The First Congregational Church of Darien

United Church of Christ

A community of faith since 1737



Recently, we’ve been on a roll as a church. Great things are happening here and it feels like our common life is brimming with goodness and new possibilities. We could take all of the credit and tell ourselves how very clever we are. Or we could thank God for the manifold blessings of these days after years of trouble and then climbing back on our feet again.  Yes, many have worked hard to put us into this kind of a position.  But every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord God.

As though celebrating Christmas and New Year’s, and the buzz from CBS news and a raft of new members are not enough, we ramp up to Candidate’s Sunday.

Gary Morello preaches at 10 am this Sunday, January 3, 2016 presenting his sermon to candidate as our Associate Pastor, with special attention to our youth. We’ve enjoyed an added advantage of getting to know Gary in his role as Interim Youth Minister over the past 4.5 months. He hasn’t failed to make an impression.

If you’ve not had a chance to meet and know Gary, please come to a reception in his honor in the Parish Hall late afternoon this Saturday from 4:00 to 5:30 pm. If you are lucky, you will have the chance meet Gary’s wife Erica, who is delightful.

This weekend we see our Congregational way of life at work.  In describing it, we tend to use one “D” word, democracy. But I want to insert another, discernment. Gary feels led to serve as a Christian minister and to do so here at FCC, Darien.  Our job—individually and as a community–is to confirm his call to serve, or not. That’s how vocation occurs: individuals are called and the community confirms it.

What does that look like?  Gary will preach the regular and the children’s sermon. After the service, we will quickly get coffee and return.  Jon Bigelow will introduce the Search Committee and outline our process of eight months of deliberation. He will lift key points about how Gary’s candidacy commended itself to our group.  Gary will answer questions, and then be dismissed.  The Search Cmte. will hear your comments and questions.  Gary’s process for licensure and ordination will be outlined. We will need to waive a flawed By-Law (more on that later.) Then we will vote by secret ballot, collect the ballots, and announce the results of the vote.

We hope and fully expect to welcome Gary back in the room as associate pastor. But no one takes anything for granted.  We defer to the insight of the community.

Someone was fretting about Gary “filling my shoes,” or doing all I do at the same level. I laughed. Why? I couldn’t serve as I do now 15 or 20 years ago.  If ministry looks easy, it isn’t. Ministry is humbling. Why? We’re fundraisers and visionaries, detailed planners and tender caregivers, practical administrators and stewards of sacred mysteries. Goodness, we must mediate between heaven and earth, doing so fully exposed, with everyone’s opinions staring us down, all of the time. Think about it. What fool would say he can do all that well?  Ministry takes time to learn.

Gary knows this and listens carefully. I tell him how I do things and he charts his own course. He’s already ahead of where I ever was as a youth minister. I’ll walk him through priestly duties like weddings and memorials to train him up. We see ourselves standing together back-to-back for a 360 degree view as your pastors.

Churches want a 28 year old pastor with 37 years’ experience. They don’t exist. Together as pastors and parish we train each other, meeting in the middle. That’s how it works. God has placed us in a singular position. Ponder, pray and respond from your depths, seeing our giftedness and the great good we can do as a fully staffed church. So much has led us up to this moment. Respect it as God’s gift.

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