P.J. Stohlmann graduated from Concordia Seminary in May. Photos by Karyn Raygor
By David Richards
It might be rare for eighth graders to think about becoming a pastor, but P.J. Stohlmann did.
He became more serious about it in college, for sure, through discussions with teachers, friends and in prayer, but it was in middle school when the thought first crossed his mind.
"I thought about it in eighth grade, but it was just a thought," Stohlmann said.
Stohlmann, 30, is the new pastor at Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church in Byron off Second Avenue.
He graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in May with a Masters of Divinity after growing up around the Lutheran Church, including through school, music ministry and Bible study.
The youngest of five children, Stohlmann said he was excited to be called to Byron, his first church as a pastor.
"I'm happy to be a part of Byron," he said. "I'm looking forward to being of service to the community and loving the people here."
The process of placing a pastor in the Lutheran Church can be a lengthy one.
In seminary, each pastor fills out extensive paper work about philosophy of ministry and what type of church they want to be placed at.
Each pastor then meets with the seminary's placement director for a series of interviews.
When a church has an opening for a pastor, it notifies the seminary, with the seminary sending back a list of options. Based on that information, the church then makes their recommendation, and the final decision rests with the council district presidents, who meet each year to call the most recent seminarians to their new churches.
For Stohlmann, that process is now behind him, as he gave his first sermon on Aug. 11.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "But I think it went pretty well."
Stohlmann received his bachelor's degree from Concordia in St. Paul in K-12 music education, and he is both a vocalist and a piano player.
He said he plans on playing organ from time to time when needed, as the church that doesn't have a fulltime organist or piano player.
Mt. Moriah's mission, Stohlmann said, is to reach out and share Christ.
"The people here take their faith seriously," he said. "They really want to learn how to grow as a follower of Jesus and as a Christian."
In his free time, Stohlmann, whose parents live in St. Paul, likes to be outdoors, including biking and running.
He also lived in Colorado for two years, which explains his love for hiking.
"I really like climbing mountains," he said. "But there's no mountains here."
Hiking aside, Stohlmann said he's enjoying Byron, even though he admits he didn't know where it was.
"The more I learn about the community, the more I like the place where I was called," he said.