By John Fulton
Pastor Ed Schmidt has been the senior Pastor at Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg since 2004. Sunday, April 19 was his last day leading the congregation. He didn’t expect his last day in the pulpit would be without a congregation due to the cancellations and closings from the coronavirus.
So members and colleagues surprised the Schmidts with a parade in front of their home on his last Sunday.
When the decision was made to retire last December, this scenario was not envisioned. When it is safe for churches to assemble again, Lakeland will celebrate his retirement in a way more fitting than a video sermon message to the congregation.
“I have no immediate plans for the future. I will be seeking to hear from God what the next steps are.”
Jokingly, he added, “I am looking forward to rolling over in the a.m. and not having an agenda that must be attended to immediately. Hopefully, some golfing is in my future.”
The process for appointing a successor will begin by bringing a transitional pastor to Lakeland before the process of calling a new senior pastor begins. This will give the Lakeland congregation and its leadership time to determine the skills, abilities and leadership style of the next pastor who will match the Lakeland DNA and the church’s vision for future ministry and the congregation, Schmidt said.
Lakeland is the pastor’s fourth ministry in his 40-year career. He is also a third-generation pastor following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
Pastor Schmidt’s career began in Lansing at Immanuel Community Reformed.
The next move was to Grand Rapids as senior pastor for New Life Reformed Church. In 1995, he began a new church in Crown Point, Ind.. That church started in a hotel, then a school and a YMCA. He accepted the appointment to senior pastor of Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg in 2004.
When asked what he would tell a younger self, he said, “The crisis of the moment is not as dramatic as it feels. Step back and see the 3,000-foot view. It is sometimes easy to get overinvolved in the management and administration of a church. Remember to focus on the pastoral responsibilities by sharing the love and grace of Christ with his people.”
One of the big changes in churches Pastor Schmidt has seen is how a church is under great pressure to conform its message and methods to what is culturally acceptable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the church to stay relevant, influential, when culture and society offer so many other options for time and families. There has been a deemphasizing of the church’s role as a foundation in communities.
Pastor Ed said his greatest discovery during the COVID-19 crisis is that many times we worry so much about details. This isolation has provided a glimpse into retirement and an opportunity to sort out priorities, values and how to share God’s love and Grace during a crisis and the next stage of his life.
A visionary verse for Pastor Schmidt is John 10:10b. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He said, “Abundance of life is not just longevity, materials, success or notoriety. Cherish how you experience fullness of relationships and your walk with God in the 21st century during any economy, any threats or any situation. We can find abundance even in our current confinement when we look beyond and serve beyond our selves. God’s blessings can be experienced in His fullness in any time or place.”
Pastor Schmidt expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve His Lord with a faithful congregation of Christians at Lakeland and his colleagues in the communities of Vicksburg and Portage. “God has blessed me with truly an abundant life.”