First Congregational Church Branford, CT         

where you are welcome ...where you belong!

Please join us in welcoming our new Settled Senior Minister,
The. Rev. Joe Perdue, and his wife, Julia Perdue!

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Rev. Joseph (Joe) Perdue grew up in Florida and began attending church with a group of friends while in elementary school. He felt a call to ministry at a young age. When he became part of a church, he found a home away from home and a larger family to make him feel loved and safe. He knew from an early age that he wanted to lead a community like that one day. His sense of call was confirmed in his senior year of high school when he went on a series of mission trips to Toronto, Canada. He witnessed extreme poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity for the first time understood the Gospel in a new way. He found a passion for social justice and serving our most vendable neighbors, and he knew that God had called him to vocational ministry.

Joe attended seminary in Richmond Virginia, where he earned a Master of Divinity concentrating in Biblical Interpretation, focusing on the Hebrew Bible. While in seminary, he served as Pastoral Intern and later as a Children’s Ministry Associate at an ethnically diverse inner-city church. He learned how to do children’s ministry with kids from seven different ethnic groups, including five groups of refugees. He learned how to navigate traumatic memories from war zones alongside common childhood concerns, and helped plan and lead worship services where participants prayed, preached, and read scripture in the language they spoke at home. He was ordained at the end of his internship and is still close with many of the friends and mentors who shaped his early ministry in Virginia.

Joe’s first full-time ministry position was a Pastoral Residency in New York City. He did pastoral care on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen with people experiencing high emotional stress and mental illness. He also engaged the community (and juggled dozens of volunteers) in direct social services such as food pantries, clothing closets, and medical outreach. One of his favorite things was running an urban farm on the roof of the church on 9th Avenue. Each year Joe and his volunteers grew hundreds of pounds of vegetables to give away in the food pantry.

Joe most recently served a church in a small town in upstate New York. While there, he has focused on creating community and bringing people together around common goals. He is very active ecumenically and in the interfaith community. He has worked with other clergy on a village-wide children’s and student ministry and pioneered virtual worship services even before the pandemic. For years home-bound members, nursing home residents, and even strangers in the community have been able to worship with the congregation even if they’re unable to attend in-person. Joe is the recipient of the 2020 Ecumenical Award from the New York State Council of Churches.

Joe met his wife Julia, a Connecticut native, while they both lived in New York City. Julia has a background in theater and has worked on shows including “Hamilton” and “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder.” She currently teaches costuming in a local college theater department while working as a food pantry director. Joe and Julia have two cats and a very active dog.

Candidating Weekend October 24 - 25, 2020

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, our Pastoral Search Committee arranged for Rev. Joe and Julia to safely meet members of the congregation. On Saturday morning there was a "Drive By Meet and Great" in the circle outside the church. Later that afternoon there were small group sessions via Zoom for us to get to know Rev. Joe and Julia, and for them to begin to get to know us.

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On Sunday Rev. Joe conducted his first service from our historic Meetinghouse via Zoom. Following the service a Special Meeting of the Congregation was held, also via Zoom, and the congregation voted unanimously to call Rev. Joe to be our Settled Senior Minister! It was truly a joyful day!

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Dear First Congregational Church family,

Julia and I are so excited to be moving to Branford in a few months! We are grateful to the Pastoral Search Committee for all their hard work and making us feel so loved and welcome throughout the search and call process. By the time our Call Sunday came around, we felt like we were coming home, and we can't wait to come home to FCCB in February. In the coming weeks, I will write periodic articles for the eSpire as a first step in us getting to know each other better. This week I want to tell you a little about our spiritual journeys.

Julia and I both have clergy in our family tree. My great grandfather was a circuit preacher in central Florida when the area was still largely a frontier. Each church he served had worship around once a month as he visited each in turn on horseback. My family remembers him for the unusual (for the time) level of friendship and respect he had for his African American neighbors. His legacy has inspired me to work against racism and fight for the dignity of all people. Julia's grandmother was called to be a pastor later in life. She attended Yale Divinity School with only three other women and was discouraged from theological study and pastoral ministry by many of her colleagues. She also had to overcome the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut's unwillingness to ordain women. Thankfully other bishops were more progressive, and she was ordained an Episcopal Priest in Michigan and spent her ministry serving her elderly and disabled friends as a chaplain. Julia was influenced by her love and advocacy for people with disabilities, and we both celebrate her legacy as one of the first women to shatter the stained glass ceiling.

We each grew up in church and had profound spiritual experiences in our respective student ministries. Each of us found second families and were loved by numerous adults who took the time to teach us what it meant to be people who live like Jesus. Our formative experiences in student ministry are what grounded our faith and are a large part of why we are Christians today. That is why I am so passionate about faith formation in our church and supporting the youth group. Far too many people walk away from church as soon as they graduate from high school, but we have seen and know from personal experience the power for good a dedicated faith formation team can have in a teenager's life.

Each of us has found that service is the most crucial element in our spiritual lives. Julia's formative experience was helping rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, while mine was working with homeless and low-income families in Toronto. We look forward to bringing our passion for service and mission projects to Branford as we work together on the many ministry partnerships FCCB has in the community.

Rev. Joe Perdue Senior Minister (February 1, 2021 start date)

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