Williams Bay, Wis.
Partners. Jeanette Bialas and Jonathan Strandjord began their partnership at Luther College in the early 1970s. Jonathan, a fourth generation Luther student, had come to Decorah from Astoria, Oregon; Jeanette had come from Elroy, Wisconsin, the first in her family to go to college. For more than 35 years since they met, they have been answering their call: to study and to teach; to minister and administer; to write; and, especially, to preach the gospel. Thoughtful, quietly but insistently egalitarian, and always good-humored, they have been serving and leading their congregations, their communities and the Church.
In 1979 the Strandjords were among the pioneers of husband-wife co-pastoring. In their first call, to Richland County, Wisconsin, they partnered in ministering, and also in goat-raising, gardening, and reciprocal tick removal. Jeanette became a founding member of the Richland County Stop Domestic Violence Program, chaired its board, and served as a crisis line worker. She also worked in the Richland County Refugee Resettlement Program. One can imagine that Jeanette might occasionally have had to insist, gently, when someone called for the pastor, that she was IT. But the longevity and success of this call no doubt told other congregations that married co-pastors could be a very good deal indeed.
Jonathan obtained a doctorate in systematic theology in 1996 and has been Director of Theological Education in the ELCA since 1998.
Among his responsibilities, Jonathan directs a Lilly grant that addresses the affordability of seminary education.
His commitment to keeping seminarians out of debt is personal as well as administrative.
The Strandjord family has funded an endowed scholarship honoring Jonathan’s late father, Arne Strandjord, a scholarship that comes complete with red socks, to mark Arne Strandjord’s insistence that “every day is Pentecost and Reformation.”