The Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors on Saturday voted to call the Rev. Ellie Richardson to serve as the Associate Conference Minister for Lay and Clergy Leadership Development, a two-thirds time position. She is expected to start in early January.
Richardson has served as the Minister of Spiritual Development in the Community for the Andover Association since 2003. She works with churches, clergy, healthcare and community based non-profits, providing leadership development programs. She also provides pulpit supply, sabbatical coverage, spiritual retreats and coordinates an intercessory prayer team. Richardson is the founder and Executive Director of Mustard Seed Community Services, a 501(c)3 organization created for the purpose of providing low cost access to transformational leadership programs. She is certified as a Field Education Supervisor by Andover Newton Theological School, from where she earned her Master of Divinity in 2001.
"It's exciting, it's daunting, it's an incredible opportunity that I am humbly privileged to have been offered," Richardson said. "God’s call to me has always been active and ongoing, it's never been static. My call has been to minister to people who are seeking to understand their own call. There is no greater joy than to walk with people as they are on that journey."
Richardson was recently chosen as a founding member of the Massachusetts Conference's new Unified Fitness Review Committee. She also serves as co-chair of the Andover Association Church & Ministry Committee and has served as Moderator, Vice Moderator and Board Member of the Andover Association. In 2005 and 2007 she was a General Synod Delegate. She also serves on the Conference’s Volunteer Development Committee and she is on the Board of Directors of the Merrimack River Valley House. In her first career, Ellie worked in a variety of health care settings, eventually becoming the Executive Director of the North Shore Magnetic Imaging Center in Peabody, MA.
According to Conference Minister & President Jim Antal, Richardson will "work to deepen the work of the past decade in the Pastoral Excellence Program (PEP) and use the lessons and models from that work to have a similar impact on lay leaders in our congregations."
This new Associate Conference Minister position is being created in response to the departure of the current Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development, Susan Dickerman. Dickerman is leaving the Conference at the end of the year to spearhead a national expansion of the Pastoral Excellence Program in a new project being funded by the Lilly Endowment. [See a related article on Dickerman's departure.]
Richardson was called at the unanimous recommendation of the ACM Search Commitee, which consisted of Dick Harter, a member of the FIrst Church in Cambridge; Nancy Lawrence, a member of the First Church of Christ in Sandwich; and Terry Martinson, pastor of the Old South Union Church in Weymouth; with Antal serving as staff. The ACM Search Committee was formed with the task of recommending to the Conference Board of Directors either:
a) one candidate to serve as ACM for Lay and Clergy Leadership Development (2/3 time) or
b) two candidates - each serving 1/3 time - as ACM for Lay Leadership Development or ACM for Clergy Leadership Development.
In early October, the opening was listed in the UCC National Employment Opportunities and was sent out to all churches and pastors through the Mass Conference’s weekly eMailing and via the Conference website. The notification made it clear that this new position would seek to deepen the impact of the Pastoral Excellence Program as well as use the lessons and models from that work to have a similar impact on lay leadership development in congregations.
Twenty two people from seven states expressed interest in one or both positions by completing a form found on the webiste. Almost half of those who expressed interest completed the application process. The applicant pool included both lay and ordained candidates.
The search committee met seven times over the course of two months. They reviewed all the materials of every applicant within a day or two of receiving them. The Search Committee conducted interviews over two days.
Based on those interviews, along with the candidates' applications, profiles, and comments from their references, the committee unanimously recommended Richardson to the Board at their meeting on Saturday.
"Every one of our Associate Conference Ministers is incredibly talented and hardworking," Antal said in announcing Richardson's call. "The expectations for this position are no less. Ellie will bring to every corner of the Conference the creativity and entrepreneurial initiative we need to take the Pastoral Excellence Program into the future and launch a similar emphasis in the area of lay leadership development. I invite you to find a way to welcome Ellie as our new Mass Conference ACM and offer her your partnership as we continue this journey together."
A celebration of Susan Dickerman's 26 years of work with the Conference will be held in conjunction with the Massachusetts Conference’s 214th Annual Meeting in Sturbridge, June 14 –15, 2013,