Use this LINK to view Rev. Johnk’s January 13, 2019 sermon: “Beloved”
TO CALL A NEW MINISTER
SUNDAY, JANUARY 13 at 11 a.m.
January 6, 2019:
Rev. Elissa Johnk
As you all know by now, the Settled Minister Search Committee has selected a candidate that we will ask the congregation to approve at a church-wide meeting on January 13, 2019, following the 10 am service.
It is my honor and privilege to share with you the name and some brief information about our selected candidate below. But first, I will share with you how we got here, so that you may come to see why we believe this is the best next step in the life of our church and the best person to lead First Church into the next chapter of its life and ministry.
In October of 2017, this committee was commissioned and asked to meet this extraordinarily important goal: to articulate who God is calling us to be as a congregation and to find who God is calling to next minister with us. I think it is safe to say that none of us truly understood the depth of work this would involve when we each said ‘yes’. What we did understand is that after the last few years, which included periods of transition and change, as well as some uncertainty, we were each 1,000% dedicated to making the best choice for this congregation and each member took his or her role as a member of this committee very seriously.
Your search committee created a Church Profile that describes First Church with an extraordinary amount of detail, candor and sensitivity, based on the time we spent listening to the congregation while crafting this 50+ page document. The response from ministerial candidates was quite positive, and our summer months were spent meeting weekly and spending the time in between reviewing numerous Ministerial Profiles, checking references and reviewing candidates’ online sermons and writings. We interviewed numerous Ministers from all over the United States, who saw promise in our church and its future and we attended several neutral pulpits throughout Vermont, finding ourselves with a few very talented and faithful finalists.
And then, it came time to end the investigation and to begin the discernment. As the very wise Rev. Carrie Bail explained to me: discernment is what happens when you let God in.
And as we came to the time to decide among some extremely skilled, faithful and qualified candidates, God did indeed join us. As Advent, the time of hope, joy and expectation, unfolded, we came to a unanimous decision as to the candidate that we believe is the best fit for our church; a candidate who will serve us as we discover who God is calling us to be. And here we are.
Our committee unanimously recommends to this congregation that the Rev. Elissa Johnk, currently Senior Minister of Old Meeting House in East Montpelier, serve as our next Settled Minister at First Congregational Church of Burlington, Vermont.
Rev. Elissa Johnk is an ordained UCC Minister who has served since 2011 as the Senior Pastor at The Old Meeting House church in East Montpelier, a thriving, multi-denominational church with strongest ties to the UCC. Before the OMH, Elissa served with Rev. Martin Copenhaver as a Pastoral Resident at the Wellesley Congregational Church UCC, and also held a ministerial internship at the Old South Church in Boston. She has also worked with Habitat for Humanity, and as a Fulbright ambassador in South Korea.
Elissa graduated summa cum laude from Wellesley College, and earned her Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where she received a presidential scholarship, the award for Excellence in Liturgical Reading of Scripture, and was a Billings Preaching Prize finalist. Elissa lives in Middlesex with her wife, Sarah, who is an attorney, serving as the State of Vermont Bar Counsel for disciplinary matters. Elissa and Sarah will continue to reside in Middlesex with their two dogs and six chickens.
Elissa greatly impressed us from the beginning. We came to our first meeting after reading her profile with our jaws dropping and eyes widened in reaction to her gift with the written word. In our initial interview with her, Elissa wowed us not only with her ability to articulate her love of God and ministry, but with her ability to take the interview and transform it into a discussion about our goals and hopes for this church family.
In this extremely secular time and place, Elissa has led and grown a Vermont church over the past several years. She demonstrated a willingness to learn about our church community and work beside us to realize our vision of the present and future for First Church. The outside sources that we consulted about Elissa confirmed our belief as to her extraordinary faith and talent, speaking of her unique ability to hold sacred space during a church service. Her references repeatedly used the word “joy” when describing her approach to worship. One experienced Minister who knows her quite well articulated his wish that she was his Minister.
We look forward to sharing more about Elissa with you over the next few days and look forward even more to the time you will be able to meet and get to know Elissa at our church-wide reception for her on Saturday, January 12th at 1 pm. Elissa will also lead our worship service on January 13, 2019 at 10 am, immediately prior to our church-wide meeting to consider this Search Committee’s very strong recommendation that she serve as the next Settled Minister of First Church.
This process has been an amazing adventure for our committee. We worked very hard and very well together, as each member of this team was completely invested in taking all the time and care needed to call the candidate we believe to be the best fit for this church. There are too many examples of love, care and sacrifice (not to mention utter hilarity, ingenuity and joy) each member contributed to this endeavor to list in this letter. I know each member of this team leaves this commitment more dedicated to this congregation, its members, life and mission than when we started. We thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the future of First Church. And speaking for myself, it was my absolute honor and privilege to serve as the Chair.
I also need to thank Carrie Bail for her never ending support and wisdom during this process. Our staff provided unfailing support throughout this journey for which are ever grateful. And most of all, we thank the congregation. Without your generosity of time and spirit, we could not have done this.
Susan Ellwood, Chair of the Settled Minister Search Committee
referenced in Susan Ellwood’s letter (above) is available for members to
read on the Governance page of our Church Website.
The password to this page can be acquired by emailing our Clerk, Linda Elrick.
Saturday, January 12 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at “First Church”
Meet & Greet our
Settled Minister Candidate: Rev. Elissa Johnk
All – including children and youth – are invited and welcome!
This time for our community will include a
“question and answer” forum as well as much
time to informally meet Rev. Johnk and enjoy refreshments.
Rev. Elissa Johnk, will lead the worship and preach –
all are invited and welcome!
(please see formal meeting warning above)
following the Congregational Meeting.