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Beloved local pastor retiring after 20 years

Faith

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RIGBY – A local pastor is stepping down after 20 years of service.

Dave Schilling, the pastor at Crown of Life Church in Rigby, tells EastIdahoNews.com he is retiring effective Sept. 1.

“That’s my 20th anniversary and I figured that was a good time to (retire),” Schilling says. “It’s unbelievable. It seems like it was only a year or two.”

The 75-year-old pastor says he and his wife, Naomi, have always wanted to do some traveling and they’re planning to travel across America in their camp trailer while they still can. Though they’re looking forward to spending this time together, Schilling says he’s going to miss serving as pastor and associating with members of his congregation every week.

“It’s been a wonderful 20 years. I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Jefferson County is an awesome place to live and work,” he says.

As Schilling looks back on his days with Crown of Life, he says it got off to “a pretty rugged start.” He began his ministry on Sept. 1, 2001 — 10 days before the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

RELATED | Finding Faith: The doctrine at Crown of Life, how it’s healing a community and why an LDS couple regularly attends

During a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com last year, Schilling said he remembers half of the worship service being spent in prayer that first Sunday after the terrorist attack. No one in the congregation was directly impacted, but Schilling said it had a massive effect on the way people worship and the responses to the tragedy made it a significant time in people’s lives.

“Jefferson County is so generous when it comes to serving people who have needs,” he said in April 2020. “All we have to do is ask the community and they respond massively.”

Serving those in need has been his mission and passion throughout his 20-year ministry. That love for serving others is what lead him to become a pastor.

“I love the Lord and I love serving and I just felt like God wanted me and prepared me to go and do more than just worship on a Sunday morning,” Schilling explains.

Schilling’s faith and conversion to the Lord began long before he ever thought of becoming a pastor.

schilling at pulpit
Pastor Dave Schilling at the pulpit during a worship service at Crown of Life in January of 2020. | Photo taken from a live stream of the service on Facebook

The path to ministry

Being a pastor is the third career he’s had throughout his life. He started in the U.S. Air Force while attending the Air Force Academy in the 1960s. He and Naomi met and began dating during this time and she had been a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church.

“She invited me to church and I resisted for quite some time, but then I finally decided it was time I could spend with her. So my real motive (in going to church) initially was because I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend. It wasn’t because I wanted to go meet God,” Schilling recalls.

His church attendance proved to be a big influence on his life and he was eventually baptized on Dec. 7, 1968.

“The class to become a Lutheran was on Sunday night at 7. Curfew was Sunday night at 7 at the academy. I had to go to the commandant of cadets and ask for permission to be late. He never gave a cadet permission to be late. I told Naomi, ‘He’ll never approve this, but I’ll go ask.’ I went and asked and he said, ‘Of course you can (be late).’ God really wanted me in that class is what I took from that,” says Schilling.

After 10 years of active duty, Schilling spent another 18 years in the Air Force reserves before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

During the 1980s, he began his second career as an engineering manager at what is now the Idaho National Laboratory.

After retiring from the INL, Schilling says he had the opportunity to attend school to become a pastor. He was comfortable with the Lutheran doctrine and had been teaching it his whole adult life in various capacities, so it seemed like a natural next step.

“I was able to get some education at Concordia University in Portland. I went through what’s called a (pastoral) colloquy program in our church. It’s an oral examination after you study and that lead to ordination,” he says.

Career highlights and what he’s going to miss most

During his time as pastor, Schilling says it was rewarding to work with the community in helping others in many different ways. One of the highlights for him has been providing needy families with gifts and food at Christmastime. Church members help provide Christmas stockings for foster children throughout eastern Idaho every year and dozens of children whose parents are incarcerated benefit from the Angel Tree program.

RELATED | Local church kicking off virtual Christmas celebration next week

Schilling also speaks fondly of the church’s partnership with Teton House in Menan to provide a free Thanksgiving meal for those in need and providing Easter baskets for children in need every spring.

“These kinds of things are where my heart is (and I’m going to miss it),” he says.

In a world with so much political turmoil and many different faiths, Schilling says “walking lockstep” with others in serving people unites us in a way nothing else can.

“We can go help people who need help and I don’t care what religion you are. That’s what we’ve been doing for 20 years,” he says. “It’s a good partnership when we can go and help people together and that’s what I’m most proud of in my ministry.”

Schilling’s replacement has not yet been determined, but multiple people will be filling his role until a permanent pastor is found.

He will conduct his final worship service at Crown of Life on Sunday, Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. The community is invited to attend. An open house will be held immediately following from noon until 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Crown of Life is at 3856 East 300 North next to Rigby High School.

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