April 22, 2013
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is with joy that I have
accepted the appointment to become your new pastor this coming July. Carol and I are looking forward to coming to live in
your lovely community and take our place in the long chain of pastors who have served the Island Heights United Methodist
Church. We have already toured your well-appointed and maintained parsonage and are enjoying figuring out how our furnishings
and decorations will make it a real home for us.
Since you don’t know
much about us at this point, I hope this letter will serve to give you at least a brief introduction to us; we’ll have
plenty of time to get to know one another at a deeper level over the next few years together.
I grew up in New Castle, PA, just across the border from Youngstown, OH and Carol grew up in Woodlynne, NJ, near
Collingswood. We met in college in Kentucky, in our freshman year when we both sang in a college choir, and married the summer
We have two grown daughters, Kris and Kate, and four grandchildren.
Kris is the mother of Santi (Santiago, 8), and Kate and Christopher are the parents of Grace, (11), Lei-lei ( 7), and Oliver
(3). Both families currently live in Mid-coast (Brunswick), Maine (a very long and serendipitous story which we’ll be
happy to share with anyone curious enough to ask), even though prior to my pastoring a church there beginning in 2003, none
of us had any connections to Maine apart from occasional vacations when our girls were young. However, we now own a home there,
and plan to retire there when we finish our active years of pastoral ministry.
has probably been more varied than that of many pastors. We spent two years pastoring the Highlands/Sea Bright charge while
awaiting our assignment to mission service with the Board of Global Ministries. When that assignment came through, we traveled
halfway round the world with our 3 year-old and 3 month-old daughters in tow to begin serving a Chinese Methodist congregation
in the city of Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak, East Malaysia. Sarawak and one other state Malaysian state, Sabah, are
located on the northern third of the island of Borneo.
Six years later, it was
time to return to New Jersey, to resume pastoral ministry in the (then) Southern New Jersey Annual Conference and begin graduate
work—a Master’s in teaching of English-as-a-Second Language for Carol and a Ph.D. in New Testament/Early Christianity
After serving two seven-year pastorates in Bordentown and New Brunswick respectively,
another overseas adventure awaited us. I was selected for the position of Senior Pastor at the American Church in Paris, an
interdenominational, international congregation that is the oldest church of American origin outside the United States, dating
to 1814, when Thomas Jefferson was ambassador to France. Following the expiration of the 9-year term limit on the Senior Pastor’s
tenure in 2003, we returned to the U.S. where I have since served two congregations in the United Church of Christ, one in
Maine and the other I am presently serving in Scarsdale, NY. Carol has continued teaching ESL to new immigrant children in
Augusta, Maine, and is retiring this June.
We welcome the opportunity to spend the
remaining years of our active parish ministry back in our home territory of New Jersey, and re-connecting with our many New
Jersey friends and family (Carol’s brother-in-law is also a pastor in our conference). We’re especially glad to
be back at the shore where we began serving our first church forty-one years ago, and where Carol has many childhood memories.
We hope that our unusually varied and far-flung ministry will be an asset in our time together with you in Island Heights.
We love meeting new friends, love singing and listening to good music, good conversation and good food. Our exposure to previously
unknown foods, begun in Malaysia and continued in France, has made us into confirmed “foodies” who are always
ready to try a new and unknown dish (in our experience, it’s all delicious!). We’re both avid readers and movie-lovers,
and I’ve pursued a long-time avocation in photography.
One of my strengths in ministry
has been to be able to wed a scholarly knowledge of the Bible and the history of the church with the daily life and current
context of the local congregation to build up the faith and knowledge of the laity for their own ministries to which Christ
calls them. Through Bible studies, retreats, preparation of study materials, and most of all through worship, I am committed
to helping congregations discover the gifts for ministry that are already present among them, and encouraging and strengthening
We’ll look forward to meeting you soon in person and beginning
our journey together. You’ll have much to teach us, and we hope that we’ll have something worthwhile to add to
this next chapter in the history of Island Heights UMC. You are already in our prayers, and we trust we are in yours.
Grace and peace,
and Carol Kalajainen