Pastor Virginia Eggert now tends to the Faith Lutheran flock. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

After a life spent working in laboratories and raising children, the new pastor at Faith Lutheran Church faced a crossroads.

Always a devout Lutheran, Virginia Eggert was mulling whether to seek a master’s degree in divinity and head down the pastoral path.

“I’ll be 50 if I graduate,” Eggert thought to herself. “Then I thought, I’ll be 50 if I don’t go to school.”

In her own words, Eggert said, she wanted to find a way to hang around the church she loved so much. A Wisconsin native, she had worked in public health labs in Milwaukee and Seattle after earning a degree in microbiology from the University of Wisconsin. She left her job to raise three children in Anchorage, Alaska and in Oakland, Calif.

Now she balances her responsibilities at Faith Lutheran with directing the preschool at Little Lambs Preschool at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Woodburn.

The faithful at the River Road church needed pastoral support after watching the congregation dwindle from a height of 350 to about 50 people, she said. Despite being smaller in numbers, Eggert said the congregation remains a community fixture, in part because the church houses the Keizer Community Food Bank. Hispanic and Marshallese congregations also worship at the facility, she said.

Having grown up in the Lutheran church, she stayed with the denomination in part because it accepted women as pastors since 1978. Eggert said she has been welcomed at Faith Lutheran – and would only go where a female leader could be accepted.

“It’s something that some people don’t think is right. According to scripture, women are to be silent in church,” Eggert said. “But there’s a lot of things in scripture that you have to put into context. “I don’t want to serve somewhere that it’s a problem for people – I’m not going to push myself on a congregation that doesn’t want a woman.

“But it turns out we can do a lot of the same things men can. I won’t say better,” she added.

She moved to Oregon after a stint with a Lutheran church in upper Michigan. Eggert came to the area following her two sons, who live in the Portland area.

Eggert keeps herself busy between her two jobs and visiting grandkids. She’s been trying to visit each family in the congregation personally.

“You learn a lot going into somebody’s home,” she said. “They get a chance to express hospitality to you and you can see who their pets are, the pictures on the wall and the books on the bookshelf. You really get an understanding of where they came from and who they ar in a way you don’t necessarily get in a conversation.”