Rev. Austin Newberry
- Louisville, KY
Serving as pastor of First Lutheran Church, Louisville, KY.
What brings you joy in your ministry?
Perhaps odd for an introvert, I love to preach. Preaching and presiding at worship are my greatest joy. Seeing in people's faces a connection as I seek to speak the Gospel to their situation is my greatest thrill.
Who inspires you in ministry or seminary?
I am inspired by the stories of all of my fellow Proclaim members. In addition,
Benedict, Hildegard, Luther, Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero, James Alison, Joan Chittester, Bishop Hansen and Nadia Bolz-Weber each provides inspiration in his or her own way
What are your interests outside of ministry?
Best meal you've ever eaten?
My mama's (RIP) gumbo and thanksgiving dinners
More specifically, a meal at a manor house in the Scottish Borderlands.
I was born in Pensacola, FL in 1959 to a Roman Catholic father and Southern Baptist mother. For many younger people, the most shocking thing about my upbringing was that I did not go to Kindergarten. There were a few private kindergartens in Pensacola in those days but that's all. I think I turned out ok.
I attended Catholic schools until my 9th grade debut at a public high school. Invisible in high school, I made my mark in youth group and youth retreat activities in my parish and the local diocese. That made me think that priesthood/religious life might be for me. This was not what most other high school seniors in 1977 were thinking.
I made my way, sight unseen, to St. Meinrad College in Indiana, a school run by Benedictine monks for young men interested in priesthood. I loved the place so much that i joined the monastery after college.
Upon joining the monastery and then, again, when making final vows, I had one of those crazy young Martin Luther haircuts. I was a monk for 15 years. During those years, I got my MDiv from, yes, St. Meinrad School of Theology. During those seminary years I also picked up an MA in religious studies from Indiana University on the side.
After final vows and ordination (two seperate events, not all monks are priests) I went to work in the college as Associate Director of Spiritual Formation. I also taught and did other administrative tasks. It was one of those places where the reward for good work is more work - always in addition to. I spent 4 summers picking up a Masters in Applied Spirituality at the University of San Francisco. (I was so far in the closet in those days that I didn't even know about closets!)
Ten years of working with young men interested in the priesthood meant that I worked with, surprise surprise, a large number of young men who were gay. From the very beginning, even with my own suppressed sexuality issues, I knew that I had to proclaim God's unconditional love to these young men. Eventually that message got to me.
Lonely, somewhat immature, seeking adventure and hopefully love, I left the monastery and the priesthood at age 37.
Life "on the outside" was/is harder than I imagined but I found my way and have been able to support myself, find love and become a Lutheran.
Did you always want to be clergy?
I was certainly presiding at mass on my Baptist grandmother's back porch by the time I was 5 or 6.