Please find below a letter from Associate Conference Minister Wendy Vander Hart, followed by a letter from Bridge Conference Minister Don Remick
Dear colleagues in ministry,
Grace and peace to you this day from Jesus Christ the head of the church.
This is a hard letter to write as I share news of a new call on my life. Beginning March 29, I will serve as the Interim Senior Minister at First United Church of Christ in Northfield, MN. This is a BIG change, since I have served the entire 33 years of my ministry in the Metropolitan Boston Association!
The unfolding of this new call has been a long time in coming. Vocational discernment that began in earnest with the Credo program of the United Church of Christ in 2015, that was put on pause with the brain tumor journey I walked with my dear mother and further put on pause as I wanted to be part of the unfolding life of our new Conference has now lead to this new call and timing of departure. It is not ideal – no parting ever is. However, I intend to be faithful in saying goodbye to you delightful partners and to work that has been life-giving, life-challenging and hopefully, fruitful for the love and justice Jesus calls out from us.
As you can tell, I have been in prayer about God’s call on my life for some time even while I have engaged in authentic excitement about our new shared vision as the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ. Living the love and justice of Jesus are not just words to me – I have adopted this shared vision as my own. In this way, I feel joined to the ministry we have shared these last 12.5 years and will continue in another setting of the church.
I cannot even begin to chronicle all that I have learned in this role of Associate Conference Minister. Staff colleagues, Association leaders, Conference partners, lay ministers, Members in Discernment – you all have taught me so much and I treasure every lesson learned – even the ones that resulted from my frailty and mistakes. I have preached those lessons – Be Brave, Be Bold, Be the Church – and now intend to live them in answering a call such as this.
And I trust, that because we have been faithful in process having sought a mission/purpose from God, that God will in turn be faithful to this part of the body of Christ. The unfolding of this new Conference will not be easy and you will remain in my fervent prayers. Take heart, do not lose hope, this journey undertaken has much to teach the church, dare even the world, about the power of a mission rooted in Jesus.
For now, I will tend to goodbye. My spouse Joanne and I will not be selling our home in Arlington. For a season – a landscaping season to be exact- we will be living apart and “commuting,” so I covet your prayers for our journey.
The sabbatical time I am due to take in February will be shorter than originally planned so that I can attend to farewell. Because of a trip I have planned (that will involve golf!) the time I will be available will be February 4 – 8 and 23 – 26, in addition to the time when I return to the office between March 2 – 26.
You have my prayers, my affection, my love – may our parting be pleasing to the God we serve.
It’s hard to say goodbye.
This past week Wendy Vander Hart let us know she will be leaving. In her vocational journey she is taking the next step that has been in her soul for a while.
Crystal clarity of her vision, her identity and purpose, has been a driver of her ministry and it is in this moment.
On March 29th she’ll be launching from our staff into a new position as Senior Interim at First United Church of Christ in Northfield, MN.
Wendy will be missed. All of her ministry so far has been offered in and with the churches of the MBA. As pastor and ACM she has had that focus on ‘Living the Love and Justice of Jesus’. Her words were literally foundational in shaping the vision and the vision statement of our historic MACUCC. And her wisdom and words reminded us that our new Conference could not be formed without that crystal clarity of vision. So we began with a vision that reflects the insight she always brings.
There is not enough space in an article to articulate all of her impact on God’s Realm of Love and Justice. It is there in hearts changed in the churches she served. It is there in the ministries she provided as ACM to local churches who were looking for help during times of crisis, creativity, conflict and change. It is clear in the way she shaped the structure and focus in the MBA. It has been there as she brought the Associations of the Northeast area together as one. It has been there within the historic Massachusetts Conference where she served on committees, Commissions, Councils, the Board of Directors, staff Search Teams and staff. It has been there at the National expression of our UCC where she has helped reshape our local church search process and our national gatherings. And I’m still just scratching the surface.
Personally, I have journeyed alongside Wendy for a few decades. I have seen and been grateful for her gifts as teacher, mentor, counsel, and friend. While Minnesota feels too far away, I have no doubt that we will continue to be touched by the impact of this agent of transformation.
The Bridge Conference Ministers are actively working to find an interim ACM to cover her ministries while we’re working with the Board to finalize and fill the staffing model for our new Conference. In the coming weeks you will hear more about this. And, in the coming weeks you’ll hear opportunities to celebrate with Wendy the gift she has been to us all. In the meantime, hold Wendy and our churches in a prayer of blessing for what God will unfold in our next chapters.
On behalf of your Bridge Conference Ministers,