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Cleric begins ministry at St. Luke Episcopal

by: SHANDA TICE, Reverend Jennifer Creswell, left, with her family, including son Liam Creswell, 4, husband Ian Doescher, and son Graham Doescher, 2.

The Rev. Jennifer Creswell describes herself as shy and introverted.

So of course she decided to pursue that most public of jobs, the ordained ministry. Years ago, aware of her daughter's religious tendencies, her mother told her she might become a priest someday.

'The reason I immediately said it was crazy idea was because I didn't like public speaking at all,' Creswell says.

To this day, the 28-year-old is still shy but has gotten better at standing in front of a congregation and talking, although she emphasized her sermons were 'pretty short.'

'I don't like the sound of my voice,' she said with a chuckle.

Creswell will have to simply deal with that as she is now the priest-in-charge at St. Luke the Physician Episcopal Church, 120 S.W. Towle Ave. Creswell was welcomed to the church during the Sunday, Jan. 13, service.

Creswell will work at the parish part-time, spending her off-duty hours caring for the two children she shares with her husband, Ian Doescher, who is studying to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

Creswell grew up Catholic, and recalls at one time contemplating the monastic life. Her family joined the Episcopal Church after living in England for a year when she was 13, and her interest in religion continued to grow, in part because the church her family attended had a good youth program.

'I felt really at home in the Anglican Church.'

After graduating from Grant High School in Portland in 1997, she went to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., where she majored in religion. While there, she found herself interested in Buddhism, Judaism and Wicca.

'Learning about the other religions was fascinating and fulfilling,' she said. 'I guess it was the whole notion of everyone choosing various paths to God and what forms those paths took.'

However, she said she decided to remain a Christian and was drawn to the tradition, rituals and repetitive prayer that characterized Episcopal services.

Ordained in Millbrook, N.Y., in October 2006, Creswell brings to her new position a wealth of training and experience. Her previous positions include working in the areas of youth ministry, Christian education and domestic violence.

Creswell says women in another congregation she served confided in her about the abuse they had suffered, and she said she believes women may be more willing to share such stories with a female cleric.

She adds that her favorite part of ministry is learning about people's lives, and sharing moments of joy, like births, and sorrow, like death. She says she's been particularly struck by how welcoming the St. Luke's members have been so far.

'I'm really looking forward to getting to know their stories and walking through these things with people here.'

She adds that she plans to focus on drawing young families and individuals to the church, and notes it boasts several interesting features, including a prayer labyrinth open to the public 24 hours a day.

'I think anyone who's looking for a church community would do well to look here.'