The Rev. Fred Sherman Buschmeyer, 81, a retired secretary of the United Church of Christ and a former head of the Washington office of the National Council of Churches, died of congestive heart failure Thursday in a retirement home at Claremont, Calif.

He was pastor of the old Mount Pleasant Congregational Church in Washington from 1939 to 1948. He was an assistant general secretary and head of the Washington office of the National Council of Churches from 1957 to 1961.

From 1961 until retiring six years later, he was secretary of the 1.8 million-member United Church of Christ. During his tenure in the UCC's second highest office, the church became increasingly active in the civil rights and Christian unity movements.

After retiring, Mr. Buschmeyer traveled to Australia and spent 18 months as pastor of a church in Sydney before returning to his native California. He had lived in Claremont since then.

Mr. Buschmeyer was a graduate of Boston University. He was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1926 and transferred to the Congregational Christian Churches in 1934. He was pastor of churches in New England before coming to Washington.

Survivors include his wife, Myrna E., of Claremont; a son, Fred Jr., of Washington; two daughters, Myrna Marshall of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Barbara Funcke of Beaver Dam, Wis.; two brothers, Robert and William, both of Whittier, Calif.; 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.