By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
After 15 years behind the pulpit at First Parish Church in Derry, Pastor Alice Ling is moving on — but not without leaving a lasting impression on the church community that has meant so much to her.
“In all these years, it’s really been about community, all of us working together here,” said Ling, who offered up a sermon yesterday about how change, while inevitable, is never easy. Next Sunday will be her final farewell.
She has taken a new position at Richmond Congregational Church in Vermont, a smaller town and smaller church community. Making the move has everything to do with God’s timing, said Ling.
“Believe me, it was a difficult decision to make. I’ve loved everything about this place. But after 15 years, it was partly my own sense of having been in one place for so long. I think the change will be good for me and good for the church,” said Ling.
“At this age, I’m looking to create a life with more personal balance,” said Ling, who has begun to nurture some of her own interests, including baking, singing and writing.
“There are some pieces of my life I’m interested in getting back in touch with. I think the move will create a pace and a lifestyle where there’s more room for that,” said Ling.
Her ministry spans 30 years, which includes teaching at Bangor Theological Seminary and serving as pastor for two small churches in Maine. She also spent some time in Minnesota, working with pastors and youth in various local missions, with a focus on peace and justice.
Ling said she took the job at First Parish because her heart was always partial to the work of a parish ministry.
“Being part of the community and a church family, and leading worship — that’s what I really love,” said Ling.
After Hurricane Katrina, Ling and several of her parishioners traveled to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding effort.
They have returned every year.
She will miss the fellowship here, which translates beyond the immediate church family and extends deep into the community, said Ling.
She knows that when pastors move on, it can shake up a congregation. She is praying that she has not been the glue holding things together; she trusts that God has a wonderful plan not just for her, but for First Parish Church.
“A couple of years ago I lost my mom and brother within a short time period, and it was tough; I just had to walk away for a time. This congregation did what they had to do to carry on, and we made it through,” Ling said. “For all that people may feel I’ve done here, I have been cared for just as much, and I will never forget this place.”
A special “Farewell for Pastor Alice”is planned at the church, 47 East Derry Road, on Oct. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. All are welcome. For information, call 434-0628.