As every kid who can walk knows, Oct. 31 is Halloween. Some Christian groups condemn Halloween, but not Port’s Rev. Dr. Charles R. Vogeley of the Lutheran Church Our Savior.
“I believe it’s simply a fun occasion for children and an opportunity for parents to dig into their children’s stash and steal a Mounds bar or two,” said Rev. Vogeley.
However, the day is by far of greater significance than Halloween.
Know why? Read on.
The good Rev. Dr. Vogeley is no stodgy preacher or cookie-cutter man of the cloth. When he speaks, it is from a deep sea of knowledge and commitment coupled with welcome waves of humility and humor. He often refers to himself “Pastor Charley.” So with his permission, it’ll be Pastor Charley moving forward.
Pastor Charley arrived in Port 39 years ago – tall, handsome and mustachioed. No gray. Some years later, when Tom Selleck emerged from modeling to become a film and television star, some thought he resembled Selleck. Did anybody ever tell him that? “Only my wife, but she says Selleck is a better kisser.”
Selleck, I mean Pastor Charley was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Seaford (Nassau County). In an unusual twist, his grandfather, his father, and he have the same first name. But, Pastor Charley is not Charles Vogeley III because each of them has a different middle name. They can’t even share monogrammed shirts.
It was not whim or inspiration that led young Mr. Vogeley, age 16, to become Rev. Vogeley. “It was more a process of spiritual formation than soul-searching,” said Pastor Charley. “There were times – and still are – when I question if indeed I have the gifts requisite to being a faithful, effective leader. To me, this is natural,” he said. “Everyone questions. Everyone doubts. Doubt, if properly channeled towards study and examination, can be a springboard to spiritual growth.” Six years later, Pastor Charley entered the Lutheran seminary.
It’s easy to be a sage minister in the movies; not so in real life. Pastor Charley attended the seminary for two years, including fieldwork in a parish, then another year as a supervised student pastor, plus another year at the seminary. And even then, you just don’t automatically become a parish pastor. First, a congregation must extend a “Divine Call.” Only then does the Lutheran Bishop authorize an Ordination. But before Pastor Charley could be Pastor Charley anywhere, he also had to be officially installed in his new role.
Fortuitously, that milestone occurred on Feb. 9, 1975. The Bishop, himself, presided over Pastor Charley’s Ordination and Rite of Installation. As to be expected, it was both a happy and an emotional time for the Vogeley family, especially. “I expected my mom to be teary,” he said, “but when I turned around, it was my often tough-as-nails dad who was choked up.”
About six years later, the Rev. Charles R. Vogeley took himself a wife – and the lovely bride, Jean Ocker, was from Plainview (recently retired as Guggenheim K–5 physical education teacher). Their progeny numbers two: Lisa and Bryan. Bryan and wife, Elizabeth, have a daughter, McKenna Rose.
These days, Pastor Charley is officially the Rev. Dr. Charles R. Vogeley. He was awarded a Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.). Not a passive pastor, he’s a force for good in Port. He says what he thinks and what he thinks is worth listening to. On bullying: “Parent training. Bullying is a learned behavior that should be halted in nursery school schools.” On marriage: “The whole idea of ‘soul mates’ is bunk. Married civilly or in a religious ceremony, the couple commits. The commitment is what holds us together through all the seasons of life.” On nonbelievers: “There’s no such thing as an ‘atheist.’” On the human race: “Be authentically humble. Withstand self-centeredness. Everyone knows the Golding Rule.”
That’s a good thought to hold until next week. The answer to the question ending the first paragraph in today’s column: Oct. 31 absolutely is of much greater significance than Halloween because, on that date in 1517, a Roman Catholic priest nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and thus began the Protestant Reformation. Halloween pales by comparison.