Pastor presence

Pastor+presence

Akasha Khalsa

The Lutheran Campus Ministry House has recently installed Pastor Breanne Johnson to interface with NMU students who might be interested in the organization.

Johnson started pastoring at the ministry in the summer of 2019 and served the ministry during the fall 2019 semester, but she will be recognized in the position during the official ceremony to take place on Feb 16.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in Spanish from Luther College in Iowa. She received her master’s degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary, a Lutheran seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“I still have a license as a registered nurse, so I am interested in mind-body-soul wellness for faculty, staff and students. Also with the Spanish piece, because I was so influenced by immersion trips, I would really like to encourage and help students with cross-cultural experiences,” Johnson said.

She moved to the U.P. from Connecticut in 2012 when the church sent her to pastor rural churches in the eastern portion of the peninsula. She married and had a baby, then moved to Marquette. She has been in the city with her family for a year.

“When I visited Marquette, just the feeling of the community, very involved, the downtown is beautiful, the lakes, the outdoors, the places to eat, the music. So I guess I was drawn to the culture and the beauty of the nature,” Johnson said.

The Lutheran Campus Ministry house, located at 701 West College Ave, is partly run by two students who live in the upstairs portion of the house. Part of their commitment is to be a part of the ministry by giving their time and providing hospitality for events at the ministry. Such events include Thursday evening meals at 6 p.m. They provide vegan, vegetarian and gluten free meals fresh every week, Johnson said. So far during this semester, about ten students have attended the dinners, Johnson said. It is followed by an informal candle-lit worship in the living room at 7 p.m.

Johnson hopes to continue these dinners as well as encourage a community in the ministry center.

“We’re starting with just kind of the basic foundations of being a follower of Jesus, which is just eating together, getting to know each other, relationships, and then having the worship with prayer and communion, which is a foundational piece of christianity,” she said. 

The house is interested in working with other ecumenical student organizations, such as Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian groups. Johnson said they hope to provide a space for people who are interested in learning more about Christianity.

In addition, Johnson hopes she can host more nature-related activities such as hikes, and more academic learning experiences like alternative spring break trips, and has plans for the Winter 2021 semester.

“We’re just really allowing it to evolve and let it be something that is student led, so if there’s interest helping students create something they feel passionate about,” Johnson said. “It’s a safe place to explore your faith or your spirituality or what might feel like just questions.”

Senior anthropology major Caroline Kessler is involved in a different ministry, the Waters Edge Church, and said she feels that being a part of a ministry has improved her student experience.

“Every day I have the ability to walk with God, but it’s nice to have guidance from a pastor and nice to have community,” Kessler said. “It’s a good home for me while I’m away from home.”

Johnson said she would like students to be aware that the Lutheran Campus Ministry is a Reconciling in Christ ministry, meaning that they affirm all sexualities.

“That’s an important piece of what we stand for in our ministry. We are open to you being who God created you to be and feeling like you can have a safe space to be who you are and explore your faith,” Johnson said. “I think my biggest passion would be to help students know that there is a safe way to explore spirituality, and that it can be really helpful and meaningful in a time like college where there’s a lot of discovery and feeling what’s right for you.”

Aware that students might have various hesitations regarding faith groups, Johnson hopes to create a community where students can be comfortable.

“I think there’s probably good reasons why students might not want to,” Johnson said. “Maybe if they’ve had a bad experience or if religion has been kind of forced upon them by parents, or maybe they were part of a certain religious group and they didn’t feel like it really matched who they are, but it was their family’s background. I think there’s a fear of judgement, a fear of ‘you have to be a certain way.’ And I think [it’s] definitely valid.”

Johnson said she would be happy to answer questions if students reach out to her via her email at [email protected] or attend the ministry’s weekly dinners.

“Looking back throughout my life, a community of Christ has been a strong support in my life and has helped me and also just particular to college years,” Johnson said. “In my experience, it was tumultuous in the way that there was so much self discovery and stress too, and being away from family. I think having that groundedness in community with other students and a chance to be connected to God can help ease the fear and the questions and the challenges of just this time in one’s life.”

Located on 701 West College Ave, the Lutheran Campus Ministry House is partly run by students who live upstairs and newly installed Pastor Breanne Johnson. She hopes to create a community where students can feel comfortable in their faith.