Office of Church Relations
CLU Alumni Serving the Church and the World
God has richly blessed California Lutheran University. Over the past 50 years our graduates have gone on to live out their vocations while making significant and diverse contributions throughout the world.
As CLU celebrates its golden anniversary, the Office of Church Relations would like to honor the many alumni who have dedicated their lives in the service of the Church.
We asked our alumni to tell us about their ministries and to reflect on their experiences with God’s grace and His enlightening spirit. The following stories and photos are shared as our alumni have submitted them.
We are amazed and awed by the depth and breadth of their ministries. Solo Deo Gloria!
Carl E. Andersen ’68
Although I was raised in a parsonage, my decision to become a pastor came while attending California Lutheran College. I found myself profoundly influenced by the preaching of the campus chaplain, Lyle Gangsei. Up to this time I never seriously considered it. But when the Spirit called, I said, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
I hold many wonderful memories of my years at CLC: four years singing in the concert choir; three years singing in the Kingsmen Quartet; great teachers and many rich experiences. My senior year, I was introduced to a blonde freshman beauty, Penny Berkeley (’71), who played bassoon in the Conejo Symphony and piccolo in the college pep band. That spring we were together on tour with the college choir and symphonette in Hawaii. I seized the opportunity while in the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Honolulu and gave Penny my school pin as a sign of my love and commitment. She accepted it. How romantic is that?
The day after graduation, I flew out to St. Paul, Minn. to begin my summer Greek class at Luther Seminary. On Valentine’s Day I proposed to Penny in a letter and sent her the engagement ring by mail. Yes, really. Penny then transferred to Augsburg College in Minneapolis the next year to be nearer to this incurably romantic man.
At the end of my second year at Luther Seminary, Penny and I were married in Chatsworth, Calif. I served my internship year at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis while Penny completed her B.A. at Augsburg. During my senior year, I put the musical training I received at CLC as a music major to good use directing the seminary choir.
Upon graduating from seminary, I was assigned to the Northern Minnesota District, and was subsequently ordained into the ministry of Word and Sacrament and installed as pastor at Perley Lutheran Parish on July 30, 1972. I served Kirkebo and Nora Lutheran churches at Perley for seven years. While serving there, Rachel Faye was born in 1977. In the fall of 1979, I accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Thief River Falls, Minn. as associate pastor. Joel Adam was born in 1981. In the fall of 1981, I accepted a call to serve the Fisher Bygland Lutheran Parish at Fisher, Minn., where I have been for more than a quarter century – some would say an indecent length of time to be in one place.
Over the years, I have been involved in the larger church on several levels. I’ve been a voting member to several church-wide assemblies. I’ve served on the Synod Council and have been Conference Dean many times. I have been on the synod Worship Commission for the past eight years and have recently completed serving four years as Conference Secretary.
About 15 years ago, I got involved with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Crookston, Minn. I was a director for five years, treasurer for four years and then president for another four years. During those years, 10 houses were built. My work with Habitat grew out my conviction that faith becomes real when it becomes active in concrete deeds of service to others.
Participation in community theatre has been a source of great enjoyment over the years. During the 1990s I sang in a male quartet made up of area Lutheran pastors – the Crooning Collars. I have found that to stay healthy in ministry, one needs creative and enjoyable outlets.
I have been involved with some significant projects during my years in ministry. Building a whole new facility at Fisher Lutheran Church became significant challenge, but was worth it. The very next year Bygland Lutheran Church decided to expand its entry and add an elevator, making that church handicapped accessible.
In recent years I frequently have been called upon by the Glenmore Treatment Center to do 5th Steps with its clients. I have found this to be a satisfying facet of ministry to those who are struggling with dangerous addictions.
In my years of ministry, in addition to all the preaching and leading worship, I’ve introduced three new hymnals, posed for eight pictorial directories, weathered a church-wide merger, presided over two100th and two125th church anniversaries and prepared more than 400 monthly parish newsletters. Adventures with youth on summer trips, ski trips, youth gatherings, etc. carry especially fond and cherished memories. It is a unique honor to share with families in times of special joy, and to speak God’s promises in time of crisis and sadness.
I count it a great privilege to serve as a Lutheran pastor, preaching the Gospel, ministering to God’s people and sharing the love of Christ. The congregations I have served have been filled with wonderfully gracious people who’ve make it easy to love them and by whose steady affection my family and I have been sustained and richly blessed.
John Beckman ‘86
I graduated from CLU in 1986 and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1995. I was ordained that same year. My first call was as associate pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Stockton, Calif., where I served under the current bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, the Rev. Mark Holmerud. My second and current call is senior pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church, Conyers, Ga. where I have served since 1999.
Rolf M. Bell ‘76
Rolf received a B.A., in Communication Arts at CLU. He went on to study at Luther Northwestern Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., where he received a M. Div. Additional studies include: studies in Eastern European Church/State Relations at the Friedrik Alexander Universität; Erlangen, Germany; Caribbean Theology & Liberation Theology and its response to Economic Depravity; International Convocation on Poverty, Taizé, France and many other courses over the years.
Rolf was a visionary leader among non-profit executives, and brought a lifelong passion for community wellness expressed through consistent generation of innovative solutions and superior results which address diverse social issues including affordable housing, education, disaster recovery and the environment at the local, regional, national and international levels.
He was a master at building coalitions and strategic partnerships among groups representing varied faith traditions, non- profit organizations, government and the corporate world.
Some of his career highlights included serving as Director of Development, West Region from 2000-2002 for Habitat for Humanity International; West Region Director from 1996-2000 for Habitat for Humanity; served as pastor for a congregations in Cupertino, Calif., Oakland, Calif., and Rochester, Minn., all of which were ELCA congregations.
Bell also initiated and co-founded the Over-Ground Railroad, a collective of 17 congregations in Minnesota who provided safe haven for Salvadorian and Guatemalan refugees. The Over-Ground Railroad provided effective legal advocacy and safe passage to Canada for hundreds of refugees who otherwise would have been deported and murdered; organized and chaired the Firestorm Interfaith Recovery Effort involving 27 congregations that leveraged an additional $240 million toward rebuilding the lives of 3400 households. This led to a national case study of the most effective interfaith recovery effort in the nation. He also provided consultation to the civic leaders of Oakland, Malibu, & Northridge on how to reorganize their disaster response network.
Gregory O. Brandvold ‘73
Even before arriving at California Lutheran University I had decided that I wanted to be a pastor. I felt I had the gifts and talents that well served the ministry and many friends encouraged me to pursue this call. I also felt a deep calling for proclamation and sharing the gospel of our Lord. Interestingly enough I never saw myself as anything more then simply a parish pastor and not really understanding what that meant.
At CLU I was inspired by Dr. James Kallas and Dr. Wally Asper. Both motivated me with the wonderful message of the Bible. I was beginning to see a depth that I had not known and to behold a joy in learning that was beginning to awaken. I spent a few years away in the U.S. Navy, but never forgot the seed planted in my soul. Returning some years later I finished my degree and headed to Luther Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
In seminary I struggled through Greek and Hebrew and their application to the text in class. As difficult as it was for me, it opened me further to the message of scripture and a joy in proclamation. I felt as though I was peeking over the shoulder of the gospel writers, Paul and Peter and discerning their reasoning and thoughts to their people. What a thrill to turn that into a study, sermon or an encouraging word to myself and others.
In my first parish at United Lutheran Church, Oak Park, Ill., I was as an associate working with the youth of the church. Somehow I knew that would be my beginning, but I relished it. I discovered that teens ask questions without really knowing they have done so and are deeply profound in ways beyond their years. It was an exciting time of discovery for me and I believe, for them as well. The struggles have faded, and there were many, but what was left were lives I touched and the way they touched me.
At Immanuel in Lincoln, Ill., I was again an associate with youth and education. Here I discovered CROSSWAYS and the joy of teaching the Bible to others. Questions, thoughts and insights only feed our desire to learn more and to see insights leading the discussions by everyone in the class. The Spirit was working and it was gratifying to be a part of the revelation.
While at Immanuel, I married Joy and we had our son, Carl. What a wonderful way the Lord had of opening the world even wider to me through my family. Insights and lessons both helped and humbled me with each passing day.
At Valley Lutheran in North Hollywood, Calif., I was challenged as the solo pastor. Now it was up to me! I was scared to death!! I had to deal with seniors in the congregation and younger families. Our community was mainly Hispanic and evangelism would be a challenge. The struggles of the parish to serve, to grow and be a community of God was something I had to learn. It deepened my prayer life and taught me to value the work and input of others. Decisions did not have to be mine alone and we shared our ideas and dreams and cared for each other. God was at work everywhere and I was part of it all. A small part I might add, but a part.
Each parish has had something to teach me and I had something to share with them. There were ups and downs in life and ministry, but my greatest challenges came in my future churches. St. Paul’s in Oklahoma City, Okla., tested all my learned skills to the max! It was not the church, but the Murrah Building bombing of April 19, 1995. I heard the explosion and soon found out what had happened. My congregation lost two fine men. One was able to crawl out of the damaged building, but the other died instantly when the bomb exploded. I volunteered with the second medical team on the site, but only cared for those who had died. For months I helped with those identifying bodies and notifying family members. At church we were stunned and took comfort from cards and letters we received from all over the world. Those cards were hand of God reaching out to us when it was hard to see him for ourselves. God is good even in tragedy. What a lesson and what a comfort as we worked to rebuild our lives and our faith.
For some strange reason I later moved on to my smallest church, Cross of Glory Lutheran, Derby, Kan. It was a mission/restart congregation and I served there for eight and a half years. Six years in a middle school cafeteria! We struggled to grow a bit at a time and finally built our first building and began worshipping at the beginning of our seventh year. Who is prepared to build? What do you need to know? The simple answer is MUCH! We did it together and it was no easy task. They are well planted now and I pray the best for them.
I am moving on now to what I hope will be semi-retirement after 32 years of ministry. I hope to serve a congregation, God willing, and/or to teach Bible classes at a local college. Wife and son have added blessings to life, while my ministry has given me meaning and purpose. I have not lost the thrill or the joy of learning about the bible and our faith, but I have come to realize that a simple parish pastor is far more then what I expected and what I might say here. Blessings on your journey!
Stephen S. Bull ‘71
My ministry began on June 8, 1975, where I was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament at the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Sacramento, Calif. I served my internship at Augustana Lutheran Church, Grand Forks, N.D.
I received my M. Div. from Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary (now Luther Seminary), St. Paul, Minn., also in 1975.
My first call was at Christus Victor, Terre Haute, Ind. (1975-1983). I went on to serve at First English, Goshen (1983-1986); Our Savior and Grace, Ft. Wayne, Ind. (1986-1991); assisting pastor of Solomon Lutheran Church and School (1991-1996); St. Paul's, Prospect (1996-2003). Currently, I am the associate pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio. I served as conference dean in the Northwestern Ohio Synod from 1998-2003 and a number of committees both for the ELCA's Indiana-Kentucky Synod and Northwestern Ohio Synod; also supervised six interns at Trinity Lutheran Theological Seminary .
Paul E. Christ ‘66
Coast to Coast is indicative of the opportunities the church has made possible for me as an ordained minister. My seminary ordination was at American Lutheran Church in Tucson, Ariz., and after 35 years, retirement took place at the end of 2006, at Kure Memorial Lutheran Church in Kure Beach, N.C.
In the intervening years there were two new congregation starts in Belfair, Wash. (Christ Lutheran) and Bradenton, Fla. (Living Lord Lutheran). Working with a Christian ministry in national parks afforded me service at one of the largest parishes in the USA as the resident minister of Yellowstone National Park. Other outdoor ministry locations included camping director for three camps in the Michigan District, ALC and executive director at Mt. Cross Lutheran Bible Camp in Felton, Calif.
Ministry experience included serving as Associate Pastor in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan (St. Paul Lutheran) and as Assistant to the Bishop for Michigan District (ALC). In the latter it was primarily running three camps (Stony Lake, Tecumseh Woods, and Pleasant Hill) but also included youth work, campus ministry, and other chores designated by the Bishop.
I also served at another Living Lord Lutheran Church on the East coast (Vero Beach) of Florida. Here there was work also on the Synod Council and the camp committee that located the new campsite for outdoor ministry in Florida. Florida afforded an opportunity to serve two terms on the Manatee (Bradenton) County Planning Commission. It was a helpful place to be when it came time to build Living Lord’s first worship site.
The East coast of North Carolina at Kure Beach brought about service in a dual role working with Agape Kure Beach Ministries as Program Specialist in Outdoor Ministry. Following retirement we moved to Hickory, N.C.. It was close to mountains we love and close to our family (read “granddaughter”).
In all of this my wife, Shirley and faithful support person, nurtured our three children (once in a while with help from me.) She went beyond the call of duty through a dozen packing and housing moves. Arriving in Hickory she suggested that since she joined all the churches I was called to, that it now her turn to do the “church shopping” and pick the congregation for our membership. What she found was how true it is that Lutheran churches are not usually very friendly when you arrive, nor do they follow up with calls or visits. Starting congregations has instilled in us the need to practice the Gospel’s welcoming attitude.
In retirement, opportunities for ministry work continue. As I write this, the second of interim ministry positions is ongoing. In the nearby town of Newton, Old St. Paul’s Lutheran is a venerable 252 year old congregation.
