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Pastor Lauri Allen

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Pastor Lauri Allen

Her business card pretty much describes her approach to the people she encounters in her ministry: “Then I was constantly at God’s side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in God’s presence, rejoicing in God’s whole world and delighting in mankind.”  (Proverbs 8:30-31)

Lauri Allen clearly delights in serving God and others.    Though she works fulltime as head of the accounting department at Midwest Orthopedic, for the past nine years she has spent her weekends traveling to churches that need a minister to stand in for their pastors.  It’s called “Pulpit Supply,” and as a Licensed Minister for the Fox Valley and Prairie associations, Lauri provides her services to 15 to 20 churches in the area.  Lauri loves pulpit supply.  “I get to see a lot of different congregations.  I get to see how they do their ministry.”  The variety she encounters requires that she be flexible.  “I get to see different ways of putting together a bulletin, what they’re used to, their styles of music, the kind of messages they like, how open they are to these kinds of messages.  It’s tricky.” 

Lauri has been successful in navigating such differences.   She’s sometimes encountered other challenges that come from outside the church community.  One summer she was filling in for a pastor in Geneva.  The community was quite progressive, “so that was a whole different style of preaching.  They have some very conservative people inside their congregation, but they’re known as a very progressive church.”  Unfortunately, the church’s signs out front have been vandalized multiple times.  “They were actually in the news so much, victims of vandalism so frequently, that members of the community who were not involved in the church were coming and standing or sitting outside the church in support on Sunday mornings so that people going in would feel comfortable and safe.”

When asked where her heart is in her ministry, Lauri smiles and quickly answers, “Children.  That is one question I don’t even have to think about.  I like working with adults and providing pastoral care, and I love preaching, but it always comes back to children.  Always.” 

She explains that she is usually the one responsible for the children’s sermons when she is asked to do pulpit supply, and here at First Congregational in DeKalb, she has done the Christmas program and for the past 4 or 5 years, she’s helped organize Vacation Bible School.  “In the planning stage right now for the summer, our theme is going to be ‘VBS Rocks!’”  She points out that she and the Christian Education teachers have never purchased a pre-designed program.  “I like to tailor the program to activities and strengths that we have in our own church, so I always write the program.  What I do with the Christmas program and VBS has to go through the Three Amys because they’re in charge of the kids’ ministry. We work well together and enjoy bringing fun activities to the kids.”

Obviously, Lauri puts in a lot of time and work for her service to our church and other area UCC churches.  She delights in the work, but she admits to feeling torn, having to work a corporate job to pay the bills vs. wanting to throw herself into ministry.  She studied two years at the Lay Academy in Wisconsin and attended Chicago Theological Seminary with the hope of obtaining her Master of Divinity degree, but found that it cost too much and time was an issue.  She could not concurrently complete her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) requirement and work fulltime.  In seminary, CPE involves working in a hospital, nursing facility, or hospice.  It is highly intensive work. “It was very disappointing, but I was able to graduate with a Certificate of Theological Studies with Ministry Preparation.  I’ve done a little over one third of the class work, but I haven’t done the CPE part.  There are some additional classes that would have gone along with that.”

Despite these obstacles, Lauri has continued to answer her call to ministry.  “I have been incredibly fortunate.  Several retired ministers have donated their libraries and offered them to me for free.”  At present, Lauri’s library contains approximately 1,200 to 1,300 books,” and she has an inkling of what she’s looking for when she uses them as references for her sermons.  “I love books.  Some of them are really old, from the 1800s, and they’re still really valuable.  A lot of the ones from that period are more conservative than what you would find on book shelves today, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them.  There’s always something when I’m writing a sermon.  I know I saw something somewhere that would just be perfect. If I just look at the covers of the books, I’ll remember, oh, it was in this one.”

Lauri has found support from retired ministers, like the Rev. Bob Meissner, in other ways as well.  She asked Meissner how much time she should spend when putting together a sermon.  He advised that for every minute a person preaches, he/she should have spent an hour in preparation.  Lauri laughed.  “I felt much better because that was how long it was taking me to prepare.  Some of that is reading scripture ahead of time and letting it percolate in the back of my mind, keeping my mind open as I go through the week.  I hear stories in the news that apply to the scripture.  How can I tie it all together?  It’s a lot of work, but I think if you are called to it, it doesn’t seem like a lot of work.”