Remembering Aunt Collyn

In the past weeks, much ink has been spilled in remembrance of Collyn Franzenburg Schmidt, the woman that so many people affectionately knew as “Aunt Collyn.” She died Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at the age of 92.

Her memorial service was held at New City Fellowship on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. The pews were filled with family and friends and the attendees vehicles spilled out into the surrounding streets, much further than even the average Sunday. As in all of Aunt Collyn’s life, the gospel was forefront in the celebration of her homecoming.

“This is also, and more importantly, a worship service,” said Dr. Jim Drexler, who gave the opening welcome and prayer. “Because there is one who gave Aunt Collyn her life in the first place, the one who gave her all of those wonderful attributes and characteristics and traits that over the decades we came to love and admire over the years, and maybe, by God’s grace, to emulate . . . And we’re here to worship him.”

To celebrate Aunt Collyn’s life, Joel Belz gave an account of her fascinating life story. He talked about her missionary work in Jordan, her three degrees, her marriage to Rudolph “Rudy” Schmidt, her work in the founding of New City Fellowship, and the many roles she served in at Covenant College.

“[The Schmidt team] extended hospitality to thousands of Covenant students,” said Belz. “When I first made that claim, I had to go double check it. It only took me three years of checking to find that they had entertained hundreds, so I got to change it to thousands based on the some forty years that they were formally related to the college and then of course, they continued that role of hospitality even afterwards.”

This outpouring of love for generations of students and others in her community was a common theme throughout her life, right up until the end.

“It’s hard to pick one memory or conversation with Auntie that stands out among the rest,” said Megan Gienapp (‘17). “I lived with her this summer, and I think it’s the mundane routines of her household that I’ll remember best. Cooking in her tiny kitchen, Folger’s coffee in her Covenant thistle mugs, conversations at her bedside . . . All of those perfectly encapsulate what living with her was like. She was caring, straightforward, sarcastic, and so very gracious to welcome me and so many others into her home.”

Many students have similar stories.

“One of my favorite memories with Aunt Collyn is from Christmas break last year. I stayed with her for most of the break to finish a paper and get some rest,” said Hannah Taylor (‘16). “In return, she asked that I help her run errands one day. I drove her around town doing all sorts of little things. That day let me see Aunt Collyn in a new light. She was vulnerable, fragile and old . . . there were just so many things she needed help with. But the only way she let any of that show was by joy and gratitude . . . she was just so happy to get all those errands done, and so grateful for my help. My favorite part of that day is when we dropped off the recycling downtown, and she introduced me to the lady who works there, and told me all about her family. I grew up in Chattanooga and I didn't even know where you take recycling. Aunt Collyn had broken bread with her friend, the lady who accepts the recycling when you drop it off. She's just incredible.”

Pastor Emeritus Randy Nabors wrote a poem in honor of Aunt of Collyn entitled “There’s a Lot of ‘No More’ in Heaven,” which was read by Professor Camille Hallstrom.

Pastor Kevin Smith closed the service with a celebration of the gospel and the ways it shone in Aunt Collyn’s ministry within the church, as she loved all races and was always an advocate for racial reconciliation. Smith even called her the glue that held their congregation together in the transition period after Pastor Nabors stepped down. Her work was always rooted in her awareness of her own shortcomings. He used 2 Corinthians 5 to frame her life.

“I can tell you without hesitation: Aunt Collyn lived for the glory, too. But it was not her glory. She lived for the glory of her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Smith.

Throughout the service, delightful anecdotes about Aunt Collyn’s life were shared and laughed over, and there are so many more stories. One of Dr. Steve Kaufmann’s favorite memories of Aunt Collyn is about the purchase of her last car.

“She was a savvy shopper and went several places to try out different makes of cars,” said Kaufmann. “She definitely needed a new one; her current car then was a noisy clunker. Finally, she settled on a brand new silver Toyota Corolla. After purchasing, we left the dealer in Cleveland with Aunt Collyn behind the wheel. As we drove down I-75 toward Chattanooga, she rhapsodized about her new car. ‘Oh, it's so quiet,’ she said. ‘Oh, it drives so smoothly.’ Then she said, ‘but the engine must be a small one, because we're traveling so slowly.’ ‘Well, Aunt Collyn,’ I said, ‘we are going 82 miles an hour!’ She looked at the speedometer and hooted. Thus began the legend of Collyn Schmidt, the wild driver of Lookout Mountain.”

As President Derek Halvorson said in Covenant’s press release on her passing: “she was gracious, earnest, loving, witty, humble, deeply committed to Jesus Christ and his truth, and spunky in the best possible way. We will miss her dearly.”