The first year long interim work was at a location just an hour away (Resurrection, Kings Mountain, N.C.). But, this is Lutheran country. Within fifteen miles of our house are thirty two ELCA churches and another dozen LCMS. So there is lots of opportunity for continuing ministry (although not likely with LCMS in this area).
Another dividend of this location is that it is near a Lutheran university, Lenoir Rhyne University. Though a bit smaller than CLU, they offer many opportunities for cultural and sporting events.
As I reflect on ministry it leads me to say that there has been a liberal amount of variety. Perhaps the nurturing at a liberal arts college was helpful. Taking every Religion course CLU had to offer at the time was instrumental as well. I know my Cal Lutheran education was foundational in preparing me for Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and for subsequent ministry. This is in part due to academics, but also in forgiveness, acceptance, growing up, and being accountable and responsible as well.
My hope and prayer is that the Church will faithfully preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That all of us will continue to teach and nurture empathy and responsibility for all of God’s children around the world, and, that she will lead the way in calling us to responsible care of God’s creation. Care of the environment goes hand in hand with providing a sustainable future for those who need food and clothing. These are folks for whom Christ died and rose; and our call as people of God is to insure that all are valued and cared for in a world that needs healing from the environmental degradation for which humans are responsible. I call on my alma mater to summon sons and daughters to carry out this sacred ministry for the sake of Christ and his world.
Thanks to Cal Lutheran for its place in my life and the lives of hundreds of others. God bless you in the next fifty years and beyond.
Charles R. Coon ‘65
My formal ministry began after my ordination in 1972 with a call to Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. I was called to serve as an area chaplain working with a number of agencies within the community, serving those struggling with alcoholism and other drug abuse. That call was born while on internship serving at the Hazelden Foundation and Zion Lutheran Church, Chisago City, Minn. It was during that time that I came to experience the depth of human struggles and a God of mercy and grace. It was a year of transformation and change that significantly shaped my understanding of God's calling within my life.
For the next 20 years it was my privilege to walk with individuals and families as they struggled to find meaning in their lives. The story of the prodigal son and his ultimate return to his father was a story told to me over and over again during those 20 years... personal stories of despair and the hope found in coming to oneself and returning to the Father.
In 1989 I began a three year program in Spiritual Direction with the Franciscan Sisters. That program helped me become keenly aware of how God is with us each day and seeks to guide and lead us. This awareness became core to my ministry.
In 1992 I was invited to participate in a yearlong residency at Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis. While serving as a resident chaplain on a variety of units within the hospital, I again was privileged to walk alongside people and listen to their faith stories...stories of great importance because of the intensity of their situations. While working with patients undergoing dialysis and with folks in physical rehabilitation, I came to understand the importance of change and how it impacts our lives. I learned about living a day at a time and being thankful for each breath. I learned about the struggles of finding a new identity when one loses a limb. I learned about the importance of self redefinition as we struggle to understand who we are and how God is for us in these most difficult times.
At the end of this residency I felt led into the parish, serving in the capacity of intentional interim pastor. After a period of time I was called to be the Synod Interim for the La Crosse Area Synod. For the next 12 years I served 12 congregations of the La Crosse Area Synod. During these 12 years I deepened my understanding about the life of the church and family systems. I soon learned how these systems strengthen or impede our life together as the body of Christ. Central to the whole interim process and core to the congregational transition is the task of coming to understand the mission that God is calling us to now, in this time and place. It's a time where we are invited to be especially attentive to the voice of God as He seeks to lead us into a new life together. It's a time when we need to ask, "What is God's vision for us? What is it that God would have us be about?" It was always thrilling and renewing for me to walk with congregations as they experienced the challenges and opportunities that emerged.
In 2005 Carma and I retired and moved to a new home in northern Minnesota where we enjoy our life together and cherish our time with our children and grandchildren.
William Crabtree ‘85
I attended Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, right after graduation from CLU. I was ordained in August of 1989 and served as senior pastor at Emanuel Lutheran in Lodi, Calif. for 18 years. A long first call! In the summer of 2007, I accepted a call to be lead pastor at Silverdale Lutheran Church in Silverdale, Wash.
I married Sandy Gessner during my internship, whom I met my first month at CLU. Sandy and I were co-seniors of the year at CLU! We celebrated our 20th anniversary last December. We have been blessed with two terrific girls, Katy age 16 and Becca age 13. I love being a pastor and count it a great privilege to preach and teach the Word. My wife Sandy just became a principal in Bremerton School District after teaching for over twenty years. As I look back to my years in college I have found that my memories of CLU have been essential in my faith formation. While there, I moved from a “first naiveté” to a deeper and more mature faith and which wouldn’t have happened without people like Pastor Gerry Swanson, Dr. Ann Johnson, Dr. Byron Swanson, Dr. Fred Tonsing, and Dr. John Kuethe. I give thanks to God that there were, and are, people of faith in many of disciplines taught at CLU who helped me think critically and yet come to a place of faith rather than unbelief.
Colleen Curtis ‘02
A congregant of mine loves to tell the story of when he and I first met. Chuck had surgery that morning on his 65th birthday; an attempt to remove a tumor in his brain that had appeared for the third time. I wasn't all that new to the church in having been there for about 10 months, but Chuck was not a regular in any sort of way. Maybe I had met him once before in passing when he was stopping by to chat with the head of staff. That's about the only time he darkened the doorway. On his birthday, though, the head of staff was out of town, and Chuck had this major surgery and somebody needed to do something pastoral. So I swing over to the hospital on a hot, humid late June afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn. Did I mention that I was 8 months pregnant, with a dress barely stretching across the expanse that was my belly, and wearing flip-flops because my feet were too swollen to fit into anything else?
Cupcake in hand, I waddled my way to the information desk and then on to his room. He looks like he had a lobotomy, all this white gauze wrapped around and around the top of his head. I lightly tap the door and poke my head in. A young man off to the side with long hair in a messy ponytail rises from his chair and looks at me quizzically, as does Chuck. The nurse looks up as she is getting Chuck adjusted in his bed, smiles wide as she gazes at me and my pregnant, sweaty self and quietly muses, "looks like your daughter is here." I walk in smiling, stretch out my hand and hold onto Chuck's, "Happy birthday, old man! I don't know if you remember me - Colleen, the associate pastor at Farragut? Congratulations! You've made it! I'm glad you're still alive and kicking! And I've brought you a cupcake to celebrate!" Chuck's eyes widen and the nurses mouth drops open. I turn to his son, "you must be one of Chuck's boys? You must be exhausted, waiting through that surgery." Matt is a little speechless himself.
Chuck quickly gains his composure, much more so than the nurse, and he, Matt and I have a lovely visit. Nearly every time I visit Chuck, and I try to do so often, he loves to share that story if anyone new comes along, and he loves to introduce me as his pastor. He loves my baby and welcomes Daniel as if he were his grandson. Such sincere affection for one another is what I hope to have as a trademark for the ministry that God has called me to. On that hot June day, I love that God took such a funny and poignant visit and gave birth to a relationship filled with the Spirit. May each relationship be so blessed.
Mark Decker ‘76
I was 30 when I enrolled at seminary. During college, I had considered seminary, but felt that I could be more effective in helping people by serving in capacities other than as a parish pastor. I went to law school directly after college filled with the conviction that God was calling me to be a lawyer. During the summer between my second and third year of law school I worked as a counselor at El Camino Pines Lutheran Bible Camp in Southern California. This experience – working with youth, other counselors (some of whom were seminary students), and the pastors who came to camp with kids from their churches – got me thinking again about the possibility of becoming a pastor myself.
I finished law school, but instead of taking the bar exam the following summer – as most of my classmates did, I worked a second summer as camp counselor. Looking back on that time, I can see that even though I was still telling everyone that I planned to work as a lawyer, I was already disillusioned with the legal profession where clients don’t go to an attorney for counseling help, so much as they seek a “hired gun” to help them get what they want.
Following my second summer as a camp counselor, I took a part time job in the pro shop of the golf course across the street from my parents’ home, where I had golfed as a youngster. I intended to work there part-time while studying for the bar. Seven months later, while awaiting results from the bar exam (which I had passed but wouldn’t get the results for another month yet) I was still working at the golf course when the head golf professional was fired. The general manager offered me that position. He knew that I was looking for a job as an attorney and asked me to stay on as head golf professional for at least one year before going to work as a lawyer. I agreed and ended up working for another four years as head golf professional, earning my P.G.A. Class A teaching card in 1983.
In early 1984, I took a job in the legal department of a large insurance company in Los Angeles, Calif. From the start, I was miserable with the job of defending personal injury lawsuits. Our clients were usually a car driver or business who was at fault. The opposing lawyers were often sleazy, ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers. My day was typically spent arguing over how much we were going to pay for someone’s broken bones and emotional trauma. Maybe it was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: I chose the least desirable sort of practice of law so I would convince myself once and for all that I did not want to be a lawyer.
In the spring of 1984, the pastor of my home congregation retired and I was asked to serve on the call committee. During this process, the discussion of pastoral duties and interviewing candidates, I felt a very strong sense of call to become a pastor myself. Here I was, feeling awful about my legal career and hearing pastor’s talk about how much they enjoyed what they did, how they were impacting the lives of so many people in positive ways. I thought to myself, “I could do that. Be a pastor. I have those talents. I would be good at it. I could really help people. Plus, I could sing a solo in church every Sunday morning as I lead the liturgy.” So, I signed up for classes at Luther Northwestern Seminary and quit my job as a lawyer.
My internship was served in the Bronx, N.Y. My first call was to an inner city congregation in Brooklyn, N.Y. My second call was as youth and family associate pastor on staff of a large congregation in Austin, Minn. During my time in Austin, I went through a divorce, which consumed much of my energy. I enjoyed working as part of a staff and my next call was again as a youth and family associate pastor to a growing congregation in Kingman, Ariz. After four years in Kingman, I accepted my current call as solo pastor of Bethany, a medium sized congregation in Thompson, a small town in North Central Iowa. About half the congregation is involved in farming, with the other half composed of medical and teaching professionals, workers at local factories, and staff at Waldorf College.
I remarried in 2004. My wife, Sherrie, owns a bed and breakfast in St. Ansgar, Iowa, and doing the yard work there has become my new hobby. I have two grown children, a daughter who is 26 and lives in St. Paul, and a son, 18, who is a freshman at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.
Hal Dragseth ‘65
Just when you think you have it figured out, the surprises come. I came to CLC as a junior in 1963 thinking I was answering a call to prepare for the vocation of parish ministry. I was a communications major at Chico State and switched to history at CLC, taking Greek and all the other pre-seminary requirements. I worked in radio immediately after high school and although I worked at a local Thousand Oaks station while in college I believed that I was abandoning a future in radio and television.
However, when I started my studies at Luther Seminary I saw a building near the campus that housed the Department of Radio, Television and Films of the American Lutheran Church. In my second year of seminary I began to work part time there and quickly discovered that I didn’t need to abandon my love of radio and television to do ministry.
I started work on a newly launched rock and roll radio program called Silhouette. I interviewed rock stars of the era, like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Bob Hite of Canned Heat and many others. I also interviewed teens about their life, all this while studying the Pentateuch and church history.
I eventually discovered that my passion, my talent and my destiny were linked to a ministry of communications. Although I was certified for ordination after graduating from seminary, it was clear that I was being called into this wonderful combination and my pulpit couldn’t have been bigger. Silhouette was being aired on 600 stations, plus the 600 stations of Armed Forced Radio and heard around the world.
In the meantime, I was producing products in other media, like the beloved filmstrip but also learning the craft of cinematography as we produced films for the church. We traveled extensively around the country documenting the many ministries of the church.
In 1975, after top 40 radio had ebbed, I developed a new syndicated weekly radio program called SCAN that aired on over 600 stations and the Armed Forces Radio Network.
This show used progressive rock music and intimate interviews with common folk as well as newsmakers and rock stars. This show aired until 1991 and won a number of awards.
During this time, we created a short television series called, “We’re Number One”, featuring Terry Bradshaw which aired the Sunday that he played in the Super Bowl. The others featured Steve Allen, Esther Rolle, and Gary Burghoff. These aired on prime time all across the country. We also produced numerous radio and television spot announcements.
As video technology developed as a less expensive medium, we began experimenting with new applications for Christian education as well as promotion and mission interpretation.
In 1988 the ALC, LCA and AELC churches merged and moved the headquarters to Chicago. At that time, I joined with another colleague to create Seraphim Communications and we remained in the same studio building providing communication services to the new church. We had created a reputation and a network of support so that we continued to work with church-related organizations across the country. We then expanded to include businesses like 3M, Honeywell and KPMG and others as well as schools, hospitals, research institutes and social service organizations.
Seraphim added CDROM and web development to its list of services and found that the moving train of technology was picking up speed. However, the one constant was that this technology was to be a tool in the service of a great idea for the benefit of the audience.
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to interview thousands of people and have documented stories around the world. I was in Nicaragua right after the revolution. I was in Haiti while Baby Doc was being ousted. I documented the effects of the first Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza. I was in Liberia just as the civil war there was starting.
I have listened to the stories of people who have suffered greatly yet retain an amazing sense of courage and hope. I have been able to see God’s activity in the world in ways not easily perceived. I have been given a special place to see and hear and the privilege to interpret and broadcast the stories of people who have confronted enormous challenges.
I had the privilege to be invited into the homes of very poor people, on to the streets of the homeless, into the hospital rooms of AIDS patients and into the hearts and minds of countless numbers of people who have shared their humanity with me and trusted me to honor their story in the telling.
