Windham-Hughes follows her calling to the Lutheran faith


Serena Zuniga

Associate professor Colleen Windham-Hughes smiles at the crowd as Bishop Guy Erwin reads the communion text on Friday Oct. 25.

Serena Zuniga, Reporter

Colleen Windham-Hughes, an associate professor of religion at California Lutheran University, was ordained under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Friday Oct. 25. Windham-Hughes was previously ordained as a pastor under the United Methodist Church.

“My dad was the choir director at my church, so I was born and baptized a United Methodist. That’s my ordination,” Windham-Hughes said.

About four years ago, Windham-Hughes said she recalls feeling an “overwhelming sense of belonging” while at a Lutheran conference. It was then that she realized she wanted to become Lutheran.

“I kept it to myself for a while, and then after a couple of years of just thinking about it to myself, I actually said it out loud to one of my best friends who was a United Methodist pastor. I said ‘I’ll probably be Lutheran one day.’ Like both of us heard me say that, so then I had to be accountable,” Windham-Hughes said.

Windham-Hughes said she had many conversations with United Methodists and Lutherans in an effort to try to understand her feelings.

“Lutherans said ‘Oh my gosh this [is] wonderful! Yes please.’ And even my United Methodist friends said ‘We love this community and how involved you are in the ministry,’” Windham-Hughes said.  “And even by the time the process was almost finished this summer and I was going to my last Methodist gathering, they said to me ‘We’ve thought of you as Lutheran for some time now.’”

After careful thought and deliberation, Windham-Hughes said she began the process of ordination to the ministry of Word and sacrament under the ELCA. This process involved writing, meetings and a psychological evaluation.

Scott Maxwell-Doherty, university pastor at Cal Lutheran, said ordination is “a visible welcome into a community of faith.”

“Ordination is the church, now the Lutheran church for her. Saying a profound ‘yes’ that your gift and skill set is something that we wish to honor and bless in a significant way,” Maxwell-Doherty said.

Maxwell-Doherty was on the committee that interviewed Windham-Hughes when she arrived at Cal Lutheran. Since then, they have become close friends with one another. He is even the godfather to Windham-Hughes’ son.

“She is thoughtful, mindful, deeply caring, has a gift and skill set for asking the question that you desperately want to have asked, so that you can talk about the stuff that you want to talk about,” Maxwell-Doherty said.

As a professor and pastor, Windham-Hughes is involved with the lives of students on campus. Junior and Lord of Life President David Hall said he sees Windham-Hughes as a spiritual mentor and resource.

“She’s someone that’s always been there and she’s a pastor for a lot of what we do,” Hall said.

Windham-Hughes said she hopes students take from her ordination that it’s “worth it to pursue your integrity through hard things, and to do what you can to stay in relationships with people when you go through difficult times.” She added that people, despite their differences, have the ability to come together.

Windham-Hughes will continue to serve as a pastor and associate professor at Cal Lutheran, now under the ELCA.

“My job isn’t changing. I’ll still be a professor and a pastor just the same, but I think what changes is that my membership is really where my energy is personally and professionally,” Windham-Hughes said.