Two New Associate Conference Ministers Named

Two New Associate Conference Ministers Named


The Southern New England Conference has called two new Associate Conference Ministers, both of whom have extensive Committee on Ministry experience and are currently serving within the Conference.

Rev. Carol Steinbrecher will serve as the ACM for the North Central Region, beginning Feb. 15. She will take the place of Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly, who is now serving as the new Executive Minister for Area Conference Ministry. Rev. Steinbrecher is currently serving as Interim Pastor for both Lakeville Congregational Church and North Congregational Church of Middleboro, two Massachusetts churches that are experimenting with sharing a pastor while considering entering a shared search.

Rev. Margret Hofmeister will serve as the ACM for the Southwest Region, beginning March 1. She will take the place of the Rev. Michael Ciba, who is retiring effective Dec. 1. Rev. Hofmeister is currently serving as pastor of the First Church of Christ Congregational in New Britain, CT.

A temporary Associate Conference Minister has been hired to cover the two regions between Dec. 1 and when the new ACMs begin. See the bottom of this announcement for details.

“Both Margret and Carol demonstrated, in their interviews and their lived experiences, an abiding love of the Body of Christ, a savvy understanding of the realities facing our local churches, and a deep commitment to companioning them in the ongoing work of faithfully transforming. They will both, in their own ways, be a gift to their regions, to the ACM Team and the whole Conference.  I am delighted to welcome them to the team,” said Rev. Garrigan-Byerly.

The ACM Team’s mission is to be an agent of transformation. ACMs bring adaptive change by provoking and nurturing discipleship, new life, and creative partnerships in and through the love and justice of Jesus in our Clergy, Church Congregations, and Associations.

Rev. Carol Steinbrecher
“I am so excited to be joining the Area Conference Ministry Team, serving the North Central Region!  This is the region that held me in discernment, and I feel that I am coming full circle in my ministry,” Rev. Steinbrecher said. “In the wake of the pandemic, as we continue to wrestle with what it means to be church, and how we can be church in new ways, I am hoping that I can offer my experience as an Interim Minister to our many churches and Pastors trying to find their way in changing times.”

Of her time as an interim working with two churches, Rev. Steinbrecher said: “it has been inspiring to feel the positive energy when they occasionally join together for worship, or making meals, or simply having fun together.  I am hoping to help other churches find ways to reach out to one another and experiment with sharing resources, ministries, meals, or just their ideas and struggles."

Rev. Steinbrecher served as a handbell choir director for many years, and in her early career, worked in the computer industry managing custom software engineering, project management, and customer support groups. Both experiences helped prepare her for intentional interim ministry in different ways, she said.

She completed the Interim Ministry Network certification program and was a member of the Interim Ministry Task Force, helping create and plan training and educational events for Interim Ministers. She served on the Pilgrim Association Committee on Ministry, is a certified Spiritual Director, and a Pastoral Excellence trained Facilitator. She was a Theater Arts major at Douglass College and received her Master of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School.

“At a time when the church is experiencing significant transition, Carol’s gifts as an experienced interim pastor will be a blessing to our local churches,” Rev. Garrigan-Byerly said. “Carol impressed us with her grounded presence, her strong interim skills and her creativity with new forms of ministry. She naturally incorporates her spiritual direction training into how she facilitates healthy and robust processes of transformation in local churches.”

When answering a question about how she would work with lay leaders, Rev. Steinbrecher said, “Instead of focusing on finding the resources to fix a problem, I’d first focus them on where God is; grounding them in their faith is essential.”

Rev. Margret Hofmeister

The Rev. Hofmeister has been serving in New Britain since 2017; prior to that she served the North Congregational Church in New Hartford. The Southwest region has long been her home: she was baptized, confirmed and ordained at the First Congregational Church of Branford, CT.

Prior to entering ministry, Rev. Hofmeister received her Bachelor of Science degree in Print Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She recalls learning about the most up-to-date technology as a student, and then worked in printshops that could not yet embrace or afford these technologies. She compared that to growing up in the church, going to seminary, and then entering into ministry at a time of great transition for the church.

“I grew up in the church a lot of our members remember: where you had to arrive an hour early on Christmas Eve to get a seat, where classrooms were filled up,” she said. “I have an appreciation for our roots and traditions and where we came from, but I also recognize that we have to step out of the shadow of who we were.”

Rev. Hofmeister received her Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 2007 and has completed Interim Ministry Training. She has had a particular interest in food ministry in the church settings in which she has served. For 15 years, Rev. Hofmeister sat on the board of the American Friends of the Asian Rural Institute which supports a leadership and development training center in Japan (Asian Rural Institute), dedicated to teaching people both about self-sustaining farming and about Christian servant leadership.

“Margret impressed us with her wisdom about both the local church and the role of an ACM. Her leadership style is informed by Appreciative Inquiry, which she uses to create collaboration and facilitate good process,” Rev. Garrigan-Byerly said. “Across her career, she has been dedicated to the wider church, serving on the historic Connecticut Conference Worship Planning Team and Resolution Committee, the Litchfield North Association Committee on Church and Ministry and currently on the CT Unified Fitness Review Committee. She also demonstrated a dedication to the diversity, equity and inclusion commitments of the Conference.”

In answering a question about how she has been an agent of transformation, Rev. Hofmeister said: “Transformation begins with experiencing and sharing God’s love,” and shared how she has helped congregations transform their ways of being from an understanding of God’s transforming love.

The Search

The ACM Search Team was comprised of two representatives from each region (Southwest and North Central), a member of the SNEUCC Board of Directors, Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, and Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly. Working with the ACM job description, the Team developed an interview process undergirded by discernment. With a robust pool of candidates from across the denomination, they invited eight candidates to provide further written material and interviewed five of those candidates. 

Bridge Coverage

The Conference has hired Rev. Samantha Houser as a bridge ACM for both the Southwest and North Central regions. Rev. Houser will serve in a virtual capacity from Dec.1 to March 1, focused on supporting churches in search & call, committees on ministry and responding to urgent needs that arise for clergy and local churches.

“It’s a gift to have Sam serve during this transitional season. Sam's experience as an ACM will provide these two regions with stable and wise leadership.” Contact information will be sent to all leaders in those regions later this week.

Rev. Houser has served as an ACM from the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences, and has experience in the areas of Search and Call, Committee on Ministry, Communities of Practice, Brave Space conversation hosting, White Privilege: Let's Talk facilitation, and work with the Dakota Association. Through training as an enneagram coach, Rev. Houser has gained a deep understanding for the importance of embracing a mindset of radical curiosity.


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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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