HARPERS FERRY – West Virginia Sen. John Unger was ordained and installed as the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church Saturday in Harpers Ferry. Church leaders say they believe Unger is the first pastor who has ever been ordained in the 160-year-old church building.
Ralph W. Dunkin, bishop of the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, presided over the ceremony, which was attended by a large cohort of local clergy as well as U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.
Prior to his ordination, Unger had served as vicar of St. John a position similar to a pastoral internship.
Nancy Bateman, president of the church council, presented Unger with a letter certifying the council’s decision to call him as their pastor.
“I’m honored and humbled. When you take the stole, you are taking the yoke of Christ,” Unger said in an interview. “You have a sense that you are blessed, and you are very joyous. But you also have the sense of a great responsibility resting on your shoulders.”
Unger said he was particularly happy about the diverse group who gathered to participate in the ceremony. “It was very special,” Unger said. “not only the ordaining, but also all the family and friends who came out to participate.
“It was a very ecumenical service. When you looked out, there were all kinds of denominations and races, just a whole mixture of people coming together in worship.”
Ordained ministers from a variety of denominations participated in the ceremony, including the Revs. Terri Rae Chattin, district superintendent of the United Methodist Baltimore-Washington Conference, Bruce Birch, dean of Wesley Theological Seminary, Carl Que Hickerson, pastor of Springfield Baptist church, Kirsi Stjerna, director of the Institute for Luther Studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, R. Kendall Soulen, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, Brooks Schramm, professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Fred A. Soltow, paster of Shepherdstown Lutheran Church, G. Edward Grove, pastor of Greensburg and Mt. Wesley United Methodist Churches, and William B. McClain, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary.