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Lutheran minister retires from Funkstown church

January 12, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

FUNKSTOWN - The first Sunday of retirement was a little tough.

After three decades as a Lutheran minister - the last eight years as pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Funkstown - the Rev. Edward W. Simonsen wasn't used to having his Sundays free.

Without a congregation to lead after the end of December, Simonsen and wife Sandy said they found themselves looking for ways to pass what seemed a very long day.

Having experienced what the couple was going through, the Rev. Richard Hembrock and his wife extended a dinner invitation, which really helped, the Simonsens said.

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That turning point behind them, Simonsen said he plans to take full advantage of the free time and flexibility of retirement, including plans to pen two books - one fiction and one non-fiction - and step up his study of Civil War history to become a battlefield guide in Gettysburg, Pa.

"I think the difference in retirement is you probably have more control of your time to do the things you want to do," said Simonsen, 64, who hopes to publish a psychological thriller and an inspirational book on grace. "I think I'm going to be busy but more in control of it."

Retirement will mean a major lifestyle change for Sandy as well, he said.

Throughout his career, Simonsen said he knew he could always count on his wife to help in multiple roles, including organist, secretary and children's choir leader.

"My wife has been a good balance to me," he said. "When the scripture talks about helpmates, she knows what that is and certainly has done that in my eyes."

The couple is in the process of moving to a new home in Gettysburg, where they've spent many vacations over the years, he said.

It will be difficult leaving Funkstown - the only small-town post in his long ministerial career - and the congregation that welcomed him and his family, Simonsen said.

"Oftentimes, it's hard for the new pastor," he said. "Not in this case. People just received us warmly, and it's been a wonderful congregation to serve."

Simonsen credits his predecessor's preparation for easing the transition.

But the town's general attitude was something new to the Buffalo, N.Y., native, who said he was pleasantly surprised to be invited to meet the Funkstown mayor and Council a few weeks into his new job.

"It shows the spirit of the community as a family - really personal - and we've enjoyed our stay in this community," said Simonsen, whose younger daughter, Hope, had just reached high-school age when the family moved to Funkstown.

Now 22, the South Hagerstown High School graduate is substitute teaching in northern Virginia, he said.

"We felt she got a good education, and it was a good place for her to grow up in," said Simonsen, whose older daughter, Kristen, 27, is now a lawyer in Columbus, Ohio.

Before coming to Funkstown, Simonsen said he served Lutheran churches in metropolitan areas, including Chicago; Miami; Brunswick, Maine; Sterling, Va.; and Columbia, Md.

Of the earlier churches he served, Simonsen said he especially enjoyed the "mission churches" in Maine and Virginia, where he helped build congregations and, eventually, physical churches.

While he's given up a pastorship, Simonsen said he still plans to fill in when needed at several small churches around Gettysburg.

He plans to continue serving as a spiritual guide at Via de Cristo retreats, as well as helping to plan the 25th anniversary of the national spiritual renewal program, which he helped to start in 1971.

He'll also have Gettysburg's Lutheran seminary within walking distance and a new Lutheran congregation, though it will be a little different pewside, he said.

"As pastor, you step into a congregation, and right away, you've got a community," Simonsen said. "Now, we'll just be members. But that's still family. It will just take a little longer."

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