August 14, 2014 in Washington Voices

Unusual Jobs: Pastor’s work takes her beyond church walls

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Salem Lutheran Church Pastor Liv Larson Andrews walks around the West Central neighborhood on Aug. 4. Larson Andrews is continuing a tradition at Salem called “walk and pray,” touring the neighborhood and showing concern for the people near the church.
(Full-size photo)

Pastor Liv Larson Andrews likes to walk through the West Central neighborhood. On Monday mornings, she crosses the street from Salem Lutheran Church on Broadway Avenue and meets a small group of parishioners at Indaba Coffee.

Then they head out on the weekly “walk and pray.”

“We walk, we talk. Sometimes we stop and pray over things we see on the way,” Larson Andrews said. The group varies in size but is rarely bigger than a handful.

On this Monday morning, just one parishioner is waiting for Larson Andrews.

The sun is already relentlessly broiling the rim above the river as the two walk down Broadway and dip down side streets that offer a bit more shade.

Dogs bark behind fences and some folks are outside, too, watering and puttering around before the real heat hits.

Andrews nods hello and says good morning to everyone; many return her greeting.

She works three-quarter time as the pastor at Salem Lutheran, a church that hosts between 65 and 100 people at worship Sunday morning.

Spend a little time with Larson Andrews – a petite woman with a pierced nose, short hair and a strong personality – and it quickly becomes clear that she loves her job, her calling and her flock.

The question, what do pastors do when it’s not Sunday, makes her laugh out loud.

“What do I do? I do a lot of things,” she said.

High on her list of jobs and tasks is spending time with people who are ill or in long-term care.

“I like to accompany the family when someone is in surgery,” Larson Andrews said.

She may meet up with a college student who has deep questions about faith. She helps plan Bible study groups and sometimes also Sunday school. She visits those who are homebound. And, of course, she takes care of the religious functions at church.

“I write. I set up for service,” Larson Andrews said. “I go for a run, but I think of my sermon while I run.”

Being a pastor is a 24/7 occupation – after all, crises of life and faith strike at any time of the day or night – so does she count her hours?

“No. For me it’s not so much whether I’m on the clock,” Larson Andrews said. “It’s not so much about balance as it is about integration.”

She grew up in St. Louis, and came to Spokane in 2008.

“I grew up Lutheran in a typical Midwestern family,” she said, hesitating. “My faith story is actually kind of boring.”

Larson Andrews said she was seven months pregnant when she was ordained; she holds her arms out to show a big pregnant stomach.

“I guess I was better at telling people ‘no’ when my son was very little,” she said.

Salem Lutheran Church is 126 years old. That’s so old that some of the first church records are in Swedish, Larson Andrews said.

She’ll pitch in with whatever needs to be done around the church, but don’t picture her on top of the roof hammering down loose shingles in the middle of the night: Staff and volunteers take care of most of the maintenance.

“I’m spoiled like that,” Larson Andrews said. “If the boiler breaks in the middle of the night my phone doesn’t ring.”

Salem Lutheran, together with other local churches, owns Walnut Corners, a low-income apartment complex on Broadway.

“I guess that’s not a traditional church thing to be involved in,” Larson Andrews said. “The building is full and we are very proud of how it’s turned out.”

In some ways, Larson Andrews is also a community activist.

She’s testified before the City Council when the sit-lie ordinance was being debated.

Salem Lutheran welcomes gay people in its congregation and Larson Andrews walked – fully robed – together with other clergy in this year’s Pride March.

“That was an amazing experience,” she said. “There is so much hurt in the gay community, much of it because of the church.”

The development of Kendall Yards – just a few blocks south of Salem Lutheran – is changing the makeup of the predominantly low-income neighborhood by adding urbanites in high-end condos and trendy restaurants.

“The church takes very seriously its place in the city, in West Central,” Larson Andrews said, adding that there are some old “neighborhood hurts” that sometimes flare up. “I hope we can minister to people in Kendall Yards as well. Maybe we can help bridge the gap?”


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