The Rev. Mark David “Em” Johnson (they/them) grew up in Cranston RI. They were drawn to the church by their love of music; Em’s first part-time job during high school was as the minister of music at St Matthew-Trinity Lutheran Church in Pawtucket RI, where their parents had been married years earlier. They were graduated from Cranston High School East in 2001. Em then accepted the position of minister of music at St James Lutheran Church in Barrington RI, and was also hired as the Parish Administrator of St Paul Lutheran Church in Warwick RI.
It was around this time when the connection between faith, music, and leadership strengthened. A friendship with the pastor at St Paul helped Em feel at home in a church that had always been welcoming, but had not always been accepting. Their pastor kept pushing Em toward seminary, although they tried to run from that idea. Instead, Em moved to St Petersburg FL, working as a musician for two United Methodist congregations. Next they spent a year living in Stuttgart, Germany. Beside traveling throughout Europe, Em’s time in Germany also saw the completion of the Bachelor of Arts degree in Management from American Public University.
Em finally decided to stop running from the call to ministry. They applied to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United Lutheran Seminary), moved back to the United States, and began coursework that fall. During seminary, Em served as a field education student at St Paul Lutheran Church in Olney (Philadelphia), a chaplaincy intern at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and a pastoral intern at St John’s Lutheran Church in Easton PA. Em was graduated from the seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in 2015, and was the only student that year to complete a concentration in interfaith studies. Em was called to serve as pastor of St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Trenton NJ, and was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament on December 4, 2015.
While serving at St Michael’s, Em returned to seminary and earned the Master of Sacred Theology degree in Church and Society from Drew University in 2018. Their thesis, “Trenton: A Food Desert in the Garden State,” presented a theological approach to food and explored how Trenton had become a food desert. They also profiled a number of sacred and secular organizations which work to address hunger in Trenton.
In addition to hunger-related issues, Em is passionate about gun violence prevention, interfaith and ecumenical relationships, urban theory and ministry, and queer theology. They enjoy coffee, hiking, and languages.
So that’s Mark David Johnson. Welcome to this blog – a collection of anecdotes, discussion starters, and stories of faith. Take a look around. Comment on things. Check out Em’s music. Follow them on Twitter. And even share your story! But most of all, keep looking for those places where God is making all things new.