Task Force

We are so thankful to have had an extremely gifted and dedicated group of individuals serving on our Visioning & Design Task Force. They met during the winter and spring of 2014 to craft the Mission Statement, Practices, and Core Values of The Center for Worship & Music Studies.

Jay Beech John Kerns Christian Scharen Tom Witt
Sonja Hagander April Larson Mark Strobel


Jay Beech
Jay Beech has long been recognized for his creative blending of musical energy and theological substance, and his ability to lift up ancient traditions within a modern context. His published works include hymns, liturgies, camp songs, musicals, and anthems which are sung each week in congregations throughout the United States. Jay is also the owner of BaytoneMusic.com, an online company that provides downloadable music resources for worship. He served on the music staff at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, MN for sixteen years and is a graduate of St. Olaf College. He is now working as the Director of The Center for Worship and Music Studies.


Rev. Dr. April Ulring Larson
April1April Larson holds the distinction of being the first woman to serve as a bishop in the ELCA, being elected in the La Crosse Area Synod in 1992. Prior to that time she had worked as a school music teacher, parish pastor, and bishop’s assistant. April brings a passion for music, congregational ministry, and has a deep love for the people and music of the global church. After completing her call as bishop, she served as senior pastor at First Lutheran in Duluth, MN. She has now retired with her husband, Pastor Judd Larson, to her childhood home of Decorah, IA. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Wartburg Seminary.


John Kerns
kernsey2“Kernsey” has been the Minister of Music at Spirit Garage, the Church With the Really Big Door, in Minneapolis since it began in 1997. A truly ground-breaking ministry, The Spirit Garage worships in The Music Box Theater on the south side of downtown, combining a love of Jesus, their neighborhood, rock music, and hot coffee. Kernsey shepherds three worship bands that play for their very edgy liturgical services each week. Under his leadership, their community has produced several CDs of original music, a Christmas concert DVD, and plays community concerts all year-round.

The son of a school music teacher and the grandson of a dance band leader, Kernsey is a gifted multi-instrumentalist. With musical influences ranging from Led Zepplin to Ben Folds to Tower of Power, he also leads his own modern rock outfit, Kerns and the Hemispheres, playing clubs, events, and showcasing his unique songwriting style and arrangements.  He is as comfortable gigging with Jonathan Rundman as he was singing in the choir at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, where he studied jazz guitar and music theory, graduating with a B.A. in Music Performance.


Sonja Hagander
sonja1Rev. Sonja Hagander is the Lead Pastor and Director of Campus Ministries at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. She brings deep passion for helping young adults explore Christian vocation, creating lives of faith and service. She has also led several interfaith initiatives at Augsburg, the ELCA’s most diverse college. In that context, she plans and leads worship each week in a challenging but very energizing urban multi-faith community. She has served as Pastor-Theologian at the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton University, and as Chaplain and emcee to the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza Conference which hosts more than 1,000 pastors and youth leaders. Sonja holds degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, Luther Seminary, and University of Edinburgh, Scotland.


Tom Witt
witt2Tom Witt is a gifted and innovative keyboardist, serving as worship and song-leader for a wide variety of Lutheran and ecumenical events. Sharing his passion for music from the church all around the world, he was a founder of the ensemble, Bread for the Journey, and has served as musician-in-residence at Holden Village. Tom has been a key leader for many ELCA Global Mission events, and has helped mentor many young musicians. With Marty Haugen, Mary Preus, Susan Briehl, and Benjamin Stewart was part of the Living Liturgy teaching team that led worship and worship workshops across the United States. Tom is co-author with Susan Briehl of Holden Prayer Around the Cross: Handbook to the Liturgy and his recording of creative hymn improvisations, Dusting Off the Green Book, is widely known and appreciated. Tom currently serves as  music coordinator at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, MN.


Rev. Dr. Christian Scharen
Scharen1Christian Scharen serves as  the new Vice President for Applied Research at Auburn Seminary in New York, NY. Most recently he was Director of Contextual Learning and assistant professor of worship at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He previously worked as Director of the Faith as a Way of Life Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and as Assistant Professor of Congregational Studies and Practical Theology at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT. Chris has a deep love for creative innovation in worship and exploring the relationship between liturgy and culture as evidenced by two of his book titles, “One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God” and “Broken Hallelujahs: Thinking Popular Music Through the Cross.” He holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, and Emory University, Atlanta, GA.


Rev. Mark Strobel
StrobelMark Strobel serves as a pastor in the Eastern ND Synod. He has brought his long-standing commitment to parish ministry and expertise as a worship planner and preacher to his writing for The Liturgical Press, Sundays and Seasons, and Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Mark has led many workshops on worship and has taught in the Leadership Program for Musicians. He is a graduate of Wartburg Seminary, in Dubuque, IA, and holds a degree in Liturgical Studies from St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. In a previous life he was a DJ at a rock music radio station.

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