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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Interns learn ropes, congregations witness growth

Location-bound seminarians,costs pose challenges

Joshua Serrano, Mike Warfel and Sandra Barnes served internships on the West, East and Gulf coasts, respectively, and couldn't be more satisfied with the seminary requirement — especially their growth into pastoral roles, discovering hidden talents and enjoying a trusted mentor and adviser in their supervising pastor.

But each seminarian's circumstance raises questions about larger numbers of older and second-career ELCA seminarians who can't move for the internship because of family obligations, and the need for sponsoring churches to come up with creative ways to pay for interns.

Serrano, 31, and his wife, Enrique, wanted to stay in San Diego for as long as they could after she found a job as youth director at an Episcopal church and to avoid uprooting their sons, Sebastian, 4, and Isaac, 1.

They found their answer at St. Peter's by the Sea Lutheran Church in the Ocean Beach neighborhood, where Serrano served while its pastor, Karen LaFollette Marohn, went on a three-month sabbatical. Serrano found himself helping a congregation through five members' deaths in that short period — a higher number than the church had experienced in the previous full year.

"It was very hard on the congregation and on me to constantly be at funerals, but we got through it," said Serrano, who recently was called to serve Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church, Orinda, Calif.

Warfel, 42, sought an internship in the Charlotte, N.C., area because his wife, Elizabeth, a high-school math teacher, is near retirement and would have lost her status and accrued benefits if she had left the state.


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