GRANGEVILLE – While her sisters were playing Barbies growing up, Luann Howard had a different pastime:
“I was performing [pretend] weddings and funerals and preaching to the cows,” she laughed.
Rev. Howard recently accepted the position of minister at the Grangeville United Methodist Church. She has served as the Kamiah Community Presbyterian Church pastor for 21 years, where she is still in that capacity.
Howard grew up in Buhl, Idaho, on a farm. As a child she attended the Methodist Church, but as a teen, she became involved with the youth group in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Her first ministerial job was spent working with youth at the First Christian Church in Buhl. Following graduation from Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, she was then called to Anchorage, Alaska, where she also worked with youth in cooperation with both the Christian Church, Disciples and American Baptist churches.
At the end of that summer, she went home, but was then called back to the Christian Church in Alaska. They made her an offer she couldn’t refuse:
“No salary, living with a family, and the loan of a beater car from a retired minister,” she laughed. “And I loved it – it was a wonderful experience.”
She spent two years there, then met a visiting minister who changed her life: Rev. Dr. Mary Louise Rowand, a Disciples of Christ clergywoman from Dallas, Texas who was the International President of Church Women United.
“She was an adventurer, an amazing woman, a Texas tornado – the most dynamic woman I’d ever met,” Howard recalled.
Although Rowand was telling Howard she needed to go to seminary, Howard said she loved Alaska, its diverse culture, and wanted to stay.
“I said, ‘no thank you,’ but Rowand insisted," God had bigger plans for you!”
That was in February, 1980, and by December of that year, Howard had flown to Dallas-Fort Worth and toured the Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. By 1981, she was enrolled full time there with most of her tuition paid by scholarship.
“I had headed back to Idaho, bought a pickup, loaded my things and drove to Texas,” Howard said.
Though she was ordained in 1984, and obtained a Master of Divinity Degree, Howard refers to the Texas years as her “great wilderness” experience.
She worked as a pastor, hospice chaplain and massage therapist, and watched the bottom fall out of the oil industry.
After about a decade, she left Texas and returned to Idaho where she spent a year in Eastern Idaho as an interim pastor for a Christian Church, then served for four years at Methodist Churches in the Idaho Falls area. She was raising her two daughters, Hannah and Ashley, as a single mother by now, and working in a funeral home doing grief counseling and pre-need funeral planning when Trenary Funeral Home in Kooskia reached out to her.
Mark Trenary owned a home in Kamiah. where she and her daughters moved that was next to the Clerk of Session for the Community Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, and she fell in love the with “wonderful people” in the Kamiah and Kooskia Presbyterian churches. She worked for Trenary for a year prior to being called as pastor of the two yoked churches. Kooskia eventually pulled from the PCUSA; However, Howard still serves the Kamiah church.
She said for the past 21 years, Kamiah has been home and “was a wonderful place to raise my daughters.” Both graduated from Kamiah High School.
“I love the valley and its people,” she said. “I believe and always told my girls, ‘do what you believe God put you on earth to do,’ and everything else falls into place.”
She preaches in Kamiah at 9 a.m. on Sundays, and is in Grangeville by the 11 a.m. worship She is available at the Grangeville United Methodist Church Monday through Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Howard said she loves to fish, play guitar (and offers lessons, as well), and is a member of Valley Singers. She has also been a leader for the Kamiah-Woodland 4-H Club for nearly 20 years and is a past Kamiah school board member.
In Grangeville, stop by the church at 404 West Main Street or call 208-983-0310.