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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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It takes a community to raise a pastor

Three congregations provided church with some 100 pastors

When it comes to preparing people for church leadership, some congregations stand out as "pastor factories," if you will. Three churches alone have collectively laun­­ched nearly 120 sons and daughters into ordained and lay ministry: pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, diaconal ministers, associates in ministry, professors, administrators and communicators.

These three congregations don't have much in common, yet there must be something shared in the water — baptismal water, that is. Promises made at the font have propelled many of their offspring into ministry. What are their secrets?

Like other pastors, Judith Delgado
Like other pastors, Judith Delgado (second from left) was drawn into ordained ministry because of the influence of her congregation — Trinity, Brooklyn, N.Y., and people like Socorro Valenzuela (left), Anglie Polanco and baby Zuheidi, and Ivonne Davila, former members. Delgado serves St. Peter in the Bronx Lutheran.

Country church

In the heart of Iowa sits Gowrie, population 1,000. A big blue sky, lush green ground and the assurance of fertile black soil center the people of Zion Evangelical Lutheran, recalling a time when the church was the center of social networking. At the edge of the town sits the sturdy brick building that houses the congregation, which was formed in the late 1880s. Since then, Zion has reared some 27 sons and daughters into ministry.

"One of the wonderful things about Zion is that there were so many active lay leaders, farmers, storekeepers," said Barbara Lundblad, who in 1980 was the 21st person and first woman from the parish to be ordained. Today the author, preacher and professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York, attributes her early faith development to growing up at Zion. "The church was a place where we loved to be," she said.

Lundblad described Luther League as the social venue, and a feeling of welcome and respect from the adults. People didn't have negative feelings toward the church, she said. And even in this rural Midwest community, there was an awareness that Zion wasn't in isolation. "We also had a sense of the larger church," she said. "We knew where the missionaries were serving. I remember the pin tacks on the maps. We [kids] thought maybe one day we would be [missionaries]."

Today, Zion is a leader in developing an ecumenical consortium of area rural churches called Countryside Ministry that will share resources and outreach.


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