After years of fruitful ministry and a legacy of faithful service, Pastor Dick Carlson (or Pastor Dad, as he was known to Moreno Christian Assembly in Moreno Valley, California) went to be with the Lord Sunday, December 27, at the age of 87.
Dick was born at Sheriff Lake (near McGregor), Minnesota. When he was only three, his family moved to Duluth and started attending the Duluth Gospel Tabernacle—where his future wife, Ellen, was already attending. Before Dick turned 19, he and Ellen were married by Pastor E.C. Erickson, who later became his mentor for ministry.
After serving in the Air Force and as a member of the Air Force band, Dick and Ellen returned to Duluth where they became involved in lay ministries in their home church, and Dick earned a living selling life insurance. They moved briefly to California, spent a year in Seattle at Bible college, and then served briefly as an assistant pastor in California. In 1969 Dick answered a call to serve as assistant pastor at Duluth Gospel Tabernacle, but he soon returned to California at the invitation of Pastor Paul Zettersten to be the pastor of a start-up church in Westminister.
Many unchurched people were saved under Dick’s ministry at Westminster Christian Assembly. Several building programs took place as the church grew. Also growing from the church were missionary outreaches in Honduras and Nicaragua. After a dozen years in Westminster, however, Dick moved to Palm Desert to start Valley Christian Assembly. His faith-filled leadership there led to a growing, vibrant church, and property was soon purchased to build a beautiful church complex.
It wasn’t long, though, before the new church released Dick to begin yet another church, Moreno Christian Assembly. The new congregation purchased a house and converted it into a church with subsequent additions increasing the meeting space. During this season Dick helped plant several other churches—one in Florida, another in Michigan, and he was consulted on other church plants. In 1994, Dick gave oversight to his youth pastor (and son), David Carlson, in planting Hemet Christian Assembly. During this period, Dick and Ellen sent their daughter, Shari, to Indonesia to serve as a missionary for 10 years. Back in Moreno Valley, meanwhile, the growing church began construction on even more sanctuary space, dedicating the new sanctuary and office complex in June, 2000. A year later, Dick retired as senior pastor and was succeeded by his son, David.
Over the years Dick worked with and mentored a number of pastoral assistants, impacting each by his integrity, faith, and pastoral care. His vision of training church leaders influenced him to lead the charge in establishing Southwest Bible College in 2000, where he has served as college president for the past 20 years. Under his leadership the college purchased property where classes are now being held.
FCA Lead Elder, John Sprecher, observes that Dick Carlson was a pioneer who was always looking for the next opportunity. “The Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in Southern California exists today because of his vision and passion,” says Sprecher. He noted that Dick had texted him a number of times during his last days. “His final text to me was sent less than 24 hours before he went to be with the Lord. It summarized his feelings and commitment to our Fellowship: ‘The FCA has always been special to me. There are larger groups, but there are none finer, in my view. I love you all.’”
Dick will be lovingly missed by his wife of 67 years, Ellen. He leaves a wonderful family legacy of 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren—all serving the Lord with nine of these families involved in full-time ministries.
A memorial service for Pastor Richard Carlson will be held the afternoon of Sunday, December 27, 2021. Click HERE for more details on how you can watch online. Friends of Dick Carlson may share their memories Ellen on the same webpage: http://mcathechurch.com/pastor-dad-memorial