And now I have entrusted the mission of Seraphim Communications to my daughter, Kristin Wiersma and my son, Kevin and their staff while I take on special projects that spark my passion and interest in my “semi-retirement”.
And who could have guessed what God had in mind when I gave up a career in communications for a call to ministry.
Pastor Bill Embree '69
Reflection on ones history is like walking through a fine garden in which an enemy has planted land mines. Not only does one recall the facts of history which the head dispassionately pieces together in a puzzle of connection; but the heart lives those facts again as well. The facts are mixed with feelings and judgments, expectations and hopes, victory and defeat, joy and “the valley of the shadow of death,” that can rise up suddenly, explosively even, in pain or peace.
Reflections on a history of ordained ministry may be the most well mined of gardens. Martin Luther puzzled over whether or not clergy could be saved at all. As workers for God's intentions, they would come under especially focused assault by evil. Clergy who succumb to evil and “fall” create powerful ripples of doubt and distrust in our culture. Even so, some experiences plant fruit trees of collaboration or flowers of thanks, or drag our weary perspectives to heights that free us from the particular so that the garden may be seen in its awesome whole, and we can be renewed.
I cannot say my years of ministry have been particularly “successful”, and certainly not by the criteria of size, wealth, or fame. Now and again, however, and I think this true for all who serve God in ordained ministry. I have been gifted with something that points to God's use of even my mediocrity.
“Dear Pastor Embree, ...Just wanted to let you know how much we have appreciated your ministry over the last seven years. You baptized our granddaughter and performed the funeral service for our beloved parents. You also performed the funeral service for my children's father. You married my nephew, my sister and brother-in-law. You have been with our family through the happy and the extremely sad.”
The work of ordained ministry has opened me to the most sorrowful, even evil, of human living and to the deepest and most powerful joys of human existence. While on my own I would not have chosen such extremes of experience, I am grateful to God for dragging me to it, and grateful for what God has been able to do through my efforts.
I have served congregations in northern and Southern California, New York, New Jersey, and Iowa. The longest was 19 years. The shortest was just one and also an even briefer excursion to Tanzania, east Africa. The congregations have been in megalopolises of hundreds of thousands, towns of less than 500 souls, and villages of dozens. Some places were collections of strangers sharing only common longings and traditions. Other places were collections of families, third, fourth and fifth generation in that place and “extended” until some could claim, with more than less truth, that they were related in some way to everyone in town.
Maybe the most exciting, and at times a bit disturbing, have been the connections that I have found no matter where I was. The “son” of a congregation I served in Iowa, a missionary in Central America, knew my brother in California before meeting me at the congregation's 100th anniversary. My internship supervisor on Long Island, N.Y. knows the senior pastor of my first call in Downey, Calif. Dan Mangler, schoolmate at CLC, has been serving in the same synod and we didn't meet, and it seems like everyone in the Midwest has family on the west coast, some of whom I actually know.
I have been especially gifted to have been able to share the 35 years of ministry with my brother, John ('70). He and I shared CLC, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and our ordinations. We even interviewed with the same congregation for our first call. John left his “hippy” self in Berkeley and I didn't. The congregation called him. We both have moved into intentional interim ministry, working with congregations during their “between” time after a pastor leaves and before another is called.
Intentional interim work has opened to me new opportunities and a new vision of congregational ministry in which to serve. New challenges, too, as interim ministry takes on a certain swiftness (intentional interims are often called “faster pastors”) as we work within the 9 to 18 month window of the ELCA's process for call of ordained ministers. I look forward to what God has in mind for my service in these last few years of my career, mines and gardens included. God has been good to me.
Korey Finstad ‘99
I'm an associate pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Fairport, N.Y. in the Rochester area. As associate pastor, I get to focus on youth, education, social concerns, and fellowship, but I also get to do the usual worship leadership which I share with the senior pastor. I'm also on the board of directors for the Lutheran camp in the area. The congregation is looking forward to August 1st when I will be getting married in my church!
Jay A. Ford ’78
The 50th anniversary of Cal Lutheran finds me also celebrating 27 years of ordained ministry. And when, at San Diego State, I decided to change my vocational direction and major, feeling myself being drawn towards ministry, Cal Lutheran was my first and only consideration. I transferred there in the middle of my sophomore year and greatly appreciated the learning and support that I received, especially from the faculty in the Religion department. The Rev. Dr. Gerhard Belgum gave me pastoral encouragement. Dr. Fred Tonsing and Dr. Jim Kallas gave me the academic foundation I needed for seminary (although I disappointed Kallas by not going to his seminary alma mater).
I met my wife of 31 plus years, Julie Capener, while in choir at CLC. We’ve made a fantastic life together. We were married the day before my graduation in ’78. For that reason, Cal Lutheran will always hold a romantic feeling for me as well as an academic one. It always has a special place in my heart.
After graduation, it was off to Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. This turned out to be the perfect choice for me, building on my CLC foundation, and equipping me to be a pastoral pastor in the Church. It was while there that our daughter, Natalie, was born. I also shared the Wartburg experience with CLC grads Greg Uthus, who became great racquetball buddy, and Bob Mooney who was there for a year.
My first call was as associate pastor to a two-point parish in Southern Wisconsin, Immanuel Lutheran in Merrimac and St. John’s in Prairie du Sac. Since my mom’s side of the family came from Wisconsin, I always felt a special kinship to the community there – it was so like Lake Wobegon. It was quite a new experience for this native Californian. Our son, Stephen, was born while I served those congregations for four and a half years.
In 1986 I accepted a call to Hope Lutheran in Fresno, Calif., which also returned us closer to family. While serving as the associate pastor there, my senior colleague was elected bishop of the Synod, and I got to experience the transitional period of finding a new senior pastor. We were in the midst of a multi-million dollar building project at the time. But we made it through fine.
After seven and a half years at Hope, I accepted the call to St. Andrew’s Lutheran in San Mateo, Calif. I have been here ever since, this year marking our 15 years in ministry together. Our son followed Julie’s and my educational path and attended CLU for a couple of years, while Julie also served as a CLU Convocator. I remember then that it was fun to go back for our 20 year reunion in ’98, to reconnect with friends and see the families to which they gave birth. We missed the 30 year reunion, however.
Ministry in the Bay Area has had its own unique challenges. Church is not a high priority for most people. Nevertheless, we have continued to make a committed outreach into the community, especially finding ways to care for the homeless and the struggling in this depressed economy. We have also recently extended a call to a Palestinian pastor who will join us this fall and help us expand our programming and enable us to begin and outreach to Arab-Americans in our community.
In the fall of 2006 I was blessed with a sabbatical, and part of that included Julie and me going on a self-guided tour of the Holy Land (gutsy, I know, it coming just weeks after the Israeli-Lebanon war ceasefire! ). But we found it so much more enriching and educational than if we had gone with a tour group. It was on this trip that my eyes were opened, and my passion ignited, for the Palestinian plight. As best we can, we continue to pray and work for peace with justice.
This fall I begin a Doctor of Ministry degree program in Pastoral Care and Counseling. I am really looking forward to the learning and enrichment that this will bring to me and the ministry I am a part of. Like my time at CLC, learning has a way of energizing me as it opens the doors to new possibilities. I am very appreciative of the role Cal Lutheran has played in my life and ministry. The campus has really grown up and changed since my time there. But that is as it should be as we all continue to grow and mature, become all that God has in mind for us to be. So, Happy Golden Anniversary, Cal Lutheran!
Rich Gregory ‘96
I began my ministry through Lutheran Retreats, Camps and Conferences at El Camino Pines Camp during the summer of ’93. Camp service was the catalyst for my call, and I remain thankful to LRCC for all its’ ministry. CLU Campus Pastor Mark Knutson asked me to help start a candlelight communion service on campus, and with several other students we started “Common Ground” during my senior year.
Following graduation I served as youth director at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Redondo Beach, Calif. for almost seven years. Pastor Paul Spaulding was instrumental in mentoring my young faith, and helping me to discover my gifts. During my time at Resurrection I married Kristin Ross, also from CLU. We celebrated 10 years of marriage this summer.
From Redondo Beach I was blessed to return to El Camino Pines to serve as program director for two years. I sensed my calling to seminary at El Camino Pines. I moved to Simi Valley, Calif. and began my course-work at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. During my time at Fuller, I served as contemporary worship coordinator at Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, and I remain thankful to that community for their role in the development of my gifts in ministry.
In my last year at Fuller, I committed to associate with LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ), a new post-denominational association of Lutheran Christians, and began to plant a church, Lifesong, in Newbury Park, Calif. Lifesong started with six and has now grown to around 30 each Sunday, and we have been blessed with some awesome opportunities to make God’s kingdom known in the Conejo Valley. I am currently serving at Lifesong, teaching Bible 80% time at Oaks Christian School, and working part time as a bicycle mechanic at Win’s Wheels Bicycle Repair Shop in Westlake Village. I am blessed to have three jobs that I love.
Kristin and I are mom and dad to Nathan and Corinne, 5 and 2 respectively, and we enjoy living in Wood Ranch in Simi Valley. I am thankful that CLU connected me with so many opportunities to serve God and help others discover the peace only found in Jesus.
Harry William Griffith ‘74
Commander Harry William Griffith, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy was born in Lynwood, Calif. and raised in Compton, Calif. He graduated from Compton Senior High in 1970 and attended California Lutheran College where he graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in religion. He began his seminary training in 1974 at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. While at seminary, he applied to and was accepted into the Navy Theological Student program receiving his commission as an ensign in 1976. Throughout his seminary years, Chaplain Griffith drilled with the Naval Reserve- Great Lakes in addition to completing his internship at Trinity Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill. Graduating with a Masters of Divinity, Chaplain Griffith reported to Marine Corps Recruit Training – Parris Island. Although still under the Theological Student designator (TSP), he was assigned regular duties as chaplain to Third Recruit battalion. Fulfilling the ordination requirement, Chaplain Griffith was recalled by his national church body to serve as a parish pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio. After three years in parish ministry, Chaplain Griffith received ecclesiastical endorsement to return to active duty in 1981. His first active duty assignment was as command chaplain onboard the USS Cleveland (LPD-7) home ported in San Diego, Calif., completing two western Pacific deployments, transferring to the staff of Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) – San Diego. His other follow on assignments included Naval post graduated program at Southern Methodist University/ Perkins School of Theology where he earned a subspecialty in religion and culture with an emphasis in Islamic studies; Naval Air Station- Lemoore, as the senior Protestant chaplain; the Naval Advance Course at the Naval Chaplains’ School- Newport; Group Chaplain at Marine Wing Support Group 17 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 172; Battalion and Schools’ Chaplain at the Marine Combat Training Battalion Base and School of Infantry (SOI) at Camp Lejeune; Command Chaplain at Naval Support Facility – Diego Garcia; Command Chaplain with the establishment of the II Marine Headquarters Group and the 2nd Marine Brigade; Command Chaplain at Naval Fleet Activities – Sasebo; Command Chaplain at Naval Submarine School – New London: Regimental Chaplain Regiment Combat Team 2 to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Al Anbar Province, Iraq from December 2006 – January 2008. He is currently assigned as the Division Chaplain at 2nd Marine Division – Camp Lejeune.
Commander Harry Griffith is married to Annette Louise (Andrews). They recently celebrated thirty-one years of marriage. The Griffiths have two children, Ethan (21) and Karen (15).
Chaplain Griffith’s personal awards include: Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, Fleet Marine Force Ribbon, National Defense Medal with Bronze Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal with USMC device and Bronze Star, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Silver Star, Overseas Service Ribbon with three Bronze Stars
In addition, Chaplain Griffith is currently the only African American ELCA chaplain on active duty. He is a member of the Federal Chaplaincy Endorsing Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has the distinction of being first African American president of a senior class at California Lutheran College. Chaplain Griffith retired in November of 2009 from the Navy continuing his ministry as an ELCA pastor.
Caleb D. Harms ‘83
In my years of ministry I have learned more than I ever wanted too. My days in ministry have taken me from a prison chaplain in Northern California, a parish pastor in Michigan and Pennsylvania and from a church bureaucrat to an inter-faith peace center in Texas. My ministry included taking care of my aging parents for almost two years to a hospice chaplain back in Pennsylvania. Now I am the chaplain for a retirement community.
I have learned and continue to learn each day that my work/ministry can not be about me. I am sure I have had more failures than successes in my ministry, yet I know that Jesus’ blood has not failed me yet. No matter what the circumstance, no matter the day, no matter the time, the Holy Spirit constantly reminds me that it is for the garbage of life that we are called to work day in and day out.
Forgiveness is that which burdens us and strengthens us. At many a hospice bed the struggle for the person in the bed or family members, was they felt that they could not forgive or that God would never forgive them for deeds in their life. It is when we realize that God’s grace is there for each of as persons and forgiveness for communities that we are able to move forward and begin anew. Forgiveness is often easier said than done, but without forgiveness we will tear ourselves apart until our dying day. As we offer and accept forgiveness throughout our daily living – it is enough to make it to the end of the day.
"be the change you wish to see in the world"…Gandhi
Chris Heian ‘70
I graduated from California Lutheran University (then CLC) in 1970. I should have graduated with the class of '67 but volunteered for the draft and spent one year in Vietnam. In 1976 I received a M. Div. from Faith Lutheran Seminary, Tacoma, Wash. In 1995 I received a D. Min from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Okla.
