by Elsie Walker
If you asked Julie Haspel, she’d tell you that she’s “always been in ministry’. Because of her youthful voice and appearance, it may surprise people when they find out that this year Pastor Haspel marks her 30th year as a minister. She graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 1991 with her M.Div (Master of Divinity). A common thread in describing how she feels about the ministry is that she loves what she does and serving her congregations. She has served several churches, the last being Messiah Lutheran in Oakland, New Jersey. Now, she is serving in our area. In March, she became the new full-time pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Mendham. Recently, she talked about her background and the love and privilege she feels in being a minister.
It was her childhood experiences that led her to the ministry. She said she had a wonderful upbringing but had a health problem growing up. She had trouble fitting in sometimes, but was always accepted at church. When she was in high school, she shared that “People said it was so easy to talk to me.” People told her she should be a pastor. Her pastor said it, too. Haspel felt she wanted to be there for people the way her pastor and church were there for her.
Later, even before she entered the seminary, she participated in ministry. “I took two years off from college to tour with [a Christian ] band. It was a full-time ministry and truly led me to the ordained ministry,” Haspel shared. The band toured the east coast and worked with youth groups. The band played at six different churches a week. For Haspel’s part, she played piano and bass guitar and sang. (She noted that she was a piano performance major in college.) “I met so many people,” she said of the experience.
Now in her 30th year, when asked what she enjoys most about the ministry, she said, “I enjoy everything!” She enjoys the connection with people, “It is such an awesome responsibility, and yet a privilege to be there for people,” Haspel said. “I listen with my heart” is what she said she’s been told by people. She considers it a privilege when someone sits down and shares himself/herself with her. She also shared that she loves her parishioners.
A special time for her is celebrating a baptism. “Every baptism is a joy for me”, she said. She loves seeing families come together and knowing the child will be part of the church family and God’s family.
Watching youth, who have struggled or been unsure of themselves, “grow into who they are meant to be” is another joy she shared. Youths she has pastored have friended her on Facebook, to keep up with her and this lets her see how their lives unfold: when they marry, start a family, etc.
Haspel’s own family consists of her husband, Bill, her sons Jon (age 25) and Nate (age 18) and their dog Hazel. Haspel says her marriage is a wonderful partnership. Also, she shared that her sons have taught her “so much about life and love” and really working hard during difficult times.