Calvary Lutheran Church, Concord, N.C.
Weekend anchor and reporter, WSOC-TV (Charlotte, N.C.), and member of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s advisory council

My congregation has been a cornerstone for my family. My grandparents joined in 1956, and since then, Calvary has accompanied our family through all of life’s moments. They’ve been there for us after a funeral with tea and fried chicken, the kind of food your soul needs more than your stomach. They’ve been there with a comforting smile when my toddler starts screaming during the quietest part of worship. They’ve always been—and always will be—a constant for us.

I had a “mountaintop moment” when I went to Lutheridge (Asheville, N.C.) for the first time in middle school. I remember quiet walks through mountain mist, campfire worship and walking arm-in-arm with new best friends. Lutheridge is where I saw God’s beauty for the first time—and it’s a place that’s sacred to me.

I’ve wanted to be a reporter since junior year of college, when I walked out of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s chemistry building with my latest (failed) test in hand. Down on myself, I called my dad. He offered up: “Why don’t you try journalism? You’ve always loved politics and public speaking. Play to your strengths.” As he said this, I found myself looking up at the journalism building. God, right? I walked right in and signed up for my first class. The rest is history.

One of the biggest stories I covered is George Floyd’s funeral. George was born in North Carolina and still had family here. When his body arrived at the church, thousands of people bowed their heads together in silence. Strangers hugged, laughed and cried. In a time of utter distress in our country, it was a few hours of total unity.

I’ve seen homeless families gifted brand-new houses, a kidnapped child found after volunteers searched through storms and darkness to find her, and legislation that was once just a thought passed into law.

A misconception about my work is that it’s glamorous. Journalism isn’t a 9-to-5 job. There are many weeks with no days off and 2 a.m. wake-up calls, plus a lot of walking and door-knocking in thick Carolina humidity. But the work we do makes it all so worth it.

I live out my faith by being a voice for the voiceless. I don’t take lightly that God gifted me with the ability to listen and tell people’s stories. Stories end up changing lives. I’ve seen homeless families gifted brand-new houses, a kidnapped child found after volunteers searched through storms and darkness to find her, and legislation that was once just a thought passed into law. The work we do is transformational, and I’m indescribably grateful to do it.

Sitting on Bishop Eaton’s advisory council is a humbling and special experience. The council is a place to discuss and troubleshoot the problems we face in our world, how the church can best position itself to continue being a beacon and the logistics it will take to make that happen. There are many great minds at the table, and I’m honored to witness how their viewpoints and professional expertise help Bishop Eaton shape our future—and to be a small part of it.

My family is my love. My everything.

I find hope in my daughter. She’s 2, but her wonder for the world makes me see things in new, brighter ways.

Gender justice is important for the church because we have incredible women leaders in the church, and we must continue to support and empower them. I’m passionate about the ELCA’s International Women Leaders initiative, a fund that’s provided scholarships for hundreds of women around the world. The financial award allows them to study at one of the ELCA’s colleges and universities—and opens doors that might not have been there otherwise. The scholarship puts them on an even playing field to go after their goals and take hold of opportunities that can then go on to help entire communities.

The Salvation Army bell ringer told me she was there for her son. He was 14. I asked where he went to school, and she said he didn’t. He’d been murdered just months before.

I pray for my daughter, my husband and family. For the ability to always see God’s blessings. For peace and understanding.

Once, around Christmas, I stopped at a Harris Teeter supermarket to run in and grab a sandwich on my lunch break. When I say “run,” I mean it. I was so short on time because my story had fallen through for the day and I was in a panic. But when the sound of a Salvation Army bell met my ears, I took a second to grab loose change out of my wallet and drop it in the red kettle. I looked up and met the gaze of the bell ringer and we began to talk. She told me she was there for her son. He was 14. I asked where he went to school, and she said he didn’t. He’d been murdered just months before. She unzipped her bulky red coat to reveal a T-shirt—her son’s smiling face printed right on the front. Ringing that bell, collecting money for those less fortunate, was her way of carrying on his memory. Serving others helped her push through her grief and made his death mean something. I’d found my story! I shared it on the 6 p.m. news that night, and I’m still sharing it today.

I’m a Lutheran because my family has been Lutheran far before I was born. I’ve chosen to remain Lutheran because I’m proud of what we stand for as a church: love and equality. I like that it’s OK for me to not have all the answers. Knowing there’s no greater gift than God’s grace—and that I’m worthy of it? That’s enough for me.

Erin Strybis
Erin Strybis is a content editor of Living Lutheran. Find more of her stories at her website and on Instagram.

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