Last night, the Leadership Council made an important decision about the way forward. As you may know the national landscape of mainline Protestantism is changing, as is the nature of theological education. UCC seminaries are struggling mightily to stay afloat. Our oldest freestanding seminary, Andover-Newton, closed its doors in Newton Centre, Mass., and is folding into Yale Divinity School. Bangor Seminary in Maine granted its last degrees in 2013. United Seminary in Minnesota sold its campus last year to move into a downsized location in the Twin Cities. Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley is trying to lease out some of its empty buildings. To say the least, it’s a difficult time for seminaries and divinity schools.
And those turbulent waters spread into the supply of clergy emerging with Master of Divinity degrees – the expected baseline for most ordained ministers in the UCC. After advertising our interim associate position nationally, we only had two applicants. So, the Search Committee beat the bushes and inquired with other ministers we know, and we have another possible candidate as a result.
The changing ministerial search process in the UCC also includes not only “settled” and “interim” ministers, but “designated-term” ministers as well. This third type of ministry is still elected by the congregation, but for a fixed term. At the end of a designated term, typically two years, the congregation would elect a settled pastor search committee and consider the “designated-term” pastor first, if that is her/his desire, before doing an open search.
The advantage of this for Plymouth is that it would allow us to complete our upcoming Strategic Planning process, including recommendations on staffing, during the two-year term when the designated pastor is serving.
Plymouth’s Leadership Council voted to opt for this path forward and invites you to a Congregational Conversation to learn more this coming Sunday, August 18, following the 10:00 service in the Forum Room.
We are excited about the prospects of finding excellent pastoral talent for Plymouth, even in the midst of changing times in mainline churches.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.