Polish Lutheran Church Ordains First Woman

Source: Living Lutheran

On Feb. 24th, the same day war thundered into neighboring Ukraine, Marta Zachraj-Mikolajczyk received the news that she would be one of the first women ordained in the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP).

“I got the information in the evening from the bishop’s office that I will be ordained – the same day after I spend all day with our volunteers talking about what is going on in Ukraine,” she said.

Zachraj-Mikolajczyk works with young-adult volunteers from all over Europe who come for a year of service in the church’s social ministries as part of the Diakonia ministry in Wroclaw, a city in southwestern Poland. 

However, on Feb. 24, they turned their attention to their Ukrainian neighbors next door.

“I went with them to protest for peace,” she said. “We saw a lot of Ukrainian people checking their mobile phones to see if parents and friends are still alive. I got the information [about the ordination], and I was like, yeah, OK, this is not important right now. Right now, we have to think about how we can help these people.”

Zachraj-Mikolajczyk’s husband, also an ordained pastor, helped her acknowledge the significance of the ordination news and take a moment to celebrate, even in the face of war.

“He was more excited than I was,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, but the war . . .’ and he said, ‘Yes, but try to thank God for that, you were fighting for that for many years! It’s a big step in your life.’”

The ECACP Synod voted at its October 2021 conference to ordain women after more than 70 years of debate and discussion. The last time the issue had come up for a vote in 2016, it was narrowly defeated.

“I believe it’s a good decision and we will see good fruits come of it,” said ECACP Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiac in a statement. “It has been a long process for the church and now we will find a way of walking together into the future.”

On May 7, against the backdrop of war, the church ordained Zachraj-Mikolajczyk and eight other women in Warsaw: Halina Radacz, Beata Janota, Wiktoria Matloch, Katarzyna Rudkowska, Malgorzata Gas, Katarzyna Kowalska, Karina Chwastek-Kamieniorz and Izabela Sikora.

“The celebration of the ordination of the first nine women as pastors in the Lutheran church in Poland is a moment of hope that the region needs right now,” said Rachel Eskesen, ELCA area desk director for Europe. “I’m so grateful for the faithful witness of this church and these leaders.”

In her sermon at the ordination service, Halina Radacz acknowledged the gravity of the war in Ukraine. By that time more than 3 million refugees had poured across the Ukrainian border into Poland, many of them finding their way to ECACP congregations for help.

After the ordination, dressed in her pastoral robes for the first time, Radacz greeted her small congregation for Sunday worship the next day in their sunny, window-lit sanctuary in Zyradow, a Warsaw suburb. Congregation members greeted her with a standing ovation as she wiped away tears. They celebrated with gifts, flowers and desserts—after the choir reworded the final stanza of the sending hymn to personalize it for her.

Joining the festivities was a Ukrainian family being sheltered by the congregation—a 4-year-old boy, his mother and his grandmother. They expressed gratitude for the church’s warm welcome when too many Ukrainians huddle in the dark for safety.

Zachraj-Mikolajczyk drove back to Wroclaw after the ordination, nearly four hours away, and on the following Monday found herself hosting visitors from the ELCA who had come to learn more about the church’s response to the war.

She was lifted up by the ordination service, she said, and hopes her position  will give her a platform for speaking out against the war and helping people affected by it.

Source: Living Lutheran