Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Faith Works 6-28-14

Faith Works 6-28-14

Jeff Gill


A thin and flimsy tribute to a very substantial pastor



Last weekend, most of you read a more formal, official version of the news that, with tomorrow, Rev. William Rauch retires from ministry.


He's not shy about saying his age, but suffice it to say neither he nor his talented wife Judy look or act their years, but they have worked well past the point where many are happy to sit back and let life roll by.


They do plan some rolling in the near future, but not much sitting back. They will still be in the area, and for that, I and many others will be grateful.


When Bill first came to serve in ministry to Licking County, Ohio had just barely been made a state, and dinosaurs still walked around Buckeye Lake. That may be an overstatement, but not by much.


He had a period of youthful service at St. Paul's Lutheran, and he feels as blessed by his chance to serve out the bulk of his time in active ministry at that congregation as they feel blessed, I know, to have had him.


He's been there as long as most of us remember, at the corner of 5th and Locust, and not only as parson for his parishoners, but very much a pastor to the community . . . and even that term should be taken in the widest possible manner. Newark was his parish, but Licking County has been his backyard, and his ministry was not limited to church work, but civic and community affairs of all sorts.


As a city councilman, he mowed lawns back before it was cool for elected officials to be seen doing so, and Bill hates it when people point out that he did it, because he generally went to great pains to not draw attention to that.


In fact, during his service on council, his general demeanor was less "now I, a veteran clergyman, will also weigh in as a community leader" than it was "wow, I have a chance to spend a stretch of time serving my fellow citizens in this way." He enjoyed his public service, and never felt it gave him special privileges. There are contrary examples I'll leave you all to research on your own, but you know what I mean.


But it was the ministry that mattered, and Bill is both a committed Lutheran Christian, with a knowledge (auf Deutsch!) of all things Luther and Melanchthon, and also an ecumenical practitioner par excellence.


He has kept the Newark Area Ministerial Association (NAMA) in tune and active through good times and times of strife and struggle in the community landscape, leading through example and persuasion, putting his time and church in the service of Jesus' prayer in John 17 "that they all may be one."


The jail ministry, the Coalition of Care, and much more. Interfaith, interreligious, international, Bill has put his Lutheran heart into all of them.


I first met Bill in 1989, having arrived in Newark as an associate and being sent by the senior pastor to a campus ministry meeting at Ohio State Newark. I met his parishoner Dick Shiels first, but quickly got to know Dick's pastor as a strong supporter of that late lamented program of campus chaplaincy here in town.


Then I got involved with NAMA, worked with him in the jail ministry as it was just getting going, and found myself preaching in his building for Good Friday & Thanksgiving community services.


Having left for a time to West Virginia, when I came back Bill was supportive of my trying to start a similar group to NAMA in the Lakewood area, and when my son was at an age where I took some time off parish ministry, he was delighted to trust me with his beloved St. Paul's on vacation Sundays, knowing that we both valued weekly communion as central to the act of worship. It was both an honor and a pleasure to fill that pulpit.


Now, back in a regular pulpit again, I don't get to visit as often, but tomorrow night many of us, Lutheran and otherwise, will gather at St. Paul's for a 6:30 pm celebration in music and prayer, to salute a man (and indeed, a couple) who has made this city a better place in the name of his Lord, and I know Jesus will smile on his retirement as much as he has on the labors Bill has done.


In fact, I can't wait to see what his next act looks like!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's only known Bill 25 years, but enough to praise him. Tell your Pastor Rauch stories to him at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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