By Ron Jackelen
As a “cradle Catholic”, I spent much of my adult years as an enthusiastic but somewhat skeptical member of that church. As a man who is a committed feminist, I found that there was a disconnect between my beliefs in the equality of women and the inability for Catholic women to be equal when it came to serving as ordained priests.
Last year I began yet another round of soul-searching about this issue. (This struggle has gone on multiple times over the years.) This time however, for whatever reason, I finally knew that my church home could no longer be the Catholic Church. It was time to stand up for what I believed. After determining that even this wonderful new pope, Pope Francis, considered the ordination of women to be “not an open question”, I knew it was time to find a religion and congregation that would better fit my beliefs.
I never had any issues with my local Catholic Church. That parish had no control over the rules made in Rome. Still, it was time for me to leave the parish that I had been an active member of for 30 years and the fellow parishioners who had meant so much to me.
I always assumed that when I did make the break that I would probably join a local Episcopal Church, since that church and the Catholic Church have much in common, even as the Episcopal Church is more progressive and allows the ordination of women as priests. I had actually bookmarked various Episcopal churches for review on the Internet. However, I had heard that ELCA Lutheran churches were also progressive when it came to the acceptance and full participation of both women and gay people. Although I was pretty sure that I would become Episcopalian, I figured I better take a quick look at the Lutheran Church…just to be sure.
An Internet search delivered me to various ELCA congregations, including Easter Lutheran Church. As I reviewed the website, I noticed that there was not just one woman pastor but two women pastors. And, one of those women was the senior pastor. Up until viewing the website, I only knew that Easter Lutheran Church was the church with the interesting name that I frequently passed on my way to the library in Eagan.
After attending multiple worship services at both campuses, I contacted the Easter Lutheran office and asked for an appointment with Pastor Kris, letting them know that I was a Catholic looking for a new church home. I figured that if you have questions, you may as well go to the top! For almost an hour, I peppered Pastor Kris with questions, trying to determine whether this congregation and the ELCA Lutheran Synod was the “real deal”. Her answers to my questions made me believe that this was the right church home for me.
After completing my Advent volunteer obligations at my Catholic parish, I transferred my allegiance and my heart to Easter Lutheran in January of this year. And, as an added bonus (and without any prodding from me) my wife, Michelle, joined me as a member at Easter Lutheran Church as well, after many years of her own estrangement from the Catholic Church.
I’m sure that most members of Easter Lutheran are used to all of this by now but when I first saw Pastor Kris preach or saw Pastor Sarah perform the breaking of the bread at the altar, I was absolutely astonished to see women in that role. Months later, I think I’m finally getting used to the wonderful sight of women (and men) equally leading both worship and the congregation.
I want you to know that Easter Lutheran turned out to be far more than just a congregation that affirmed the role of women in leadership. Equally as important I also found a congregation that truly believes that it has an obligation to the community around it, both near and far. In my original meeting with Pastor Kris, she spoke of the changes that were being made at that time to the Easter by the Lake building so that Easter Lutheran would be better prepared to reach out to the community. The Easter Lutheran vision statement says it so well, “We will actively strive to blur the lines between church and community…”
Easter Lutheran Church is a wonderful place, which Michelle and I hope will be our church home for the rest of our lives.
That’s the funny thing that happened on my way to the Episcopal Church… I found a Lutheran congregation that fits me perfectly! I guess you never know for sure where you’re going until you get there!
Ron and Michelle Jackelen are enthusiastic new members of Easter Lutheran Church.