Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to sit down with Levi Powers, the pastor at Mount of Olives Lutheran Church. Pastor Levi moved to Rock Springs in January after being finishing seminary in December and becoming ordained a Lutheran pastor in January.
Pastor Levi is originally from Wisconsin and went to the the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, so Wyoming is far different from what he’s used to. However, he is enjoying his time here so far, and he is excited about becoming more invested in the community.
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Levi, why did you want to become a pastor?
It wasn’t my original intention. I really wasn’t much of a church-goer growing up until I went as a senior in high school when my friend invited me to church. The pastor was like, “Hey, you should be a pastor,” and I said I wanted to be a band director.
So I did go to college for music education for my first two years. Then after that I kind of bounced around a bunch of majors and ended up with elementary education and early childhood minor. But even before graduating I thought that I did want to be a pastor.
The reason I did the teaching degree and did a year of teaching before I went to seminary to learn how to be a pastor was just to make sure it was really what I wanted to do.
I just haven’t found that anything else lights me up the same way.
How have you enjoyed your experience at Mount of Olives Lutheran Church so far?
It’s been a great experience. It’s a small church, maybe 25 to 30 people worship on a Sunday. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people. I want to be invested with the people who attend my services, but also with Rock Springs as a whole.
So, what does a pastor do?
A lot of people think, oh pastors only work Sunday morning, and that’s not true at all. One thing I like about it is that my everyday can look totally different from day to day.
Clearly, I have to prepare for my sermon that’s on Sunday morning, and I do a lot of work for that. The fancy word is exegesis, which basically means drawing out the meaning on the scripture passage and have that be what forms my sermon. Not only does that involve reading the Bible and really thinking about it, but also trying to understand the historical background. What did it mean to those people when it was first written? I love studying. (Fun fact: Pastor Levi has a book case full of books in his office that he reads for study.)
Sermon writing is a very serious thing, and I have to preach the word, so not my word but God’s word.
What else do pastors do? We do what’s called pastoral care, so we visit people if they’re sick or if they’re home-bound. I have a couple people at Deer Trail who are in the memory care unit and one of my jobs is to go and visit them and hear them. Just because they have a memory issue doesn’t mean they’re any less of a person.
I also bring communion to them, and that’s an interesting thing. Last month I visited them for the first time over there. I talked with a woman there for a while, we read some scripture, we prayed. Then I shared communion with her and that’s when her tears came. And I just thought, this is why I do ministry.
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
So I just finished school in December, and I went to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. That’s a four-year program to get your Master of Divinity, and that’s a requirement in the Lutheran Church to be a pastor.
I started putting my paperwork in to find a call, or a church, in September. Twice a year, the Conference of Bishops of the national church get together, there’s about 65 of them, and they look at all the paperwork for people who are waiting for their first call. This year there was 140 of us.
The paperwork is kind of like a resume but you can put where you want to end up on it. I put that I wanted to be out of the Midwest, I want to go on an adventure and do something completely different, and this is definitely completely different than Wisconsin.
There were three elements to where I wanted to go. The first was I wanted to be out of the Midwest. The second was that I wanted to go to Utah. So, they got me as close to Utah as possible. The third was, I am a gay man and in our church that’s ok, I could be married to a man if I wanted.
I wanted to go somewhere that there maybe hasn’t been a lot of public affirmation of LGBT people, or that could use more witnesses. I feel called to meet people where they’re at, so that doesn’t mean they have to agree with me because I’ll still love them the same. I just remember growing up in a very rural area, about 500 people, and having no one to turn to. So in that sense, I want to be that person that someone can turn to if they needed. So that’s part of the reason I’m out here too. I just want to show people that to be gay is a gift and not a curse of God. God loves you very much.
What is something unique about you?
I love birds a lot. I grew up raising homing pigeons. The most I ever had was 25, I started out with nine. Basically, it’s in the word, “homing”. You take them somewhere and they come home. For example, my uncle took his from Wisconsin to Nebraska, and they came back in two weeks. You can even race them against other people’s pigeons and you can win prizes. They’re very attuned to the magnetic field and that’s how they find home. And their home is wherever they spent their first month of growing up. I’m not really going to have pigeons here any time soon, but I do want to get two cockatiels. (He did!)
Also, I get along with a variety of people, I don’t just fit in with a certain group of people.
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy watching YouTube, reading books, I like to go for walks, and I love listening to music. I like Twenty One Pilots and Jake Bugg. More recently, I’ve gotten back into Natalie Merchant.
I’m still kind of learning what there is to do around here. I have a lot of online friends, but I’m kind of trying to find people around my age to hang out with.
Lisa at Sidekicks Book and Wine Bar consulted me on putting together a monthly social gathering of LGBT people at Sidekicks. (The first one was April 2.)
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I get a sense that this community is like a family and that they come together support each other, and I really like that. I also really love the landscape around us. We’re kind of nestled in all this interesting nature. I can’t wait until I get to set up a tent sleep under the stars because compared to Chicago, I’m sure these stars are awesome.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
It doesn’t matter what others think of you, it doesn’t matter what you think of you, it matters what God thinks of you. That’s where your values and your dignity in everything comes from. In Jesus Christ, we know that God is gracious, and we can depend on that.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
I like Sidekicks a lot. It’s comfortable, it has a friendly atmosphere, and the staff are great. And I just love books and there’s books there.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?
I would rather walk. It would give me time to just appreciate the surroundings and get some fresh air. I’m not in a rush.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
I have so many, but I’m really bad at karaoke. I think “How Soon the Dawn” by Jake Bugg. I really enjoy that song.
How would your friends describe you?
They would say I’m a very genuine person, easy to get along with, and perhaps quirky.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Most recently, being ordained a Lutheran pastor. It took so much work to get this far and it’s a relief. At my ordination, I had my beloved professor preach for me and it was such a good sending into the real world.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
One of my favorite celebrities would be Nicholas Hoult. He would be a good one just because he’s a good actor and I think, well, he’s very cute.
Would you like to continue to live in Wyoming?
I don’t have any rigid plans. I would like to be here for at least five years, and if God keeps calling me to be here, I’ll be here. My parents are asking me to move back, so perhaps I will move back to the Midwest eventually, but I am here for the adventure and I’m happy.