Stand up and “testify”. The impact of ULC/CLC

Here is my attempt to allow others to see the widespread impact of God’s work through the University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis and Campus Lutheran Chapel of Mankato, Minnesota – recently given the axe by the Minnesota South District.

I went to Minnesota State University, Mankato and attended CLC for one of those years (my first year) and received sound preaching and teaching from Rev. Mick Matthews.  At the end of the year, the District contemplated shutting it down, and Rev. Matthews was called to another parish, and Rev. Monte Meyer was called by the District to serve the CLC.  Rev. Meyer brought in a different style of campus ministry, one which I could theologically disagree with now, but at that point I only knew it didn’t seem right, so I attended at my home congregation more often.  CLC provided a great help to me and my faith in Jesus during that first year.

I also know of many who have been influenced by ULC.  I am a second-degree recipient of such influence.  Longtime pastor of ULC, Professor John T. Pless was one of my most influential instructors at Concordia Theological Seminary, where he still teaches.  My first RA in the dorms came right out of ULC.  During vicarage I also got to know the mother of now Pastor Kind of the ULC.  Upon being placed out of seminary in northern Minnesota, my Circuit Counselor was a ULC alumni who actually became a pastor because of ULC’s sound teaching and ministry to the students of the University of Minnesota.  I also believe that while my middle child was sick in the children’s hospital that Pastor Kind came and visited my wife and child as I was driving through a blizzard to get there with my other child.

That is what I have experienced from those two campus ministries.  Some may say that “campus ministry doesn’t need a building” but in all honesty that is a false statement when we already own prime locations to use as gathering points for campus ministry.  If these were just start-ups we may have an argument to start, but both of these are long-established, with ULC actually being constituted as a congregation.


Please use your comments to give your “testimony” of the impact of either ULC or CLC.  Let the Board of Directors, President Sietz, and all those who wish to sell such properties know just what they are throwing away.  You cannot serve both God and Mammon.



About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Stand up and “testify”. The impact of ULC/CLC — 31 Comments

  1. I like this idea.  Here is my testimony from another thread.

    “Don’t know much about theology” (Herman’s Hermits)…. but I do know that location matters.  How I became interested in church-going was the availability of parking in the ULC lot in 1958…only four freezing blocks from Folwell Hall!   I found out that this student center had amazing facilities for study, recreation, eating, worship and  particularly for hanging out with a great group of friends, especially Pastor Beisel.  I ended up being the Gamma Delta treasurer and remember these years among the best of my life.  Developing Christian friendships is enormously important in college.  Having a Lutheran student center available at all hours is an irreplaceable blessing.

  2. I think any of us who attended a secular college can speak to the importance of the real presence of the Lord in word and sacraments being there for the student body.

    College is a difficult transition time for most kids and feeling lost and adrift in a sea of strangers is all to easy. Most don’t have the ability to drive out to a congregation or the time to be away from campus that much. Having a church RIGHT THERE is so important.

    Attending a secular university is always a challenge to a Christian, fighting the overwhelming tide of athiesm and disbelief from professors to fellow students. These ministries are so valuable to our future generations, of the students themselves, but also the families they go on to parent.

  3. Here’s the thing…our Lord directs and uses the resources of His people according to His Will. If indeed He intends to use the funds from the sale of the chapel, then they will be used to further His kingdom here on Earth.

    Do not fear the removal of a building, for Christ is in our hearts, not just within the houses we have built to worship Him. Keep Him in your heart and don’t try to contain Him in stone and glass.

  4. @Nate #11
    Nate, indeed He will prevail.

    I, and I think others, don’t consider ULC’s pending evication a foregone conclusion at this point. The fat lady hasn’t sung.

    I’m not seeing fear from those posting here, but hope in a different outcome.

    Campus ministry in Minnesota South District has been an important part of my church life. I attended both ULC at U of M in the mid-nineties when Pastor Pless served. I also lived at the LSF house in Winona and attended St. Martin Lutheran Church when Pastor Eric Klemme was serving shared duties with the campus ministry and congregation.

