Born in Port Angeles, WA, Pastor John Reutter-Harrah had a childhood faith formed in independent community churches around the Northwest. While in college in the Bay Area, he responded to an ad for a youth director at a local Lutheran church, where the pastor took a chance on him and hired him in spite of theological differences. That Spirit-led hire opened John’s heart to a grace-filled God who has a bigger agenda for the world than individual salvation. Lutheran retreats and workshops during college opened John’s eyes to God’s concern for justice amid the structures and systems that oppress God’s people. With a view towards working in the social justice arena, John received a Master of Divinity in church and society from Princeton Seminary, but found his calling in local parish ministry, first serving five years on the staff of Our Redeemer, Garden Grove, California. In 1990, John, his wife Susan, and their young family moved to Eugene, where he was assistant pastor at Central Lutheran, focusing on congregational-based campus ministry to students at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College. John served on the synod anti-racism team and was a coach to other congregational teams using the principles of Natural Church Development. The family moved further north in 2000, when John took a call to be solo pastor at Prince of Life in Oregon City, where he served for 22 years until retirement in June 2022.
John has always focused on collaborative ministry, seeking the common good with ecumenical partners, non-profits and city and county agencies. Ministry in Oregon City included forming an ecumenical group of congregations that sheltered houseless families with children, and helping to envision uses for an acre of land stewarded by the congregation. Since 2016, John has offered retreats and pilgrimages through “Celtic Spirit Northwest,” in partnership with Pastor Scott Dunfee. His heart was opened as he participated for several years with other leaders in Spiritual and Theological Mutual Accompaniment.
John is excited to join the synod staff and help further the creation of “community online,” coordinating relationship-focused, faith-enhancing courses for our laypeople throughout Oregon. As the Oregon Synod representative to the Advisory Board for Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, John will take part in exploring learning partnerships with other neighboring synods, as well as with the seminary.
Renewing activities include nature walks with Susan, playing blues and pop music on his Fender Telecaster, trying to get to the Genius level on “Spelling Bee,” and working on his golf game.