The Rev. Beth Rohn-Habhegger was the last baby born to a pastor serving Canaan Moravian Church in rural Cass County, N.D. Now, 40 years later, she lives in what was once her childhood home, she serves as pastor at the same church where her father used to minister, and on Feb. 6 she gave birth to her second child, Anders Habhegger, the first baby born to a pastor serving the church since her own birth.
“It’s special. It’s coming full circle,” Beth said. “I never in my life dreamed that would happen.”
Beth didn’t expect to be called to serve the congregation of Canaan Moravian. It’s rare for pastors to serve in churches where they were baptized, she said. But two years ago she accepted the call to serve the same church where her father, the Rev. Denny Rohn, began his pastoral career.
“I tell people seminary trained me to be a minister but Canaan taught me what it meant to be a pastor,” said Denny, now retired and living in Ohio, where he still fills in for pastors from time to time.
Chuck and Dorothy Albright of Lynchburg, N.D., were members of Canaan Moravian when Denny was pastor. Chuck Albright was also involved in Beth’s call to serve the church. They say she is an excellent preacher and see both her father and mother in the way she delivers sermons.
“I don’t think that the acorn fell too far away from the tree,” Chuck Albright said. “We are fortunate to have her here,” added Dorothy Albright.
Beth says she has known since she was 7 years old that she wanted to be a pastor. “I kind of fought it when I was a teenager, but by the time I graduated college, seminary wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when,” she said. “Growing up, I was always kind of the outsider. I was never part of the in crowd. I was teased and never really felt like I belonged except when I was in church or at church camp. That was the one place I knew I was loved. I was accepted. I could be me and that was OK.”
Her mom, who died in 2008, went through a year of seminary and would fill in occasionally for her father, so Beth says she was used to seeing women in the pulpit.
Denny says his daughter has always seemed spiritually ahead of her age. “I had an inkling she would end up going into the ministry when she was 6,” he said. Still, he never mentioned it to her.
When she told her parents what she wanted to do, Beth says they tried to talk her out of it. “With four girls, the expectation was that one of us would go into what we referred to as ‘the family business,’ ” she said. “They didn’t want me to go into the ministry because it was an expectation. They wanted me to make sure that I was doing it because I felt that’s what God wanted for me.”
While Beth talked about going into ministry, she also talked about wanting to be an actress on Broadway, her father said. When she graduated college, she knew she wasn’t spiritually or emotionally ready for ministry, so she spent two years working as an attractions hostess and character at Disney World and interning at a nearby Moravian church.
That experience, she says, really helped her understand that working as a pastor was where God wanted her to be.
Canaan Moravian is the third congregation Beth has served. Her first congregation was also a church her dad served. Within months someone from Canaan Moravian told Beth she was one of them and it was nice to have her back.
“I felt honored because it wasn’t about being Denny’s daughter, it was about being one of us,” she said. “That’s something that a lot of pastors have to work toward and it was a gift that was given to me.”
That members of the congregation threw her a baby shower showed her how much they support her, Beth said.
“It really shows the connection that I have with the congregation,” she said. “It’s a blessing, it really is. Because I live so far away from my family, it’s nice to know that I have that support.”
Thanks to Tracy Frank, writer for Features and Farmer’s Forum Report of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead for this story.
From the June 2014 Moravian Magazine