Heather MacIver Arnold has been a member of First Lutheran Church in Brainerd since she was in second grade. In a ceremony this weekend at the church, Arnold will become an ordained Lutheran minister.
"It's not every day that you have a daughter of the congregation become ordained," said First Lutheran senior pastor Andrew Smith. "It's a wonderful witness to our faith to have an ordination in our midst, and even to have it at Christmas time is a great thing to show the power of Christ in our lives."
Bishop Rick Foss will come for the ordination from Fargo, N.D., which is where Arnold will take on her first responsibilities as a decreed pastor. "I'm technically not a pastor until I'm ordained," Arnold said, "which happens on Saturday."
"He (Bishop Foss) has to be here as her bishop," Smith said. "It's one of the requirements of his office that he be here for the ordination. So it's a big thing."
'It's not every day that you have a daughter of the congregation become ordained.' -- Andrew Smith First Lutheran senior pastor
After moving to Fargo with her husband, Chad, in late August, Arnold began visiting churches of her denomination in need of a pastor. It's been a process, she said.
"In the Lutheran church, we get kind of 'drafted' in our first assignment," Arnold said. "I was drafted to eastern North Dakota. The bishop said there were a number of openings in Fargo. So, why don't you go there and meet with people from different churches ... seeing where it went, and where I fit best. ... It's been a lot of waiting."
Before moving to Fargo, Arnold and her husband lived in St. Paul, where Arnold graduated from Luther Seminary last May. "I spent four years there," Arnold said. "I did two years of academic work. Then I went to Boise, Idaho, for a year as an intern pastor. And then I went back to Luther for another academic year."
Chad is enrolled at North Dakota State University in Fargo, and Heather has been working at a Fargo department store while establishing her pastorates. As it turns out, she will have two of them. On Jan. 6, Arnold will start assignments as pastor for both Golden Ridge Lutheran Church in Fargo and United Congregational Lutheran in Gardner, a small community 20 miles north of Fargo.
"The Fargo church is about 100 members and the Gardner church is about 25 or 30 members," Arnold said. "It's exciting to have a call and to get going. I think they're both good congregations and it'll be a good start."
When asked how she felt about her most important goals being realized, Arnold said, "Mostly I'm excited. That's what the general feeling is right now. It's been a long wait."
Speaking about her ordination Saturday, Arnold said, "I'm so thankful to be part of First Lutheran. They're going way out of their way to make it special. The choir will be singing, and Pastor Smith has gone way out of his way to plan it.
"I think it'll be fun," she said. "I'll get to see family and friends and all these people who have supported me for so long. So it'll be good.
"The First Lutheran choir is singing. There is a liturgy for the ordination. I get a stole from the bishop, which is red, green and blue. There is a laying on of hands by the bishop and all the pastors in attendance. Pastor Smith will be presiding. And a friend of mine from seminary who's a pastor in Bemidji, Genelle Genkinger, is preaching. Mark Anderson, the former senior pastor of First Lutheran, who's now is Crosslake, will be there, and some other retired pastors. There's a procession at the beginning that my brother and sister will be in."
Arnold's parents are Lyle and Becky MacIver of Brainerd. Her brother, Rob, and her sister-in-law live in Minneapolis, and her sister, Hilary, is a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus.
Arnold grew up in Brainerd, and since second grade has been part of the First Lutheran Church congregation, along with her family. "It's been the place where people would tell me their stories, and I would tell them my stories," Arnold said. "I have many connections (at First Lutheran). It's a great place to be. My family has been there for quite awhile.
"I've always enjoyed ritual and tradition and how people create meaning," Arnold said about her calling into the Lutheran ministry. "I think everyone has a higher being in their life; and how do they create meaning from that?"
World religions also interest MacIver. "Pastor Mark Anderson (formerly of First Lutheran) started, at one time, sort of teasing me about it, encouraging me to go into ministry. They put it in my brain in junior high, so yeah, it's been there for a while," Arnold said.
Her class at Luther Seminary had a ratio of about 60 percent women to 40 percent men. "I don't know how many classes are like that, but in my class women happened to be in the majority. I didn't think about the gender issue that much going in," Arnold said. "I grew up thinking I could do anything I wanted to do, and so the gender part of it has never been an issue for me. ... But when you see a 60/40 ratio, you see that the church is changing in terms of the gender issue."
A reception in the church basement will follow Arnold's ordination ceremony, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
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