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Ministerial couple tends to separate flocks

Kristi Weber is senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, and her husband Erik is senior pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church — both Jamestown churches. (John M. Steiner / The Sun)

Two ministers were able to find just the calls they were looking for in Jamestown — and now Trinity Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church have senior pastors who just happen to be married to each other.

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“It worked out pretty well,” said the Rev. Kristi Weber, who started her call at Trinity Dec. 9.

Her husband, the Rev. Erik Weber, started his new call at St. John’s on the same day.

Both Webers had been looking for new calls, but any possibilities had to be close together.

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the call process begins with a minister letting a synod — the church’s governing body of a particular region — know that he or she is interested in a new call.

“When you have two pastors looking, you have to cast a pretty wide net,” Erik said.

In fact, the Webers sent their names out to California, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and North Dakota.

“We were open to going to wherever two churches needed two pastors within close proximity to each other,” Kristi said.

They didn’t expect to find two calls three blocks away from each other, but that’s exactly what happened in Jamestown.

While some clergy couples do decide to work together, the Webers say that they have enough similar gifts that a staff with both of them on it wouldn’t have enough diversity.

“Both Kristi and I do very well in the administration areas and worship leadership,” Erik said as an example.

Erik was the first Weber to hear from Jamestown, and spoke with St. John’s over the summer about a call there. At that time, though, there wasn’t a position nearby for Kristi, so it seemed like a no-go. Then, in September, the Webers learned about Trinity.

Each congregation went through the process separately, and both congregations had to vote on whether to call their Pastor Weber or not.

They had the votes on the same day.

“By that afternoon, we said ‘Ah, I guess we’re moving to North Dakota!’” Kristi said. “It’s a wonderful community with marvelous people, and very gracious as we try to learn people’s names.”

Of the two Webers, Kristi has more experience in ministry. She served in a two-point parish spread out across Meadowlands and Toivola in Minnesota for four years, and then spent four years at a Twin Cities church, followed by two interim calls in the Twin Cities metro area.

Most recently, she served at St. Luke’s in the Chicago area for eight years.

While Kristi was serving churches in the Twin Cities, Erik was attending seminary. His first call was at St. Timothy’s in Skokie, Ill., where he served for eight years.

Prior to that, Erik was in the U.S. Army, spent some time as a stay-at-home dad and also worked with Lutheran Brotherhood, which later became Thrivent.

Erik said he recognized his call to the ministry during Kristi’s first call.

“If we had known we could do the concurrent plan instead of the consecutive plan, we would have done it that way,” Kristi said of the time at seminary.

Now both Webers are in the ministry.

“I used to steal my best ideas from Erik, and now it’s not as easy to do anymore — because he’s using them,” Kristi said with a smile.

While the Webers definitely see St. John’s and Trinity as separate congregations with their own histories and traditions, they do see some opportunities for collaboration.

“My sense is that the ELCA churches in town do collaborate and work together,” Kristi said, giving the example of youth ministry activities.

One of her goals is to work on rebuilding the staffing patterns at Trinity. In contrast, Erik is the last piece of the staffing puzzle at St. John’s.

And both churches are asking questions about mission and vision.

At the Weber home, there’s actually very little congregational conversation, and both Webers have a strong sense of privacy regarding the people they serve — they are careful to honor and respect conversations with members, Kristi said.

Lately, many of the household conversations have involved issues any family would have, such as finding the toaster after a move across several states.

And each Weber does make an effort to be involved in his or her spouse’s congregation as well — usually just not Sunday morning services, Kristi said.

Instead, they participate in each other’s potlucks, cookie walks and other congregational activities.

Other factors determine which of the two churches is attended by the Webers’ two sons — one a freshman at St. Olaf College, Minn., and the other a freshman at Jamestown High School.

Sometimes it’s based on where the friends from school go.

Other times it’s determined by whether someone is bringing treats to coffee hour, Kristi said.

And sometimes, the difference between a 10:45 a.m. service and an 11 a.m. service is just 15 more minutes to sleep in.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at