Whew, now that I have finally recovered (minus a sore neck/shoulder) from a spur-of-the moment trip to NYC and a big weekend (more on that in a second), it's time for the big reveal: I got my first call to a church!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Here's the back story:
After months of working on it, my ministerial profile (how we do hiring in the UCC) was finally released into circulation in March. I jumped right in and sent it off to a bunch of places, including a couple that I was really interested in. I got one packet from a church that I decided not to pursue pretty quickly, as they were clearly in a time of conflict and I didn't feel like starting my ministry in that setting would be a good idea.
Then, in mid-April, I got an e-mail from the Massachusetts conference saying they'd reviewed my profile and thought I might be a good fit for a certain position. I was pretty sure I'd had my profile sent there already, but I told them to go ahead and send it. That afternoon, I got a call from that church's search committee chair inviting me to come in for an interview. I considered this a sign pointing me strongly in their direction!
The second sign was that my mother, the search committee chair for her own church, had a candidate whose husband is the organist at the church I was interested in (more on that in a bit).
I had my first interview about a week later, and fell head-over-heels in love. The search committee was warm and friendly, and our interview was relaxed and conversational. One search committee took my on a tour around town, and I saw sign number three this could be The Place: the building at their parks & recreation department is called Greenwood Children's Center--my former last name.
A few weeks later (we're now in 2nd week of May), I went in for a second interview as one of two final candidates. I met with the director of Christian education, who I'd be supervising if I got the position, and preached for most of the committee. I also spent four hours tooling around the area with one committee member, met 5 of her 6 kids, and bonded very strongly. I left that night wanting that job so badly, but also nervous that my lack of experience with older kids and youth was going to be the kicker that kept me out.
Weeks went by. I had hoped to have an answer one way or another before my trip to Hawaii, but no such luck. I returned from my trip and got an e-mail update that they were really struggling to decide between the two final candidates, but that they were hoping for a decision in a couple weeks.
Finally, a full month after my second interview, my phone rang. When I saw the number, my heart lept into my throat. I crossed my fingers and answered. The search committee chair sounded so serious, I really thought I was getting the courtesy "it was a hard decision but" call. Instead, she said they would love to have me as their new associate pastor. I literally jumped up and down with excitement, and even got teary, which I was not expecting!
In the six weeks or so since then, it's been a whirlwind of planning and waiting and preparing. I found a fantastic apartment, but am still looking for a car and some furniture. We hashed out my letter of call, and set July 19 as Call Sunday.
So this past weekend, I traveled down there for candidacy weekend. Saturday afternoon they held a "tea" for people to come and meet me before they heard me preach and voted Sunday. Sunday was a picture-perfect day in just about every aspect. The weather was beautiful, and the church was joyous.
After the worship service, the congregation of First Church of Christ, Longmeadow, MA unanimously voted to call me as their new Associate Pastor. They clearly did not have any doubts, because when we went into the fellowship hall afterwards, there was a banner reading, "Welcome Pastor Beth!"
I am feeling so blessed to have been called to this church, and so excited to actually start doing ministry!
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