  5. @Mary Johnson #10
    Thank you for your comment. Rev. McCain talked about the influence on the pastorate in the LCMS, but you also point out that many heads of the household (and their helpmeets) have been influenced by ULC and CLC. May that influence continue!

  6. Nostalgia anyone?

    Gamma Delta, loyal to thee
    Grateful hearts to God we raise
    Holy wisdom, love and beauty
    Here enrich our college days
    Friends we find for Christian sharing
    Council, courage for our youth
    Hands we give, His love declaring
    As we grow in grace and truth

                  – Gamma Delta Hymn

  7. Looking at this from far away, it makes me wonder how this looks to the students at the Univ. who don’t attend church. All they will see is the destruction of a church. That will be the take away image. They will see that for whatever reason, the church is gone and no longer a part of life there. That is the legacy of this decision.

  8. Nate :
    Here’s the thing…our Lord directs and uses the resources of His people according to His Will. If indeed He intends to use the funds from the sale of the chapel, then they will be used to further His kingdom here on Earth.

    Not necessarily. It is possible that the funds will not be used well and effectively wasted. Where is the evidence that this sale is according to God’s will?

    Do not fear the removal of a building, for Christ is in our hearts, not just within the houses we have built to worship Him. Keep Him in your heart and don’t try to contain Him in stone and glass.

    No one is trying to contain God. The church building serves the congregation. They are the ones who will lose out. I guess they can just sit in their dorms confident that Christ is in their hearts and that their church was demolished because MSN bureaucrats know best. That hardly sounds like the most supportive way to serve students, even sounds like daring God to be faithful when we are not. Not so sure how safe that is.

    I am open to correction if Pr. Scheer thinks I have misunderstood.

  9. Nate :Do not fear the removal of a building, for Christ is in our hearts, not just within the houses we have built to worship Him. Keep Him in your heart and don’t try to contain Him in stone and glass.

    That is precisely the error that is being propounded in the desire to sell ULC!

    You may indeed have Jesus in your heart, but you don’t go looking for Him there. You might find someone else who can mimic Jesus but who is a liar. No, you look for Jesus where He has promised to be found- in His Word and Sacraments. In church. It is what Dr. Nagel called the locatedness of the gifts.

    A Word and Sacrament ministry has been located for decades, where the gifts are given out. We’ve seen the fruit, not only in the pastors who were led to that vocation through the gifts given out at ULC (I spent time there as I contemplated Sem) but in the countless U of M students, most who walked to church, for whom ULC was an anchor in the secular university setting, who knew that they could go where Jesus has promised to be found, yes in that building, at ULC, where the gifts are given out. The fotgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

  10. I am not going to comment on the motivation of the leadership of the MNS District in making a decision that I believe to be deeply flawed and destructive. But from my perspective as pastor of ULC from 1983-2000 suggest that the building and location of the chapel are integral to mission on the U of M campus. One of my mentors in campus ministry, the sainted Dr. Donald Deffner put it well: “Its location, location, location.” In one sense the very presence of a Lutheran chapel on a secular university campus bears silent testimony to the faith. More than that, however, is practical fact that preaching and sacraments require space. Could the Gospel be preached and the sacraments rightly administered 5 miles away from the U of M? of course, but it would hardly be accessible to the student population. Thinking back to my 17 years at ULC, I recall that many of the evangelistic contacts with students occurred because we had a building. I think, for example, of a Chinese post-doctoral student who had read the NT and wanted to know more. He had met with Mormon missionaries who invited him to come to their campus center down the street from us. At this point he didn’t know the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. On his way to meet the Mormons, he walked by ULC where he stopped in to inquire about Christianity. It was a conversation that led to catechesis and Holy Baptism. I could recount dozens of stories of people who were reached with the Gospel precisely because the LCMS had a building on University Ave SE. Deffner was right; it is about “location, location, location.” If the decision made by the MNS District is allowed to stand, our church will be deprived of a valuable outpost for genuine mission that humanly speaking cannot be recovered. May the good Lord, in His mercy, protect and guard the work of His hands.

