Sarai Rice Named Interim Senior Minister

An Introductory Conversation with Rev. Sarai Rice

Rev. Sarai Rice is the newly selected Interim Senior Minister for Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Des Moines. In this video on Plymouth Church’s YouTube channel, Rev. Rice is interviewed by 2020-2021 Church Council Moderator David Johnson.

Search for an Interim Sr. Minister

The working group led by Steve Jacobs, Dave Everett, and Beth Stelle-Jones (all past moderators) have gathered input from staff and others regarding needed skills and responsibilities, connected with our UCC Conference ministers to receive their guidance, have drafted a job description (see below), solicited applications on the UCC site and elsewhere, and have begun to receive in-bound interest from potential candidates.

Senior Minister Resignation

Dear Plymouth members:

Tonight the Church Council met in executive session with Senior Minister Matt Mardis-LeCroy where we received his letter of resignation, included here below. The Council also received the accompanying letter from Moderator David Johnson and Moderator-Elect Jodi Gruening acknowledging Matt’s resignation and addressing next steps.

Please carefully review both. A notice of an all-church meeting to accept Matt’s resignation (per the process set out in our By Laws) will be forthcoming; we anticipate that meeting to be held, via Zoom, a week from today (Tuesday, July 28) at 7 p.m.

Please hold Matt and Plymouth in your prayers as we receive this news.

July 21, 2020
Sid Ramsey, Senior Deacon
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
4126 Ingersoll Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50312

Dear Sid,

After much careful thought, prolonged prayer and deep conversation with people I trust, I have decided to resign as Senior Minister of Plymouth Church. My resignation will be effective on August 2, 2020.

While it is hard to contemplate stepping away after 15 years of shared life and ministry, I know this is the right decision, for the church and for me. I believe Plymouth is ready for a new chapter; I know that I am ready for a new challenge.

This is a tremendously exciting time in the life of Plymouth Church. It has been a great privilege to see the new strategic plan emerging. And even as I have worked and studied and talked to so many of Plymouth’s people, I have grown increasingly convinced that this new plan will require new leadership. I came to Plymouth when I was 28 years old; I have spent my formative years in this congregation. Plymouth Church has shaped me in profound ways. But for that very reason, I am not the right person to help Plymouth become a new or different congregation. “New occasions teach new duties.” I feel that my duty now is to step aside for the sake of Plymouth’s future.

This is the right decision for the church. It is also the right decision for me. After all of these years, I am not always sure where Plymouth Church ends and I begin. I find myself craving the time and the space to do some deep thinking: about God, about the church, about my own calling. And I cannot do that work in an honest and thorough way while still serving as Senior Minister. I believe that resigning from Plymouth now will give me the time and the space to become the person God intends for me to be.

I will always be proud of the things we accomplished together. We have found new and creative ways to reach out to our neighbors. We have struggled together with the call to engage in anti-racism work. We have sought to be better steward of God’s creation. We engaged in new and creative worship practices. We sustained Plymouth’s Transition-into-Ministry program, repaired the Rollins Tower and retired the building debt. We have successfully pivoted to share life and worship together in the era of COVID-19. And now a new strategic plan and newly revised by-laws are about to open up a future for Plymouth that only God can imagine.

But when I remember my time at Plymouth Church, I will think less of the big successes and more of the little moments in which we connected: baptisms and weddings and funerals, classes taught and emails answered, Confirmations and Christmas Eve. The Spirit of God has taken these many small strands of a life shared and woven them into something beautiful. I will always be grateful.

As I take my leave, I believe in my bones that Plymouth’s best days lie ahead. I will hold this church in prayer and watch with eager anticipation for what God will do next!

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Dr. Matthew J. Mardis-LeCroy

Dear Plymouth:

In this season of great change and challenge we find ourselves needing to embrace another challenge—the resignation of Sr. Minister Matt Mardis-LeCroy. Even in the most ordinary of times, the departure of a senior minister is occasion for some anxiety and even grief. How much more now.

First, we express our deep thanks to Matt for his gifts since joining Plymouth in August of 2005, and stepping into the role of senior minister in November of 2014. We will deeply miss his rich preaching and teaching, and his constant witness that has helped us know God’s love. And we acknowledge Matt’s prayerful decision that now is the right time for him to step away and determine his next calling.

A great deal has been accomplished during Matt’s tenure with us: significant financial accomplishments like funding the critical Rollins Tower repair and providing ongoing funding for our Transition into Ministry program; but also important spiritual and social justice work such as anti-racism programming, robust Saturday night services, expanded worship into vespers and different online formats. For all these and many more, we are thankful.

So, what next for Plymouth? In the immediate, short term:

  • LeAnn, Lindsey, Mary Kate, Rushing, Chris—and our entire talented Plymouth staff—will carry on with day-to-day ministries and activities. We will be well served by their tremendous talents and passion for ministry. Of note, Mary Beth Mardis-LeCroy will continue to lead music at the Saturday evening worship service.
  • The Board of Deacons will convene a meeting of the entire Church (much like the Annual meeting held this past May, via Zoom platform—with plenty of capacity to join); hold 7 p.m, Tuesday, July 28 for that meeting, with further info to come. The purpose of this meeting, per our By-Laws, will be to formally receive Matt’s resignation.
  • And we will plan a service of leaving for Matt that will be upon us quickly—this coming Sunday, August 2.

 

Then over the coming weeks and months, we will prepare to call our next senior minister. To create the time and space for that effort (and at the recommendation of our UCC Conference), we anticipate bringing on an interim senior minister. This person will lead our staff on an interim basis (LeAnn and Lindsey have made clear that they will not be candidates for this position). Past Moderators Dave Everett, Beth Stelle Jones and Steve Jacobs have agreed to help guide this immediate, short-term task (that is, defining our needs and working to identify an interim).

This fall, we will receive the work of both the Strategic Planning Committee and the By-Laws redrafting Committee. Both groups have been hard at work for months, and their work will set the foundation for us to convene a search committee, a process that will be done in typical Plymouth fashion—carefully, deliberately, and with much on-going communication!

Questions concerning church governance should be directed to Moderator David Johnson or Moderator-Elect Jodi Gruening. Questions about worship or day-to-day should be directed to LeAnn Stubbs at lstubbs@plymouthchurch.com, or 515-491-4682). And questions regarding church operations and finance should be directed to Emily Tripp at etripp@plymouthchurch.com or 515-255-3149 x19.

Note: If you wish to drop Matt a note, you can reach him at his home address at 6604 Colby Ave., Windsor Heights, IA 50324 or via email at mmardis-lecroy@plymouthchurch.com through August 2; at matt.mardislecroy@gmail.com thereafter.)

Plymouth is a special community, defined in part by the commitment of our members . . . many, if not most of us, have deliberately chosen Plymouth as our church home from somewhere else, promising to be God’s church together and to care for one another. Our gift is our covenant to God and to each other. Let us now care for Matt, Mary Beth, and family as they journey together, and let us care for each other as we commit anew to grow in love of God and neighbor.

Sincerely yours,

David Johnson
Moderator
515-240-5109
David.johnson@meredith.com

Jodi Gruening
Moderator-Elect
515-240-1433
jodigruening@gmail.com