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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

The Rev. Dr. John H. P. Reumann, 1927 - 2008

Our congregation was honored to host the funeral service for the Rev. Dr. John "Jack" H.P. Reumann last Thursday, June 12th. Dr. Reumann died on June 6th. His father, Paul, was the visionary pastor who brought Trinity from its "downtown" Lansdale East Main Street location to our current West Main Street location in the 1950's. Jack grew up in our congregation and he and his wife, Martha, were married here in 1958.

The service was wonderful, full of the Gospel, stories, music and singing. Jack & Martha's pastor, John Saraka (Christ-Ascension Chestnut Hill/Philadelphia) presided and Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Bishop Claire S. Burkat preached. Mark Mummert from the Philadelphia Seminary staff was the guest organist and led a choir of pastors and spouses. There were probably nearly 500 people present, many of whom were Jack's former students.

Six colleagues/friends shared "selected reflections:" Phil Krey (Philadelphia Seminary president), Foster McCurley (former seminary faculty colleague), Wally Taylor (former student, now Trinity Seminary professor), Peter Pettit (former student, now director of Muhlenberg College's Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding), Joe Fitzmyer (former professor, Catholic U of America and member of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue team), and Lowell Almen (former secretary, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Lowell also represented ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson. I saw five bishops in the congregation plus Muhlenberg College President Randy Helm, among many others.

The service was followed by a reception in our Hyson Hall. The reception was catered by Philadelphia Seminary. After the reception, Jack's ashes were committed into Trinity's columbarium.

My contact with Dr. Reumann goes back to my days as a student at Muhlenberg College where Jack served many years on the Board of Directors. As one of the first two student representatives to the Board (with Blake Marles) I was welcomed warmly by Dr. Reumann. As many know, he and his wife, Martha, were noted for their hospitality to all.

My favorite Jack Reumann story is not well known, but tells something important about this man: In the early 1960's (before my years at Muhlenberg) Muhlenberg students regularly hosted famous and sometimes controversial speakers for all-college assemblies. One of these speakers was the "beat" poet, LeRoy Jones, who was noted for his graphic language. At the end of his presentation, Jones gave the audience the finger and repeated the "f" word three times.

This action, reported in the Allentown "Morning Call" newspaper, resulted in many calls in the Lehigh Valley (including a "Morning Call" editorial) for a crack down on speakers on the Muhlenberg campus. Somehow, Dr. Reumann and the Rev. Dr. Paul Empie (who later served as chair the the Muhlenberg Board while I was a trustee) were assigned the task of writing a new student speaker policy. Instead of coming back with a new policy that limited speech on campus, Empie and Reumann produced a policy that guaranteed campus free speech. And, somehow, they got this policy approved by the Board! It stands as Muhlenberg's free speech policy today.

Dr. John "Jack" H.P. Reumann - pastor, professor, scholar, leader AND champion of free speech!

It was my privilege to know Dr. Reumann and now is my privilege to serve in his "home congregation."

Eric

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