WHO WE ARE

Coming out of the Congregational tradition, we are a covenantal rather than creedal church. 

We believe in the freedom and responsibility of the individual soul and the right of private judgment; no test of creed or dogma shall be required as a condition of membership.  

Statement of Mission

We are called by Jesus to be a transforming presence for God in the world.  By this we mean:

  • -   propelled by God’s grace, we strive to welcome and love everyone;
  • -   seeking to hear God’s voice in today’s world, we worship, learn and grow in faith individually and as a community;
  • -   responding to God’s call for compassion, justice, and care of the earth, we equip and empower each other to make a difference in our lives and in the world.

Church Covenant: 

We are in covenant with God and one another to:

-   serve God with faithfulness;

-   treat one another with acceptance, love, and compassion;

-   bear witness to the world with love; and

-   live our faith humbly, yet boldly.

 

We are

Open and Affirming,

fully accepting and welcoming people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

In 1994, First Congregational UCC voted to become an Open and Affirming church, making our commitment to welcoming all people into our church and into our life an official part of our bylaws. We are a member of the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination and seek to actively support gay, lesbian, bisexual,  transgender, intersex  justice issues while providing a home of love and acceptance to all.

We commonly hold and seek

to live into the Christian values of:

Progressive (both in fresh understandings of God’s word and an openness to the new issues that God calls us to address):

  • Inclusiveness
  • Spiritual Vitality
  • Servant Community
  • Equal rights for women
  • Radical hospitality to all, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey

 

We are members and participants in the Body of Christ.

We are staff and lay leaders, united to serve God and empower the members and participants of the church in faith, service and ministry.

We are a supportive, inclusive community.

 

UCC DENOMINATION

We are members of the United Church of Christ.  

The United Church of Christ consists of over 5,000 congregations who united out of the Congregational, Christian, liberal Lutheran and liberal Reformed traditions to form a new church that sought to define and guide its life not by our glorious pasts and traditions but to be faithful to what God called us to be about in the future.

The United Church of Christ affirms as a statement of faith commonly held by us that:

 

We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus Christ our brother, and to whose deeds we testify:

 

God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image and sets before us the ways of life and death.

God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

God judges humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.

God bestows up on the Holy Spirit creating and renewing the Church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

God calls us into the Church, to accept the cost and joys of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.
 

God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God. Amen.

MEET OUR STAFF

Pastor Sarah Lund

Senior Minister

PastorSarah@fcindy.org

Pastor Sarah is passionate about loving God, her family, and being part of faith communities. Her personal mission is to partner with others to share God's healing and hope.  Pastor Sarah was called by unanimous vote of the congregation in January of 2018 to serve as our senior pastor. Pastor Sarah also serves the wider church on the National Staff of the United Church of Christ as the Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice.

 

She is an ordained minister with standing in the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has served as pastor to churches in Brooklyn, NY, Minneapolis, MN, and New Smyrna Beach, FL. Pastor Sarah also served as Regional Minister for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ with a focus on congregational vitality, and most recently as Vice President for Advancement at Christian Theological Seminary.

 

Pastor Sarah's formal education includes degrees from Trinity University (BA), Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv), Rutgers University (MSW), McCormick Theological Seminary (DMin) and the certificate in Fundraising Management from the IUPUI School of Fundraising. 

 

Pastor Sarah is an active community volunteer and serves on the board of the Faith and Action Project to end poverty and is the UCC Denominational Representative for Bread for the World Indiana Chapter. Pastor Sarah is the Open and Affirming LGBTQ Consultant for the Indiana-Kentucky Conference UCC.

 

Pastor Sarah received the Princeton Engle Preaching Prize in 2002 for excellence in preaching and the Bob and Joyce Dell Award for Mental Health Education from the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network in 2015 for "her outstanding authorship and leadership in breaking the silence about mental illness in family and in church and offering healing and hope." She is the author of the widely regarded book "Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family and Church" (Chalice Press, 2014) and blogs at sarahgriffithlund.com.

