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Woman became minister in her late 40s

| Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005

FAWN -- Elaine Hower knew the idea was probably, in her words, "nuts." But then again, she does not claim any credit or blame for it.

"It was not my idea. It was God's," Hower said. "He calls the most unlikely people."

It was in response to that call that Hower, then 46 years old, wife of a general surgeon and mother of three teenage boys, became a Lutheran minister.

"I was a very traditional parent, but I was restless and was considering a lot of different things," Hower said. "I had done a lot of volunteer work and was a lay associate at Faith Lutheran Church in Natrona Heights, and very much enjoyed doing that."

The idea of becoming a minister was not something she embraced. Hower said there was a lot of nudging, struggling and even resistance involved -- mainly from within herself.

"It seemed very scary because my whole life, and my life with my husband, would have to change," Hower said. "I would have to go to school.

"And there was the matter of how my sons would react and what they would think."

At the time, Hower's three sons were well into their teens. They were already in college or about to enter.

"My one son said, 'You're going to do what• You can't -- you're Mom!'" Hower recalled. "But my husband and sons were all really very supportive."

Reaching the decision took years of soul searching and prayer, not to mention getting through four years of seminary school and an internship.

"It was definitely something that was day-by-day," Hower said. "A lot of times I felt like I had just stepped off a cliff and didn't know where bottom was. It was such a big change."

Hower spent her first year at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary -- the same year her youngest son started college -- then a year at a seminary in Gettysburg, and then a one-year internship followed by a final year in Gettysburg.

The years in Gettysburg were the most difficult, requiring her to commute home every weekend.

"It was very hard for me every day," Hower said. "I cried my way through Greek, and had to ask God's help to get me through a day at a time."

But with help from above, as well as from her family, Hower made it though.

She was ordained on Aug. 30, 1998.

She subsequently was the minister for two parishes in Vandergrift and Spring Church before becoming pastor at Bethesda Lutheran in Lower Burrell in November.

"When you step out in faith, it leads to such joy," Hower said. "I just can't describe it."

But being a pastor has not barred her from continuing her other roles as wife and mother.

Her sons have become established professionals: Michael is assistant principal at Fox Chapel Area High School, while Bob Jr. and John are physicians.

Their spouses are equally established. Rebecca Hower is a meteorologist at KDKA, while Melissa and Erica Hower are teachers. And then there are the grandchildren, whom she adores.

Hower admits she was a bit envious of the traditional students she attended the seminary with because they would have many more years to serve. But Hower also likes what she brings to a congregation.

"The one thing I have is these life experiences, which can prove so valuable," Hower said. "And I guess I am proof that, no matter how old we get, there are still changes and surprises in life."

Additional Information:

Rev. Elaine Hower

Age: 56.

Hometown: Fawn.

Family: Husband, Dr. Robert Hower; sons Bob Jr., Michael and John; daughters-in-law Rebecca, Melissa and Erica; grandchildren Jackson, Sophia, Michael and Benjamin.

Occupation: Pastor, Bethesda Lutheran Church, Lower Burrell.

Shoe size: 8.

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