Augustana University Pastor Paul Rohde Retiring from Campus Ministry

Pastor Paul and his wife, Susan, ran in the 2015 Viking Days homecoming Langskip 5K, hosted by the Augiethon student group to raise money for Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.

After more than 18 years of serving as Augustana University's campus pastor, Rev. Dr. Paul Rohde says he has other callings — his aging mother, four grandchildren, more spiritual directing and a part-time calling at Springdale Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls.

“Some people describe campus ministry as a sprint. It’s fast. It’s just fast and I’m a jogger. And I’ve struggled with that since the beginning,” says Rohde laughing.

And Rohde has been sprinting for a long time.

“I could never remember a time in my life that I wasn’t thinking about being a pastor." — Pastor Paul Rohde, Campus Ministry

After majoring in German and obtaining his master’s degree in speech in college, Rohde joined the Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He interned at a church in Oak Park, Illinois, and later served at congregations in Lake Preston, Sioux Falls and New Ulm, Minnesota.

While the Webster native had previously preached and taught some classes at Augustana, in 2001 Rohde says he got the call to come back and has been here ever since.

Rohde says, “When I came, my daughter was a junior in high school and another daughter was a freshman in high school — so college kids were really very much like my own kids. And that was true for a long time.”

The husband and father of three says that’s one of the things he’ll miss the most — the people, the students — observing their confidence, their sense of self and ownership in what they believe. He says the students are at a pivotal point in their lives and that’s the center of their work.

“I will miss seeing how students change. Students change a lot. Mostly, that’s really fun to watch. I mean, sometimes the changes are painful, things they go through,” says Rohde. “In ministry of any age, you’ve got to meet people where they are and help them understand what feeds that, understand how that’s incomplete, understand what yearning is still there and speak to them.”

Rohde says he’s most proud of the number of students he’s nurtured for ministry.

“I’m very proud of what our students do and privileged to have been a part of that,” says Rohde.

But as much as the students and staff have changed, Rohde says some things haven’t.

“… rigorous academics and a deeply caring community. Those are the things that everybody says and I think faith speaks to both of those and our vision is to see that both of those (are) grounded in faith and lived out faithfully.”

The vitality of the campus ministry also hasn’t changed says Rohde. When they started services of blessings around five years ago, he says it helped stir a sense of coming to chapel to receive something, rather than showing up as an expectation or demand.

According to Rohde, “One of the things that I think we’re seeing increasingly is that Augustana becomes a church for a lot of people who work here and Pastor Ann and I are their pastors.”

He says it’s much more than a job and indicative of the community on campus.

When asked about the campus ministry in his absence, Rohde says it will be just fine. He says he has a lot of confidence in his colleague, Campus Pastor Rev. Ann Rosendale.

“Hope stays true are the things that are constant — that people are broken and God is redemptive and Jesus is not only about loving us, he loves us of course, but about teaching us to become that love and to become servants. That’s what I hope persists.”

His last day at Augustana will be January 31, but Rohde says he and his wife, Susan, will always be a part of the Augustana community.

A blessing for Rohde was held on Wednesday, Dec. 4, with a celebration that included the campus congregants laying hands on him to send him off with gratitude and Godspeed.


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