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NIU’s Grace Place welcomes new pastor

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST
Caption
(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)
Pastor Amy Fallon places her hand on the head of Northern Illinois University senior Jeanette Fernandez after spreading ash on her forehead for Ash Wednesday on Feb. 13. Fallon is the new pastor at NIU's Grace Place at the corner of Normal Road and Lucinda Avenue in DeKalb.

Amy Fallon is a long way from the Atlantic Ocean, but she already feels right at home in DeKalb.

The native New Englander was officially installed as the pastor of Northern Illinois University’s Grace Place this week after starting her service there at the beginning of the semester. Her 14-year career as a pastor has mostly been spent in the northeast, where she has lived for 47 of the 50 years of her life.

But she said the move to DeKalb is a blessing as it gives her an opportunity to return to campus ministry – an experience she greatly enjoyed at the University of Connecticut.

Grace Place, which is joint ministry supported by Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, seemed like a perfect fit, Fallon said, because of her Episcopalian background and desire to reach all people.

The new pastor sat down with the Daily Chronicle to discuss some of her background and goals.

What is it about campus ministry that excites you?

Before I came here I was a pastor at a parish in northwest Ohio and it was great. But campus ministry is near and dear to my heart and my true calling. Young adults are making fundamental decisions that will help shape the rest of their lives and I find it tremendously exciting to be a part of that discussion.

Are you focused more on reaching students with a faith background or people who may never have been exposed to religion?

I think it’s a combination of both. I’ve had students who have grown up in the tradition, but sometimes there is an inclination to break away from that habit of going to church when they come to college. And I’ve also had students who have no background with religion and come and give it a try. The thing is students graduate, so every four or five years you have an entirely new congregation. Starting from scratch can be a creative time, but exhausting.

What are some of the short-term goals you have for Grace Place?

I think just letting people know we’re here again is important. [Grace Place] has been going through a transition period for the past 18 months or so and I think some of that community presence has been lost. We’re in a prime location here on the corner of Normal and Lucinda right across the street from the student center. We want people who probably walk past here five or six times a day to know who we are and that they’re welcomed.

How has your first month and a half been here?

Everyone has been very welcoming and engaging and that is true at all levels of the university from the faculty to the students. I think of myself as called to serve the entire university community. While my main focus is students, I am here for everyone. I was telling my colleagues ‘I may have the world’s smallest parish, but I have one of the biggest densities.’

Grace Place holds services every Wednesday at 9 p.m., which is preceded by a community dinner starting at 7 p.m. There are student-led Bible study groups that meet regularly and students also are invited to study between classes, hang out or even play the piano.

“People should drop by,” Fallon said. “I’m here a lot.”

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