Mary Katherine King attended Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in West Columbia as a child because her parents made her. “I didn’t want to put on a dress. I wanted to put on jeans,” she laughed. But her attitude about attending church began to change around the 3rd grade. Mary Katherine started to enjoy confirmation, at first because of her friends, but it all began to grow from there. She has powerful memories of going to National Youth Gatherings in New Orleans and Detroit, and she remembers visiting Camp Kinard with South Carolina Lutheran Church Youth (SCLCY).
Her faith story has a pattern to it. Each key moment begins with her not being involved, not knowing an opportunity exists, being asked to consider it, eventually saying yes, and then finding a place in God’s community through her participation.
The youth at Mt. Tabor constantly texted and invited each other to events. She appreciated a new afterschool program at church on Wednesdays and then was asked to consider staying even later to sing with the choir. Mary Katherine loves to sing and found an extended community there. When she moved off to Clemson, the Lutheran Campus Ministry members knew she was coming because her pastor had alerted them. They connected with her in multiple and personal ways. She admits she didn’t get very involved that first year, but she appreciated that they never gave up and yet weren’t pushy at the same time. Freshman year was a hard one for Mary Katherine.
Then, during her first summer on staff at Lutheridge, a Clemson Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) member heard Mary Katherine share discouragement about her current major. “I really just love camp, camping, camping ministry, and my LCM friend told me that I could major in camp at Clemson. I had no idea.” Because of the connections made at camp with LCM members, her second year at Clemson was very different, and she became more involved. She even joined the leadership council for LCM.
After college, Mary Katherine found herself in a new place, with a new job in a leadership role at a camp in Pinewood, SC. Unfortunately, due to covid, she lost her job and was forced to move back home – not where she expected to find herself. “But I wasn’t alone,” she shared. “So many people I had met along the way reached out to help me. Lori Bode was a reference, and Pastor Josh Kester from Clemson LCM told me about a job with South Carolina Lutheran Retreat Centers.”
Because of her time visiting Camp Kinard and the Coastal Retreat Center for SCLCY retreats with Mt. Tabor as a youth, she felt a safe connection to apply. She now serves as the Hospitality Coordinator.
As she made her way back to Mt. Tabor, this time by choice, she was invited to sing for Women of the ELCA Sunday. Then she was invited to be part of the contemporary choir. “Everyone kept making sure I knew there was space for me even when I was the one holding myself back from joining in. That feels like my story over and over.”
Looking back now, after starting to serve in a synodical organization, Mary Katherine can see how the synod was quietly and actively part of driving all the opportunities that directed her path toward a vocation and calling. “The synod supports LCY, Youth Gatherings, Lutheran Campus Ministry, NovusWay, and South Carolina Lutheran Retreat Centers,” she shared. “Because my congregation is part of something bigger, I have been connected to the community of believers throughout my childhood and now as an adult. I want people in the synod to know that even if they don’t see it, they should not stop asking people to be part of something bigger. They should never stop making spaces for people and never stop inviting them.”
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