From left to right, the Rev. Martin Zimmann, Ph.D., the Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, the Rev. Carl Schmoyer, Paul Fogel and Bishop Samuel Zeiser.

Topton pastor, resident honored for years of service with named scholarship

Topton, Pennsylvania    Friday, October 30, 2020

This article was written before the global health crisis stemming from COVID-19 disease and then held the last several months as communication focused on response to the pandemic and changes within Diakon. The article is now presented as a view of life before the pandemic and, eventually, of life after.

Humility is often a hallmark of a dedicated pastor, a trait that applies to the Rev. Carl Schmoyer, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Topton. The congregation worships on the campus of The Lutheran Home at Topton, where Schmoyer lives in independent living accommodations, and includes both campus and community residents.

The congregation honored its pastor—who has been in active ordained ministry for more than 62 years—with the establishment of the Rev. Carl Schmoyer Fund, a scholarship at United Lutheran Seminary, which has campuses in Gettysburg and Philadelphia.

The church has pledged a contribution per year for 10 years to be used for the education of new students in ministry.

In January, Bishop Samuel Zeiser of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who is retiring, offered a tribute to Schmoyer and his long faithfulness in ministry. Receiving the first contribution for the seminary were the Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, CFRE, vice president for institutional advancement and adjunct faculty in homiletics, and the Rev. Martin Zimmann, Ph.D., director of congregational relations, adjunct faculty in Church and Society and executive director, Stewardship of Life Institute.

“It was an honor the bishop was there that Sunday and an honor that the congregation bestowed on me,” Schmoyer says. “I don’t feel I deserve it, but I thank them and treasure their love.”

He adds that “I’m very humbled about the scholarship. I felt I didn’t deserve it and they insisted I did. I can’t tell you all the blessings the Lord has brought upon me.”

“The Rev. Carl Schmoyer has been a faithful, effective and hardworking pastor throughout his years in the synod,” says the bishop. “His commitment to the good news of God’s love in the Risen Jesus runs deep, and it is not confined to people of one religion or one culture, or by any other boundary … I have found him to be a kind, thorough, dependable colleague in ministry. God has blessed us abundantly with Carl’s ministry gifts.”

Paul Fogel, a member of the congregation’s council, says the church pledge will be used for seminarians in need of financial assistance as well as the seminary’s annual fund.

“Our hopes at Grace are that if we can help one seminarian be as good a shepherd to others as Carl has been to us, the money is well spent.” Fogel says. He and his wife, Sue, have been members of Grace for 10 years. She retired from Diakon in 2013 after 25 years with the organization, including service as activities coordinator for independent living. She still volunteers with the senior living community.

“My hobby is caring for people.”

“We are grateful to the people of Grace Lutheran Church for establishing the Schmoyer Fund to further our mission,” says Zimmann. “Tuition at the graduate level is expensive. Many of our students have dependents and other financial obligations. Thanks to the generosity of donors like the folks at Grace, we are able to provide full tuition for practically all of our students, and less than 25 percent of them need to take out federal loans.”

“All of this was done without my knowledge,” says Schmoyer. Eventually, he was told of the scholarship in his name, surmising that the plan was to “enable me not to break down” at the January service, “but I did.”

He has served as pastor of Grace Lutheran since 1998, the year he and his late wife, Muriel, moved to The Lutheran Home at Topton. Their daughter, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren live in the Gettysburg area.

Schmoyer was serving as visiting pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in the community of Topton when there was talk of closing Grace Lutheran. “I said, ‘As long as I have breath and am able, I’ll take care of it,’” he says of his reaction. “I love the church, the home and every resident here.”

Several times a year, Grace Lutheran worships together with the worshipping community at the senior living community, led by the Rev. Dr. Colleen Kristula, chaplain. The two congregations offer a different worship experience but have a “wonderful spirit of cooperation,” says Kristula.

“Carl is an amazing guy. He’s a shepherd of the people who goes above and beyond to take care of his flock. Every day he comes through with his walker from the cottages and visits all of his people.”

He also volunteers at the home and offers Bible study in personal care once a week. He has distributed at least 100 or more GANZ Get Well Soon Woofie Plush Dog Stuffed Animal Toys to members and non-members of Grace Lutheran at the home. He says the small brown-and-white stuffed dogs really lift the spirits of those who are critically ill and bring them comfort. “People have a fantastic reaction when you leave the dogs with them.”

Schmoyer was born in Allentown and moved to Slatington at the age of five when his father accepted a job as a butcher with Kern Meat Markets. He said the Rev. Mark Lauchnor, then pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Slatington, was influential in his becoming a pastor.

During Schmoyer’s first pastorate he spent three years at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on Route 611 in the village of Stone Church in Mount Bethel Township, not far from the New Jersey border. He then spent six years at Jordan Lutheran Church, Orefield, where as pastor he oversaw the construction of a new addition.

For the next eight years, Schmoyer’s pastoral ministry took him to central Pennsylvania, where he was simultaneously pastor of both Zion Lutheran Church, Trevorton, and St. Peter Church, West Cameron, a union church of Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregations. “I brought the Lutheran and UCC churches together into a single parish,” Schmoyer says.

He recalls his blending of those two parishes is precisely why he was then called by the bishop to be pastor of the now-275-year-old Jerusalem Western Salisbury Church, Allentown, a shared ministry of Jerusalem Lutheran Congregation of Western Salisbury and Jerusalem Western Salisbury UCC. Schmoyer shepherded that combined flock for 27 years. It is also the church that counted his parents and grandparents as members before he was pastor.

In fact, when Grace Lutheran honored Schmoyer for 60 years of ordination, representatives of all the congregations he had served came to be a part of it.

“I left each congregation I served with great love, and they all kept in contact with me.” He sent each congregation a thank-you note for letting him be their pastor.

The uniqueness of his ministry is mirrored in the fact that even when members of Schmoyer’s congregations moved away but retained their membership, he visited them in such locales as Indiana, Florida and Washington, D.C.

As to hobbies, Schmoyer quickly responds: “My hobby is caring for people.”

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