By Toya Richards Hill and
Michelle E. Melton
The 2009 Distinguished Alum Awards were presented to George Carpenter (BD '56); Jane Larsen-Wigger (MDiv '83); and Nyambura Njoroge (MAR '85).
Rev. Jane Larsen-Wigger (MDiv ’83) did not come to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary intending to become a parish pastor. God had a different plan.
Larsen-Wigger intended to build on the work she had already begun as a teacher and Christian educator, garnering deeper theological and biblical foundations. Prior to arriving at LPTS she served as ministerial assistant at Shawnee Presbyterian Church in Kansas from 1977 to 1980.
“I wanted to just keep doing that,” Larsen-Wigger said of her Christian educator role.
But God – and the nurturing theological community at Louisville Seminary, where Larsen-Wigger was planted from 1980 to 1983 – guided her in another direction.
At the end of Larsen-Wigger’s Seminary studies, Rev. J. Mark Barnes, pastor at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church and Larsen-Wigger’s preaching practicum leader at the time, told her preaching was what she needed to be doing.
“He said, ‘Jane you need to be preaching every week,’” said Larsen-Wigger. “He planted that thought in my head.”
It was something Larsen-Wigger wrestled with over the ensuing years and through various ministerial calls, including serving as associate pastor at Green Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, Colo., from 1983 to 1985; and as parish associate at First Presbyterian Church in Hamilton Square, N.J., from 1987 to 1989.
In 1992, she began what was to become a five-year stint as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Oshkosh, Wisc., before returning to Louisville where she currently resides.
During all of that time, “nothing else drew me,” said Larsen-Wigger, an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “I realized this is who I am, a pastor and preacher.”
On March 17, 2009, Louisville Seminary recognized Larsen-Wigger’s commitment to serving as a minister of Word and Sacrament with the 2009 Distinguished Alum Award, presented to three Seminary alums at an oversubscribed luncheon in the Seminary’s Hundley Hall in historic Gardencourt estate.
“Today, we lift up three Louisville Seminary alums for their pastoral imagination and servant leadership in their respective callings of pastoral care, preaching, teaching, activism, and social witness in the United States and around the world,” said Louisville Seminary President Dean K. Thompson in his opening remarks during the award presentation.
“Through their faithful service they remind all of us what it means to live as servants of God’s Word who are bound to the Word, who proclaim the Word to the Church, and who point the Church to the Word. As we behold their compelling influence across the decades to this present time, we are likewise compelled to recommit to our own ministries and to help identify others who will follow after us.”
Larsen-Wigger is the pastor of Louisville’s Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, where she has served since 2000. It is the same church she worshipped in as a student at Louisville Seminary.
Dr. Carol J. Cook, Louisville Seminar professor and member of the Crescent Hill Presbyterian parish paid tribute to Larsen-Wigger, describing her as one who “radiates authenticity,” as “someone of depth and integrity, who doesn’t pretend she is invulnerable.”
Cook said, “Jane is distinguished because of her God-given self. It is ironic that she would be recognized through her ‘ordinariness.’”
Rev. Betty Meadows, presbytery executive of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, added her own remarks, saying, “I fall in love with my work all over again, when I enter Jane’s church, and I see living faith in Christ through her sermon, the welcoming church, and the warm people there.”
Larsen-Wigger credits LPTS for guiding her to be the kind of preacher and pastor she is. “I learned the basics for preaching and how to have a deep love of the Word, of the Bible,” she said.
Also, “because of the community that it was at that time, I learned a lot about just being with people and learning from others,” said Larsen-Wigger, who continued post-MDiv work at Princeton Theological Seminary and earned a certificate in homiletical supervision from Louisville Seminary in 2001.
Larsen-Wigger has given back to her alma mater as well over the years, serving as adjunct faculty in homiletics from 1999 to 2007 and as a supervisor for the Seminary’s field education interns who serve as student ministers at the Crescent Hill church.
Outside the Seminary, Larsen-Wigger’s work includes serving as president of the Board of United Crescent Hill Ministries and working with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Prayer Ministry of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery.
Larsen-Wigger is married to the Rev. Dr. J. Bradley Wigger, whom she met at Louisville Seminary and who is the Second Presbyterian Church Professor of Christian Education at LPTS. They have two children, David and Cora.
Learn more about Louisville Seminary's Distinguished Alums since 1986, or nominate an alum, on the Distinguished Alum webpage.