October 2021 - Message From The Pastor:
Well, we finally did it. We got hitched. I have always seen the Search and Call process as a courtship. Like so many modern relationships, it began on the internet. Church’s list their profiles, and ministers list theirs. Listings lead to contact, which leads to conversations, eventually dates (in the form of interviews). Eventually things get serious. I think they reached mutually-interested conversations about this time two years ago. I think we first met in person in November of 2019, if memory serves.
After the courtship phase, the future becomes more of a topic of discussion. We meet each other's families. We discuss terms. We declare our intentions. When the Search and Call Committee submits a candidate’s name to the Church Council, an invitation to come preach a candidating sermon, and a congregational meeting is called. It feels a little like auditioning for pastor. In February of 2020, less than a month before the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown began, Jane and I came to Walpole. I preached. You voted to call me to become the next settled pastor of the First Congregational Church of Walpole, United Church of Christ.
But that was not the wedding. This process is more like the European wedding process. Do you recall following a royal wedding, when the wedding couple go to the local government, city or town hall and get registered or licensed, or whatever they call it in their locale? As soon as the documents are signed and submitted, they are technically married. But are they? Marriage is a sacred covenant. God gave the commandments to Moses on Sinai, but the covenant was established when the Israelites affirmed the covenant out loud, in the presence of God and everybody. The installation is the wedding.
By the time I was installed, it was beginning to feel like so many couples who have lived together, even had children together before making their commitment formal in the covenant of marriage. Does it really have any meaning, given the situation of the ground, so to speak. The truth is it does matter. When a couple gets married, they make covenant promises to each other in front of God and everybody. It is made legal by the state in the form of the marriage license.
On the last Sunday of September, and the first Sunday of Autumn, we gathered on Zoom and in the sanctuary and we made it official. There were representatives from the New Hampshire Conference and the Southwest Association of the United Church of Christ. We made our promises to each other and established a sacred covenant. We already had a relationship, and we have been working together for sixteen months, but we defined our relationship and declared our commitment to each other and the rest of the world.
I was not prepared for how moving the service was. I was so emotional; I could barely finish saying the benediction. We did it. We are hitched. Our futures are now linked. What will we do now? God knows, in a world without end. Amen.
- In Christ, Richard Malmberg