  11. I went to seminary with the knowledge that I wanted to be a campus pastor. When I was fortunate to receive a campus ministry vicarage, my vicarage supervisor (Rev. David Nehrenz, Norman, OK) told me, “Learn everything you can from John Pless.” So I did. It was the best advice I’ve ever received.

    When I was called to St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church & Campus Center, here in Laramie, WY to serve as the campus pastor at the University of Wyoming nearly 13 years ago, the first thing I did following my installation was line up a trip to ULC for no real reason whatsoever other than this – I just wanted to learn what a faithful campus ministry should look like. So my second week as a campus pastor was not spent on my own campus in Wyoming but in Minnesota. I spent 3-4 days doing nothing but “experiencing” ULC, breathing its ethos, raiding Pastor Pless’ files (yes, with his permission! :-), learning everything I could from him and life together at ULC.

    I learned that being a campus pastor was no different than simply being a pastor in the first place, while daring to care for young people with the gifts of Christ when and where they need them most. So I made a pilgrimage to ULC to find out that I already had the campus ministry tool kit that I needed all along! A wasted trip? Hardly.

    I will always consider Prof. Pless a campus ministry father. I found in him and ULC a model for campus ministry that shapes me to this day. His legacy and that of ULC has been carried on wonderfully by Pastor Kind (one of my seminary classmates) and the many faithful members of ULC and her students.

    Pastor Kind himself was a product of ULC, having been a student there before he went to seminary. Think of that! I myself was never a student at the University of Minnesota, but ULC and it’s ministry has shaped me and my view of both youth and campus ministry without measure, simply by it’s faithfulness, and, well, just plain being there.

    While erecting “buildings” for campus ministry is perhaps not high on the list of financial priorities for the church at large, neither should be tearing down the ones that we have. Our college campuses are watery seas of confusion and what our young people need are anchors. That’s what ULC is not just for students at the University of Minnesota, but for everyone throughout the Synod who needs the constant reminder that caring for college students is important at every campus of this land, even where buildings such as ULC are not available.

    There aren’t a lot manuals for campus ministry. The greatest resources that we have for campus ministry are precisely the places where it actually takes place!

    When we sell a place like ULC we do more than tear down brick and mortar, we uproot life. ULC and other full time campus ministries throughout our Synod have stood, and stand, as emblems of the faith at a time and in a place where it is most needed. They are not a barrier for campus ministry; they are an inspiration for it.

    I love the Gospel. I love college students.

    I am a campus pastor. May I die as one.

  12. @Nate #11

    “Do not fear the removal of a building, for Christ is in our hearts, not just within the houses we have built to worship Him. Keep Him in your heart and don’t try to contain Him in stone and glass.”

    I wonder if the Innkeeper in Bethlehem might have said much the same thing to Joseph and Mary with child? Whatever the case, one could say it would’ve been spoken from the heart no doubt. But that is the point:

    As certain as Christ is in our hearts–mercifully and graciously so amidst a putrid pile of alot of other things in our hearts which are quite opposed to Him (e.g., Mt. 15:19)–so also is it just as certain that we will not find Him there in our hearts for us, full of grace and truth.

    As surely as we could not even begin to contain and keep Him with us (despite our foolish attempts to do so whether it be in stone and glass, relics and icons, computers and demographic surveys, 3.2 million dollar money bombs, etc.), so also is it just as sure that He keeps us with Himself in the One true faith, fully containing and freely giving Himself for us and for salvation, outside ourselves, where He has promised to be found full of grace and truth, in His verbam externum, His preached Word and administered Sacraments.

    Does such require what you call “a building”? No, it doesn’t. God requires nothing. But we require much. Do we not ourselves require a place, a specific place to go to, that is, a holy place made to be so because of what is to take place there, namely, the presence and distribution of those holy things of God which make and keep us holy? Most surely do we all need that, at least those who by His grace seek Him where He may be found, in His holy things delivered to them “outside in”, from outside of themselves. We require a specific place for such. And given how winters are in Minnesota, do you not think it would be beneficial for those Lutherans in Minneapolis to have a roof of some kind over their head when they go to Divine Service? One would have that it would have been brotherly to at least have another building/house in place for them before selling their current one from under them and giving them a mere 250k to assuage their own conscience.

