Remembering Pastor Brent
+ In Memoriam +
Rev. Brent D. Christianson
September 12, 1951 – May 13, 2020
Campus Pastor & Director 1993 – 2014
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Pastor Brent Christianson, who faithfully served as Campus Pastor and Director at Lutheran Campus Ministry in Madison from 1993 to 2014.
Pastor Brent is remembered by students as a gifted preacher and mentor, one happy to sit down for a long chat, a lover of the Boundary Waters, and a creator of soup and community. He was a valued colleague and advocate for Campus Ministry in the ELCA. Pastor Brent was also a lifelong poet who published seven books, including “Good Grief” a 52-week devotional for those experiencing illness, loss, or other life transitions.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Pastor Brent retired in 2014 and later moved with his wife Becky to Northfield, Minnesota. We surround Becky and all of Pastor Brent’s family and friends with prayer in this time of grief.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Brent. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
Memories of Pastor Brent from the LCM Community
Here we have gathered the submitted stories and photos from Pastor Brent’s ministry at UW-Madison. You can contribute to this effort by going to https://form.jotform.com/201343272758051.
From Pastor Bryan Anderson: The year was 1993. My twin brother Ryan and myself served on the call committee that was seeking to find an ordained pastor to lead the ministry at the Lutheran Campus Center, Madison. One particular evening, we had been tasked with greeting candidates interviewing for the position. The time Brent was to come, we each were posted at the two entrances to the campus center. We did not know what Brent looked like, but we did know we were to be on the lookout for a male in his younger 40s. That was all we knew. I was at the front entrance, my brother at the side door. Several possible individuals had made entrance, but none was Brent. It got significantly past the time of the interview. Finally, a guy came up in Birkenstock sandals, shaggy hair with a colorful but wrinkled madras shirt and khaki shorts. I flagged my brother over to quickly have a look. We both decided the individual could not be the pastoral candidate. We quickly assumed he was one of the frequent homeless State Street persons who dropped into the campus center in those days to use a restroom or sit on the couches for a rest. We did not pay much attention to him until he introduced himself saying, “Hi, my name is Brent…” And the rest is history as they say…We never let Brent forget that story all the years we knew him!
Bent was a down-to-earth pastor of the people, a bohemian character who could make some good bread and soup and could talk with just about anyone. He was very much into social issues. You could say, he was “woke” far ahead of his time. Brent was an avowed liberal and unabashed at sharing his feelings. He authored devotionals for students where he delighted in debunking what he considered was archaic in the scriptures. I remember he could get quite nutty at times, but he had a sincere heart. His songs, poetry and wine and cheese socials became the stuff of legends. I think his greatest strength was ministering to postgraduates. He really connected with those who styled themselves as intellectuals, fluent in the latest philosophies, politics and theological trends. Brent played the devil’s advocate very well with a wry smile. I admired how he helped some very troubled and even strange individuals sort out complicated problems in his counseling office. I will miss his tartan kilts and his firm convictions that sometimes showed up in an explosive temper. Brent was a truly unique individual. I left the ELCA back in 2010. When Brent found out he was very upset and severed our relationship. Though we never got to reconcile before his passing, I still consider him a friend and I would like to think he would have considered me his friend too…
From Ben Lenz: While I am saddened by his passing, my memories of Brent put a smile on my face. How can they not given he’s the one who introduced me to the Boundary Waters?! His guidance paddling the waters of life are a spiritual treasure. His strength as a leader was truly impressive. His ability to flip that canoe onto his shoulders seemed superheroic, while his upbeat demeanor was a supportive force. On campus, his sermons also strengthened me at a time when I needed it most. I am forever grateful for the experiences Brent shared with me.
From Glen Lee: I retired from UW Center for Limnology in 1996 and was asked by my Pastor at St. Stephens in Monona to serve on the Campus Ministry Board. The room where we held our monthly meetings had some of the squeakiest chairs ever made. I volunteered to attempt fixing them. That was impossible task! Luckily I found out that a state agency was getting an upgrade in their offices and the chairs that were being replaced were Free! Through some help from my wife we arranged to get some new chairs. I served on the Ministry board for about 8 years in the late 1900’s and early 2000’s. I will always have fond memories of Pastor Brent who was dedicated to keep the UW Lutheran Campus ministry number one! As I recall the UW Lutheran ministry was the first such ministry in the country.
