Lutheran leader ready for a change of pace
Inez Schwarzkopf has pursued a “zig-zag career” across the Lutheran landscape.
Inez Schwarzkopf has held so many jobs in her adult life, she once asked a friend, “Why does God always call me to do things that don’t last?”
Her friend wisely replied, “Maybe it’s because you can.”
Inez Schwarzkopf is a can-do person. With a reputation for getting things done, she is also known as a lover of the Lutheran Church, and one who spreads enthusiasm wherever she goes.
Those qualities went a long way toward sustaining her in what she herself calls “a zig-zag career.”
“I’m always impressed,” she says, “by people who know their calling clearly from age 18. I’ve felt called to a lot of things.”
Most of those calls have been to ministries within the institutional church. Schwarzkopf says, “I’ve really seen the church from the inside. It makes one aware that the institution is very human. I worried that going to work ‘in the institution’ might make me lose my faith.”
The opposite happened. “I discovered, working with people who pray is a wonderful perk.” That’s what happened in the Region 3 ELCA offices, where Schwarzkopf has worked since 1995, as cheerleader for the Mission Investment Fund. It was a deployed position (her boss was at the ELCA churchwide offices in Chicago).
As she prepares to step down from the Mission Investment position, she remembers, “I got to talk with people in congregations about finance. I really liked that. It’s a spiritual issue — maybe the spiritual issue of our culture.”
She says, “I always put the Mission Investment Fund in the context of stewardship. We should be good managers of our investments and savings, be-cause they’re gifts from God.”
The Rev. Dan Carlson of Atwater, Minnesota, will take up the reins when Schwarzkopf lays them down at the end of October. “I was part-time. He’ll be a full-time person.”
What exactly were the zigs and zags that got Schwarzkopf to the Mission Investment Fund?
* She began writing for church publications, especially the ALC women’s magazine, Scope, in 1972. (She also wrote for herself. She has three unpublished novels in her drawer!)
* She created a number of education and stewardship resources for the ALC national office.
* The ALC Women hired her in 1982. She developed a handbook for ALC women’s organizations. She was Director of Education for the ALC Women at the time of the ELCA merger in 1988.
* In 1988 she went to Chicago and became Director for Community and Organizational Development for the new women’s group. That involved a weekly commute from Minneapolis (her husband, Lyall, was still employed as an official for the City of Minneapolis, and there was no plan for them to relocate). The job lasted a year.
* She worked for the Minnesota Private College Council for a year and a half as a communication specialist.
* In 1991 she went to work for Region 3, at the St. Paul, Minnesota office, coordinating multicultural ministry, rural ministry and the Center for Congregational Renewal. A half-year later she added to the stack of duties that of Region 3 Communication Officer.
In 1995 Schwarzkopf began her work with the Mission Investment Fund, an ELCA program that invites Lutherans to invest money in projects that help build new churches and enable others to expand their worship facilities. She’s been there ever since.
What’s been memorable for her, zigging and zagging across the church landscape?
“Meeting with people in congregations has always been a positive and a high point for me. That’s where the church is happening.”
Does the changing church scene make her hopeful — or nervous? “God’s in charge. The church may need to change. But if that happens, it will only be by God’s doing. We probably need to spend more time praying and listening for God’s leading.”
Schwarzkopf learned that piety from her father, whom, she says, “was a Canadian Lutheran of Norwegian extraction who planned to spend his life raising wheat.” But he ended up at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and became a teacher for the then-Lutheran Free Church school.
And what’s a Norwegian doing with a German last name? “I got that from Lyall, obviously. He wasn’t Lutheran when I met him. I guess I brought him into the Lutheran Church.”
For years the Schwarzkopfs have been members of St. Luke Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. In recent years the congregation merged with an Hispanic congregation and the new parish now calls itself “El Milagro/The Miracle.”
How much will the pace change in retirement? “I am an introvert and an intellectual. I need to nurture these attributes. I want to see if I can still write. I want to swim every day.
“And, we have five grandchildren in Minneapolis, and a globe-trotting daughter who needs visiting. She’s an international teacher, currently serving in Nanjing, China.”
She’s also a member of the Metro Lutheran Board of Direc-tors, and serves on its Editorial Committee, as Board Secretary, and is on the paper’s Executive Committee.
It doesn’t appear that Inez Schwarzkopf will be slowing down any time soon.