    But hey, your sentiments from the heart might be more appropriately spoken to the District Leadership concerning their own building, since, being as that building is devoid of the ministry of Word and Sacrament (and questionable how much appreciation they have for it taking place in other “buildings” they haven’t liquidated yet), it is just that, “a building.” Yet I doubt you’d receive a very warm reception anymore than you would had you been saying such to folk in Joplin, Missouri amidst the wreckage of their homes and churches, or rather, just “a building” as you would no doubt tell them “from the heart”. But for one who assumes they can contain and bottle-up Jesus in their hearts like a genie in a bottle, I can’t help but wonder why you yourself would ever see the need for going to a specific place, to “a building” or “house”, or to what we foolish ones call after God’s Word “the house of the Lord”, you know, who strive to be Lutherans in the spirit and truth of His Word to us rather than in mere name and boomerang cross logos. Heck, if it is as you say, you can “worship” God in alot of other places, much more convenient and comfortable places, than some particular “building” like ULC which others deem to be “the house of the Lord” due to Who is there doing what He does there for them and for their salvation.

  13. @Nate #11

    Did man build the chapel to worship God, or did Christ build it to serve us?

    God’s will is indeed done without our prayer, or action, but we pray that it will be done also among us.

    God indeed directs, but we don’t always follow. Let’s follow this time.

    The testimonies here add to the clarity of the situation.

  14. I was a student at Concordia University in Saint Paul. For a short time I attended ULC. The impact ran deep and still remains. As I jumped from congregation to congregation in the Twin Cities I realized that the conviction, enthusiasm, and regard for the Gospel of Jesus Christ which I saw at ULC was completely unmatched. That rubbed of on me in a big way. Like I said, I did not spend much time at ULC, but the time I did spend there was time that God used to shape me into the pastor I am today. I was born into a lutheran family, raised in a lutheran church and school, and attended a lutheran college. It was at ULC where my eyes to the beauty of Lutheran theology and practice were opened.
    The news of the intention to sell the property has caused me great spiritual and emotional anguish. I know some members of the board personally (family friend growing up). I have lost sleep. I am completely stressed out concerning ULC and my responsibility as a pastor to reprove the sin of my mentors and fellow pastors in MNSouth. Lord have mercy, and quickly come!

  15. I think it’s important to note that the ULC property is much more than a beautiful Sunday morning worship space.  ULC serves Lutheran students 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It provides a safe and wholesome place for meeting friends, frequent Bible classes, theological research in the library, coffee breaks, recreation, studying between class, cooking and eating meals, etc.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I lived in this marvelous facility between classes.  A rented room in Coffman Union sure can’t provide anything comparable.  Here is a quote from the ULC website:

    “ULC has great facilities for you to use as a student or member. In addition to the chapel itself, there are plenty of quiet places to study or pray during the week. We also have a game/rec room with foosball, ping-pong, and other parlour games for when you are looking for a little fun. And there is the newly renovated Löhe library and lounge where you can find books for indepth study on just about any theological subject, or can just hang out and have a cup of good coffee with other ULCers, or relax in a cozy chair by the fireplace. We hope you’ll take adavantage of all ULC has to offer and will make the Chapel your home base here at the U of M.”

  16. I was never a student at the U of Mn, but I and my dear family have benefitted beyond measure from our years spent there as members of that congregation. I learned much more about what a treasure we have as Lutherans at ULC than I did in eight years at synodical schools. I will be forever indebted to the patient and faithful instruction and mentoring I received from Pastor Pless. He cleared up a massive amount of confusion for this life-long Mo. Synod Lutheran at a time when I was witnessing abuses of our confessional heritage all around me. Our two children were baptized at ULC and we return there for worship and fellowship whenever we are in town. We also have the highest regard for Rev. Kind, who was a student and chapel member while we were there. We continually give thanks for the amazing fruit that the Lord has produced from that vineyard, and we feel so privileged to have been and continue to be supporting the Gospel ministry there.

