St. John’s Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Lutheran Church’s Ordination of Women: The Rev. Dr. Marty Stevens to Preach Feb. 16
By Susan Shinn Turner
The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ELCA’s ordination of women. Throughout the year we will honor those women who have served as pastors at St. John’s or were nurtured here along their journey to ordination.
To kick things off, we welcome the Rev. Dr. Marty Stevens on Sunday, Feb. 16.
Stevens was the congregation’s first female pastor. Those who have served since include Pastors Mary Peters, Jennifer Ginn, Jan Huntley, Danielle DeNise, and Laura Henrik.
Stevens says of being the St. John’s trailblazer, “It was interesting. Some people were not sure about it, and other people were fine. It takes awhile to change. I get that. Once they got to know me and saw the ministry I had, it was wonderful.”
Stevens remembers the late Martha Agner coming to her office one day when Agner was in the process of updating the church’s history. She wanted to know if Stevens preferred being a “woman” pastor or a “female” pastor.
“It depends on what you’re calling Carl (Sachtleben),” Stevens told her.
Well, he’s a man, was the answer. “There you go,” Stevens said.
Stevens was a second-career pastor. She began her career as a CPA with a degree in accounting from UNCC. She eventually became a financial management executive in Charlotte.
“As I got more and more involved in church life, I felt a calling toward church service,” she says. “I thought, what’s the worst that could happen?”
When she entered seminary, the split was about 60-40, men to women. “There was a whole wave of women who went to seminary in those days, and they were mostly second career.”
A woman’s presence on the seminary campus was an accepted thing, she says. But once you left campus, it was an eye-opening experience.
But that wasn’t unusual for Pastor Stevens. When she worked for Deloitte LLP in Charlotte, she was one of only two females out of 120 professionals. “I kinda grew up in a man’s world.”
She left Deloitte and entered the seminary in 1989. After receiving her Masters of Divinity, she worked at St. John’s from 1993 to 1997, having been pastoral intern here from 1991 to 1992. She then went on to receive a PhD from Union Theological Seminary in 2002.
“I love learning,” Stevens notes. “I always have.”
Since that time, she has taught at Union, LTSS, and Gettysburg before retiring in 2017. She returned to Greensboro and lives in the home she grew up in. She’s now an adjunct professor at Wake Forest Divinity School.
When she’s not working, Stevens enjoys reading and singing in a community choral group, which will present Mozart’s Requiem this spring. She’s also enjoying volunteer work centered on hunger.
Stevens is most excited about seeing the people she knew at St. John’s, she says. “I haven’t seen the new building, so I’m really excited to see it. The kids I had in confirmation are now parents.”
During her time at St. John’s, Stevens expanded the lay assisting ministry and was instrumental in getting the Eagle’s Nest built at Rowan Helping Ministries.
“It was such a blessing,” she says of her time at St. John’s. “It was a fabulous part of my life.”