2/12/1998 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- One of the most =22off-beat=22 ministries in = American Christianity ended Feb. 6 with the death of the Rev. John Garcia Gensel.  = A pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Gensel was named minister to the jazz community of New York in 1965 by the former Lutheran Church in America.  He died ten days before his 81st birthday.
     Gensel=27s interest in jazz music and his understanding of the = special needs and problems of jazz musicians led him to propose it be an active Lutheran ministry.  He was called to be minister to the jazz community of New York and associate pastor of Manhattan=27s St. Peter Lutheran Church = in 1965, when Gensel established a Jazz Vespers worship service every Sunday at 5:00 p.m.  He retired at the end of 1993 and moved to Muncy, Pa.
     Gensel traced his love of jazz to 1932 when he first heard the music of Duke Ellington. Ellington was among Gensel=27s =22jazz congregation=22 = and called Gensel his =22special reverend.=22  When =22the Duke=22 died in = 1974, Gensel conducted the funeral service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
     Born as Juan Garcia Velez in Manat=ED, Puerto Rico, Gensel moved to Pennsylvania while a child.  He earned degrees in 1940 from Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pa., and in 1943 from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa. -- a college and a seminary of the ELCA.  He studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, and received an honorary doctorate from Susquehanna University.
     Gensel served as a U.S. Navy chaplain in Guam during World War II, and he was pastor of First English Lutheran Church and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mansfield, Ohio.  From 1953 to 1955 he served =22temporary communities=22 of construction workers in the Scioto Valley Atomic Area of southern Ohio from a =22chapel on wheels=22 before serving briefly as = pastor of two congregations in Puerto Rico.
     In 1956 Gensel became pastor of New York=27s Advent Lutheran Church = in Manhattan.  He took a jazz course at the New School of Social Research and began counseling musicians in the city=27s night spots.
     Gensel is survived by Audrey, his wife of 55 years, and by three children and nine grandchildren.  The congregation of St. Peter Lutheran Church is planning a memorial service to be celebrated after Easter, April 12.

For information contact:
Ann Hafften, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS=40ELCA.ORG


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