If one only knows about the ELCA from news media, the impression is probably that dissent over CWA09 bubbles up here, there, and everywhere. While that is true in some congregations, the thriving ministries in most do not receive press attention. But, a positive news article from my old stomping grounds of St Cloud, Minnesota, caught my attention this morning, and I want to offer a brief shout out to Atonement Lutheran Church, a congregation of around 1,650 members. I know Atonement well with many friends there, including a couple of pastors from the past, and I have fond memories of serving on numerous Cursillo teams in their facilities.
The article in the St Cloud Times reports that Atonement has called Pastor Yolanda Lehman, an African American woman and former pastor of the now defunct Resurrection African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of St Cloud. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Pastor Lehman teaches a diversity course at St Cloud State University, and she has been a popular preacher filling pulpits around the country since 2006 (when the Methodist-Episcopal congregation closed).
Lehman believes that she will be the first black woman to be installed as a pastor in the Southwest Minnesota Synod.
“I am particularly drawn to this congregation because of their commitment to be the hands of Jesus in the world, something I’ve given my whole life to,” she said. “Here, social justice ministries and the care for the poor, oppressed and marginalized for people of color are huge.”
“I am a gregarious person, I would say. I believe in ‘full body worship,’ so you will see me clapping my hands and, you know, moving my feet,” Lehman said about herself as a pastor.
Pastor Lehman will be installed as associate pastor during all weekend services on the 20th & 21st of March. As a friend of Atonement, I extend my best wishes to Pastor Lehman; I am sure her ministry will be a blessing to the entire faith community of St Cloud.