Pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus, the dynamic divine duo, who heads St. John’s United Methodist Church Downtown (or St. Johns Downtown), were recently showered with appreciation on Sunday, Sept 18, as members past and present gathered to celebrate the couple’s 30th anniversary in ministry.
The festivities, which took place at St. John’s (2019 Crawford, Houston, 77002) included their traditional 9 a.m. worship service but with a special flavor that included a lot of reflection, tribute videos shown of Kelly Rowland, Solange, Tina Knowles Lawson and Beyonce offering words of praise to the duo and a special mini-concert by nationally-renowned gospel artist Brian Courtney Wilson.
Additionally, there were post-service festivities on the grounds with snacks, games and food vendors. And if that weren’t enough, scores of congregants came back later that evening for a special praise session with scores of artists who have at some point come through and been part of the St. John’s ministry.
When asked to share the most memorable moment in her 30 years of ministry, Pastor Juanita Rasmus took it all the way back to the beginning.
“The most memorable was the first day we got here,” she said. “Rudy called me and he said, ‘Baby, this is the place. This is the place.’ We knew God was calling us to ministry. We didn’t know where it was gonna be. We had a sense it was gonna be urban. We had no idea exactly where and what it would look like. So, that’s been absolutely the image that has guided us and has empowered us in this time, and has for me been the most meaningful. It was the place where we knew that we were called to serve the least, the last, the lost and the left out.”
Reflecting on the 30th-anniversary festivities, Pastor Rudy Rasmus said, “Today, it was a reminder that we haven’t wasted our time; that we have been here and have touched lives in many cases that we would never, ever meet and even more cases that we’ll never see the outcome. But just to know that our work hasn’t been in vain here over these 30 years.”
“This church means so much to me because I accepted my call here in 1993,” reflected Dr. Michael Bowie, national director of Strengthening the Black Church for the Future and former pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Dallas. “When I accepted my call, God changed my life. So, I think it’s a reason, a responsibility, even a right to come back and celebrate 30 years of prophetic and powerful ministry.”
“One of the things I learned being here at St. John’s was what real love is,” said entrepreneur Miara Shaw. “When Pastor Rudy and Pastor Juanita say, ‘We love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it,’ they mean that. I thought I knew what love was, but love unconditional, I truly learned that being part of the St. John’s family.”
And the pastor duo says there’s more ministry moments ahead, including a move into health equity.
“The possibilities for this place are absolutely limitless, as we see from where we stand right now. We have 30 years of experience that has been purchased with a lot of heartache, purchased with some pain, and also purchased with some occasional success. And as a result, we think we can combine all of those collective experiences to impact this community even greater on the road ahead,” said Pastor Rudy.
“For me, the way the future gets summed up is the way the scripture always sums up the future, Jeremiah 29:11: ‘I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord. Plans not to harm you, but rather plans to prosper you.’ And one verse says ‘Plans to give you a hope and a future you never could have imagined on your own.’ So, for me, that’s what the future is. It’s expansive and it’s yet to even be experienced,” said Pastor Juanita.
Here’s what others had to say about the Rasmus’s 30th Anniversary in ministry:
Pastor Rick Nance
I’ve been with the church since December of last year. I am the pastor of congregational care. Because it celebrates the legacy of pastors Rudy and Juanita; the work that they have done in this community, the work they have done in Houston, and as a culmination of that work. Not that it’s coming to an end. But to have a concert that showcases all of the people who have been here over the years is especially meaningful to the church, the pastors and the community.
First of all, I’ve known the pastors for more than 30 years. They have been so forthcoming with everything. And they have been part of my life, mu personal life, my spiritual life, my spiritual growth, and there is never a time when they will turn you away. And in these doors here, they were so welcoming to so many people: down-and-out, up-and-coming people. And it’s just a place where you would want to be in any stage of your life, in any area of your life—to be here at St. John’s United Methodist Church Downtown.
I came here 10 years ago, and I haven’t left since. So, this is family. This is love. This is home. They mean everything to me. They have changed the course of my life, and I them, I love this place, I love the people, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here today.
Professor Craig Jackson
I’ve been here since almost the very beginning. Not the total very beginning. I got here about six months after they started. And it’s been a wonderful ministry, and I’ve stayed here for 29 ½ years. And I could not see myself ever leaving this church because of what they do, and how they’ve inspired me to do better in my life.
US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
These two children of God took their immigrant documentation and they came to a place and turned it into a come-as-you-are place. No questions asked. No clothing criteria. No shoes on your feet. But you walk in this place, and it’s holy ground. I am grateful to them [and] grateful to the people they have planted seeds in… single-residency occupancy that I was so proud to walk through, and a homeless man was setting on his bed—he’s not homeless anymore—couldn’t be happier. He’s got a roof [over his head], he’s got cleanliness, he’s got decency, he’s got recognition of his humanity. The 500 meals a deal is beyond recognition. What you in this church have given to this ministry and vision, you’ve given it blood and you’ve given it life.