by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford Congregation
Mary Nitzsche was surprised when she was called in 2017 to become Associate Executive Minister with Franconia Conference. She had been an associate pastor at Blooming Glen (PA) congregation for nine years and she expected she would stay there until retirement.
“After reflecting, praying, and listening for God’s call, an inner call began to emerge, coinciding with an external call, where I was affirmed for my work in the conference,” Mary reflects. “I had enjoyed congregational ministry. But my conference role feels like a culminating experience. My journey has not been traditional.”
This wasn’t the first time Mary was surprised by her vocational call; in fact, it has been a theme throughout her life. Near the end of seminary, Mary was preparing to seek a position as a pastoral counselor when Ohio Conference invited Mary to consider serving as a regional pastor. “I didn’t have the training or experience for this role,” Mary shares. “Mark Weidner, the Conference Minister, encouraged me, and he served as an advocate and mentor. I stepped out in faith believing that God would provide, without a guarantee that this calling would be well-suited for an extended period.”
Although she continued providing some counseling, she began feeling more of a call and love for conference work and realized she was using her counseling skills in unexpected ways. She continued in conference ministry for twelve years, before Blooming Glen surprised her with a call to serve as associate pastor.
As Associate Executive Minister, Mary gives oversight of the credentialing process and represents the conference at congregational and conference events. She also gives oversight to the conference’s leadership ministers, plans equipping events around conference priorities. and helps plan events for conference-wide ministries.
The most rewarding aspect of Mary’s job is the relationships with staff and pastors. She also enjoys interviewing credentialing candidates and hearing their call stories. She loves meeting with different groups such as female pastors, chaplains, and retired pastors.
Mary appreciates her opportunities to join different conference congregations for worship services. “I am in awe of the diversity of congregations in the conference. They are each trying to be true to their context and identifying God’s mission for them,” Mary explains. “To be a strong conference we need to celebrate and honor that diversity, and respect one another in the different kinds of calls we have.”
Mary grew up in the midwest and has been a part of many different kinds of congregations and conferences. “I appreciate whatever place or congregation I am in, and live in the ‘very now,’” reflects Mary.
Mary’s parents, who both served the church in a variety of roles, were an inspiration and model for Mary. They shaped her love for serving the church through their positive outlook, a willingness to serve, and openness to try new roles they didn’t feel prepared to take on.
Mary’s husband, Wayne, is one of the pastors at Perkasie (PA) congregation. They have two adult daughters and one grandchild. In her free time, Mary enjoys hiking, reading, knitting, and sewing. She also enjoys the creativity that comes with the process of cooking and baking. “I find cooking very relaxing at the end of the day, because it is something that has a beginning and an end. With ministry you don’t always see the results right away like you do in the kitchen.”