Lighting the Way for a new kind of pastor

Under a canopy of twinkling Moravian stars and accompanied by the sparkle of an indoor fireworks display, Moravian Theological Seminary student Mikayla Sauerbrey described her faith journey this winter as Moravian Seminary and Moravian University launched the Lighting the Way campaign that, in part, supports student scholarships.

Thanks to scholarship support, Mikayla is preparing to graduate in May with a Master of Divinity as she pursues ordination in the Northern Province of the Moravian Church. Her ministry brings light and hope for those who struggle with their faith. “So that makes me a pastor for those who are questioning, doubting, reluctantly still believing,” she says.

Mikayla’s call to ministry began in elementary school when she would get up very early to go with her dad as he volunteered at their church. By age 11, she was volunteering in the children’s ministry. “I was holding babies and doing anything I could do,” she says. “The church was everything to me. It was me getting everyone up on Sunday mornings. I loved being there—the environment, the people, teaching Sunday school—and I was very spiritually engaged. Even though my personal views and understanding have drastically changed since that age, church was very important to me, and I felt so connected to God. I felt this is where I belong.”

She loved the Baptist church of her youth, but it does not ordain women. She says, “I realized I was always going to be caring for people and walking beside them, and that helped make the decision” that ultimately led her to the Moravian Church, which welcomes women into ministry.

Today, Mikayla has a part-time internship as a student pastor at the Emmaus Moravian Church, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, serving alongside Pastor Brian Dixon. “They’re a church that has a long history in the Lehigh Valley. This year marks 275 years of being a congregation. It’s a church full of wonderful, welcoming individuals.”

Mikayla aspires to be a welcoming and inclusive pastor. “I want to walk alongside you. I want to be there for the baptisms, confirmations, and weddings, for the highs and lows, and be a spiritual resource for you. When the world is falling apart, I want to be someone safe for you to turn to.

“A lot of us have similar upbringings and have experienced church hurt, whether that’s me—who was told by my church of origin that I, a woman, couldn’t go into the ministry—or my queer friends, who were told who they are is wrong. I want to be a pastor for people who still have a desire for spirituality and connection to the Christian faith but feel so harmed by it.

“Many people my age have a desire for spirituality but don’t feel safe going to certain places, and for very good reasons. I can be the pastor that they needed growing up or they need now, someone who welcomes questions and doubts and is not at all scared if you don’t believe today or tomorrow. I am still here for you.” 

Meg Graham is director, Joint Seminary Communication and Marketing for Moravian Theological/Lancaster Theological Seminary.