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In 2020, the ELCA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women. To kick off the celebration, the Rev. Barb Lundstad-Vogt, the longest serving woman in our synod, was asked to speak at the 2019 Saint Paul Area Synod Assembly to share some reflections of her time as a pastor:
I am honored to have been asked to speak as we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women in the ordained ministry. I want to thank Bishop Lull and the planning committee for asking me. I am not the most qualified, but I am among the oldest…and at my age, that itself is something to celebrate.
It was August 1978 when I ascended into my first pulpit. It wasn’t a beautiful tall pulpit like the one we had in my last call at Chisago Lake Lutheran in Center City. It was up on the roof of a projectionist booth at a drive-in theater in Yankton, S.D.
That first Sunday, sermon in hand, I deigned to follow the Pastor, Don Salberg, to the top of an old wooden ladder. Don climbed with ease because of years of practice. Me…not so much.
I’ve never had much love for ladders…physically or metaphorically or theologically. But up I went. The problem was that the old ladder ended just short of the roof…and there was nothing to hold on to for that final step. Fortunately, having been warned in a dream, I had worn a pants suit that day. As I leaned over, my ample derriere in the air and hands on the tar, I crept up into the open-air chancel of our drive-in worship.
For three summers Don and I led worship in this unusual setting (with a much longer ladder, starting that next week). We preached to the cars when the weather was tolerable, and when it was bad, we preached to the projectors inside. We had to have faith that somehow God’s word penetrated an assortment of barriers. And each week, when the last prerecorded hymn was over, Pastor Don would say (microphone off): “Drivers, start your engines!” All at once, engines revved and cars funneled toward the exit.
Parish ministry…it’s been a marvelous ride. For sure, there have been some difficult situations and some hurtful experiences. In the early years, I was often asked to defend my decision to go to seminary and ordained ministry (as if it were all mine to make!). Over the years, Craig and I were frequently introduced as “Pastor Craig and his wife, Barb.”
There were a few tears along the way, and a lot of laughs. But I soon learned it was best to just do it…just do ministry…to put on my big girl panties, and my pant suit, and climb the ladder….
It was best to just do the ministry to which I was called
…to do love…to do grace…to do the word…
By God’s grace, in every attempt, I’ve not been alone.
There are so many along the way who have made it possible for women in ministry to just do it…so many who opened doors and salted Christians. For me it was people like Paul Sonnack, Luther Seminary professor, who advocated for women in seminary, and drew women advisees like bees to clover.
Like Pastor Adrianne Heskin, seminary class mate, friend, mentor, and one of the most grace filled people I’ve known…who lived life fully, but died far too young.
Like South Dakota Bishop E.O. Gilberston, who was convinced already in 1978 that congregations should not only tolerate women candidates, but that congregations needed women pastors.
Like my ever-enlightening daughters Kari and Amy, who, along with their spouses, have donned pink hats and placards, and fervently advocated for women in these new and challenging times.
Like my beloved Craig…friend, pastor, advocate, and the father of my children.
And finally, it’s people like you…women and men who do ministry every day in all the bless-ed vocations God has provided.
May God be with you as you do love, grace, and the word.
The church needs you. Your neighbor needs you. And our 3-month-old grandson, Benjamin Luther, is going to need you too.
The Rev. Barb Lundstad-Vogt was ordained in 1978 and served congregations in Yankton, SD; Mitchell, SD; and Pipestone, MN prior to joining our synod. She served at Chisago Lake Lutheran in Center City from 2002 until her retirement in 2017.