October 1, 2020 marked a momentous occasion in the life of Pastor Donna Strieb and this church. Forty years ago, she began her service to AHUMC after being invited by Rev. Jack Hooper and Rev. Clyde Byrd to serve as Director of Children & Youth Ministries. AHUMC has always been special to her so she was delighted to accept that invitation. Having not only been raised in this church, she was called to ministry here at the age of 16, met and married her husband John here, and raised their son Lawrence here. Donna considers it an amazing gift and a great blessing that the Lord called her to serve Him here at the church all these years.
After two years in Children & Youth Ministries, Donna became the full-time Director of Children’s Ministry after a full-time youth minister was hired. While she continued to work, she began her studies at Perkins School of Theology for certification in Christian Education and Diaconal Ministry Studies. In 1987, she was consecrated a Diaconal Minister (a lay ministry position at that time in the UMC). In 1997, she was in the first class to be ordained as a Deacon in the UMC following a change in the ordination process. At that time, Rev. David McNitzky asked Donna to become Pastor of Adult Ministries and in 2000, she became Pastor of Prayer and Spiritual Formation. In 2017, she retired and now serves part-time.
Certainly, during her 40 years of service, Donna has had many favorite memories, but here are just a few of the ones that stand out to her:
- Dr. Jack Hooper, Rev. Clyde Byrd, and Dr. David McNitzky, and now Rev. Holly Gotelli, all blessed her with ministry opportunities she would not have otherwise had.
- Serving 17 years with Rev. Clyde Byrd was an incredible gift. Clyde was also Minister of Education when she was growing up, and was her Mentor. He died unexpectedly in 1997.
- Dr. Hooper submitting her name to the Conference to serve on the Education Committee, leading to her involvement in representing AHUMC on the District, Conference, and even national levels.
- When she became a Diaconal Minister, Dr. Hooper asked her to be in the worship leadership every week. Thus, she became the first woman minister at AHUMC.
- The Sunday morning when a gentleman shook her hand and commented, “I never thought I’d like a woman for a pastor, but you changed my mind!”
- The church move from Broadway to Basse Road was exciting, challenging, a huge effort, and yes, exhausting, but also a vibrant time of unity and growth for all.
- Beginning the Children’s Christmas Eve Services (we did two at the old church), the Epiphany Dinner, VBS with its Bible Village and much more.
- Participating in our Dinner Theaters at the old church and the unique blessing of being on stage with her Dad in several plays. Playing the part of Psalty the Song Book in a couple of Kids’ Praise shows was a lot of fun.
- Twenty-two years of monthly Taizé Services with the same wonderful musicians.
- The Prayer Ministry that offered weekly healing prayer services, classes, yearly seminars, and hosting the 2006 International Conference of the Order of St. Luke the Physician at our church.
- Coordinating the Live Nativity Scene since 1980, (a tradition started by Rev. Harold Burkhardt in 1950) and one in which she participated as a child & youth!
- Celebrating our AHUMC 100th Anniversary and working with her Mom on the history.
Throughout her 40 years, Donna has seen some big changes in the Methodist Church including: the acceptance of women in ministry (when she started in ministry in 1968, women were not encouraged to seek ordination); the change in the ordination process from a two-step ordination (first Deacon, then Elder) to create two orders of ministries (Elders and Deacons) that were equal but with different functions; and the challenge of theological differences that threaten the unity of Methodism.
She has also seen great change here at AHUMC.
Donna has watched this church grow from a small community church to what is considered a mega-church with members living all over San Antonio, along with a tripling of our staff. Donna has also seen us move from just giving money for missions to being actively involved in missions. While it is sad to see the passing of her parents’ generation of members who gave lavishly of their time, talents, gifts, service and witness to Christ and our church, she has been happy to see the “raising up of a new generation to lead us in these times of change but also hope for God’s future for us. And particularly special is to see the move from no women on staff in 1980 to three women clergy, including our Senior Pastor.
Donna has great hope for the future of AHUMC, that it will continue to be a strong church, united in love and serving Christ to make disciples and transform our world; that we will become a more inclusive church for all of God’s children and thus be a witness to the world of the Love of God and others; that we will be able to overcome and move through divisive theological differences to remain in loving relationship with one another and work together for God’s Kingdom to come on earth.
There are so many things Donna loves about her job! She loves serving the Lord Jesus Christ with our great congregation & staff, leading worship and Taizé, teaching classes, working with the Thursday Lunch Bunch, and the opportunities it gives her for continuing growth and maturity as a Christian with the people she loves in this church.
AHUMC has been blessed and will continue to be by Donna’s presence and care, her gift of prayer, and her devotion to spiritual formation. How fortunate we all are that Donna answered that call to ministry!