  17. I wrote the following on BJS last spring when this issue first came up on BJS. The following is a slightly edited version for this thread. Steve

    I may have a unique perspective on ULC history, having attended there for 3 years prior to Pr Pless and for 3 years after Pr Pless arrived. To the best of my recollection, there were only two of us to have attended ULC regularly in years both pre- and post-Pless. Thus in the years since, I’ve enjoyed telling people that I was half of Pr. Pless’ first congregation and half of the second couple he married there (yes, I met my wife at ULC). Maybe that was not literally true but close – so the following is more memoir than history as I’ve not fact-checked anything.

    When I started attending ULC in 1980 as a graduate student, it was a pan-Lutheran campus ministry and had both an LCMS and I believe ALC pastor. The chairs were arranged in a semicircle in the nave facing the east wall and the chancel area was not used –it was an awkward layout but intended to make things informal and less ‘churchy.’ The pastor preached standing in the middle of the semicircle of chairs. LBW was used in some services, in others, it was the Chicago Folk Service with acoustic instruments. I remember that at the time I really liked the ‘rock’ style services but found all of the other liturgical innovations designed to appeal to college students like ‘clown ministry’ (miming the gospel among other things) painfully embarrassing and/or tedious. So in today’s terminology, you’d say ULC was a contemporary worship congregation 30 years ago.

    LCMS students were a distinct minority, maybe 25% of the congregation. There were no non-student members that I can recall as there are now at ULC. At the time the LCMS made the decision to separate the LCMS campus ministries from the ELCA predecessor bodies in the early 80’s, the LCMS position happened to be vacant. Thus the situation at the time of the split was that the LCMS owned the building but the pastor and the congregation were effectively ELCA (pardon the anachronism). No one was happy when the congregation was evicted by the LCMS and the whole group, including almost all of the LCMS students, packed up and moved to the Episcopal Center on the other side of campus. Almost all of the LCMS students left with the pastor and the rest of the congregation since the ALC pastor was popular guy and the students, LCMS or not, wanted to stay with their friends. I stayed out of inertia, to be honest, as the location as ULC was on the way between my apartment and my office on campus and hence convenient, and the Episcopal center was a much farther walk (at that time in my life, I would never have taken a bus to a distant congregation). So for most of the winter/spring of 1983, a rotating series of pastors, at least sometimes with guitar in tow, would show up on Sunday to conduct the service for the handful of LCMS students who showed up.

    When Pr. Pless showed up in the summer of 1983, he had a building and one active member (Carl) and one passive member (me). (I apologize to anyone else I’ve forgotten who also stayed through the transition). I don’t know anything about how supportive or resistant to the MNS district was to Pr Pless’s efforts to revive ULC as a liturgical congregation rather than the CoWo one it had been. But with Pr. Pless, LBW was out and TLH was in. I never heard a guitar again in ULC, but it was a while before the chairs were turned to face the chancel. I’m sure the data is out there, but I am quite certain that the numbers of LCMS students who attended ULC when it was a CoWo congregation in the early 80’s were much less than when it was revived as a liturgical congregation under Pr Pless and continued with Pr Kind. And of course I don’t know how you quantify the “success” of ULC in terms of the formation of solidly grounded, committed Lutherans who go on not just to start the careers the U of M trained them for, but also to be active in their congregations as elders, trustees, Sunday School teachers, forming and raising Lutheran families and so on.

    Undoubtedly, selling out ULC (or any campus ministry) is the equivalent of eating the LCMS’s seed corn (recognize that the 50 regular student attenders in any one year turn over every few years and go on to join other congregations after graduation). My life would have unfolded entirely differently if not for Pastor Pless and ULC, and not just because I met my wife at ULC, but because it set me on a pathway for growth in my faith in line with the Lutheran Confessions that has not wavered though 30 years of ups and downs because of what I learned and experienced there after Pr Pless arrived and recreated ULC as a liturgical, confessional parish from nothing but God’s Word, his faithful work and a building in a prime location.

  18. As a pastor in the MN South District, I have been blessed by the service ULC provides in its ongoing Patristics Study Group (that is, when I am able to make it up from my little corner of the state). While the presentations are among the most challenging intellectual discussions I have been pleased to be a part of, they are also immensely practical. Over the last two years we have examined Luther’s Invocavit Sermons and how Luther and Augustine have treated the Psalms, both have brought great insights into the preaching task. Aside from the iron sharpening iron that occurs in this Study Group, there is the comfort and support brought by other pastors in the mutual consolation of the bretheren and the joining in the prayers of the Church as we pray Matins.

