Story Magazine

Second Quarter, 2006

Planting the Seed, Growing Where God Puts You: Alum-in-Residence Katy McCallum Sachse, ’99, Shares Thoughts on Ministry

by Allison Schmitt, M.A. Student

Alum-in-residence Katy McCallum Sachse spoke to students in Terry Fretheim's Pentateuch class.

When she tells a young parishioner, "you'd make a good pastor" and the response is an "Oh, Pastor Katy" and a roll of the eyes, Rev. Katy McCallum Sachse isn't fazed. The pastor who spoke similar words to her as a 15-year-old supervised her internship and preached at her 1999 ordination. So it's no wonder McCallum Sachse says "I'm a big believer in telling people you see something in them."

McCallum Sachse, a 1999 Luther Seminary Master of Divinity graduate, is the 2006 Alum in Residence. Sponsored by the Luther Seminary Alumni/ae Council, the program invites alums to share insight and expertise with students and discuss the kinds of seminary experiences that are most helpful to them in their work. During her campus stay March 6-10, she preached at chapel, visited classes and answered student questions. A "Women in Ministry" lunch forum offered female students the opportunity to talk in depth with McCallum Sachse, now lead pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Although McCallum Sachse is the first female pastor for her 100-year-old congregation, it "hasn't at all been a problem," she said. "More than gender, I think age has been more an issue for
me." But tragic circumstances--the senior pastor's battle with cancer--have provided a bonding experience with the members of the congregation, she said, so the 33-year-old's age is no longer a concern.

Nor was it an issue as she stood before a Luther class on the Prophets and fielded students' questions on such topics as discrimination and advocacy. Asked how to handle social justice issues from the pulpit, McCallum Sachse said it's important to distinguish between politics and justice and letting Scripture "lead the way."

What part of her Luther education has been most helpful in her work? Students are likely to cringe at her answer: the Bible Proficiency Exam. Having memorized Bible texts and references for the test has been "extremely helpful," she said. In addition to favorite Bible, theology and worship classes, she appreciates the teaching models provided by faculty as well as "the way I learned to think," she said. "I can't think of a seminary class that was a waste of time."

Leaving her native Pacific Northwest for seminary was likewise beneficial. Religious participation in her home region is so low as to cause many to consider it a mission field. Going to a place where Lutherans are virtually a dime a dozen and church attendance common was a "crosscultural experience," McCallum Sachse said. "It's just a very different culture here."

While the Northwest's general distrust of institutions can hinder the church, it's "not necessarily a bad thing," she said. There's less tendency to resist change and say, "we've always done it this way," she said.

Coeur d'Alene, a rural town of 35,000, was once the headquarters of the paramilitary separatist group Aryan Nations, causing residents to ask themselves, "Are we going to let that voice be the public voice of Coeur d'Alene?" McCallum Sachse said. Similarly, they see that fundamentalists often claim to speak for Christianity. "There are a lot of people looking for another way," she said.

Although she said it was "bizarre" to be on campus without her classmates, participating in the program is "very re-energizing." Because there are not a lot of Lutherans in Idaho, she said, her seminary connections are especially valuable. "You have these people you don't have to explain your life to," she said. "Being here reminds me how much I treasure my seminary education."

She treasures the work that education prepared her for, as well. The mundane tasks of operating a church, like attending meetings, opening the mail and unstopping plugged toilets takes
more time than you'd wish, she said. But leading worship, preaching and engaging in the interaction of teaching, whether it's confirmation or adult education class, make it all worthwhile.

The seed her childhood pastor planted--and many others tended--finally sprouted. "It was the right decision," she said. "I do really feel fulfilled by what I'm doing."