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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2003

12 years after 1st retirement, busy minister will try again

Zimmerman: portraying Saint Peter. Zimmerman: portraying Saint Peter.

After 62 years in the ministry, some of them as pastor of two or three churches at a time, the Rev. Fred Zimmerman is probably entitled to a second retirement.

Mr. Zimmerman will preach his last service at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in West Toledo at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. He came out of retirement to join the church staff as a part-time pastor in 1991 and stayed for nearly 12 years. He was honored last Sunday with a recognition dinner at the church.

In retirement, he plans to attend to some unfinished business around his Sylvania home and write his memoir, Destiny and Decision: the Molding of a Minister in the 20th Century. Mr. Zimmerman is the author of Places in His Passion, a series of meditations on the last two days of Christ's life on Earth, published by Brentwood Christian Press in 2000.

Ordained in 1941, Mr. Zimmerman is known locally for his dramatic portrayals of Jesus' disciples Peter and Judas. Although his work at St. Paul's in recent years has left him too busy to perform as much as he once did, he said he will be open to accepting engagements again, provided that at 85, his health remains good.

Orphaned as a child after his parents died in the flu epidemic of 1917-18, Mr. Zimmerman was adopted at 18 months by a childless couple. He believes he had a call to the ministry even as a boy when he used to preach to his playmates from a wagon.

He began his ministry with a two-church charge in West Salem, Ohio, and went on to serve St. John's Switzer Church in Ohio's Monroe County, where he took on two other churches because of a shortage of clergy. He returned to St. John's last October for the congregation's 175th anniversary, preaching almost 60 years to the day he had given his first sermon as that church's pastor.

β€œIt was an emotional time,” he said. β€œ ... That was the defining moment of my ministry for me. This is where I began and where I fell in love with the rural church.”

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