A Call to be a Pastor or a Rabbi

Leslie Mahraun knew as a child she would either become a pastor or a rabbi—she just didn’t know which one it would be.  Leslie’s mother was Jewish. Her father was baptized at age 46, along with Leslie and her brother. At her baptism at age 11, she said she deeply understood she had a call to God. “Because Jesus was a Jew, I was open to serving God whatever way it came.”

Ordained in 2012, Pastor Leslie Mahraun leads the congregation at Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She has never had any qualms about the validity of being a woman pastor-- or in being the first woman pastor at her church. 


Her call to ministry has always been strong and has been affirmed as a rostered leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). But it hasn’t been easy. She formerly pursued seminary in her 20s, but health concerns and a divorce made it impossible at the time. When her son turned 18, she felt the opportunity to pursue a seminary education opening up once again. She credits Dr. Karoline Lewis of Luther Seminary for standing by her as she cleared hurdles in her path through her seminary training.

Pastor Mahraun believes positive changes are happening for women leaders, but does not believe the playing field is level. She points to the following obstacles women church leaders face as examples: considerably lower wages for the same job as a male pastor: critique about appearance, including nail color, clothing and makeup; and the added pressure of women assuming more of the workload on the home front than their partners. On a personal level, she has also faced anti-Semitism.

Yet, Leslie believes the ministry of word and sacrament offers words of God’s grace that make all the difference in the world. Recently, Leslie reminded her dad of God’s promises through baptism while she sat with him before he passed away. She describes their time together as an "immense honor" to pray with her dad, to answer his questions, and to provide him a last absolution. "Those are moments of grace. You can't put those moments into words. They just are."

“We walk wet and follow one another’s trail into the arms of God. I’m not the typical Lutheran--I remember my baptism. The command that Jesus gave is how I live my life. It is what I do and who I am. I want that for all of us.”

Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age"

(Matthew 28: 19-20).