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Our Neighbors....Loren and Linda Schumacher

Zion Lutheran Church of Cloquet recently welcomed a brand, new pastor - times two. Pastors Loren and Linda Schumacher just took up residency in Cloquet three weeks ago, replacing another pastoral pair at Zion, Pastors Paul and Barbara Birkeland, ...

Zion Lutheran Church of Cloquet recently welcomed a brand, new pastor - times two.

Pastors Loren and Linda Schumacher just took up residency in Cloquet three weeks ago, replacing another pastoral pair at Zion, Pastors Paul and Barbara Birkeland, both of whom recently retired.

"We realize that oftentimes it's hard to find a situation where a couple can work together in the same parish," said Loren. "When the call committee asked us how we thought we'd work together, we said, 'Well, we've worked together for 27 years - and I think we have figured it out!'"

That's a testament to the couple's compatibility, since the two came from fairly diverse backgrounds....

Linda grew up in a suburban neighborhood of the Twin Cities, the oldest of four children. As a child, she loved to read and listen to music. After graduating from Robbinsdale High School, she went on to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in political science.

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"I was from a family who was always very interested in and vocal about politics," she related. "I never really wanted to run for office, but instead I wanted to be one of the people working behind the scenes."

After she graduated from the U of M, however, she decided to go into the seminary instead.

"It was a very gentle, leading process," she reflected. "Loren and I became involved in a church together when we were in college, and [the thought of becoming a pastor] became something I thought more about as time went by."

Loren, on the other hand, grew up in a rural area outside of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., in the Door County area.

"I grew up as an only child in a family who operated a small dairy farm," he related. "We had a cherry and apple orchard as well, and I helped my dad with the work."

As a student growing up in school, Loren enjoyed math, the sciences and English.

"I just liked school a lot," he admitted. "I started out in a one-room schoolhouse in the country, and then I went to junior high and graduated from Southern Door High School."

He then decided to go on to school at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., near Milwaukee.

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"They had a good recruiter who not only came to my school but came to our home as well," he said. "She actually went up to my dad while he was out on his tractor in the field and talked with him and was very encouraging. I was always much more directed toward school and the academic side than actual farming. My dad was very supportive of that."

Loren majored in Latin and geography, with an eye toward going on to graduate school to study art history at the University of Minnesota.

"I was thinking of going into archeology, Greek and Roman particularly, or possibly museum work," he related.

He and Linda met at the University of Minnesota while both were employed at the Walter Reserve Library on campus.

"We got to know one another, and then one day she fed me - that was it!" grinned Loren.

Linda prefers to look at their mutual attraction a bit more introspectively, however.

"We have very similar values and very supportive, close families," she said.

"We both loved music and ushered at Northrup Auditorium," added Loren. "When the Metropolitan Opera came from New York for a week at a time, we'd spend the evening sitting on the steps listening to the opera after we'd ushered all the people in. We also ushered for the symphony, so music was a real interest we shared."

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While at the U of M, the two got involved in the University Church of Hope located near campus and soon became very active in it.

"The pastor [Pastor Lowell Urdahl, who eventually became bishop of the ELCA's St. Paul Synod] was one who, once you got into the church, made sure you got active," Loren said.

In fact, the two were married over spring break by Pastor Urdahl at that very church.

When Linda first began her time at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Loren took a year off and went to work for University Information answering phone calls.

A year later, he decided to join her at the seminary.

"I'd grown up in the church," he related, "and one day when I was about 11, I had one of the main reading parts in the Sunday School Christmas program. The pastor commented that I would make a good pastor - at which time I decided I would never be one!" he chuckled.

After going through college, meeting Linda and becoming involved in the campus church, however, his heart and mind began to tell him otherwise.

"The guiding of the spirit led me to the reality of the call that had sort of been slowly working in me all those years," said Loren. "As Christians, we don't always know how the spirit is going to lead us."

As the two of them went through the four-year program at Luther Seminary, Linda admitted that she felt as though she was breaking fairly new ground.

