Rev. Sarah Goettsch, WTS ’01 and Rev. [Dr.] Jan Rippentrop [Schnell], WTS ’04 Start JustChurch


There’s a new kind of ministry in town. JustChurch.

JustChurch is not a new congregation; it is the name of an ELCA Saturday evening worship service supported by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Iowa City, Iowa, hosted by Merge, “a coworking space and hub for innovation in the heart of downtown Iowa City,” as their website states, is led by Rev. Sarah Goettsch, WTS `01 and Rev. [Dr.] Jan Rippentrop [Schnell], WTS `04, and offered freely to all people.

“JustChurch is not a project or effort of any of the existing committees of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church; it is an embodiment of how I have come to understand my calling to serve both Gloria Dei, students who have graduated beyond the ministries of Lutheran Campus Ministry and the people of downtown Iowa City,” Goettsch says. “We are engaged in extensive research and interviews in the community with people not involved with churches and are eager to engage this population, not based on age or socio-economic demographic, but rather based on what folks who don’t come to church have to say; together, we offer our time and talents to this ministry. And we’re so excited.”

The ministry gets its name in two ways. First, by enacting worship that leads to justice. For example, as worship in the early church led people to acts of justice in Rome (and elsewhere), JustChurch will lead to substantive acts of justice in Iowa City and will partner with organizations in the Iowa City area which are already working in areas of social justice, including (but not limited to) issues of immigration, hunger, homelessness, racial prejudice, LGBTQ discrimination, education, the arts. All are welcome: skeptics/atheists/cynics/seekers/folks reluctant to set foot into any church building, folks from any or no church background.

Second, They seek to be just church; in other words, no church council, nothing to sign, no bulletin, no screen or hymn board, no name tags, no membership, no classes. They offer a simple Christian service of Holy Communion, rooted in ancient ritual and tradition, where both the unwashed hand and the executive hand reach out, and both receive. Worshippers may use their phones to access Scripture or a visual image. Sacred readings may come from the Bible; additional readings may come from other wisdom sources, and 100% of the proceeds from the offering will go back into a designated community charity. No labels of traditional or contemporary will be used.

“We offer gritty preaching, even dialogical and interactive, engaging those uncomfortable, authentic and exhilarating places where the world intersects the kingdom of heaven, those same places where God calls us to be. Just church. JustChurch,” Goettsch and [Schnell] explain. “We commend it to those in this Iowa City community who find themselves disenfranchised from organized church, who feel harmed or skeptical towards denominational religion, who are seeking to worship, but not necessarily join.”

The new Saturday evening ELCA worship service will be held at the new Merge location on the pedestrian mall, across from the Bread Garden beginning April 21, 2018.

WTS joins the ELCA in celebrating the ways women, women of color, and LGBTQ+ persons have contributed to the life of the church and its people across the country. Will join us by giving in honor of a WTS woman, woman of color, or LGBTQ+ faith leader who has impacted your life? Your gift makes it possible for WTS to continue preparing leaders like these for an ever-changing church in need of the good news of Jesus Christ.