Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Reimagining Church: What Better Time Than Now?

Zak Carroll

I have the privilege and blessing to serve as the Student Facilitator with the First Congregational Church of Branford this year. My name is Zak, and I am originally from southwest Missouri, a geographical region of the United States which is not necessarily known for having Congregational churches. I was a cradle Christian, raised in the church since my birth, but my faith formation occurred in primarily Baptist contexts. Since moving to Connecticut in the Summer of 2019, though, my wife and I have found Congregationalist churches in the UCC to be a welcoming and lively faith home.

Part of the privilege of working with the First Congregational Church of Branford, then, is stepping into an ecclesial environment steeped in history. From its founding in 1644, the First Congregational Church of Branford has been an integral aspect of the town’s faith and civic life. Though the church and its membership has changed over time, continuity with the past is a defining aspect of Branford Congregational. For instance, the current state of the Meetinghouse is largely preserved from the last substantial renovation in 1868. (For more history of the church, see: Additionally, the church has a beautiful community resource in its church-owned nature preserve, Killam’s Point. (See:

As with many churches throughout New England, a primary challenge for the church during the past several decades has been a general social decline in religious interest and participation. This general trend of secularization combined with some particular challenges of the church over the past decade to create a roller coaster experience for congregants. While much good has been accomplished, there is a sense within the church that the past decade has been defined more by fractures than by continuity.

The church, however, has started to reverse this sense of fracturing and instability by calling its first settled pastor in over 8+ years. Last Sunday, September 26th, the church installed its 30th Senior Minister, Reverend Joseph Perdue. (The installation service is available here: From interactions with the congregation, the sense of calm and stability emanating from Rev. Joe as a person and his position as a settled pastor is palpable. For the first time in many years, the church is in a position where long-term, sustained growth seems obtainable. As the student facilitator, I am looking forward to being a part of the process whereby stakeholders in the church help determine how and where that growth ought to occur.

In Christ,