Mission & History
The “mission” of University Lutheran Chapel is to be a community of faith at work in the world, actively engaged in social justice ministry. We are committed to being an inclusive and hospitable Christian community with Word and Sacrament at the center of our life together. We seek to cultivate spiritual growth, care, and renewal within the communities we serve.
Currently University Lutheran Chapel is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), but that wasn’t always the case. In 1947 we were founded by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) as a congregation with the first intentional campus ministry west of the Rockies. In 1957 the congregation moved to its current facility on College Avenue, located several blocks south of the University of California at Berkeley campus. The Chapel left the LCMS to become part of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) in 1976, and in 1988 we joined the ELCA.
Throughout the congregation’s sixty years of ministry, it has nurtured a distinctively progressive ministry centered in Word and Sacrament and the commitment to reach out to those in need. In the 1970’s the Chapel founded the Berkeley Emergency Food Project in response to the emerging crisis of homelessness. In 1976 the congregation was the first in the AELC to ordain a woman pastor. In the 1980’s the Chapel provided leadership for the founding of the Sanctuary Movement, working to protect refugees fleeing the wars in Central American. We were partners in the SHARE Foundation, whose work focused upon returning Salvadoran refugees to their homes. Throughout the years we’ve offered sanctuary to conscientious objectors during the Vietnam and Gulf wars, and have hosted community ministries that included the Dorothy Day Breakfast Program for the homeless and the Chaplaincy for Homeless Youth.
Throughout our history, our ministries have sought to provide sanctuary, transformation and justice.
The congregational demographic includes a unique mix of university students and traditional age participants, with a total membership of 125 and an average weekly worshipping attendance of 80. A weekly campus ministry meal, worship and discussion usually includes 20 to 30 participants.
Programs within the congregation include Sunday School for children, adult study groups, support groups for people in crisis, a food pantry for refugee families and a campus ministry program for students and young adults. Congregational leadership includes a council and teams that focus on social justice, worship, and community life.
The parish has been served by a long line of excellent parish musicians: Art Griesel, Kerrigan Black, David Kalins, Masahiro Ando, Jim Smith and, currently, our Director of Music, Andy Bouman.
Pastor Jeff Johnson is the fourth full time pastor to serve the parish, having been called in 1999. The Rev. Don Deffner founded the church; the Rev. Ralph Moellering served from 1959 – 1968. The Rev. Gustav H. Schultz served as pastor from 1969 until 1997, and then as pastor emeritus until his death in 2007.
Pastor Sanna Reinholtzen has received a syndical call to our parish as the pastor of Prayer and Healing. This call is renewed on an annual basis.
Other assistant and interim clergy who have served this parish include the Revs. Herb Schmidt, Verlyn Clausen, John H. Elliott, LouAnn Trost, Nancy Nelson, Paul Mickelson and Craig Minich.