She doesn't consider her decision as "an amazing neon-light kind of story," or even what some have described as a "still small voice."
But the Rev. Susan Armer said it was more of a persistent nag, and not a very gentle one, that eventually led her to a permanent career in the Episcopal Church - a career that recently brought her to Salt Lake City.The Rev. Armer joined the staff at The Cathedral Church of St. Mark on April 8, as a full-time canon pastor.
Her role will be that of a pastoral counselor to people whose lives, not unlike the Rev. Armer's, have been filled with challenges.
Reared on a ranch in Cherry Cheek County, Arizona - quite removed from any town - little Susan "wasn't anything." She belonged to no church.
"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."
The Rev. Armer didn't grow up with structured ideas of God, obtained through weekly attendance at church.
"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."
The fit has been comfortably snug of late. But for several years, she toiled with indecision.
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.
Ironically, it was on the advice of an elderly pastoral counselor that she seriously considered "whether I had a call from God to be a priest in the Episcopal Church."
"Finally, I decided that was what I had to do and if it was the wrong path, I would be interrupted. It's been the right path ever since."
After receiving a Master of Divinity degree at Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall, she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1988. Her "on-the-job" training came at Christ Church in Dayton, Ohio - where the Rev. Armer's life was dramatically changed.
After being single for 15 years, she met and married Tom Sernka, a professor teaching in a medical school in Ohio. Their families united, and together they explored their future.
"It was through lots of faith and a lot of trust that the Holy Spirit led us here," she said. "It was a difficult decision to leave with all the unanswered questions. It still leaves unanswered questions, but they are not impossible questions."
Salt Lake City opens more challenges for the Rev. Armer and her husband, who's leaving his career for hers. Daughter Heather will start high school in Salt Lake, while dad looks for a new job - and mom helps people of all ages and relationship groups deal with pressures "of a changing world."
"We are all given great possibilities and talents and great gifts. In our own dysfunction we are unable to follow those God-given possibilities," the Rev. Armer said. "Sometimes all it takes is someone from the outside to be able to reflect, to help change an outlook or a way of relating."
Or, she added, to help people understanding themselves as "good, as whole, as having great worth, dignity and possibilities."