 

Pastor Sarah is married to Jonathan Lund, who is a medical massage therapist at Carmel Wellness Center and they are the proud parents of their elementary age son Carter. Fia, a boxer/poodle mix, is also a beloved member of their family. As a family the Lunds love to read, go for walks and travel the world.

Pastor Carol Sowle

Pastoral Care Associate

Pastor Carol Sowle became a member of First Congregational in 2007, drawn by our Open and Affirming stance, complete with rainbow sticker on the door, and by the beautiful sanctuary.


Pastor Carol is a true Hoosier: born in Angola, Indiana, grew up in Auburn, Indiana, and graduated from Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne. For her first career, she worked for Lincoln Life Insurance prior to her earning a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology from St. Mary of the Woods College, West Terre Haute Indiana.  Pastor Carol is a graduate of the Clinical Pastoral Education program at St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis. She then served as a Hospice Bereavement Coordinator and then as a Hospice Chaplain. 


Pastor Carol went back to Seminary in 2008 at Christian Theological Seminary and earned a Master of Divinity in 2012.  She retired from Aseracare Hospice in 2015.  Pastor Carol has served First Congregational in several roles including Vice Moderator and Moderator and has been involved in many capacities including New Creation worship and worship planning, Adult education planning and facilitating, serving as board chair for Worship and Faith, worship liturgist, and many other projects. 


In March of 2019, Pastor Carol began serving as a Lay Minister in the role of Pastoral Care Associate as part of the process of discernment towards ordination in the United Church of Christ. 

Shannon Abbott

Administrative Assistant

shannon@fcindy.org

Having grown up as a minister's daughter in the church, Shannon Abbott, brings much experience of the church to her work.  Shannon grew up in mostly in Kentucky and Alabama before going off to Greenville College in Illinois.  At Greenville she majored in Sociology and Religion and also met her husband, Chad.  Shannon and Chad married at the end of college and moved to New Jersey where she studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and Rutgers University, receiving both her M.Div and MSW.  Shannon spent time in her early career working as a social worker in hospital settings and in mental health and addictions centers. 

 

In 2005, Shannon moved to Indianapolis with her family and it was here in Indy that she fell in love with yoga and full body wellness.  She completed her yoga teacher training in 2008 and opened her own wellness business, which would eventually include not only yoga, but massage, reiki, and essential oils.  She moved back to Kentucky for six years as her husband took a call in the UCC and she moved her business with her.  In the past year, Shannon moved back to Indianapolis with her family and has been quickly connecting her love of yoga and wellness in the wider Indianapolis community.  Now that she has the unique opportunity to work with us here at First Congregational, Shannon brings her love of wellness, building community, and love of the church to the task.

 

Shannon lives on the southeast side of Indianapolis with her husband, Chad, children Isa and Solomon, and dog, Zoe.  She is a lifetime lover of rocks, music, nature, and the mystical spirit of faith, and finds joy in spending time with family and friends, outside, and relaxing with a good book or movie.

Sean Baker

Organist, Music Designer

 Sean Baker "the music maker" has appeared all over Indianapolis as a pianist and vocalist and has had the fortune of working with most of the city's finest singers and musicians over the years. Known for his brand of cleverly arranged music, he has performed in several groups including Four Sexes, the Leisure Kings, Elevator UP!, and as house pianist for Chef Joseph's at the Connoisseur room from 2011-2018.


Also, an accomplished composer and orchestrator, he has arranged albums for Chicago based lyricist/performer Peter Oprisko and local performer, Larry Boggs.. Years of persistence in his favorite genre of mid-century lounge music has taken him from writing jingles to selling music to TV shows. For ten years Sean worked for Theatre on the Square as a sound cue editor and backing track orchestrator. In 2015 Sean scripted, composed, and acted in his own autobiographical play called The Perfect "10" which was also an homage to the famous film by Blake Edwards called "10." In 2018, Mr. Baker scored music to a local film called "Decay."


