Welcome, Pastor Susan - Northeast Iowa a lot like home

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Assisted by Elaine Diers, right, Pastor Susan Friedrich serves communion at Bethany Lutheran Church.

By Kim Hurley

Register Freelance Writer

The home of John Wayne, multiple covered bridges, and the Delicious Apple! That’s where Pastor Susan Friedrich, one of Elkader’s newest church leaders, is from…Winterset, Iowa in Madison County. Although she was born in the Rockwell City area and grew up in south central Iowa, Pastor Susan’s childhood, college career, and occupational trek has been very much comparable to counterparts raised in Northeast Iowa. On a grain farm nestled on the banks of the Middle River, her family raised a variety of livestock and animals—beef cattle, hogs, sheep, dairy goats, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, dogs, and cats.

As a college student at Iowa State University in Ames, Pastor Susan started out in the animal science pre-veterinary medicine degree program, but switched majors and received a Bachelor of Science in the double major of Public Service and Administration in Agriculture/Agriculture Education Extension. She then completed coursework at Grandview Lutheran in Des Moines and through a distance-learning program of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Her Master of Divinity degree is from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque.

Pastor Susan’s first job was working with the Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service with the 4-H and youth program in Bremer and Chickasaw Counties. After moving to southern Iowa, she worked with 4-H and Youth in Union County.  Since the age of 16, she has been a 4-H volunteer in the dog care and training project, working with youth in several counties, the dog show at the Iowa State Fair for 11 years, and as a judge for many county fairs.

It was during her tenure with the ISU Extension Service that Pastor Susan was encouraged to use her gifts in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, whether in music, proclamation, prayer, or teaching. “At one point, I found myself adapting music I had taught youth I worked with in my congregation for use in my Extension work, except I had to leave God’s name out of the music,” she says. “I realized that I felt more called to serve Christ in ways where I could keep God’s name in the words of the song!”

Although Pastor Susan started ministering at Bethany Lutheran Church in Elkader just last June 2015, she is a familiar shepherd of the people around Northeast Iowa. In addition to her internship ministries in Creston and Postville, she has had interim ministry (ministry while congregations are in the call process for a new pastor) callings in Lime Springs, rural Clermont, Elkport, Littleport, Arlington, Castalia, and Luana. Other than in Elkader, Susan has served regular ministry calls with congregations in Villisca, West Union, and Sumner.

One of the biggest challenges of being a minister, Pastor Susan admits, is balancing healthy self-care, family life, and the needs of the congregation. “Ministry is work that is never ‘done’ and does not fit neatly into a 40-hour work week,” she points out.  However, she appreciates serving a congregation with leaders who support her need for flexibility in juggling those realities.

Pastor Susan is quick to emphasize that the joys of ministering far exceed such challenges. “It is a great privilege to be invited into people’s lives—from the times of the highest joys to the deepest of sorrows. I get to speak the gospel in the midst of people living through the delights and challenges of their lives.”

She specifically looks forward to continuing to both teach and learn music, liturgy, preaching, prayer, and other faith practices at Bethany that keep us centered in our identity as children of God and the body of Christ in the world. 

Encouraging others in using their own gifts to serve God’s people – within our congregation, community, and beyond – is one of the most important roles that Pastor Susan feels that she does. “I help us look together at ways we see God at work in our community/area and how we can best get involved in God’s mission that way.” She shares that the Bethany congregation has been involved in a number of “God’s Work. Our Hands” projects, taking the title from the tag line of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America of which Bethany Lutheran is a part. Examples include singing at the Elkader Care Center, The Lutheran Home in Strawberry Point, and at Scenic Acres; doing fall yard and clean up work at the swimming pool and Founder’s Park; and assisting with the blood drive. 

Pastor Susan and her husband, Norman, have three sons, Tristan, Benjamin, and Ethan, and a daughter, Ellen. Tristan is an aerospace engineer, working for Cesena Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas. Benjamin is currently at home, looking for work with his advertising degree. Ethan and Ellen are both students at Iowa State University.

Norman, an engineer with the Natural Resources and Conservation Service in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides training and technical support across the state of Iowa for the users of CADD, GPS, surveying tools to design terraces, waterways, ponds, and other conservation projects.

The natural beauty of Northeast Iowa—with its soaring bluffs, beautiful rivers, twisting roads, rolling hills, and wildlife – undoubtedly provides the most ideal setting in which Pastor Susan can share her appreciation of God’s creation and gifts.


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