Q & A: Living within our faith

Several retired Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) pastors found a home at Heritage Homes in Watertown, WI.Watertown is currently home to Luther Preparatory School, which educates young men and women in the Lutheran faith and prepares them for full time ministry in the WELS church.

Each retired pastor has his differences, including what inspired each to enter the ministry and share God’s word through a variety of roles. Still, they have one important fact in common: the Christian care at Heritage Homes is what first attracted them to making a new home there.

“I enjoy that it is owned and operated by people of our faith. My wife and I remember the warm welcome from staff and residents. We decided Heritage Homes is the warm environment we wanted before our eternal home,” said retired pastor Walter Schumann.

Fellow retired pastors James Thrams, Armin Schuetze and Lloyd Hohenstein would agree.

1-70.jpgPictured in back row (left to right) are Pastor Lloyd Hohenstein, Pastor James Thrams and Chaplain Mark Bartsch. In front row are (left to right) Pastor Armin Schuetze and Pastor Walter Schumann.

We interviewed the four retired WELS pastors to learn about their stories.

Pastor James Thrams served from 1957 to 1997.  His favorite Bible passage is Ephesians 2. He enjoys the focus it gives to “by grace you are saved.” While working at in the prep department at Northwestern, he worked to establish the classroom advisor counseling system.

What made you want to be a pastor?   

In the fifth grade, a teacher heard me speaking on the playground. He said, “With a voice like yours, you should go into the ministry.” This planted a seed that led me to consider it. By eighth grade, I had put some thought into it and attended Northwestern High School and College. I finished my education with three years at the seminary.

Where did you serve as a shepherd?

First, I was called to Grace Lutheran in Muskegon Heights, MI. I served there from 1953 to 1957. Next, I was called to St. Matthew’s in Janesville, WI. At the time, I was uncertain of the call, but my home pastor called me and explained it was the perfect fit for me. They wanted me to start a mission on the south side of Janesville. While I was there, from 1957 to 1966, we began their Christian Day School. In 1966, I accepted a call to serve as a professor at Northwestern’s Prep department. It’s now known as the preparatory school. I worked there until I retired in 1997. For a few years following, I was blessed to continue to serve as a monitor for their computer lab.

Pastor Walter Schumann served from 1945 to 1984. Pastor Schumann’s first call was to the mission field of the Dakota, Montana. He also served in Lemon, a town on the border of North and South Dakota and in Eagle River, WI. His final call was to Trinity Lutheran Church in Watertown, WI.

What caused you to want to become a pastor?

My father influenced me. I was undecided on my future until my senior year at college. My inclinations at the time were to enter the Federal Forestry Service. I loved the outdoors and the things associated with it. I studied wildlife habitats and was interested in wildlife, especially the studies of birds. My father knew of my indecision and guided me to choose the ministry as my career. I have never regretted that choice.

What is your favorite lesson?

There are many; if I had to choose a few, I would start with the account of the criminals at Calvary. This is a great lesson on the penitent and impenitent sinner. I also love the 23rd Psalm; I always saw it as more than the Good Shepherd Psalm. It had four parts to me. The first was to know the blessedness of being a child of God followed by being a member of His flock. Lastly, it was an assurance that we are travelers in His company and guests at His table in heaven.

Pastor Armin Schuetze served from 1940-1990. Pastor Schuetze’s first call to a congregation was to Timberlake, SD. His next calls included Calvary Lutheran Church in Thiensville, WI; Lutheran High School in Mobridge, SD and Divine Peace in Milwaukee, WI. He was called to serve as a seminary professor, where he served for 30 years. He also served as president of the seminary for seven of those years.

What made you want to become a pastor?

My dad was a pastor. I never thought of anything else. I have two sons and one of them became a pastor. Many of my grandchildren have also become pastors. 

What is your favorite passage from the Bible?

Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved.” It stresses salvation by grace alone. I felt it was a key passage that talks about our salvation without the need for works.

Pastor Lloyd Hohenstein served from 1959 to 2005. Pastor Hohenstein served at Grace Lutheran Church in Pickett, WI; St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ridgeville, WI; St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church in Norwalk, WI; Immanuel Lutheran Church in Gibbon, MN; St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lake City, MN, and full time Hospital and Prison Ministries in the Twin Cities, MN.

What was your favorite lesson to teach?

At this point in my life, I enjoy asking caregivers if they know John 3:16. I like to share it for the importance that it has on one’s faith. The passage helps to stress the importance of Jesus in our Christian faith and His crucifixion and resurrection. I like to focus on the importance of faith and salvation through Jesus Christ.

What was a favorite moment in your career?

At Northwestern, Pastor Schroeder asked me to start helping in the library and book store. While working there, my wife, Virginia, came in for help finding a book.

On the day of my ordination, I performed my first baptism of my career. The baptism was for my eldest daughter. We also had a son born on Christmas Day while I was in the pulpit.