    It is what I witness when I attend this study group that has convinced me of the utter necessity that ULC be in close proximity to the campus. After the study group meets it is customary to go out for lunch. Quite often, Pastor Kind is “prevented” from joining us as students frequently stop by. Such opportunities to minister to students who might randomly drop in would not be possible (or be extremely rare) in a location separated from the campus.

  19. The impact of the ULC has not been direct in the sense that I was attending the chapel, but it was something that I was considering strongly. Just started attending the U of M three weeks ago as a non-traditional working adult. Before this story broke out about the ULC being sold I barely knew anything about it. At the end of my day I sit at the bus stop on the East Bank just two blocks away from the chapel, so it does help me reflect on the situation and proximity. If remaining open I would of likely tried to spend more time there, and possibly attend services. With all the secularism going on around me somedays, it really would be nice to go somewhere and be uplifted.

  20. @Steve Gehrke #20
    I was there as well both before and after the split (so we’re down to 1/3 of the congregation, and like you I remember a slightly bigger remnant but not the names.)
    The story I usually tell is how we were all warned pre-split that there weren’t enough Lutheran students for two congregations. In reality both synods had members that were put off by the joint arrangement, and by the time I graduated in ’85 both congregations were bigger than the original joint group.

    ULC served me not only as a place of worship, but a place of refuge and comfort in a large and anti-Christian environment; forming and maturing my faith, and the faith of a group of very fortunate students. It’s doing the same thing today, and although ULC costs nothing to the district, it still stands as a very tangible symbol of the value which Minnesota Lutherans have historically put on their children’s spiritual life and formation. Generations of Minnesota Lutherans have said: our children are worth the expense of this beautiful and functional place of worship.

    I don’t generally go for testimonies, but like Steve, I can’t overestimate the value of my ULC experience in my spiritual development. I will say that during my Air Force years, when deployed to numerous third-world garden spots with no Confessional worship available, I would actually dream I was worshiping at ULC.

  21. Hi Matt,

    The last time I talked with Pr. Pless a few years ago he did give me the names of several students that he remembered who were there when he first started, so the number was somewhat more than 2 or 3 but well short of 10 if I recall that conversation correctly. However, it wasn’t very clear to me how many of those were carryovers from the joint ministry years; certainly I remember you well from the Pless years, but wasn’t sure prior to that. It’s been a while!


  22. I have posted on this blog before about the impact ULC had and still has on my family. My brother was church president during the ALC-LCMS split during the 80’s. My sister is still the organist at that church. While I personally was never a member there, the impact of this hits home.

    One example: My brother Carl met his future wife during med school at the U of M, but they really started to date seriously when ULC had to incorporate a deaf congregation into the facility. My future sister-in-law knew deaf sign language, and volunteered to assist Carl with communication issues during that transition. That started their real relationship that culminated in a marriage that has lasted through 25+ years and two grown children, and still lasts to this day.

    I have seen churches in my past closed and demolished. The church I was confirmed in-St. John’s Lutheran in Dumont, Minnesota-was closed and demolished years ago. However, this situation just feels different in that in every other church I know of that closed, the decision was made by the members of the congregation itself, who came to the realization that the time was up. ULC as a congregation is still viable as a ministry, but is own success appears to be part of why is is now a target from those who want to close it.

    May the Lord have mercy on us all…..

  23. @Steve Gehrke #26
    It has been a while Steve,
    My Mom is now in MNS, so I still get down there on occasion. Good to hear from you. Our ULC days were great for us in a lot of ways, I hope we can preserve that for the next generation.
    In Christ+,
    -Matt Mills

  24. All of you who attend or attended ULC, I’m so sorry about today’s news.
    I have lost a church under horrendous circumstances as well, and so I know how hard it is.

    It’s not over yet, but today’s news is just terrible.

    I’m praying for you as well as for ULC.

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