TROY — Heidi Holst, the new pastor of First Lutheran Church in Troy, never originally planned to be a pastor.
Holst, who came to the States nearly 14 years ago from Germany, was happily teaching art in Akron when she felt the call.
“It just happened. God decided it would be fun to make this lousy English speaking, German-accented person a pastor and he called me into ministry,” she said, laughing.
Like many other people called to ministry, Holst said she initially felt unworthy.
“But when God calls you, you have to follow. You can run, but he is faster,” she said.
Holst, who was baptized, raised and confirmed in the German Lutheran tradition, began her studies in divinity and graduated in 2014 from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio.
The road to becoming a pastor takes several years, she said. In addition to her studies, she completed an internship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ashland, as well as her Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland. She had her first call in Pennsylvania, before being called to Troy.
“I love Ohio. Ohio is home for me,” she said. Holst was installed as the new pastor on April 30.
Earlier this year, Holst was unanimously approved by the First Lutheran Church’s Call Committee to serve as their new pastor. In fact, everything about the call process and joining the First Lutheran community was easy, she said.
“When you come into a place where God really wants you to be, it just comes together so easily,” Holst explained.
Holst said she is excited to be in Troy and ready to start getting involved in the community.
“There is a joy here and an excitement. This is hope. And a church needs to have hope,” she said.
She added that she has plans for introducing new programs in the fall, and hopes to introduce an after school program that would offer art, music, and homework help.
She has also introduced a children’s message to Sunday services, where children are invited up to spend a little time talking with Pastor Holst.
The topic of those messages depends on that Sunday’s theme or gospel, or if that is too complicated for children, elements of Lutheran history and tradition like sacraments, Holst said.
“You never know what comes out of their mouths,” she laughed. “Like Easter, I said, ‘What is today?’ and they said, ‘The Easter Bunny came!’ I said, ‘Yes, pretty close, but what else?’ And I pulled and pulled, it was fun. And then I turned around to the parents and said, ‘We have some work to do here.’”
She also brings to the church a strong sense of Lutheran tradition.
“This church was very hungry for a Lutheran traditional pastor,” she said. First Lutheran offers two services every Sunday, one traditional and one with more contemporary elements. “The traditional service is now back again to traditional and the contemporary, we try to spice it up a little bit.”
So far, she said, services at First Lutheran have been a joy. Beginning next weekend, the church will switch to its summer schedule, offering one service at 9:30 a.m. which will be traditional in nature, but will feature both traditional and contemporary music.
The church has also welcomed back former members who returned to check out the new pastor.
“That is nice. I like seeing people coming back, it’s heartwarming,” she said.
Holst came to First Lutheran just in time for Holy Week and Easter — one of the busiest times of the year. The church will also be celebrating the rite of Confirmation next Sunday. But she said she’s ready to jump in to leading her new congregation.
She hopes to offer down-to-earth, relatable and accessible sermons, fun, joyful worship, leadership, and a sense of Lutheran tradition, she said.
“I think my job is to get my flock into heaven, right? To preach Christ, to share Christ, to love with Christ’s love, but also to hold people accountable,” Holst said.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.