Arnold F. Keller Jr., 88, a pastor emeritus of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington who played a critical role in the church’s community outreach and public service initiatives, died Feb. 16 at a nursing home in Vero Beach, Fla.
The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said his son-in-law David O’Bryon.
Rev. Keller served the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for 33 years over two separate assignments, including 26 years as senior pastor before retiring in 1993.
During his tenure, the congregation focused on global outreach and community ministries, including a tutoring service for youths living in a nearby housing project, a food pantry and efforts to restore homes for needy local families.
Rev. Keller helped start the church’s public-affairs ministry, which brought together hundreds of federal government employees to discuss political and theological issues. He also launched a health-care center at the church to serve the community.
Rev. Keller was instrumental in starting the Capitol Hill Community Achievement Awards, now bestowed by the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals. The association named a community service award in Rev. Keller’s honor.
Arnold Frederick Keller Jr. was born in Utica, N.Y., the son of a Lutheran pastor. He was a 1945 graduate of Hamilton College in New York and received a bachelor’s of divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 1947.
Rev. Keller’s family said he voiced early support within the Lutheran Church to welcome lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people as worshipers. In retirement, he served as executive director for the Council of Churches of Greater Washington for about four years. He moved to Vero Beach from Bethesda in the late 1990s.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Margaret Schroeder Keller of Vero Beach; four children, Margaret O’Bryon of Bethesda, Arnold Keller of Perry Hall, Md., Jonathan Keller of Frederick and Anne Jones of San Anselmo, Calif.; a sister; and seven grandchildren.
— Adam Bernstein