There is an old joke that says “Old pastors do not retire or die – they just go on and on and on.” As a pastor I don’t necessarily see much humor in that and it is not entirely true. As of this moment I am not planning on dying soon, but I am attempting the retirement part – again. Since I retired the first time I have served four churches in vacancy and full-time at First Lutheran for a time.
Over the time I have served you my voice has been getting progressively weaker. This was the reason I asked lay readers to share the scripture lessons. It reduced the amount of speaking. This was especially important before this Covid-19 shutdown when Sunday mornings were three straight hours of speaking. Due to the worsening situation with my voice, chronic kidney disease, and a pancreas situation which needs recurring monitoring, it seems that this is the time to pull back from active pastoral ministry.
Pastor Steve Breitbarth, of Chisholm, has stated a willingness to serve while the congregation continues on with the calling process for a full-time pastor. The members of the council and the elders will be negotiating with him to work out the details. It bothers me to leave you at this time, but I hope you all understand why I am planning on ending my time among you at the end of May or the middle of June at the latest. At the same time, I have known Pastor Breitbarth for over 40 years and I know he will do an excellent job of caring for your spiritual needs.
It has been an honor and my pleasure to have served you at First Lutheran for these past 28 months. That does not seem like a terribly long time, but it has been time enough to feel close to you as a congregation. When Sue and I and our only child at the time arrived here 47 years ago I fell in love with Grand Rapids immediately. The first day I laid eyes on this area I could not believe how beautiful the view was as I came down the hill on 169 and saw Pokegama Lake. I would have never guessed that we would raise five children here and live in this beautiful area for nearly half a century.
As I served the congregations in Hill City and Cohasset I quickly became aware of how First Lutheran Church was involved in starting and sustaining the ministries I came into. First Lutheran was “the mother church” and I was in awe of you. Pastor Bentrup became my mentor before people even talked about mentors. To this day I still enjoy keeping up with my friendship with Pastor Cloeter. The ties go way back and it has been like coming full circle to be one of those pastors with their picture hanging on the wall in the council room.
In retirement Sue and I would ideally hope to move to be closer to three of our daughters who live to the west. Our eyes are set on Detroit Lakes – one of the four churches I have served in vacancy. This strange virus situation has negatively impacted the real estate market so we are learning patience while we wait for just the right house to pop up. The times are under God’s control and we are in His hands, but those are our plans and intentions for right now. May that same gracious God also hold you in His loving hands. God’s blessings to you now and always.
Pastor Bill Zeige has been in the ministry for 45 years since being called out of the St. Louis
Seminary to serve at Our Redeemer in Cohasset and Trinity Lutheran in Hill City in 1973. He
and his wife Sue grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they met in college.
After moving to Grand Rapids they raised five children: Lynne, Lisa, Laurie, Sarah, and Mark
and cared for a foster daughter for several years. Sue has been involved as a director of
Independent School District 318 for several terms and is seeking re-election currently. She also
served on the Grand Rapids City Council for seven years – five of those years as mayor.
Pastor Bill served Trinity for 13 ½ years before becoming full time pastor at Redeemer where he
served for 38 years before retiring in 2011. Since retiring he has served interim ministries at
Detroit Lakes, MN., Nevis, MN., Our Redeemer in Cohasset, and at First Lutheran since
February, 2018. He also served the Minnesota North District as the Iron Range Circuit
Counselor for 16 years. He also currently serves as City Councilor for the City of Grand
Pastor Bill, although being not so successful at being retired, is grateful to be able to use the gifts
God has given him to be a spiritual leader for the members of First Lutheran congregation and
the people we can reach out to to be part of the family of God.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
735 Northeast 1st Avenue, Grand Rapids, Minnesota 55744, United States
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Affiliation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod