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Methodist pastor mentors German pastoral intern

Alissa Amestoy

Alissa Amestoy, ordained elder and pastor of Spokane Valley United Methodist Church (UMC), mentored German pastoral intern Klara Diesler in February and March.

Over her 19-year career as pastor and campus minister, Alissa has mentored three pastoral interns and 30 campus ministry peer ministers.

Klara is the first pastoral intern at Spokane Valley UMC.

"My model for a reflective internship," Alissa said, "is I do, you watch. We talk about it. Then we do. We talk about it. Then you do it, and we talk about it. Once a week we shared what we observed both about my ministry and her ministry."

Alissa likes working with young people to help them refine their call to ministry.


Klara Diesler
Klara Diesler

Klara enjoyed meeting new people, learning about the culture and being open to differences and similarities in American and German cultures and congregations.

She also appreciated that people in the church were open to doing new things and liked to hear her ideas.

Alissa helped Klara better understand that when a pastor enters a gathering, many grant the pastor more power and authority, so it's important for the pastor to draw them out and empower them to lead.

To facilitate that, Spokane Valley United Methodist Bible study classes are lay-led.

"Sometimes I need authority to give another perspective and information, but I also like people to think for themselves and see their own call in a biblical passage," said Klara.

While Alissa's family moved to Spokane in 1993 and she graduated from North Central High School, her family lived several years in an American community near Bonn, Germany, where her father served with the Navy at the American embassy. In the Defense Department International School she attended, 60 percent of her classmates were children of diplomats.

Alissa has also lived in California, Florida, Virginia and Sicily. Her bachelor's degree is in anthropology from Washington State University.

The summer of 2001 between college and seminary, she was a global justice volunteer with United Methodist General Board Global Ministries at an orphanage in a Russian village northeast of St. Petersburg.

Alissa has served Spokane Valley UMC since July 2022, after eight years as pastor of Cheney UMC. She was campus minister from 2008 to 2014 for the Wesley Foundation at Washington State University in Pullman, and from 2005 to 2008 at the Wesley Foundation serving the University of California at Los Angeles, after completing a master of divinity degree in 2005 at Claremont School of Theology.

"I like partnering in ministry. I had an associate in Cheney and served in an associate-like role in Pullman and UCLA when I was a campus minister," she said.

Klara, 22, who is fluent in English, lived in several German communities because her mother was a Methodist pastor and moved during Klara's school years. After school, Klara's plan to volunteer a year in Malawi with a church mission agency was thwarted by COVID. So she volunteered at a fair-trade shop in Mainz and wrote articles on fair trade and boycotting vegetables grown in Spain by slave labor.

After six months, she traveled to Sweden and then lived in a mountain hut near Steiermark, Austria, cooking and baking for hikers.

She entered the Methodist theological seminary, Theologische Hochschule Reutlingen, where theology studies generally last three to five years.

"I needed time to find out if I felt called to ministry," Klara said. "At first, I did not want to be a pastor, because my mother had only talked about the hard parts of being a pastor. However, after attending an inspiring church retreat, I decided I wanted to begin my journey to become a pastor."

Klara learned about Spokane Valley UMC from the Rev. Damian Carruthers, who attended the seminary in Reutlingen and currently serves Cheney UMC.

Alissa and Klara met on Zoom in early December and discussed their goals and what Spokane Valley UMC could offer.

"I mentor in ministry based on it being an equal partnership rather than a senior pastor-intern relationship of hierarchy," Alissa explained.

Because Alissa lives near Cheney, church members Paul, Renee and Ali Norris, who live near the church, hosted Klara. Paul works at Fairchild. Ali is executive director at Mission Outreach Center. Renee works in Rapid Rehousing with Catholic Charities. They lived in Germany for part of Paul's military career, and Ali studied German in college.

"Church leaders were excited about the opportunity," said Alissa.

Thirteen people from the church went to the airport to welcome her when she arrived Feb 2.

Klara observed worship two Sundays and then helped lead the Ash Wednesday service and preached Feb. 25 when Alissa was away. She also preached on her last Sunday, March 17.

"My internship required that I shadow a minister to see what a pastor's work is like and then choose a topic to write on. I chose work-life balance," said Klara, who finds Alissa's professional boundaries between ministry and a "robust social and family life outside church" a good model.

Alissa said Spokane Valley UMC is "a healthy, thriving congregation with strong lay leadership."

"As pastor I partner with laity in a complementary way, sharing the work of the church," she said.

After the first week, Klara went to every committee meeting, helped plan worship and co-led a memorial service. Klara attended small groups and Bible classes, and visited social service agencies the church works with.

"The congregation fell in love with her and wants her to return," said Alissa, who found the internship an opportunity to let the congregation see the benefits of a multi-pastor configuration.

Klara found the congregation supportive and appreciative. They prayed for her before her first sermon and affirmed her with hugs and compliments afterwards.

Klara was curious to know about ministry with diverse people, especially about campus ministry with queer college students, so she spent a day in Pullman visiting the Wesley Foundation at Simpson UMC, the ministry Alissa served previously.

"My studies focus on diversity, queer theology and discrimination," said Klara. "I'm interested in how those issues are different and the same here and in Germany."

She has observed the split in the United Methodist Church between "affirming congregations" that support LGBTQIA+ people and leaders, and those who have separated from the United Methodist Church in the U.S.

"The Methodist Church in Germany fought to stay as one church because we believe a united Church represents the universal message," she said.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April 2024