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The Rev. Ann Marshall's final service as community pastor at Zoar Lutheran Church, 314 E. Indiana Ave., Perrysburg will be Sunday. She has accepted a call from 60 miles away to be the senior pastor at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norwalk, and will start work there August 1.
“Leaving Zoar is bittersweet,” said Pastor Marshall, who has been at Zoar for seven years. “I have people here that I've come to love and, as in any ministry that you leave, there's an aspect of grief and loss which I haven't really fully dealt with.”
On Sunday when she says goodbye, “that's going to come home.”
Before joining Zoar, Pastor Marshall served a parish with two congregations, in Albion and Kendallville in northeast Indiana, for 10 years, and leaving there was so hard, she said that she told her husband, “'I'm never going to do this again. We're going to stay at Zoar forever.' But you know the old Yiddish proverb, 'Man plans, God laughs.'”
So it's time to move again. She said that St. Peter has about 1,000 members, while Zoar has about 2,500. She'll take her large-church experience to a smaller, but significantly sized, congregation.
“This is where God is inviting me to go,” she said. “I go in with an open mind. The only apprehensions I have are really more personal, like finding a new doctor that I like and finding a new vet for the dogs, and then how well my husband will adjust; will he be able to find a job that suits his needs? And just the whole moving, transition thing, it's a bother. But I really don't have any significant apprehensions about the congregation itself.”
And she won't enter with big plans. “I view going into St. Peter as I did coming here, and my first call—that I don't go with a pre-set agenda. I think it's important to get to know the congregation and their strength, and I have some sense of that based on our conversations over these months, but to live in the culture is a different thing than to hear it talked about. So I told the leadership that I was going to come in and I wasn't going to plan to make any large changes right off the bat, because for most people having me there is going to be a big enough change to start with.”
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Pastor Marshall, 55, came to Zoar because community ministry “is a passion for me,” she said. “I was 38 when I was ordained, and prior to that I was a social worker and I worked with homeless and poor people in Columbus.That's always been my energy, serving particularly those who are poor, but folks in need in general. I believe that the truest expression of the church is to serve people in need, especially those who are resource poor.”
At Zoar, “My focus as the community pastor was on outreach and social justice ministries, and evangelism and mission and those sorts of things,” Pastor Marshall said. “But I also love being a parish pastor, and caring for the parishioners and preaching and teaching are also things that I enjoy doing.”
Pastor Marshall will be involved in social action in Norwalk while also resuming the duties of a parish minister that she did not have at Zoar with the Rev. Tim Philabaum as senior pastor. At St. Peter, she said, “They also have a strong outreach and community focus. They have a preschool program that's been there for a long, long time. … People come there for help.” The church is known for its generosity, she said, “and being willing to help their neighbors. That's all very appealing to me.”
Zoar will search for a new community minister, she said. She developed the position at Zoar. “I did some of it really well and some, according to the job description, I didn't do as well.” She said the ministry “may look a little different with another person,” but Zoar will continue its outreach.
Her ministry at St. Peter might look different to the members there. Pastor Marshall will be the first female senior pastor at St. Peter, but she was also the first woman minister on staff at Zoar and at her two churches in Indiana. “What I've discovered is that the gender doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I try to be a good pastor,” she said. “If I'm a good pastor, people who had some apprehension about having a woman as a pastor usually get over it, they get past it, so I don't focus on gender issues.”
To conclude her time at Zoar, Pastor Marshall will preach at 6 p.m. today, then at 7:15, 8:30, and 11 a.m. Sunday. Her first worship service as pastor at St. Peter will be Aug. 2 at 5:30 p.m., followed by two services Aug. 3 at 8 and 10:30 a.m. A formal service of installation, with Bishop Marcus Lohrmann presiding, will be Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.