Pastor Josh Graber joins us after serving Mt. Zion Lutheran in Wauwatosa as their Interim Senior Pastor. Prior to that he was the Founder, Developer and Director of Abundant Life Together. The primary focus of ALT was developing and facilitating a discipleship gap year for young adults called ALT Year. Pastor Josh based this ELCA ministry in New Haven, Connecticut before moving it to Toledo, Ohio. He has a passion for ministry that reaches people where they are at while inviting them into a life of faith that engages a love for humanity, art, nature, and justice.
Pastor Josh was born in Washington State near Holden Village, the remote Lutheran retreat center in an abandoned mining village deep in the Cascade Mountains. This unique Christian community shaped the lives of his family and their friends. In 2017, Pastor Josh returned to Holden to serve as visiting pastor.
Pastor Josh grew up in a small town on Lake Pepin, a wide point of the Mississippi River. His parents still live there in their retirement. Pastor Josh’s father was an English teacher, lay minister and poet and his mother was a homemaker, writer, and waitress at his uncle’s restaurant in Pepin, WI. He has an older sister who lives with her family in Minnesota and a brother who is a professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana where he lives with his family. Pastor Josh spent much of his summers growing up either at his family’s rustic cabin in the North Woods or the Mount Carmel Retreat Center in Alexandria, Minnesota where his aunt and uncle were directors.
Pastor Josh received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah, WA, and his Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He was chosen for the Transition into Ministry program during his First Call to Trinity Lutheran in Moorhead, MN which allowed him to meet famous theologians like Eugene Peterson and get specialized training through the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE). During his twelve years in ministry he has received training in community organizing, mission development, coaching, and interim leadership.
He spends much of his free time with his girlfriend, Sarah and her son Paul. Since moving to Milwaukee, he has taken improv classes at Comedy Sportz and Ampersand Theater. He loves exploring the small businesses and restaurants of Milwaukee’s many neighborhoods and the parks and lakefront of this beautiful part of Wisconsin. He enjoys sports, playing fantasy football with his cousins, and taking photographs.
He is happy to be called to serve at First Lutheran, where he hopes people remember Jesus said that last will be First! This is his personal ministry statement that he submitted in his ELCA Rostered Minister Profile, “As a pastor I get to help people connect stories of their lives to God’s story of grace, love, and hope. I get to convene God’s conversation with humanity about the gift of Jesus Christ and connect it to the stories of justice and transformation in the communities and the world around me. The power of my witness comes in knowing that as I carry these stories, and am blessed to share them, they also carry me.”