Ackerman, Rev. John Wing 80, passed away peacefully at home in Minneapolis on Nov. 22, 2013. He was born in Utica, New York on May 23, 1933, the only child of Andrew V. Ackerman and Ellen W. Wing. He was raised in Little Falls, NY. His lifelong love of the outdoors started with summers at Canada Lake in the Adirondacks, full of time to sail, canoe and hike. He graduated from The Hill School in Pottstown, PA in 1951 and Middlebury College in 1955. He was a charter member of Middlebury's men's a cappella group, The Dissipated Eight. After college he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York. In June, 1956, he married Helen Macbeth Starr whom he had met at Middlebury and the next fall they went together to Edinburgh, Scotland for his second year of seminary. He graduated from Union and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1957. His first position as a pastor was at the Mariaville Presbyterian Church in Upstate NY. In 1962 he left for Washington, DC for training in pastoral counseling at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. He resumed his career in the ministry as the Associate Pastor of the Georgetown Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC (1966-1972), then as Senior Minister of the First Presbyterian Church in New Castle, PA (1972-1982) and then at Westminster Church in Minneapolis as Minister of Spirituality (1982-1989). His last ministerial role was at the Bryn Mawr Church in Minneapolis (1989-1997). In the late 1980s he developed his private practice in spiritual direction. He loved organizing small groups, and started many clergy groups and others around this interest. He began writing in earnest during these years. His first book "Spiritual Awakening: A Guide to Spiritual Life in Congregations" (Alban Institute, 1994) became a bestseller and inspired congregations as far away as South Africa. His second book "Listening to God: Spiritual Formation in the Congregation" (Alban Institute, 2001) was also a bestseller. Last year he published "Staying in Touch: Spiritual Practices for Life Together" with Dan Johnson. John read continually about his passionate interest in the spiritual life, but he also kept up a keen interest in what was happening in the world, especially when questions of justice were involved. He was an early supporter of the Northside Achievement Zone in North Minneapolis and, in his last years, became involved in the movement against climate change in In all his life and work he exhibited a quick mind and a playful spirit which will be dearly missed by his family, friends, clients and colleagues. John is survived by Helen, his wife of 57 years, his daughter, Elizabeth Starr Ackerman, and his son, Andrew Starr Ackerman, both of New York City. Written tributes and his notes about his illness can be accessed at In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to or to St John's Episcopal Church, 4201 Sheridan Ave S, Minneapolis. A memorial service will be held there on Sat., Dec. 7 at 3:00 PM.

Published on November 26, 2013

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