The Atlantic

Being a Pastor Is More Joyful With a Friend by Your Side

“To be able to talk about things that only we as young women clergy experience is really comforting.”
Source: Wenjia Tang

Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.

This week, she talks with the two co-pastors at a Lutheran church in California. It's rare in their denomination, they say, to have two pastors instead of one, and rarer still for them both to be young women. What they describe as a “magical” working relationship quickly became a friendship as well. They discuss the complementary gifts that each of them bring to the partnership, the challenges of being a young female pastor, and how ministry is more joyful with a friend by your side.

The Friends

Jennie Chrien, 32, the senior pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Simi Valley, California
Nikki Fielder, 33, the pastor of youth, children, and family at Shepherd of the Valley

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Julie Beck: What were your paths to ministry? Did you both grow up in the Lutheran Church?

Jennie Chrien: I did. My parents took me to church from the time that I was a kid. I actually first felt like I was being called to ministry when I was in high school. I’m from New Mexico, so I went to college in Santa Fe. Then my husband and I moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and that was where we both did our seminary education [in graduate school].

Beck: Nikki, what is your backstory?

It parallels a lot of what Jennie

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