Sean found First Congregation UCC in 2011. In that time he became pianist and arranger for the New Creation gathering, heads up an annual courtroom pride skit dealing with clobber passages, and is now currently the organist and music designer where at last all of his many talents join forces to create meaningful, ignited worship though music.

Cassidy Hall

External Communications

Cassidy Hall is an author, filmmaker, podcaster, student, and trained counselor. She works as a Teaching Assistant at Christian Theological Seminary where she is studying for her MDiv and MTS degrees. She also serves as Student Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ where she has begun the ordination process. Since 2017, Cassidy has served as the secretary of the International Thomas Merton Society.


Cassidy’s writing has been published in the Convivium Journal, The Thomas Merton Seasonal, The Thomas Merton Annual (Vol.  32), and has been featured on The Huffington Post, Patheos, and the National Catholic Reporter. She has also worked on the editorial staff of the Wilbur Award-Winning Blog, Sick Pilgrim.


In 2012, while working as a counselor and reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, Cassidy made a pilgrimage to all seventeen Trappist/Cistercian Monasteries of the United States. While there, she wrote, interviewed monks and nuns, and photographed her entire experience within these seventeen spaces. Her personal quest for silence was written about in this Des Moines Register feature article by Mike Kilen.


Born and raised in Iowa, Cassidy moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to work on the production team of the documentary feature film In Pursuit of Silence. The film’s success on the festival circuit and beyond led to its worldwide theatrical release. Her directorial debut short-film, Day of a Stranger, paints an intimate portrait of Thomas Merton’s hermitage years and is anticipated for release in the summer of 2020).

 

Her podcast, Encountering Silence, with co-hosts Carl McColman and Kevin Johnson features interviews with contemplatives, modern-day mystics, and explores the ambiguity of silence in our modern-day lives. Some guests have included Parker Palmer, Richard Rohr, Dr. Barbara Holmes, Jim Forest, Jim Finley, Mirabai Starr, and many more. Encountering Silence can be subscribed to on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

MEET OUR OFFICERS

Alice Rutherford

Senior Councilor

Our church is experimenting with a shared leadership model.  The roles of moderator and vice moderator have been replaced by a team of three senior councilors, each of whom serves a four-month term as “lead” councilor.

Larry Eckel

Senior Councilor

Our church is experimenting with a shared leadership model.  The roles of moderator and vice moderator have been replaced by a team of three senior councilors, each of whom serves a four-month term as “lead” councilor.

Steve Coomer

Senior Councilor

Our church is experimenting with a shared leadership model.  The roles of moderator and vice moderator have been replaced by a team of three senior councilors, each of whom serves a four-month term as “lead” councilor.

Cheryl Dillenback

Financial Secretary

The Financial Secretary keeps an account for each person making a pledge to the Church, oversees offerings made to the church, coordinates as such with the Treasurer, and makes a report at the Annual Meeting and periodically to the Trustees. The Financial Secretary is a member ex-officio of the Board of Trustees.

Rev. Dr. Patrick Larracey

Clerk

The Clerk keeps the minutes of the proceedings of the Church, the Board of Trustees, and the Church Council. The Clerk ensures that a permanent register of the members of the Church is kept, with the dates of their reception and removal; and of baptisms, marriages, births and deaths; and makes a full report at the Annual Meeting. The Clerk gives legal notice of meetings when required, reports to the appropriate person all communications intended for the Church and conducts its correspondence as may be necessary.

Jim Lootens

Treasurer

The Treasurer oversees the operating funds of the Church (and any other funds entrusted to the  Treasurer), signs all checks disbursing these funds as authorized by the appropriate Board or Team.  The Treasurer makes a financial report to the congregation at the Annual Meeting and performs such other duties as are usually incident to the Office. The Treasurer is a member ex-officio of the Board of Trustees.