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Reverend Richard “Pastor Wohler”

Overcoming Predispositions, breaking cycles for future generations and spending a life being “Pastor” to hundreds.

In October, my father left this earth and heard the words “well done good and faithful servant,” in heaven. I am incredibly grateful for many things from my father – mostly that he was a first generation Christian and overcame many predispositions. He broke the generational cycles of negative predispositions and as a result they were not passed on to me and my children.

My father did not grow up in a church-attending family. As a child in small town North Dakota, he worked the family bowling alley setting up pins by hand, and tended the family’s bar as a young teen.

At the age of 16 he went forward and made a first time commitment to follow God in a small church revival meeting. Within a couple years he attended Northwestern Bible College, and a couple years after that he was married and back in SE North Dakota pastoring a circuit of Methodist churches. He spent the rest of his adult life Pastoring 14 small churches in the Midwest. He was known for taking small dwindling congregations and growing them into solid spiritual communities. He was an “old school” pastor: strict Bible scholar mixed with spiritual dad reminding you God’s grace does not let your past define you. Preaching, alter calls, raising chickens and incredible small town hospitality were also his trademarks. Growing up a mainstay was huge Sunday dinners where any Sunday morning visitor would get an invite. We sometimes had 5 Christmas parties of 40 people each as it was important that every member of the church was invited.

My father also had a non-conventional side to him, and my parents attracted the un-churched and over-churched – people who were skeptical and often hurt by past church communities. Those who wanted little or nothing to do with church culture were attracted to and trusted my parents. Most are surprised to hear that they facilitated a biker wedding that included 150 Harleys in the parking lot as well as a Renaissance Festival wedding where Dad was dressed like Fryer Tuck and Mom like Maid Marion. Facilitating a marriage of a mixed-race couple in the early 1950’s was radical and met with ridicule. But he never referred to it as abnormal.

Dad led a church in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis during my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s. It is a bit humorous for those who know us, but he actually introduced me to the alternative culture. In the early 70’s, the Jesus People Church (Church of Hippie’s, known for “coloring outside the lines”) met in the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. On occasion I would tag along with my Father, the Baptist Pastor, as he would go downtown after our own Sunday Night service and sneak into the back row of the State Theatre filled with long hairs, bell bottoms and charismatic worship.

He also introduced me to marginalized outreach. Together we delivered eggs from our suburban backyard flock, to Doris and Marie at the Marie Sanvick Center, the oldest Minneapolis Mission. Located only a mile from Source’s Fallout Urban Art Center. He ran recovery and AA groups at the, Simpson Shelter, only a block from the Fallout.

To my knowledge his energies spent connecting with the downtown urban population of the alternative, at-risk, and unreached did not result in new members at the church he was pastoring. I believe he was drawn to minister to those with whom he could relate, and had a similar past. My father overcame many predisposed positions and lived a life that made eternal differences by introducing scores of individuals to Christ who initially wanted nothing to do with church. In his lifetime he led hundreds who affectionately called him “Pastor.” My father was in the hospital quite often these last few years, and many came to visit – and all would say “he’s still my Pastor.”

Source has worked in south Minneapolis for over 20 years – in and among the streets, shelters, missions and a marginalized culture my father introduced me to. It is a challenge to make contact and gain trust with the at-risk, skeptical and unreached population that has many walls up. We have seen the effectiveness of “old school pastoring,” hospitality, coloring outside the lines, being a friend and a voice to the predisposed who are stuck in past negative and destructive cycles and want nothing to do with church.

We see individuals make first time commitments to follow God and make positive choices. We empower them through recovery resources: life skills, a community/family, encouragement and support as we mentor and disciple individuals as they begin a redeemed life. We assist with ongoing support that includes connecting with the local church where they can find life-long support, relationships and recovery resources.

We have seen lives that are bound by predisposed positions and a life of repeating negative and destructive cycles redeemed – a redeemed life that has redeemed outcomes on relationships and the future. God redeemed my father’s life, and as a result my siblings, our children and I have literally, benefited. He broke generational cycles that we will not have to journey through. We as well as Source are part of the Reverend Richard “Pastor” Wohler’s’ legacy. I am proud and grateful to say, “it’s true, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

In Loving Memory of the Reverend Richard “Pastor Wohler”

His 6th Natural Child and one of his Hundreds of Spiritual Sons,

Peter Wohler, Executive Director 

SOURCE MN INC. P.O. BOX 8212 MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55408 612.822.5200