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Wooddale Lutheran's Retiring Pastor Reflects on Career of Music, Families and Funerals

Wooddale Lutheran Church's pastor of 32 years, Tim Rauk, will give his last sermon on Jan. 26.

Credit: Wooddale Lutheran Church.
Credit: Wooddale Lutheran Church.

After 32 years as pastor of St. Louis Park’s Wooddale Lutheran Church, Tim Rauk is retiring.

Rauk’s congregation is holding a retirement ceremony for the St. Paul native on Jan. 18, and his final sermon will follow on Jan. 26.

We spoke with Rauk about his start in the ministry, changes at Wooddale Lutheran and his plans for retirement.

What was your background before you came to Wooddale Lutheran?

I’m originally from North St. Paul, and this is the third church that I served. I was a music major in college, but life in a church community had always been part of my history growing up. When I came to St. Louis Park, we had three children and a fourth one on the way. And I sensed from the very beginning the strong commitment that this congregation had to all children and the enhancement of family life. It was a tremendous place for my own family. My kids had the opportunity to do something that often pastor’s kids don’t get to do, which is spend all of their school career in one district.

How has the church changed in the past 32 years?

The faces are different, the commitments the same. There certainly are people who were here when I came. But a lot of change happens over 32 years. The church has certainly attempted to evolve as the needs of the community changed. For example, when the Children First Initiative in St. Louis Park started, the congregation jumped right in with ideas about how to participate—especially with [Susan Lindgren] elementary right here. In offering the use of the church to some of the needs of the community, we’ve demonstrated a solid commitment to try to be good neighbors.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in St. Louis Park?

It’s the people, it’s the people. Being a pastor, every once in a while I’ll have someone say, “It really must be hard to be a pastor because you’re asked to do funerals and you’re part of people’s tragedies and struggles in life.” Well, there certainly is a sadness, but along with that sadness is also the memory of the weddings I did with that family, the baptisms I did with that family, they joys with that family and even the funeral becomes a very sacred moment where you’re invited into the very center of an important family event. I’ve been honored to be entrusted with this very important farewell. And along with that, very positive memories come when you’ve known the family for 32 years. Even with a sense of loss, there’s still hope because the family’s still together and they’re still supporting each other and life happens.

What are the main challenges facing Wooddale Lutheran Church?

The challenge is always really the same even though the times change: simply to be a servant to the community and be faithful to our calling. I’m very hopeful and positive about what Wooddale will be in the future and I think it will be good for the congregation to have a new and fresh different perspective, which comes whenever there’s a change in pastoral leadership. There will always be a very central place in my heart for this congregation.

What are your retirement plans?

I’m going to continue to volunteer at the high school with musicals. I’ve played the piano for 18 or 19 musicals over the years and accompanied the singers and instrumentalists at state contests. I’m going to start giving piano lessons to my grandson and I might offer piano lessons to others. I’m going to move into that slowly, but I paid my way through college and seminary by giving piano lessons.

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