What’s Next for Pastor Luke

Pastor Luke Schmidt

Pastor Luke has received a Letter of Call to St. Paul’s Lutheran in Hanover and will be leaving Zion at the end of April. He is following his heart and his Call from God to take his gifts and talent to St Paul’s to become their Senior Pastor, where we know he will be a great leader for them.

Following are letters from Pastor Luke, and from Church Council President Jeff Magandy and Pastor Ted

Dear Zion,

I’m so thankful for the seven great years I’ve been able to serve you, and I’m so grateful for the way you welcomed my family to the Buffalo community. I know that God led me here and that we have had some amazing years together in ministry.

I also know that God has been working on new things for me, and on April 8th the people of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hanover voted to call me as their senior pastor. I have accepted the call to serve God’s people in that congregation.

I often preach about how God calls, gifts, and sends us out into the world to do those things he has uniquely created us to do. Leading in ministry is what he created me to do and I’m excited to use my gifts to do that at St. Paul’s.

This has been a long process of discernment in my house. A few weeks ago Will heard Jess and me talking about it (we hadn’t told him yet, keeping secrets is tough when you are 8). He came around the corner with a sheepish look on his face and said, “I heard what you guys are talking about and I need to share three things.” He said it about as well as I can:

  • Will – “I absolutely love Zion and will be really sad to leave.”
    • Me – I couldn’t agree more, this last seven years has been amazing and this has been a really difficult decision.
  • Will – “Dad, I want you to be happy and do what you need to do.”
    • Me – Me too, I am really excited to find fulfillment in using my gifts to lead.
  • Will – “I hope nobody gets mad at me if we leave.”
    • Me – Big changes are tough, especially when you have been doing life together. I assured him that when people understand that God is calling us to a new adventure, they will be excited for us as well.

Will’s words reminded me that we all react differently in the midst of hearing news like this. Though goodbyes are difficult, I’m excited for what lies ahead. I’m also confident that Zion will continue to be a great place to worship and be in community together. Please keep me and my family in your prayers as I pray for you and all the people of Zion.

As is customary when a pastor takes a new call it is important to note that I will not be available for pastoral acts such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, or counseling. This serves two purposes. It helps me enter my new call with full attention on my new congregation and it also sets important boundaries that allow our existing Zion pastors to build those relationships. If you see me around town, I’m still your neighbor, so feel free to chat with me about non-Zion related matters!

I’ve said to Jess, “This will be tough, but I’m looking forward to a time to say thank you and share some hugs and cake.” I’ll be in worship April 15th, preaching the 22nd, and will be around Wednesday evenings the 11th and 18th and would love to chat with you if you have questions. And please join me on my last Sunday, April 29th, for hugs or cake or both!

Again, thanks for being the amazing people of God called Zion Lutheran Church. You have truly been a blessing to my whole family!

Much love,

Pastor Luke

Dear Zion,

As Church Council President I’m writing this letter to inform you that Pastor Luke has received a Letter of Call to St. Paul’s Lutheran in Hanover and will be leaving Zion at the end of April. He is following his heart and his Call from God to take his gifts and talent to St Paul’s to become their Senior Pastor, where we know he will be a great leader for them.

During Pastor Luke’s seven years at Zion he has accomplished many things, he has helped many people, and he has been a large influence in shaping Zion into the church it is today. He has been a part of the hiring process where he has brought in many staff to support Zion in many ways, building a stronger staff to support the congregation. He has led the process to bring the digital sign at the entrance to inform everyone of what’s happening at Zion, he has led the kitchen remodel project, he has helped with the rebranding process giving Zion a new look, and Pastor Luke has helped lead the Legacy Campaign for Zion’s 150-year anniversary celebration. He loves special events to bring people together such as the Daddy Daughter dance held each year and has dreamt up the idea of Z-Fest, putting BBQ on the table. Pastor Luke has invested himself within the community of Buffalo as well, attending games, concerts and many community groups and foundation boards, attending fundraisers and supporting the Food Shelf, the Community Health Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce, even serving as President of Buffalo Ministerial Association. Pastor Luke has been the face of Zion at all the events he has attended. Pastor Luke has done wonderful work in connecting people in relationships, getting to know people and connecting people with similar interests to create relationships too. It’s been said that Pastor Luke has a gift of finding something in common with everyone, no matter what the situation or their interest. Pastor Luke loves Zion and has been bringing people to Zion to worship, inviting them into the life of the church, greeting them every morning, and making people feel at home. Pastor Luke loves preaching and has helped plan the yearly Lenten themes focused on helping us grow deeper in faith. He has focused on pastoral care and really valued his time spent with people walking through the circumstances of life; from getting to know young couples and uniting them in marriage, to celebrating baptisms, helping people celebrate the lives of loved ones through wedding anniversaries, to officiating at funerals within the community. And of course, Pastor Luke has spent time in Youth Ministry, connecting with kids and parents and teaching and leading confirmation.

We would like to thank Pastor Luke for his leadership and congregational support at Zion over the last seven years. We have all seen his gifts for leadership within the congregation, and within the community, and with all that he has accomplished, we can all affirm his readiness to take the next journey of his Call to lead a church as a Senior Pastor. He will be a blessing to his new congregation and he will do great things there too. He will be dearly missed, as a dedicated pastor, as well as, a special friend to so many of us. Thank you, Pastor Luke, for everything you have done while here at Zion.

With Pastor Luke leaving, we know there will be many questions as to what’s next for Zion and how are we going to move forward. Let us quickly address this question. First, we have a great staff that will serve us well in this period of transition. Second, we have a strong Church Council who will provide us with leadership and guidance as we move forward. So, if there is anything you need, or questions you have, please reach out to the staff or the council who will be happy to provide you with support. Church Council is meeting on Wednesday, April 18, and at that time will be forming a Task Force to lead the transition and provide the Council with information and suggestions on what next steps should be taken. We will ensure open communication with the congregation, and we will be working with the congregation on major decisions, as they arise. We have been working with Synod staff, Pastor John Hulden, and we will continue to do so, as a guide on our next steps for Zion.

But first, we want to celebrate Pastor Luke’s time with us, and his ministry among us. His last Sunday will be April 29th. Please join us that morning for “hugs or cake or both,” as we officially say Good Bye, Good Luck, and Thank You to Pastor Luke for everything he has given to Zion Lutheran Church.


Jeff Magandy, Council President

Ted Vanderpan, Senior Pastor of Zion