It has often been said that the Lord works in mysterious ways. For Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rhinelander, a challenging season of calling pastors to fill a vacancy has ended with the installation of a new leadership team and a new beginning for the congregation.
Karl Schultz was installed Oct. 20 as the church's newest pastor. He succeeded Pastor Rik Krahn who left the congregation in August to take a call in Manitowoc. Krahn's departure left the congregation, which is part of the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), without a pastor, as the church council has been searching for a second pastor for approximately three years without success.
Pastor Mark Gass of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Tomahawk stepped in to act as a vacancy pastor for the congregation following Krahn's departure.
Also helping to fill the void is staff minister John Kanter, who moved to Rhinelander in July with his wife, Nancy, who took a position teaching third and fourth grade at Zion's day school.
"We came (to Rhinelander) because she wanted to teach here and God has found another place for me," Kanter said.
As staff minister, Kanter will act as an assistant to the pastor and the school principal, he explained. He is also involved with various ministries within the congregation.
The Kanters were previously based in Fort Atkinson for over 20 years.
Schultz also came to Rhinelander from the southern part of the state. Most recently, he led a congregation in Lake Geneva but has also served as a pastor in Kaukauna as well as Nebraska and Minnesota.
Schultz said his top priority as he settles into his new job is getting to know people, both in the congregation and in the community at large "in order to help them in their walk with Jesus."
"Our mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus to teach those who already know him so they can grow in their faith and also reach out to those who don't know him as their savior," he said. "We have a good message, an exciting message to share with people."
Both men said they've been impressed by how the Zion congregation has sustained itself during a challenging time.
"It's neat to see God's hand in it all," Schultz said. "When a congregation does have long vacancy, sometimes in a good way, it forces congregation members to step up in different ways. It's evident to me that has happened."
Both men said they've been welcomed with open arms.
"There are a lot of people here who are excited to serve Jesus," Schultz said. "It's a neat thing to step into something like that."
Heather Schaefer may be reached at heather@ rivernewsonline.com.
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