Rev. Paul Rasmussen has been named the new senior minister of Highland Park United Methodist Church; he will assume the position on July 1.
Rasmussen’s predecessor, Rev. Mark Craig, held the role of senior ministor for 18 years before announcing his retirement plans earlier this year.
“I believe my successor, Paul Rasmussen, is the most gifted preacher in Methodism,” Craig said in a press release. “He brings gifts and graces to Highland Park United Methodist Church that will serve the congregation well for many years to come. I love him like a son.”
Despite being a fourth-generation Methodist minister, Rasmussen’s path in the ministry is anything but typical. A Shreveport native, he graduated with a BA from Centenary College and a MA from the University of Richmond before working as an assistant basketball coach at Centenary College and finally pursuing a career in sports marketing in Dallas.
After Rasmussen and his family began to attend HPUMC, however, he felt a pull to ministry.
“A seed was planted in my heart, and I started to change a little bit,” Rasmussen said. After speaking to students at a faith-based basketball clinic he knew he wanted to enter the ministry.
Rasmussen began an internship at HPUMC in 2000 while studying for his Master of Divinity from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, and in 2001, he began preaching at Cornerstone, HPUMC’s contemporary worship service, which expanded greatly under his leadership.
He also led the project to renovate and restore Munger Place Church in East Dallas, and he played a key role in the church’s capital campaign to expand the contemporary worship and the youth ministry.
When asked why he’s excited to lead HPUMC, Rasmussen, who has three children with his wife Ashley, said, “I recognize the legacy that my predecessors have left behind. I inherit a mantle of extraordinary leadership, and I could not be more blessed by this rare opportunity to serve such an incredible church. I do so humbly and prayerfully, and I am committed to the level of servant leadership that God demands and the people of HPUMC have come to expect.”
Highland Park Presbyterian Church has also undergone major leadership changes recently.
HPPC senior pastor Rev. Ron Scates announced last month that he would transition to another role in the ministry earlier than originally anticipated.
Rev. Joe Rightmyer stepped into the role of interim head of staff and acting moderator of the session on June 1.
About one year ago, Scates announced his plan to transition from senior pastor to another, yet undefined role in the ministry before he turned 65 in May 2015. However, after serving at HPPC for 13 years, Scates said that he felt his time at HPPC had come to an end.
“After much prayer, The Lord has said your call here is over,” Scates said. “So, I am actively seeking to move on to whatever the next calling God has for me.”
Although Rightmyer is serving as the church’s interim leader, Scates will continue to preach through June. After vacationing in July, he will return to preach in August. In June and August, he will advise Rightmyer to ensure a smooth transition.
Rightmyer brings plenty of experience to the position; he has served as the associate pastor of senior adults and congregational care at HPPC since 2008, and has also held senior leadership roles at several other churches.
In a letter to the congregation, Scates wrote, “Anne and I are so grateful to the Lord for calling us to this amazing church. … I look with eager anticipation as to how the Lord will continue to hone HPPC into the church He desires her to become. … I leave HPPC with many of you as some of my dearest friends.”