Pastor & Staff
Pastor Mark Ditmanson
I am Mark Ditmanson, and I have served Bethlehem since 2001. I was ordained in 1986 and served at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in Northeast Minneapolis, and then Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church in Minneapolis before coming to Grand Marias. Prior to becoming a pastor I had worked as a behavior therapist in the MN Correctional System; I also served the A.L.C. as a short-term missionary in Japan.
Being a pastor in a church like Bethlehem is a great joy to me. To be able to serve the full diverse ministry areas of a congregation is a rich blessing. I am passionate about serving families all the way from the joys of baptism, the celebrations of graduations, weddings, and other milestones, through the path of accompanying members in illness, and into the heart-break of loss and the healing of grief. Bible Study and Family Ministry are my particular loves within pastoral ministry. In 2005 I completed my Doctor of Ministry degree focusing on how families can best help their children to grow in faith.
Jack Busche, Intern Pastor
Jack is the Intern Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran for two years, from June of 2019 to June of 2021. A native of Stratford, WI, Jack attended Princeton University for his A.B. in Religion, and is currently a candidate for ordination in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin-ELCA. While working here at Bethlehem, he is a full-time student at Luther Seminary through the new MDivX program, a two-year intensive course of study. He loves snow-shoeing, cooking (mostly the eating part), and playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Denise Murray, Office Manager
“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
Returning to Bethlehem has been a very welcoming homecoming for Denise, who was a former member many years. Denise joined the Bethlehem staff as the Office Manager in November 2018. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Organizational Management and Communications from Concordia – St. Paul; and is also a board certified Medical Laboratory Technician. (Funny side note: Denise has the job that her husband Tom did for many years!) She is a member at Lutsen Evangelical Lutheran Church, where husband, Pastor Tom, serves as minister. They have 2 adult children, Lauren and Alex. Denise loves to garden, knit and be with family, including her mom, Joan Bieber, and 2 dogs & 2 cats.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works.” - Ephesians 2:8-9
Because of His love and gift of grace I am able to celebrate the good news with you! Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Karina Roth, Organist/Pianist & Choir Director
Karina received her Bachelor’s degree in both music and math from Simpson College in 1996. She is the primary musician at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and music director for the Grand Marais Playhouse. Karina also sings in a jazz quartet and teaches piano lessons. Her other interests include landscaping and working with her socially challenged dog, Ruby.
Favorite Richard Rohr quote: “The whole of creation - not just Jesus - is the beloved community, the partner in the divine dance. Everything is the "child of God" - no exceptions. All creatures must, in some way, carry the divine DNA of their Creator.”
Paulina Backstrom, Bookkeeper
Paulina (Pauli) joined Bethlehem’s staff in September 2014. Pauli is active in many organizations in the community and is self-employed with a recycling business in addition to her bookkeeping role at Bethlehem. Along with husband Jesse, they have one adult daughter Krissy and grandson; as well as 2 boys, Jordan and Parker, & daughter, Jorjah. Pauli is a strong warrior in faith and in life. She loves the outdoors and enjoys living on her farm where she gardens, makes maple syrup, and she loves to hunt and fish.
President: Eric Anderson
Vice President: Susan Bragstad
Treasurer: Mark Youngdahl
Financial Secretary: Theresa Oberg
Secretary: Susan Anderson
Youth and Family: Lindsay Mielke
Membership: Linda Zenk / Kathleen Johnson
Stewardship: Bonnie Muus
Church In Society: Jessica Markusen
Property: Mike Chmelik
Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Grand Marais has a rich heritage. Founded in 1899 by Norwegian immigrants of the Hauge Synod of the Lutheran tradition, Bethlehem has roots in an understanding of faith that is intensely personal and vibrant. Christians of the Hauge tradition believed in personal devotion, in searching Scripture for a meaningful relationship with Jesus, and in a commitment to live one’s faith in daily life.
Within the broader tradition of the Reformation sparked by Martin Luther, a deep appreciation for the living presence of Christ among us, the emphasis on grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, and the calling of each Christian to serve God and neighbor in all walks of life are hallmarks of our faith.
As a congregation of the 3.4 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Bethlehem is a partner in the 75.5 million member Lutheran World Federation. We are an ecumenical denomination building bridges of understanding and service with many other denominations. We actively share the Gospel of Christ, seek peace, strive for justice, and work for the well-being of God’s creation. We welcome your partnership in the ministry God calls each of us to do.