Rev. Dr. Ralph Quellhorst
August 12, 1937 – June 23, 2020
Obituary information can be found by clicking here.
A Pastoral Word of Remembrance from Transitional Conference Minister, Rev. David Long-Higgins
Dear Friends in Christ,
This unusual time of COVID 19 multiplies our grief in many ways. Nowhere is that truer than when one we have loved has died. So, our beloved former Conference Minister, the Rev. Dr. Ralph Quellhorst has passed from our midst into the eternal embrace of our creator. Together with so many of you, I mourn his passing. Because of the limitations of this season of COVID 19, I want to share a pastoral and personal word that might otherwise have been shared at Ralph’s memorial service.
On behalf of the whole conference, I extend our love, condolences and blessings to his family, our colleague in ministry, Mindy (Jeff), Cindy (Harry), Pam (Chris), and his grandsons, Brad, Rob, A.J. and Andy (Miranda). May God’s love and your memories of Ralph nourish and sustain you in the days, weeks, and years ahead. And may our love be an accompanying presence.
Ralph’s life and love touched so many that it would be impossible to name the extent of the reach. Each of us who knew him or whose path crossed his knew that we had been in some way blessed and encouraged and strengthened.
Ralph was a pastor in every sense of the word. No matter the context of his serving, he was driven by a love that fostered space for others to grow and for the love of Jesus Christ to take hold in the life of the world. His life experience awakened in him passions and commitments that benefited too many to name. Having had his world enlarged by going to Heidelberg College, he returned the blessing by serving as the longest-tenured trustee in the University’s history.
Ralph once shared with me that his schooling was not only in the places of formal education where he was both student and teacher, but importantly through the many people with whom he had been privileged to work. Notably, he named the powerful influence of one the United Church Christ’s great African American leaders, the Rev. Dr. Reuben Sheares, whose presence, and love schooled him regarding racism and the importance of anti-racism work.
Ralph was a mender of the world. He recognized that relationships of depth formed across the lines of nationalism or denomination or faith tradition were and are an essential ingredient in God’s formation of the beloved community. He was instrumental in the formation of the Kirchengemeinschaft relationship between the Ohio Conference and the Evangelical Church of Westphalia in Germany (a partnership that this year celebrates its 30th year). In 1991, Ralph went to Sri Lanka during its long civil war to be a witness in solidarity with our global partners, the Church of the American Ceylon Mission. In many other countries and settings Ralph was a sign of solidarity and encouragement, recognized in a special way with the John Calvin Award for Humanitarian Work presented at the World Congress of the Hungarian Reformed Church.
Ralph’s personal experience often compelled his compassion. As a result of his family’s experience of a devastating tornado that destroyed the parsonage where they lived in Bluffton, Ohio, in 1965, Ralph was an instrumental advocate for the establishment of the United Church of Christ’s Disaster Response Ministry, as a ministry of the whole denomination, including this work in the life of the Conference.
Most importantly, Ralph was one who knew how to make space for others to grow. I count myself among the many who were mentored and encouraged by him in my early days of ministry and more recently. Whether it was the invitation to be part of a support group of pastors serving renewing congregations or nurturing gifts for ministry in the wider church when I did not yet see them, I was blessed by Ralph, as were so many others. The United Church of Christ has lost a great pastoral leader, theologian, and friend. But the legacy of his love remains. What a gift! Thanks be to God! Godspeed, Ralph! Well done, good and faithful servant.
With a grateful heart,
Rev. David Long-Higgins
Transitional Conference Minister
Heartland Conference, United Church of Christ