COLUMBUS — Rev. Annika Lister Stroope graduated from an inclusive religious environment.
The Des Moines, Iowa, native studied at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. The school is located near other religious seminaries in the same neighborhood. The close proximity allowed students to take classes at different campuses, so Stroope had the opportunity to study with Lutherans, Catholics, Unitarians and fellow Presbyterians.
With that kind of background, it seems that Stroope, 37, is a perfect fit for Federated Church in Columbus. She will be starting as pastor this week at the ecumenical church, which has a dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ and Presbyterian churches.
Stroope was attracted to Federated, partly because of its mixture of faiths within the congregation, but also because she saw it as a healthy church with members really involved in their community.
“It has active people who really care about the church,” she said. “There’s not an ‘us’ and ‘them’ about Federated people. It’s an integral part of Columbus.”
Although she grew up in a church-going, Presbyterian home, Stroope never had thoughts of becoming a pastor. She intended to study world history when she started college. She found she liked learning about different faiths after a world religions class.
“I studied religion because I’m interested in human beings and people’s faith, whatever it is. You learn so much about culture, too, when you understand religion better,” Stroope said.
What made her pursue religion as a career was her experience on a mission trip to El Salvador. The trip was a partnership with the Catholic church. Stroope lived in El Salvador for four months in 1996. She worked with priests on a daily basis.
“I really got to see what the job (of a minister) was like day in, day out,” Stroope said.
It appealed to her because of the work the ministers there did, counseling individuals and visiting patients in hospitals, along with preaching in worship services.
After a year in Americorps, Stroope decided to enroll at McCormick and was ordained in 2001. She is in the final year of earning her doctorate of ministry in preaching through McCormick.
Stroope previously served 10 years as an assistant pastor at the Minneapolis-based Westminister Presbyterian Church. This will be her first time heading up a church, She replaces interim pastor Jim Goodenberger who served at Federated for the past 18 months.
She hopes to continue with Federated’s mission of openness and generosity and wants to take the time to get to know the members of her congregation.
“I’m going to start with the basics of working on worship, visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes and then we’ll see what develops after that,” Stroope said.
Stroope and her husband, Jeremy West, have a daughter, Vianne, 4.