More than 25 years of ministry
Rachel Thorson Mithelman is a vibrant leader whose passion is helping congregations extend a welcome to the communities beyond their doors. Following 10 years in rural and small town ministry, she spent over 20 years in two downtown congregations, Our Savior’s in LaCrosse, Wis., and St. John’s in Des Moines, Iowa. In these congregations extending hospitality has resulted in congregational renewal. One parishioner wrote, “She helped us become aware of tremendous needs in the LaCrosse community and especially in our neighborhood. She would preach on these pressing issues from the pulpit, teach the gospel of hospitality and justice in Bible study and tell stories about the people she was meeting and ministering to in church council, board and congregational meetings. She stirred our hearts and led us to act.”
This gift for helping downtown congregations that were once much larger and more prosperous continue in vibrant and meaningful ministry includes helping them review and give thanks for their heritage while exploring and rejoicing in the unique gifts given for the present moment. In partnership with Mithelman, the congregations in LaCrosse and Des Moines have both embraced new identities as centers for mission, grateful to serve Jesus as he appears to them in the unique downtown community: in the homeless and hungry, the wealthy, the traveler and the artist, as well as those often rejected by others because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With Mithelman’s help, these downtown congregations have established thriving community relationships through feeding the hungry, sheltering survivors of domestic violence, providing clothing for women in poverty, and reaching out to children in under-served neighborhoods through after school instruction in the arts.
Mithelman helped her congregations see the needs of neighbors around the globe as well as those next door. She was one of the early supporters of the Lutheran World Relief Coffee Project, and has assisted St. John’s in establishing a companion parish relationship with a congregation in the Pare Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. She has led several journeys by St. John’s members to Tanzania to foster relationships, worship together and participate in projects benefitting women and children.
Mithelman is a faithful leader for her community. A congregant leaves words of praise: “Pastor Rachel provided the moral and spiritual guidance that helped us see the face of Jesus in all those who came to our door, a reminder that we were not burdened but privileged to serve others.”