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Lady Pastor: First church still makes a solid foundation

We are part of The Trust Project.

The beginning, the starting point, the place it all began. Over the weekend, I got to travel south to an important starting point in my faith journey: the place where I learned to be a pastor — Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (ORL) in Marion, Ill.

The third year of Lutheran seminary is the internship year. It's a 12-month period of church service under the supervision of an experienced pastor. My internship congregation was about an hour west of Kentucky in the very southern tip of Illinois. This past Sunday, the church celebrated its 40th anniversary as a family of faith, and it was an immense blessing to be with them to preach at their services that morning.

I had two amazing road trip companions for the journey: Pam and Josh. In addition to being my mother and brother, they are also outstandingly great drivers, engaging conversationalists, and they love to laugh. Between last Friday at noon and Sunday at 11 p.m., we spent 22 hours in the car together and crossed 1,400 miles. It was classic family road trip bliss!

We arrived in Marion around 6 p.m. Saturday night for a congregational potluck. From the second we walked in the door, we were greeted with warmth and love. The people of ORL are the embodiment of hospitality. That evening there was laughter, tears, and plenty of catching up (and even a little karaoke).

The next morning, the community gathered for two worship services with a brunch between. After a few hundred of the most heartfelt hugs I've ever received, we were on the road and headed back to the northland. It felt good to reconnect with such a formative time in my ministry and such an uplifting group of people.


Even though a period of time has passed since I interned there and the little ones who came forward for the children's sermon have changed, the spirit at work among the people of ORL is the same. It is a community of acceptance, love, laughter, and service. The members express such a sincere depth of care and concern for one another, and they are always seeking ways to live out their mission of "caring and sharing the Gospel."

While we can't literally turn back the hands of time, it can be pretty special for all of us to return to pivotal starting points for times of celebration and reflection. Being back among the people who taught me how to be a pastor was healing and refreshing.

What starting points of your life have been integral on the journey? Where have you learned about community and acceptance? Who are the people who have shaped and influenced you? It can be a blessing to pause long enough to think about pivotal beginnings.

Throughout their 40th anniversary year, the people of ORL are lifting up the hymn "Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song As I Journey." Its final verse makes a fitting prayer. Our journeys — from beginning to end — are made with God at our side, and we are strengthened by the presence of family (in all its many forms).

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey

But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side

And with all of the family you saved by your love

We'll sing to the dawn at the end of our journey

Related Topics: TOURISM
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