Dear Members and Friends of Wellesley Hills Congregational Church,
As we prepare to say goodbye to our Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Matthew Wooster, the Board of Deacons (Spiritual Care Support Board) has begun the work of moving us into the transition to an interim time in ministerial leadership. While many of us may experience a sense of loss at the news of Matt’s impending departure, we are comforted that God is with us and will guide us in the days and months ahead as we move forward together as an open and affirming congregation, who will continue to welcome all who seek to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. A transitional ministry is a critical time in the life of any congregation. It is a time for us, the Church, to reflect on our gifts, our strengths, and our needs, to continue to serve and love our neighbors as Jesus taught us. We understand the uncertainty of this transition time. We have been through others. We will listen to God and to each other and will prayerfully discern what is best for our future.
In the United Church of Christ, ministers have general and specific calls to ministry in the local congregation. We are blessed by the capable leadership of Associate Ministers, Rev. Judy Swahnberg and Rev. Anne Marie Holloway. Until a new interim senior minister accepts a call to our church, we are calling upon our associate ministers to serve beyond their specific calls to ministry to include areas that are assigned to the senior minister. We are also blessed by a caring and committed group of lay leaders across our Council, Support Boards, Standing Committees and Ministry Teams. By the grace of God, we will continue to faithfully live out our individual callings in the congregational way, ministering to one another, and being the body of Christ to the world.
Co-Senior Deacons, Gary McCabe and Robert Williams have formed an Interim Selection Committee, with additional members, Laurie Stewart Otten (Church Council’s liaison to the Board of Deacons), and Nancy Simons (Treasurer and current member of the Pastor Parish Relations Standing Committee). The work of the Interim Selection Committee has already begun with the creation of an Interim Time Church Profile, which we have shared with our Southern New England Area Conference (SNEUCC) Minister, Rev. Dr. Patricia Kogut. Rev. Patty Kogut will share the profile with candidates interested in our Intentional Interim Minister position. Ministerial candidates will come to us through the SNEUCC, as is the traditional practice of our denomination. We will work with Rev. Patty Kogut to review the appropriate role of lay leadership during a time of pastoral transition. We also have available to us the wider resources from the United Church of Christ (UCC). These resources tell us that a trained interim minister will focus on five areas: Heritage, Leadership, Mission/Identity, Connections, and our Future.
We expect to receive several ministerial profiles for candidates for the Interim Minister position over the next several weeks. The Interim Selection Committee will then decide which candidates to interview. Based on the recommendation of the Interim Selection Committee, the Spiritual Care Support Board (Board of Deacons) will select a trained Interim Minister to work with our Associate Ministers to provide continuity in worship, pastoral care, and program/staff oversight. The Interim Minister will not be a candidate for the “settled” position as our Senior Minister but will help us in our transitional work in preparation for the settled minister search.
While we look to call an Interim Minister this summer/fall, we will invite all of you to be part of a self-study and community learning process that will explore our church’s vision for the future and corresponding longer-term pastoral needs. We will work with the existing task forces, Strategic Visioning, Strengthening Governance, and Financial Governance and Planning, to incorporate their recommendations into the process of developing a Settled Time Church Profile to share with potential candidates. The Board of Deacons will form and commission a Senior Minister Search & Call Committee.
We will initiate a search process for a new senior minister in accordance with our bylaws. Our conference office will advertise our open position to UCC and UCC-affiliated clergy across the country. Our Search & Call Committee will review each candidate’s ministerial profile, conduct interviews, check references, prayerfully discern the will of the Church body, and eventually select and call a minister who will be recommended to the entire congregation.
Our goal is for the congregation to call (elect), in a unified way, a new senior minister whose gifts God can bring to us and share with us for the sake of the Gospel. The UCC tradition of “calling” a minister affirms the active presence of the Holy Spirit of God in the search process. We will prayerfully seek a minister with the gifts and strengths to serve our historic congregation, our community, and our mission in the world, while recognizing that candidates too are listening to our living God to guide them. We will keep you informed as we move toward these decisions that will guide our future.
For now, let us express our gratitude for Matt’s ministry here and enter into a time of celebration and prayer with him and his family.
Yours servants in Christ,
Gary McCabe and Robert Williams, Co-Senior Deacons