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Church was without a pastor for nearly three years as it took time to reassess services and national church affiliation

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Pastor Ingrid Aderhold stands in Bethany Lutheran Church in Warren, the day after her first service as the church's new pastor. Aderhold will be officially installed on Oct. 27, Reformation Sunday, which celebrates Martin Luther and the start of the Lutheran Church.

After nearly three years without a pastor, Bethany Lutheran Church has welcomed the church's first female pastor.

Last Sunday, Oct. 13, Pastor Ingrid Aderhold began preaching at the Warren church.

Since the last pastor retired in November 2016, the church has had only temporary pastors lead services.

"There's a big difference between having someone come and lead your service on Sunday and having someone come and live with you in your community and be there for those middle-of-the-night phone calls," Aderhold said.

"It's just a matter of getting up and doing what you do as a pastor: bringing the word of God to the people. That's the basic thing," she said. "Beyond that, being humble enough to know you're going to trip either on your feet or on your words and just laugh at yourself and keep going,

Nancy Conners, the church council president, said the congregation took time after the last pastor left to reassess. The national Lutheran church system that Bethany Lutheran was affiliated with no longer felt like the right fit, so members of the church looked into other options. They eventually joined the North American Lutheran Church, paving the way for a new pastor.

In the time without a stable pastor, attendance has gone down.

"Not having a pastor, we haven't been out there getting people to join," Conners said.

Aderhold previously served at a church in Pierce, Idaho, an isolated mountain town of less than 500 residents.

"Warren is almost very uptown compared to Pierce," Aderhold said.

Aderhold and her husband had been in Pierce for nine years when her husband's health required the couple to leave the remote area in favor of more access to medical services. As Aderhold began looking for the next opportunity, three people from different parts of the country contacted her to say they heard of a little church in Warren, Oregon that might be perfect.

"We call that a God-wink," Aderhold said.

Arriving in Warren "felt like coming home," she said, explaining that the land reminded her of her childhood on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin.

"Even the parsonage next door that I'm living in is very similar to the farmhouse I grew up in, so it's God saying, 'Welcome home.'"

Despite being raised Lutheran, Aderhold became a pastor later in life.

"When I went through confirmation ... I just knew I wanted to be a pastor, but I didn't think I could because I'd never met a lady pastor," Aderhold said.

Over the years, the idea of a woman being a pastor felt less farfetched.

"About 25 years ago I started realizing that, yes, there are more female clergy, but then the problem was how can I do that because (of the time and expense of) raising kids, putting them through college," she said.

After high school, Aderhold headed to college, got married, and had two children. Her husband had a career in the Air Force.

"We did 20 years of me following him around the world," Aderhold said.

They ended up in Spokane, Washington, where the couple's two children still live.

Becoming a pastor typically involves years of schooling and massive student loans. Doing that later in life seemed even less accessible, until Aderhold heard about virtual seminaries.

After finishing up her undergraduate degree at Gonzaga University, Aderhold participated in online courses and eventually found a pastor position in Spokane, and then in Pierce.

Now, Aderhold is getting to know her new home in Warren.

"Partly the excitement is to see what God has in store for me, because he usually doesn't reveal that ahead of time. He gets you in place and says, 'Trust me on this one,' and

then you go for the ride together."


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