Meet Our Pastor
Pastor Kurt Christenson
I am the eldest son of Bob and Mary Christenson of San Luis Obispo. My parents have lived in SLO since dad’s retirement as Captain from the U.S. Navy. Thanks to the Navy, I was born in Connecticut; had my “terrific two’s” in Monterey; my first jellyfish sting in Hawaii; attended first grade in three cities, Guam, Minneapolis and San Diego; was elected fourth grade president in Washington D.C.; followed the America’s cup race in Newport R.I. in fifth; and began playing trombone in the junior high band in Paulsbo, WA. Then we moved to San Diego, where I attended high school, played in the band, ran track, surfed, was active in Scouting and especially active at Clairemont Lutheran Church, where I was confirmed by Pastor Vance Knutsen. I graduated from St. Olaf College in 1983 with a B.A in English and Philosophy. Going there was my choice, I freely admit, not because of its stellar reputation, but because my grandfather was living in Northfield, MN and I thought “what a great opportunity to live near him.” Plus, it snowed a lot, which I thought was great fun. Along the way, I acquired a superb education.
During college, I worked summers as a bible camp counselor, mostly at El Camino Pines. It was that experience which confirmed my long understood but unanswered call to ordained ministry. I attended Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley and graduated in 1988. A special gift of the Holy Spirit was being able to share those four years with my brother Jon. Another gift was my internship at St. Marks in Los Angeles. After that marvelous experience, I thought I was set for urban ministry but God had other plans. My first call was to Holy Cross in Ojai where I served nine years and then to Bethesda in Springfield, MA, for nine more. Both congregations were “congregations in transformation” when I arrived and were restored, thanks be to God, to vitality and health, experiencing significant growth in numbers, stewardship, active families, and most especially renewed, restored, and resurrected faith and mission.
My heritage in the faith dates back centuries through the generations to my parents. This is an important part of who I am today. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents were all dedicated to their Lord and to the work of his body, the church. At Mt. Carmel in San Luis Obispo my dad has served in Facilities, Stewardship, sheltering the homeless population, and as a Synod Mission Communicator. My mother has devoted herself in recent years to ministries of prayer and healing. They are both Stephen’s Ministers. My two younger brothers are also pastors in the E.L.C.A. Jon at Redeemer in Bakersfield and Grant at Christ the King, Bozeman, MT.
Honoring this heritage, theologically, liturgically and pastorally has been an influential part of my ministry. I love the church of my forbearers. At the same time, I am deeply touched by the number of people in our world who have little or no relationship with Jesus. Working to introduce new people to a faithful life walk with Jesus in the living legacy of the Lutheran expression of the church, the body of Christ, is my passion. A successful ministry for me includes holding to the heritage while also reaching out with the Good News.
Whatever success I’ve had in ministry has come through the joy I feel in the Holy Spirit’s presence. Joy is an essential ingredient in the Gospel of Jesus. As He says in His final sermon to the disciples in John 15:11, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete,” and again in John 16:22, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” I have been willing to take Jesus at his word and it is the joy of the Lord which sustains and guides my ministry.
Colleen and I have blessed each other in marriage since 2002 and were both blest with Analiese in November of 2005. We are excited about the opportunity to serve at Salem supporting your labors in the fields of God’s kingdom.
I was born and raised in a loving home in Upland, just 40 miles east on the 210. When I was in 5th grade, my family (mom, dad, sister and I) opted to leave our cozy cul-de-sac to build and operate a boarding stable on the edge of town. So, I grew up with horses and goats and many others of God’s creatures. I was very active in both Girl Scouts and 4-H and drove a tractor by age 12. I come from a long line of Lutherans and was confirmed at Grace Lutheran in Upland where my family and I were involved throughout my childhood and teen years.
I left Upland to go to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where I majored in Child and Family Development. The San Luis Obispo area was my home for 20 years. I was a member at Mt Carmel Lutheran the entire time and was very involved with many ministries, starting with the College group. During my years there as a working adult, I taught Sunday school, managed the Sunday School Program, chaired the Children and Teen Ministries Committee and served as Vice President of the Church Council. One of the most rewarding activities I was blessed to do at Mt Carmel was to lead the congregation through a mission discernment and strategic planning process that ultimately led to their model Campus Ministry program and calling of Pastor Jana Schofield.
Professionally, I have had two careers. First, I worked in the field of child care for 12 years. I did a little bit of teaching but spent most of those years working in the area of program development and implementation. Most memorably, I worked for PG&E, commuting weekly by air to San Francisco, to put in the first corporate child care center in the financial district. Second, after earning my MBA, I worked in small business for 7 years, growing and managing a commercial flooring company, increasing sales from $350,000 to $4 million per year. Most recently, I got to merge those two careers together when I worked as an operations consultant for Google as they prepared to open their first employer supported child care center in the bay area.
Pastor Kurt and I were married in 2002 and moved to Springfield, MA where I felt called and gifted to assist him in the ministry at Bethesda Lutheran Church. Three ministries stand out during my time there; 1) working with leadership to develop and implement a literal resurrection of the church community; 2) working with leadership to rethink and reorganize the structure of the church so that it was focused on mission; and 3) working with the family ministry team and the congregation to create a welcoming church home for families with young children. I thank God for the opportunity and success of these ministries.
On November 15, 2005, I became the mother of Analiese Louise Kramer Christenson. Analiese is a gift from God to Kurt and me. She is a joy and it is a pleasure and a privilege to parent this incredible being through each day of her life.