A Goodbye Letter to Florence Congregational Church

As some of you may have heard, I have resigned my position at Florence Congregational (FCC), and I have accepted the interim position at Center Congregational Church in Torrington, Connecticut.  My last Sunday at Florence will be Sunday, August 28th, 2022.  I know this seems sudden and comes as a shock to many of you, and for that I apologize. 

This is not a decision I came to lightly or quickly.  Instead, it was made prayerfully and after a great deal of consideration and contemplation.  I truly believe that this is God’s chosen path for me and His answer to the prayers I’ve been praying these past months. 

While any decision like this is complex, one of my main considerations was my commute to and from Florence.  I live, as many of you are aware, in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, and have an hour and a half commute one way to Florence.  This is extremely taxing, especially early on Sunday mornings.  Center Church is in the next town over from where I live, and it is only a ten minute drive from my apartment.  It is also in the community where I reside and where my extended family lives.

Florence, however, has been my home for the past three years.  Florence has been my family.  I will miss you all terribly.

One concern that I have heard over the past few weeks is what my relationship with Florence will be once I leave.  I have been invited to come back to Florence, to attend lunches, et cetera, and to remain a part of the community.

However, once a minister leaves her church, she typically does not return or interact with the church for the period of approximately a year.  This is done out of love and respect for Florence, and respect for my new ministry at Center Church, Torrington.

I refer below to the National Association (NACCC) Handbook “Congregationalism in Practice,” Section 3.1, “Basic Ethics,” which I think puts it well:

When a Minister Leaves

All pastorates come to an end. The reasons why they end vary, but each ending changes the relationship of the pastor to the congregation. The general rule is that when a pastor leaves, he or she relinquishes all pastoral duties and interests, and leaves the congregation at least for a designated period of time. The primary reason for this is to help the congregation receive and bond with their new minister, whether that person is an interim or a newly called and settled minister. If your former pastor doesn’t return your phone calls, or when contacted gently but firmly redirects you to your current pastor, it is not that she or he doesn’t care for you. Your former pastor cares so much for you that he or she wants you to have the best possible relationship with the new pastor that you can have and not stand in the way of that. The goal of any former pastor should be the unqualified success of the new pastor. The goal of any church should be the same.

I know this will be difficult for many of you, as I call many of you friends.  You opened your church and your community to me as much as I offered my friendship to you.  Change is rarely easy.  The time we still have together this August, however, can be cherished.  Our goodbyes can be heartfelt even if sad.  Our three years together have been a good three years.  We overcame a pandemic and we successfully entered a new chapter in our building’s story.  We have laughed together and we have cried together.  We have rejoiced and we have mourned.  We have prayed and we have taken communion.  Florence will always hold a special place in my heart.

Yours Faithfully,

Reverend Averill Elizabeth Blackburn

Father’s Day Message

A Message from the Pastor’s Desk


Fathers litter the Bible, in both the Old Testament and New, and are so prolific that sometimes we forget to focus on them, even on the one day a year when we should.  One famous father that comes to mind is the father of the Prodigal Son, who welcomes his son back with open arms after he has gone and wasted his inheritance.  Another father (and, surely, He should have been first) is our Heavenly Father, God Himself.

However, there is one father I would like to focus on today, and that is Joseph, the husband of Mary and father of Jesus Christ.

Now, Joseph often gets overlooked because Jesus’s true father is God the Father in Heaven.  Joseph is often looked on as “the stepfather.”  And I suppose in many ways, he is.  Joseph, though, is the man who raised Jesus.  He’s the one who brought up Jesus in Galilean culture and taught him how to be a man in his own right.

Now, we don’t know much about Jesus and Joseph’s relationship—at least at first glance.

We do know that when Joseph first learnt that Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to cancel their betrothal quietly until he was visited by an angel of the Lord (Matthew 1:20-25).  From there we see him briefly when Jesus is lost as a twelve-year-old (Luke 2:41-52), not knowing where Jesus is, and then we know that Joseph is dead by the time Jesus starts his ministry (Luke 3:23) as he fails to appear at all later in the Gospels.

So, how can we know anything about Joseph?

Well, we know that Joseph gave Jesus his name by marrying Mary.  He gave him a place in society and protection under the law.

We know that Joseph would have given Jesus a trade—carpentry—and would have taught him this trade as he grew up.

We know that Joseph taught Jesus to be loving and kind and thoughtful and religious, all which are undeniable traits of Jesus’s character.

We know that Jesus never harbored any resentment against Joseph, showing that Joseph accepted Jesus fully as his son and loved him as if he were his own.

When we stack it all up, we can glean quite a bit about Joseph and his relationship with his son, Jesus.

Joseph is undeniably a father whose praises are rarely sung in the Bible.  A descendant of King David, he was a man who accepted his duty when God called upon him and was trusted with the great responsibility and honor of raising of Jesus.  Although he is mostly considered a sidenote, let’s not forget him this Father’s Day as the example of good fatherhood that he undoubtedly is.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Men we Love and Care For!

Rev. Averill Elizabeth Blackburn