GREENVILLE — St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church honored retiring Pastor Peter Menke in a special service held Sunday. The service included many musical performances, including by former members of Greenville High School’s Vocal Music Department, Lima-based musician Brien Sewell, the St. Paul Senior Choir, and Pastor Menke himself, performing select jazz pieces.
Pastor Menke was confirmed at St. Paul in 1949, and became an ordained minister in 1961. He attended Wittenberg University and previously worked as a salesman at The Kirby Company, an Ohio-based manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and other home cleaning accessories. He returned to St. Paul in 2004, and has served as Senior Pastor there for more than 13 years.
One of Pastor Menke’s wishes, according to St. Paul Director of Music Lori Lemon, was for his final service to be filled with music.
“He loves how music plays a role in the service,” Lemon said. “And he plays piano like you’ve never heard.”
Lemon credited Menke with increasing the size of St. Paul’s congregation during his time as pastor.
“He’s really boosted our programs, and attendance has grown under his leadership,” Lemon said. “You couldn’t ask for a better guy.”
Menke’s background in sales, according to Lemon, makes him uniquely qualified as a minister.
“He’s a retired salesman, and he is selling God,” Lemon said. “He’s also a Bible-preaching minister, and he preaches from the heart. Most ministers can get up there and speak, but I think with his background in sales, he commands your attention when he speaks.”
In addition to his duties at St. Paul, Menke has been active with the Grace Resurrection Community Center, a food pantry, clothing bank, soup kitchen, and homeless shelter in Greenville, as well as with programs offering help to those struggling with addiction.
“We host a lot of 12 Step meetings in our church, and Pastor Menke has been very influential in that,” Lemon said.
Pastor Menke took part in the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County’s Community Conversation on Heroin in 2016, and his church has hosted meetings of the support group Families of Addicts. He also served as a panelist at outreach events sponsored by the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services.
Pastor Menke has also shown concern for the preservation of history. As previously reported by The Daily Advocate, Menke presented ”We Dare not Forget,” an educational program about the Holocaust, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville in June this past year. Menke, who had Jewish relatives in Europe who suffered during the Holocaust, began the presentation by putting on a Jewish Prayer Shawl and Kippah.
“He wears a suit everywhere he goes. Everybody knows him as The Suit-Wearing Minister,” Lemon said. “When you get to know him, he just becomes part of your family.”
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