From 1996 until the present, I have been a missionary and usually preach the gospel in eight countries per year. Last year I went to Southern Sudan and preached the gospel to prisoners, teachers and villagers. I lived in a mud hut compound with no electricity. While there I got in a motorcycle accident which left me with an infected leg. I flew to Liberia, West Africa and conducted meetings in three cities involving 18 churches. I later met missionaries in Turkey and flew to Armenia; the birthplace of my grandparents. There we ministered at churches and in cell groups for one month. I have one book published in the Armenian language.
After that I flew to Thailand. I used to preach in the Thai language and received two Youth With a Mission (YWAM) groups a year. After preaching in local churches, I entered Myanmar for the second time in 2008. God gave me the privilege of preaching to about 100 Burmese from Akyawadee district where about 134,000 people died from cyclone Nargis. I prayed for many of them and learned that Christians have rebuilt many bamboo homes. Many Buddhists in that area have turned to Christ. Some of us took a 12 hour bus ride up north and conducted meetings. The government did not permit us to meet in the church the first day and previously cancelled two of my meetings.
I returned to Thailand where I've published two books and then flew to Bhutan. We went to central Bhutan and had a two day seminar with the window shades drawn and no microphones. Many were touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and two people accepted Christ. Six were later baptized in a river.
I flew from Bhutan to Kathmandu, Nepal. I had a two day seminar where many were impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit. Later, three people from my church in Olympia, Wash. came to join me. We had four seminars in four cities. At the largest in Hetauda, Nepal 53 churches invited us for a three day seminar with over 450 attendees. Many received personal prophecy, divine healing and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. (In 1990 Nepal was "the only Hindu kingdom" and Christianity was illegal. Now, Christmas is a legal holiday and Nepal is 2.5 percent Christian). When the U.S. group left, a Nepali pastor and I went to several cities near the Indian border and conducted meetings. I've published three small books in Nepali. Young girls are being rescued from the sex-slave trade and churches and orphanages are growing there. Korean missionaries are a big help. We later preached the gospel outdoors in Kathmandu where people responded positively. We were even welcomed by the police.
I returned to Thailand after Christmas and went up north. I joined Maun Christians reaching out to Karen peoples. Both these tribes have escaped from Myanmar to Thailand. We preached to about 400 people, prayed for them and gave out lots of clothing. Later, I returned to Bangkok for further ministry. When the Chinese New Year ended, I flew to Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Vietnam. South Vietnam has much freedom and churches can even hang out their signs. I had the opportunity to minister near Dzi An where I was stationed for one year with the 1st Division in1967-68. We had a three day seminar in Ho Chi Minh with 90 attendees. One deaf lady was healed and many received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Later, a Vietnamese pastor and I flew to Hanoi. I didn't go to church there as there is much less freedom and many spies. Then we took a bus to Hai Phong which was bombed during the war but now is a tourist city. We held a seminar there with prayer for the different peoples with 80 attendees. The police came the second day wanting my passport but left by the grace of God.
God has blessed me in many ways and I am so grateful to Him. I'm now in Centralia, Wash. for my annual two month leave. Blessings.
Brian Hiortdahl '92
What's the point?
Thanks in large part to my undergraduate training at CLU, specifically in New Testament studies with Dr. Fred Tonsing, I think I know. The point is joy.
I certainly don't recall having this thought in Dr. Tonsing's office, laboring through syntax and context and declensions and all manner of endless Greek details no one in the pews could possibly care about. It was in those classes, however, that I learned the importance of sentence structure, rhetorical strategy and especially context, which is what, protects a text from being just a pretext. That learned man in the felt hat and light blue shirt surrounded by books and files was in truth a sower casting seeds on eclectic soil, and thanks be to God, something took root in me.
I learned there the Greek rhetorical device of chiasm, which is something like a verbal pyramid. Thoughts are arranged in symmetry ascending to and descending from a center, the singular middle thought. If I say A-B-C-B-A, then C is what I'm most intent upon getting across. C is the top of the pyramid...it's the point.
I also learned that when in doubt about a New Testament text, I could trust the scholarship of Raymond Brown, a gentle priest with a rare gift for academic precision. In his commentary on the gospel of John, Brown identifies in the fifteenth chapter an elaborate and beautiful chiasm. Jesus waxes eloquent about friendship and love, but that is only build-up. The point is joy: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
Lest this pinnacle of insight devolve into a pretext, keep also in mind the context...which in fact only sharpens this point. Jesus said this to his disciples in a kind of deathbed monologue. It is a centerpiece in his collection of final thoughts just before he lays down his life for them on the cross. If this were opera, he'd be on the floor with one hand in the air, singing slowly. His words are sandwiched between the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, spoken to a room full of worried, confused, hangdog faces expecting, perhaps, thoughts about friendship and love ("I'm gonna miss you guys") but not about joy. The gleam in his eye and the smile on his sentenced lips must be a complete surprise.
In the center of horror and misunderstanding, grief and uncertainty, anxiety and stress, injustice and death, there stands Jesus sharing joy. It is a stunning lesson for those of us called to feed his sheep. As the world rages, share joy. In the midst of tragedy, share joy. Feeling abandoned, betrayed, hopeless? Extend joy. In the midst of a church weighed down and chained back by somber moralistic pieties, doctrinal disputes, and the disillusionment of a world soured on religion in large part thanks to the joyless machinations of Jesus' church, we are called to bring (ideally with a mischievous smile) the sweet gospel surprise of joy.
I cannot recount how often people are surprised when I bring God's promise wrapped in warm humor to a funeral or break it down funky on the wedding reception dance floor, intentionally still wearing that stuffy black collar. Some people are offended; others are liberated. I've been asked to leave, and I've been asked to stay. This, by the way, is probably as close to following Jesus as I myself have ever managed.
In a world and a church choked with stress and worry and melodrama, a world and a church oft far adrift from the moorings of perspective, my calling in ministry is to be a champion and a conduit of joy. I'll spare you any exegetical word study (you're welcome), but I've come to think joy is something altogether different and deeper than happiness. It is the gift of God in Christ, who trumps even death to share it with us. It is deeper and more powerful than evil, as the episode at the cross so powerfully attests. It does not deny or minimize suffering and injustice, or find any perverse delight in them, but it does transform and triumph. In the bottom of hell, joy remains calm; knowing there is a way out and determined to find it.
The world starves for this sacred gift, but as Jesus said at the end of that same deathbed monologue, take courage; I have overcome the world! The next day, it looked exactly otherwise. If God can produce victory from that grisly scene, is it really such a surprise that hidden inside the exquisite headache of Greek is joy?
I am currently serving at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill.
David Keil ‘71
I graduated from CLC in 1971, attended Concordia Theological Seminary, graduating in 1975. Along the way I married another CLC graduate, Kathy Boer in 1972. We began our ministry in 1975 at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Richmond, Calif. Kathy began playing the organ for worship services while at Mt. Olive. Our two children, Tim and Sarah, were born in Richmond. In 1981, we moved to Calvary Lutheran Church, Seattle, Wash, and built up a parochial school connected with the congregation. In 1986, we moved to Central Point, Ore. I served in that congregation until 2002. We then moved to Ramona, Calif., where I serve Ramona Lutheran Church and School. Kathy continues to play the organ and direct the choir. I have been active in community activities (instrumental musical groups, anniversary celebrations, school bond committees, etc.) I have served the larger church as circuit counselor for 12 years, and by being on convention floor committees. As to family updates, our son, Tim, works as an architect in Phoenix, Ariz., is married to a Lutheran church worker, and has a 4-year-old daughter, with another child on the way. Our daughter, Sarah, is married to a Lutheran pastor, who is serving a congregation in Columbus, Ohio. They have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son.
Kathy and I reflect on our time at CLC and have good memories of our experiences there, particularly in the choir. We received a good education there, for which we continue to be grateful. May the Lord bless CLU abundantly as it carries out its ministry!
Allen Kolkman ‘73
As a native Californian, I was born in Oxnard and grew up in Ventura. I started attending church as a teenager, participated in several churches and ultimately joined the Lutheran Church at eighteen.
I attended California Lutheran University, majoring in history and religion, and received a B.A. (cum laude) in 1973. I received a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in 1977 and Doctor of Ministry from Faith Lutheran Seminary in 1990. My training included ministry as a hospital chaplain in Santa Monica, Calif., and an internship (vicarage) in San Jose, Calif., as well.
It was in San Jose that I met and married Debbie in 1976. Together, we have two daughters, Kristine and Amanda, both grown now but still living in Oceanside and active at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.
I have served Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Oceaside, Calif.since 1980, first as a missionary and then in 1990 as pastor.
W. Richard Lang ‘64
It might be interesting to note that my first attempt at college ended in total failure, after having received a total of 15 “D’s” and “F’s” at GlendaleCommunity College, Glendale, Calif., with a remarkable 52 grade points below a “C” average. Because of that I was drafted into the Guerrilla Jungle Infantry Warfare Training Center in the 27th Infantry, “Wolfhounds,” of the 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning” Division. I became a chaplain’s assistant teaching Bible classes and encouraging men to follow a career in ministry.
The Army changed my life, and California Lutheran College – desperate for students – permitted me to enter with junior standing in 1962. This proved successful and I earned mostly “A’s,” a few “B’s” and one “C’.” A great deal of my enthusiasm for studying came from my roommate, Jim Gulbranson, who along with other students, were a great source of encouragement. I graduated as a member of the first graduating class from CLC in 1964, having majored in philosophy. Every class in philosophy, in those days, was taught by Dr. Ed. L. Miller, who represented the entire department of philosophy. Almost of all of my other classes were with Dr. James Kallas, who taught both Old and New Testament.
Following graduation, I was privileged to be the very first person from CLC to go to Japan as a lay missionary, teaching English in several public schools as well as two American Lutheran Church missions. Even though I could not speak Japanese, 15 young men became Christians. Five of these men went on to the Lutheran Bible School, and three of them entered the Lutheran Seminary in Tokyo. Two of these ended up serving Lutheran churches in Japan, while one of them became a missionary to Japanese people living in Brazil.
After leaving Japan in 1965, I entered Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Just before my year of internship, I married Holly on August 12th, 1967. After internship, I completed my senior year at Wartburg and graduated with a master’s degree, having written a 250 page paper on the Lord’s Supper. I was ordained in October, 1969, at Salem Lutheran Church, Glendale, Calif.
My first call was at Calvary Lutheran Church, Grants Pass, Ore., where I served beginning in October, 1969. While at Calvary, we had our first child, Kristin, and we adopted our son, John, from Korea. In October 1975, Holly and I left Calvary to begin our own non-profit corporation, Richard Lang Ministries, Inc.
At that time, we began a traveling ministry of evangelism throughout the Pacific Northwest. We ministered both in homes and churches of various denominations teaching and training men and women in the ministry of healing and deliverance. The healing/teaching seminars were very successful during those years from October 1975 to the present time.
During this time, we also pastured churches in Stromsburg, Neb.;Denver, Colo.; Newton, Kan.; and Orofino, Idaho. Returning to Oregon, we continued training men and women in ministry – several of whom we ordained into charismatic ministries and churches in Oregon and Nebraska. One man has a very successful jail ministry in Salem, Oregon.
In January, 2007, Holly and I moved to Libby, Mont., to continue our teaching on healing and deliverance. On May 6th, 2008, Holly went to be with the Lord after 40 years of marriage and working side by side in full time ministry.
Our daughter, Kristin,born in 1970, now lives in Oakhurst, Calif., with her husband, Joe, and their three children, Sarah – 12, Rachel – 10, and Joshua – 6. Our son, John, born in 1972, now lives in Seattle, Wash.
Since Holly’s passing, I continue to work on two projects. I have just finished a book on the end times, “Before Jesus Comes – Take Heed!” I am finishing a 20 year project of translating the New Testament from Greek to English, “The Enhanced and Expanded New Testament,” for publication. Finally, I am ministering closely with the local Pentecostal Amish Community and attending the Assembly of God.
Jim Lapp ‘86
After graduating in 1986, and spending my college summers as Program Director at Camp Yolijwa in Oak Glen, Calif. with so many cherished CLU friends (and one not-so-cherished), I was called to serve as the youth minister for Mt. of Olives Lutheran in Mission Viejo, Calif. until May 1989. My wife Leslie (Simmen '87) and I then set out for the University of Chicago and Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Ill. where I received my MSW and M.Div. in 1994. During that time I served as an intern at Bonaventure House (a residence for people dying of AIDS), the Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture (mostly Central American refugees), and Contra Costa County Jail (asstistant chaplain), Pleasant Hill Lutheran, Calif. I also helped lead the "Green Zone" (a seminary group committed to action to care for creation) and volunteered at Holden Village for the summer of 1990.
My first call was to Bethlehem Lutheran in Santa Rosa, Calif. where I was immersed in the congregational conflict and consequences of the deep pain caused by the sexual misconduct of the pastor before me. While there I focused on youth and family ministry, outreach and advocacy for the homeless, advocacy within our synod and church for changes in the policies related to ordination for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) persons, and helped lead a Sierra Pacific Synod committee on environmental stewardship that played a part in preserving the last major unprotected stand of old growth redwoods on earth.
