Remembering Walt by Chip May

“Strawberries, Lord, my they’re tasty, Amen!” This is just one of many memorable prayers that Pastor Walt Schoedel shared at Camp Arcadia. Walt passed away on November 9 at the age of 97. Rev. Schoedel was a pastor, teacher, administrator, consultant and author during his 70+ years of ministry. At Camp Arcadia he was a long-time dean for the Lutherhostel retreats and during the 1990’s and early 2000’s he served as the Lutheran Camp Association board’s chaplain and summer staff chaplain.  

I was blessed to know Pastor Schoedel, or Walt, as he asked us to call him, when I was on summer staff as a college student, as well as when I became the Camp director in 2000. He had a big impact on my faith development and my view of Christian leadership. I know many Arcadians who were blessed by his ministry, and many first came to Camp due to his efforts promoting Camp Arcadia. 

Walt took the Gospel seriously, but he did not take himself seriously. I have fond memories of him telling jokes in the dining room during the Lutherhostel retreats. In one particular instance, Walt and I had sort of a joke-off after the meal. Each trying to outdo to the other. Let’s just say that Walt won with some jokes that I had thought were a bit borderline in regards to their appropriateness for the dining room, but the laughter and applause by the older adults said otherwise.

“Strawberries, Lord, my they’re tasty, Amen!”

Pastor Walt Schoedel

As a staff chaplain Walt was there for us, not judging us, but rather with an open-heart and a generous word. I remember once I had him speak to the high school group that I led during family weeks. They were asking about how much faith they needed to be saved and I was out of my depth. I consulted with Walt and he sat down with my group and assured them that faith was sort of like a gas tank, as long as you had something in the tank, you were good. And the best part was that Jesus was in charge of filling up the tank, not us. What a word of grace to the teens and me!

Walt let us tease him and this endeared him to us. We loved to impersonate his odd pronunciations of certain words, like baptism, that we chalked up to his Canadian upbringing. He also had this one prayer that was a version of St. Patrick’s prayer that went something like, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ above me…” I forget if he added “Christ in my pocket” or if we did, but we loved to add this phrase and more to the prayer, like Christ in my shoe, Christ in ear, etc.” He would take it in stride, laughing and rolling with the punches. This taught me that building this kind of rapport with your staff is important. We knew he took his role as our spiritual leader seriously, but not so seriously that he couldn’t have a little fun with us. 

Bob Beumer, former LCA Board member and president remembers Walt as a staff chaplain who was also very visible and available to the campers, playing tennis or baseball. (I too remember Walt being in great shape, always a bit tan. He was a stud.) Bob reflected on Walt’s demeanor, “Campers witnessed his everyday life that always reflected God’s love and mercy towards him.  No matter the situation, Walt would always say, “I am blessed”.” Bob and his family were blessed to have Walt as their pastor back in St. Louis and he is thankful that his kids got to see their pastor at Camp in a different light – shorts and gym shoes – making him much more approachable. 

As a board chaplain Walt played a crucial role in the Camp’s leadership during some very important times in Camp’s history, when significant improvements were being made to our facilities and programs. Stan Scheumann, long-time board member and president, who served with Walt said, “Thank you, God, for Pastor Walt Schoedel! It was my very fortunate opportunity to work closely with Pastor Walt Schoedel as he served as the chaplain to the LCA board. First and foremost, Walt led with a steady and calming voice in which he always advocated for the importance of Camp’s mission in the work of the camp.  He never failed in his participation at meetings leading with the importance of sharing the Gospel message at Camp Arcadia.   

“To me, Pastor Walt was a mentor, a strong spiritual leader, a kind and caring individual who put the Camp’s ministry first and foremost as he reminded me and all of us of the importance of Camp’s mission to live out the Gospel message of love, grace, and forgiveness every day at RKD.”

During those days Walt, as board chaplain, helped recruit and bring in new deans to Camp Arcadia and was responsible for bringing Dr. John Nunes to Camp Arcadia for the first time in 2000. 

Please join me in thanking God for Walt. For his firm yet gentle leadership. For his love of Camp Arcadia’s ministry and his years of service and dedication. For his ministry leadership that extended well beyond Arcadia and the parish. For his family and the legacy of faith he leaves behind. For his love of Jesus and his ability to walk with so many on their faith journey. Amen! Or as Walt taught us many times the meaning of the Hebrew word Amen, “I buy that!”. 

To read Walt’s obituary, click here.

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