Valparaiso University has stepped up to the plate and already has a plan to fill the void left by Rev. Darlene Grega’s death. In a press release on sites such as Facebook, University Provost and former Dean of Christ College Mark Schwehn has announced that Valpo has found a minister with strong ties to Valpo who will absorb Rev. Grega’s residential ministry as well as attending to the spiritual needs of the international students and GLBTQ community on campus:

April 19, 2010

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

I am pleased to announce that Rev. Phyllis Kersten will join the pastoral staff of the Chapel of the Resurrection beginning today, April 19, to provide additional support for our campus ministry. Rev. Kersten, a Valparaiso University alumna who most recently served as interim pastor at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Chicago, will support the chapel staff at least through the end of the academic year and attend to some of the areas previously served by Rev. Darlene Grega. This will include meeting with residential ministers, mentoring Fellowship House students, and working with international students and members of the GLBTQ community.

I am glad that a pastor possessing such experience, wisdom, compassion, and care for Valpo has come forward in this challenging time to join our campus community. Rev. Kersten has remained in very close touch with the University over the years, often staying on visits here with her good friend Louise Williams, former executive director of the Lutheran Deaconess Association, whom she worked with as a past president, vice president, and board member of the LDA.

Before serving as interim pastor at Luther Memorial, Rev. Kersten served 12 years as associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, Ill., was vice president for communications for Wheat Ridge Ministries in Chicago for 18 years, and served on the Board for Missions of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. She is co-author of the Women of the ELCA Bible study “Companions on Your Journey” and of “Talented, Tired, Beautiful Feet,” a Bible study for women published by Concordia Publishing House. She also is the author of “Jesus Wept,” a three-part series on grief in Lutheran Woman Today, which won an award from the Associated Church Press.

Rev. Kersten has served as keynote speaker and Bible study leader at district and synod conventions of LCMS and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America women’s organizations; pastors, teachers, and principals’ workshops; and congregational planning retreats. She was a workshop leader at the 2009 Christian Women’s Conference at Valpo, and has served as a member of the LCMS Task Force on Women.

I and Valpo’s chapel staff look forward to working with Rev. Kersten and for her assistance in ministering to the campus community. Please join me in welcoming her to the University.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Schwehn

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

As a Valparaiso alumna, Rev. Kersten is a scholar and seasoned pastor. She is coming out of retirement to meet the needs of the university. She is an author and public speaker who has reached out to inner city youth. She bridges the gap between the LCMS and ELCA as her career is intertwined with both Lutheran Denominations. She is a strong woman who is a role model for all of the women of Valparaiso.

Rev. Kersten’s biography for 2009 Valparaiso University Guild’s annual Christian Women’s Conference lists her accomplishments and diverse career path:

Phyllis Kersten, M.Div.

The Reverend Phyllis Kersten is a Valparaiso University graduate (’61) and a 1996 graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and following her ordination served as Associate Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL) until her recent retirement. She served as an adjunct professor at the Lutheran School of Theology and in 2006, was a recipient of Wheat Ridge Ministries’ “Seeds of Hope” award. Prior to her ordination, Phyllis served as Wheat Ridge Ministries’ Vice President for Communications, conducted research on Christian education in the inner city, and later did mission interpretation work as a staff member of the Board for Missions of the LCMS. As a new college graduate, she worked as a parish worker at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Detroit’s inner city and as an English teacher at Lutheran High School South, St. Louis, MO.

Phyllis has co-authored numerous books, including: R is for Religion, 26-session curriculum for inner-city youngsters (Morse Press, 1964); Talented, Tired, Beautiful Feet, a Bible study for women (CPH, 1985); Companions on Your Journey, Women of the ELCA 1990 Bible Study (Augsburg-Fortress); and The School as a Caring Community (Lutheran Education Association Monograph, 1986). She has authored articles for Lutheran Women Today, such as the Associated Church Press award-winning “Jesus Wept,” a 1991 three-part series on grief, and an April 2000 funeral planning article, and recently authored a chapter in a new book, Christian Education as Evangelism, (Augsburg, 2007). Phyllis has also written devotions appearing in My Devotions, Home Altar, the LCMS Youth Ministry Resources, Currents in Theology and Mission (October 1994), and Lutheran Woman Today (April 1995). She is the author of a hymn text “Wake Us, O Lord, to Human Need,” published in several hymnals; tracts for outreach in the inner city, published by the Concordia Tract Mission; and articles in a variety of church periodicals.

Phyllis has served as a volunteer in various church-related organizations, including Lutheran Mission Association (St. Louis, MO); Lutheran Deaconess Association (Valparaiso, IN); LCMS Task Force on Women; LCMS district mission and communications committees; new church design task force on communications; and women’s organization’s magazines.

There is no doubt that Rev. Kersten will be an asset to the University. What stands out to me in Provost Schwehn’s announcement is the fact that she came forward and offered her assistance to Valpo. No doubt she will play a role in the healing process. She will give many a voice that may be lost on campus.  She also sends the oh so powerful message that Valparaiso has not forgotten the young women of campus.

Kersten is a welcome addition to Valparaiso, and I look forward to hearing more about her accomplishments from the Chapel of the Resurrection.

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