Meet our pastors!
Pastor Mike brings a wealth of experience to Bethel Lutheran Church. Born and raised in Odessa, Texas, Pastor Mike developed a real appreciation for Latin culture. This lead him to study Latin American history in college where he graduated with a BA from Texas Lutheran University. He received a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His doctoral project was on the Lutheran Future in Postmodern America.
He has served as pastor for an inner-city African American church in Dallas, Texas, a large rural congregation in Iowa, and as a mission developer and solo pastor of a new start in Indianapolis. His most current role was the Community Pastor at Zoar Lutheran Church in Perrysburg, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. Pastor Mike’s passions in ministry include preaching, worship, community outreach, evangelism, hospitality, and stewardship. During his academic studies and work with congregations, Pastor Mike traveled abroad to Spanish-speaking countries. He studied Spanish at UNAM in Mexico City, helped establish a Lutheran mission for three months in Florencia Varela, a poor suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, studied at the Comunidad Evangelica de Chile in Santiago, and took three-month sabbaticals in the Yucatan, Mexico and Southern Spain with his family. Pastor Mike is proficient in Spanish.
His writings include bible studies on Genesis, The Gospel of Mark, and Revelation. He believes the grace of Jesus Christ leads into a life of peace and justice. As a “rock hound,” he is an avid fossil collector and loves spending time on the beaches of Lake Superior. He describes himself as a real “people person” and looks forward to joining Bethel for the new adventure God is bringing.
When asked what caught his attention about the opportunity to serve at Bethel, Pastor Mike says it is his belief that Bethel is poised to become the spiritual epicenter for the greater Madison metropolitan area. Forbes magazine identifies Madison as a destination city for millennials to move to and live. Many of those living in downtown. Bethel is at the crest of a growing community, the seat of state government, and the cultural center of a population of over half a million people (Dane, Iowa, and Columbia counties). Given its geographic location, rich heritage, and ELCA roots, Bethel is poised to surpass both its memory and expectations to reach a new generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastor John O. Swanson was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, but spent most of his early years in Iowa, first in Des Moines and then in Bettendorf as the son of a Lutheran pastor. John graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois with a degree in Elementary Education. After working several jobs, including the position of Director of Christian Education and Youth at a Lutheran Church in Sterling, Illinois, he entered the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
During the summer between his first and second year in seminary, John married Beth Miller in the summer of 1992. After seminary graduation and ordination, John was called to Bethel as an associate pastor in the summer of 1994.
Beth, who is a Speech Language Pathologist, works at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she supervises graduate students. She also has a private practice, working with children facing a variety of speech and language challenges. John and Beth have two children: Lydia, born in 1997, and Caleb, born in 2002.
John is an avid sports fan. His areas of ministry at Bethel include confirmation and youth.
Meet our staff!
Judy is a teacher whose career has included teaching low-functioning, non-verbal autistic children, Middle School health, and Elementary Physical Education. She has a BA in Health/Physical Education from Glassboro State College (Rowan University) in New Jersey, and a MA in Health Education and Health Administration from St. Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Judy was a Franciscan sister for 12 years and continues to minister to others as a Reiki Master/Teacher. She is a graduate of the New England Synod School of Lay Ministry and has been the Dean of the New England School of Lay Ministry since 2009.
Jeff has been on staff since 2009. He started attending Bethel in 1978, he and his wife Maureen were married here in 1980 and they have two children who were baptized here (Ben & Marta). Jeff is active in the Bethel Choir as well as the Resettlement Ministry.
Jeff’s previous work experience has been in theatre management, prepping apartments, service stations and retail grocery primarily in Pricing & Customer Service.
Jeff grew up living on campuses of Lutheran churches with k-8 schools through the ages 3 to 19. Most of these years were spent in Shawano city of 6,000, and a church of 4,000 with the school of 370 students. As long as Jeff can remember he was actively involved in setup and teardowns and making sure things were ready for events. Jeff’s father was a teacher/organist/choir director. Jeff’s mom worked for a Lutheran bookstore/mail-order supply business. His big sister Shelly is a church organist/musician on the West Bank in the New Orleans area. He also had a grandfather and great-grandfather who were Lutheran pastors in Wisconsin. These things have helped prepare Jeff for the varied activities and working relationships in a large church like Bethel.
Jeff feels very blessed to work at a church that has its doors open 7 days a week with broad missions.
Lexa Brossart is from Fargo, North Dakota, but is currently living in Madison as a graduate student at UW-Madison. She loves building, creating, and finding solutions, which ultimately led her to engineering. She got her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arizona (Bear Down!) before coming to UW-Madison (On Wisconsin!) to complete her Masters in Materials Science and Engineering. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Electrical Engineering at UW-Madsion. Her goal is to develop medical devices to fulfill her passion for creating human health solutions.
When not busy with school, she enjoys reading, crafting, and playing golf. She is excited to combine her love of all things tech as IT Support Specialist at Bethel.
Rachel found her home in Madison in May 2019 after graduating from her Master’s of Social Work program at Columbia University in New York City. Soon after her big move, she found out about Bethel Horizons in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and worked over the summer as a camp counselor. There, she was enamored by the spirit of God in the people and in the environment around her. Rachel feels strongly that God works in our hearts in powerful ways when we are in the wild–beit the wild of nature, or in the chaotic throes of our day-to-day lives navigating a wild world.
