Dykemans minister to three churches
Deacon Anna Dykeman greets members of Peace Lutheran Church as they arrived for worship services in Dickinson. Meanwhile, her husband, Rev. Ellery Dykeman, is traveling from Richardton where he had just led another worship service.
Catching his breath and dressing in church robes, Ellery walks into the sanctuary without a minute to spare.
The Dykemans serve as co-ministers to three churches—Peace Lutheran Church in Dickinson, St. John's Lutheran Church in Richardton and St. John's Episcopal Church in Dickinson.
The partnership is part of a national effort when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church came into full communion partnership in 1999.
"It was a natural partnership between the two communities," Anna said. "There are other congregations like the United Church of Christ, Methodists and Presbyterians that we're in full communion partnership with them as well."
While the Dykemans appreciate the ecumenical unity of their ministry, they make allowances for differences.
"One of the interesting things of being a pastor in three different churches, is we have three different worship books—Peace Lutheran has the newest version, Richardton has an older version and the Episcopal Church has the Book of Common Prayer—they are not radically different, but they are different," Ellery said.
"We preach one sermon, but personalize it to each congregation," Anna said.
For example, this year's Lenten theme is bread. As a visual, Peace Lutheran placed a table in the sanctuary surrounded by chairs, but St.John's at Richardton has pews. Each week, different items are placed on the table to coincide with the scripture readings.
"Each week we add something new to the table," Ellery said. "Lutheran Social Services is talking about refugee relocation, so we will have an open seat at the table to illustrate that here."
Also, Lutherans refer to Ellery as pastor, while the Episcopalians refer to him as priest—Ellery is comfortable with both titles.
As Holy Week nears, the schedule grows even more interesting. The Dykemans will lead three Holy Thursday services, three Good Friday services and three Easter services.
"It gets complicated," Ann said.
Sunday services start at Richardton with worship at 8 a.m., followed by Peace Lutheran at 9:30 a.m. and the Episcopal Church at 11 a.m. Of course, there's also Wednesday evening services at Peace Lutheran.
Anna leads services for a weekend every six weeks to relieve Ellery from his schedule.
Their theological roots
Ellery grew up in Tacoma, Wash., while Anna lived in Wisconsin and Washington. They both enrolled at Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah, Wash., where Ellery studied youth and family ministry and Anna studied psychology. After graduation, they married and moved to Lebanon, Ore., where he worked with the youth of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church. Anna worked the preschool director for the church, while caring for their children, Naomi, Leah and Isaiah.
"I was the youth director full time, and I loved it, but people kept asking when I was going to be a pastor—eventually it felt right," Ellery said.
The couple moved from Oregon to Dubuque, Iowa, where Ellery enrolled in Wartburg Seminary.
"We sold our house in Oregon, sold our car, packed up three babies, and left friends and family—we hopped into a truck and drove cross country to Dubuque," Ellery said.
"Oil people would get it—right?" Anna said. "They leave everything to get a job and we left everything so Ellery could go to seminary."
Upon his ordination, he served as pastor of the Wayne Zion Lutheran Church in Monticello, Iowa, and Anna enrolled at Warburg.
She intended to become a pastor, but changed her mind.
"My calling and heart were really to work outside the church in community—to link church and community together," she said.
Completing the master's degree program, Anna was consecrated as a deacon.
Because Wayne Zion wasn't in need of a deacon, the Dykemans considered their next move.
"We had really good friends in Bismarck, who suggested we serve in western North Dakota," Anna said.
They were matched by the bishop with the Dickinson and Richardton congregations in western North Dakota.
"We were nervous about going to North Dakota," Anna said. "Everybody assumes you will go home to family, but we felt it was right and seemed to make sense for our calling."
They moved to Dickinson in August of 2014.
Ellery provides the pastoral care, leads worship and presides over the sacraments.
"With three churches, there's a lot of administration that goes along with that—the needs of each church are different," he said.
Anna's calling is different. She relieves Ellery in the pulpit, but her work focuses on faith formation and social justice.
"I do a lot of teaching here," Anna said. "My soap box is preparing all minds to figure out how to engage the world and to live their faith outside of church —that's a deacon's work,"
As an example, Peace Lutheran plans to start a community garden.
"Basically, we are providing space for people to grow healthy vegetables," Ellery said. "We're working with our community partners with the garden—It's something we've been dreaming about for the last two years."
Peace Lutheran also is ecumenical in its use of space—Grace Action Chapel uses the sanctuary for worship services.
"It's a ministry of hospitality we inherited," Ellery said.
"We also have two preschools—there's 100s of people coming here every day," Anna said.
She referenced the Kid's Academy located inside the church and Room to Bloom located in a building beside the church.
St. John's Church at Richardton also has welcomed the Seventh-day Adventist Church to use their building on Saturdays.
"As far as the churches go, each church opens its buildings for groups to use—I can't think of a better use of a church building. Our buildings are rarely empty," Anna said.
As the Lutheran Church prepares to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Ellery believes the church in North America is going through a second reformation—a reformation of unity.
"We are more about breaking down walls than putting up walls," Ellery said. "So often our first response is to lock things up and put up fences—I think churches overall have done the opposite—they are opening doors and reaching out to find people to come in."
Anna added, "Our call is to get people thinking about their faith and their communities—love god and love your neighbors."