|William V. Rauscher |
photo: Douglas A. Hill
Having been born in Long Branch, NJ and raised in Highlands, NJ, Canon Rauscher did not arrive in Woodbury until 1960 when he accepted the call to become the 11th Rector of Christ Church. "A student of Ascetical and Mystical Theology, as well as Parapsychology, Psychical Research, and Comparative Religions, Canon Rauscher's studies and experiences span decades, including his special interests in magic, mentalism, mediums and psychics (Mitchell, 2008)." A former president of the Woodbury Clergy Association, Rauscher was instrumental in bringing together two early panel discussions at the Roman Catholic Church. It was considered the first ecumenical effort in Woodbury. During his many years as Rector, Rauscher hosted popular religion and science seminars which brought guests and speakers from across the United States (and even abroad) to Woodbury. Attendance to these lectures was comprised of a mixture of people from all faiths and walks of life. Some of the guest speakers for these lectures include astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell (6th man to walk on the moon); Hugh Lynn Cayce of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (son of psychic Edgar Cayce); Yoga master Amrit Desai; controversial famous psychic Arthur Ford; "heavy organist" Virgil Fox; and a range of other magicians, actors, parapsychologists and writers.
|Canon Rauscher (r) and J.B. Rhine (l), |
founder of the Duke University
photo from: Religion, Magic,
and the Supernatural
|Christ Church, Woodbury NJ|
photo: dw Brown
Aside from his many parochial accomplishments, Canon Rauscher is also a prolific author of many titles, some of which are pictured below. A complete list can be found at his publisher's website: Mystic Light Press and include such titles as the Mind Readers, Magic in Rhyme, and Church in Frenzy. His recent autobiography Religion, Magic, and the Supernatural: The Autobiography, Reflections, and Essays of an Episcopal Priest, an 850+ page tour de force documents the many facets of Canon Rauscher's fascinating life. Charles Reynolds, author, theatrical consultant and magic historian calls the autobiography his, "magnum opus" and goes on to explain, "In addition to his pastoral duties, Rauscher has devoted his life to a study of mystery in the pulpit, the seance room, and on stage. Much of this giant volume of over 850 pages with hundreds of illustrations (many previously unpublished) is devoted to the history of magic and magicians as well as overlapping fields such as spiritualism, the paranormal, spook shows, escapology, and even ventriloquism."
Of course I am merely scratching the surface regarding Canon Rauscher. It is impossible to provide here a complete overview of the many stories that make up his extraordinary life, which is why I highly recommend the above autobiography. For now, let's hear a little from the man himself and his recollections of "old" Woodbury...
My ministry lasted 36 years. There have been two rectors since I retired in 1996. The current rector, The Rev. Brian Burgess and his wife Denise have made many improvements to the property including beautifying the interior of the rectory. Father Burgess has maintained meticulous attention to the property and grounds along with distinguishing himself as a pastor.
3. Did you enjoy staying in the circa 1850 Victorian “Norris House,” which later became the Christ Church Rectory in 1885? What did you like most about living there?
The rectory has been the residence for rectors since the beginning. Many churches have sold off their rectories which I think is a mistake. New rectors usually like to buy their own house and receive a housing allowance then move on. They sell their house and the churches are left with no rector, no rectory. Christ Church has maintained the large and well-kept rectory all these years. It was expected that the rectors that followed me live in the rectory provided by the church. One advantage is that you are close to the property. As a rector you are a custodian of the past, an heir to history and expected to be in command of the present. I enjoyed the house. I always felt it had a special ambiance, a mood, a link with the past and even a link with the spiritual history of the parish itself.
|Circa 1896 photo of the Rectory, Christ Church and the old Temperance Hall (from L-R)|
|Circa 1909 postcard of the Rectory, Christ Church and the old Temperance Hall (from L-R)|
I sponsored many lectures in the parish house and events on the parish house stage. All the lectures had religions implications and many were by researchers. For example...if I had a person speak on dream research I would ask them to make reference to the subject of dreams in the bible. All those lectures were a compliment to faith...a way of ennobling faith. Some dealt with consciousness raising, prayer, meditation, the subject of life after death, healing and other dimensional thinking. Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon spoke twice in my parish drawing big crowds. It was exciting to have these people on the platform and it was also a kind of extended ministry to the community. It was all about the study of consciousness and awareness. Some of this took place during what we called the Psychic Revolution. Those speakers who took on the subject of ESP, etc., were not evangelists of the subject but merely trying to show that there is within us an extra dimension that transcended the usual senses. There were talks that also warned of the dangers of dabbling with the Occult. It was all sensible material offered by people with good credentials. They were interesting time in the midst of the rise of the cults, the Aquarian Age, the Hippies, the Now generation and all else. Fortunately I had through the years, five assistants known as Curates. We still keep in touch and some are now retired. One of my outstanding curates was The Rev. Dr. John E. Bird who is retired and lives in Woodbury. Years ago we had purchased the half house next to the rectory and that was the Curates residence. With all the demands I was also active in the Diocese of NJ having served on numerous committees.
5. Have you ever encountered any opposition in the community with you hosting psychics, magicians, illusionists, astronauts, actors, etc.?
6. What in your opinion caused the gradual decline of downtown Woodbury? Any thoughts on how to revive our city?
8. Any new books planned?
I found that the ministry is not a life style but a life. I was pleased to serve and like Canon Williams I retired in Woodbury, a place I love and with people I have known for decades. Besides: I knew where the Acme was, the hospital, doctors and all else. Why move away, create obstacles and then try to surmount them!!
|Stained glass window in Christ Church, Woodbury |
dedicated in 1998 to the life and ministry of Canon Rauscher
Thank you Canon Rauscher for your many contributions to our community and beyond. May this world continue to be a better, more enlightened (and more mysterious) place with you in it.
Mitchell, J. A. (2008). Christ episcopal church: Woodbury, New Jersey 1857-2007. (1st ed., pp. 173-175). Rockland, ME: Custom Museum Publishing.
Rauscher, W. V. (2006). Religion, magic, and the supernatural. Woodbury, NJ: Mystic Light Press.