Having served three years as a "de facto" intentional interim there, I accepted a call to my present congregation of about 350 people, St. Stephen's in Santa Cruz, Calif., in July 1996. In addition to keeping a congregation healthy, growing and vibrant as solo pastor in a highly secularized, "anti-organized religion" community surrounded by two mega-churches, I consider these to be my major highlights so far.
1. We are a major supporter of the Davenport Resource Center which provides services for migrant farm workers and their families. We gather many kinds of items and Christmas gifts to keep them going strong.
2. We established a sister parish program with communities in El Salvador which has provided water piped into the villages, support for church leadership, healthcare workers salaries, and scholarships for 120 children, youth and university students. We raise about $18,000 a year for these programs. We've been visiting our sister parish once a year for 13 years and have brought over 100 adults and youth to El Salvador for an experience that has changed many lives and deepened our faith under the theme "Building Relationships for Better Lives". Bishop Medardo Gomez of the Lutheran Church of El Salvador has called us one of the very few groups who keeps coming back to deepen our relationships with the people there.
3. We are a founding congregation of a broad-based community organization Communities Organized for relational Power in Action (C.O.P.A.) in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties to address the needs of our communities with elected officials and government agencies. For the first six years we built relationships with other churches, our judicatories, community groups, and within our own congregations in order to find out what the real needs were and then to act on them in a public way. We received the first grant for this project in 1997 from the ELCA which helped us leverage other foundation funds to hire an organizer from the Industrial Areas Foundation - more well-known as President Obama's training grounds as a community organizer. COPA officially formed in June 2003 with 25 of our own congregational leaders signing the charter. Most recently we formed our "Shared Prosperity Agenda" around the needs relating to affordable housing (we live in the most unaffordable county in the USA), access to healthcare, community safety, education, and economic opportunity. We recently broke ground for the Live Oak Family Resource Center which will house many services for the underprivileged. We were able to organize our members and leverage $5 million of County Redevelopment Funds for this exciting new endeavor. Now we are working toward a youth center to help provide alternatives for at-risk youth who are increasingly falling into the gang lifestyle.
I've also stayed in touch with my roots by serving as a CLU Convocator for six years, and chair of the board for Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Northern California, (Mt. Cross) for six years including two stints as an interim director. I've taught about 200 Midwest Lutheran youth how to surf through Mt. Cross' programs - now that's real ministry!
Don Liles ‘81
After graduating from CLC in the spring of 81’ Teresa (Paulson), also a Cal Lu student, and I headed East in our 63’ Chevy three-quarter ton pickup to Dubuque, Iowa and Wartburg Theological Seminary. Our son Joseph was born while at seminary and today Joseph happens to be a student at the same seminary (currently on internship in Fort Smith, Ark.). Our first call was to Community Lutheran Church Las Vegas, Nev. of all places. There I served as the associate pastor responsible for youth and family ministry. While at Community our son Danny was born. Today Danny happens to be a senior at CLU majoring in Music and International studies.
Following two short years at Community and leaving many memories and good friends we headed to Phoenix where I was called as the associate pastor of youth and family ministry at Mountain View Lutheran Church, Ahwatukee, Ariz. While at Mountain View we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Heather who currently is attending Mesa Community College with a focus in psychology and social work. While at Mountain View my title changed to co-pastor after a few years and a few years after that I was called by the same congregation as their senior pastor. I remained the senior pastor for three more years, all in all having served ten years at Mountain View. Again, we left good memories and friends as the tug of God called us into the mission field. The journey this time took us back to Las Vegas as mission developers (believe me when I say that the spouse of the mission developer is as much a mission developer in many ways as the one with the title!). After two years New Hope Lutheran Church organized self sufficient with 270 hearty souls signing the charter member document. Several years later New Hope merged with Good Samaritan Lutheran Church and together they purchased a plot of land in a new and growing area of Las Vegas. In 2008 their worship facility and pre-school were completed (The pre-school is aptly named New Hope). At this point in our faith journey I was feeling the call to serve the church as an interim pastor (one who serves as the pastor and guide for a congregation when that congregations former pastor has retired or taken another call).
My first assignment came via a call from the Bishop who asked if I might assist Love of Christ Lutheran Church, Mesa, Ariz. with their transition as the associate pastor had taken another call. I thought how long does it take to replace an associate pastor, a few months? Well as it turned out several months became several years as senior pastor also decided to retire in eighteen months and they asked if I would assist with that as well. The problem is we (myself and the congregation) were not supposed to have gotten to know each other so well, but we did, the result being careful and prayerful discernment about who God might have in mind to follow the founding pastor of the congregation. As it happens there seemed to be strong consensus with the Bishop, the search team, the Board and the congregation and myself that in fact God might have placed me with Love of Christ to be an interim, yes, but their new senior pastor as well. This was not the way it was supposed to happen (reminds me of something Abraham, Moses, Joseph, the disciples or the Apostle Paul might have said). So, on Sunday Sept. 20th 2009 the congregation, by the Holy Spirit's guiding, made that decision. That just about covers it so far except for one thing, our son Joseph and his bride Jessica who also attended Wartburg Theological Seminary recently completed her associate in ministry degree. She hails from North Dakota-Don’tcha Know! Our first grandchild was born last fall which makes Teresa and I grandparents!
I attended one year at CLC before going on to serve the American Lutheran Church as assistant director of Luther League. After my two year call for ALC I finished up my education at Sacramento State University and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Both Scott and Melissa Maxwell Doherty and Brian and Mary Stein-Webber were classmates with me at CLU and PLTS.
Scott Mehl ’03 and Lara Burkhardt Mehl ‘02
We founded Shoreline Community Church in West Los Angeles, Calif. in October 2005 (along with Brian Colmery, a 2003 UCLA grad). After graduation from CLU, we worked on staff at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif. while Scott attended seminary. Two and a half years later, we were sent out by Cornerstone Church to West Los Angeles in order to start a new church to reach the hundreds of thousands in West Los Angeles who live apart from a relationship with the true and living God through Christ.
In addition, since beginning to meet in a movie theater in Westwood in 2007, Shoreline also has had a powerful impact among UCLA students, continuing the heart for college ministry that was implanted in Scott and Lara during their time at CLU. Lara also serves at the Westside Pregnancy Clinic where she counsels young pregnant women weekly. While we are still just beginning the journey that the Lord has sent us on, it seems like the only way to offer some reflections is to share a few brief stories.
Wolf was a man of the streets. Having lived on the streets for over 30 years, he didn’t know any other kind of life. What he did know, however, was that he had been forgiven through Jesus, and that his previous life as a Hell’s Angel was completely covered by that forgiveness. As an integral part of the family at Shoreline, Wolf’s passing in early 2009 was a sad day. Wolf’s funeral was one of the most memorable services I’ve ever been a part of. A parade of UCLA grads shared the incredible impact that Wolf had had on their lives, and Wolf’s longtime estranged family had the opportunity to meet the spiritual family that Wolf called “home.” God’s glory was manifest in the life and death of this rough biker.
Adam lived with us for three months right after our son was born. It was quite a squeeze in our two-bedroom apartment, but he didn’t have many other options. Disillusioned with Christ and fed up with the church, he never saw himself moving in with “a pastor,” but that is exactly what happened. It hasn’t been an easy road for Adam over the past few years, but God has worked miracles in and through this young man. Now, as one of the leaders (in a number of different capacities) in our church, we get the opportunity to see the evidence of God’s hand along every step of Adam’s journey. God’s glory is manifest in the life of this young man.
George and I met three years ago on my first trip to Northern Uganda. A young pastor with all of the passion in the world, George lacked one thing: solid Biblical training. He didn’t have an opportunity to be trained for the radical life of ministry that he so longed to live. We continued our relationship over the years while Shoreline was able to put George through Bible college, and now George (and his new wife) are learning Arabic so that they can move to Southern Sudan to start a church (a place where no westerner would ever be able to go and be effective). God’s glory is manifest through this young radical couple.
Josh is a Ph.D. student at UCLA studying molecular biology. Free time wouldn’t seem to be something Josh would posses, but in addition to his scientific research, the rest of his life is committed to serving and ministering to those around him. As a close friend of Wolf’s, a confidant of Adam’s and having spent extended time with George, Josh has seen a glimpse of the eternal reward that awaits him, not because of anything he has done, but simply because of the grace of Christ. Josh and his wife (Rochelle – a dietician at the VA) are dear friends who we have the honor of getting to serve alongside of at Shoreline. They are just two of the countless examples of people in our midst who manifest God’s glory.
Over the past few years, in addition to our spiritual family ever expanding, our biological family has expanded as well. Our son, Harper, is now 3 and our daughter, Addison, is 1½. The need for Christ we saw at CLU was great preparation for the need for Christ we see in West LA. We regularly look back with great fondness upon our time at CLU, the friendships we made, and the experiences we had (including the first time Lara and I met in the Preus Brandt Forum).
Brad E. Meyer ’87
Ministry in the church has been exciting and diverse. After graduation from CLU, I received a M.Div., from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. My first call at St. Peter’s & St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Creston & Leigh, Neb. in 1991, was to a town of 180 people, which for this Los Angeles born kid was a culture shock. The people loved us and we grew to know more about the Midwest farm community and their dedication to hard work and their love for the church.
Moving to Omaha, Neb. in 1996 to serve at Rejoice Lutheran Church and working in a large congregation of eventually 3000 members was both challenging and exciting. Ministry took on different forms as the congregation focused on the needs of the community and ways in which they uplift each other and their gifts.
In my current call my ministry has made another shift as I work with Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries as its director of programs. We have just completed our summer camp season that was filled with learning experiences and the great opportunity to be a part of faith development in children’s lives.
It is not just my ministry, but the ministry of my supportive family: Heidi (Shoup) Meyer ’87 and our children Catie and Christopher.
Sister Antoinette Marie Moon, S.N.D. ‘87
Called…sent….commissioned to the Lord’s service. As CLU marks its 50th anniversary, it is a good time to celebrate so many alumni who are ministering to God’s people all over the world.
I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame here in Thousand Oaks in 1963. My fields of ministry have been local and international but always interesting and full of surprises. With my BA from Mount St. Mary’s in Los Angeles, Calif. and my MA from California Lutheran I was well-prepared to minister in the field of education. I taught or was an administrator in Catholic parish elementary schools and La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, where I also served as principal. I also ministered at our Motherhouse in Rome, Italy, during which time I was privileged to work with Vietnamese refugees. We provided shelter, food and clothing for 80 people, mainly families with children, who had been rescued at sea by the Italian Navy. The refugees attended schools and prepared themselves for relocation to other counties to reunite with their families. Along with Vietnamese, the Sisters of Notre Dame also sheltered Jews who were escaping from Russia to immigrate to Israel.
I have loved every moment in the service of the Lord. But the last four years have been a lifelong dream come true as I served as a missionary in East Africa,
at St. Julie Mission in Buseesa, Uganda. The Sisters of Notre Dame have been in Buseesa, Uganda, since 1994. Sisters from Covington, Ky.,
Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Mulhausen, Germany serve at the mission. The St. Julie mission site is in Buseesa, about 11 degrees
above the equator, and about four hours west north west of Kampala, in the upland “bush” of Kibaale District, Catholic Diocese of Hoima. The dirt roads might be best described as “interesting” and only manageable with a sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicle. We have a thriving pre-school for one to five year olds, a model primary boarding school for grades one through seven for boys and girls, and a boarding secondary school for girls, levels one through four. The Sisters, teachers, matrons, students and children all live on site….about 450 people. We gather rain water in 10,000 and 24,000 liter tanks to serve all water needs—cooking, washing and bathing. We use converted solar for all lighting and power needs and propane and charcoal for cooking. We grow a good portion of the fruits and vegetables to feed the children a balanced diet and also raise pigs, goats, rabbits for meat, and chickens for eggs and meat. We don’t have television and have very poor radio reception. Mobile phone communication has been a blessing, even if we need to walk about a quarter of a mile for a network reception. Newspapers come only if we drive into Kampala to get them and our mail pickup is in Mubende, about 40 mi or 1.15 hours from the mission. So how would I describe our life in Buseesa? I would call it challenging, interesting, surprising, amazing and grace filled.
My own ministry at St. Julie's was unique. I was sent to guide Ugandan young women who were considering religious life and exploring the possibility of becoming Sisters of Notre Dame. I lived with these women in our formation and discernment house. Together we shared our lives, faith and journey to God. These women, beginning their life journey in Notre Dame, come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, tribes, and languages.
During formation, the women keep a busy schedule that both respects their African-Ugandan culture and prepares them for life in an international community of Sisters. They learn to pray the formal Prayer of the Church, adding drums, tribal musical and vocal styles and languages to the traditional hymns, songs and prayers. Their daily activities include farming, cooking, cleaning, laundry and ministry as an aide or part-time teacher at the mission schools. They also attend ongoing educational classes in such areas as English, reading, writing and speech, theology, Swahili, computer literacy, music and art, science, social studies, physical education and health.
The women live with us, sharing all that we have and all that we do. Living in community with these young women, who are so
eager to serve the Lord, was a daily ongoing blessing for me. Their innate religiosity, strong traditions of life, family, relationships, music-drums and prayer confirmed for me that though I was called to serve, ministry and train
these young women, I received so much more from them than I could ever give.
God is good, all the time!
Stephen L, Nagler ‘69
I graduated in 1973, from Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). I was ordained at Faith Lutheran Church, Huntington Beach, Calif. My first call was assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, San Mateo, Calif., from 1973-1976. In 1976, I served as pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Lake Isabella, Calif. Three years later I was the pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Artois, Calif., and First Lutheran, Willows, Calif. Twelve great years of ministry within the California -Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS.
