Welcome Pastor Jane Strohl!
Short Biography: The Reverend Dr. Jane E. Strohl
I was born and raised in Annapolis, MD. My father taught at the U.S. Naval Academy, and my mother worked for the county board of education. Ralph, my older brother, and I were both products of the town’s public schools. I graduated from high school in 1970 and went on to Vassar College, where I majored in German and minored in English. It was during those years that my faith blossomed. I had always loved the Lutheran church in which I grew up; now I came home to its worship and teaching in a life-changing way.
I saved up some money working as a legal secretary at a law firm in Washington, D.C. for a year after finishing college. Then I was off to Gettysburg Seminary. As part of my studies I participated in a summer chaplaincy program at the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven. My third year I packed up my Ford Pinto and drove across country to begin a year-long internship in Richmond, CA, a working class town 20 miles north of Oakland. It combined parish experience with duties in a hospital and volunteer work with a non-profit service organization in the community (for me that was Planned Parenthood). I returned to Gettysburg for my senior year, and when it came time to look for a first call, I was bound and determined to go to New England. My persistence paid off. I was called to be pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, Connecticut. I learned to be a pastor the best way a novice can — by doing the work of teaching and preaching, visitation, youth ministry, weddings and funerals, council and committee meetings in the company of generous, faithful people, who teach you when you are clueless, correct you when you are headstrong, and respect and care for the person you are as well as the pastor you are called to be. I count their kindness one of the greatest blessings of my life.
My seminary professors had encouraged me to go to graduate school. The number of women students at the seminaries was growing, but there were very few women faculty. At some point I heard in their words a call from the church to use the academic gifts God had given me. My next move was to Chicago, where I entered a Ph.D. program at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. My field was History of Christianity with a concentration in Reformation studies and Luther’s theology.
The next stop on my journey was Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I served on the church history faculty there for 11 years. Then, when the seminary in Berkeley, CA invited me to become their professor of Reformation History and Theology, I jumped at the chance to move to the West Coast with my three-year-old daughter Lucy. We spent the next 17 years there. It was a wonderful place to teach, because the seminary is part of an ecumenical consortium called the Graduate Theological Union. I find I am a better Lutheran when I have to talk about my faith to people who belong to different traditions, who don’t share my Lutheran assumptions or speak “Lutheran.” The experience made me a better teacher by giving me so many opportunities to learn, and it certainly made me a stronger, more hopeful Christian.
After almost three decades of teaching I sensed a new energy at work in my spirit. It was time to go back to the ministry to which I was first called, to explore as a parish pastor the things I had learned and taught to seminary students over the years. I accepted a position in northwestern Pennsylvania, where I served for two years, before being called to Community Lutheran Church back here in my beloved New England.
A senior leader of this church once told me he was a Lutheran because he found it to be a good faith to grow old in. I have as well. Year by year I have learned what it means to live by God’s grace alone. Because of His love I dare to confess my sin and trust His forgiveness, to face with honesty and hope the evil afflicting God’s good creation, and to live with a joyful, generous heart. Thirty-eight years ago the church called me to the ministry of word and sacrament. It has been my life’s work to give good account of the faith that is in me, so that others might hear the word of salvation in Jesus Christ and know that it is truly for them.
You may reach Pastor Jane during office hours, by telephone, or by emailing.