Answering the Call Together

by Kirsten Petersen
Yaa Addison ’09 and Lauren Bruno ’10 grow in faith and friendship
Yaa Addison ’09 and The Rev. Lauren Heywood Bruno ’10 first met as teammates on St. Andrew’s girls cross country team. They didn’t know it then, but the paths they ran would transcend the forested trails in Potomac, ultimately aligning as a spiritual path as they support each other’s call to ministry.

Addison and Bruno both grew up going to church – Addison attending Baptist and Catholic services, while Bruno was part of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac.

Addison remembers feeling inspired to become a minister after her middle school chaplain, The Reverend Dr. Marjorie Ann Gerbracht-Stagnaro, invited her class to visit St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, where for the first time she saw a woman leading the congregation through a Catholic liturgy. She continued attending services there.

“[Rev. Gerbracht-Stagnaro] said, ‘I think you would make a good priest.’ And I was like, ‘Okay,’ and that really grew over high school,” Addison said.

Bruno said she started to hear her call around tenth grade. Addison and Bruno bonded through faith, talking about church and Episcopal theology at cross country camp and attending youth group events together, ultimately laying the foundation to share their callings with each other.

“I felt like it was so important for my calling to have Yaa as such a close friend because we talked about our calling and it was natural that we would talk about it,” Bruno said. “We were trying to figure out what this would mean and what faith looks like.”

“And how to do it. It’s not very well advertised at all.” Addison added. “If you have a call, it is very confusing.”

While Addison began to explore her vocation more deeply after graduating from St. Andrew’s, Bruno got what she called “a push in faith” during her senior year. A student vestry had formed, and Bruno was invited to preach to the entire Upper School.

“[The Rev. Luther Zeigler] really pushed me to try to take hold of [my call] and articulate it in a way that I hadn’t before,” Bruno said. “For me, giving that talk at chapel was very empowering. It was something I didn’t know I would be able to do.”

Addison studied sociology at Gettysburg College, where she also ran cross country and track and field. Every Sunday morning — regardless of how late she stayed up Saturday night — she would get up and walk to Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in downtown Gettysburg. Twice she attended Why Serve, a vocational discernment conference for young adults of color.

“It was especially affirming being a Black woman in this church and following my call,” Addison said. “With [Presiding Bishop Michael Curry] being the face of the church, people assume there are a lot of us, but there’s still not a ton.”

Bruno studied Classical Languages and Literature with an emphasis on Ancient Greek at Dartmouth College. Her search for a faith home landed her at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, a decision that would shape her ministry.

“I always thought I would come back to the Episcopal church, but when I was finally discerning whether to go to seminary right out of college, I realized that what was really important to me was this theology of grace,” Bruno said. “I loved that, and I decided that if I was going to be ordained, I wanted to be ordained in that theology.”

Neither Addison nor Bruno were always focused on their vocation, each recalling when they tried to shake off their call or were told to wait. However, they also had moments when they knew they were meant to do God’s work, either while in the thick of it, or while watching someone else living out their calling.

After her call committee told her “not yet,” Addison turned to Bruno, who had earned her master’s in divinity from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and had begun her ministry as the pastor at St. David’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia.

“I was visiting Lauren over spring break, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll go back before the call committee,’ and she said, ‘No, you’re doing it!’ And here I am,” said Addison, who is now completing her first year at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, where she is studying for her master’s in divinity.

Bruno said she never doubted Addison would follow her call, adding she is grateful for their continued friendship throughout their individual faith journeys.

“This has meant so much to me,” Bruno said. “Getting to spend time together with someone who knows what seminary and discernment is like and getting to share that experience with someone [from home] – I’ve only ever gotten to share that with people I’ve met in seminary. It’s been really cool to do this together, and I’m so excited to see where Yaa ends up.”

Addison said seeing Bruno preach is always a highlight for her, calling Bruno “a great example and a great role model” as she enters ministry.

“It has been really cool walking this road with my friend,” Addison said. “It’s really cool to share in this process with someone I knew before this process, who understands it, who is on my level.”

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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool (Age 2) through grade 12, located in Potomac, Maryland.