Shaped by community

Stories
08/16/2012

Shaped by community 
John and Mary Satter and Sarah Rossing.


Sarah Rossing grew up in Dalton, a small town in the northwest corner of Georgia. "There's only one ELCA congregation in my hometown with the next one about 40 miles away," says Sarah. "It's not like Minnesota."

So for Sarah, being Lutheran wasn't a cultural upbringing.

"I had to really think about what it means to be Lutheran and how to share that with people," she says. "My parents were very encouraging about being active in church, but they also gave me the space to explore faith as much as one can in a community without many Lutherans."

Sarah's home congregation is Christ the King Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Dalton, where her father is the pastor.

Her hometown experience, along with where life has taken her thus far, played a significant part in Sarah's decision to become an ELCA pastor herself.

Before entering seminary Sarah spent a year in Cuernavaca, Mexico, as an ELCA young adult volunteer. When she returned to the United States, she volunteered at Luther Place Memorial Church, an ELCA congregation in Washington, D.C., and at Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area.

Each of these experiences, which focused on some aspect of community, "had its own purpose and character that shaped my leadership and spiritual role" in church, Sarah says. Struggling to remember the exact quote, she says, "You have to listen to your life telling you who you will be."

Fund for Leaders

Sarah is now a first-year student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. And thanks to the generosity of ELCA members, particularly John and Mary Satter, Sarah was awarded the J. Binnie Wolfe Fund for Leaders Endowment Scholarship in 2011. Binnie is Mary's father.

As part of its commitment to supporting seminary students preparing for ministry, the ELCA Fund for Leaders honored 19 seminarians with full-tuition scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year. The vision of Fund for Leaders is to provide support to all qualified students preparing for ordained or rostered lay ministry through one of the eight ELCA seminaries.

"Seminary is very expensive," says Sarah. "Having this scholarship allows me to focus on my studies over worrying about tuition. I'm less worried about having a large loan debt or what kind of job I would have to accept once I've graduated from seminary."

"It's also encouraging to have this church's support," says Sarah, who had the opportunity to meet John and Mary at a special awards banquet. "It’s special knowing that there's people who recognize the needs of seminary students," she says.

Sarah's two roommates at seminary are being financially supported by their home congregations. "That doesn't always get a whole lot of attention, and it's important that this kind of support is also made known," she says.

After graduation Sarah hopes to accept a call somewhere that values community and word and sacrament ministry, but a decision on her next move "is definitely a work in progress," she says.

But one thing she knows she's good at is working to "build community. I've been in so many situations that involve valuing and fostering relationships."

So the African proverb, "We can go faster alone, but farther together," carries a lot of meaning, says Sarah. That proverb holds true for this church, which has a major unifying role to play in all of its communities, both big and small, she says.

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