Pastor Jon Gathje - The early Years
Meet Pastor Jon Gathje or as some in the congregation like to call him PJ.  PJ is the fairly new fearless leader of our little seaside chapel.
When I sat down to interview PJ, it was a beautiful day with the sun glistening off the Pacific, and a nice breeze coming through his window with a view of that same amazing Pacific.  There is a brightly colored bunch of flowers displayed on the seating table.  "How pretty, where did those come from?"  I ask.  "One of the ladies always makes sure that I get flowers from Sunday's service."  We have about 45 minutes for the interview.  For a small church it is a busy church.  PJ has a line-up of 2 more committee meetings after this.
PJ was born in Wayne, Nebraska November 27, 1981, Thanksgiving weekend.  "I was born during a giant snow blizzard.  This will be a common theme."  He says half jokingly.  Pastor Jon has one sister who was born in 1984.  His parents were high school sweethearts and are still married today.
Pastor Jon grew up in a small town with both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles all living within driving distance of each other.  "Everybody was just there,"  PJ states, describing the closeness of all the family.  I ask him if he is Norwegian.  "I am 1/4 Scandinavian, a good solid 1/2 German and 1/4 Irish, English, Scottish.  Pretty much Northern European.  There is nothing interesting in my heritage.  Even my German ancestors are from northern Germany almost Denmark."
"Discussing his school years, PJ tells me he graduated high school in 2000 from a public high school with 74 kids in the graduating class and he graduated 5th in the class.  "I was not too happy about that."  He begins to tell me.  "Fun fact; I graduated 5th because of a couple of Bs.  Not from Pre-Calculus or Biology or Introductory to Physical Science.  My Bs came from Choir."  I burst out laughing and write in my notebook that our Pastor and the Choir Director of our church was a subpar, high school choir student.  "Well, I was a solid musician but less solid when it came to classroom behavior, which should shock no one."  I ask him if he was a little bit of a rebel.  Not really willing to admit it, he says, "Let's just leave it at that."
We circle back around to his life growing up in the church.  Pastor was baptized on January 10th, 1982 in the middle of a blizzard at Redeemer Lutheran Church.  Redeemer split off from St. Paul's Lutheran Church which was located just down the street from Redeemer.  The spit occurred around WWI because at the time St. Paul's only wanted to do German services.  Redeemer decided to move away from them because the pastor was receiving death threats and they did not want to seem sympathetic to the German cause at the time.  Almost 100 years later and when PJ was in the 8th grade Redeemer and St. Paul's merged and became Our Savior Lutheran Church.  Pastor was confirmed in that church and spent the rest of his high school years there.
"I don't ever really remember a time when I did not go to church.  It's Sunday so you go to church.  Particularly with my Grandma.  I pretty much went with Grandma, always."  When Pastor speaks about Grandma Dar you can hear the affection and love he has for her.
Pastor Jon feels that there is comfort, grace and hope in congregations that have the ability to do things cross generationally.  He feels that having babies to 80 year olds is what makes a congregation healthy.  "I have friends who go to church where the oldest person is 35.  I don't know what to do with that.  When I go back to visit Wayne and we go to church; I have 80 Grandmas, I have 50 Step-Grandpas and that's a pretty important thing for the faith life; to have a huge number of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas."
Another important part of Faith, Pastor Jon feels, is at a very young age to actively participate in worship.  Pastor Jon sang solos at church starting in the 4th grade on and playing the trumpet at church from 6th grade on.  "To be actively involved in worship and to feel like my presence matters shaped me in so many aspects of my life.  I had such a good experience being actively involved in worship."
"Pastor Jon believes that his faith, his music and his Grandma and all his grandmas and grandpas at church were his connection to worship.  PJ feels that there needs to be a connection between our youngest members and our oldest members.  That everyone needs to feel welcomed and an important part of the church and church community."
Interview by Lisa Waldo.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church
of Palos Verdes
31290 Palos Verdes Drive West
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
310-377-6806