Musician takes life turn, finds herself in pulpit

Pastor: An invitation to a weekend seminary program when she was in college led Andrea Wiegand away from the arts and into her `calling,' the church.

October 11, 2002|By Rona S. Hirsch | Rona S. Hirsch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ever since she was young, Andrea Wiegand wanted to be a musician. She played the flute in school bands and was a flute performance major at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts.

But after her freshman year, she was filled with doubt.

Although Wiegand switched colleges and majors, it was not until she was invited to a weekend seminary program that she discovered her calling. Now, eight years later, Wiegand is finding fulfillment as the new pastor of Lutheran Church of the Living Word at Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia.

"I pray through every decision I make," said Wiegand, 30, who lives in Silver Spring with her husband, Paul, a computer science doctoral student at George Mason University in Virginia. "I don't make decisions until I feel certain I make the right one. I made the right one."

3 years as associate

Wiegand was installed Sept. 29, becoming the fifth pastor of the 30-year-old congregation, which has nearly 100 members. She previously served for three years as associate pastor of First Lutheran Church in Ellicott City.

"She has a focus on spirituality and likes to get to know people individually," said the Rev. Mary Zurell, assistant to the bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "She is a very compassionate woman and just has a very easygoing personality. And she can enhance the church's contemporary music group."

Born in Webster City, Iowa, Wiegand was first captivated by music during sing-alongs with her mother, who plays guitar. After the family moved in 1983 to Rock Hill, S.C., Wiegand took up the flute in seventh grade. "I was going to be a professional musician - that's all I dreamed of," she said.

At home, she jammed to the Beatles and Jethro Tull. "I discovered my parents' old vinyl record albums," she said. "In one hand, I had the classic band music manual; and in the other, Jethro Tull albums. [Ian Anderson] did all kinds of weird things on a flute."

Growing up in Rock Hill

Wiegand, who grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran church in Rock Hill, was the only child in its music group. "The church and music have pretty much been intimately connected to me," she said. "The church helped me to enjoy playing even when I made mistakes."

But during a summer break from the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, Wiegand found her love of music wavering.

"It was a very exciting year, but something wasn't right," she said. "I started not to enjoy music and I loved music; it was such an important part of me. So I decided to change my dream. It was devastating, but I didn't want my love of music to die."

Wiegand transferred to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, graduating in 1993 with an English degree and an eye toward a communications career. But while working at her father's business office the next year, she received a postcard about a weekend program at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C.

"As soon as I saw that the postcard was addressed to me, it was very powerful," she said. "On my second day of the program, it was clear God was calling me to the ministry."

After four years at the seminary, including a year internship at a Philadelphia church, Wiegand earned a master's degree. In 1999, the Evangelical Lutheran Church placed her in the Delaware-Maryland Synod at First Lutheran. "It's a good congregation and good place to grow in ministry and learn my gifts as a pastor," she said.

Living Word had enlisted substitute pastors since the resignation last year of the Rev. William Hayman from Living Word.

One Sunday, the congregation invited Wiegand to fill in. "I had met Pastor Wiegand at church meetings," said T. Milton Nelson, 15-year secretary of the church council. "Everyone liked her. Then we had her come back again and we were impressed again, and issued a formal `call.'"

Although Zurell, who matches pastors with congregations, said Wiegand "wasn't officially looking for a call," she contacted Wiegand "about the possibility that God's spirit might be leading her to this congregation."

Wiegand assumed the pulpit in mid-August.

"The congregation is very committed to worship services and church projects," she said. "Being at an interfaith center is also an opportunity to work with different faiths, and we're in a location for ever-increasing community outreach."

Music remains part of Wiegand's life. She performed her first flute recital in April at First Lutheran and plans to participate in Living Word's music group.

But her mission is to help congregants in their service to God. "I hope to work with the congregation in discovering ways they want to grow and how God is calling them, and to look at new ways to reach out to the community," she said. "It's exciting to be engaged in that process."

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