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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Real talk

One pastor's perspective on the church and the fight against HIV

When I publicly disclosed my HIV status in The Lutheran ("Andrena 'set free," December 2006), I was a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. I was unsure, but hopeful, about a future call. Today I am pastor of St. Michael Lutheran in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, celebrating five years of ministry with the congregation.

Andrena Ingram, an HIV-positive ELCA
Andrena Ingram, an HIV-positive ELCA pastor, enjoys serving a congregation while helping the wider church take action on HIV/AIDS.

Like most ELCA pastors, I visit people in hospitals and nursing homes and celebrate baptisms and funerals. At the church door, I may find someone seeking counseling or a child who wants a drink of water and a hug. I handle emergencies, enjoy tea or coffee with a colleague and attend too many meetings.

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Initially there were the challenges of serving a congregation in transition and learning to loosen up my leadership style (I previously spent six years in the Army). But I couldn't have found a better, more welcoming church home.

I suspect calling me as pastor may have raised a few eyebrows at St. Michael. "So she has HIV. Who doesn't have something?" I imagine them saying. "Let's keep it moving." Because keep it moving, we did. We were too busy with ministry and learning who we are.


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