Pastor Schaefer retiring after 15 years
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Friday, 28 September 2012 09:13
There is nothing but green lights ahead as Pastor Dale Schaefer "walks" away from his post as senior pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Bowling Green.
|Pastor Dale Schaefer is leaving his post as pastor after 15 years with St. Mark's. Lutheran. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
For his final sermon on Sunday, he will speak on "At the Corner of Walk and Don't Walk." Schaefer says he was inspired by a woman who used a guide dog as her eyes. At a crosswalk, the dog blocked her path until it was time to walk.
The pastor said he believes God works in a similar way in our lives and the life of the church.
"That is a picture of God's compassionate love for us," Schaefer said. "He will hold us and let us know when it is time to go."
He added, "My focus is to encourage the congregation on moving forward. It's not about me, it's about serving God."
For nearly 15 years, Schaefer has served the South College Drive congregation and from every indication, served it well.
"His leadership has been consistent, compassionate and courageous," said Terry Nowicki, administrative assistant at St. Mark's for 23 of the last 25 years, "He has been a strong and steady presence."
She also shared how his leadership has helped the congregation in expanding their outreach ministries.
Don Neifer, parish administrator for the last 11 years concurred.
"It's always been a pleasure and honor to serve with Dale Schaefer. He has done some amazing things here," Neifer said. "Dale has always been there with a prayer when we needed it."
He also shared how the pastor always has a joke to tell and a smile on his face.
Schaefer, a native of Salem, near Youngstown, came to the church 15 years ago from a church in Mansfield. He said he wasn't expecting to serve for this long, primarily because of historical trends. He followed Ed Walden who served St. Mark's for roughly 25 years.
"History shows the pastor who follows a long pastor, usually is short," Schaefer said. "But the folks here have been incredibly gracious and we have had a great relationship."
Neifer noted, "He has brought the Bible into everybody's life. He made it real."
He explained he saw how Schaefer was able to explain the scriptures so that the "common man could understand it and make it part of who they were."
During his term at St. Mark's, Schaefer has been extremely pleased with how the congregation has become increasingly welcoming and hospitable to everyone.
"There is a real commitment by the people to take the message out into the world, not to keep it within these walls," he said.
The pastor is also proud of the project in 2000 which expanded the church complex, including the Family Life Center. In addition to serving the various needs of the church, the facility is also used frequently by many organizations or groups.
"We can be a witness in that way into the community," Schaefer said.
Neifer said he admired the way the pastor was not afraid to take risks to move the church forward.
"Always a standout, he would always ask for forgiveness before he would ask for permission," the administrator said.
Schaefer also has served for roughly 12 years as chaplain for the Wood County Sheriff's office.
Eric Reynolds, chief deputy for the office said, "I am thankful for the many years of service he has provided to the men and women of the Sheriff's Department and the citizens of Wood County. He has tended to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs."
Reynolds also noted the pastor's ability to "comfort those in need" when assisting in death notifications for traffic fatalities.
He also recalled how Schaefer was riding along with a deputy when there was a runaway train from the Walbridge rail yard. A movie was later made regarding the situation.
In regard to his retirement, Schaefer said, "I am 68 years old with a modicum of health. So I think it's time to step back and listen for God's call."
What is that next chapter for the pastor?
First, he and his wife, Ginger, plan on staying in Bowling Green.
Schaefer has also offered his services to the synod to become a "colleague in residence."
After a three-month period of required inactivity, the pastor would be able to support other congregations in the synod by relieving other pastors for short spells of vacation or study leave or to assist with congregations with retreats.
"My hope and dream in retirement is to support others in full-time Christian ministry," Schaefer said. "That seems a good way to use my gifts to encourage and help others."
The couple will also use the time to take some vacation time which he promised to his wife.
"She's been very patient. I promised her a vacation after seminary and that was 30 years ago," Schaefer said of his commitment to his wife. "I'm going to finally make good on that."
They will do some camping and visiting their children and grandchildren. He also noted his garage full of projects. He also may take a more active role in his hobby of drag racing.
"I will get more serious about (drag racing) next year," he said.
Schaefer has frequently raced at Summit Motor Sports Park in Norwalk, where he also has served as chaplain.
"Being chaplain there has been a real blessing for me," he said.
As for the church, Pastor Henry Seibert will begin service as the interim pastor beginning Oct. 14. Schaefer said the call committee will be organized to look for a new senior pastor. That process could take a year to 14 months.
Nowicki calls Schaefer's retirement bittersweet. "I am happy for him, but it will be a huge transition for us."
Both she and Neifer shared how he has been more than their pastor and boss, he has been a personal friend, mentor and spiritual leader.
"He's always been very positive and treated me with the utmost request," Nowicki said.
"Personally, all of what he has done for me was just amazing," Neifer added.
Those feelings are shared by the entire congregation and community.
On Sunday, St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Bowling Green will bid farewell to their pastor for the last 15 years, Dale Schaefer.
Sunday will be his final day as he begins his retirement.
For the special day there will be only one service at 10 a.m. A reception in honor of his retirement and service will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the church.
Don Neifer, parish administrator, will serve as master of ceremonies for that reception.
Schaefer cautiously fears and is prepared the event may turn into a roast
Neifer said it is not planned as a roast.
"We want to keep it light," Neifer said. "Many folks will share their stories about what he has meant to them."
The public is invited to attend both the worship and the reception.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 10:13