GORHAM - There's a new sign hanging by the front doors of the Gorham Congregational Church on Main Street; it announces that The Reverend William B. Jones is the new full-time pastor. Chosen after a two-year search, Pastor Jones will be the church's 28th called pastor in its 151-year history.
Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Wellsville, NY, from 1995 to 2012, then Interim pastor at Saint Peter's United Church of Christ in Perkinsville, NY, Pastor Jones comes here familiar with snowy winters, small town life, and Congregational traditions.
But these are things he's learned about in his adult life for he grew up in French-settled Lake Charles, Louisiana before attending the University of Houston, graduating with a master's degree in geology. His studies continued at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with Earth & Planetary Sciences, in which he holds a Masters degree. Geology may have been on his mind on the drive from New York State through the foothills of and then into the Appalachian Mountain range, NH's craggy, glaciated White Mountains. But it was the "Welcome to New Hampshire sign" that he remarked on.
"It was a happy surprise as I was welcomed in French to the 'Grand Bois du Nord.'" he said, "Having been born in French-settled southern Louisiana myself, it gave me a richer sense of where we might be headed than had the phrase 'upper New England' alone."
While a grad student at MIT, Pastor Jones began attending a United Church of Christ. It was then that he "moved from studying the earth to studying the faith of we who live on it. 'To pray and to sing in both mind and in Spirit,' (1 Cor 14:15) became an adult expression of faith, and life." It was there he met Evelyn Robbennolt, a Boston College graduate; they were married in 1992. At that time Bill worked first in student ministry for the Plymouth Church of Christ, then as a graduate assistant at Boston Theological Institute of Religion and Ecology Program – a great fit for a geologist-theologist. It was at Andover Newton Theological School that he continued his religious education and received his Master of Divinity in 1995. That same year he was ordained in Boston's Old South Church, UCC, a US National Historic Landmark whose membership dates back more than 340 years and included Samuel Adams, William Dawes and Benjamin Franklin.
Bill and Evelyn moved to Wellsville, NY, a small town about 80 miles south of Rochester, NY, and only eight miles north of Pennsylvania, a choice made when Bill received a ministerial call. There they raised their family; they have two sons, Phillip, 17 and Mark, 12.
"Both boys were born and baptized while I was pastor at the First Congregational Church at Wellsville," Pastor Jones notes. "I am grateful for the generation in ministry we shared where the author of "In His Steps" [Charles Monroe Sheldon, pub. 1897] was himself baptized. The importance of asking "What Would Jesus Do" [book's subtitle] in our own time and lives thus runs deep in congregational tradition. So I was pleased to learn of Gorham's commitment to living out the Gospel where it is located in God's beloved creation, seeking to serve as Christ's "Church in Society" to borrow from one of [the church's] committee titles."
He added, "In Christ we are called to this: To be a place of God's love, in and for a world God loved so much that Jesus was given into it, seeking, always, to welcome all people seeking a relationship with God through Jesus Christ."
The church bells will ring 28 times in honor of Pastor Jones, the twenty-eighth called pastor, when he leads his first worship service on Sunday, December 15. Join the church in welcoming Pastor Jones to our community on Sunday, December 15, 10 a.m. at the Gorham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, 143 Main Street, Gorham, 603-466-3997, gorhamucc.org