Rev. Matthew Olson Named Grand Marshal of 2012 Berlin July 4th Parade
submitted by Jean Barber
The Berlin 4th of July Parade Committee is pleased to announce that Rev. Matthew Olson, pastor of the Berlin Seventh Day Baptist Church, has been chosen to serve as Grand Marshal for this year’s Independence Day parade to be held on Wednesday, July 4, at 11 am.
[private]Pastor Olson is honored this year as an outstanding community service leader for his extraordinary work and commitment to the youth and underprivileged in our community and beyond.
It was twenty years ago, July 4, 1992, when he moved, with his wife Ellen and their 7 year old daughter Juliet, to Berlin to become pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church on North Main Street. They arrived late in the afternoon on what was a cold summer day, the parade festivities long over. “We remember thinking that we won’t stay here long,” he said, and “that Berlin was such a small town. Coming from Grand Rapids, MI, to Berlin was a difficult transition, especially for Ellen who had always lived in a city larger than Albany.” He was concerned that the congregation, which totaled just 30 at the time, was used to more seasoned pastors. Having just graduated from seminary that May, it was his first church. Before they could even consider coming here, they knew that Ellen would need to have a job. She accepted a job in Niskayuna, and they made plans for the move. Her daily drive to and from work proved to be quite demanding.
Matthew G. Olson was born in Rockford, IL, the middle child of three brothers and two sisters, where his father, Leslie, was a rack repairman at National Lock Co. and his mother, Marie, a housewife. Upon his father’s retirement, they moved back to Wisconsin where his father had grown up. New Auburn was a very small town with less than 500 residents, where Matthew attended junior and senior high school, graduating in 1981 among a class of 30 students. He went on to the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, graduating in 1985 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education, with plans to become an art teacher. While pursuing his degree, he attended the Seventh Day Baptist Church in nearby Milton. It was there that he met his wife, Ellen. With jobs scarce, other than in NYC, and, not wanting to move, he took a job at a convenience store in the Milton area, working his way up to assistant manager and then training to be manager.
In 1986, the day he was to become manager, he left for Alfred Station, NY, the headquarters for the Seventh Day Baptist Board of Education, to become the National Director of Youth Ministry for U.S. and Canada. For eight months he traveled to churches throughout the country, including Berlin, assisting with development and improvement of youth programs. He wrote the Seventh Day Baptist youth directors’ handbook and also curriculum for junior and senior high Sabbath school.
He returned to the Milton, area where he and Ellen were married on May 24, 1987. In February 1988, as part of his job for the Board, they traveled together to the Philippines as missionaries. Over their three month stay, Matthew established a youth program there that continues to this day. One of the children at the time is now the Director. Ellen volunteered in orphanages and hospitals, where they met and fell in love with a little girl that they vowed to one day adopt.
A few months after their return, they moved to Grand Rapids where he attended Calvin Theological Seminary. In 1990, prior to his graduation in May 1992, about two years after returning from the Philippines, they welcomed 5 year old Juliet, the beautiful little girl from the Philippines that they had long hoped to adopt, and they were a family.
There had been no pastor at the Berlin church for the two years prior to their arrival, although there was an established senior high youth group. Pastor Olson developed a junior high youth group and, later, a youth group for third, fourth and fifth-graders, known as the 3-4-5 Club.
It seems it didn’t take long for them to realize that they did indeed enjoy being a part of the Berlin community. “I remember driving along Route 22 one day,” Pastor Olson said, “heading back to Berlin and realizing that I was truly happy and blessed to call Berlin our home. At some point Ellen and I had come to realize that we were supposed to be here.”
Their daughter, Emily, was born in September 1993 and daughter Rebecca in May 1997.
Many community-wide programs have been established under Pastor Olson’s leadership, one of them being the Berlin Community Food Closet. It was re-opened, housed at Maxson Fellowship Hall and supported by all local churches.
Over the years they have been here, the Church congregation has grown to an average of 87. With the growth came a complete renovation of the Church sanctuary and the addition of a community hall. The Berlin Community Center at the Seventh Day Baptist Church is used regularly or has been used for or by local Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, TRACs, the Berlin Youth Commission’s summer program, Zumba classes, the Little Hoosic River Watershed Association, the Berlin School Drama Club, the Berlin Library, the Beginnings Program and Our Valley Community Farmers Market, among others.
Many will recognize his continued work through other programs such as Faith In Action, held every Memorial Day weekend, where volunteers have come together to paint fire hydrants, work in gladioli beds, visit nursing homes, clean up yards, etc. Every year they pick up trash along the Memorial Day Parade route and distribute up to 700 bottles of water during the parade. The Local Relief Fund was made available to provide short term aid to those in need, for assistance with fuel oil, car repairs, food, medical bills, etc. Every September, backpacks and school supplies are donated to local school children through the Backpack Ministry Program. In November is Operation Christmas Child, when the community comes together to pack shoeboxes full of donations for distribution to overseas children. Couples Date Night, held near Valentine’s Day, has brought couples together for social evenings such as movie night and comedy night. Each summer, a children’s program sends local youth to camp and all local churches together provide Community Bible School, with each church hosting in turn.
Pastor Olson names as his most influential figures The Rev. Dr. Ernest K. Bee, Jr., who was Director of the Seventh Day Baptist Board of Education during his term as Youth Director, his father-in-law, Dale Green, and Pastor Rex Burdick, former pastor of Berlin Seventh Day Baptist Church. He has found it very rewarding to see some of the youth he has mentored grow to become leaders in either the local church or a church of their own.
“My ministry and being here in this community is a reward in itself,” he said. “One goal I have yet to beat is to be here longer than Pastor Paul Maxson. He was here for thirty-one years.”
Pastor Olson also volunteers as a driver for the Berlin Rescue Squad. He is a ten-year member and current treasurer. He and Ellen enjoy a daily walk around town. Should you see them, be sure to stop and say, “Hello” and, “thank you for all that you do to make our community a better place.”
Parade Route And Theme
This year’s parade theme is “That’s Entertainment!” Join in the fun and community spirit! The 1.7 mile parade steps off from the Berlin Elementary School, continuing north on School Street to Park Avenue, left on Park to Community Avenue, right on Community Avenue to Elm Street, left on Elm to State Rt. 22, right on Rt. 22 to North Main Street to the end of South Main, left on Rt. 22 to Park Avenue, right on Park. Marchers may end at Berlin Firehouse parking lot; floats and vehicles continue up Park Street to School Street returning to the school.
For your convenience, off-street parking is available at all churches on Main Street, at Bank of America and at the Berlin Firehouse. Look for parking signs.
Refreshments And Further Entertainment
Refreshments will be provided for all parade participants immediately following the parade, compliments of the Berlin Vol. Fire Co. Join us there in the Fire House parking lot for further entertainment, provided courtesy of The Hill Hollow Band.
Support The Tradition
We need your support to continue this time honored tradition. The cost of the parade is funded almost entirely with private donations. Marching bands, supplies, postage, awards and other expenses add up quickly. Whether you have enjoyed the parade in the past or will be bringing your family for the first time, we urge you to send your contribution to us at the address below. No amount is too small, and your support is greatly needed and appreciated. Please make your contribution payable to Berlin July 4th Parade Committee, and mail to P.O. Box 66, Berlin, NY, 12022.
For participation information or more details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jean at 658-3010 or Carol at 658-3936.[/private]