Hodges installed as pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Reverend Kathy Hodges was recently installed as the new pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in New York Mills.

By Tucker Henderson

Reporter

A new face smiled from the pulpit at the First Congregational United Church of Christ as Reverend Kathy Hodges joined the congregation after the church began their search for a new pastor last fall.

Hodges was installed as pastor on Nov. 14, and held her first service the next Sunday. A search-and-call process made it easy for Hodges to find a church that was in need of a new pastor, which in her case, was here in New York Mills. 

“It’s like putting your resume on a job board. Churches that are searching put their information on the list, and if you’re interested, you can let that church know,” said Hodges. “There are associate pastors within our conference and they guide searching pastors to searching churches if they know it’s a good fit.”

After an interview with the search committee and a few guest sermons to see if the congregation felt the potential pastor was a good fit, the committee decided whether or not to call the new pastor. A candidating weekend, where another worship service was held by the potential pastor. Then the congregation votes on whether to accept the new pastor. Luckily, most pastors tend to stick around for a while, which makes this an only occasional occurrence.

“It takes a while to get to really know a congregation of people and the community,” said Hodges. 

This explained her eagerness to meet the locals and learn about the area, even browsing the church’s old records to gain some insight on New York Mills. Visiting with new people is a highlight of her occupation.

“Getting to know the congregates, and new people, that is the best part. Sharing God’s love with everyone in the community that I come in contact with. To be a listening, caring individual when people need to talk.”

Reverend Kathy Hodges on the best part of her job

With this sunny outlook, it may not surprise local residents that Hodges finds joy in the little things. An hour-long commute to and from work may sound like agony to some, but she finds it to be another blessing.

“It’s a beautiful drive,” she said. 

Hodges went on to say  that all forms of wildlife are abound on her chosen route. Another undesirable task to some is going through old files. As Hodges dredged through an old church file cabinet, she delighted over the information that former pastors had left for the next generation to discover and absorb.

“I’m really looking forward to learning the historical connection between the congregation and the community,” she said. “There are a lot of things that this congregation has done in the past. With COVID-19, that’s been put on a hiatus, so I’m looking forward to when we can be in community together. It’s difficult to make plans when we can’t open up to the community.”

Learning about the church Hodges now calls home has been an intriguing journey thus far. She has been soaking in the history, culture and community that their building on Gilman Street has to offer.

Hodges is not a stranger to different cultures and people from all walks of life. Traveling around the country is a way of life for many military families, and Hodges happened to be one of them. Her father was in the Navy and she spent her youth all over the country.

“My grandparents had been in Alexandria and so I spent a lot of summers here in the West Central area,” said Hodges. “And I currently live in Alexandria.”

After seeing different parts of the nation and being exposed to the military lifestyle, Hodges said that becoming a pastor had never been in her plans for the future.

“I wasn’t expecting to become a pastor. I was called in 2009. I owned a business, I had teenagers at home, but the Lord had plans for my life,” said Hodges. “You hear that still speaking voice gently whispering in your ear, ‘Come to me and tell the people about me,’ it’s kind of hard to say no.”

So Hodges said ‘yes,’ and has not regretted it for one minute. After eight years of being a pastor, she looks forward to what this new community will bring to her life.

“It’s going to be fun getting to know the area and to get to meet some of the people in the community and to attend some of the functions that go on here. I’m looking forward to those adventures,” said Hodges.