By Sue Sprang
AU GRES – First call pastor Rheanna Goodrich considers herself “a denominational mutt”.
Born in Havre, Montana, Goodrich was baptized in her mother’s faith tradition, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The family moved to Washington [state], then to New Hampshire, where the family attended a Baptist church, then eventually fell away from the church.
Goodrich, who considers Novi as her hometown, was in the fourth grade when her family moved to Michigan. During her teenage years, she became friends with youth who were involved in an Assembly of God congregation. They and the church’s youth pastor were instrumental in drawing her back into a faith community.
But her journey didn’t end there.
“When I was a senior in high school, my mom wanted to fulfill her promises made at my baptism,” Goodrich said. “We began to look for a church as a family and came back to Lutheranism via the ELCA.”
She was confirmed at Hope Lutheran Church in Farmington Hills.
It was after her confirmation that Goodrich began to feel a subtle tug toward ordained ministry. It left her wondering if she, indeed, was being called. But because of its subtlety, Goodrich put the tug aside and went ahead with her initial plans.
“I promptly ignored it,” she said, “and went to college to be a teacher and a writer.”
But after the first few years at Central Michigan University, the tug resurfaced – and from there it would grow into an all-out “push and pull” match.
When Goodrich brought up the idea of being a pastor with her then boyfriend (now husband), Tim Goodrich, he was unable to support her, based on his own faith background. But God was still saying “yes”.
“Within the year, God decided to hit me over the head,” Goodrich said, “and I received a bunch of external confirmations – including my pastor and my husband’s change of heart – that I was, indeed, called to ministry.”
Meanwhile she earned her Bachelors of Science in English, focusing on creative writing, and worked in business as an apartment complex manager, eventually working to the corporate level as and administrative assistant.
Next thing on the agenda was earning her Masters of Divinity degree at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. During that time Goodrich worked at an Austrian bakery and restaurant and also did accounts payable at a hotel.
Goodrich sees the following as the top three challenges for today’s church:
- “… the fight with ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ – which is a perception and not a truth. Finding new ways to remind people that the church has always adapted new ways of speaking in new times and places is difficult.
- … breaking through the culture of fear and hate that we live with in society. Some days it seems like no one trusts anyone, especially at church.
- … bringing the Gospel to people who think they know God (and frequently not with a good impression). Too many people only know God as a hurtful judge who encourages elitism and division.”
On the flip side, the top three things she sees the church offering the world are:
- “… to continue to bring the Gospel in adaptive ways that speak to people, drawing them into the life-changing grace that we experience through Jesus Christ.
- … to speak love and hope and healing with words and actions.
- … to constantly speak the good news that we are all God’s beloved children and that Jesus’ blood was shed for the salvation of the world.”
Goodrich is serving as pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Au Gres. She and Tim have been married 12½ years. Tim is currently a stay-at-home dad and is starting an imaging studio. They have a four-year-old daughter, Kalli.
“She is a little spitfire and loves people,” said Goodrich. “She is one of our greatest blessings.”
Along with being a pastor, spouse, and mom, Goodrich enjoys being outdoors, encountering God in creation. She likes to hike, bike, camp, kayak, and write. She is currently writing a children’s story and a sci-fi/fantasy novel.
And the “take” on her ministry in Au Gres?
“I am blessed to serve here,” Goodrich said. “It is a small town with a big heart. We have our problems, like all congregations, but the ecumenical relations and the care and love that these churches together show to those in need in God’s name amazes me on a daily basis.
“I never expected to be in rural ministry,” she added, “but I’m certainly glad that God called me to this place and these people.”