The Rev. Angela Zimmann, a Lutheran pastor who in November unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Bob Latta for his 5th District congressional seat, has accepted an offer to serve a four-year assignment as pastor of an English-speaking congregation at a Jerusalem church.
Ms. Zimmann will travel with her husband, the Rev. Martin Zimmann, and the pair will serve as co-pastors at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. The couple also will be special assistants to Bishop Munib A. Younan, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Bishop Younan is president of the Lutheran World Federation, and their assignments will include both the bishop’s Middle Eastern work and his federation responsibilities. The Lutheran World Federation calls itself “a communion of churches” and has a membership of 143 churches in 79 countries, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
“I’m called to serve in the church,” Ms. Zimmann said, “to do that foremost. That’s why they called me there, but part of the reason they called me was because of my political involvement. They saw the campaign, they liked what they saw, they felt like this is a person who could serve in this capacity. People have said, ‘Will you come back in four years, in six years, and run for Congress again?’ I say, ‘I can’t answer that question. I don’t know where this will lead.’ ”
In the Nov. 6 election, according to the final vote count released last week, Ms. Zimmann received 137,806 votes, or 39.9 percent, against the incumbent, Mr. Latta (R., Bowling Green), who received 201,514 votes, or 57.2 percent. In Lucas County, she beat Mr. Latta, 49,575 to 48,941.
For those who ask whether Ms. Zimmann will run for Congress again in 2014, “This provides the answer to that,” she said.
The reason the Zimmanns were called to be mission workers in Jerusalem “is twofold,” she said. “One is because Marty had the background there.”
“For about five years, I was instrumental in developing these overseas ties,” Mr. Zimmann said.
The second reason is that “they said, ‘she lost well,’ ” Ms. Zimmann said. “They said, ‘We saw a lot of grace under pressure, we saw fortitude.’ ”
“You put Angela and me in a blender and you get the desirable traits they were looking for,” Mr. Zimmann said. “It’s nice to be married to her.”
She added, “Marty’s been [to Israel and the Palestinian territories] four times. I’ve never been there, so this is kind of an interesting pairing and dynamic that the church was pleased with, because he has some on-the-ground knowledge, and I’m coming in with a fresh set of eyes.”
Today the pastors Zimmann of Springfield Township are informing the congregations where they serve — she at Trinity Lutheran Church in Riga, Mich., where she is part-time pastor, he at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Temperance, where he is an assisting pastor. Their last time in these pulpits will be in January.
Work visas permitting, they and their two children, Seth, a first-year high school student, and Chelsea, a fourth-grader, will be living in a house on the Mount of Olives in February. The children, their parents say, are excited and on board with the move.
The Church of the Redeemer offers services in Arabic, English, and German, and on important holidays the three congregations worship as one body.
Though the church was built in the late 1800s, it stands where religious institutions were located from before the 11th century.
“From a pastoral perspective, how in the world am I going to preach a sermon in a chapel [in the Holy Land]?” Mr. Zimmann asked. “What can be said from that pulpit that hasn’t been said already? So wrapping my brain around that is still an ongoing process.”
Their call is more than to lead a congregation in worship, however.
“We are there to serve the Palestinian Lutheran Church,” Mr. Zimmann said. “We’re not there to bring world peace about, but the Palestinian Lutheran Church is part of that process. We’re not political envoys, we’re mission staff, but not missionaries in the traditional 20th-Century sense of the word. We are there to accompany an already established and existing church community, to walk with them in their joys and sorrows, and to receive as much as give. That’s why it’s such a wonderful opportunity to be part of.
“To take your entire family into the midst of a situation and to say that we are here to be with you in this, and be present with you and learn from you, is what the ELCA is trying to do in their global mission field and in the Middle East in particular. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn more about how the church expresses itself globally, not just at the Sunday potluck,” Mr. Zimmann said.
“And how can we also bring back a message that will raise awareness for American Christians and clarify the facts on the ground over there? We’re going to be living in East Jerusalem among Arab Palestinians. Christian Palestinians represent less than 2 percent of the Arab population in the Holy Land. It used to be much greater. The strife between Jews and Muslims has been particularly damaging to Palestinian Christians.”
One particular aspect of their call “is humbling,” Ms. Zimmann said, and that is to be doing their religious work in the Holy Land.
“I don’t know how I’m going to respond when I get there and how it will feel to actually see these places that I’ve looked at in books, every Sunday in the Gospel text reading about Jerusalem, and then to actually be there.”
“Our church office is located less than 75 yards from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher [said to be on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial],” Mr. Zimmann said, “so I think if we ever need to put things in perspective, all we need to do is take a five-minute break and walk over there and pray. To understand that this [land] is the place where he was present and revealed a new understanding of God to people is inspiring,” Mr. Zimmann said.
“That is a good word, inspiring,” Ms. Zimmann said, “I’m going there to be of service, and I don’t know what that’s going to mean. There’s pain there; what small piece can I be in the puzzle that alleviates it, not just there but internationally? For me, it’s an issue of social justice and the poor, because in my religion Jesus showed preferential treatment for the poor, and so the poor and the oppressed are the ones that need to have a special focus. To me, it seems as if that’s happening in the Middle East, and I want to go and find out what’s really happening and be there.”
“First and foremost,” Mr. Zimmann said, “we’re there to serve the church and the calling of Palestinian Christians in the area.”
“Always the primary focus is on justice,” Ms. Zimmann said. “It always has to be, so to say we’d be focused on the Palestinians at the expense of justice — no, if I saw Palestinians acting unjustly, that would be a problem for me too.”
Contact TK Barger at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6278.