This year we’re putting an emphasis on stories that highlight leadership and leaders from around the ELCA. “I’m a Lutheran leader” is an online feature that highlights the many ways people are leaders in the church. Bishop Eaton’s Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and mentor people who show a gift for ministry. To learn more about the initiative, go to

Name: Martha Cooley

Congregation: Trinity Lutheran Church, Stephens City, Va.

Occupation: Retired school secretary and volunteer church school teacher for 50 years

My favorite part of my congregation is the time we gather to worship, where I learn how I can be of service to God’s kingdom here on earth. Worship is a time when I’m particularly able to open myself to the working of the Holy Spirit within me and through me. It’s hard not to say that the friendships I have with fellow members of Trinity aren’t also my “favorite” part—just the coming together with other believers and sharing God’s love.

I think being a church leader means being aware of the call of the Holy Spirit on your life and then acting on it. All things are possible when we work together in what God is calling us to do. If you’re going to lead in the church, you need to lead by example, which includes being honest about your faith and being willing to share the good news of God’s love. Leaders in the church show support for others in times of need and also know when it’s time to let others take on leadership responsibilities. To be a leader is not to ask others to do things that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.

Being part of a church community means helping others, sharing God’s love, and being with other believers who care and really want to learn and share God’s many blessings for all of us. In being part of a church community, I see how God cares for me through fellow members’ love, where we share our faith by being there for one another when help is needed.

I’m a Lutheran leader who has thoroughly enjoyed the variety of leadership roles I’ve been given in my community of faith through the years, and I try hard to use my hands in service to God as the Holy Spirit leads me. “God’s work. Our hands.” is the best way I can explain what—and why—I have done what I have all these years!



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