Heidi Torgerson Embraces Courage and Love Through Global Ministry

Heidi Torgerson speaking in front of stained glass

Pastor Heidi Torgerson, MDiv ’06, was 13 years old when she delivered her first sermon.

“I’m one of those people who doesn’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel a call to ministry,” she says about her journey which began at a strong congregation she was a part of growing up in rural North Dakota.

The early encouragement she received from pastors and church leaders has led Pastor Torgerson to a calling that has taken her from rural North Dakota to the heart of global communities, making a profound impact and building a network of advocates who have also dedicated their lives to the mission and vision of public service rooted in faith.

Pastor Torgerson’s commitment to working in the Church has strengthened over time. She completed an intensive apprenticeship in community organizing before applying to LSTC, a decision influenced by a desire to explore urban congregations with a social justice orientation.

She chose LSTC for what is now referred to as its “public church curriculum,” drawn to the seminary’s commitment to understanding the ways faith intersects with public life. Her education at LSTC set the foundation for Pastor Torgerson’s unique and impactful ministry journey.

After graduation, Pastor Torgerson quickly crossed traditional boundaries as she embarked on a mission to Mexico.

“One of the great surprises of my life in ministry is that it led me to serve in sanctuaries that don’t look at all like the ones most of us anticipate serving in,” Pastor Torgerson said.

In her four years in Mexico, she engaged with communities and fostered relationships with local organizations, human rights advocates and women’s cooperatives. Her work there included initiating the Young Adults in Global Mission program which continues to provide transformative experiences for young volunteers.

Elevating her commitment to global ministry, Pastor Torgerson was then called to direct the global program for Young Adults in Global Mission. In her 11 years with the organization, she mentored and learned from young volunteers, building relationships that still feed her spiritual growth and cultivate her community involvement today.

The orientation sessions she developed became spaces of profound community-building, reflecting the Holy Spirit’s presence and the transformative power of shared experiences.

Pastor Torgerson’s journey came full circle as she transitioned to a local ministry at Grace Lutheran in La Grange, Illinois. She was drawn to the congregation’s courage and openness to change, even during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 lockdown.

More recently, she has led the congregation’s courageous and compassionate response to the call to host Venezuelan asylum seekers. Tending to the needs of a Venezuelan family in crisis presented an opportunity for Pastor Torgerson to enact the values of the public church curriculum she studied at LSTC.

She was able, as the institution defines it, to lead a congregation to living out a theology of grace and to move into multiple, intersecting publics.

In practice, living these values is less about approaching the situation from the perspective of duty and more about embracing the love the privilege she and her congregation were afforded to serve the family in this time and place.

“Our discernment conversations were not if we should or could afford to help. There was none of that,” she explained. “The congregation asked hard questions, all in the service of receiving this family into our community.”

Pastor Torgerson says the experience has been transformation for the congregation and has exemplified the values of kindness, courage, and generosity in action for everyone involved.

In reflecting on her own path to the seminary and her ongoing role in ministry, Pastor Torgerson emphasizes the importance of courage and love.

“Seminarians are encouraged to embrace the courage needed to live the gospel in a world often indifferent to discussions about the divine,” she said. “Grounding ministry in a love for people and communities, especially those different from your own, can become the cornerstone for authentic and impactful service.”

As she looks ahead, Pastor Torgerson is hopeful that she will continue to serve her congregation during a time of rapid change in the church. She remains focused on Grace Lutheran, where she imagines the gospel unfolding in new and meaningful ways, ultimately contributing to a more vibrant marriage between faith and service.

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