Finding her calling
Veldhuisen feels right at home as female pastor at Christ United Presbyterian
MARSHALL — The Rev. Anne Veldhuisen of Christ United Presbyterian Church believes that being a minister is her calling and the fact that she is a woman has never been a stumbling block for her.
Veldhuisen became the pastor at Christ United Presbyterian Church In January 2015. In 2014, her husband, Kevin Veldhuisen, became the Stated Clerk and Executive Presbyter for several states, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. These moves brought them and their children back to Minnesota.
“I didn’t have any opposition (to being a female minister),” she said. “Sometimes I think people believe women are more compassionate and easier to talk to. Others might look at everything I’ve been through to get here and think I’m worth talking to, but I’ve never had any opposition to my being a woman minister, although I have had conversations about it.”
She said that she believes that Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but at the same time it was imparted to human beings who wrote from their cultural perspective.
“Paul was a faithful man, but he was also a man who lived in a society where women were valued less,” she said. “So, he was going to work that into his theology because that is what he believed. When I look at things in the church, I look at how Jesus reacted to women, not Paul. I think of the many times Jesus ministered to women, with women, prayed with women and lifted them up as models of faith.
“For me, the most powerful one is his resurrection,” she said. “The first person he saw after he rose from the dead was Mary. The first person to declare that the Lord was arisen was a woman. So my understanding is that God has quite important roles for women to play.”
Veldhuisen said strong examples of women of faith can be found throughout Scriptures.
“That’s where I get my drive,” she said. “When Mary said, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ she basically made the first statement of Christian faith.” Veldhuisen said. “That’s pretty powerful.”
She admitted there are many challenging times for her in the role of a congregation and also being a mother. The couple has two sons, Martin, who is 3 1/2 years old and Gus, who is almost 2. The Christmas season can be one of those challenges when she spends more time at church than at home with her family.
“But we find ways to work around it,” she said.
Being a pastor actually allows her to be there more for her family. Veldhuisen said that her job allows her to be home with her children if one is ill, and she even has brought them to work with her.
Veldhuisen said her calling came at a place called Holden Village, Washington, a former copper mine turned retreat for travelers of all ages to be inspired and equipped for a sustainable life of faith outside the village.
She and a college friend went there the summer between her sophomore and junior year. That is where she met her husband. They were both from Minnesota — she from Plymouth and he from Marshall.
“I needed something to keep me busy for a month or two, so I went out there with Kelsey Boyce of Golden Valley to volunteer,” she said.
The village gave them room and board in exchange for labor.
Boyce is actually out there now to volunteer for a two-year period, in the registrar’s office and as a maverick. A maverick chops wood, shovels snow and a little bit of everything.
On the Day of Jubilee, all the workers get to try a different job than they are originally assigned.
Veldhuisen was in housekeeping and chose to be a maverick for the holiday.
Kevin Veldhuisen had been working in the sound and music department and also ended up being a maverick for the day. That is how they met.
“We worked side by side to build up the grade against a building against flooding and got to talking,” she said.
When their next free day rolled around, the two decided to go hiking together. Spending the two hours in conversation they were able to conclude that ministry was a calling for both of them.
“But neither one of us knew what that meant,” Veldhuisen said. “But, I have always felt best when I help others.”
After camp and back at Luther College in Decorah, Veldhuisen started taking religion and social justice classes and along with getting bachelor’s degrees in theater and music.
“That’s the beauty of a liberal arts college, I suppose,” she said. “It fit. It felt right.”
She and Kevin Veldhuisen decided to get married and go to divinity school together at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa.
“We got married Aug. 2, 2006, at the Presbyterian Church in Golden Valley and started classes two weeks later.”
Upon graduation, Kevin took a call to a Presbyterian camp and conference center in Chipley, Florida, in the panhandle, and Anne found a job in Panama City as a temporary part-time pastor at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on St. Andrew’s Bay.
“It was a great first church, small but active,” she said. “The congregation was excited about what they were doing. We had a lot of Minnesota snowbirds, so that was fun.”
Recently, Veldhuisen said her ministry and sermons have been about helping others. Practicing religion isn’t just about the hour you spend in church each week, she said, but what you do between services. Even her bulletins include the phrase: “The worship has ended, the service begins.”