Guest Post by Pastor Erika Kielstrup, St. Paul, Monona

October 27-November 3 I was in Wittenberg, Germany with 19 women who were pastors, deacons, and lay leaders from the United States, Serbia, Romania, Estonia, Hungary, Russia, Poland, Palestine, Latvia and Canada for the 7th ELCA International Women’s Seminar.

The Reverend Kit Kleinhans, formerly of the NEIA Synod and Wartburg College, led this seminar and has led all of them. She is a wealth of information about Reformation history, Wittenberg and an all around fun person.


We spent the week immersed in Reformation history, after all, we were in the place where the Reformation began and where Martin Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora lived most of their lives.

It was a different sort of history though because we concentrated on the women who influenced the Reformation: Katharina von Bora, Elisabeth of Rochlitz, Katharina Schutz Zell and Argula von Grumbach and how we as women are still shaping the church today.

My new friend, Marta, from Poland at the end of the week called it a women’s empowering seminar.


We did feel more empowered by the end of the week to call out injustice happening in our churches and countries and to go back to our context and share about the situation of women in all of our countries.

We had a week of learning: about the Reformation, from each other about each other’s countries and situations.

We listened respectfully and respectfully disagreed with each other, cried with one another, shared stories we normally don’t share with people we just met but felt safe with one another.

The week was amazing because of these women and the dialogue we had but also to be in the middle of history, to be able to worship and celebrate the Reformation on October 31 but also where it all began. We worshiped in English at the Castle Church where Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses and those doors are only opened on Reformation Day.  I also worshiped in German at the City Church where Luther and his family regularly worshiped and he preached. In Wittenberg on Reformation the city turns into a festival with music and costumes from Luther’s time. I would like to celebrate October 31 like that every year!


I was able to have this wonderful experience because the facilitators of the seminar wanted to include women from the U.S. whose synods were companion synods with the countries represented. Our companion synod is Hungary and I roomed at the College Wittenberg with Kati who is an associate pastor in Budapest, Hungary. We really got along well and had a lot in common. I am happy to call her my friend and hope we can meet again in Hungary!

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so happy I accepted!

I can’t believe when I got the call I said I had to think about it! I have new friends from all over Eastern Europe and have a renewed passion for the gospel, history and women’s rights.

Thank you to the NEIA Synod and ELCA for making this opportunity possible for me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.