Half a century in ministry

This Sunday, 24 September 2023, District Apostle Leonard R. Kolb (1956) will retire. He has served as a minister in the New Apostolic Church for an impressive 50 years.

For fifteen years he has led the Regional Church of the USA. This Sunday, 24 September 2023, Leaonard R. Kolb will be retired by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in a divine service in Erie (USA) at the age of 67. In the same divine service, the hitherto District Apostle Helper John Schnabel will be appointed as District Apostle. The still incumbent District Apostle describes his successor as “a brave servant who will sacrifice to remain in oneness!”

Fifty years of service

Leonard R. Kolb received his first ministry in 1973 when he was ordained a Sub-deacon. From 1980 onward, he served in various priestly levels of ministry until he was ordained an Apostle on 14 May 2000. Three years later he became a District Apostle Helper. For seven years (2000-2007) he was also active as the Apostle responsible for Uganda. On 12 October 2008, he succeeded District Apostle Freund and has since led the District Apostle district of the USA. The approximately 82,000 members in his care are distributed among a number of other countries besides the USA, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Venezuela.

A bridge of devotion and empathy

At the start of his activity as a District Apostle, Leonard R. Kolb made the statement: “I give my entire self into the hands of our heavenly Father.” And now, in the last year of his ministerial activity, he summarises his thoughts on the annual motto as follows: “Yes, I want to serve with Christ! And I know this will cost me something.”

The members entrusted to him always found him to be a devoted and empathetic minister. He himself once said: “Empathy is the ability to put yourself into the feelings or circumstances of other people—just as if you were experiencing these things yourself. People who are capable of empathy will suffer with those who directly experience suffering and pain. Sympathy alone is not especially helpful to people who are in need. Empathy, on the other hand, becomes a bridge that connects two peopleand creates space for genuine healing, understanding, and compassion. In the process, you make yourself vulnerable because by connecting with someone to that degree, you have to put yourself in a difficult place.”

Courageous and full of joy

For District Apostle Kolb, leading the area entrusted to him and providing new impulses also meant courageously tackling fundamental changes. In this endeavour, oneness with the Chief Apostle was just as important to him as the inclusion of the believers entrusted to his care, whom he always strove to meet on their level in their various situations and needs.

His colleagues were always impressed by his energy and enthusiasm. And so it is part of his character to give everyone an open, radiant smile, on the one hand, but also to take the time to devote himself to serious topics and concerns.

He once described the reason for his captivating optimism as follows: “How stirring and encouraging it is to know that Jesus has also thought of being with us and of this future that we will share together.”

A one-year transition

On 7 August 2022, Chief Apostle Schneider assigned John Schnabel a District Apostle Helper as part of the succession planning process. Over the past 13 months, the designated successor to District Apostle Kolb has been preparing to take on this task, and describes this phase as follows: “In that time, he has shown both my wife and me the seriousness of this appointment, but also the great fun and privilege it is to serve and to have a special camaraderie as servants.”

When asked about his impending retirement in an interview, Leonard R. Kolb said, “Now, coming to the end of my journey, I feel that serving the Lord is one of the things that can fill your heart the most. And I am very grateful for all that I was able to experience. It is very enriching and helpful in one’s life of faith to be able to walk together with others.”

Photo: Oliver Rütten

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