"I was in the second wave of women [to attend the seminary] so we were still quite new to the church, but we were not the pioneers who came in first," she explained. "There were several experiences, especially during my internship, however, where as a woman I faced some challenges. But I was lucky - I was always surrounded by very supportive pastors and very encouraging folks."

She did her internship at Faith Lutheran Church in Valders, Wis., a Scandinavian community named after a city in Norway.

"Valders is a very small town," she admitted. "In fact, the church was bigger than the town!"

The internship program takes place during the third year of seminary and students go out and serve full time in a congregation, working with a senior pastor.

"I had preached in the congregation I worked in during my first year at the seminary," said Linda, "so preaching for me was a familiar experience at that point. I always enjoyed preaching and was comfortable with it - which really surprised me. I can still remember being terrified during speech class in high school!"

Loren's internship was a bit different than Linda's.

"The two of us were in basically the same setting," he said, "but I was 18 miles down the road, in Kiel, Wis., a German community where residents had the desire to have an ALC church there. They put together some money and a mission project - basically, an evaluation of the area - and set services once a week. I was the pastor, and we met in the living room of a historic home owned by the city. I had a storefront cubicle in the doctor's office - a place for people to come. My work involved a lot of contact with families in the area and trying to get things going. Several years later, they did build a church after things fell into place."

In retrospect, Loren said their internship experiences helped lay the groundwork for where they are today.

"We each had a very different experience," he said. "As a result, we've sort of brought different perspectives to our ministry team."

The two graduated from seminary at the same time and were assigned to the Southern Wisconsin District of the American Lutheran Church, to Christ Lutheran Church in Salem, Wis., sharing one full-time call.

"That was our desire," explained Linda. "When we were on internship and working full time, we realized if we were going to have a family and make sure we were there for our kids, as full time pastors our schedules just weren't going to allow that. The [job share] arrangement worked well for us - financially, not so great, but it was fantastic for raising the kids."

The couple has two children - Amanda, now 25, and Matthew, 19. Amanda was born while they were in Salem, and Matt was born while they were at their second parish in the north central part of Wisconsin in a small town called Curtis, where they also served a rural church in Medford.

When it came to the Sunday morning service, the two of them managed to divvy up their responsibilities to the church - and to their family.

"While one was preaching," said Loren, "the other one was sitting feeding the baby in the front pew. One time, I was feeding our son, and he burped very loudly right in the middle of Linda's sermon!"

"It was a very, very quiet, polite congregation," added Linda with a grin, "and it was one of those burps that only a baby can let out! Everything was fine until our daughter, who was about six at the time, just totally lost it. The more she laughed, the more the congregation laughed!"

"I think that family emphasis is something we've brought to the congregations we've served," stated Loren. "We've always tried to involve the entire family in worship and in education events to try to build up families in their faith life so it happens outside of church - in their homes as well as in the church. I think that's a reflection of who we are."

When the Schumachers left Curtis, they went to Amery, Wis., and served the parish there for the next 18 years, until their son graduated from high school last June.

While there, Loren also worked at the post office as a leather worker, and the two of them both did some substitute teaching in the school system in order to supplement their income as their kids got older.

They were both very active in the schools and the community, with Linda serving as a scout leader and Loren involved in the community theater, both acting and directing. In fact, he has already moved into the directorship of the Cloquet church's New Wine group, who will perform "Children of Eden" this summer, touring as far as New Orleans.

"It's very exciting for me," he commented.

After 18 years at the parish in Amery, last summer the Schumachers realized it was time for a new challenge so they submitted their mobility papers to the church and talked with several synods. They first heard about the opening in Cloquet last August and were asked to come to interview last October. The congregation voted on Dec. 9 to issue a call to them.

"It's going very well," said Linda. "It's a wonderful church. There's a real sense of vitality here and lots and lots of people involved in the ministry of the church."

"Right now, our main goal is to do a lot of listening," said Loren, "to hear the story of the church, to see where the people's ministry is, where their hearts are and where their gifts are."

Pine Journal Publisher/ reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejournal.com .

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