For Rob MacDougall, retirement begins with a heart full of gratitude

Dear Friends,

For more than 45 years the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes has been a trusted companion of mine, particularly in times of transition. It is known as a wisdom book, and I think it lives up to this designation. Wisdom seeks to engage life as we experience it, not just how we hope it will be. Change is certainly an ongoing experience in life, some of it welcome, some of it not so much. I have always tried to listen to the winds of change, some gentle, some stormy, some that are just part of life’s rhythm. The author of Ecclesiastes seemed to have listened well to such winds when he wrote about everything having a season and a purpose under heaven.

After graduating from college, I worked for a few years as a social worker in south Minneapolis, a few blocks from what is now known as George Floyd Square. While working there I began to hear God’s call to ministry and in 1982 I entered seminary at Pacific School of Religion. I was ordained in my home church, First Congregational Church of Minnesota, in 1985. My first call was to St. Paul’s UCC, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I served as associate minister with the Rev. Ted Trost. In 1988, I accepted a call to be the pastor at First Congregational UCC in Menomonie. In 2015, I accepted the call to become an associate conference minister in the Wisconsin Conference.

I must admit that after being in a solo pastorate for 27, I was a bit anxious about serving in a staff position, but now, after 7 ½, I can say it has been a real gift to serve with such extraordinary colleagues. I am ready to hand over this ministry to my successor, the Rev. Michael Jones, but I will dearly miss time with my colleagues, our churches and pastors.

The pastor at the “In Care” church of my seminary days once advised me to “never confuse the Conference with God.”  He was a man steeped in the Congregational tradition. I held his advice close in my time as associate conference minister, and of course there are plenty of pastors and church members that reminded me, in your special ways, that there are no bishops in the UCC.  The limited authority of judicatory ministers clarifies that they/we are present to support, resource, hold accountable, work covenantally, pray, worship, connect, guide and celebrate our common life as God’s people. With the cajoling of the Spirit I have tried to serve in these ways.

I offer you my deepest gratitude for your patience, acceptance of my leadership and all the joys and struggles of being God’s people together.  I have learned amazing things from all of you and I will keep you in my heart and prayers as I move into retirement.

Pax et Bonum,

The Rev. Rob MacDougall

Join Rob's farewell service online

Click the button above to join Rob’s farewell service online on December 18 at 3:00 p.m. (or in-person at First Congregational UCC in Menominee)

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