With in-person gathering limited this last year, churches are one of many aspects of society that have had to adjust services because of the pandemic. But given the background of Coastside Lutheran Church’s new pastor, Rev. Sue Holland appears equipped for the challenge.
Before turning to faith, Rev. Holland turned to technology. She spent 20 years as an engineer and project manager at a computer technology firm in New York and North Carolina. She holds a master’s degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University in New York.
After Holland and her husband moved to the Coastside in 2018, she started working as the church’s office administrator before serving as the associate pastor for the past two years. Last month, “Pastor Sue” was named as the church’s solo pastor. In that role, she took on responsibilities from Rev. Dawn Teuthorn, who retired after 10 years with the church. Now, Holland oversees all the church’s administration and worship services.
“We welcome all people to be a part of our church at all levels,” Holland said. “We have no barriers when it comes to anything.”
Holland, 61 said she plans to leverage her management experience to meet the needs of the local community. This includes launching a discernment campaign with a consultant to analyze how best to assess and fulfill those needs. Holland said religion wasn’t a priority for her family growing up. She was baptized as a Lutheran, but it was never forced on her at an early age. But in her 30s, she went through her own personal hardships and found a sense of community with a Lutheran group while living in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
“They were the most loving, welcoming community that I’d ever experienced in my life,” she recalled. “At that point, I wasn’t very religious at all, but I remember thinking, ‘Whatever these people have, I want it.’”
That immediate connection prompted her to get closer to the church’s community. Soon after, she and her husband, Bill, moved to North Carolina to raise their two kids. But part-time work while raising their young family was difficult, she said. She quit her project manager position to spend more time with the kids.
At the same time, she became more involved with the local church, organizing events and working with the more social aspects like the homeless shelter and Sunday school. She began taking more classes herself, exploring her faith and enjoying the process. Her pastor recognized her passion for learning and suggested another course. Holland kept the ball rolling, and eventually got her masters of divinity from Duke Divinity School in 2015. She also earned a master’s in sacred theology from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C.
“I just fell in love with the whole thing,” she said of the learning process. “I just went deeper and deeper. Before I knew it, I had put my name in to be a candidate for ordination with the church.”
Holland was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in 2019 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As the pandemic shifted worship online, Holland noted how this new format has connected families to participate together, even when so far apart.
“We have a family in Half Moon Bay, but Grandma lives somewhere else and the aunt lives in Florida,” she said. “And they all get on together and go to church together online. It’s pretty cool.”