COLUMBIA — Sally Erickson holds a large red Bible close to her heart while she closes her eyes in prayer.
Shafts of light filter through the stained-glass panels and warm the side of her face. When the prayer is finished, she takes her seat next to the wooden pulpit. In less than one hour, she will become the official minister of Dripping Springs Christian Church.
Erickson said she first felt called to the ministry in high school.
“But I looked around, and the only thing women in the church were doing at the time was being nurses in the mission field,” Erickson says.
She persevered, taking as many classes on religion as she could at Stephens College. Later, she took courses at Eden Theological Seminary in Jefferson City.
“I called it ministry by national guard because it was one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer,” Erickson says. “It took six years, but it was worth it.”
Since then, she has served as an associate minister in Mexico and as the head minister in Huntsville. But it is Dripping Springs that has a special meaning.
For Erickson, Dripping Springs Christian Church is soaked with family history. Her father, Harold Reisch, preached there for 19 years. Her husband, Fred, served as a minister for nine years. The stained-glass windows were all handmade by her sister, Kay Berkely.
Today, the roles are reversed. Erickson is behind the pulpit, and it’s her father who is in the pews, sitting next to his wife in a row halfway toward the back. The two are celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary on this same day.
A visiting area minister, Kris Tenny-Brittian, delivers the sermon and performs the ceremony that installs Erickson as the minister of the church.
“Pastors are a gift from God,” Tenny-Brittian says as she places her hand on Erickson’s head and looks out to the congregation. “This is a partnership. This is like a wedding between this congregation and Sally.” Sally and the congregation exchange vows and say “I do.”
Like any wedding, this one is also followed by a party. After the service, the members of the congregation feast on homemade food. Over potato salad and red velvet cake, congregation members talk excitedly about their new minister.
“I’m used to her, and I like her,” says 91-year-old Lucile Street, who has been a member ever since she was baptized in the creek behind the church at age 10. “I think she’ll be a good minister.”
Lucile Hunt, 82, agrees. “I feel about her like my children, I feel real proud,” she says. “It’s like she’s coming home.”