At the beginning of 2021, Pastor John Karle assumed the leadership of University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) in College Station. Now the chapel is no more.
The reference, thankfully, is to the building that once housed the chapel. The ministry is as vibrant as it ever was. And a brand-new chapel is on the horizon. Here’s our interview with Pastor Karle.
Tell us about the new building that’s being constructed on the site of the former chapel and how it will be used for ministry.
Plans call for the Summer 2023 completion of a 19-story student housing high rise on the site of the former University Lutheran Chapel & Student Center three blocks north of the campus at Texas A&M University. Our future University Lutheran Student Center will be located on the ground floor of this building, in the same location as before, with front doors opening onto College Main facing Cross Street. We’ll have a new gathering, training, and worship space for the 21st Century.
Where is the ministry of ULC housed now and how is that working out?
During the two-year construction of the new building, we’re pleased to gather for worship on campus in the Memorial Student Center. Prior to the construction of our former Chapel & Student Center in 1965, we worshiped on campus in the centrally-located YMCA. Worship at the center of the campus is a beautiful thing!
We’ve leased a historic, former faculty house built in the 1930s just off campus for all of our student center activities. It’s where we have Sunday night suppers, Bible studies, a couch room lounge, a campfire pit, a volleyball net, and an office.
What are some of the most exciting things you see God doing through your ministry at Texas A & M?
Working with students is amazing! They are eager to learn, belong, engage, and welcome others. There are over ten-thousand students living within a ten-minute walk of University Lutheran College Station. The greatest concentration of international students live right in this area of town. It’s a phenomenal mission field we’re scrambling to be a part of. God has us at this place for this time.
You came to this ministry after spending years in typical congregational ministry. How does this ministry differ? What are the distinctive joys and challenges?
The campus mission is unique in that the regular participants are all of the same age (college undergrads and graduate students) and have come to this place for the same primary purpose (to study). That’s a lot different than a typical congregation where people’s ages vary greatly and they’re rooted in the community. Since the campus environment also collects students of all different backgrounds and home/community/church experiences, we have a lot more diversity than an average Lutheran congregation. We know that our time with students is limited, so we have to act with greater urgency and intentionality than is common in a typical congregation. We’re planting seeds of missionary faith and skills, and then sending disciples of Jesus into the world to plant his kingdom of grace. This brings us great joy!
How do you envision God working through ULC in the future?
God works by the power of his Holy Spirit for the sake of his Son in the lives of his people for the life of the world. Since joining ULC at the beginning of 2021, this has been a time of simplicity in ministry while navigating enormous change. We sense clarity of call, identity, and mission in the campus context. In 2022 we’ll turn our focus to structuring our activities and mindset for intentional disciple-making, to stewarding financial resources for a solid, enduring foundation for this work, and to staffing up to meet the challenges and opportunities on our doorstep, including part-time staff focused on International Student Ministry, new music, and discipleship. We’re thankful for those who served previously here who did courageous, kingdom-expanding work. We’re thankful for our partners across the Texas District. We could not do this without your help and God’s favor!
University Lutheran Chapel has been an important Gospel outreach ministry for nearly 100 years. To learn more, go to ulctamu.org.
Jon Braunersreuther, D. Min.
Director of Districtwide Strategy
Mission Strategist—Area D