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News :: Amanda Jertson becomes first member of Bethlehem Lutheran to be ordained
· 6:53pm August 2nd, 2012
When Amanda Jertson was in confirmation at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, it was quite evident that she was really interested in the things she and the other students were learning.
“And it wasn’t a big surprise, as I’d always been involved in the church, through my parents, with the Sunday School and youth choir, whatever. So Pastor Mark Urlaub must have seen something that prompted him to tell me that I should consider whether God might be calling me to ordained ministry,” said Jertson. “I thought about it through high school, considered a few other possibilities, including teaching and journalism, but they never fit quite right. Mark and the wonderful folks at Bethlehem gave me lots of opportunities for further involvement.”
Pastor Urlaub was among those who participated in Jertson's recent ordination ceremony at her home church.
"Amanda, to my knowledge, is the only person who, while a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, has been ordained into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament," says Rev. Urlaub. "Hers also is the first ordination service to be held at Bethlehem, so far as we know."
Amanda, says Urlaub was identified while in her early teenage years as someone to be encouraged to consider this calling.
"She was exceptionally willing and capable as we involved her in worship leadership throughout her high school and college years. She was raised in a family that is devoted to service in the church. Her church family surrounded her with love and encouragement. It has been a privilege and joy to have mentored her. She will be an exceptionally fine pastor," says Rev. Urlaub.
Now, Jertson’s family and church friends call her Rev. Jertson, the first member of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Vinton to become ordained into the ministry in the 99 years since the church began.
“I started reading lessons during worship when I was in middle school, then moved into other areas of worship leadership,” she recalls. “All through high school, I was a regular assisting minister. I also was president of the youth group, part of the worship committee, and in the choir. By the time I graduated from high school, I was pretty sure I’d end up at seminary.”
First, however, she went to UNI, where she was a an English major and history minor. “Then I took a few years off and worked as an administrative assistant, doing a lot of editing work with my English degree.,” she said. She moved to St. Paul in June 2008 to start a summer Greek class at Luther Seminary.
“I found my tribe of friends within the first few weeks, and those friends really became my on-campus family,” she says.
Before finishing seminary, Jertson joined an internship program in the Kenyon, Minn. Area.
“It was a wonderful internship with eight congregations,” she recalls. “They were so warm and welcoming, and the pastors I worked with were wonderful teachers and mentors, building on the great foundation I had already received from Mark. It was really helpful to see all their different styles and approaches to the various areas of ministry, and we had monthly meetings on topics of my choice, where I just got to absorb their 250+ years of collective pastoral experience and wisdom.”
She then returned to the Luther Seminary campus for her final year, followed by a final round of essays and interviews, and filling out the paperwork for the church assignment process.
On Feb. 22, dubbed “Draft Day,” Jertson was assigned to the ELCA Region 4, which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and most of Texas.
“That was totally unexpected and I was really nervous about being sent somewhere too far from home and too hot,” she says of that assignment.
On March 1, she learned she was being assigned to the Nebraska Synod, which she called the “best-case scenario in Region 4.”
Still, she says, she was worried about the small possibility of ending up way out in sparsely-populated western Nebraska.
However, she received a profile for a two-point parish in northeast Nebraska in a very timely manner, compared to her classmates.
“The Interview process went quite smoothly,” says Jertson. “I came here to interview and preach in April, and it seemed to be a great fit.”
On graduation day, May 20, Trinity Lutheran Church in Hartington and Trinity Lutheran Church in Crofton voted 101-1 to call Jertson as their pastor.
“I moved into a beautiful parsonage on June 23, was ordained at Bethlehem Lutheran on June 30, and officially started on July 2,” she says.
“The Ordination was beautiful — it was a manifestation of many years of love and support from my family and my Bethlehem family. They were joined by newer friends, colleagues, and supporters, including folks from internship and from my new Nebraska parishes. And, though it was obviously about me, it was even more about God and his work through Christ and through the whole church and its pastors,” Jertson says.
Jertson’s first few weeks have been a “whirlwind,” says the new pastor.
“My parsonage is beautiful, but I haven’t had time to unpack and get settled. Just today I took care of a bunch of things like car registration, driver’s license, and voting registration. Last week (my third), we had a funeral at our church, plus one at the Roman Catholic church for the husband of one of my parishioners, plus our biggest fundraiser of the year, our food stand at the county fair.”
Prestigious job: Pie judge
This county fair operation is a huge deal for the churches Jertson serves — they earn nearly $20,000 and they basically run a simple restaurant for four days, all with volunteers from the congregation, including youth.
"It is not the lemonade-stand-type outfit I initially envisioned," says Jertson. "Also, I got to judge pies at the fair this year, which was a really great little bonus as the new kid in town."
Now, says Jertson, she is settling in to her new job, new life and new home.
"I’m still just trying to get my feet under me with the rhythm of this work and its inconsistency and wild variability," she says. "And I’m trying to get to know the people, learn how they’ve been doing ministry here, and listen to what they think our future together should look like. Practically speaking, it’s time to get prepared for all the fall activities that resume very soon, including a Christian education program that includes confirmation-type classes for kids in first through eighth grades. I’m really excited about that."
The church's challenge: Finding those who can, will serve
The following thoughts are from Rev. Urlaub, who has seen his denomination struggle at times to fill pastoral positions:
In Visions and Expectations the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America states:
This church confesses that the office of ordained ministry, “the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments” (Augsburg Confession, Article V), has been instituted by God. Individuals are ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament because they have been called by God. This church believes that the call comes to individuals from God both personally and through the church.
Discerning the call to Word and Sacrament Ministry is a shared process. The individual may have an interest in doing the work of an pastor and may feel drawn to it. The church also encourages persons to consider this vocation. To this end it educates, prepares, and evaluates persons. When the inward call an individual senses meets the outward call of the church, a new pastor is ordained. To be a pastor involves earning a college degree, several levels of approval, four years seminary education that results in a Master of Divinity, and finally being called by a congregation. One does not just declares ones’ self a pastor and set up shop.
We live in a time when ordained ministry is not readily thought of by young persons seeking a vocation. Church membership is declining across the board. There is less loyalty in belonging to a congregation or denomination. Many activities compete for members’ time. And persons are more apt to hold a private spirituality or to feel they can be a Christian without the Church. It is an odd supposition given St. Paul’s insistence that the Church is the body of Christ. It is not an easy time for the church or to be a pastor.
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