History Talk – February 13

Minute for History—Bruce Peabody (February 13, 2011)

The last three decades–our most recent history–have shown the validity of the vision of the original founders of this congregation.

These are years of long-term settled pastorates–Blair Moffett from 1979 to 1996 with Mary Thies from 1981 to 1996, and then Maria LaSala and Bill Goettler from 1998 through today. Blair and Mary left here to be co-pastors of the Presbyterian church in Stamford, not due to any theological disputes or pastor or congregation unhappiness. These long pastorates continued the trend which started with Douglas Nelson, who was pastor here from 1955 to 1978. So for the last 55 years–not just the last 30 years–the permanent pastors here have generally presided over a settled church.

One of the most recent interesting events was the search for new pastors after Blair and Mary’s departures. As the Presbytery requires after long-term pastorates, starting in 1996, with the departure of Blair and Mary for their new positions, the Church was led for two years by interim pastors. The role of the interim pastor is a difficult one, specifically designed to force the congregation to examine itself and try to figure out what the congregations’ needs and desires are for the coming years–not just accepting business as usual but really focusing on a vision of what the church should keep, should change, and should aspire to.

When this evaluation process was started in 1996–15 years ago–I was part of it, as were many people here today. (Raise hands!) It was a fascinating process; some of the conclusions that were reached were:

–This is not a big church, in part because Presbyterian churches are not native to New England and so are few and far between and in part because there are many wonderful other local congregations in this area. It is a church with members passionately devoted to attending worship and leading the congregation in the Presbyterian way. There is room to grow.
–Many members and worshippers here are from elsewhere in the United States and in the world, where there are more Presbyterians.
–This is an educated congregation, very verbal and very interested in not only the Word but in the World.

What is amazing to me, when I thought about it this week, was that these are the same terms which we heard describing the original worshippers who founded this congregation in 1885.

So in many ways the circle is unbroken and we have attained and retained many of the dreams which the original members surely had. We have learned as part of this Anniversary celebration that this congregation has grown and shrunk, built big buildings and small buildings, had balanced budgets and been broke, had more children in the church family and fewer children. But clearly God has been present with this congregation in the past, is present currently, and will be present during our next 150 years.

Bruce Peabody