Her interest in supporting communities, specifically of young people who are navigating the wild in their own lives brought her to work on an opioid intervention initiative in NYC through her work as a Forensic Social Worker at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where she provided complicated grief counseling, investigated the social and familial aspects of addiction and substance use, and developed a model of responding to youth and families impacted by overdose-related deaths.
Before she worked and studied in NYC, Rachel lived in Chicago following her studies at Loyola University Chicago where she worked as a Social Worker in a Youth Center on the south side. She developed and ran STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) enrichment programs, a youth choir, girls empowerment groups, and provided counseling to youth and their parents experiencing gun violence, gang recruitment, police violence, under-resourced schools, and intergenerational trauma.
Following her work at the youth center on the south side, she served as a community support specialist at a community based mental health agency where she provided ongoing mental health care to community members experiencing serious mental illness and substance use disorders in neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Rachel has also contributed to research on creating a model for youth mentoring relationships in Chicago and developed and implemented a self-defense program for marginalized genders experiencing hate crimes.
Rachel found her passion and call to serve God through working in places where people are seeking respite in a wild world. Her experience working with families navigating social systems, developing programs for youth, and providing one-on-one support has strengthened her commitment to nurturing and fortifying the communities through which we feel freed by the experience of a radically loving God, and through whom Jesus liberates us personally, and from the bonds of an unjust world.
Rachel has a passion for music, she plays violin, guitar, and piano, and experiences God through music. She incorporates worship through music in weekly Youth Quakes for middle and high school-aged young people to express our relationship with God when words don’t quite tell the whole story.
She is energized by the promise and excitement of a community in Christ at Bethel that will lovingly engage young people and contribute to their spiritual growth and discernment of their places in the Body of Christ.
Katie (Czechowicz) Gerlach has been a lifelong member of the Bethel family; baptized, confirmed, and most recently married to her husband, Nathan Gerlach (saxophonist at 11:15 service). She has had the privilege of being the choir director of Creative Worship Singers, as well as the director of the Contemporary Worship Team (11:15am service). Katie is also the choir director at Cambridge High School and is often involved in a variety of other musical endeavors in and around the Madison area.
Pianist for 11:15am Service, Substitute Pianist, Children’s Choirs and Bethel Jr!
Patrick Kenney is a pianist, composer, singer, and songwriter who has been playing at Bethel since his freshman year at UW-Madison in 2007. He is a graduate of UW-Madison with degrees in piano performance and mathematics. He plays piano for the contemporary Worship Team, Creative Worship Singers, and various Sunday School programs. He has written over 20 psalm settings that are regularly featured at Bethel services.
Patrick sings and plays with the Piano Fondue dueling piano collective in Madison and throughout the Midwest. He also plays in a band called the Trophy Husbands (formerly Nathan Gerlach and Friends) with some of his fellow Bethel musicians. Patrick has released a self-produced album called “Patchwork Man” and is working on a follow-up release. He is an actuary at CUNA Mutual Group (where he also plays piano for the employee choir).
Chelsea Lauing directs both Joyful Noise and Spirited Sound choirs. Chelsea has been directing music at Bethel since 2008. A singer since birth, she has added piano, trombone, bassoon, French horn and cello to her repertoire since then.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010 with a Bachelor of Music in Choral and General Music Education. While in school, she studied contemporary music performance at the Scuola di Musica Oltrarno in Florence, Italy.
During the week, Chelsea is the Director of Philanthropic Giving at the Morgridge Institute for Research, raising money for research aimed at curing the world’s deadliest diseases. She also sings with the UW Madrigal Singers. Chelsea is grateful for the opportunity to enrich the lives of Bethel’s children and families through music.
Cindy is an educator in the Sun Prairie schools, grew up at Bethel and has her own children in our Sunday School program.
Dona has been employed with Bethel Lutheran Church since April 19, 2004. She has been a member of Bethel since May 1998. Dona has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Upper Iowa University, an Associate Degree in Finance from Madison Area Technical College (now called Madison College) and graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School in Administrative Assistance. Dona was born in Madison, WI and grew up in Monona.
Dona married Craig Meyer in 1999 at Bethel, and they live happily in Madison. Dona enjoys making jewelry, painting, reading, working with energy healing, spending time with family and friends and has helped her husband Craig put TV shows on air at WYOU (Community Television.) She is an advocate of natural healing, loves yoga and meditation. Dona is also a Reiki Master. She believes that body, mind and spirit have to be in harmony for a person to be truly happy and healthy.
Pam is a highly regarded teacher whose career has reached from teaching elementary children in Monona to seminary students in Maine to adults in congregations. She has a BA in Elementary/Special Education from Carthage College, an MS in Educational Psychology from UW-Madison and a PhD in Religious Studies from Marquette University. She is also certified in Spiritual Direction.
Christal comes to Bethel from Platteville, Wisconsin, where she previously worked as a Senior Media Specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for over 12 years. She graduated from UW-Platteville in 2002 with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Imaging and Photography. She is excited to start her new journey at Bethel.
Christal is very passionate about helping people. She started out volunteering as a Big Sister and that progressed into becoming a foster parent. Christal has been a foster parent since 2013 and has fostered many children during that time.
In her spare time, she enjoys watching sports and movies, photography and traveling. You also might see her cheering for the Florida Gators – though she is a huge Badger fan as well.