One in an occasional series of articles about the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign.
Chris Barensfeld, who has been an active member of the Second Congregational Church of Boxford for the last twelve years, is focused on the future. Barensfeld, who serves as a member of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign’s Executive Committee, says, “I am concerned about the longevity of Protestantism in this country, and I think it’s important to find ways to support the notion of liberal religion in a time when religious perspectives are becoming increasingly polarized.”
The church has seen the benefit of supporting the Pastoral Excellence Program (PEP) as their new, young pastor has set down roots in the church. PEP offers an opportunity for “young and newly ordained pastors to stay in touch with the resources that this program, and the Massachusetts Conference, can provide,” said Barensfeld. Rev. Laura A. Gronberg has been involved in a Communities of Practice, and in a New Clergy Group, since coming to Boxford. Barensfeld has been impressed with how helpful the Communities of Practice have been to Rev. Gronberg, and, she observed, “The tide seems to be turning in terms of the ability of pastors to speak candidly about stewardship from the pulpit, as they take more of an executive role in terms of their awareness of the church’s individual funding.” “In the past,” said Barensfeld, “seminaries did not necessarily devote a lot of attention to teaching pastors about how to preach on stewardship. And this is something we need to embrace and encourage.”
The benefits of a strong connection to the Massachusetts Conference, of course, go beyond the Pastoral Excellence Program. When the Boxford church was searching for a new pastor, they received terrific support from the MACUCC. “The conference was instrumental in the whole process of search and call. New pastors receive extensive training as they prepare to begin their careers in new churches,” and, Barensfeld notes, “Having strong education programs are key to nurturing excellent leadership.”
Chris Barensfeld has made a generous gift of $30,000 to support the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign. She recognizes that “there are so many demands on peoples’ income these days in addition to supporting pastoral excellence. However, from a religious standpoint, I hope that the church is available for my children, and theirs and beyond, when they have a need for it. Excellent programs help to encourage community involvement, spiritual growth, and so much more. I never thought of myself as a religious person, but I have a strong sense of belonging which the church encourages, and that is very valuable. There are so many ways in which being involved with the church has been, and is, beneficial to me. The church’s principals are obvious and strong for children, and this is important – both now, and for future generations.”