GLADSTONE - When Pastor Jonathan Schmidt steps into the pulpit on Sunday morning, he will be presenting his final message to the parishioners of First Lutheran Church of Gladstone. Pastor Jon and his wife, Jean, along with their daughter Rebecca, will be leaving First Lutheran after more than 15 years of service to the church and moving to their new pastorate in Wisconsin.
Also a pastor, Jean Schmidt delivered her final sermon at Bethany Lutheran Church in Perkins on Dec. 9.
The couple will serve as full-time co-pastors of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in West Salem, Wis., beginning on Jan. 4.
Dorothy McKnight | Daily Press
Rev. Jonathan Schmidt, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Gladstone, and his wife. Pastor Jean, who has been leading the congregation of Bethany Lutheran Church in Perkins, will be leaving shortly for their new ministry in Wisconsin. Pastor Jon has served the local congregation for almost 16 years.
"The congregation there is about the size of Gladstone so we should be comfortable there," said Pastor Jon. "But it will also be a challenge and a new group of people to work with."
"But we'll be there as a family - together," Pastor Jean added. "We'll both be in the same place at the same time and Rebecca won't have to split her time and go with her dad one week and with me the next."
Born in Queens, N.Y., Pastor Jon grew up in Berwyn, Ill., graduating from high school there in 1978. Although he obtained a degree in political science and economics from Northwestern University in 1982, he said he was midway through his college studies when he began questioning his choice of studies.
"As much as I loved those fields, I really couldn't see myself in that for the rest of my life," he said. "I felt so scattered and had the feeling I was barking up the wrong tree that I started looking at seminary. As soon as I committed to that, I became much more relaxed. I felt all the weight lifted off and had fun. I still got A's and B's but then I had the confidence of where God was leading me."
And why shouldn't the ministry have had such an appeal to Schmidt?
With a broad grin, he explained. "My father was a pastor. My grandfather was a pastor. I have five uncles and a few cousins who are pastors. My uncle used to say that you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a pastor. But none of them went through the motions - they were all deeply spiritual."
After leaving Northwestern, Pastor Jon enrolled in the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago where he obtained a master of divinity degree in 1986. First Lutheran is his third "call." He first served at Immanuel Lutheran in Negaunee and Faith Lutheran in Three Lakes, Wis. After moving to Gladstone to serve as First Lutheran Pastor, he has also served as interim pastor at Christ the King and Immanuel in Escanaba, and a number of others Lutheran churches in Delta County.
Although Pastor Jean attended a Lutheran college, her journey to ministry was quite different from her husbands. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she graduated from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., in 1982 with a degree in home economics and secondary education. She obtained employment as a patient relations coordinator for Loyola University in Chicago where she met her future husband.
"After we were introduced, we began long-distance courting," she said. After their marriage, Pastor Jean began online studies with Theological Education Emerging Ministries (TEEM) at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, graduating with an associate's degree. She was ordained in November 2009 and began her ministry at Bethany Lutheran the following month.
"I became a pastor much later than Jon did," she said. "God knocked on the door and I finally opened up to do what He was asking me to do. I remember the first time I got up to speak in front of the congregation, I felt at Peace. This is what God intended me to do and I knew God was doing it through me."
Their 11-year-old daughter, Rebecca, was added to their household after she was adopted from Russia when she was 14 months old.
Although they are married and each with a pastorate of their own, both Pastor Jon and Pastor Jean admit they have different views of their ministry.
"I'm certainly not always calling down fire from heaven," said Pastor Jon. "I view my ministry as an attempt to make the Gospel relevant to today. I teach adults pretty well and have a passion for teaching. Let's face it. What happened 30 years ago isn't like it is today. Our culture is changing and it's important how a church responds to those changes. There are always critical questions we need to be asking to remain relevant to people's lives."
Having a relationship and visiting with members of her congregation are especially important to Pastor Jean. "And when it comes to my ministry, I enjoy experimenting with different things to see what works and what doesn't," she said.
So 50 years from now, how would each one of them like to be remembered?
"I hope they remember my name," said Pastor Jon with a laugh. "But seriously, I'm really proud about a lot of seminary students who have come out of this church in the past eight years. I just recently put in for the eighth one. Prior to that, the congregation had only one person in the last 30 years. I'm very open to support seminary students."
Pastor Jon also said he hopes his sermons over his years at First have been "engaging," adding, "I put a lot of energy into them."
"When I left Bethany after my last sermon, I felt I was grieving and I believe those feelings are reciprocated," said Pastor Jean.
After the Schmidts leave Gladstone, they will arrive at their new place of ministry on Jan. 1. Following their departure, the church will be served by interim pastor, Peggy Rose, who will begin her ministry on Jan. 4. She will remain until a full-time pastor is appointed.