Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    “Generally the bishop is a pastor to the pastors of the congregations. Part of it is developing strategic directions for the church and thinking long-term, short-term and mid-term, and also praying for people and supporting other leaders” – Pastor Richard Schwedes.

Higher calling for pastor Richard Schwedes

By Colin MacGillivray

Former Horsham resident Richard Schwedes’ appointment as the Lutheran Church of Australia’s bishop-elect for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory is the latest chapter in a calling he never expected.

Pastor Schwedes was, in his own words, ‘born, bred, baptised and confirmed in Horsham’, but never expected a life in the Lutheran Church.

“When I was going through confirmation in early high school, I probably wasn’t the person anybody thought was going to be a pastor,” he said.

Article continues below

“At one stage I wasn’t involved much in the church, and my mother prayed that I would reconnect.

“The other day I joked that she must have prayed too hard, because I’m a bishop now.”

Pr Schwedes said his parents were integral in shaping his spiritual life during his childhood in the Wimmera.

“My father Paul was heavily involved in cricket and football, but he also had a strong personal faith,” he said. 

“He was a regular churchgoer and provided me with very strong encouragement to keep faith no matter what’s going on in life.

“My parents are two people God placed in my life to support me. 

“I was blessed that they encouraged me to get involved in leadership from a young age.”

Initially that leadership manifested in roles outside the church. 

Pr Schwedes studied a business degree after leaving high school before working for a government department and a small-business training organisation.

“I was enjoying that and I thought ‘this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life’,” he said.

“I was involved in St Johns Southgate Church in the city and it was probably around then that I started to get a sense of a calling to at least explore ministry within the church.

“It was a challenge to decide whether I stayed with my job that I really enjoyed or went into ministry. It was really through the encouragement of other people that I chose to explore that further.

“God opened some doors a bit for me to grab hold of that.”

Long journey

But Pr Schwedes’ journey to Lutheran ministry was far from straightforward.

He undertook five years of study in Adelaide before being assigned to his first post in northern Tasmania.

“The Lutheran Church is very small in northern Tasmania,” he said. 

“You’d tell people what you did and they would say ‘what is Lutheran?’

“Three congregations had come together because they could not afford a pastor, so you had a graduate pastor in a new parish. 

“Each congregation was different, so that was an enjoyable challenge.”

In 2009, Pr Schwedes and his family moved to Portland to assume a ministry position, before moving again to Sydney in 2016.

He said his Sydney posting was a change of pace from his two positions in country areas.

“Being in the city, you’re dealing with a diverse range of people and situations,” he said.

“We have small congregations but wide age groups. 

“We have students, asylum seekers, people who are poor, people who are quite well off.

“Sydney is like a gateway to Australia, so you get to meet a range of people.”

In 2018, Pr Schwedes became an assistant bishop and last month was elected bishop for NSW, the ACT and, provisionally, New Zealand.

He will assume his official duties with an installation ceremony in July.

Pr Schwedes said his new role would involve supporting other members of the church to perform their duties.

“Generally the bishop is a pastor to the pastors of the congregations,” he said.

“Part of it is developing strategic directions for the church and thinking long-term, short-term and mid-term, and also praying for people and supporting other leaders. We want to make sure our pastors and lay-leaders are supported, both personally and also in their role.”

When asked if he was interested in one day becoming bishop of the whole Lutheran Church of Australia, Pr Schwedes said he would see where life took him.

“I’m not looking at that sort of a role now, but I’m a person who never says no, because every time I’ve said no to God, He’s done something that says the opposite,” he said.

Pr Schwedes will be installed as bishop at LifeWay Lutheran Church in Epping, NSW on July 28 at 3pm. 

He said anyone interested was welcome to attend.

The entire April 3, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!