Story Magazine - Fall, 2009

2010 Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Honorees

by John Klawiter, M.Div. Junior, and Luther Seminary staff

The Faithfulness in Ministry Cross awards are intended to lift up and honor the ministry of the individual recipients but also of all graduates of Luther and antecedent seminaries. The Council awards three Faithfulness in Ministry crosses each year to individuals who graduated:

  • Within 10 years
  • Within the past 25 years (No 2010 recipient)
  • More than 25 years ago

More than 25 years
Nancy Winder, 1976
Holden Village, Chelan, Wash.

The Rev. Nancy Winder was a pioneer of women pastors in the Lutheran church and among the first in the Pacific Northwest. "Experiencing a very long wait for her first call in a church that was unfamiliar
with and sometimes prejudiced toward women clergy, Nancy was sustained by her solid Lutheran theology," says the Rev. Joan Beck. "She believes that the office of ministry is given by God, in the church, to all those who preach the Word and administer the Sacraments and that our human diversity does not diminish but rather enriches the incarnational nature of our work and witness."

Winder served Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle for nearly 29 years and is the current pastor at Holden Village. Bishop Chris Boerger considers her "a colleague in the finest sense of the word. She is available to her ministry partners in a variety of ways, her passion for good liturgy and preaching
has established her as a mentor to others, and her commitment to raising up leaders means there has been a member of Faith Lutheran studying for ordained service every year of her ministry there."

Faith Lutheran Church experienced growth on many levels under Winder's leadership. Beck says Winder measures her success according to the community that has developed at Faith. Says Karla Peterson, parish nurse and visitor, "It is not Pastor Winder's faithfulness to her ministry that should be celebrated but rather her faithfulness to the specific gifts God has given her, which she has used to lift up the ministry that she leads all of us into."

More than 25 years
Robert Hurlbut, 1971

Robert Hurlbut has worn the hat of Young Life wrangler, youth pastor, colleague, support-group leader, synod staff member, consultant, counselor and more. He led a support group for wives of military personnel, served as assistant to the bishop, helped publish the Lutheran Book of Worship and had a hand in starting Stephen Ministry. But one thread connects the pieces of his ministry: Robert Hurlbut empowers others to pursue their calls in the world.

"I have no idea how many pastors and lay people Bob counseled, enabled them to turn their lives around, and released them into a new future to respond to their calling, but I bet the numbers would amaze all of us," says John Lee, who served with Hurlbut in Texas.

Perhaps the role most fitting to Hurlbut is counselor, an innovative approach to ministry he deemed necessary.

He helped students at Luther "work through issues they needed to address in order to become healthy pastors," said the Rev. Nancy Maeker, former Luther Seminary dean of students. One of those students, the Rev. Stephen Fiksdal, '95, continued his relationship with Hurlbut for a decade.

"Ministry is hard," he says. "Bob gave me the tools I needed to continue when I hit a rough spot."

Hurlbut recently retired from full-time counseling due to health problems, but his legacy is still working in the world today.

His nominator, the Rev. Melinda Melhus, says, "In every situation and circumstance he was the consummate pastor, humble and gentle yet an incredible presence—his very essence empowered by the Spirit."

Within the last 10 years
Joann Conroy, 2000
Woyatan Lutheran Church, Rapid City, S.D.

Joann Conroy fulfilled a dream to start the first Native American Lutheran Church in South Dakota. As an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, she was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She currently serves as the pastor of Woyatan Lutheran Church in Rapid City, S.D. She was originally called to Atonement Lutheran Church in Rapid City, but when the church decided to relocate, Conroy worked with the South Dakota Synod to create Woyatan from the building Atonement left.

"Despite cultural differences, she has remained faithful to her ministry calling by serving as a mission developer of a new ethnic congregation," says Pastor Barbara Wangsness Lizarazo, associate pastor of First Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls.

Says the Rev. Keith Zeh, mission director of ELCA Region 3, "Joann has demonstrated a strong faith in Christ in the most challenging context of living in two distinct, overlapping realities. ... Despite the organized, institutionalized expression of the church, she has a love and vision for what the church can do to bring healing and hope as an instrument of God's mission and grace."