welcome to Salem's Blog-vlog

Why Church?

This Fall, Salem’s stewardship campaign is your story:  “Why do you church?”

  • Why do you go to worship service?

  • Why do you choose to be a part of Salem’s Christian community?

  • What about Salem feels right?

Salem needs to know, and the world needs to know, why this place is important to you and why investing in it matters.  What story do you have to tell?

Salem is historic.  It has a wide, loving embrace.  It is gritty and continues to roll on despite changes and challenges.  But what is your faith walk that makes Salem special?

Let us know how Your Story fits in God’s Story - Why Church matters to you.  And keep scrolling down to see what your fellow Christians have to say...


November 18, 2023

Kathy St. Martin

Kathy St. Martin is fulfilling her second term on council now, a full 6 years! Kathy plays the bells with our Hallelujah Handbells and contributes a heart of gold to our community. 

Why Church?

Church has been a part of my life since birth.  My parents taught my siblings and I about God and modeled a faithful life.  We attended church weekly, and we all participated in activities at our church.  We were taught to be faithful, caring and giving people. My parents were great models of these traits be it as Sunday School teachers, ushers, bible studies and much more at our church and at home.  Both were always doing things for others in our neighborhood or for extended family. As children we were included in giving tasks such as delivering Julekake to the neighbors at Christmas time!    As a child I felt comfortable in our church.  I developed good friendships and had respect for the adults in my life through the church.  I believe that God has a plan for each of us and God has been working with me on that plan.  Church has been a part of that plan.

When Mark and I moved to St Cloud in 1987 we visited churches in the St Cloud area and had visited Salem a number of times.  Mark became very ill, had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had multiple infections in his brain which ended up with him being at the U of M hospital for close to a year.  He was close to death many times, could not walk, talk, or breath without support of medical equipment and a great deal of therapy.  When he walked into his Neurosurgeon's office at the end of his stay, Mark thanked the doctor for his care. The doctor said, “this is nothing I have done, this is some kind of miracle!” We both learned so much that we were able to use in our professions. 

We experienced many God sightings in that hospital stay and surely miracles.  Salem pastors visited us even though we were not members. We felt the power of prayer from Salem.  Of course we joined Salem! Salem became our home church.  Our children were active in activities at church and learned to help others through volunteer efforts and many great models at Salem.  When Mark became ill and died from cancer in 2002 God's love shown through again, in Salem members, in so many ways.  I am so grateful for the support we had during some difficult times in our lives.  I feel at home at Salem.  I have enjoyed getting to know more and more people through participation in various committees at Salem and share in supporting others within Salem and in the community and world.  

Why church?  I believe in God.  I feel comfortable at church.  I like the music, the traditions, the social opportunities, friendships, and opportunities to help others in so many ways – loving our neighbors.  

- Kathy St. Martin


november 15, 2023

Deb Campbell

Deb Campbell and her husband, Scott, have shared their gifts of music and leadership with Salem throughout the decades. You will see Deb playing handbells and Scott leading brass groups on Sunday mornings.  They are enjoying their newest role in life - grandparenting!

Why Church?

Why do I church? I have churched since childhood. My mother was an organist, and church was a priority in our family. I was baptized, confirmed, and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at Bible Camp. Those were such formative years. Church and my faith were important to me from the start, and I wanted to instill that in my family one day too.

The biggest reason I continue to church is because I am a child of God. I am His, and He is my Heavenly Father, and I treasure that. I church to grow in my faith through hearing the Word in verse, meditation, and song. Listening to and reading the Word is a reminder as to how I ought to live—a Godly life. I fail and fail again at that, which is why receiving communion is so meaningful to me. I am reminded that through repentance and forgiveness, I am saved by grace. What a blessing!! Music also draws me to church. I love singing to hymns, listening to organ, instrumental, and vocal music in worship to Him, and participating in the handbell choir. 

I oftentimes refer to my church friends as my “church family”. The connections my family and I have made at church over the years have been so meaningful in our lives. Our church family was instrumental in guiding our children to grow in their faith through Bible studies, the friends they made, and the experiences they had in Sunday school and youth group. As adults, our “kids” continue to gather with that church family from long ago and have formed new church families in their own church within their communities. 

I church because I love tradition. The church seasons involve so much tradition, from liturgy to hymns to special services. Of course, I love the Santa Lucia celebration and have made that Swedish tradition my own! Traditions are important to me and my family.

