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Walla Walla pastor involves congregation in synod preparations

Nathaniel Mahlberg, as a young, recently ordained pastor at First Congregational UCC in Walla Walla since 2015, will be one of the PNC delegates for General Synod.

Nathaniel Mahlberg has served Walla Walla First Congregational United Church of Christ since 2015.

 Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Mahlberg

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Nathaniel packed his car and drove to Santa Fe, N.Mex., where he worked in a bookstore, played in bands and volunteered teaching worships on nonviolence with Veterans for Peace.

Although he grew up Lutheran in Wisconsin and spent some time as a seeker, he was a Quaker until he found the United Church of Santa Fe, was drawn back into the Protestant tradition and began exploring his call to ministry.

While at Union Theological Seminary from 2010 to 2013, Nathaniel continued peace and justice action with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was a community minister at Judson Memorial Church, where he was ordained in 2015.

He did clinical pastoral education at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and then a chaplaincy residency with the medical trauma team at Einstein Medical Center in North Philadelphia.

“I dealt with people suffering from gun violence, other forms of violence and car crashes, ministering with people in times of crisis,” he said.

Nathaniel wanted more chaplaincy training and was there for one year, but he became convinced he wanted to work in pastoral ministry.

“Here I deal with all different crises that come up, and from chaplaincy training learned to listen deeply and be attuned to group dynamics and spiritual life,” he said of his commitment to pastoral ministry.

“I want to preach, and I love having different things to do, having sustaining pastoral care relationships and being a public voice for faith,” he said. “A chaplain parachutes in when everything is exploding in someone’s life and needs to build trust quickly.”

He appreciates now having sustained pastoral relationships and seeing people through the seasons of their lives—baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals and more.

Nathaniel said that the Walla Walla church is a multi-generational community.

The 153-year-old church, which is open and affirming, hosts an emergency winter warming center, cooks and serves monthly meals at the Christian Aid Center, is a meeting site for local 12-step programs and has a commitment to bring attention to local, national and global issues of social justice.  The congregation continually finds ways to be involved.

“I love the UCC and I feel the UCC is an important faith voice in these times. People are looking for and need moral clarity,” he said, expecting that he will gain more insights from interactions and resolutions at General Synod.

He also values the opportunity to be a delegate, because it will help him bring a sense of the value of First Congregational UCC in Walla Walla being affiliated with the national UCC and PNC.

“As I prepare for General Synod, I will have sessions after Sunday worship to talk about the measures and resolutions being proposed there,” he said.

“I will ask people how they think about the issues and will help them feel connected to the larger body,” he said.

When he returns, he will debrief, telling the congregation, what happened, why it’s important and what its meaning is.

“I believe a local church gains strength by connecting with the conference and national body,” he said.

Nathaniel is also continuing covenant groups at Walla Walla, a program started by his predecessor Cecilia McKean, and he is taking over her leadership of that program for the PNC Adult Spiritual Formation Task Force of the Educational Ministries Committee.

For information, call 509-525-8753 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News © April 2017


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