Dear Members and Friends of Wellesley Hills Congregational Church,
It is with sorrow that we accept the resignation of our Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Matthew Wooster, effective June 20, 2021, as he accepts a new call to serve Plymouth Church UCC of Shaker Heights, Ohio. We are nonetheless pleased for Matt and Betsy as they undertake this new opportunity closer to their family.
Matt has been with us nearly seven years and during this time our church has received the gifts of his inspirational sermons and his thoughtful ministry. While many of us may experience a sense of loss at the news of his impending departure, we are comforted that God is with us and will guide us in the days and months ahead as we move forward as an open and affirming congregation welcoming all who seek to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. We are blessed by our two Associate Ministers, Rev. Judy Swahnberg and Rev. Anne Marie Holloway. They will provide continuity and comfort over the coming months particularly with pastoral care and ministry to our youth and families.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will embrace this transition of pastoral leadership with faith, hope, and love, as we have done in the past. Our next two and a half months with Matt will be meaningful for us and for Matt. We will inform you soon about plans for special events to celebrate Matt’s ministry before he leaves.
After Matt shared the likelihood of his departure with the Office of the Moderator and the Co-Senior Deacons, we contacted our Southern New England Area Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Patricia Kogut, about the process of seeking new ministerial leadership. We have met with her several times to learn about the role of the conference minister in this process, resources available from the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the role of lay leadership during a time of pastoral transition. She suggested that we share with you this brief overview of the process:
1. The Spiritual Care Support Board (i.e., Board of Deacons) will appoint an Interim Minister Search Committee to select a trained interim minister to provide continuity in worship, pastoral care, and program/staff oversight. This minister will not be a candidate for the “settled” position as our senior minister but will help facilitate our transitional work in preparation for the settled minister search. Rev. Patty Kogut will continue to advise us on this process and will provide profiles of pastor candidates for the Interim Search Committee’s consideration.
2. After the interim minister is in place, 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 pastoral needs. We will develop a church profile to share with potential candidates, and the Board of Deacons will form and commission a Senior Minister Search Committee.
3. 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 Committee will review each candidate’s ministerial profile, conduct interviews, check references, discern the will of the Church, and eventually select a candidate who will be recommended to the entire congregation.
4. Our goal is for the congregation to call (elect), in a unified way, a new minister whose gifts God can lift up to us and with us for the sake of the Gospel. The UCC tradition of “calling” a minister affirms the active presence of God’s Spirit in the search process. We will prayerfully seek a minister with the gifts and strength 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 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.
In Christ’s name,
Chris Stowell, Office of the Moderator
Gary McCabe, Robert Williams, Co-Senior Deacons
Rich Sweeting, Clerk