A new call in the wilderness

Dear Community of St. Peter's,


It is with mixed emotions that we share the news that Becca Lockwood, Associate Pastor for Missions & Education, has resigned from her position with St. Peter’s and has accepted a new call to be the solo pastor at First Parish Church United in Westford, Massachusetts. Her last Sunday with us will be January 17, 2021.


The letter from the Governance Council is below and Becca's letter to the congregation follows.


Additionally, Becca offers the following video message to you:  https://youtu.be/ourKVJXANCI


As you take in this news, we encourage you to welcome whatever feelings might come and to reach out to each other, our leadership, and our pastors for continued conversation.


Together While Apart,

St. Peter’s Staff & Governance Council



22 October 2020

Dear Community of St. Peter’s,


We have been journeying in the wilderness. Often, the wilderness surprises us. The time has come for another surprise on this journey. Associate Pastor Becca Lockwood has tendered her resignation to St. Peter’s and is answering the call to lead First Parish Church United in Westford, Massachusetts.


Becca came to St. Peter’s as a young and new pastor in 2015. At the time, St. Peter’s had a need for a pastoral focus with our Missions and Education ministries. A special relationship was formed as Becca answered her first call to ministry with us. Senior Pastor Lori Bievenour served as a colleague, mentor, and friend, and various iterations of support teams have also accompanied Becca in her time with us. She has been a faithful participant with the Bethany Fellows and has shared her passion for the theology of Harry Potter and all things New England with us while embracing Indiana as her home. Becca has been steadfast in her commitment to keeping sabbath, sharing contemplative prayer, and honoring God through creative arts. For the many ways in which Becca has received our teachings and the countless ways that she has also taught us, we give thanks.


Over the past 5 years, we have watched Becca grow as a spiritual leader. She has loved us, and we have loved her. Within the community of St. Peter’s, Becca has learned and grown into a place where she can now take the next step in her journey to lead a church as a solo pastor. This speaks to the success and beauty of her time with us, as many young pastors (and those newly out of seminary of all ages) only last 2 years in full time ministry. Becca has not only lasted; she has thrived! Again, we are grateful.


An important part of the care given to Becca by this generous community was her sabbatical taken this past summer, after 5 years of dedicated service to St. Peter’s. Our pastors’ call agreements include a statement that pastors are “expected” to stay for one year following a sabbatical. However, these are not average times, and this has not been an average call process for Becca. Governance Council believes that it is in the best interest of our congregation and of Becca to honor another part of our pastors’ call agreements, which states that 90 days’ notice should be given at the time of a pastor’s resignation. We are leaning into the spirit of generosity of this congregation as we welcome Becca back from sabbatical and also release her to her new call in a time frame of five months. We trust that Becca’s sabbatical and time of spiritual renewal are already benefitting us and will continue to benefit her new congregation.  Her sabbatical experiences will allow her to be focused on her final months with us and will prepare her spirit for the transition to her new community. Thus, Pastor Becca will be with us through Advent and Christmas before making the move that will bring her much closer to home in January. Her last Sunday with us will be January 17, 2021.


Just as Becca is growing into her next call, this time of discernment for St. Peter’s will help shape the vision of our future and God’s plans for this community. At a specially called meeting of the Governance Council this week, your church leaders began the conversation about what St. Peter’s needed 5 years ago, now, and in the coming years.

Please join us in prayer as we begin the process of determining our call as a community in order to continue to live into our mission: “to be a welcoming community, sharing God’s love with the world, and finding the Spirit in life.” In the near future, we will form a team to discern what those needs are and what direction our community is headed, and your thoughts will be welcomed! We will continue to be in communication with you about this evolving process and work that is being done to best respond to God’s call to St. Peter’s.


Change can feel scary and intimidating, especially when we are surrounded by pandemics and wilderness. While we are sad to see Becca leave St. Peter’s, we are excited for what comes next on her journey. In addition, we are eager to see what new opportunities are in front of us as a church. As Becca has taught us to do, take a deep breath. And let’s begin the work.