I love to church, and I invite you to church with me!

- Deb Campbell


November 7, 2023

Nick Johnston

Nick Johnston has served the St. Cloud community through the VA and NAMI for decades.  He serves as the property liaison to council and you may find him replacing lightbulbs or supporting Thell.  Nick’s wife, Ella Jo (EJ), contributes her prayers to our caring ministry.

Why Church?

I pray every night in bed and sometimes in the morning with my first cup of coffee.  In church, I don't know, it seems like I feel I have more of a direct line to God than in my home.  Maybe the fact that I'm surrounded by like-minded people and we're all praying together for many if not most of the same things.  It's nice to recognize fellow church members and be recognized in return in the community.  When I attended my first event of the day at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN last weekend, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around, and there was Jerry Wellick and his wife sitting right behind me.  What a small world we live in.

Attending church at the 8:30 service at Salem reinforces my relationship with God and my fellow parishioners.

- Nick Johnston


November 6, 2023

Justin Hauer

Justin Hauer is a member of Salem's Council. Justin's spouse, Lisa, and their two children, Roman and Hazel, bring energy and light to Salem Lutheran.

Why Church?

In today's constantly connected and distracted world, maintaining a meaningful relationship with God can be a challenge. However, for me, going to church provides a space for sustaining faith amidst the busyness of life. I go to church to keep my personal connection with God and Jesus Christ alive and vibrant.


Life moves fast, with new technologies and activities competing for our attention daily. It's easy to get caught up in work, screens, and other demands, while our spiritual needs get neglected. But relationships require investment. Just as dedicated time cultivates close family ties, so attending church sustains one’s spirituality.


At church, I can focus fully on God for a couple restorative hours each week. The liturgy, hymns, and pastor's message guide me through scripture, framed with insightful modern-day applications. I always leave with a renewed perspective and purpose. My church, Salem Lutheran, does this beautifully through thoughtful, engaging sermons and uplifting music.


In particular, worship music powerfully nurtures my connection to God. Lifting my voice with others in praise is a profound communal experience. In song, our shared love for the Lord resonates deeply. Music awakens my spirit, evoking gratitude and awe.

Beyond the service itself, the welcoming community at Salem gives me a sense of belonging. From my first visit years ago, the genuine warmth and interest from members meant so much. I already knew a few folks there, which eased the transition. Nothing felt pushy or forced, just natural camaraderie. The beautiful sanctuary, great music, and spirit of fellowship made Salem feel like home right away.


In our fragmented world, places of spiritual nourishment and community are in need. By feeding my soul weekly, church provides ballast amid life's storms. My relationship with God remains a vital anchor. For that gift, I am grateful.  

- Justin Hauer


Susan Douma

NOVEMBER 3, 2023

november 1, 2023

Mike LaFountaine

Mike LaFountaine is a new council member, who is also an old council member.  He and Janna have served this community in a multitude of ways from Janna’s staff role to coordinate volunteers to Mike’s legal connections in the community.

Why Church?

In recent years my life has become considerably smaller because I have not regularly attended church.

Thanks to the grace of hindsight, I now recognize that cumstances beyond my control have shaped my life in the past 3 1/2 years. Starting with Covid, my wife Janna (always the one to lead me to church) and I stopped physically attending church. 

About 9 months after Covid appeared, Janna's cancer returned and made it impossible, dangerous even, to attend church. 

When she died in August 2022 I lost all direction and was unable to do so many things, including returning to church by myself. Although I knew church was part of what I needed to fuel my recovery, my loneliness and sadness prevented me from doing what I really needed. My fear of living without her and doing those things that made us "Mike and Janna" by myself was overwhelming. So I stayed away.

Now, over a year after Janna's death I realize how small my life has become. Having been "two" and becoming "one" has been devastating, and I have lost direction without her, without us. I know this has happened to many others but that doesn't make the sense of loss any easier. Losing a spouse means fearing the loss of her whole family, your "couple" friends, your reason to be. It is not an overstatement to say it means fearing the loss of yourself.

Why church: Church provides perspective for those who lose their purpose. It helps to see outward instead of only inward. It provides unconditional love when it becomes hard to think love can even exist. 

Church is made up of all those people who know your pain and simply want to share its burden, not "fix" your problem. For someone like me it opens a door and invites you in without demands or expectations. Acceptance. It provides those in need of a reason to get up in the morning to do so. And creates an environment where those in need of help can rediscover that they still have their own ability to share themselves with others who need their help.

