HOULTON, ME (March 29, 2011) – First Congregational Church is celebrating its 200th anniversary of ministering in this small community, but almost didn’t make it past year 199.
A creative arrangement with Evangelical Covenant Church pastor Tim Stohlberg is enabling the congregation to continue its service.
The congregation’s pastor resigned last year due to illness and it appeared the church would be unable to find a replacement. Because no other ministers expressed interest in the position, the church had advertised its building for sale.
In stepped Stohlberg. He travels more than 100 miles round trip each Sunday from his home in Caribou to preach to the United Church of Christ congregation.
Still there was no one to minister to members during the week. When Stohlberg agreed to handle the Sunday morning duties, the church turned to one of its former pastors.
A special service was held Sunday in which retired Pastor Dale Holden assumed the role of Pastor Emerita at the church. She had been the congregation’s pastor for nearly 19 years and retired in 2006.
The arrangement calls for Holden to attend meetings, as well as do hospital visits and funerals, in addition to other duties. Still, the church could pay only a small salary, and Holden needed more.
That’s when an opportunity at another congregation arose that would make her ministry possible at First Congregational. The local Episcopal Church had a need for an organist so Holden, who has a degree in music education in addition to her M.Div., applied for the position and now leads worship there on Sundays.
First Congregational members say they hope that having the two pastors will give them time to consider how to identify and pursue goals for continuing the congregation’s ministry.