After exactly six years of pastoral leadership, the Rev. Char Corbett is departing The Second Congregational Church of Newcastle to become executive director of Healthy Kids in Damariscotta.
Corbett’s last day at the church will be Sunday, Feb. 19, six years to the day since she signed her contract. She will begin her new position March 1.
“I truly have been blessed to serve this congregation,” Corbett said. “I’m excited I get to continue to be in the community and be a good neighbor.”
Corbett said she was called to retire from parish ministry to be more available to her family. She will continue to minister as chaplain for the Bremen Fire Department and LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta.
At Healthy Kids, Corbett will follow retiring Executive Director Leslie Livingston to continue the organization’s 38 years of work in parenting resources and child abuse prevention for Lincoln County. Corbett has been a board member since 2019.
Healthy Kids is a partner of Second Congregational and the two organizations work together for outreach and annual events like toy drives and the Strawberry Shortcake Shuffle fundraising race.
In her new role, Corbett will lead day-to-day operations, work with the board of directors, fundraise, and support the organization’s existing programs and commitments. She said she may work to expand them to meet local needs for family support.
“The whole congregation has been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic for my direction,” Corbett said of the change. “And I really think the church is seeing it as an opportunity for them to go in a new and different direction. And I think that in a lot of ways, it’s just a very good step all the way around.”
She has been ordained for 12 years and served in various ministries for the past 30, but has a background working with families as an education director. Corbett said she feels excited to return to this foundational work.
Her new position “takes some of the extraordinary skills Char has, and uses them in a way that is personally important to her and, frankly, from our observations, abundant in her character,” church moderator Carl Nord said. As elected moderator, Nord functions like a president for leadership of the church’s operations.
He said Corbett was a caring minister who led the congregation through challenging and exciting times. During her tenure at the church, Corbett navigated Second Congregational’s path through the pandemic, which Nord said was like building an airplane while in flight.
The church held entirely remote services until November 2022 and continues to broadcast them, adapting to new technology to record sermons available online and through Lincoln County Television.
Corbett said that streamed services have grown attendance by making the church available to everyone, with hundreds sometimes watching throughout the Northeast and as far away as Germany and Peru.
Closer to home, she has been heavily involved in outreach programs at the church, most recently leading the development of a warming center program at the church set to open the third week of February.
Corbett said volunteers have been stepping in to fill roles and are ready to run these programs when she departs. She said the spirit of the church is collaborative, and members have always been involved.
“I don’t want to leave a void when I leave,” Corbett said. “I want the church to continue on in a vital way. Lay ministry is critical to a healthy church.”
Nord said the approach Corbett brought to ministry is one that “we hope to maintain and grow within the community, where people see this as a caring fellowship of people, not just a Sunday service.”
The church has taken their first steps to find a new pastor, which Nord said is likely to be a six-month process. In the meantime, Second Congregational will locate an interim pastor through the Maine Conference United Church of Christ. The church is now putting together a call committee representing a cross-section of the congregation, who will review resumes and take part in interviews in the search for a permanent pastor.
The church is also searching for an organist and director of music after the retirement of Jean Wilmot last year.
As she moves from her leadership of Second Congregational, Corbett said she hopes she helped members to truly see themselves as the community church.
“They’ve always had a devotion to service,” Corbett said. “I wanted to encourage that and broaden that in a lot of respects.”
Corbett said she will cherish the moments she has shared with members of the congregation.
“It’s been very humbling to have the privilege to be with people of all walks of life in different moments of their life. And I just treasure those moments,” Corbett said.