Two churches, two denominations, one pastor

“I can’t imagine doing that. That sounds so confusing!”

I get this comment a lot when talk about my call comes up. I serve two churches, one of which is Presbyterian and one of which is Lutheran.

If I’m being honest, though, the most confusing thing about the arrangement is either the fact that a Lutheran synod is the equivalent of a Presbyterian presbytery, or all the Luther references that I don’t understand at Lutheran pastor gatherings. (Second use of the law according to Luther, anyone? Yes, we covered it in seminary. No, I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head.)

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been difficult. Navigating Lutheran differences in worship and theology and polity as a brand-new pastor was overwhelming — but no less overwhelming than absolutely every other aspect of being a brand-new pastor. Seriously, I needed a prayer book on my first day and it took me two months to decide on one. But most of the difficulties have been of the normal pastoral variety: my first funeral, the rush of a hospital visit I wasn’t expecting to have to make, disagreements with session or council, the utter exhaustion after Easter or Christmas.

And there are plenty of differences. I wear an alb and lead the congregation in chanting the Kyrie at one church, and wear a preaching robe and lead the spoken confession at the other. I moderate session meetings but am only a member of council. I could list differences between my two churches and between these two traditions I’ve found myself in all day. The differences don’t disguise the truth of the church, though, or its mission. At both churches my calling is to love my people and lead them in worship, to speak truth to them and know when they need someone to sit with them. Both of my churches are called to love one another, to worship God together and then take that out into their communities.

That may be the lesson I hold most dear so far: that the differences – alb or preaching robes, council or session, grape juice or wine – are choices that shape my churches and my ministry in each of them, but they don’t change the truth that God is working in and through both of them.

Thanks be to God!

Alina Kanaski is currently serving in her first call — Chartiers Valley United Presbyterian Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. As if two churches weren’t enough, she likes to crochet with friends, read and take long walks.