The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Andrena 'set free'

ELCA candidate for ordination lives with faith and HIV

Preparing for ordained ministry in the ELCA is filled with uncertainties—uncertainties about God’s direction, seminary classes, church structures, congregational acceptance and more. A 40-something, African American, single mother of three can expect to encounter even more uncertainties in a 4.85 million-member church that is about 97 percent white.

Amy C. Elliott<BR><BR>Andrena Ingram
Andrena Ingram relaxes after a meal in the refectory of the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia, from which she graduates in December. Ingram, who is HIV-positive, hopes to be a bridge between people living with HIV/AIDS and the church.

Andrena Ingram faces those uncertainties—and others related to being HIV-positive. But she matches those uncertainties with an overwhelming faith in Jesus, who healed a “bent over” woman with whom she relates.

“A lot of people in my community were dying from the virus. ... I was nervous about it, but I went ahead and I got tested,” Ingram said. “When I received my diagnosis, I was devastated. ... I felt ugly. I felt like damaged goods.

“I believed people would shun me. ... I remembered Cheryl, a woman in the neighborhood who was rumored to have AIDS. I [had] looked down on her and made all kinds of judgments about her character. And now, that woman was me.

“Because I saw so many people in my community getting sick and wasting away, I believed that would happen to me also. I was depressed, and it was only because of my children that I made an appointment at a clinic­—[outside] my neighborhood, of course—and began to get treated. My doctor also recommended that I see a therapist for my depression. I stopped working and fell into a dark hole that I didn’t think I would be able to come out of.”

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