In June of 1980 I was commissioned as an Army Reserve Chaplain and also became a San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan!!
From 1985-2005 this phase began 20 wonderful years of ministry as a active duty chaplain in the U.S. Army. During this time I served at
Fort Stewart, Ga. (2 tours of duty), Pinder Barracks, Nurnberg, Germany, Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Riley, Kan., and Fort Hamilton,
Brooklyn, N.Y. I am a veteran of Desert Shield - Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I Officially retired
from the military on March 1, 2005.
These 20 years allowed my family and I to meet great people, visit marvelous places in Europe, and have the honor to serve
great men and women in uniform!
Currently I am serving as a prison chaplain within the New York State Department of Corrections, at two all male medium
security facilities in Watertown and Ogdensburg. This is a ministry of encouragement to incarcerated men and their families.
God allows the opportunity to preach freedom to the captives!
Frank Nausin ‘70
I graduated from CLC in June of 1970 and went off to Berkeley where I entered Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. I graduated June 1974 and was ordained later that month. I am married to Linda Lewis, class of ’70.
I served my first congregation as an assistant pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church, Scottsdale, Ariz. During this time our first child, Timothy, was born. We left Scottsdale in September of 1975, and I took the call to be pastor of Mount Cross Lutheran Church, Camarillo, Calif. I served there until September 1975, and while we were there, our second son, Jeremy was born in 1980.
I served Tanque Verde in Tucson, Ariz., for the next 20 years (1982 to 2002), and lived through five building projects and rapid growth of the church.
I now serve Holy Trinity in Thousand Oaks, Calif. I have been here for seven years, and in some ways have come full circle. I serve right next to what is now CLU, and am involved in the Convocation and Board of Regents.
I have been ordained for 35 years, and truly appreciate CLU for two things: for teaching me how to think critically and to write cogently. Thank you Dr. Ed Tseng. Also, for exposing me to a whole different way of life that I had not seen much of growing up in the Bay Area. That new way of life was one that was centered in books, thinking, faith, and nurture. Though I knew my wife before our CLC days, our relationship was cemented there and our children have also graduated from CLU, as well as one of our nieces. We owe a lot to CLU. It has been very good to us and for us.
Carl Nielsen '76
I graduated from California Lutheran University May 23, 1976 and from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, June 8, 1980. I was ordained, June 15, 1980
I have served at Trinity Lutheran Church, Fort Bragg, Calif. (July 1, 1980 - December 31, 1989); Bethania Lutheran Church, Solvang, Calif. (January 1, 1990 – June 30, 1997); and Bethel Lutheran Church, Santa Maria, Calif. (July 1, 1997 – currently)
God has gifted me for parish ministry and given me many great adventures. I love God and serving people. I consider it a great honor to share with people in baptism, communion, confirmations, weddings, funerals, memorial services and so much more. Preaching, teaching and caring for God’s people is a special privilege I treasure.
My first call was to Trinity Lutheran Church, Fort Bragg, Calif. Fort Bragg
is a small town next to the Pacific Ocean on the rugged northern California coast.
It is 180 miles north of San Francisco and is surrounded by redwood forests. The
only way to get there is by traversing curvy roads. One does not go through Fort
Bragg, but to it. It is a beautiful community supported by logging, fishing and
tourism. The church is over 100 years old and was started by Finnish people.
It was a place where I grew and developed in my ministerial abilities.
My second call was to Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang. Solvang, which means “sunny fields” is located in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley on the Central Coast of California. It is a quaint little community claiming to be the “Danish capital of the United States.” Danish immigrants started the community. Tourism is a major source of its support. The church architecture mirrors the traditional Danish country church and is almost 100 years old. Inside, the sanctuary includes a gorgeous European quality hand carved altar, pulpit and baptismal font. Unfortunately, the ethnic ties to the past at times stifled the development of the congregation. While serving in Solvang I continued to grow in my ministry.
Serving as a pastor is challenging, but very rewarding as well. There have been difficult people along the way. However they are few in number compared to the many people who have appreciated my leadership and ministry.
I currently serve at Bethel Lutheran Church in Santa Maria. It is a healthy and caring place with many committed and faithful people. A question I regularly raise is, “If our church were to close its doors today, would anyone miss us besides those in the congregation?”
That question has inspired us to reach out to the community. We are in our 7th year of what we call “Parents Night Out.” Six Friday evenings during the year we provide a safe place for children to come and play and learn. We feed them with dinner and God’s Word. Parents get the night off. We have also hosted an appreciation luncheon for the teachers and staff of the Miller Elementary School next
door to the church.
We are planning to build a senior retirement village on two and a half acres of church property with Habitat for Humanity in the years to come. And we are near completion of a Columbarium, a beautiful final resting place for the ashes of loved ones.
At Bethel we are engaged with meaningful ministry through Bible study in women’s circles, a men’s
group and Christ Care small groups. There is significant caring for others through the Stephen Ministry program and the network of friendships in the congregation.
Another personal ministry I have developed is a travel and photographic ministry that has grown out of my ability with a camera. My photography skills, which were initially developed in my years at Cal Lutheran, have taken me around the world. As of this writing, I am in my 14th consecutive year of international travel. I lead a travel experience every year somewhere in the world. For the last nine years I have been doing video production and photography for a Christian travel company, Educational Opportunities Tours. They like what I do with a camera. I like what they do, sending me somewhere in the world every year. I have produced over a dozen photo CD’s and many DVD’s, including my first documentary movie.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents, A.J. and Priscilla Nielsen and my wonderful wife, Susan Hofmann Nielsen (1976). I thank God Susan and I met at CLU. We’ve been married for 31 years. We have been blessed with two great children. Mark also a graduate of CLU (2005) and Lisa a graduate of San Diego State University (2008).
In addition to photography and videography, I enjoy gardening, reading, travel, watching movies and the NFL, NBA and the NHRA.
Glenn Curtiss Pedder ‘65
The Rev. Dr.Glenn Curtiss (Curt) Pedder was born on September 3, 1942, in Los Angeles, Calif. He is a graduate of California LutheranCollege, (now California Lutheran University); Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa; and Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y. Additionally, he has completed graduate studies at the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York and post-doctoral studies at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky..
On June 1, 1969 he was ordained as a pastor in the American Lutheran Church by the Rev. Dr. James G. Kallas, a former professor at CLU and long time mentor and friend.(Curt has been told he was the first ordained pastor from CLU in the American Lutheran Church.) His first call was to Ascension Lutheran Church, Ogden, Utah where he served for three years, until receiving and accepting a call from the American Lutheran Church Division of Service to Military Personnel to represent the American Lutheran Church as an Army chaplain on extended active duty in 1972.
After requesting an initial tour of duty to the Republic of Vietnam, which was denied, his initial military assignment was as hospital chaplain, Lyster Army Hospital, Fort Rucker, Ala. He next served as assistant Division Chaplain, 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea.
Following his assignment in Korea, Pastor Pedder served as Battalion Chaplain, 307th Engineer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, in Fort Bragg, N.C. During this tour of duty he was awarded the Senior Parachutist Badge and the Jungle Expert Badge. Additionally, he was nominated to and included in the publication "Who's Who" in religion, 2nd edition.
Selected by the Chief of Chaplains for resident advanced civilian schooling, he completed the Doctor of Ministry program at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y. receiving his D.Min. in Theology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Ministries/Therapy.
In September 1979 he was assigned as the Family Life Chaplain, United States Armor Center and School, Fort Knox, Ky. During this time he attained clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and was appointed an Approved Supervisor in January 1983. He was also instrumental in the establishment of post family life training for United States Army Chaplains and that program is continuing to the present day at Fort Hood, Tex. He continues to provide clinical supervision for graduate and post graduate students of St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Tex.
From 1982 to 1985 he served as Brigade Chaplain, 22nd Signal Brigade, Federal Republic of Germany. Upon returning to the United States he served as Chief Chaplain Resource Management Branch, Fort Polk, La.
Returning to Germany in July 1989, he was assigned as Deputy Community Chaplain, Wiesbaden Military Community, Wiesbaden, Germany. In March 1992 he became the 221st Base Support Battalion Chaplain, i.e. Community Chaplain for the Wiesbaden/Mainz Military Community. In July 1993 he returned to Fort Polk, La. as Deputy Post Chaplain.
At each military assignment Pastor Pedder served as pastor to the on post Lutheran military congregation, providing an ongoing ministry of Word and Sacrament. In addition he provided Protestant worship and chaplain services to the military chapel community at large.
Pastor Pedder's military awards and decorations include: the Legion of Merit; the Meritorious Service Medal (with four oak leaf clusters); the Army Commendation Medal (with one oak leaf cluster); the Army Achievement Medal; the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; the National Defense Service Medal (2nd award); the Non-Commissioned Officer's Professional Development Ribbon, level 3; Overseas Service Ribbon (2nd award); the Army Reserve Medal; and the Army Service Ribbon.
In July 1994, Pastor Pedder elected to retire from active duty, after serving the United States Army for more than thirty-four years total combined service, to accept the call to Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, Cameron, Tex. where he served as pastor for six years. During his tenure there, he also provided on call services as a family therapist for the Aluminum Corporation of America and Heritage Services to senior adults, an outpatient program treating senior adults and their families, in addition to providing training and supervision for local clergy in the area of family ministry and therapy.
In August 2000, Pastor Pedder received and accepted the call to Grace Lutheran Church, San Antonio, Tex. During his tenure he has continued to provide a ministry of Word and Sacrament to this most unique and engaging socially conscious congregation. Additionally, Pastor Pedder serves as the clinical director of Grace Place, an outpatient day center for early stage Alzheimer patients, located on the Grace Lutheran Church campus.
Pastor Pedder is married to the former Kathleen Raney of Fort Riley, Kan. They have three daughters: Bethany Davis, Sacramento, Calif.; Donna Peterson, Alexandria, Va. and Mariaha Pedder, currently living and working in Dubai, UAE.
Lee Rehrer ‘72
I once told God that I had two non-negotiables upon my entering parish ministry. No parsonage. No building program. God chuckled and, after only eighteen months out of seminary, had me in a parsonage. Within 36 months the building program was well underway.
I chuckled and settled in for a great ride: thirty years at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Chandler, Ariz.; chaplain at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah; host church to an Islamic group in our area as they completed the construction of their Mosque; the journey with more than 300 families as they bid farewell to their loved ones; the celebration with more than 600 couples as they exchanged rings and vows; initial interviews with those entering the candidacy process; working side by side with community leaders to improve our neighborhoods; twenty years at summer camp shaping the faith and lives of our young people; great associate pastors and rostered leaders who helped to carry the load; passing on the faith each week with others in worship, classroom and choir.
The ride continues. To be sure, God still chuckles when considering the restrictions I want to place on God’s plans. But more often I hear God’s encouragement. Most often in the text I have embossed on my office wall, Micah 6:8: Justice, mercy, humility.
Blessings to you in your ministry.
Terry Rommereim ‘78
It has been a real privilege and joy to serve the Lord in ministry throughout my life. I have had many mountain top experiences as well as many deep valley experiences. Yet God has always remained faithful as promised. I remember very clearly hearing and experiencing God’s call to become a pastor while I was attending California Lutheran University. I fought it for some years following graduation yet God is persistent and you can’t win when you are
wrestling with God.
When I left for seminary, my home congregation asked me what my favorite verse was. Without hesitation I said,
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways
acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. This verse remains my favorite and has been a source
of strength and inspiration for my life.
Before receiving a M.Div. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1986, I served as the organist/pianist at
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Simi Valley, Calif. for 10 years and three years as director of music at First Presbyterian
Church, Dubuque, Iowa. My internship at Ascension Lutheran Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., turned
into a position as associate pastor. Four years later I served as pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Orange, Calif.,
followed by six years at Trinity Lutheran Church, Fresno, Calif.
I received a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., in 1999. In 2002 I served as pastor of music at Christian Reformed Church, Fresno, Calif., and chaplain for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Presently I serve as chaplain at Central Valley Children’s Hospital, Madera, Calif.
It has been quite a ride and in the midst of it all, I have grown tremendously in my faith and ability to minister to people. It is through our trials and sufferings that we grow the most, and I have chosen to take what I have experienced and use it for God’s glory in ministry.
My wife, Kim, has been a great support in ministry and has used her many gifts in the places I have served and is currently the director for Crown Financial Ministries of Central and Northern California.
The greatest joy in ministry is seeing people turn their lives around and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. Reaching new people with the Gospel has always been the most important part of my understanding of mission and vision. There is no greater power in the world for creating change in people and affecting the world.
The people I have served have also ministered to me in many ways. I have learned a great deal from the many brothers and sisters in Christ who have been a part of my life in the churches, hospitals, and other ministries where I have served.
I have many fond memories of California Lutheran University and appreciated the Christian context, the staff, students, and opportunities to learn, grown, and discover the gifts God has given me. Without a doubt, my time there helped prepare me for the future and the call God laid upon my heart.
To God Be the Glory!