From Annie Ingebritson Erdmann, 2008: Brent and I shared a deep love of our shared heritage. I interviewed him for one of my Scandinavian Studies classes – click here to listen.
From Anna Engstrom, 2011: Pastor Brent came to visit me in the hospital when I was really sick during college. It was such a generous and selfless gesture.
From Tony Mathew, 2008: As a member of Luther Memorial Church, I got to know Pastor Brent at a young age. He would give sermons the 2nd Sunday of each month. As a young choir member I would tend to doze off. But once I got into college and started attending the LCC I got to know Pastor Brent much more. I remember his great cooking, teachings and of course his music.
I served as the LCC worship chair and was also the house person as well. Pastor Brent was always encouraging and teaching me to look at life in different ways. He was very open to the styles we had for worship. He always greeted everyone who walked through the building.
I will miss his sermons, songs, and Monday SOUP conversations, but will always treasure them. He was a great mentor and a friend. He will be missed and his stories will live forever.
From Emily Guse, 2017: I was a UW freshman in 2012, so I didn’t have the fortune of having Pastor Brent for all four years. But in those short two years, Brent welcomed me and made me feel like an important member of the LCC community. I will always remember his warmth, humor, and ability to bond with anyone.
From Andrew Braham, 2002: Pastor Christianson, you will be missed on so many levels, this is one of the lighter ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzpURFv4vqo
From Diane Munroe, MS Geology 1998 and MS Water Resources Management 1999: The Lutheran Campus Center was a haven for me and a very important part of my time in graduate school. Pastor Brent made the center and Wednesday evening services part of what I considered my family and I will always be grateful for that! My husband Jeff and I had the great honor and pleasure of having Pastor Brent officiate our wedding at Luther Memorial and here are some pictures of that day (11/13/99) and our rehearsal (11/12/99). I feel like we reconnect with him every year when we watch our wedding video on our anniversary and that will take on even more meaning for us in the coming years.
From Chad Helminger, 1998: My wife and I will always remember Pastor Brent. He was always so welcome and friendly. He created a ‘safe’ place on a large campus where we could let our guard down, remember what is most important, and spend time getting closer to our Savior. May he rest in peace comforted by the countless lives that he impacted.
From Jared Schmitthenner, 2012: I was part of the LCC as a grad student from 2007-2012. Pastor Brent was one of the first people I met outside of the physics department, and he immediately made me feel welcome. Even after my time at Wisconsin, I counted him as a close friend, and I was honored to have him officiate my wedding. Brent was a great teacher and minister who influenced so many peoples’ lives. We will always remember you, Brent.
From Erik Rudeen, 1995: Pastor Brent was usually smiling, had a terrific sense of humor and an infectious laugh. No matter how busy he was, he always had time for a conversation. I remember shoveling the sidewalk once at the campus center after a heavy snowfall and Pastor Brent stood outside to chat for several minutes before going inside to make us some hot coffee. He was a gifted preacher with a deep understanding of the Christian faith, especially the amusing habits of Lutherans.
From: Kendra Stensven, 2000: I was a member of Luther Memorial as an undergrad (was married shortly after graduating as well), and got to know Pastor Brent during my undergrad years at LCC and when he preached at LMC. We were fortunate to have Pastor Brent baptize our son Emmet on Mother’s Day in 2009. It was special for us to share Emmet with the UW/LMC community and also host my local Wisconsin family (we live in NYC). Pastor Brent also connected me to another new mom/UW grad here in NYC that year, and it was nice to have someone to work thru the early months of motherhood with, thanks to Brent’s connection. We are saddened by his passing, but so happy to know he’s touched so many lives!
From Tim Hansen: Brent was a good friend and colleague. The word has lost a good poet and a better person.
From Ulrich Rosenhagen: Brent was one of the first people I met when visiting Madison while contemplating a move to the nascent Lubar Institute. We talked often, though not regularly, while he was serving as LCM’s chaplain. We shared theological perspectives and concerns for the future of the church. We connected. It doesn’t happen often that you feel you know someone though you just met him not too long ago. He was very supportive of the interfaith work at my center. He told my students they are doing divine work. I lost a friend.