From the Pastoral Search Committee
November 11, 2011
Dear Members and Friends of Church of the Covenant,
We write with great joy to tell you that the Council has issued a call for a congregational meeting on December 4, 2011, immediately following the worship service, for the purpose of extending a call to the Rev. Robert J. Mark to serve as Pastor of Church of the Covenant. At that meeting, you will also be asked to approve the terms of call and to vote to dissolve the Pastor Search Committee, with thanks. A schedule of activities for the December 2-4 weekend can be found at the left. We hope you will make time to meet Rev. Mark and join us for worship.
Rev. Robert J. Mark grew up in the Boston area, the youngest of four children, with a Baptist father and a Presbyterian mother. He was nurtured by regular worship and Christian education and learned to value the many ways faith can be practiced in everyday life and work. In 1993, while living and working in a poor community in South Africa, he first felt a call toward ministry, a yearning to pursue peace and justice in the light of faith. He chose a Christian college (Wheaton in Illinois) and pursued the study of geology and international development, spending his summers leading youth trips to the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. After graduation, he worked as a youth minister, coordinated a sister church partnership in Uganda, and then became a project administrator for a biodiversity and sustainable forestry firm. But the call to fulltime ordained ministry finally sent him to seminary, completing his Master of Divinity degree at Boston University in 2005. He was ordained to the Presbyterian Ministry of Word and Sacrament in 2006.
Since 2007, he has been the designated co-pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Waltham, and since 2008 the assistant chaplain and McDonald Fellow at The Memorial Church at Harvard University. From 2002-2007, he was Camp Director at PC(USA)'s Camp Wilmot in New Hampshire and from 2005-2008, he was Executive Director of the Waltham Community Day Center for the homeless and low-income community. Along the way, he has also completed extensive training in Earthcare, pastoral care, and congregational redevelopment, among other topics. However the study in which he has perhaps been most deeply invested is reclaiming the Celtic traditions that are part of his own ancestral heritage, and also intertwined with the roots of the Presbyterian tradition. "On a personal retreat to the Iona Community in Scotland," he wrote, "I felt guidance from the Holy Spirit that my vocation should always center around three elements: Jesus, the earth, and the poor." That is a vocational journey we now look forward to continuing with him.
When Rev. Mark answered the questions on his official Pastor Information Form, he spoke of the church he hoped to serve as one that would "value mission, creative outreach, diversity, and dynamic worship," where people "seek deeper faith and wholeness" as well as a "witness for creation and social justice." That combination of commitment to spiritual growth and to social justice sounded to us like the path COTC had identified as our own.
Both the mission study our congregation completed in 2010 and our own deliberations over the last year convinced us that new forms of outreach, inviting new people along on this journey, are essential to our future. We were excited to hear Rev. Mark talk about finding a "voice that speaks to the world outside the church." His work with the Waltham church in developing new opportunities and forms for worship struck us as embodying just the kind of innovative creativity we will need.
The arrival of new voices will mean change, of course, and the PSC's own experience taught us that deep listening and honest acceptance of our differences are at the heart of moving forward. We heard a kindred spirit in Rev. Mark's words, saying that he hoped to serve "a community of faith that is both honest with its limitations and open to its potential."
Being a congregation full of strong and gifted lay leaders, we knew that we wanted a pastor who could work collaboratively. Lots of people know the right words to say about that, but what we saw in Rev. Mark's interaction with us demonstrated that these are not just words for him. Those who worked with him in planning the Earth Day service at COTC at which he preached in May (before he was a candidate) testified to the creative way he involved everyone. And his work as a co-pastor and as part of a ministry team gives him great experience for working with both our wonderful staff and the lay leaders who contribute vital energy and vision to what we do. One of his references said that he listens, understands where people are coming from, and is willing and able to take them to the next level.
Rev. Mark's leadership has also extended beyond the local churches and agencies where he has served. He has been active in local and national Presbyterian causes and will continue to serve as co-coordinator of the national Eco-Stewards Program for the PC(USA). He will also be seeking official standing in the United Church of Christ.
A multi-generational extended family is very much a part of Rev. Mark's life. He lives in Auburndale with his wife Becky Evans, a journalist and adjunct communications professor at Lasell College and Boston University. Becky looks forward to finding her own particular place in the COTC community. Rev. Mark's parents still live nearby, currently serving as housemasters for a graduate dorm at MIT, and his three siblings and 10 nieces and nephews have extended the clan across the country.
Bringing this nomination to Church of the Covenant is much more than checking off qualifications and looking for a "fit." It is fundamentally about the sense of mutual vocation that has emerged in our conversations together, a vocation grounded in our understanding of God. As Rev. Mark has written, "My ultimate hope stems from a God who has purposefully created the cosmos in love and joined with creation through the Incarnation. This cosmic Creator allows me the gift of real relationship through the person of Jesus Christ. And in this relationship, I am fully beloved. This is grace upon which my life is dependent. God our Beloved calls us into one community, living for equality and peace, not only with all other humans, but also with all of creation. Eco-stewardship and solidarity with the marginalized are thus essential parts of living in relationship with God."
With gratitude to that loving God, we say Amen.
Your Pastor Search Committee
Trudi Veldman, Chair; Nancy Ammerman, Barbara Darling
Harry Forsdick, Faith Perry, Stu Robinson, and Gisela Rots
From Rev. Rob Mark
Dear Members and Friends of Covenant,
Peace be with you!
The thought of partnering with you at Church of the Covenant in the journey of faith is both humbling and exhilarating. The legacy of this congregation that calls the intersection of Newbury and Berkeley Streets home is monumental. And your desire to build from this legacy in new ways deeply inspires me.
To assist in this unfolding chapter of your ministry, I bring passions and skills in community building, church transformation, spiritual growth and social justice. It is where these areas intersect that I sense the Spirit most present, and I am excited about listening to and following God's movement in this world together. Engaging difference, listening deeply, seeing Christ in one another, and seeking to be light and salt in the midst of our communities and world informs my vision of being the church.
I am deeply grateful for the invitation to join such a committed group of people in this journey. May the Spirit guide each of us in this shared adventure of transformational grace, peace and hope.
Rev. Rob Mark
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