The First Congregational Church of Darien

United Church of Christ

A community of faith since 1737


Last Sunday was grand. It felt good to start the New Year floating in the clouds. We called Gary Morello as our Associate Minister at a special congregational meeting that followed his candidate sermon and service. The exceptional attendance, coupled with not a single dissenting vote responding to his presentation, reflected our enthusiastic reception for Gary’s ministry. Already at a good place, FCC, Darien feels united and poised for what’s next.

Gary’s call consummated a thorough eight-month search. Please thank the Search Committee–Gayle Appleby, Jon Bigelow (chair), Caroline Burke, Roisin Burke, Kelsey Cochrane, Lou Converse, Mary Ann Freeman, Ollie Shultz, and David Young. Much thoughtful deliberation and discernment let us commend the best candidate from the 22 who applied to our congregation. We are already beginning to plan the service celebrating Gary’s installation, subsequent to his official licensure by the UCC, with details to follow. For now, we wanted to offer some logistics:

Gary will eventually locate in the main office wing, in the former “Twos Room” partitioned off from the current Youth Room. Until that space is readied, Gary will continue to work from the office he shares with Mary Jo Colman. His email is His office phone is 203 655-0491, extension 318. Construction on the apartment in the Evans Center (11 Brookside Road) is nearly complete, and Gary and Erica will move in after the town issues its Certificate of Occupancy, likely in late February. Notice how our grounds are increasingly becoming a campus.

Until January 21, Gary will strive to complete the intense Clinical Pastoral Education part of his UCC ordination requirements, juggling a hefty schedule of chaplaincy work at Norwalk Hospital. During these few weeks, his church office hours will be limited. He will, nevertheless, be digging into his new position–leading worship and preaching again this Sunday morning, continuing a full and active slate of youth-focused ministries, preparing for future Come As You Are services and other events. Gary will cover pastoral needs as I am away on my Habitat for Humanity trip.

Beginning Monday, January 25, Gary’s schedule with us becomes more regular. The Associate Minister position entails meetings on and off campus, pastoral care visits, finding youth where they live, and other non-office activities, as well as addressing any emergent needs. Gary will keep regular office hours—initially, from 8:30 to Noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 1 to 5 pm on Thursdays. Gary welcomes your visits to bask in the afterglow and get acquainted.

Just now, starting my fifth year with you, I’m confident we will look back on these days as a key and formative period in our growth as a congregation. All of this excitement is for good reason. Gary is already well-trained in areas like pastoral care and I intend to apprentice him in the rest, as wisely and completely as I can. We called Gary full of expectation for a well-rounded pastor.

But I also recall Finley Wetmore’s words last Sunday on deepening connections and dramatic growth in our youth ministry. “A year ago there were four of us,” she said. “Now we have 25.” Then she eyeballed the pews as though to say, “Any questions?” Darien is the youngest town in the state. In years ahead we’ll unpack the truth of Jesus quoting Isaiah, “a little child shall lead them.” Putting this component of youth ministry in place for us is an essential condition to so much else that we hope to accomplish in ministry. Actually, that has been true for 2,000 years. For millennia the church has risen to new heights against waves of young people seeking us out.

I loved noticing the smiles on your faces last Sunday. Is everybody ready to rock and roll a little?


  1. Dale: I wish we had thought to thank John Bassler for getting us started on the Associate “call”. I remember the meeting when he broached the subject and my initial reticence, followed by a growing realization that he was absolutely right. Remember the questions about whether we could afford this move?
    Let’s have a lunch sometime soon.

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