the kids, can you be my joint youth leader?' It grew into joining the leadership team, and my kids are now doing confirmation here. I credit Chris with my faith because he just wanted to share his faith." 

"He had a great impact on my kids. They wanted to come to church to see Christopher," said Hoherz. "A true example of goodness in so many ways. A good friend. If people are questioning faith and they knew him, got to know him, or learned about him, things changed a little with them. Their faith was strengthened. Some people fall away a little, but faith will come back if they learn about or think about Christopher."

View the full obituary
Read an article in the Fargo Forum
View a news report from Forum Communications
Lay Servant Ministry: Through baptism, all Christians are called to a ministry of servanthood. Some feel called to serve their church or others more profoundly. The Dakotas Conference offers a variety of opportunities for the laity to become trained and equipped to live out their calling.

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