THE MISSION of the New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ, is to worship, work, and pray with the congregations of our Conference and with mission partners in our denomination and throughout the world, so that together we practice the love of Jesus Christ.
OUR VISION is a world that seeks compassion, justice and peace for all people, a faith that celebrates the Holy Spirit as the source of joy, growth and healing, and a church that offers to all a dwelling place with God and for God.
I arrived at work this morning to find a letter of resignation in my email inbox for the Rev. Gary Schulte, our New Hampshire Conference Minister. After nearly twelve years of ministry in our state, he has accepted a call to become the pastor and teacher of Saint Peters United Church of Christ in Washington, Missouri, a position he will begin in October. I’ve known Gary since I began the search process which ended two years ago in my being called as your pastor. In that short time, he has become a good friend and colleague, and I will miss him greatly.
In our staff meeting this morning, Adam asked me (not seriously) if I would be submitting my resume. I told him (completely seriously) that under no circumstances would I be doing so. In thirty years of ministry, I have served churches in five different conferences and have been privileged to work with eight or nine different conference ministers. You can trust me when I say that this is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs we have in the church.
A conference minister is called to be CEO of a highly demanding and multi-faceted volunteer organization consisting of all the churches, all the conference-wide ministries, and all the clergy and lay people in a given conference. They are pastors to pastors, pastors to congregations, worship leaders, teachers, conflict managers and transition coordinators. Increasingly, they are charged with holding together the fraying fabric of the wider church, with finances that typically shrink from year to year.
The most visible role of a conference minister, for most churches, comes during times of pastoral transition. A great deal of time and effort goes in to helping any single congregation through the search and call process. Currently, out of some 125 churches in the New Hampshire Conference, there are 31 looking for a new minister. All by itself, that’s a lot of work.
Across all these areas of responsibility, in my opinion, Gary has worked with grace, good humor, integrity and faithfulness. I celebrate his ministry in our conference, and wish him all the best in his new position. For those who are interested, there will be a farewell gathering for Gary on Sunday, August 27th. I’ll share further details with you as they become available. I am planning to attend myself, and I would be happy to have some company.
Yours in Grace,