Mike LaFountaine


oCTOBER 31, 2023

Cathy Jenniges

Cathy Jenniges worked as a social worker in the area for decades, has served in our Sunday School ministry and is married to Dan.  Cathy and Dan have a simple ministry of hospitality here at Salem, they wear nametags each week, so hopefully you know who they are!

Why Church?

The pandemic taught me I need the church, the actual structure and people. We had church online and I listened to it, but I can’t say I was all there. I tended to exercise, drink tea and make lists, something I can’t and don't do at church.

I need people. As a retired person my contact with people was at a minimum. 

I recently saw an article on Facebook that expresses my feelings completely: “You can’t serve from your sofa. You can’t have a community of faith on your sofa. You can’t experience the power of a room full of believers worshiping together on your sofa.”

We need each other for support, human contact to give and receive.  

The article also said, “Christians aren’t consumers. We are contributors. We don’t watch, we engage.  We give, we sacrifice. We encourage. We pray by laying hands on the hurting. We do life together.”

And that’s why I church. To be a part of something. 

- Cathy Jenniges


October 30, 2023

Emily Fischer

Emily Fischer has served Salem in many ways including on council and transition teams. She is married to Karl and mother to Sophie, who livens up our Sunday morning fellowship on a regular basis!

Why Church?

I grew up attending Lutheran church weekly with my family. I attended Sunday School, was instructed in Holy Communion and was confirmed in my faith. Church was always a part of my life growing up and my faith has always been important to me. I even went so far as to choose Gustavus Adolphus College, a school affiliated with the ELCA, to further my education after high school. While there I continued to serve during chapel services.

When I graduated and ventured out into the world as an adult, I continued to attend church services and became involved wherever I happened to be living. I have always loved to sing, and sought out the choir wherever I was living. Over the years, I have also served by teaching Sunday School, VBS, singing, playing handbells, and serving as a worship leader.


I don’t mean this as a laundry list of ways I have been involved in church over the years, but instead I mean to share that my faith fills me up and I feel called to share it with others. 

Church has always offered me a place of comfort and community. I feel the presence of holiness within the walls of the sanctuary. It feels so good to have a place to go to on Sunday mornings where I know I am accepted and welcomed, simply because I am a child of God. I know that I will hear the Word and be challenged by it. And I know I will hear beautiful and inspiring music. Most importantly, I will meet people, people like me and different from me, but we will all be here to share the love of Jesus.  

I know that the world we live in is a hard place to be today. There is so much violence, poverty, scarcity, and worry.  So many difficult decisions must be made every day. But my church family here at Salem provides me a place of solace. I pray that more people in this world will find a way to the peace they could find through faith. By focusing on things bigger than me, it helps me to feel not so small. God’s with me and us, if we will just let him in.

- Emily Fischer


Jane Borron

OCTOBER 27, 2023

october 25, 2023

Janet Tilstra

Janet Tilstra is a professor at St. Cloud State University and a member of the Salem Praise Team for many years.  She is interested in what it means to be the church today in 2023. She is married to Dave and has two adult daughters, Hannah and Lauren.

Why Church?

A Pantoum – Why Church?

Why church?

Why not a French salon or a meditation retreat?

Why this flailing progressive place?

Religion – unifying or destructive?


Why not a French salon or a meditation retreat?

Where the wise and disciplined gather.

Religion – unifying or destructive?

Both grounding and divisive


Where the wise and disciplined gather

Leaders and marginalized, side-by-side.

Both grounding and divisive

Misfits from all corners of society, drawn towards an anchor.


Leaders and marginalized, side-by-side.

Souls fed, questions held, trauma healed.

Misfits from all corners of society, drawn towards an anchor.

An integrated whole - faith and life, in and of the world - intertwined.


Souls fed, questions held, trauma healed.

Why this flailing progressive place?

An integrated whole - faith and life, in and of the world - intertwined.

Why church?

-Janet Tilstra


October 23, 2023

Jan Hallan

Jan Hallan has a ministry of financial wisdom.  She served at SCSU for 15 years in her career and serves Salem on our Congregational Council.  Jan is married to Michelle Terhar and they live on the East Side of St. Cloud.

Why Church?

The blessing of belonging and participating in a church community, such as Salem, provides opportunities for growth and support in my spiritual journey. As a Child of God, much of my own growth is directly linked to relationships formed within those communities. 

