By Janet Lunder Hanafin
If there is a typical Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Ali Ferin isn’t there yet. But, as the new associate pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville, she is on her way. Pastor Ali, as she is known, is a 2014 graduate of Luther Seminary, lucky beyond her wildest dreams to have found a job in her calling in a metro area that has an abundance of pastors.
A Twin Cities girl who grew up in Shoreview and graduated from Mounds View High School, Ferin said she was a “church nerd” member of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview who never missed a confirmation class, sang in all the choirs, taught Sunday school and met her husband when they both worked at a Lutheran Bible camp for a summer. Even as a youngster she wanted to work in the church, so she took a tour of Luther Seminary while still in high school. Her one rebellious act was attending Iowa State University with her sweetheart rather than going to one of the Lutheran colleges.
Ferin’s interest in social, grassroots movements and communities, particularly indigenous peoples, got its start when she was 16 and spent part of a summer on a church mission trip to Tanzania.
“I left so much of my heart there,” she said. “I thought theologically for the first time in my life why God moves the way God moves, and why the world works the way it works. I learned so much seeing poverty, and also seeing abundance, seeing joy happen despite fear and illness.”
Ferin completed her undergraduate degree in philosophy with a minor in international relations in three years, married her husband, Ben, and “pipelined” straight to Luther Seminary, intending to become a youth director.
“As I was taking the classes and starting to be formed as a pastor, I realized that it felt really right,” she said. “It was a challenge, but it was everything I had hoped for. Sometimes I wonder what is God doing, but I could never imagine not doing this.”
She hoped to find a job in the Twin Cities because her husband is employed here, but she knew it would be difficult. She admits to being surprised when she was invited to interview for an opening at St. Michael’s.
“St. Michael’s is a healthy, thriving community, with a history of social action, (which) I care about,” she said. “After meeting with Pastor (Roland) Hayes and learning more about St. Michael’s, I knew this is what it felt like to be called.”
Ferin began her work at St. Michael’s the first week in July and has already been initiated into the experience of congregational family camp at Luther Dell in northern Minnesota and Vacation Bible School at the church. She was ordained on July 26.
She and her husband enjoy running and traveling together, and reading is a treasured interest, but time for hobbies is limited, she admitted. Her family lives in the area and she is an adoring aunt to a new nephew.
As she begins her ministry she looks forward to “learning from Roland’s wisdom,” she said. “It’s critical for me as a young pastor to learn some of those skills that only come with experience.
“There’s something about congregational ministry that has pulled me in. I really believe in the work of the church,” she said. “I really believe in the power of what a congregation can do in a community.”