First Congregational Church of Salem Celebrates Installation of their PastorSeptember 12, 2014 submitted by Merri C. Carlson, First Congregational Church, Salem
On Sunday, September 28, at 2 p.m., family, friends, and members of First Congregational Church of Salem will celebrate the installation of their settled pastor, Rev. Eric Redard.
The search to locate a pastor for a UCC congregation using the processes in place with the NH UCC conference is one that is done slowly, seriously, and with intention that holds a significant responsibility to find the right spiritual leader of a congregation. The Pastoral Search Committee was formed in February/March of 2013, and the search to find Rev. Redard took approximately 14 months. He started with First Congregational Church on August 1, 2013.
Rachel York, a member of the Pastoral Search Committee that brought Rev. Redard to FCC-Salem, recalls her first impression. “I was the one to initially call Eric.” She was thrilled when she called him, and his response was, “I was wondering when you guys would call.” Rachel said that Eric struck her as someone who was easy to talk to, enthusiastic, and genuine. She was hopeful and excited, and thought, “this is how it is suppose to feel.”
Fred Hutchinson said, “I knew we had found the right person in the first 10 minutes of the interview. No other candidate came close to the impression he made immediately.”
During his first year, Rev. Redard has made steps toward change at First Congregational Church. On his first Thanksgiving with his congregation, he led his parishioners to open the doors of the church and to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to all those who had nowhere to go on Thanksgiving Day. This event wasn’t just for the people who came, but for those that cooked, planned, and attended, as all the preparations involved fellowship and coming together to show God’s love. More recently, he is leading the church in a “Year of Prayer.” Each parishioner volunteers to pray for FCC-Salem one day a month. In addition, he helped guide the first Youth Group mission trip in many years to NYC.
The other new initiative that began in September of 2013 was the “Good News Mystery Box.” Each month a child/youth is chosen to take the box home and put an object in the box. On Good News Mystery Box Sunday, Rev. Eric tries to guess what is inside the box, and once the box is opened, he provides a child/youth moment on how that object connects or reminds us of our faith. This is a new favorite among the parishioners as everyone cannot wait to see what is in the box, and if the children/youth will “stump” the pastor.
Rev. Eric told a small group of parishioners over the summer, “My intention was to go to another setting. My plans were complete. I was going somewhere else. However, I decided to go to the interview, after discussing it with a close friend. A feeling came over me as soon as I stepped into the sanctuary, I knew I was home.”
There is a line from a song called, “Help Somebody.” by Van Zant, and the line says, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” I can only imagine God’s smile as Rev. Redard ascended the steps to the sanctuary at FCC-Salem for the first time.
The parishioners at FCC-Salem are elated that Rev. Redard has become their pastor, teacher, and spiritual leader. He is their gift from God for a new beginning. A new beginning that includes strengthening their relationship with God, each other, and the surrounding community.
First Congregational Church in Salem invites the community to Rev. Eric Redard’s installation on September 28 at 2 p.m., 15 Lawrence Rd., Salem. You can also meet Rev. Redard at his “Out of Office” hours at the Barking Bean on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. As Rev. Eric likes to say, “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”