I love the Helsinki Cathedral. It is the iconic anchor to the waterfront in downtown Helsinki, Finland. Love. Love. Love. So after Sarah and I attended a Finnish service at the Cathedral last summer, we wandered down to the “crypt” downstairs for some coffee with the parishioners. It was there that we connected with worship assistant and seminary student Anne Rantalainen.
With some trepidation, I asked my niece, Sarah, “Do you think I should go over and talk to her?” (This would be the first attempt at meeting a woman in ministry from outside the U.S.) Perhaps I could get an interview! Sarah said yes. Then, Anne said yes, she’d do an interview! She also gave us a tour of the University of Helsinki located across the street from the Cathedral and showed us where she does a majority of her studying.
The former casino dealer is winding down on her seminary training and will finish later in 2016. Her past occupations include a teacher and textile designer, but her heart has always belonged to God.
As a volunteer at the Cathedral, Anne is getting valuable experience in worship leadership. She is assisting with communion, writing prayers, and singing the liturgy. She is excited about the future and how she will be able to contribute to the leadership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
Anne and I discussed how our past careers and life experiences will benefit us as we move into ministry. We also discovered that we share a common story that causes both of us pain when we recall it. When each of us told a trusted friend we were planning to go to seminary, we both heard a similar response: “You’re too old. You should not go to seminary because you will be taking the spot of a younger person.” In my case, the person added, “probably some young man.” Ouch. The fact is--there is room in our seminaries for women and men of all ages who are called by God. (These days, seminaries are not exactly filled to the brim and turning people away!)
The Bible is filled with examples of people who were used by God at advanced ages: Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Moses and Aaron, to name a few. If we look at the body of Christ on earth right now, at least in America, it is getting older. I contend that our God is not sexist, racist, or ageist. The body of Christ is diverse; and one of the ways it is diverse is in the ages of its members. May we all value the contributions and the wisdom of all of God's people.