HAMPSTEAD — The town's changed a lot since the Rev. Morris G. Zumbrun left it 46years ago.
But to "Bishop Bud" and his wife, Evelyn, it's still home.
A 1938 graduate of the former Hampstead High School, Zumbrun has returned to his hometown after retiring from a ministry that includedseven years as the bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"Everybody called me 'Bud' when I was a kid," the 69-year-old pastor joked. "Now when I walk down the street, they call out 'Hi, Bishop Bud.' "
Zumbrun's career alsoincluded serving as pastor for St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Jefferson, Frederick County; Christ Lutheran Church in Dallastown, Pa., and St. John's Lutheran Church in Linthicum, Anne Arundel County.
"I never said I wanted to be anything else but a minister, and there was never any question about it," he said.
"Church membership was the most important thing in my parents' life, and it was very important to me."
After graduating in 1942 from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, Zumbrun went to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg and was ordained in 1945. He was elected as bishop during the synodassembly in 1987.
During elections, representatives nominate any pastor they feel would make a good bishop, Zumbrun said. Ballots are taken until a majority votes for one candidate.
"The majority of the delegates had confidence that I could fulfil the duties of office," Zumbrun said. "Of course, that is true for any bishop."
During his career, the number of congregations in the synod grew from 137 to 190, Zumbrun said.
However, some churches, particularly those in the cities, are struggling with low membership because former members have moved to the suburbs and joined other congregations, he said.
"You have to start ministering to the people within the community and start with a whole new congregation of people," he said.
"You have to reach out and find out what the people's needs are. You can't wait for someone to come in on Sunday morning and say, 'We need this.'"
Society's outlook toward religion also has changed, Zumbrun said.
"In 1945, when I was ordained, for a lot of people, church was the most important thing in their life," he said. "Today, a lot of people look at it as one organization in the midst of a lot of other important organizations."
Nevertheless, congregations should keep their purpose in focus, Zumbrun said.
"It sounds trite to say it, but the church has to be the church first," he said. "It's not a women's club or the PTA or the Rotary or any other type of service club.
"The church is a gathering of people who have been called to be Christ's disciples, whose main function is living out his will in the world and sharing his message with all people. And I don't think there'sany other organization in the world that does that."
As bishop, Zumbrun said he considered being religious leader of the synod the most important of his many duties.
"The bishop should be the chief pastor of the synod first, rather than being an administrator or a problem-solver or a manager," he said.
However, Zumbrun admits he preferred pastoring one parish over ministering to all 190 in the synod.
"It's a dangerous thing to say, weighing being bishop against being a pastor, but I thoroughly enjoyed being a parish pastor," he said.
Zumbrun said he never steered his daughters, Linda Zumbrun, SusanBullock and Martha Bidlingmyer, toward the ministry, because women weren't ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church until 1970.
"Linda might have been the type to do it if it had been an option at thetime she graduated," he said. "But when they came out of school, theLutheran Church was not ordaining women."
Now, living a mile fromwhere he was born, the grandfather of six says he looks forward to settling down and doing volunteer work with his wife.
"We both grewup in Carroll County, so we're happy to be coming back to our roots," Zumbrun said.