Bishop Elaine Sauer
My Faith Story
My roots in the Lutheran Church began in 1971. I was invited to “Luther League”, the youth group of the local congregation, Christ Lutheran, Terrace, BC. It was a safe place for teenagers to be- we were welcome to participate and lead in worship; we had a cool pastor who played the guitar and introduced us to a way of meeting culture with faith; we held retreats and did fun things that weren’t always acceptable in the secular world but allowed us to just be teens.
My parents weren’t church goers, but we certainly weren’t discouraged from going. My dad said he didn’t want to force “religion” on us so we had to choose when we were old enough. I don’t discount that he felt strongly about that but I believe he exhibited faith to us in other ways that weren’t so recognizable to him at times. Even at the end of his life, when he knew things were out of his control, he wanted to reconnect with God and sought out the church to do that.
My paternal grandmother was my first faith mentor. She was a strong believer and when she lived with us over the years, she took me to church and taught me about forgiveness, grace, faith community and the power of God to make a difference in your life. She was a practicing Roman Catholic. Even in the years she was excommunicated (unable to commune) because she was a divorced woman and remarried, she never stopped attending church. She continued to be fed by the WORD in other ways than sacramental. She continued to be in a relationship with God through her community of faith. Grandma led a life that was not always happy or healthful for her, but she persevered and always knew God was with her.
I grew up with five siblings, four of whom were close in age and one who came later in our lives. When we were younger we were playmates to each other and we had an idyllic place to play, surrounded by forest and field and river-plenty of room for children to seek quiet or romp with others. As the eldest I was responsible for the others but there were times in which a quiet, safe place was needed. I usually found that in a tree fort near our home. To this day that tree fort is my spiritual place where I go to hear “the still small voice of God”.
I was baptized as an infant but it wasn’t until I came to the Lutheran Church that I understood fully what that meant. Each day as I arise, I know that I am renewed. All that I have left behind from the day before has been cleaned by God’s hands. In that there is freedom, but there is also responsibility. I must make amends and offer forgiveness. That is the painful side of God’s love and forgiveness.
No other time in my life did that become more evident that in the years following my parents deaths. My father was the cause of my mother’s death and in realizing that, he took his own life. It was not until I was sick physically, mentally and spiritually that God reminded me that forgiveness would bring healing; that I needed to let go of the anger I had towards my father, to forgive him. While life did not miraculously change into perfection and the pain of loss did not go away, it led to a deeper understanding of whose I am and what God offers to all- a deep abiding love to walk through human pain with us and bring us to wholeness.
My spouse and family of three sons, their partners and children remind me daily that God is present in my life. Though my call as bishop takes me away from home often, the phone rings or beeps a text and I hear their “voices”, telling stories, asking for advice, challenging me to change my perspective or affirm what I have shared. Email gives more time to sort through the challenges of life, bring photos of joy and love, confidence to carry on. God working through them keeps me connected to the family and to their daily world.
Being married to a pastor provides challenges in itself. We have to work at balance and to remind each other to stop and rest. Being married to a pastor and being bishop also provides challenges. How do we stop talking about the church when we are together? The work of pastor is 24/7 because we are in relationship with God’s people. Relationships are always evolving and always require our attention. But the work in the church should not be all encompassing.
One needs to find other ways and relationships to feed the body and soul to do the work of the church. I love “sudoku” puzzles. I am not a mathematical person but the numbers are soothing, allowing the mind to problem solve, experiment, and challenge. There is a sense of “well done” when a puzzle is completed.
Other times, I bury my head in a book, something fictional that does not require deep thinking, something that allows my mind to rest. Its laziness on my part, but I need times in which I can shut down, and shut out the challenges of life.
Being called as the MNO Bishop has changed my life immensely. It’s an all consuming task to have oversight for 64 congregations and over 80 rostered ministers. But the office staff and synod leadership are partners that make the difference. They can ride the storms with you, share the glories and challenge the barriers and brokenness. That’s how God provides and gives help for the journey. Thanks be to God.
- Baptized in Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, Kitimat, BC
- Confirmed at Christ Lutheran, Terrace at 18 years of age
- Married my high school sweetheart, Rick, in 1975
- Attended the University of Victoria for 3 years, then completing a Bachelor of Education degree at University of Saskatchewan in 1981
- Birthed three sons: Stephen (1979) whose partner is Erin, David (1982) and William (1983),whose partner is Natalie
- Taught middle school grades off and on for many years
- Entered Lutheran Theological seminary in 1994, with completion of a Masters of Divinity and graduation in 1998
- Called to serve the MNO Synod in youth and campus ministry, with ordination as pastor in 1998
- Called to serve the ELCIC as Assistant to the Bishop for Synodical Relations, with National Bishop Schultz in 2003
- Grandmother to Corbin (2004), Ella (2010) and Gabrielle (2010)
- Called to serve the MNO as bishop in April 2006, with ordination in September 2006