Clergy couple: Pair work great together at Faith Lutheran
JANESVILLE Batman and Robin.
Astaire and Rogers.
Ruth and Boaz.
Good things tend to come in pairs.
When two vacancies opened at Janesville’s Faith Lutheran Church, the congregation saw an opportunity to hire its own dynamic duo.
Or, in church-speak, “to call a clergy couple.”
The day after Labor Day, the Revs. Anne and David Andert began their duties at Faith Lutheran Church. She is the senior pastor; he is the associate pastor.
How, exactly, does this partnership work?
Spend about 10 minutes with them, and you’ll see the kind of give and take that goes on between couples who respect each other as equals and love each other deeply.
They’re so comfortable in their roles they don’t see them as unique.
“For a couple to work together isn’t as unusual as you think,” David said. “Around here, there’s a long history of family farms. There’s mom and pop stores where husband and wife work together.”
But being a pastor is not exactly like being a shop owner.
Along with being on call 24/7, their job descriptions include everything from marriage counseling to financial management, spiritual direction to spiritual inspiration and settling arguments about the nature of coffee hour and the nature of grace.
“We have different gifts, and we complement each other well,” Anne said.
David described Anne as a “dreamer, a visionary.”
“She likes to see the big picture,” David said. “She’s a dreamer in the way the Bible says, ‘Dream dreams and see visions.’ She is good at planning in growth areas, seeing new opportunities.”
Anne said David has the ability to see beyond the numbers.
“David has fun with statistics and numbers,” Anne said. “That’s really important when you’re looking at budgets and trying to understand the long-term perspective instead of being overwhelmed by the immediate numbers.”
David said he also enjoys the “routine parts of the ministry, such as visitation and classes.”
“We both enjoy—and we both share responsibilities equally—for running the Sunday morning services,” David said.
And yes, their sermons are always different.
‘Love and respect’
“One of the fun things about being married to another pastor is that we have a theological reflection partner, so we can talk to each other throughout the week,” Anne said. “It’s kind of an on-going conversation.”
After a brief pause, she added, “That doesn’t mean we always agree with one another. But that’s the fun part because we know that we are free to disagree with each other because there is an underlying foundation of love and respect.”
That love and respect goes back a long way.
Early in their marriage, when Anne still was working as a critical care nurse, she accompanied David to a national church council. On the agenda was a “social statement on death and dying.”
Could death be “a friend and a relief” or was death always the enemy?
As a nurse, Anne had seen times when death could be a friend. David saw things from a biblical and theological perspective, and thought death was better described as an enemy.
“He was on one side of the issue, and I was on the other side of the issue,” Anne recalled. “As we were walking back to the hotel one evening, we were continuing the conversation about the debate on the floor, not realizing that the whole Minnesota delegation was behind us.”
They got on the elevator at the hotel, turned quietly to face the numbers—as elevator etiquette dictates—when a voice behind them said, “Oh, don’t stop talking now, keep going.”
That year, the council’s statement supported David’s views. A few years later, the council changed the statement to support Anne’s views.
“So we were both right,” David said with a laugh.
A second career
After leaving critical care nursing, Anne worked as a parish nurse at a church where David was the pastor.
At one point, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in pastoral care and counseling. But through her studies and talks with her teachers, she realized she was more called to the ministry of word and sacrament.
She went home and said, “David, I’m going to start seminary in the fall.”
“If I could, I would have done that differently; I would have had a conversation about it with him,” Anne said. “Thankfully, David understands call.”
The couple had three young children at the time, and it was an adjustment. She commuted several times a week to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., about 90 minutes away.
“He was very supportive,” Anne said. “There were a number of second-career students, and there were only two of us that graduated with our marriages intact.”
Their kids were supportive, too.
After Anne was ordained, she was a supply preacher at a variety of churches.
“The girls were really wonderful,” David said. “Totally unbeknownst to us, the day before she was to preach, they decided who was going to church with Mom and who was going with Dad—because they didn’t want her to go on her own.”
Anne smiled at the memory.
“When the girls were little, it was the girls and I in the pew and Daddy was up front,” Anne said. “I would always lean over and together we would say a prayer for Daddy. They figured that mommy needed somebody to pray for her, too.”
Faith Lutheran Church has new face on the outside, too
New building, new pastors.
The congregation at Faith Lutheran Church, 2116 Mineral Point Road, Janesville, is going through a lot of changes in a hurry.
In September, its new pastors, David and Anne Andert, started work.
And for the past several months, the church has been undergoing a remodeling and renewing project.
The total cost of the project is $1.9 million.
“The church’s needs have changed,” explained Lanny Knickerbocker, president of the church council.
Electrical, heating and other operating systems needed an update. The bathrooms are bigger and handicapped accessible, and an elevator was installed to accommodate the needs of an aging congregation, Knickerbocker said.
Originally, the congregation planned a $3 million renovation that included a new sanctuary, but the economy and other factors made members reconsider.
“This is really like phase one of the plan,” Knickerbocker said.
The biggest change to the church is on the outside, where a pitched roof is being added to the building.
“It now looks like a church instead of a warehouse,” Knickerbocker said.
The church council is excited about the changes.
“We’ve called new pastors, and we’re getting the building ready for the next 50 years,” Knickerbocker said. “This is a real hopeful time.”
The church celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.