Religious Spotlight: Sandy Niiler, Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church

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I grew up in a somewhat conservative, traditional family, so even the idea of preaching was foreign to me.”
Sandy Niiler, Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church

CULLMAN – Mrs. Sandy Niiler is the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. Always active in the church and community she continually strives to bring Christ to those around her.

Sandy and her husband Luke, an English professor at the University of Alabama, are both from Maryland and both grew up Lutheran.  They have two boys, James, a junior in high school, and John, an eighth grader. Both boys play stringed instruments and are involved in sports.

“Both of our boys are very good people,” Sandy said with pride as she thought about her two handsome sons.

Pastor Sandy attended Salisbury State College on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After college she volunteered for a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. She was stationed in St. Louis, Mo. where she lived and worked in the inner city. 

“After the Corps I attended Gettysburg Seminary,” she explained. “It was an incredible experience to live and go to school on one of our nation’s historic battlefields. But never be fooled about locations because about half of my seminary professors were from the South,” she chuckled. “Not long after graduating from seminary, I took some counseling courses at Loyola College,” she continued. “I was trying to earn a counseling degree but moved in the process.”

Doing the work of the Lord takes complete dedication and tremendous love of both God and fellow man. Most all preachers have been chosen, in one way or the other to the field. After a moment of thought, Pastor Sandy told of her journey to becoming a church leader.

“I do not know if I have always been called to preach. I know some pastors who knew at a young age that they were to be pastors and preach. I admire this,” she grinned. “I have struggled! Although I enjoy people, I would rather sit and listen than get up and speak. Part of this is my personality and another part is how I was brought up.” 

“I grew up in a somewhat conservative, traditional family, so even the idea of preaching was foreign to me,” she explained. “It was during seminary where fellow students and professors urged me to preach. I knew they were earnest, and their public affirmation was unreal!  Originally I entered seminary for a Masters in Christian Education but switched to the Masters of Divinity.”

Pastoring a church can be extremely rewarding, but the rewards aren’t always that easy to come by. Each pastor has his or her particular challenges and Pastor Sandy certainly has her fair share of them.

“The biggest challenge for me is getting people into church,” she said thoughtfully. “I think souls need time for solitude, and they also need time to praise God together. Churches are so important, because it is where humans re-learn to forgive, pardon, give, laugh, serve, pray, sing, worship and so many things all with God’s blessings.”

In speaking of her congregation, Pastor Sandy lit up like a light bulb. Clearly she enjoys her work and the people in her church.

“Christ Lutheran is one of the older congregations in Cullman,” she beamed. “When you come to this church, you can still get a little twinge of Cullman’s past. We offer a traditional liturgy. All ages do things together, so in some ways it really is a church family. We enjoy our Lutheran background but also enjoy borrowing and learning from other churches. Everyone has a job in the church, even if it is a small job,” she explained. “We enjoy being involved in several community events and giving to local, national and worldwide charities.” 

“Right now I compare our church to a growing football team,” she continued. “We have some wonderful ministries in place. And yet, we are recruiting people who do not mind helping to build this church with their gifts. Sunday worship, prayer, and Bible study is where we receive our strength, joy, hope and authority to do anything and everything in God’s name.”

Pastor Sandy Niiler’s zeal for the church and zest for God is contagious. Christ Lutheran Church is a warm place to visit for those who are looking for a church to attend. They are located at 424 2nd Ave SE, Cullman, AL 35055. They can be reached by calling 256-734-6842 or by e-mailing Pastor Sandy at niilersandy42@gmail.com. Their website is ChristLutheranCullman.org. Follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/ChristLutheranCullman.