There’s a new pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen! Check out our interview with Rev. Ruth Clendenin and be sure to extend a warm welcome to her.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was raised in the Toledo, Ohio area and attended Alma College which is a Presbyterian Church (USA) college. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in French and intended to teach at the secondary level. After time in the classroom and working as a church administrator, I began seminary in 2000 at Union Presbyterian Seminary and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (Union-PSCE, at the time). While completing my MDiv, I spent a year at the Faculté de Théologie in Montpellier, France where my studies included Greek, church history, dogmatic and systematic theology, and travel adventures throughout France and Germany. I am the youngest of four children and enjoy spending time with my family, most of whom are now in East Texas. My hobbies include attending theater, music, and sporting events; reading; and lately taking pictures.
What drew you to explore and accept the call to serve in Aberdeen?
The most “theologically correct” answer to this question is, “The Spirit of the Lord drew me to explore this call to be the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen.” While it may sound like an easy answer, the complexity of it goes to the very heart of why I am in ministry to begin with: Quite simply, I can do nothing else. Frederick Buechner explains, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Work in ministry has been filled with amazing encounters and blessings. The discovery that I have made over the years is that if I just keep following the call of God, if I just remain open to the possibilities that God is placing before me, if I just say, “Yes, Lord,” then everything else just seems to fall into place. The call to Aberdeen came out of the blue at just the right time, and the connection with the work and the people was so strong that I could not refuse.
What are you most excited about as you begin your ministry?
I cannot possibly narrow it down to any one aspect of ministry that excites me the most. However, I will say that getting acquainted with the people has always been a great joy for me wherever I have been. A side benefit of not being familiar with the area is the adventures to see new places in the community of Aberdeen (Have you been to Storybook Land yet?) and across the Dakotas (I am looking forward to seeing Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills for the first time). Another aspect of anticipation for me is to see just how the Spirit of God will be at work in us and among us as we go about our ministry together. Let me give an example that has already come to light: I became aware that a young family in the community needed a car seat for their small child. I called one of our members and asked if we had one at the church and she said, “No, but I have one at home.” She went home and got the car seat and then gifted it to that young family. Later the member of the church reflected that it had been the work of the Spirit to allow meeting such a need. Even more than seeing how the Spirit is at work, I enjoy being present with others when they realize how God is working in and through them—like a teacher who sees understanding dawn in the eyes of a student.
How can we be praying for you?
I cannot name much specifically, but you might offer prayers for guidance, provision, wisdom, humor, and grace as I continue to settle into ministry here. You might also ask for additional strength and energy as I continue to navigate through the boxes and get unpacked.