Holly Johnson is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but she wasn’t born that way. She grew up in the midwest (Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska) and “Pastor” was not in any part of any dream she had of what she would be when she grew up. Instead, her career dream included: Singer in a band, teacher, nurse, and admissions director. In various ways, she has covered those things except the nursing part.
In her adult life, she’s spent time on the West Coast as a youth director, and also did campus ministry and a young adult mission start in Fargo Moorhead. She is coming to us from Berkeley, CA, where she currently works as the director of admissions at one of the places where pastors and other faith leaders are trained.
In the online profile Holly submitted to the church to be considered for a new position, she tells this story:
“After completing my third position in youth ministry, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in church every Sunday morning. But before my planned sabbatical from worship, I had to go check out this church I had heard about called, “Spirit Garage” in Minneapolis. I went by myself. I hoped no one would talk to me. I walked in, and the guy who leads music was standing in the lobby. He offered me coffee and said, “Hey, they’re just getting started in there, so go ahead and get your coffee and sit anywhere you like.” Then he went into the worship space (a theater) and welcomed everyone, saying “We’re here to worship God. You can participate in whatever ways work for you. Sing if you want, dance if you want, share the meal if you want, but welcome.” Then he explained that they have been doing a series on “experiencing God through the senses,” and today was taste day. They sang Sarah Mclachlan’s song “Ice Cream,” I heard that song in a new way, I thought about communion in a new way, and I went back every week to see what would happen next. I could have become one of the 30-somethings that saw church as “somebody that I used to know.” I am thankful God called me back through that community. I hope I can provide a space like that for others.”
So, you may recognize her as a person who has occasionally shown up at Spirit Garage over the last decade or so.
Holly likes good music, good poetry, good wine, good food, brunch, The Breakfast Club, and all things that blend sacred and secular.
Kerns was raised on The Beatles, Yes, Simon & Garfunkel, the Muppets, and the Star Wars Trilogy. The son of a high school band director/percussionist and a voice/piano teacher, he was constantly surrounded by music be it in the car, church, camp, school dances or (the original) Sony Walkman he bought with paper route money.
Kerns became a sponge of music, absorbing sacred and secular music, popular rock and metal, new wave, grunge, and classic rock. After hearing Michael W. Smith, he started practicing piano in a new way. After hearing Manhattan Transfer, he knew that tenor saxophone was much more hip than piano. After hearing Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” he knew he would play guitar for the rest of his life.
Kerns has played professionally in Minneapolis since 1997 in many groups and combos, but primarily for Spirit Garage “the church with the really big door.” Leading and planning worship, rehearsing the 3 bands, producing 3 CDs, and helping compile a large repertoire of original music, he has been busy.
In addition to the bands at Spirit Garage, Kerns has played bass and sang with Scott Laurent, Jonathan Rundman, Natalie Lovejoy and Lloyd Garrelts, Heyday and several cover bands, most recently, Unglued, a Stone Temple Pilots tribute act and ONCE, music from the motion picture Once, and What’s Next in Minneapolis. Expanding his experiences to studio sessions, private guitar and bass lessons, various side-man gigs, weddings, lap steel guitar and producing and coaching, drum kit and parenthood continually keeps Kerns busy.
With his own band, Kerns and the Hemispheres, his songwriting sparkles showcasing a spicy mélange of rock, pop, colorful chord progressions, with high-energy harmonies pushing the boundaries of modern pop and rock. Featuring Shelly Domke on vocals, their LP, “electron drive” and their EP “You Are Here” deliver off-beat lyrics and unique subject matter in a tasty dish.
Kernsey has also recorded projects for Faith Inkubators, Augsburg Fortress, Lutheran Youth Encounter, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Seraphim Communications, The Minnesota Project and many other ventures.
Most recently, Kerns has released “Cradlesongs” his first children’s album. The lullabies and action songs he’s written for his daughters can now be heard publicly.
He continues to perform live in the upper midwest and loves his beautiful wife and two daughters, and new guitar strings.