Together While Apart, and Hopeful for Our Future,


Liz Chandler, Secretary on behalf of Your Governance Council:

Jennifer Atkinson, President

Eric Smith, Vice President

Diane Carr, Treasurer

Seth Henseleit-Kreigh, Generosity Team Leader

Lori Bievenour, Senior Pastor

Becca Lockwood, Associate Pastor for Missions & Education

Beloved of St. Peter’s,

It is with a heart full of gratitude, grief, and hope that I write to share my resignation from St. Peter’s United Church of Christ. I have accepted the call to be the Minister of First Parish Church United in Westford, MA. This decision has come with great care and many hours of prayer and discernment. The timing of this transition is not ideal coming so soon after sabbatical and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and yet, I am excited and truly feel called to embrace this next chapter of my life and ministry. Accepting this new call also brings with it deep sadness at leaving this loving community, whom I love dearly.


From the beginning, July 2015, I have felt blessed to be your pastor and to share in ministry together. I have seen and felt such courage and willingness to experiment and dive deep into faith with you. You have allowed me to be creative in worship, question theology, and share my love of Harry Potter. You welcomed me into your lives and hearts and let me journey with you in the midst of joy and celebration as well as grief and heartache.

You offered me space to grow into the pastor I am today. You supported my call and the call of other young pastors by supporting the Bethany Fellows program. You invested your time and love into shaping me, and I am deeply grateful and forever changed. So many young pastors do not have this experience. Furthermore, I was blessed to work with an incredible colleague and mentor who has equally shaped and informed my ministry. This congregation is a gift.

My love for you and our ministry together made this decision that much harder, though I knew it was time to begin the process of transition. The search and call process is often a long and unpredictable process. I was not in a rush to leave or quicken my process, especially with an upcoming sabbatical. I carefully and slowly prepared and submitted my profile in the early months of this year. But then, with most things, everything changed in March 2020. Along with the rest of the world, the search and call process paused as we adjusted to this new normal. The search process unpaused and was active again before my sabbatical. However, I made the decision early on to again pause my search during that time with the exception of one congregation with whom I felt a connection.


The conversation continued and the Spirit was at work. So it is with equal parts of joy and grief that I find myself writing this letter. This year has tested the resiliency of the human spirit and this transition calls upon it again. We have been through our share of joys and challenges as a congregation, so I want to be very clear about this discernment process and how it came about.


In the fall of 2019, I began to sense a change within me and my call to ministry. I shared this feeling with my clergy groups and mentors who helped me understand that God was calling to me and preparing me for something new. Surprisingly (to me), as I prayed and listened more deeply, I discerned that I was being called to solo ministry, something I truly could not have anticipated having been formed in and loving collaborative and collegial ministry.


Even more significantly, I had been missing my family, increasingly so over the last two years and especially over the last few months.  I knew from the beginning of this discernment that I would search close to Maine in order to be closer to them. It has always been challenging to be far away from family, despite how wonderful this call to St. Peter’s has been. As a result, I deliberately did not do a nationwide search, and instead only sent my profile to three states: Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.


Over the last 18 months St. Peter’s has been in a period of discernment of its own. It has been a time of deep listening and evaluation. Part of the conversations over the last 12+ months have been about the congregation’s finances and the need to increase our pledges. I want to be very clear: this played no role in my discernment to pursue God’s call to a new place. Despite the pandemic, our pledges have increased and financial support has been steadfast in this time. What a blessing and testament to all of you! This discernment among you will now continue and take on a new purpose in the coming months. I am confident in your ability to dream and imagine new possibilities and I will hold you close in prayer as you embark on that journey.


Ministry is a strange and wondrous calling, and I have been blessed beyond measure that my first call led me to you, St. Peter’s. We have become more invested and committed in our advocacy and social justice support and relationships. We have listened and adapted our faith formation to meet the needs of this congregation. Those are brave and powerful acts of faith. You are a holy, loving, powerful people of God. You have been called to community; to inspire and uplift each other, to challenge the status quo, to have courage in the face of fear, and above all--to love the imperfect parts of this world and its people. You are blessed in this sacred work, and God will continue to guide and love you in it.


My love and gratitude for you all is profound and unending, which makes parting painful, even in the midst of joy at new beginnings. Please know I’ll be reaching out to all of you in the coming weeks, but in addition to that I am always available to talk as we all process this news and transition. My last Sunday with you will be Sunday January 17th, 2021. I will remain hopeful and inspired in our shared ministry until that time of parting ways.


In Faith & Love,