Reyna Purcell is grateful to the mentors who have helped her envision a life of ministry.
The pastor at her childhood congregation was instrumental in seeing her potential.
“I was not a shy child,” Reyna remembers with a laugh. “I used to stand on a pew during worship and sing absolutely everything [in the service] — even the pastor’s parts!
“Rather than get upset with me, my pastor chose to see my enthusiasm as a gift from God. He even told my parents he thought I’d be a good pastor someday.” His kindness, and his astute insights into her personality, planted a seed in this little girl.
The people of Tanzania helped Reyna more fully grasp the concept of the priesthood of all believers.
After receiving a Fund for Theological Education
grant during her senior year at Luther College
, Reyna used the money to live in Iringa, Tanzania for three months.
Her stated goal for her grant was to study the methods and organization of evangelism within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania
. Her research was exciting, but what really touched and changed Reyna was the people she met.
During the time she spent traveling from village to village, she came to a profound realization. “The church [in Tanzania] is growing because the average person in the church places a very high priority on their church community and on their faith. Faith is not a part of life, it is life....
“It is not the pastor’s job to grow or maintain the church. They are just there to baptize, marry, administer communion and occasionally preach. It is the people who are the church and they know that.”
Now a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church
, Waseca, Minn., Reyna strives to apply those lessons to her work.
She’s delighted to be a visible presence in the community she serves, attending high school football games, school concerts and county fairs. Reyna views herself as a partner in ministry with the members of her congregation.
Reyna says, “It’s amazing to be allowed to be with people during so many different times in their lives. Whether we are celebrating or grieving, it is a real gift to be able to speak to and witness to the presence of God in our midst.”Related Links