A message from our new Senior Minister:

 

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

I am excited to walk alongside you as your Senior Minister here at Meadowbrook Congregational Church! As is no surprise to you, we are living in unusual and challenging times, not only in southeast Michigan or the United States, but the world over. This fall we continue the fight against a worldwide pandemic, keeping our community and congregation safe as best we can. We also continue to live in politically divisive times, with, regrettably, much shouting and little listening going on. Add to this the ever-present but all-too-easily ignored challenges faced by sisters and brothers of color.

Oh no! Will the new pastor take political stances? No, not really. But you can expect me to continually point towards God, as Jesus calls us to. And you can expect me to encourage loving all of God’s children, including the youngest and oldest among us, because Jesus calls us to do that, too. I believe that God’s Word in the Bible is always true, but that the Spirit calls us to keep on our toes in the way we live the Bible’s truth in the world, a world that changes. I’ll suggest changes in the way things have been done here at Meadowbrook (please bear with me). I’ll raise up cherished traditions of this church as well (let’s do them well and with gusto). You can expect me to be there for you and your loved ones and to pray for you. Even if I cannot fix everything (what pastor can?), know that I will be there for you and walk alongside you. I will make mistakes (forgive me). I will forget things (remind me). I will always be honest with you (be honest with me). I so look forward to learning more about you. Here’s a bit about me.

A Rhode Island native, I was raised in a large Portuguese, Roman Catholic family, where I first felt God’s call on my life (my Great Grandmother told me I’d enter the ministry when I was a 5-year-old boy). I studied music composition at the University of Rhode Island and later moved to privately study composition in New York City, where I was a music therapist at a day treatment center for developmentally disabled adults. In 2005, I moved to Milwaukee where I was a classical music editor for a decade at Hal Leonard. I met my wife Heidi (a Wisconsin native and classically trained soprano) and we were married in 2008. Being Catholic and Lutheran it only makes sense that God led us to a Congregational church. While members of the First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa, we began to start a family when our daughter Clara was born, and I answered the call to pastoral ministry. Our fraternal twin sons August (Augie) and Benjamin (Benj) were born while I completed my studies at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. I graduated from Western and also completed the NACCC’s Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies fellowship program. It was a blessing to serve as minister to St. Jacobi Congregational Church (gathered 1851) in Richfield, Wisconsin, and at the First Congregational Church of Marshfield (gathered 1632) in Massachusetts. It was also a blessing to serve on staff at Faith Community Church (gathered 1998) in Franklin, Wisconsin.

I rode a skateboard until I fell off. I suffer from depression. I’m super organized and a neat freak (understatement). I have tattoos. And I like all kinds of music and cuisine (can’t wait to try some Coney’s and Detroit style pizza!). God loves all of us for who we are and despite our faults. I’ll love you through everything (love me all the same).

As we approach Rally Sunday, I’m reminded of a couple of things. Such a day represents the re-gathering of God’s people, often after the summer months. With the pandemic, this takes on new meaning. A rally also brings to mind a gathering where people join in a common cause, as in cheering at a sports event, as in praising God with one loud voice. But my days in youth baseball speak something more to all this. To put on your “rally hat” you first turned it upside down, and pushed it inside out, finally placing it back on your head in a whole new way to get psyched up and to cheer on your team. Sure, you turned your hat all around, but wasn’t it still a hat? And weren’t you still all on the team, the same team? So, what if this Rally Sunday we consider putting on our own “rally hats.” We may need to navigate all kinds of changes and challenges in our world, but we can face them together in new ways which relate to where our team is right now. We’re on the best team ever with Jesus. We win even when we don’t think we should. And no one’s on the bench. With Jesus, we’re all in the game. So let us join hearts and hands together this Rally Sunday and keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s go where He calls us to be.

Your brother in Christ,

Pastor Joel