Reverend Joseph Cunningham of St. Peter Lutheran Church and School in North Judson, Indiana was presented with the 2019 National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) School Shepherd Award on February 9.
The Lutheran School Shepherd Award was established by the National Lutheran School Accreditation Team (NLSA). The award is given to an exemplary individual who has a clear philosophy of Lutheran education and is excellent at providing spiritual guidance and support.
Rev. Cunningham was chosen for this award because he has provided tremendous encouragement, support, and service to St. Peter Lutheran School. He was nominated for the award after the NLSA Validation Team’s visit in 2019 and was among eight candidates. He was “truly shocked and utterly surprised” when he received news of the award.
“I was working on my sermon for the week when I received the call from Becky Schmidt informing me that I was selected to receive the School Shepherd Award,” said Pastor Cunningham. “Earlier in the day I was wondering who may have won the award, since time had passed and I was sure that it was certainly not me. I was stunned when I got the call and heard Becky tell me that I was the recipient of this valued recognition!”
“Pastor Cunningham speaks from the heart when he talks about ministry at St. Peter Lutheran Church and School,” Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, director of LCMS school ministry, said. “His leadership and active involvement is intentional and comprehensive. With a shared vision to reach out to those in need, he and principal Rhonda Reimers work together seamlessly in their witness to the community of North Judson.”
Rev. Cunningham also noted how much he appreciated Principal Rhonda Reimers’ partnership and commitment to Lutheran education at St. Peter. “I’ve served my entire ministry associated with Lutheran education,” said Rev. Cunningham. “I consider those teachers under my spiritual care as equals in ministry. Encouragement is given as we seek faithful care of students and their families through the Gospel and as I have the honor to offer care and support for the valued ministry of each teacher and member of the staff. Rhonda Reimers, Principal of St. Peter, is a valued colleague who has dedicated her life to Lutheran education and the ministry of St. Peter. She is a wonderful partner in ministry, worthy of the same recognition I am receiving. She is the very best example of humble service.”
Dr. Kevin Brockberg, executive counselor for Christian education, and Dr. Rebecca Schmidt presented the award during a worship service. The school children sang and community members, school families, and the faculty and staff of St. Peter were present for this historic occasion.
The Indiana District is proud of Rev. Cunningham’s achievement and his faithful ministry to the people of St. Peter as well as the community at large. “We are a rural congregation and school and the only nonpublic school in three surrounding counties,” he added. “This is why this recognition is so special.”