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Leading the Way: 3 M's — mothering, ministry, music — matter most

Erin Matteson, 40, is co-pastor of Modesto Church of the Brethren with her husband, Russ. She was heading for a career as a singer before deciding to become a pastor.

"From the time I was 8 years old, I always had a passion for singing," she said. "I loved the way singing felt, in myself and beyond myself."

She received a bachelor's degree in vocal performance and was working on a master's degree when she took time off for reflection.

"I came to realize music was one tool in my experience with the mystery of God," she said. "Music and singing were an absolute passion for me, but I realized how they were connected in my spirituality and faith, and I wanted to explore that."

Matteson, a soprano, blends her two passions, creating music for special church services and working with the Modesto Youth Symphony.

Here's more information:

Family: Born in Chicago; lived with her parents, a sister, two brothers and her grandparents and great-grandparents. She thought the intergenerational family unit was normal. "I now realize how special and unique that was."

Now: Husband, Russ, 41; daughters, Emily, 14, and Hannah, 11.

Education: Bachelor of music in vocal performance, Millikin University in DeCatur, Ill; work toward master's at Cincinnati Conservatory; master of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary in Oak Brook, Ill.

Career: Fellowship in Christ Fremont Church of the Brethren; Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and Batavia (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. Modesto Church of the Brethren since August 2003.

Future: "I don't have anything specific in mind right now. Music is still a passion of mine. I joke and say I'm in the midst of the three M's: Music, ministry and mothering. I would like at some point to do some writing, whether it's creative prayer or a book on leadership. I'm just being open to where the spirit of life takes me."

Greatest challenge: "I think some of the greatest challenges for all clergy is self-care. The needs and demands of your work need to be balanced. It's so easy to get sucked into details that aren't important or working with a variety of people with a variety of resources. I think stepping back to fill your cup is absolutely critical so we can take care of others well."

Greatest passion: "One of my greatest passions is music and how it connects to spirituality. Another is to be present for people wherever they are — be a part of helping people have an experience with holiness, with the sacred, with the God who is amidst us, but also beyond us."

Personality: "I have a lot of passion for life. I'm very determined and focused. But that can fool people into thinking I'm serious. I enjoy laughter and life. I'm a follow-through, get-things-done kind of person, but I'm also creative.

Spare time: "I enjoy digging in the dirt — gardening. I enjoy walking. I enjoy spending time with my girls and with Russ. I enjoy finding ways to just be — to be with my family and in the garden, in creation. And singing. I need to find more time to do that outside my tasks. I also enjoy journaling."

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders — ordained and lay — in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail