Hi There, I’m Pastor Jacobsen

Greetings to you with God’s peace through our Lord Jesus.

I’ve now been living in Lakewood since late August, 2020. But meetings in person have been strictly limited by caution and rules from on high. That probably creates some mystery or even curiosity about this new guy from Oregon (me). So let me introduce myself a little bit here, giving you an idea of my background, and my interests in connection to our church and our community. I look forward over the next few years to learning about others in Lakewood Lutheran Church and our neighbors, too.

My paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Norway (my Lutheran roots), but on my mom’s side I’m something like a 5th-generation Arizonan. Having been raised on the south coast of Massachusetts as well as the desert of central Arizona, I’ve learned to adapt. My mother’s recent ancestors were from Colorado, and I ended up going there after high school to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy (class of ’93). My intent was to become a pilot.

The Academy was an excellent, challenging, formative, and sometimes shocking, experience. After a summer of basic training, I had the pleasure of playing first baritone in the Drum and Bugle Corps.  The Corps would travel with the football team (very successful at the time), and often stay with local officers’ families for a few days. I got to see a lot of bases around the country and talk to my hosts. Over that first year, I gradually experienced a growing sense of responsibility to follow the advice of the pastor with whom I was confirmed in Rumford, Rhode Island. He said I had gifts that would be helpful for a pastor, and I should consider serving God in that way. So by the end of the first year at USAFA, I had decided that was my greater duty. It was a stressful decision, because I still was interested in flying and serving my country, but had realized that there is a more pressing need among those who serve: to have pastors or chaplains who not only appreciate their situation, but are uncompromisingly faithful to God’s Word. It was disheartening to see that even though chaplains honestly did their best to serve their flocks, contradictions and tensions remained between incompatible faiths, and the requirement to serve everyone tends to compromise what is taught in spite of the best intentions. But the Wisconsin Synod (WELS — my church body at the time) assigned civilian pastors to nearby military posts. They are not as integrated, but have more freedom to teach and preach according to God’s Word in every circumstance. I thought that might be a good option for me.

At Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin, I received a solid foundation in the Biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew). I also studied some German and Latin, as well as other liberal arts subjects. It turned out that my Academy credits for the first year of science and math already exceeded the requirements at NWC. This allowed me to take extra make-up courses that I needed due to my attendance at public schools throughout my career, and still graduate after four years (in 1994). While at NWC, I sang in the choir, played in the band, helped form a pop/rock band with some friends, took some piano lessons, and most importantly, met Erica Bode.

My family’s Norwegian Lutheran background and an attraction to a smaller school environment led me to enter Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. Most NWC graduates go on to the WELS seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin. Partway through my second year, I married my college sweetheart, Erica. She then supported us as I finished school. The fourth year of instruction was a vicarage at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Mankato, under Pastor Don Moldstad (now chaplain at Bethany Lutheran College). When I graduated from BLTS in 1998, I was assigned as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin. Just before being ordained there, Erica and I took a few weeks for an overseas trip to Norway. There I had the privilege of bringing greetings from the ELS to the Lutheran Confessional Church (LBK) of Sweden and Norway, the pleasure of connecting with some of my distant roots there, and the great privilege and pleasure of getting to know the families with whom we stayed (notably the Kvilhaugsviks in Avaldsnes).

I served in Madison from 1998 through 2005. During that time the congregation started a preschool, and Erica was an important part of its organization. In late 2005, I accepted a call to the Pacific Northwest. From 2006 until 2020 we lived in The Dalles, Oregon, as I served Concordia Lutheran Church in Hood River and Bethany Lutheran Church in The Dalles as a dual parish.  During that time we home-schooled our children. With the older three, I took several years of Tae-Kwon-Do, and also played trumpet, trombone, fluegelhorn, or baritone in a homeschool band with the same children. In 2019 I joined a community band, playing baritone.

In 2014 the church in The Dalles decided to start an elementary school including grades 1-4. Two years later it was time to expand to upper grades with another teacher who could serve permanently as principal. We quickly discovered that it was difficult to find a teacher comfortable with being principal of a classical school, an expansion project, and a move to the West. In fact, it was easier to call a new pastor. So the church decided to extend the teacher/principal call to me as a pastor, and then call a second pastor to serve the needs of the parish. It was a very challenging prospect, and though I love parish work, the needs of our church, school, and family led me to accept that call.

God blessed my transition to full-time teaching, answering many prayers. The school expanded, and I found my stride in the classroom. Thankfully, I still had an opportunity to preach, especially while serving the pastoral vacancy in the parish. This occurred twice before 2020, when Pastor Rob Lawson accepted the call as pastor. I was happy to find that with God’s blessings I could teach when it was needed, and even serve as principal. The teaching was very enjoyable in its way, but it wasn’t the work I had prepared for. Another blessing at this time was serving with Pastor Lawson. His interests and strengths in the ministry are music and liturgics. Serving with him allowed me to develop my understanding of our Lutheran heritage in these areas and reach a much deeper appreciation for the basic elements that distinguish a Lutheran approach to church services from those of other traditions.

When C-19 hit in the spring of last year, nobody knew how to deal with it or what to expect. Suddenly the Oregon governor said schools must not meet in person, so over a long weekend, we began preparing an asynchronous approach to delivering lessons online and exchanging materials at school. It relied heavily on parents to function as supports at home. It immediately worked for about half of our students. About a quarter had great difficulty, and a quarter took some time to adjust. It became clear that our resources were limited (especially indoor space) and no amount of resources would provide the education for which our school existed as long as pandemic restrictions were in effect. After exploring many possibilities, the school board finally had no good choices available. Rather than focus on institutional survival alone, the board decided to cease operation for the 2020-2021 school year. This freed Erica and me from ongoing responsibilities there, and she received a one-year call to teach at Lakewood. (The story there continues: with generous gifts it has received, Bethany intends to re-start a school! It looks like a preschool this time, starting with another name.)

We moved to Lakewood in August, 2020, and Erica began teaching at Lakewood Lutheran School. The one-year call was a good fit, because nobody knew how well things would work out, especially in the pandemic. Thankfully, things have worked very well. I have been able to help the Lakewood School by providing weekly chapel separately for each classroom. This has had a side benefit of forcing me to practice guitar, which has been enjoyable. Meanwhile, I decided to use some of my extra time to enroll in a master’s degree program at the online Institute of Lutheran Theology in Brookings, SD. I earned six credits last term, and am carrying three now. I may graduate with a Master’s in Sacred Theology (STM) in another two or three years. In February, 2021, Lakewood Lutheran Church extended a permanent teaching call to Erica as well as a part-time or bivocational pastoral call to me. We accepted those calls, and are looking forward to completing our transition from The Dalles to Lakewood.

Our oldest two children are finishing and starting college. Our property in The Dalles is still being used, but we are planning to sell it eventually. The oldest child living with us now (Isaac) is 16, but plans to obtain his GED instead of attending high school here. We hope that further plans will coalesce after that. The youngest two are fraternal twins (Leah and Lucy). They will continue attending Lakewood Lutheran School next year.

My current interests as a pastor in Lakewood are:

  • To continue learning about the riches of our Lutheran liturgical heritage and how it may be part of our practice, which has the advantage of strengthening a congregation in both doctrine and our daily lives of faith.
  • To find and refine ways of continuing the process of catechesis for all ages in our parish, so that we may all grow together in the faith, being prepared by our Lord to face the challenges of this world with joy and hope.
  • To help us all as Christians show God’s self-giving love for everyone we meet by our words and actions.
  • To find ways of providing confessional Lutheran ministerial service to those posted at JBLM who may need it. This would center in the Word and Sacraments, but may also apply in other ways.

Now you know something more about me and my family. When we have the chance, I’d like to spend some time getting to know you and learn how I can best serve you. We are limited by the pandemic and the fact that my call is part-time. At this point I am hopeful that on many Wednesdays I might be able to arrange a meeting. For now, it might have to be online by Zoom or Google Meet, but perhaps we will have a chance to meet in person before long.

The Lord be with you!

— Pastor Jacobsen