Photo by Joelle Colville-Hanson

About 650 people braved double digit below zero wind chills (even Nadia tweeted “It is irrationally cold here”) and blowing snow to come out to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints last night at St. John Lutheran in Cedar Falls, Iowa.



Pastor Bolz-Weber has gotten a lot of press lately, most of it focusing on her tattoos and salty language, but she defies being boxed in, labeled or shunted off to a “type”.

Her book, “Pastrix” (so named because that is the word her detractors have used to marginalize and dismiss her) chronicles her journey from rejecting the judgmentalism of her religious upbringing, through addiction and despair, to her discovery of the heart of the Gospel of God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance in Lutheran liturgy and theology.  If that sounds like an unlikely journey, she would be the first to agree.

Photo by Leslie Kebschull

She also would be the first to agree that her way of delivering the Gospel is not for everyone.  But she also points out that if she and her community are not what you look for in a church, there are plenty of other options out there, throughout most of Christendom, in fact.


But her style and her community provide a welcome and safe place for people who long for the message of God’s grace, and find solace in the rituals and liturgy of the Lutheran church, but who encounter roadblocks and obstacles in more mainstream Lutheran congregations.

Bishop Ullestad introduces Pastor Bolz-Weber Photo by Joelle Colville-Hanson

Bishop Ullestad introduces Pastor Bolz-Weber
Photo by Joelle Colville-Hanson

Although few of us may find ourselves in a community like Pastor Bolz-Weber’s, her message about millennials and the “nones” (those who, when asked about religious affiliation, will mark “none”) is relevant to anyone concerned about how the church can adjust to the changing world around us.

Photo by Leslie Kebschull

Photo by Leslie Kebschull

Her contention is that most nones have not rejected God or the Gospel at all.  She is convinced Lutherans, in particular, have a message people long to hear but we need to change the delivery system


Photo by Joelle Colville-Hanson

She’s not for everyone but even in Northeastern Iowa Synod, you could tell from the people who were there, from the conversations around me, questions and comments to her during the book signing,  (and the #Nadiastjohn tweeting) that Nadia taps into something in a lot of folks that we still aren’t reaching in most of our churches.  In that way, she is a prophet and a gift to our church.


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  1. Thanks for the update. I wish I could have been there.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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