Rev. Yael Lachman joins First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ (UCC), of Bridgton, has announced that Rev. Yael Lachman has been called to serve as its new settled pastor.

Rev. Lachman replaces longtime minister, Rev. Dick Bennett, who retired in 2010 after more than 12 years of service with the church. She follows Interim Pastor Rev. Annette Mott.

Finding a new minister and spiritual leader for a church can take a lot of time and effort. It is more than filling a job opening. For UCC churches, the recommended “search and call” process that churches undergo involves naming a search committee (a group charged with managing the process of finding a new minister), conducting a church survey to get a “snapshot” of the personality of the church and discover which qualities are important in its new minister, reviewing 25-page profiles of potential pastors, and finally, interviewing candidates and selecting a pastor who is the best fit for the congregation.

In the Bridgton church’s case, it took more than a year to find that perfect fit. It also involved reviewing 40 pastor profiles, more than 1,200 volunteer hours and cross-country trips to and from California, where Rev. Lachman was serving in her third year as a pastoral intern at Skyland Community Church in Los Gatos, Calif.

Rev. Lachman was raised among California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 2011, she earned her master’s degree in Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., and was recently ordained at her home church, the First Congregational Church of Santa Cruz, Calif.

Her family is Jewish, and her distinctive name, Yael, literally means, “to go up or ascend.” She will also tell you it is the Hebrew word for “mountain goat,” a sure-footed climber and a symbol she is proud to be associated with. The spiritual journey that led her to the UCC and the western mountains of Maine has been a remarkable climb.

“I was on my way to Rabbinical School when I realized that the community I was being called to was much wider than the Jewish community,” said Rev. Lachman. “I explored a lot of different traditions and settled on the Christian contemplative tradition, one that involves centering prayer, meditation and that deep connection we can have with the Spirit.”

She believes that Christian congregations are hungry for that deep, reflective kind of ministry.

“In the UCC, we’re really good at ‘doing’ — taking care of people,” she said. “But it’s important to regularly connect with God for our own nourishment. I think of it like a power strip. Your computer will run without it, but unless you regularly plug into the source, the power, you’re going to run out of juice.”

Rev. Lachman also holds a master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has taught field ecology and natural history and uses her teaching background and love of nature to make Biblical stories come alive, especially when working with children. It was the First Congregational Church’s focus on children and families that perhaps appealed most to Rev. Lachman and influenced her decision to choose the Bridgton church over other offers she received.

“I’ve found a great diversity in this congregation. We’re active, vibrant, and it is a deep, rich, inter-generational community. The lives of our kids are important. We’re welcoming to people of all ages and at different places in their lives,” she said.

When you search a long time for a perfect fit, you’re overjoyed when you finally find it. When it feels right, you just know it.

“Once we met her and got to know her, there was no question in anyone’s mind that she was the right person for our church,” said Kevin Murphy, chairman of the 10-member Search Committee. “Her background, both personally and spiritually, was exactly what we were looking for in a spiritual leader to walk with our congregation in our journey with Christ. Everyone involved in our search, committee members as well as Yael, felt certain that she was being called to join us in Maine. Listening to the call was a big part of why the committee presented an offer and why Yael chose to come to Bridgton.”

The First Congregational Church is located at 33 South High Street in Bridgton. Sunday services are at 10 a.m. Childcare is available. An open and affirming UCC church, it has a strong Christian education program, music ministry, and community outreach program. All people are welcome.

The church office’s hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 647-3936 or visit the website at www.bridgtonucc.org

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