Welcome! Rather than telling you all about me in a couple of paragraphs, here are some fast facts:
On July 15, 2014 I will begin serving as the senior pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.
I am the former pastor of West Dover Congregational Church in West Dover, Vermont, where I served for over four years. During that time I was also the chaplain of the West Dover Fire Department.
Before parish ministry I served as a hospital, hospice, and trauma chaplain for eight years. My work took me from urban pediatric trauma centers to the bedsides of those with terminal illnesses. I loved my time as a chaplain, and I learned so much, but in parish ministry I have found my greatest joy and true calling.
I’m a regular blogger for the Huffington Post’s Religion section, and the UCC’s Stillspeaking Daily Devotional. Additionally my columns are often picked up by Christian Century blogs and Believe Out Loud. I occasionally write religion columns for local papers as well. I am also currently working on a book about progressive Christianity and discipleship.
How I came to the church:
I grew up “spiritual but not religious” in the South, and I didn’t always have the best impressions of Christian churches from my surroundings. Even still, I began to explore Christianity at the age 17 and I was baptized that year, right before going off to college. I see my experience as a former religious “none” as an asset. More and more people are growing up outside of organized religion, and I know what it’s like to walk through the doors of the church looking for something, but not knowing what to expect.
I majored in religion and English at Emory University in Atlanta. After Emory I went to seminary at Columbia Theological Seminary where I received my Master of Divinity (MDiv). Later I also received a Master of Theology (ThM) in systematic theology. (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details of 20th Century Reformed theology.) I have also received a significant amount of continuing education in adaptive leadership.
I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2001. While I loved the PCUSA in many ways, in early 2010 I left the Presbyterian Church in protest of the continued exclusion of LGBT people from the full ministry of the church, and transferred to the UCC.
United Church of Christ:
I love my denomination and am proud to serve on the United Church of Christ Board, the national governing board of directors for the UCC. (If you don’t know much about the UCC, you should check out this link.) I’ve also been honored to serve twice as a delegate from the Vermont Conference to the UCC’s General Synod. In addition, I participate in the Class of 2022 of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative (Target 2030).
Special passions for ministry:
As a former “none”, I feel called to reach out to the unchurched, and the de-churched, and I have special interests in the revitalization of the mainline church and ministry with LGBTQ people and people in recovery from addictions. I also believe in the need for a mainline renewal and I see great potential for the UCC and similar denominations to be both leaders in the areas of inclusivity and justice, and a formation ground for disciples. I believe the two cannot be divorced from one another.
I love fly fishing the streams in New England. I also love following the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Redskins (I’m a third generation fan). My fantasy football team, the Total Depravities, made the UCC 2030 Network’s playoffs last year before imploding spectacularly in the first round. I have been a golfer since I was 8 years old, though I don’t get to play as much as I’d like. I have a special love for the New England coast, particularly Cape Cod and Maine. I also read widely. (My all time favorite books are the Harry Potter series, A Prayer for Owen Meany, And the Band Played On, Dubliners, and A River Runs Through It.) Finally, I’m active on social media and consider it a skill necessary for ministry in the 21st century.
In addition to my family of origin, and my chosen family of friends, I am happily married to Heidi Carrington Heath. Heidi and I were married in the fall of 2012 at Old South Church in Boston, her home church. Heidi is a recent seminary graduate, a candidate for ordained ministry, and a licensed minister in the UCC. We will soon be making our home in Exeter, New Hampshire along with our two kittens Windsor (named for the plaintiff in the DOMA case) and Atticus (named for one of our all-time favorite literary characters).