Applause for the newly ordained
December 30, 2022
Laura Mills Anderson was ordained Dec. 17, surrounded by friends, family and an extended church community who came together at Cloquet's Zion Lutheran Church to celebrate with joyful ceremony the next step in her journey.
Zion was the church home to her and her parents Mike and Kathy Mills, and siblings Rachel and Dayle, while she was growing up, and later when she was the youth director there for several years before going to seminary.
Asked when she knew she wanted to be something in the church, the 2008 Esko graduate said it seemed almost inevitable as she grew up learning about Jesus and practiced paying attention to how God was at work in her life.
"It was here that I fell in love with liturgy, learned to lead worship, went through confirmation and leaned into my call to ministry," she wrote in a personal thank-you at the back of the ordination service bulletin. "There is no other place that we could gather to celebrate my ordination."
The majority of those who spoke during the service - ministers and deacons as well as lay people - were women, and the service was led by Bishop Amy Odgren of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.
The woman-centric service wasn't intentional, said Mills Anderson, who called it "a happy accident."
"But it is also a testament to the fact that I had strong female faith leaders," she said.
The service was at once both simple and elaborate. Bishop Odgren and assisting minister Jeanette Perrault shook droplets of water from fir tree branches as remembrance of baptism whilethe congregation sang "Come to the Water of Life."
There was more singing, prayers, readings from the Bible, and then Rev. Samuel Giere addressed the crowd. He talked about the invitation of "church time" to slow down during the Advent season, and he spoke of Laura, her call to serve and the fact that her ordination is but a stop on a much bigger journey.
"From the Range to Palestine, from the dance studio to the pulpit, from Concordia to Wartburg, from St. Peter in Bay City, Texas to most recently the good folks in Grace Community. Above, below and around all of this is the love and nurture of your family and friends," Giere said.
Bishop Odgren led the congregation in the ordination ceremony, while Mills Anderson stood, her back to the audience, wearing a white robe with a rope tied around the waist. After the ceremony, prayers and another hymn, nearly 20 other pastors and deacons from various churches came forward from the pews and gathered around Laura, who knelt for the laying on of hands as they offered silent blessing for their newest member.
Next, Laura's parents and husband, Bjørn Anderson, placed a red stole across her shoulders, as a symbol of her work and Jesus' promise to help those who are weary and burdened find rest for their souls.
In addition to symbolizing her ministry, Mills Anderson said the stole is also a reminder of her "life changing" time in Palestine, where she lived in the West Bank with a Palestinian Christian family. In a phone interview afterward, she said it can be easy to make church "about you and being comfortable," but her time abroad taught her to be open to what faith can do.
"Having relationships with people that are different and working to care for all people, whether they're of the same faith or no faith, for the betterment of all is important," she said. "Palestine is a big reason for why I'm here and who I am."
A radiant Mills Anderson faced the crowd when the ceremony was over; then it was time for a "liturgical mic switch," as she took over leading the service.
That 90-minute service at Zion Lutheran was the start of a whirlwind week of ministerial duties, which included a total of five services at her new church home, Messiah Lutheran Church in Mountain Iron.
The church is about a 40-minute drive from her husband's new job as director of the Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry at Camp Vermilion, the same place they met years before.
When he took the job, they didn't know where she would be placed, but it all worked out.
Almost like it was meant to be.