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The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson is senior pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC.

Member of:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Representative of:

Incarnation Lutheran Church, Columbia, SC

The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Incarnation Lutheran Church, Columbia, SC

The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson has been Senior Pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC, since 2003.

Pastor, St. Paul's Lutheran, Evanston, IL 1992 - 2002

ELCA Churchwide Staff in Chicago 1988 - 1991

Pastor, St. Mark's Lutheran, Prosperity, SC 1983 - 1987


B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Newberry College, Newberry, SC 1978

Master of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia 1983

Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago 2005


For 20 years, I have been an advocate for the homeless and for racial reconciliation. Since moving back to my hometown of Columbia, SC in 2003, I have served on the Board for the Midlands Housing Alliance which built the 11 million dollar transitional housing and help facility in downtown Columbia called Transitions, and served as chair for many years of Light the Way, an interfaith group assisting with education and advocacy around homelessness. In June, 2008, I was honored with the Hyman Rubin Sr. Distinguished Service Award by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council for my work on these issues.

For eight years, I have been part of a Racial Reconciliation Group in Columbia comprised of mostly Lutheran clergy and a variety of lay and clergy African American members of the community. While we have planned and carried out a few public events, our main purpose is to work toward racial reconciliation by developing deep friendships with each other. We meet once a month for lunch conversation and several times a year we meet in each other's homes along with our spouses or friends. We believe that our friendship and the trust that is a result of it will naturally translate into all the other relationships and networks in our lives.

Currently in my congregation and as an ordained ministry in the ELCA, I am focused on and write, preach, and speak on the following issues:


  • How to be an effective minister and have an effective ministry in the 21st century.
  • How to do effective ministry in 20th or 19th century church buildings in which many of us find ourselves.
  • While many like to point to the statistics of decline, I am trying to put it in the context of a changing church rather than a declining church. We know that change is the constant in church history and yet when it happens in our midst it causes us to be afraid rather than creative or grateful! As mainline Protestants, I believe our greatest challenge and our coolest opportunity is to discover how to be creative and grateful in the midst of change.


Latest Content by The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson

The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson

Alabaster Extravagance

Luke 7:36-50

4th Sunday after Pentecost - Year C

June 16, 2013

The Rev. Dr. Mary Anderson (ELCA)


As a preacher and worship leader, I'm often fascinated and intrigued by how the stories of scripture and the hymns of the church can offer us theological surprise when we change their context. It often feels like a fresh breeze of the Spirit. For example, in my congregation, if we have a funeral service during the season of Christmas, we'll sometimes sing the famous Christmas Eve hymn, "Silent Night." We seldom hear or sing that hymn outside of evening worship on December 24th. When we sing the words "sleep in heavenly peace" in the dark with our candles burning, we know we are singing about baby Jesus, sweetly asleep in the manger. When we sing it the morning of a funeral, say on December 29th, as the casket of a loved one rests before us and voice the words "sleep in heavenly peace," it suddenly becomes a prayer for one who has died rather than a lullaby for a newborn. But singing this hymn at a funeral causes us to remember that the one who was born would also die for us and because he died the one we have lost will have new life. Change of context gives us fresh insights that we don't always get when we use the same things in the same places.

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