URBANA — The Rev. Robert Rasmus has been a journalist, a congressional press secretary, an Army Reserve chaplain and a Lutheran church pastor, and he’ll soon be adding one more title to his list: retiree.
The 65-year-old Rasmus, longtime pastor of Urbana’s St. Matthew Lutheran, plans to retire at the end of the month.
Rasmus’ retirement plans are still evolving. He plans to take some time off and do some traveling, and he’s kicking around the idea of opening his dream gathering spot for weekly civil discussions — the Yellow Dog Saloon, he said.
“Politics and beer,” Rasmus said. “What could go wrong?”
The practical aspects of opening it are undetermined, he said, but “I’d like to find some way to make it real.”
Rasmus grew up in North Dakota and was ordained into the ministry in 1996. Before coming to the Urbana church in 2001, he served at a church in Orange, Texas.
His biggest contribution to the Urbana church and its congregation has been his heart, according to congregation member Rene Wahlfeldt.
“When you meet him, you feel like you’ve known him all your life,” she said.
Wahlfeldt said she first met Rasmus when he came to St. Matthew and has found him to be intelligent, easy to work with, easy to talk to and a great speaker.
“Everybody thinks of him not only as a pastor but a friend,” she said. “We’re pretty downhearted that he’s retiring.”
Gayla Pellum, office manager at the church, said Rasmus has been a friend not only to her but also her entire family.
“He’s probably the best boss I’ve ever worked for,” she said. “He’s just a very understanding person. He’s very attuned to his community and what’s going on.”
Rasmus said one thing he has always appreciated about St. Matthew Lutheran Church is how it’s turned outward — for example, through the church’s Sola Gratia Farm venture.
“I’m really pleased at the progress and mission of Sola Gratia Farm,” he said. “That’s a pretty big deal to us. We give away a significant amount of produce to local hunger projects. The church has always been engaged in that particular challenge of seeing what we can do to feed hungry people.”
Rasmus said he has also been happy about the service learning opportunities through the church for youths and the 13 years’ worth of annual trips church members have made to New Orleans to continue helping rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Traci Barkley, Sola Gratia Farm director, said Rasmus has continued to be involved in the farm venture through both leadership and labor.
“It’s been a powerful piece for the community,” she said. “It’s helped a lot of people serve their neighbors in a close and meaningful way.”
Sola Gratia Farm is now building its second indoor growing space and will be able to grow and provide greens all year, Barkley said.
Barkley said Rasmus — known as “Pastor Bob” — has been a pastor people look up to and trust, and his sense of humor helps with the challenging work he does.
“And I think that he really walks the walk and helps other people to do that as well,” she said.
Rasmus said he and his family plan to remain in the local community.
His wife, Ann Schneider, plans to continue her job with the University YMCA. Their daughter, Sophie Grace, is a high school senior.
Rasmus’ replacement hasn’t yet been determined. Pastors from other churches will be filling in at St. Matthew Lutheran until a permanent successor is named, Wahlfeldt said.