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Saron Lutheran Welcomes New Pastor To Community
Settling in to her office at Saron Lutheran Church, Pastor Callie Torres is now the fulltime minister for the church and invites the community to attend their 9 a.m. Sunday morning service. Marg Jackson/The Times

Callie Torres wants people to know her door is always open.

Pastor Caroline ‘Callie’ Torres has been serving as pastor at Saron Lutheran Church in Escalon since the beginning of April, officially installed as its new pastor in an ordination ceremony on Sunday, June 5.

The church had been served by several interim pastors since the retirement of longtime pastor, Rev. Victor Berg-Haglund in 2017. Torres is happy to take on the role, after having gone through the interview process and finding that she embraced the church and its congregation as much as they embraced her, extending the offer to become their new fulltime pastor.

She has previously served in the ministry in Bogota, Columbia where she did her internship. At the time of her call, she was living with her husband, Jorge, in Santa Maria.

“In the Lutheran tradition, you do an internship,” she explained, noting that it took her outside the country.

It was almost a year ago that she was notified through the Sierra Pacific Synod that the Saron opening in Escalon might be a good fit for her as she looked to find a church of her own.

She first met with the congregation in August 2020 as part of the ‘call’ process.

“It was a long journey,” Pastor Torres admitted, adding that the congregation had been served by Rev. Berg-Haglund for about 30 years.

Now, officially the Saron Lutheran pastor, she is happy about how the pieces fell into place, albeit taking a little longer than she anticipated.

“It all happened in God’s time,” she said.

Currently living in Manteca, she said her husband got a teaching job locally at Stagg High School and they are enjoying the chance to settle in to the Central Valley and learn more about Escalon and the surrounding communities.

“Escalon has such charm and we really are loving it,” she said.

Living in Manteca, the couple is also located between their respective jobs, making it a relatively easy commute for each.

Pastor Torres attended Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. She finished her coursework there in 2019 and graduated in 2020.

Prior to attending seminary, she worked in behavioral neuroscience and previously was on staff at a charter school in Miami, Florida.

“It was a small charter school,” she said of the kindergarten through 12 campus. “I fell in love with the city.”

She moved on from the school setting to become a Youth and Family Ministries Director for five years in Miami and it was during that time period she “felt the call” to ministry.

She and Jorge have been married for four years and, during that time, have lived in five different locations.

“We’re hoping this sticks for a while,” she said, smiling.

The middle of three sisters, she grew up primarily in Redwood City.

She sees her new role as pastor as being able to “be there” for all the important events in the lives of her congregation members.

“It’s powerful; not only do I bring the word of God’s grace to people who are hurting … but I am someone who accompanies people on their life steps,” she explained. “Births, baptism, confirmation, weddings, funerals. It’s a huge responsibility and a huge honor to be invited into people’s lives.”

She has found the congregation and the community very receptive so far.

“Everyone has been so incredibly kind and there’s just something different here,” she said of Escalon. “There’s a warmth and a comfort.”

The new pastor said she is looking forward to upcoming events, such as National Night Out, when the church will welcome the community, as well as possibly having a church booth at the early August Park Fete celebration as well. She also praised the work of the Escalon Ministerial Association, particularly its continued support of the local C.A.R.E. Center, which helps meet emergency food needs for local residents.

Saron Lutheran currently shares space with The Learning Tree Preschool, and Pastor Torres said she has truly enjoyed interacting with the teachers and students on a regular basis.

“That’s been so life-giving,” she said of hearing the children’s laughter. “I gave the invocation at their end of May graduation.”

The pastor said she would love to see residents from Escalon and the surrounding communities come to Saron Lutheran for Sunday morning worship, 9 a.m., in person at the church, 1742 North St., Escalon. She can also be reached via phone at 209-838-7695.

Bishop Mark Holmerud of the Sierra Pacific Synod was on hand to present the Certificate of Ordination and officially install Pastor Caroline ‘Callie’ Torres at Escalon’s Saron Lutheran Church on Sunday, June 5. Photo Contributed