Reverend Matthew Zimmerman Retires After Purpose-Driven Life

By Posted on Nov 23 2019 | By

On November 30, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrenton will step down from the pulpit and for the first time take a seat in the pews. His life has been one dedicated to the Word of God. The Reverend Matthew Zimmerman will move from in front of his congregation to a seat among the faithful whom he has guided for the past 21 years.

But the short journey reflects a lifetime spanning the globe and acting as the embodiment of the Golden Rule. It also closes the circle on a life of service that began in a small town in South Carolina almost 78 years ago.

“My father was the principal of my school and the pastor of our church,” the pastor recalls, smiling. “My mother was my first-grade teacher. When I stepped out of line, I was corrected three times because my grandfather was also a pastor.” While his intention as a young college student was to pursue a medical degree, his DNA directed him to the clergy. When he sets aside his pulpit robe this month, it will be his third retirement.

His first position culminated in achieving the rank of major general in the U.S. Army as chief of chaplains. That position led to his second career as chief of chaplains with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for four years. The Chiefs of Chaplains of the United States are the senior service chaplains who lead and represent the Chaplains Corps of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force. In this capacity, he oversaw and directed the activities of all the clergy serving in the U.S. Army, regardless of denomination.

As his term of office ended at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the secretary of the department persuaded him to accept the pastorship at First Baptist Warrenton…because if you want something done, ask a busy man.

Among the notable people he became friends with over the course of his first two careers were men of achievement such as the Reverend Billy Graham, General Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, and many more.

But his self-effacing and modest demeanor belies the world of important men and women in which he traveled. It’s also why so many are drawn to his personality and leadership, making him the embodiment of an earthly spokesman for Christ.

One of the most gratifying aspects of his current position has been reliving as an adult the life he had as a young lad in a small southern town church. “When my father was the pastor of our church in South Carolina, you got to know all of the members on a personal basis,” says Reverend Zimmerman. “It’s the same today at First Baptist Warrenton.”

The church has 150 members, making it large enough to be a job and small enough to be a personal, heartfelt endeavor. In his previous two careers, reassignments and travel dictated meeting new faces and issues every few years. Today, the stability among his flock is a valued part of his work.

Reverend Zimmerman has no plans during his retirement other than enjoying the fruits of his labors and relationships. He and his wife Barbara are looking forward to leading a well-deserved quiet life of relaxation and reading. The days of endless responsibilities are over.

One thing that will not change is his attendance at First Baptist of Warrenton services. And he quickly adds, “We welcome everyone and ask that you join us for youth and adult Bible study and other church activities.” Once a pastor, always a pastor.

Published in the November 2019 edition of Discover Fauquier.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES