Andrena Ingram is the first African-American female pastor in the 283-year history of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Mt. Airy, According to ChestnutHillLocal.com, Pastor Andrena Ingram grew up in a home filled with violence, where she was molested by her alcoholic father. She flirted with heroin in high school, but was swept away with alcohol and cocaine. She was abused by her former husband, and became an HIV positive, homeless, mother of two, as a user when the crack epidemic raged.
She has been clean for 23 years now. After she served a 2-year temporary pastor’s role at St, Michael, the congregation voted to hire her full time. Once frequenting various church kitchen services, Andrena now runs a “Community Meal” at the church, as well as counseling and befriending all who walk through the doors. She is open about her HIV status, and she works to help others who suffer silently from the disease.
She met her second husband during treatment, and he later died from HIV. He suffered silently, only urging her to get tested as he was dying. Andrena does not want to suffer silently, as she saw what it did to her husband. She said, “For me, being open freed me up. Secrets are deadly.” She currently is managing her disease through treatment.
In 1998, Andrena was struggling working two jobs when she began her path to ministry. In 2007, she earned a Master’s of Divinity, and came to St. Michael’s. She feels blessed to be an important part of a congregation who accepts the totality of who she is. Andrena said about the content of her sermons and her contact with parishioners, “I use every bit of my life. I empty myself.” She wants to be a woman who who experienced awful things but is now able to share a message of strength, hope, and rejuvenation.
Like any recovering addict, Andrena still has some difficult days, but she adheres to the motto, “One day at a time.” She replays the tapes in her head of the lowest moments of her life, a technique she learned at Phoenix House. She is reminded that she does not want to go back there. She said, “By the grace of God and with the support of my family, friends, and support network, there is no way I am giving up 23 years of sobriety and the life I have!”
Read her full story here. Image courtesy of ChestnutHillLocal.com.