Hill Country Conference

Immanuel Lutheran, living up to their town name in Comfort, TX

Immanuel Lutheran Church exemplifies what church can be, as a beacon of activity in the town of Comfort, TX. One living portrait of their faith in action is the Vicar, Katie Rode Evans. A fifth-generation pastor, seventh-generation Texan, and volunteer firefighter.

“When I arrived, I was instructed to go out in the community. For a church that is an incredibly faithful step,” Katie said. “They were paying me to lead their church, and they sent me into the community.”

“Comfort is exploding,” Katie remarked about the local population boom. And Immanuel Lutheran is the oldest church in town. “Rather than closing in, they are opening up to the community, and rediscovering their place in Comfort,” Katie said. In the four years since she’s been pastoral leader there, the number worshiping on Sundays grew from 25 to 60, a potential indication that people appreciate an outward facing church in their lives.

Katie (right) with local pastoral leaders part of the local ministerial alliance. 

Katie wears many hats: long-distance student at Wartburg seminary, pastoral leader of Immanuel Lutheran, and volunteer firefighter. 

At 2:30 am on Palm Sunday 2022, her firefighter pager went off. A 15-unit apartment building was totally ablaze. Comfort’s volunteer firefighters and seven nearby departments responded. 

“I remember being in full gear with oxygen, mask, and my mind is completely focused,” Katie said. “We fought that fire for three hours.” 

When they found a cat in one of the rooms, she ran it to the group gathered outside to ask whose it was. Residents were standing in the parking lot of a nearby gas station watching their homes go up in flames. 

“A switch flipped,” Katie said. “I went from a firefighter to the chaplain of the department. I called our Church Council President and said ‘I don’t know what we can do, but these people need help.’”

By the time Katie walked into Immanuel’s fellowship hall at 6:30 am, five congregants were cooking breakfast tacos for their newly unhoused neighbors.

“Half our people didn’t show up to the worship service, because they were cooking and helping folks from the apartment building,” Katie said. “That is one of the most beautiful ways we could express ourselves as the Body of Christ that day.”


Because of Immanuel’s role as a community connecting point, the Red Cross showed up that day to use the church to meet with residents. Immanuel collected funds on behalf of the local ministerial alliance, raising $1,200 for each displaced family within three weeks. 

Katie after responding to a fire.  

Katie carried plenty of living legacy, which at one point felt like a burden, before getting to Immanuel. Once she finally answered her call to seminary, she didn’t have to consider where to go: all four generations of pastors before her (all men) attended Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. 

“I was the quintessential pastor's kid,” Katie said. “There were more than 10 years I didn’t go to church when my daughter was young. I call it my fermentation time.”

“I never thought that I would be a good fit, and I never thought I was good enough to be the person who could stand in the pulpit and say the things that would inspire people to be closer to God,” Katie said of her struggle before becoming a pastor. 

Despite having worked in children’s ministry for 10 years, she continued having concerns about going to seminary, like the fact that she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.

She finally heard her calling too clearly, while creating kid-friendly curriculum on the Sunday lectionary readings. Writing each one pulled her deeper and deeper into a feeling of connection with the Scripture. 

“You’ve got to be kidding me, there’s no way this is me,” Katie remembers thinking.

“As I’ve entered that call, I’ve realized everybody feels this way! So why not be the pastoral leader who can say, ‘I’m not perfect, but look at what God is calling me to.’ If God calls me, God calls everyone. Answer the call!”

On Sunday, March 26, 2023, Immanuel Lutheran voted unanimously to call Katie as their pastor, after four years as part-time Vicar during her seminary studies. “I continue to be in awe of the faithfulness of this community and God's presence with us,” Katie said. “It was a beautiful day.”

Next up for Katie is graduation from Wartburg in May 2023. When asked what she’s most excited about getting her degree, she responded, “That I get to say I graduated from college. And that I get to graduate in front of my son. He’s been with me through the whole process, gets to see it all happen.” She will be ordained on May 20th.

Immanuel has taught Katie how a church can open up to the world, and she shows her church a joyful, daily example of just how to live that calling in community. As Comfort grows and changes, one place will be there with open arms: Immanuel, God With Us.

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Southwestern Texas Synod www.swtsynod.org

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