Greg Ronning ‘82
As I look back there are two things that I can say “called” me into the ministry. One was my time at Cal Lutheran, a place that challenged and deepened my faith immensely. I graduated with a renewed sense of faith and a profound sense of vocation. I am extremely thankful for each of my professors, campus ministry, my friends, and the woman I met and married, Melissa, whose love and support certainly made all things possible for me. The other source of my calling in life was music. While at Cal Lutheran I discovered the musician and poet within me. My guitar was my constant companion, the place where I processed the great existential questions of life and love. Writing and performing those songs on campus, in the SUB, around campus, and in worship was, to say the least, life changing.
I graduated from Cal Lutheran with a degree in physical education and immediately was hired as a coach at Santa Cruz High School. But coaches don’t get to play guitar and sing very often, so before I knew it I was in seminary trying to figure out what my calling in life might be. The seminary journey was never clear to me, but I did get to write songs, play guitar and sing. Those things along with an incredible internship in Hawaii kept me going on the ministry path despite the fact that I had no idea where they might be leading me.
I began my first call in the fall of 1998 as youth pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Lafayette, Calif. I spent four and a half good years in Lafayette. We were surrounded by great faithful people and wonderful youth. During these years my wife and I began raising our family. Our son Trace grew up on the church youth bus traveling up and down the West Coast on mission trips and choir tours. Our daughter Sierra came along a couple of years later. She rode the bus too and was baptized by her father! Our Savior’s was a great place, but I had to confess I still was not sure what I was doing as a pastor. My sense of call was not complete.
I arrived on the campus of Texas Lutheran University (TLU) in February 1993 to begin my second and current call as the Campus Pastor. And the very day I walked onto that campus my calling in life finally became clear to me, this was the place I was meant to be! It was like walking onto the campus of my beloved alma Mater CLU. I felt at home instantly, and the campus pastor who always had his guitar strapped around his neck was enthusiastically welcomed by this community of faith and learning. I’ve been at TLU for 16 years now and still can’t believe they pay me to play my guitar, hang out with students, and ask the great existential questions of life. Sometimes it feels like I’ve never left “the good old college life.” It seems “the good old college life” was my great call in life.
Over the years my ministry at Texas Lutheran has been marked by creative liturgical worship, coffee house talent shows, a strong men’s ministry, service trips, and a laid back reflective approach that contributes to the great vocational conversations on campus. The musician in me has written “The Alleluia Rock Liturgy,” a contemporary liturgical worship setting that has been a student favorite over the years. I often preach a “sermon in song,” mixing my songs with the gospel narrative. I continue to write and perform my music and have done some recording. And in 2002 I formed a classic rock band, “The Harleys,” that performs on campus and locally to help raise money for educational projects and organizations that serve others in need.
I suppose my secret dream in college was to become a rock star. And my passion was to somehow make a difference in the world, to be a part of the peace and justice of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It’s funny how a dream can come true “essentially” if you stop worrying about the details. I am not a rock star, but I do play my guitar everyday, and the words of the Gospel are there, alive in between each and every note and line, making a difference as the Gospel is prone to do. My call came to me in the transforming and renewing work of the university and the creative life of music. And somehow I was blessed to be able to follow my passions. The journey that began as a student at Cal Lutheran continues to unfold as the campus pastor at Texas Lutheran!
John Roseth ‘69
Over the past 36-years I have served the following congregations: Christ Lutheran Church, Cheyenne, Wyo. (1973-1976); Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Hubertus, Wis. (1977-1979) and Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, Wausau, Wis. (1980 to present).
Lee Rozen ‘66
I was ordained in 1971 and served many years at Salem Lutheran Church, Whittier, Calif. I am now retired but serve as interim pastor at Lutheran Church of the Master, La Habra, Calif.
Jana Schofield ‘93
I was blessed not only to participate in campus ministry as a student at CLU from 1989-1993, but I also spent a year-long seminary internship with Rev. Mark Knutson in the Campus Ministry Office. Both those experiences led to my desire to serve as a campus pastor, and I know that much of how I minister now was formed and shaped during my years at CLU.
During my summers in college I worked as a counselor and program director at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Colorado, and after college I spent three years as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dayton, Ohio. (Those three years seem like a blur – I had 400 youth and young adults in my programs and hardly ever took a day off! I learned the hard way how crucial self-care is in ministry!)
I chose to study at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary for my M.Div. and stayed an extra year for an M.A. in Ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. My master’s thesis was on Lutheran sexual ethics in regard to youth and young adults – a topic that has been extremely helpful as I minister now with college students.
In September 2001 I began my current ministry at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church in San Luis Obispo, Calif. as pastor of Campus and Parish Ministry. Although our congregation has been through significant conflict and change the past several years, this for me has been a dream call – to work with both a delightful congregation and enthusiastic college students from California Polytechnic University and Cuesta College.
The Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) I lead is a vibrant outreach of Mt. Carmel’s congregation. Congregational members support the ministry by serving as “parents away from home” in our “Adopt-A-Student” program, providing food for our weekly free dinners and monthly BBQs, and donating time and finances to support this outreach.
LCM students worship in the congregation on Sundays and meet Tuesday nights for a free dinner, Bible study, and student-led worship service. We support and train peer ministers who oversee our day-to-day programs, including quarterly retreats, ecumenical/interfaith events, intramural sports teams, community service, and fun/social events.
The parts of ministry I love best include:
- Helping “pop the bubble” students live in by exposing them to and inviting them to use their gifts in the more challenging parts of God’s world. Each spring we take an alternative spring break trip, usually working with Lutheran Disaster Response in poverty-stricken areas.
- Watching students connect their faith to everyday life. I love when they wear their LCM t-shirts with Martin Luther’s quote: “Sin boldly…but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” The more they believe and rejoice the less they sin! (And it’s also fun when we get lots of “second glances” from people who only see the front of our shirts that say “Sin Boldly…”! Quite an evangelism tool!)
- Though I feel too old for it sometimes, I love staying up late with students cooking and serving pancakes for our quarterly “Pancakes at Midnight” that regularly brings 75 students to our ministry center. The enthusiasm of college students is infectious.
- I love journeying alongside college students as they discern their vocation and discover their calling. So many people at CLU did that for me when I was a student and seminary intern…and I’m blessed now to do it with others.
Peg & Reg Schultz-Akerson ‘74
As for highlights, gratitude for God’s lively saints with whom we have served comes quickly to mind, as does God’s attentive love that traverses every terrain. What we have come to know is that God walks with us always. Prayer has been a constant gift, as has the call to fear not. As our baptismal theology says, we are free to live mercifully and joyfully, trusting deeply.
Reg’s call to ministry seemed to flow out of his growing up years, culminating at California Lutheran University, where, when the question of what to do next came, it seemed seminary was right. This was confirmed while Reg served as Campus Pastor Gerry Swanson’s assistant, during our first two years of marriage from 1974-76. At this time, we had the joy of playing key roles in the formation of CLU’s Lord of Life campus congregation. The approval of women’s ordination came during our years at college, and when Pastor Gerry saw how excited Peg was about Reg deciding to go to seminary he said, “Why don’t you go?” Peg replied, “I don’t fit that mold at all.” He quickly rebutted, “Isn’t there room for the mold to change?” Peg applied too and we attended Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley together from 1976 to 1980.
Our internships in North Carolina were as beloved as they were creative. Peg spent 40 percent and Reg 10 percent at Prince of Peace, Greensboro (predominately African American congregation), and Reg spent 40 percent and Peg 10 percent with First, Greensboro. Peg spent 40 percent and Reg 10 percent with the North Carolina Synod in the area of “Women and Men in Church and Society” as there were no women clergy serving in that synod yet. Reg spent 40 percent and Peg 10 percent with the Guilford Native American Association. Try to keep track of that! It was absolutely delightful!
We were ordained at the same service on July 27, 1980 at Immanuel, Long Beach, Calif. Bishop Stan Olson presided. Four, including Peg, danced the prelude to Psalm 98, causing the Bishop to fear the service would go on and on. It didn’t, Stan, but the dance goes on still! We left the next day for a camping vacation in Hawaii on airfare provided by brother Bill.
Our first calls were to Emanuel, Modesto, Calif. from 1980-1982, where we served in youth & family ministry, partnering with Pr. Robert Segerhammer. When Peg, very pregnant, visited the hospital one day wearing black clerics she was asked, “What are you – some kind of a nun?” Son, Marty, was born July 21, 1981 and the congregation welcomed him with a big banner across the church entrance: It’s a boy! We enjoyed introducing the Emanuel youth to clowning ministry, creating a young adult group, and orchestrating a session with Dr. Joseph Sittler for the Seniors Book Club to discuss Moby Dick. .
From 1982-1992 our calls to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, Calif. brought us within seven blocks of the ocean. Our sons still enjoy water sports. Son, Micah, was born April 18, 1984. We shared our facilities with Sha’arei Am, the Santa Monica Synagogue, and loved having a resident Rabbi, Jeff Marx. Reg had a rousing time teaching Word and Witness and Peg teaching Search. Together we led the congregation through the challenging process of adding a “contemporary” service. Reg served on the Synod’s Candidacy Committee and Hunger Committee as well as on the Westside Interfaith Council. Peg offered dramas of Jochebed (Moses’ mother) and others. She served two terms on the Southwest California Synod Council and on the Synod Mutual Ministry Committee for Bishop Roger Anderson. Peg served as a CLU Convocator, was Director of the Reconciled-in-Christ Program of Lutherans Concerned/LA; VP of the Westside Interfaith Council; and received a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Archdiocese of LA. When Peg was invited to preach at an AIDS Mass at Hope Lutheran, Hollywood, she was surprised to be seated next to singer Arlo Guthrie who sang Morning Has Broken. That sermon, What Do We Mean by Healing?, was published in the January 1995 Lutheran Partners.
From 1992-1995 Reg continued to serve at St. Paul, Santa Monica, and Peg began serving as Director of Chaplaincy Services at Santa Monica Hospital. During the time of the Northridge earthquake both St. Paul’s and the hospital had to be evacuated. St. Paul could not worship in its sanctuary the next Sunday and was welcomed by Rabbi Marx and Sha ‘arei Am, who by that time had their own place. St. Paul was visited the Sunday after the quake by Bishop Roger Anderson and Presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom. Throughout Lent that year, the congregation worshipped in the parish hall while the yellow-tagged sanctuary was restored, and focused upon spiritual and missional renewal. We re-entered on Palm Sunday.
While serving at Santa Monica Hospital, Peg was asked by Bishop-elect Paul Egertson to also serve part-time as Interim at St. Matthew, North Hollywood where Paul had been serving. Peg was nominated in that Bishop election, being the only woman in the top seven.
We accepted calls together at King of Glory, Newbury Park, Calif. and served for two years. A highlight for Reg was attending the Upper Room’s Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation and becoming a part of their leadership team for subsequent academies. Peg received Labyrinth Facilitator training through Veriditas, Grace Cathedral. She emerged again as a candidate for bishop, coming in third. Peg served as the 1996 Professional Ministry Lecturer at CLU’s Winter Break Theological Conference (with Drs. James Nestingen, Phyllis Trible and Jarvis Streeter). Peg’s articles Walking the Labyrinth and Pondering Mary were published in The Lutheran. Peg led ecumenical spirituality retreats and labyrinth workshops at CLU’s Creative Options for Women.
In1997 Reg took a call to serve as Assistant to the President for Church Relations at California Lutheran University. His primary role was to serve as the University’s ambassador to the 775 congregations in Region 2 of the ELCA, by harnessing the resources of the college to strengthen the mission of the Church in the West. While in that position, he established the Equipping God’s People for Mission—Workshops for Congregations program; strengthened Invitation to Service by yoking it with a Youth Ministry Training certification program; led the Call Committee leading to Pr. Melissa and Pr. Scott Maxwell-Doherty becoming Campus Pastors; enhanced CLU’s ties to the Western Mission Cluster; and managed the details for the CLU Convocation. He also helped many young people reflect on whether CLU was right for them, including our own son, Micah (’06). Reg also served as Dean of the Twin Valleys Conference.
In 1998 Peg served Messiah Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Mesias, Pasadena, whose ministry boldly reached out to its ever changing neighborhood. She studied Spanish in Cuernavaca; facilitated bi-lingual labyrinth walks and delighted in bi-lingual worship. She served on the Interfaith Council and established an ecumenical Centering Prayer Group. We delight in following Messiah/Mesias member Sergio Salazar’s educational path at CLU, including his 2009 CLU Festival of Scholars presentation. Another highlight for Peg was being invited to preach on Mary, Mother of our Lord Day at the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee. Peg’s article, Trinity, was published (2000) in The Lutheran. Good Courage (Holden Village) published Peg’s 2004 article Hovering between the World and Eternal Life: Linking Spirituality and Social Action. In May 2002 Peg completed her Doctor of Ministry degree from Claremont School of Theology, receiving the President’s Award for Academic Excellence. Her thesis topic was Reading the Word with the Heart: Luther’s Large Catechism and the Practice of Faith. She was honored to be invited to preach at Messiah/Mesias’ 95th Anniversary.
In August 2003 Reg and Peg were honored to receive the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary President’s Alumni Award.