My spiritual growth is enhanced by the love and support of God’s people who are open to sharing their own experiences with me. Gathering with others for worship and celebration deepens that experience. Salem’s church family offers me an opportunity to walk with others while seeking out and doing God’s will.  

Experiencing God’s presence in worship, prayer, devotion, meditation, nature and dreams personalizes my relationship with God, but in many cases I was introduced to those experiences by God through others.

-Jan Hallan


Cynthia Hogenson

October 19, 2023


October 18, 2023

Greg Nastrom

Greg Nastrom serves the National Guard as a trainer for pilots in his retirement.  Greg was raised in a different Christian tradition, but finds himself at home with the Lutherans’ demeanor and historical liturgy. Greg is married to Darlene, they frequently travel around the world.

Why Church?

If “Church” means the collection of all believers throughout time and all places who make up the Body of Christ, then I “Church” because I am a believer. 

If, however, “church” means a definite group in a specific place and time, such as  Salem Lutheran Church, then my reasons are more diverse. There are carrots and sticks associated with being part of a church. 

The Big Stick is the third commandment, that we honor the sabbath and keep it holy. The small catechism explains that this means that we must not shy away from regularly hearing the spoken word and exercising the sacraments; to me that means hearing sermons and attending communion. The sermons I could get using the radio or internet, as I sometimes do, but I need to show up in church for communion. 

Next, consider the carrots that entice me to go to church. Col 3:16 tells me this is where we “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” I certainly appreciate and benefit from the teaching and admonishment of others, especially when it’s done with wisdom. 

Another carrot that goes with church is that it fills my human needs to be part of a group by having personal interactions when socializing with others before and after service or at special events. People sometimes speak of their church family, and I understand what they mean. 

Another carrot is that the church does social outreach programs helping others; on a local scale we might point to the Fare for All program, and on a larger scale we might include Lutheran Social Services or even Lutheran World Relief. The popularity of the many civic organizations (such as the  Lions Club, which I belonged to for years) is clear evidence that all people need to help  others. Of course, many of these organizations, like the Lions Club, have a lot of fun as  well as the serious business of helping others, but then, so does Salem Lutheran Church. 

So, we see that there are carrots and sticks to explain why I Church. But, finally, I think that sometimes I go to church out of habit developed over many years. 

Greg Nastrom


October 16, 2023

Emily Zemple

Emily Zemple has a ministry of healing as a nurse at CentraCare Hospital in St. Cloud, MN. Emily is married to Brian and they have recently been joined by baby Callan.

Why Church?

We have so many things vying for our attention, so why drive to an old brick building on a Sunday morning? Church has grown and changed over the centuries, and I hope it continues to be relevant in our lives. These are a few of the reasons why Church is still part of my life:

  1. Roots - The roots of church are hope, grace, forgiveness and love, and these give me a structure to grow from. The church supports these roots by reinforcing the teachings of Jesus and providing a group to help hold me accountable to live more like Jesus. I come back to these roots as I navigate the challenges of life. I can also grow spiritually from these roots in my relationship to God and with my church family. 

  1. Comfort - Since change is the normal and seems to happen faster all the time, the traditions and format of worship services bring comfort with their familiarity and routine. Church is also a safe place to ask questions and talk through hard conversations. When I have struggled with my faith or other aspects in my life, I’ve also found comfort in knowing the church is there no matter what, and I can go back whenever I’m ready. 

  1. Restoration - Attending church refreshes and restores my soul with a place to intentionally connect with God, with faithful people and with myself. The music at church speaks to me in ways that spoken words can’t. Music connects people and gives us a way to worship together.  Church is a place to celebrate together and fill my cup for the week ahead.  

  1. Community - My biggest driver for being part of a church is being part of the community. The church setting provides common ground and a space to build relationships. This community creates space for conversations with depth and meaning. People here ask questions and encourage conversations that help me explore more about myself and my place and purpose in the bigger world.

    Being part of something bigger than me also encourages me to think about others, and the church facilitates many opportunities to serve others both at the church and out in the world, creating a better community for all of us! 

Could I find all of these things outside of the church? I guess I could if I wanted to do a lot of searching for people with a common foundation that holds us together, and if I had the will to perpetually hold myself accountable to the person I want to be. I know from experience that I won’t do that on my own.  

I have taken breaks from church, and I always miss it. I need the people, the support, and the certainty that there’s always something bigger than me working to make the world a better place. We’re so much stronger together!     

- Emily Zemple