A special ritual occurs when a leader in the Lutheran church completes their studies to become an ordained clergy. It’s called an ordination — literally being set apart or made holy.
Faith Lutheran Church is thrilled to affirm the calling to ministry of one of our members. Amy Mihelich Smith, who grew up in Forest Lake, will be ordained as a Lutheran pastor in the ELCA in October.
Mihelich Smith, called to ministry at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, will be a teaching pastor at one of the largest ELCA churches in the state.
“I will teach the children, youth, and families through confirmation and Sunday school,” said Mihelich Smith. “I’ll also spend time in worship leadership and pastoral care.”
Mihelich Smith attributes her time in Forest Lake to helping plant the seeds for ministry.
“In 3rd grade, Faith did a drawing for a free week of Bible camp,” she said. “If you memorized Bible verses, you got more chances to win. I won and got to go to Luther Crest.”
Mihelich Smith would go on to work at Luther Crest Bible Camp in the summers while she attended St. Olaf College.
“I got to take this developing faith of mine to a new place,” she said. “[Church] wasn’t a requirement anymore, and quite frankly, I understood why it was important to learn about grace and I rebuilt my faith with a more expansive and inclusive idea of God and God’s radical love.”
After college, Mihelich Smith had the opportunity to live in Rwanda for a year with an ELCA program called Young Adults in Global Mission. As a teacher, one of her jobs was to teach a Bible study for theology students as they built up their vocabulary. Jokingly, they called her pastor. This experience, upon reflection, helped shape her external call.
But when she returned to Minnesota in 2017, she embarked on the journalism career that she’d studied for at St. Olaf.
“I was at the Sun ThisWeek in Apple Valley,” she said. “The thing I like as a journalist is listening to people and telling their stories to bring to light the truth. In 2017, people were not always open to the truth. I realized I wanted to do this in a more relational way. I was walking with people through their journeys and their debates.”
She decided to enroll in a class at Luther Seminary in St. Paul called Dismantling Racism. She was hooked. In May 2021, she graduated with a Master of Divinity with a concentration in justice and reconciliation.
While studying to become a pastor, Mihelich Smith spent a year at St. Andrew’s as an intern pastor — learning how to do the work under the guidance of Executive Pastor Sarah Breckenridge.
“She’s incredibly well-rounded, she brings her journalism, poetry, and global missions experience to this calling,” said Breckenridge. “Amy is an engaging teacher whose preaching is informed by her background. She’s such a gift to the community.”
Mihelich Smith will immediately apply her journalism skills to helping people understand their calling in the world and their call to love their neighbor.
“Everyone has problems and struggles,” said Mihelich Smith. “[As a pastor], I help give people a place to grieve together, grow together, and lean on each other.”
This community, Forest Lake, helped inform her pastoral identity through diverse political and social points of view.
“One of the gifts of growing up at Faith Lutheran is you equipped me to speak to this culture in ways that people can hear,” she said.
Her voice will be a gift for St. Andrew’s in the years to come.
She’s been set apart to respond to God’s call. There is holy work ahead of her.
Pastor John Klawiter is the senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Forest Lake. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.