Students in field

Sarah Semmler Smith Named New Campus Pastor

August 26, 2019

Sarah Semmler Smith

Finlandia University is excited to introduce its new pastor, Sarah Semmler Smith. Semmler Smith is moving to the area after spending the past six years as an associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI. 

I am so pleased that Pastor Sarah is joining our community as Finlandia’s next campus pastor,” said FinnU’s President, Dr. Philip Johnson. “Sarah is theological astute, pastorally wise and fun. It’s a great blend for our campus community.”  

Growing up, Semmler Smith never envisioned herself becoming a pastor. 

“I grew up Lutheran and my father was an ELCA pastor, but growing up I never wanted to be a pastor,” said Semmler Smith. “I first felt my calling in college when I found myself going to church even when I didn’t have to.

“I found myself intrigued by theology, psychology and philosophy, and then I worked at a bible camp where I was able to hang out with kids and share God’s love all summer. Between those things, I figured that God might be calling me into the ministry.”

Semmler Smith, who is originally from New London, MN, obtained her BA in religious studies from St. Olaf College then spent a year teaching English abroad in Thailand with her now husband. Upon arriving home, she returned to school and completed her Master of Divinity at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. After graduation, she spent three years at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stanley, WI before moving to Eau Claire. 

Now Semmler Smith, along with her husband and two children, is planning a move to the Copper Country this September. 

“Campus ministry intrigued me for several reasons,” said Semmler Smith. “I look forward to spending a lot of time with this awesome student population of emerging adults who are in their formative years and to get to know, not just their names, but their stories. I’m hoping that I fulfill my role for the Finlandia community as a listening ear, prayer partner, advocate and cheerleader.

“I came from an ELCA college myself and I want to use whatever gifts I have to uplift the entire community.”

“Her position and role is foundational for Finlandia living out its vocation in higher education,” said Johnson. “We take students seriously as whole human beings: mind, heart and body. Tending to the whole, well, is how smaller colleges and universities do higher education. Pastor Sarah will do such tending with great care, deep listening and positive energy.”   

When asked about the snow, she admitted she enjoys skiing and is excited to seeing just how much the Copper Country receives. 

“We are excited to get to know what the towns are like and just diving in and getting to know what’s unique about the area,” said Semmler Smith.

Semmler Smith will officially be installed as part of Finlandia’s By Faith community worship honoring the Suomi Seminary at 11am on Sept. 22  at the Chapel of St. Matthew. The event is free and open to the public.

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