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.
|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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