From a Pastor's Desk

A series of opinion articles from rostered ministers and lay leaders from our Synod.


In Celebration of 50-40-10 Women's Ordination Anniversaries

Oct 09, 2020

By The Rev. Harriet JR Wieber, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Flatbush

I heard God calling me to service very early in my life. Since ordination was not an option for women at that time, I assumed this service would take the form of volunteering for the Peace Corps (which was very public and popular at the time) and when I returned, I would either seek missionary opportunities or become a social worker.
I was always very active and present in the church and would speak very candidly about serving God in my life. In hindsight, I realize that others could also see my dedication, desire and joy about this.
I was in 7th grade in Junior High School when my father called me to his side. He read a little news article which he found in the middle of his Daily News newspaper (which he read religiously every morning with his morning coffee).
"I found this for you and I thought you would be interested," he said to me. It was a little newsprint article about the ordination of the Rev. Elizabeth Platz into the ministry of Word and Sacrament on November 22, 1970. I read that article over and over again. First, I kept the article in my pocket. Then I kept the article in the top drawer of my bedroom bureau. I looked at it so often that the paper on which it was typed became dog-eared and the print itself began to be smudged.
To read it was a watershed moment. Now it was clear exactly what I was supposed to do to serve God in my life. The Rev. Elizabeth Platz opened the door to ordination for me and so many others.
Not that I, much like Moses and everyone else who has ever been called by God, tried to weasel out of the call. I was an awkward, tongue-tied teenager with very low self-esteem. Nothing made me more comfortable than to blend into the walls of whatever room I was in.
I could not understand why God would call me. Why not my younger brother who had great charisma and was the life of every party. And besides, he was male. It would be so much easier for him.
But God's call is like a persistent knocking on a wooden door. And when I finally surrendered my will to that call, not only did the knocking stop, but I experienced the peace of God that passes all understanding.
It was not easy. I had no role models to imitate. I was sure that at one or another point along the way, the door would be shut, and I would go no further. Each time I ran into an obstacle or roadblock, there were wonderful people to help me through, or help me walk around, or help me climb over or tunnel under.
I was ordained on Sunday, June 26, 1983. I am the first woman to be ordained in the East Coast Synod of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.
I love ordained the ordained ministry of word and sacrament. I love parish ministry even with its ebbs and flows, its often tedious work, its two steps forward and one step back nature of serving congregations.
There is nothing I would rather do. This is what I wanted to do. This is all I ever wanted to do and I am grateful to God that I have been able to do this.
Fast-forward 36 years of ministry, I finally decide to take my turn at being a voting member for church-wide assembly. Our synod voting members graciously elected me a voting member and I prepared to go to the church-wide assemble that would celebration 50-40-10 years of ordination.
At the celebratory banquet held during the assembly, I got to see and hear the Rev. Elizabeth Platz in person. She had been my heroine all these years and I was star-struck. I became that awkward, tongue-tied young teenager again. One of our other synod voting member, Marrett Afsten, gently nudged me forward to where the Rev. Elizabeth Platz was sitting. Finally I was face to face with the woman who changed my life.
I told her that she was my heroine. I told her the story of the little newspaper article and I thanked her for opening that door. With Marrett's urging, I asked her if she would take a picture with me and she graciously agreed.
I have that picture in my cell phone and I take it with me wherever I go. I am so grateful to God.