Week 4 | Women of Christ Church: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Week 4 | Women of Christ Church: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Week 4 | Women of Christ Church: Celebrating Women’s History Month 150 150 Dayton Christ Episcopal Church

The Rev. Susan Armer


The Rev. Susan Armer was reared on a ranch in Cherry Creek County, Arizona. Her family had no church affiliation.
Quoted from an April 20, 1991 article in the Deseret News by JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells,  “I look back on that time and there was always in me the sense that I knew God, but I did not have the words to go with that,” said the soft-spoken priest, whose porcupine quill earrings touching her white collar reflect her Arizona upbringing. “But I can certainly look back on that time and know that I knew in an intuitive way. It was a much more open knowledge of God because it really developed out of conversations with my mother – and out of her deep faith,” she said. “And then it came out of my running around the hills of Arizona. I don’t know how else to put it. That really is how I learned of the existence of God.”  When she was 12, the family landed in the Episcopal Church and “that fit.”

A degree in general studies – biology, psychology, and landscape architecture – gave her a broad base for a plethora of career opportunities. She tried several things, but none silenced that “nag in the back of my head that wouldn’t go away.” Still, the decision to enter seminary was long in coming. The Episcopal Church had opened its ministry to women, but few had been ordained. Susan, then in her early 30s, was a divorced mother of one completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona. She saw more schooling as an expense she couldn’t afford.

After receiving a Master of Divinity degree at Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall, she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1988. She came to Christ Church in July 1988 as assistant rector to The Rev. Hugh Brownlee.
It was here her life was dramatically changed.

After being single for 15 years, she met and married Tom Sernka, a professor teaching at Wright State University School of Medicine. Their families united, and together they explored their future. She left in 1991 for a position at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, Salt Lake City, Utah. She later served at St. Matthew/San Mateo Episcopal Church, Auburn, Washington.

After retiring from the active ministry, she returned to Arizona in 2017. She laughed when first approached by the Bishop about her interest in serving at St. Thomas Church in Clarksdale, Arizona. Shortly after she was ordained, Susan made one of her usual treks home. At that time, the Rev. Bill Van Wyck was serving at St. Thomas. He invited her to preach, and she did. She said, “It was a really blessed time for me because I was serving with Bill, and also it was my first service in my home diocese and state!”  Her journey came full circle when became Vicar at St. Thomas in Clarksdale, Arizona in December 2018.

-Submitted by Judith Wehn, Christ Church Parishioner

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