Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2013, 11:00 am

A Valentine baby loves her new job at Trinity Lutheran

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By Leon Lagerstam,

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Photo: Gary Krambeck
The Rev. Kate Morris recently became the new associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moline.
MOLINE -- Trinity Lutheran's new associate pastor was born the same year lead pastor the Rev. Larry Conway was ordained.

"So I look forward to learning everything I can from him and his experience," said the Rev. Kate Morris, who turned 31 on Valentine's Day.

She saluted former associate pastor, the Rev. Laura Koppenhoefer, for paving the way for a female pastor. "It's something I don't take lightly and am quite thankful to be a voice in the pulpit," Rev. Morris said.

She said she's sure she'll learn a lot from the group of "smart, talented people" at Trinity.

Her only stumbling block so far is when she's leading the Lord's Prayer. As an ordained Presbyterian USA pastor, Rev. Morris,is used to saying debts and debtors instead of asking for forgiveness for trespasses or sins, and admits she sometimes mumbles over that part and lets the congregation drown her out.

"They also do communion every Sunday, which is different," Rev. Morris said. "But when in Lutheran land, I need to go where they take me."

She hasn't seen or expected any serious sticking points, though.

The Presbyterian Church USA and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America "officially are said to be in full communion, meaning they can exchange pastors," she said. "I've felt very comfortable with this alignment."

Presbyterians have jokingly been known as the "frozen chosen," and Lutherans aren't exactly known to break out in spontaneous applause, she said with a chuckle.

"Lutherans also are particularly proud of the music programs, but I'm not musically inclined at all," she said.

She credits "divine intervention" for bringing her to Trinity.On the day she and her husband, Dan Morris, talked about her going back to work, after a maternity break, "Pastor Larry called to say my resume had crossed his desk," she said.

Their daughter, Parker Elizabeth, was about 5 months old, "and I was so very fortunate to be able to stay at home with her for the first few months, but I felt I wanted to get back into church life, and saw this as a good fit for my interests in preaching and offering congregational care, while still allowing me time to be a mother, since it's part time."

Parker's now 7 months old, and sometimes accompanies her mom to work and spends time in the church nursery.

Parker was 10 days old when her dad was offered a job in the religion department at Augustana College in Rock Island, prompting the family's move to the Quad-Cities.

Rev. Morris, originally from South Carolina, and her husband, a Vermont native, met while attending Davidson College, in North Carolina, where Mr. Morris completed his doctorate.

Rev. Morris said she tends to be more of "an open book. Must be my southern upbringing; when I'm asked something, I'll say what's on my mind."

However, people won't likely hear her say it with a southern accent, she said.I've had enough classes and public speaking experience, it's rare when I slip up."

It usually doesn't happen unless she's talking to family, friends or someone else in South Carolina, she said.

"My husband grew up in area where they believe good fences make good neighbors, but in the south, we don't believe in fences at all," she said.

As associate pastor, Rev. Morris preaches about at 5:30 p.m. Saturday services in the church chapel, and Sunday 9 and 10:30 a.m. services in Trinity's sanctuary.

She said she's written a few Lenten devotionals already, "and there's always a meeting to attend."

Rev. Morris said she hasn't finished moving into her church office. When she walked into it on her first day, she saw a huge wooden cross on its side, and said it felt slightly imposing. "I hoped it wasn't symbolizing the suffering I was about to endure," she said jokingly. "But people have been so kind and friendly."

Her first sermon was about the baptism of the Lord, Rev. Morris said."When I preach, I offer personal stories as a way for the congregation to get to know me, and I add Scriptures to make it as Biblical as possible and relative to peoples' lives."

A seminary professor always asked students "What's the Good News," "and I always try to remember to answer that question when I get to preach," Rev. Morris said.

As she shared Gospel stories of the births of Jesus and John the Baptist in her first message to Trinity members, she recalled her pregnancy, "wondering how I would know when it was time to have a baby," according to a script she provided.

"I wanted a checklist, a series of criteria that I could assure myself that I was, in fact, 'in labor' and ready to go to the hospital. I remember asking the women who had given birth before me, 'How did you know?'

"Without fail, they would chuckle, and, with a mix of motherly wisdom and perverse 'I'm-glad-it's-you-and-not-me' joy, they would say 'Oh, you'll know.' And indeed, on that early morning in July, I knew. I just knew. Without a doubt, I was having a baby."

Rev. Morris said she ended her sermon by saying, "Today, we hear God proclaim: 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.' Tomorrow and the next day, it will remain just as true as it is today. Jesus is Lord. How do we know? We just know. Thanks be to God. Amen."

The Rev. Kate Morris bio box
Address: Rock Island
Birth date: Feb. 14, 1982
Education: Bachelor of arts degree, Davidson, N.C., College; master's of divinity degree, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga.; ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA in 2008
Experience: chaplain, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic; chaplain, Care Initiatives Hospice, Waterloo, Iowa; started as associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moline, Jan. 1
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.
Family: husband, Dan Morris, a religion department professor at Augustana College, Rock Island; daughter, Parker Elizabeth, 7 months old.
Favorite Scripture: Psalm 139
Favorite Biblical character you'd like to meet: Mary
I wish I knew how to: play the piano