Dean Seal knows how to keep an audience’s attention. With a background in television and theater, Seal is now working the crowd at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska. Seal took over for retiring Pastor Gordon Stewart in late November.

“The fit here is kind of exceptional,” he said. “We’re having a great time.”

Seal said he has it has been a long, slow path that has led him to Shepherd of the Hill. He grew up in Hopkins and attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, majoring in Theater and English. It was there that he met Rob Elk who would become the Mr. Elk to his Mr. Seal in their comedy act, “Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal.”

“We did funny songs,” he explained. The duo recorded two CDs, including one they did at Paisley Park in Chanhassen for $500 on a Sunday morning. “It was the cheapest CD ever recorded there,” he laughed.

The act eventually disbanded and the two went their separate ways — Elk to Los Angeles and Seal to New York City with his wife. He continued to dabble in entertainment, publishing a rock and roll magazine and shooting a pilot for HBO that was never picked up.

The “overwhelming materialism and selfishness” of life in Manhattan took its toll on Seal and his wife. “We said let’s find a church so at least for a couple hours a week, it’s not all about us.”

Seal and his wife eventually returned to Minnesota. She found a job at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, while he took over the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. That job led to an opportunity to head up the Minnesota Fringe Festival for four years.

“Then I started to get the itch that I would like to get more meaning in my life,” he said.

Seal began pursuing a Masters of Arts and Theology through the United Church of Christ. He quickly developed a passion for the stories in the Bible.

“It’s a rich piece of literature,” he said. “Some [stories] are historical, some are metaphorical.”

Seal loved reading the stories and applying critical thinking skills to derive meaning from them. He hungered to share that knowledge with others so he went on to pursue a Master of Divinity degree.

“The closer I got into it, the more excited I got,” he said.

Seal took a job as an adjunct professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Then, last year, Shepherd of the Hill came calling. Seal excitedly answered the call.

Now, each week Seal uses his storytelling skills in his sermons. His theatrical roots also pop up from time to time as they did over Christmas when the congregation presented his play “Three Wise Men and One Wise Guy!”

Seal plans to continue many of the initiatives the church has undertaken in recent years including the Tuesday Dialogues series and the food shelf. It is his hope that Shepherd of the Hill will be known as a church full of “extremists for love.”

“It’s really wonderful to open people up to the beauty of love as a philosophy,” he said.

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