Who we are:
The First Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont, United Church of Christ, is a progressive, Open and Affirming congregation, Open to All. We are diverse people on a journey together following the way of Jesus Christ. We find unity in the shared quest for truth rather than in one common creed.
Our church provides a sanctuary for spiritual nurture and growth through services of word, music and silence, and through education, discussion and mutual support. We feel called to promote Christ’s way of nonviolence, creating a loving, just society for all. We care especially for our youth, for the struggling people of our world and community, and for the health of God’s creation.
We expect there to be a cost to our faithful discipleship, a cost of our time, talent and substance, and of our selfless love, humble service and personal risk. This is a church of courage and of comfort. This is a church of passion and of humor. This is a church of Christ and of solidarity with people of all faiths who are striving to create a world of peace and justice, mercy and love.
On September 25, 2016, we formally installed the Rev. Robin Junker-Boyce as our Settled Pastor. Robin began her ministry among us pastor on December 1, 2015.
Robin received a B.S. in Biology from Boston College in 1993 and a Master’s degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from Andover Newton Theological School in 1997 with an extended focus on hospital chaplaincy. In 2002, she was ordained in the United Church of Christ at Old North Church in Marblehead, MA. In May of 2014, she completed a fruitful 12 year ministerial post at Bethany Church, UCC in Randolph, VT and began a sabbatical year to write on Contemplative Prayer and to spend quality time with her husband, Sean, and her two young boys, Fritz and Ulysses (ages 11 and 8). The two greatest highlights of her past ministry were the implementation of a contemplative prayer community for adults and the creation of a vibrant youth ministry in which over 30 teens could be found meditating each Friday night in the basement of her church. If she had to narrow down her many passions, they would be preaching, community building, youth work, contemplative prayer and the study of the intersection between science and spirituality.
Her free time is happily spent reading books, listening to TED talks and the Moth Radio Hour, going for walks, talking theology with her husband and, of course, lovingly raising her three sons.
This short biographical sketch does not, unfortunately, come close to conveying the depth of her spirit, the joy of her character, the strength of her faith and the scale of her intellect. We are very lucky to have found her, and we are enormously grateful that she was similarly drawn to us. This truly feels like a match made in heaven!
General Covenant, adopted April 9, 2000
Beloved God, we covenant with you and with one another, as you
have with us, and bind ourselves in your presence:
to walk together in your holy ways;
to love and support one another wherever our paths may lead;
to seek to know your will and strive to do it.
We commit ourselves to the ministry of this church,
and depend upon your Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.
We embrace community with all creation, in the way of Jesus Christ,
promoting understanding and compassion, justice and peace.
We remain open to and affirming of all,
“having in essentials, unity,
in non-essentials, liberty,
and in all things, charity.”
Covenant to Be An Open and Affirming Congregation, adopted May 3, 1998
We, the members of the First Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont, United Church of Christ, regard all people as beloved children of God. We give thanks for the many and diverse gifts of God among us.
We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming congregation, welcoming and accepting into full membership and participation people of every race, nationality, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, and economic status. We honor the worth and dignity of all people. We affirm all relationships founded on the principles of God’s love and justice.
We acknowledge that the Christian church has often excluded people based on their sexual orientation. We believe such discrimination to be incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pledge to work to end oppression and discrimination whenever we encounter them, and, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to help create the blessed community of God’s realm.
Our Recent History
The church became the fourth Open and Affirming congregation in the state of Vermont in 1998. It advocated for Vermont’s Civil Unions law and became the only Christian church to endorse Vermont’s Freedom to Marry Act, which it did by unanimous vote at a congregational meeting. In the early 2000s the church held a successful capital campaign to make the building truly Open to All, funding the construction of the Janet Frey Harte Wing including an elevator and accessible bathroom. The Upper Valley Peace and Justice Group was founded in the church shortly after September 11, 2001, and a Nonviolence Group began meeting in 2010. The Floyd Dexter Memorial Community Service Fund was added to the existing Alice Francisco Fund to provide financial assistance to struggling people and the Deacons launched a Calling and Caring program, using these funds to provide support to people in need in the congregation and surrounding communities. The Floyd Dexter Fund has grown from giving a few hundred dollars a year to over twenty thousand a year. One hundred per cent of the funds collected at the Christmas Eve service are donated to the Floyd Dexter Memorial Fund.
In 1997,the church began hosting a mid-week Prayer of the Heart gathering of silence, supportive conversation and informal communion. It has grown to a community of over thirty people from within the congregation and the wider community. The congregation adopted a new covenant in 2000 and has developed long range plans every five years or so, including most recently a strategic plan that clearly articulated the church’s identity, mission and vision for the first time. The church launched the LEAF (Loving Earth As Faith) Fund in 2012 to support its environmental work. It is in the process of energy conservation measures to reduce its heating needs by as much as 30% and reduce its remaining heat energy carbon emissions by approximately 75%. In a very recent large-scale project, the old oil-burning heating system was replaced with a wood-pellet stove in the summer/fall of 2013.
Upon the resignation of our long-time pastor, the Rev. Tom Kinder, in August, 2013, we were fortunate to find the Rev. Rona Kinsley who, with indomitable humor, amazing grace and infinite patience, served as our interim pastor for nearly two years, enabling us to carefully select our new settled pastor.