German Minister Leads United Church Of Christ
When Valeria Schmidt was a little girl, she thought she might like to be an opera singer. Years later, Rev. Schmidt still loves to sing, but her career plan as an adult has brought her to the ministry and from Germany to the United States.
Schmidt, born in Croatia and raised in Germany, has only delivered three sermons in Fulton County, and says that she likes the small-town, quiet life. The church will hold a reception for its new minister on Sunday, February 15, from 2-4 p.m. at the church, and everyone, regardless of church affiliation, is invited to meet the new pastor.
Her road to McConnellsburg has been circuitous. While working as a pastor in D'sseldorf, Germany, the German citizen reached out to the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ and found there was an opening in the McConnellsburg/ Fort Loudon Parish. The Penn Central Conference has a close partnership with her church in Germany, and they have "full communion," which means they respect each other's theologies, according to Schmidt
She visited here in May and returned in August for an interview. She was offered the job and the rest is history. In the past three weeks since her arrival, Schmidt has just "been trying to meet people, getting to know parishioners better and spending time just listening" as she formulates her plans for her new churches, St. Paul's United Church of Christ in McConnellsburg and Trinity United Church of Christ in Fort Loudon.
Although McConnellsburg may be new to Valeria, the United States is certainly not. Schmidt's father was a German diplomat and, growing up, her family moved quite often, living in Washington, D.C., when her father was assigned to the German Embassy and in Manhattan when he served at the United Nations.
Although she received two theological degrees in Germany, she also studied on a scholarship at Duke University's Divinity School in Durham, N.C.
Schmidt says she was drawn to the ministry from studying the theology of Martin Luther, who was a German monk, theologian, university professor and was considered the father of Protestantism. He was a church reformer whose ideas influenced the Protestant Reformation and whom many believe changed the course of Western civilization.
She became interested in Latin, Ancient Greek and Hebrew because the New Testament was written in Ancient Greek while the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. She is fluent in English, German and French. Along with those interests, she said she was drawn to the ministry because of her faith. "I was always sure God existed and was supporting me," she said.
For now, Schmidt says she "wants to see her church grow" and she is interested in bringing in more young people "to keep things lively." She says she is looking forward to meetings with the Church Ministry Committee and hearing its ideas on what it feels are the church's needs. She says the main focus of her ministry is preaching and planning worship services, working with children and families, and pastoral counseling. In her statement on ministry, she said, "As a person of faith it will always be my aim to do God's will, to be just and merciful and loving to all His creation."
In her spare time, she enjoys singing, practicing the guitar, reading, watching movies and exercising. She is residing in the UCC parsonage and awaiting the arrival of her belongings from Germany.
Schmidt has a brother who is studying at the University of Chicago and a sister who lives in Germany. Her parents are retired and spend time at their homes in Bonn and Berlin, Germany.
And now back to that singing plan. Her new church does not currently have a choir and Rev. Schmidt is very anxious to bring a choir back to the church. She invites all who may be interested in singing in the choir to be in touch with her. She may have given up the dream of being an opera singer, but she clearly has not lost her love of music and singing.