Alyssa Mazzei’s downtown Springfield office window at First Lutheran Church overlooks the ongoing demolition of the Crowell Collier building directly behind it.
The irony is fitting - a new, young female pastor in town bringing fresh perspective contrasts with a part of Springfield’s past being slowly removed.
Mazzei, a Cincinnati native, came to Springfield in January last year and has spent the time not only establishing a relationship with her new congregation, but with the community.
“It’s been a mixture of trying to accomplish my vision and daily life as a pastor,” she said.
Sporting a tattoo on her shoulder, Mazzei could be a Generation Y professional in any field.
The tattoo is a symbol of her religious beliefs and when accessorized by a clerical collar, it becomes part of who she is.
Originally Mazzei studied biology at Muskingum University working toward a career in environmental sciences or the U.S. Coast Guard. The pressures of studies and being a student-athlete at Muskingum University left her unfulfilled. It was while working as a youth camp counselor in South Carolina that she discovered her calling.
“It was freeing, like I was being the person I was meant to be,” said Mazzei.
Though her mom figured the idea would pass, Mazzei spent three years studying and completed her first internship last year in Green Bay, Wisc. Her office was four blocks from the celebrated Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.
When that ended, Mazzei was prepared for her first assignment, figuring she’d begin as an associate pastor.
“I wanted to go where the call fits me the most,” she said.
Mazzei had never visited Springfield, although she has a strong connection. Her grandparents - Richard Klapproth and Marilyn Klapproth - graduated from Springfield High School and lived here before moving out of the area.
Roger Sherrock of the Clark County Historical Society showed Mazzei around the town and she was impressed.
“It fit into what I wanted,” she said.
First Lutheran Church has been a part of Springfield since 1841 and about 100 people attend each week. Mazzei welcomed the challenge despite low church attendance. She is the first female pastor in First Lutheran’s history.
“I’m going to be myself. I was very accepted and have won over the people,” she said. “I’m not trying to change the culture but what can we do for God in the world. We’re a good, diverse mixture of understandings.”
Lisa Watson, a longtime First Lutheran member who was on the committee to find a new pastor, was impressed.
“I liked Aly. She was the right choice and everyone has accepted her,” Watson said.
Her goals include getting the youth ministry fully running. Mazzei sees them as being part of the future of the church.
“A lot of kids are looking for honest, truthful people to follow,” Mazzei said.
She’s also integrated herself into the community, attending city meeting and becoming active in other areas, even playing on a coed softball team. First call pastors normally spend three years in a church before moving on. Mazzei said she’ll stay here as long as she’s benefitting the ministry of First Lutheran.
“I really like Springfield and its energy. It’s a cute little city trying to reinvent itself. It looks like stuff is trying to happen.”