Kristen Lowe moved to Waunakee in June of this year before starting her pastoral duties the following month at Crossroads United Methodist Church. In the United Methodist Church, pastors are sent to specific locations by bishops, and the appointments are for indefinite periods of time.
“My goal is to be here a very long time because I've fallen in love with Waunakee,” Lowe said.
Lowe grew up in Berlin, Wis., a small town near Oshkosh. Her parents still live there, and she visits as often as she can. She was an only child, and her parents put a high priority on giving her opportunities to experience the world. Sometimes they worked two or three jobs at a time in order to save money for family vacations each summer.
When she was 10 years old, she went with her mother to Italy and Israel on a Holy Land tour. They went with a Catholic tour group, and it was Lowe's first time traveling outside the United States. Lowe says seeing the people, the architecture and the sea brought the Bible to life for her.
She grew up attending Berlin United Methodist Church. Her parents were active members, and the congregation had a pastor who encouraged children to get involved. The church had a strong youth group, and Lowe's faith grew tremendously while she was a part of it. The pastor from Berlin United Methodist is Lowe's inspiration for the kind of leader she strives to be in her own church.
“He was just an encourager of people and actually still is,” Lowe said.
At early age, she felt called to pastoral ministry, but since all the pastors she knew were elderly men, she didn't think it was a realistic option. When she graduated from Berlin High School, she went to UW-Oshkosh and majored in communications.
Her job the summer before starting college influenced her choice of major. She did a Sunday morning gospel road show for the Berlin radio station. She also ran Packers and Brewers games for the station. She continued to work there when she started college, and she liked the work enough to make a career out of it. She worked in radio for 25 years.
At the start of her career, women with broadcasting experience were in high demand.
“For a decade, I was wooed from one station to another,” Lowe said.
She worked in radio stations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Lowe admits that being in such demand went to her head. She says that humility is an important thing to have, and at one point during her radio career, she learned this the hard way.
Throughout her years in radio, Lowe was an active church member. Sometimes she felt like her job got in the way of her church volunteer work.
She was living in Wausau, Wis., when she decided a change of career was in order. She was serving voluntarily as a youth minister at First United Methodist Church. The pastor of the church suggested she approach the church council to create a part-time lay position for her. They agreed, and she left her job at the radio station, despite the financial risk. She had just had a baby. But she made the decision because she felt that God was leading her in that direction.
In her adulthood, she had seen many examples of female pastors.
“It became clear to me that I was creating my own glass ceiling,” Lowe said.
Shortly after she accepted the job with the church, a Christian radio station willing to work around her schedule hired her to do a midday show Monday-Saturday.
Hannah, Lowe's daughter, took an active role in her mother's work life. Her mother says she has always been able to fit well with any circumstance. Hannah has been on the air with her mom and was reading scripture in church by the age of 4. Now 9 years old, when asked what she wants to be when she grew up, Hannah answers “God's sidekick.”
Lowe lived in Wausau and did both jobs until 2009.
She was approved for pastoral ministry by the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2010. She was appointed to Waukau United Methodist Church in a part-time position but approached it as a full-time job.
“The people knew I was their servant in Christ. I was there when they needed me,” Lowe said.
And they did need her. In the two years she was there, they had 13 funerals. The chance to help people through their darkest times is something Lowe views as a privilege and a gift.
Waukau is about 10 minutes west of Oshkosh, and Lowe was able to see her parents often. She admires them for being strong people who have overcome many obstacles. She enjoys a close relationship with them and hopes to follow their example by providing the same types of travel opportunities to Hannah that they gave to her. Moving away from them was hard.
The Waunakee community made Lowe and her daughter feel at home before they even set foot in the church. The people they met at the library, the Chamber of Commerce, and Heritage Elementary all gave them a friendly reception. Lowe says she's really looking forward to getting to know the community, “all the nooks and crannies and all the little nuances.”
As she has gotten to know the people at Crossroads United Methodist, Lowe has seen in them the desire to grow in faith, love and commitment. She is excited to be a part of their growth, both as a body and as individuals, each on a “faith journey.”
Lowe is an avid reader. Her favorite author is Max Lucado. Two books that have strongly influenced her way of thinking and communicating are “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle, and “The Four Agreements,” by Miguel Ruiz. And she loves the Bible verse Joshua 1:9, which says,“Be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
There was a specific calling that Lowe discovered when she was very young. She describes it as “holding up a mirror to people and helping them see their sacred worth.”
“We get blinded by the world, and sometimes it takes someone else to show us how amazing we really are,” Lowe said.