Having served for several years in different locations, we accepted calls together to serve Faith, Chico, Calif. in 2004. Highlights have been working together with the laity to develop the Council and leadership teams into maturing groups for the vision of “More and more people, encountered by Christ, empowered for God’s purposes.” We are currently overseeing the key area of children and youth faith formation while the vision and support grows for a coordinator for this ministry. We have sponsored Celebration of Abraham events and are companioned with the Kagitumba Parish of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. Peg was privileged to visit Rwanda with Bishop Mullen’s delegation. Peg hosts an Ecumenical Centering Prayer Group. Reg serves on the Synod planning team for the Professional Leadership Conference. Peg serves on the ELCA Consultative Panel for Lutheran/Jewish Relations, as Dean of the Northern Mountain Valley Conference, on the Synod Mutual Ministry and on CLU’s Convocation. In 2008 Peg was invited to preach at Old First Church, Huntington, Long Island, N.Y. for their 350th Anniversary where her great-grandfather had served from 1870 to 1901. In 2008, Peg’s article It All Begins with Be, was published in The Lutheran. Reg and Peg’s dear friend Jan Bowman died in February 2009, and Peg was deeply honored to be invited to preach at her memorial service at CLU.
Matthew A. Smuts ’92
Pastor Matt Smuts, a Chicago native who grew up in San Diego, Calif., graduated from Cal Lutheran with a BA in Business Administration. During his Cal Lutheran years, he worked summers at Mt. Cross Lutheran Camp in Northern California as a summer camp counselor. Upon graduation he went directly to Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio and graduated in 1996, was ordained and began serving as the mission redeveloper of Shalom Lutheran Church, Alexandria Minn. After five years in Minnesota, Pastor Matt Smuts accepted a call as pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Granada Hills, Calif. In 2006 he accepted a call to serve as senior pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, Calif. Pastor Smuts is married to Mariel Spengler '92 who also received an MTS from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 1994 and has served the church in outdoor ministry and congregational Christian Education.
Eric Spruth-Janssen ‘85
God and Christ's church have blessed me with 18 years of ministry as a pastor in the Nebraska Synod, ELCA. When my wife, Amalia (who is also a pastor) and I first heard that Nebraska would be our synod, we measured on a map to find out which ocean would be closest and discovered that neither one was. My first parishes were Our Saviour Lutheran, Broken Bow and Callaway Lutheran - yoked parishes. I lived at Amalia's parsonage north of Cozad. I had a 107 mile circuit each Sunday. When our first son, Micah, was born I felt I was missing out on his formative years and so we decided to seek a call, this time as a team. We have now served 11 years as co-pastors at St. James Lutheran, "rural" Humboldt and we are blessed with three children. I thoroughly enjoy co pastoring and co-parenting with Amalia. Highlights of my ministry have been playfully sharing the faith with children and youth at Vacation Bible School, traveling on mission trips, youth gatherings both large and small and leading confirmation camp - also cross cultural ministry opportunities (yes, even in Nebraska) with Native Americans, Hispanic and Asians as well as the homeless and "bar" ministry.
John R. Steward ‘75
As I was determining which school to attend, my first priority was to find a school that would give me a strong biblical foundation that I could take with me to seminary and eventually into parish ministry. I discussed this with the guidance counselor at CLU and the first thing he told me was that I would probably enjoy Dr. James Kallas. I had never heard of Dr. Kallas but it wasn’t long after arriving at CLU that I realized what the counselor was talking about. He was an all around person, having played professional football, served in Africa on the mission field and was a scholar with many published books. He was different. He taught in such a way that by the time you took the final you really did not have to study much because the whole semester was so impactful that if you had just been awake during the lectures you knew the material. He often came to the day of the final wearing a Bears football jacket with a CLU cap while smoking a cigar. One time I came late to a final and he was writing on the blackboard and without turning around he said, “Steward you will be late for your own funeral”. On another occasion, I was walking down a sidewalk and saw someone riding a large pink Harley Davidson. At first it was difficult to see who it was. But as the rider got closer I realized it was Dr. Kallas riding on the sidewalk who rode up along side me and said “Steward, how are you doing?”
I had four classes from Dr. Kallas and they were the most important classes of my theological education. I have used the systematic theology that I learned from him all of my 30 years of parish ministry. The theological foundation that I received from the ministry and teaching of Dr. Kallas have been extremely important for me in understanding the scriptures and what it means to be a Lutheran. I have served at Peace Lutheran, South Gate Calif., Bethel Lutheran in Encino Calif. and now at Mount of Olives Lutheran Church, Mission Viejo Calif. for the last sixteen years. Dr. Kallas has come out on many occasions to the congregations that I served to lecture and our members have found him to be equally as deep and helpful as have I. We have traveled with him and Darlene on two of their many trips with members of our congregations all around the world as he would lecture and lead us in what he called a “vacation with a purpose.” Dr. Kallas’ ministry of education through CLU has made an indelible mark on my life and ministry and I will be forever grateful.
In the years ahead it will be vital for California Lutheran University to always have the kind of theological foundation that I received through Dr. Kallas and others. Maintaining a strong traditional biblical foundation will be very important as we face a world that has lost its way. For a world that is desperate for the Gospel it will be essential that Cal Lutheran is always able to teach the truth of God’s word and never waiver from its clear and direct message. May God bless Cal Lutheran in this goal for the next 50 years.
Jim Ulrikson ‘67
After graduation from CLC, I attended Luther and was ordained at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Fingal, N.D. in 1971 at 45 years old. I was called in 1975 to Los Lunas, N.M. to close a church. This turned out to be a false start and having fixed it, this set me up for a long series of intentional interim work.
I was sent to fix a financial crisis in Fountain Hills Ariz.-- $300,000 debt and 18 members. Then worked five years as worker priest until the½ salary kicked in. I tried to retire at 60, but Howie Wennes said, “You are too young to retire,” and sent me to Our Savior’s in Lancaster, Calif. for eight months. Followed by stints at Emmanuel, Modesto, Calif., Trinity, Longview, Wash., and Bethel, Brush, Prairie, Wash., for 27 months.
I retired again in 1991 and have been doing pulpit supply back at Shepherd of the Hills, Fountain Hills, Ariz., helping out as needed. I am still teaching men’s and women’s classes weekly and doing whatever Pastor Steve asks of me.
As a 83-year-old, I am caregiver for my 85-year-old wife with severe dementia. All is well thanks to small pension, because I often earned very small salaries, but the health plan is social and I receive a full share. That is important. I could be the oldest graduate still a pastor at least from 1967.
Gary A. Veit ‘76
In 1983 I returned to seminary after a few years sabbatical working in delinquent youth half-way homes in Boston, Mass. and then later Dubuque, Iowa. Seminary was a blessing to me in many ways. In addition to preparing me for ministry, while at Wartburg Seminary I met my future wife, Kerri. Married in the summer of 1984 we just celebrated our 25th anniversary. At the conclusion of my internship in Virginia Beach my son was born.
In 1988 I was ordained and called to a small two-point country church in rural Nebraska. It was a quaint place for my family to grow. After a few years we traveled south to Brenham, Tex. and shared a team ministry for five years. It was a wonderful time and a great teaching adventure for me. My family grew while at Brenham. With my daughter’s birth I finally stopped being affectionately considered a “Yankee!” From Brenham, my ministry moved to Oklahoma where I worked for three years in the formation of a new congregation before the Holy Spirit led me back to Texas City, Tex. There I was the pastor of a small congregation during a crucial time in their history, and in mine. Almost immediately I began to have hearing problems in one ear. It was finally determined that I needed brain surgery, and quickly because of a rare condition where the skull was eroding. Well, we were in the right place with the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston. The surgery was a complete success. My healing was aided with the many prayers and concerns of the people of Texas City and soon I was fully back to an active ministry. However, five years later tragedy struck and the church building burned down just as it was planning its 125th anniversary. By God’s grace we maintained our faith during this tragedy, celebrated our anniversary and actually grew as we purchased new property and built a new building. The church of Texas City is still a strong force in the city and has a new ministry to its old community and its new neighborhood.
From Texas City, as the congregation transitioned to God’s greater call to mission, I was called to be the administrative lead pastor of a new venture in Minnesota. A “multiple-area parish” was being formed and I was called as its first pastor. Five towns and five congregations were coming together to begin separate, but unified ministry in the prairies of Minnesota. There was a lot of travel as I worked to call a staff of pastors and organize the many boards and councils. After a couple years of hard work and joyous ministry the pastors were in place, the council formed, classes running jointly and many celebrations of ordinations, confirmations, marriages and baptisms happened. But then the Holy Spirit seemed to be calling me a distant ministry, distant from Minnesota at least.
Called and led by the Holy Spirit I wound up back in Texas! I have always marveled at the workings of the Spirit in my life. I have seen my ministry grow and flourish in each call. But the journey is amazing. I believe I was the right person at the right time in each position and have been able to fully share the love, grace and mercy of God at a point in time when my gifts are most keenly needed. It is truly a joy to be part of God’s ministry.
From Minnesota I was called to lead a parish in Taylor, Tex. The congregation had gone through some rough times and was feeling the need for clarity of mission, leadership and love. As senior administrative pastor I have led the congregation through some re-organization as we approach the 100th anniversary of ministry in Taylor. St. Paul has a daycare center as well as an elementary school. As pastor I am involved in these facets of ministry as well. We are in the process of building a new facility for the daycare center. And, the elementary school is also going through some re-organization in preparation for future growth.
Taylor is a community just outside of Austin, Tex. Taylor itself is feeling the growth of its town as Austin grows larger and larger. We at St. Paul are seeing our vision grow as we welcome new families into our community. I thank God that His Spirit has seen in me the gifts that can be used in His Kingdom. My ministry has been filled with rewarding moments and I stand in awe of God’s amazing love and steadfast faith in His people. Thanks be to God.
Brian Weinberger ‘04
After graduating with my wife Bekkah from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in May of 2008, I took a call at Hope Lutheran Church in Temecula, Calif. I serve as the associate pastor in charge of youth and family ministries and ChristCare Small Groups.
It has been a blessing these past ten months to focus all my work on the youth of the congregation. It has also taught me the importance of having wonderful staff around you that you can truly rely on. With the many issues that were, and are, continuing to happen in Mexico the youth director and I decided to postpone the yearly mission trip to Ensenada. With just over a month before the date, she and I were able to put together a trip to San Francisco. Not only did we pull it off on such short notice but we also had more youth involved on that trip than if we had decided to stay with our trip to Mexico.
I have no comparison with the annual trip to Mexico, but I felt that this was an amazing trip that truly impacted the youth of Hope and those whom we served. I really learned that you truly have no idea where God is calling you to be or to serve. Our motto for the trip was, “If God is for us then who can be against us?” Those words proved true as we continued to rely on God all week as made our way through our various activities and service projects up north.
I am sure this is just one of many events in my ministry that will happen differently than we had planned. I have no doubt, though, that God is working in and through everything that we do. I also hope that these cancellations continue to happen because of the amazing ways that God shows us that God is for us and that God does work through those difficult times in our lives. Someone told me once that God is a God of interruptions. God takes those hiccups in our lives and uses them for the better, and I feel those are the most amazing times in which we see God.
Fifty years is an amazing milestone in touching the lives of the young adults at California Lutheran University. I bet that a lot of what has happened was through other cancellations and hiccups in the life of the university, yet I am confident that through those times God worked through it all, continuing to make CLU the blessing that it is on the life of the students and the faith of our world today. Blessings to all of you on this wonderful milestone in the ministry of educating our young adults. It was a blessing to me and I pray that it continues as a blessing for all who enter CLU’s campus.
Paul G. Wenz ‘89
Paul Wenz was born and raised in Ontario, Calif. He attended Christian day school through the 8th grade and was confirmed at his home congregation of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ontario, Calif.
Paul received a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from CLU. His studies and travel have gone hand in hand since he spent the summer on an archaeological dig in Israel through U.C. Berkeley in 1987. He traveled throughout Greece after the dig to see many of the places from the New Testament. In January of 1988 he went on a study tour with CLU to the Central American countries of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador to learn about the struggles of Christians in these poor countries.
In 1989, Paul entered Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. He spent the spring semester of '91 in South Korea, studying at Luther Theological University. He graduated from Concordia Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in May of 1993, and began his studies for a Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) degree that same semester. He finished his thesis in Isaiah with a major in Old Testament Theology and received his S.T.M. degree in May 2000 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Paul was ordained in May 1995 and served as assistant pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Yankton, S.D., from 1995 – 2001, and
as an associate pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, Orange, Calif., as the Minister of Discipleship from 2001 – 2007. Pastor Paul’s ministry responsibilities in the past have included administrating confirmation programs for St. John’s Lutheran Church and School, small group Bible studies, designing and teaching new member classes, family ministry programming, the introduction of the Alpha Course for evangelism and outreach and many other areas of pastoral care.
Pastor Paul has also taught as an adjunct professor of Philosophy at Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D. (2000-2001), and in the Theology department at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. from 2002 to the present. Pastor Paul received and accepted the call as pastor at Faith Lutheran church in Riverside, Calif. in October of 2007. Paul is married to Kedma Wenz and lives in Riverside with their five children.
Doug Zurek ‘70
I received a Bachelor’s Degree at California Lutheran University and a Masters of Divinity Degree at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. in 1974.
I have served at Zion Lutheran Church in Albion Nebr., Christ Lutheran and Luther Memorial and Christ Lutheran Churches in Syracuse, Nebr.; Zion Lutheran Church in Phillipsburg, Kan.; and Trinity Lutheran Church in DeWitt, Nebr.; In 1995 I began my current call serving at Trinity Lutheran Church, Columbus as associate pastor. My primary duties include Inreach and Outreach Evangelism, Adult Education, and Care Ministry.
I am married to Susan Ann (Brandenburg) Zurek who is the Parish Visitor at Trinity and we have two children.