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Jay Zaremba: Musician, Star Trek fan......Fremont Baptist's new pastor


Jay Zaremba, Fremont's Baptist Church's new pastor, not only has a lot to look forward to, but a fascinating and unexpected past to look back on.

After years of working retail jobs and even running his own cleaning company (with wife Theresa's help), so that he could take unpaid pastor positions at small, struggling churches, Zaremba has decided to settle down, at age 47, as the new pastor at Fremont Baptist.

Some might consider the road Zaremba started out on as teenager in California to be the furthest thing from a future Baptist minister.

Zaremba describes his parents as occasional churchgoers and says that as a child he found his infrequent visits to church boring.

In fact, he spent much of his time between the ages of 14 and 18 publishing a science fiction news magazine called "The Essence," which had a circulation of 1000 and subscribers, some as far away as England and Australia.

Zaremba proudly notes that David Gerrold, screenplay author of the popular classic Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles," was one of his magazine's first contributing writers.

Zaremba still attends a Star Trek convention from time to time. He plays guitar, he says, "but just enough to get me in trouble." And he's eager to get out and explore Seattle.

"If we started out every Friday to do something," Zaremba says "we would never exhaust the possibilities of Seattle."

But undoubtedly the majority of Zaremba's time now is spent at Fremont Baptist, the most recent installment in a career that began at 18 when Zaremba says he had a major conversion experience which left him with no doubt about the reality of God.

After receiving a bachelors degree in business administration from California State North Ridge, Zaremba went on to earn two masters degrees from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., in 1978.

This combined with Zaremba's obviously extroverted personality, makes pastoring seem like an obvious career choice.

"I love people working with people," Zaremba explains eagerly, "more than I love working with anything else."

Zaremba considers himself both an extrovert and a guy with an entreprenuer spirit. This, he said is what led him to work for 19 years in California at what he calls "turn-around churches."

Zaremba describes these organizations as churches with dwindling membership that needed a new sense of direction.

After ministering for nearly two decades in California, Zaremba and his family moved to Helena, Mt., in 1997 to take over a church there. However, Zaremba quickly realized that Montana would not make the ideal home.

"Montana is back in the '40s. It's hard to initiate new programs, " Zaremba explained.

At about the same time the Zarembas were trying to settle into Montana life, Fremont Baptist's search committee was starting to look for someone to fill the vacancy left by Pastor Paul Poehlman. It took the search committee over two years to find someone to fill the spot, but search committee member Eva Sheeley says Zaremba fits the bill for many reasons.

"He preaches with a lot of energy and he's very easy to understand. He makes it all very exciting," remarked Sheeley, who said Zaremba's interest in Fremont and his ideas about attracting younger people to the church also make him a good fit.

Zaremba says he continues to apply everything he learned from past projects like "The Essence." He says he loves the imagination in science fiction and now wants to apply his imagination to Fremont Baptist, which he considers not a "turn-around," but one that is already active and offering a lot of programs to the community.

"We're gonna learn to do ministry all over again," says Zaremba. "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is fun."

Zaremba seems to exemplify this attitude in all his church work. He hopes to get Fremont Baptist even more involved with the community, doing everything from washing windows to hosting block parties with live rock music. At his official installation ceremony on Feb. 25, the church had live classic rock music, at Zaremba's request.

"(The congregation) lets me be wacky," Zaremba said.

Zaremba can't hide his enthusiasm for both the members of his church, who he calls the "the best congregation (he's) served in 21 years of ministry, " and for Fremont itself.

A neighborhood where one can find a statue of Lenin within a few blocks from Starbucks is perhaps the perfect place for a man who defies so many traditional ideas of a Baptist minister. (