Church welcomes Vicar from Palestine

Rev. Anita Warner, pastor of Advent Luthern Church of Morgan Hill, and VIcar Niveen Sarras, newly-installed pastoral intern at Advent.

It seems ironic that in Palestine, the birthplace of Christianity, women have to overcome many obstacles before accepting their call to ministry. In fact, Niveen Sarras has traveled to the United States to serve God’s people as an ordained pastor.
Sarras comes from a Christian family in Bethlehem.
“My ancestors became Christians either when they followed Jesus Christ or when they heard Peter preach his first sermon, but no later than the first century A.D,” she said.
Encouraged by her parents to attend church and keep her Christian identity, she attended a Lutheran school through high school graduation; however, she first felt her call to ministry while attending a Roman Catholic Mass.
Unlike most Lutheran churches in the West, ordination of women is not allowed in the Middle East, so she entered Bethlehem Bible College and earned a bachelor of Bible studies and Christian education degree, followed by a master’s degree in theological studies at a Presbyterian seminary in Cairo, Egypt.
Sarras then served three years as director of Christian education at the Evangelical Lutheran Christian Church in Bethlehem. Although she enjoyed her duties, she wanted to learn more about Bible scholarship and came to the United States where she earned a Ph.D. at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, writing her thesis on the book of Amos.
While attending school in the United States, she became acquainted with many Lutheran and other Christian women at conferences and workshops, strengthening her resolve to continue her education toward entering the Ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
In 2013 she entered the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, studying toward a Master of Divinity degree, the traditional route to ordination. Part of this process is a final year of study when the student serves a church as “pastoral intern” or “Vicar.” She will be with Advent Lutheran Church through October.
Sarras explained that although she has a “passion for God’s ministry through working with God’s people,” she believes she is called for “bi-vocational ministry—ministry of Word and Sacrament and ministry of teaching as a professor of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).” She hopes to find such a position when she receives ordination at the end of this year. Because of her background living as a woman in a land of repression, she is “passionate for social justice: for the poor, oppressed and marginalized people of the world.” As a feminist, women’s rights are one of her priorities.
The new Vicar notes differences in Lutheranism between the United States and Palestine:
• More responsibility for local congregations to support themselves financially
• Less the hub of social life
• Equal opportunities for women.
Sarras is grateful for God’s guidance in her long journey to ministry, especially the scholarships furnished by institutions and the mentoring of other women. She’s happy to be serving the Morgan Hill congregation and for their acceptance of her, “especially my accented English.”
For information call (408) 779-3553 or email [email protected]

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