Reverend retires after nearly 40 years

May 01, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CHEWSVILLE - The Rev. John W. Schildt has given 2,000 sermons as pastor of Bethel Church in Chewsville.

On June 11, he will address the congregation for the last time.

Schildt, 71, is retiring after 39 years with the church.

Nearly 300 people gathered Sunday evening at the church to honor Schildt's dedication and service.

"I think you can see from the turnout how much they treasure Rev. Schildt," said Beverly Miller, a 68-year member of the church and a member of Women at the Well - the group that spearheaded the event. "He's one of the most loving, caring people, and he's given so much of himself."

Bethel was only the third church Schildt served during a nearly 50-year career in the ministry, and he said he felt very at home in the church and the town.


Kelli Black of Smithsburg, children's director at the church, said Schildt baptized her and her three children and also was the pastor at her wedding.

"He's all I've ever known," she said. "To me, he is Bethel Church. It will be very different to come to Bethel Church to see someone else up there speaking at the service."

Black said Schildt will be difficult to replace. He knows every person who worships at Bethel and their families, she said.

During the Ash Wednesday services, Schildt placed his hand on each person's head and prayed for him or her by name, Black said.

"That's so special," she said. "He just knows everyone."

Schildt said his fondest memories and favorite moments at the church will be the ones spent talking with people one-on-one.

"I guess I'm a people person," he said. "I like relating to people."

Schildt has had more than 40,000 pastoral visits in his 39 years at the church.

Phil Baker, a member of Bethel for about 50 years, said Schildt always has been supportive of the congregation and the community.

Schildt performed the marriage ceremony of Michael McAllister of Smithsburg and his wife 31 years ago. The couple's two children were baptized by Schildt.

"He's just very caring," McAllister said. "He was well-liked, and he'll be missed."

McAllister remembers shortly after Schildt came to Bethel, he joined a church softball league. Schildt played shortstop.

"He loved to play ball," he said.

On Sunday, Schildt said he was overwhelmed by the many speeches, memories and musical performances shared during the celebration.

He said he will retire to a home in Sharpsburg and plans to travel and write. He also hopes to teach history at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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