Dear Old South Church in Boston,
At the culmination of this wondrous season, we'll hear again the beloved phrase "tidings of great joy which shall be to all people" - the Christmas angels' song of annunciation to the shepherds as they abide in the fields, keeping watch. But I'm writing with unabashed glee to get a jump on the angels with an annunciation of a shepherd - to a congregation that's been doing its share of abiding and keeping watch!
I'm so very pleased to introduce you to the Rev. Ashley J. Popperson, the unanimous and enthusiastic choice of the Associate Minister Search Group as our nominee for the pastoral position on our staff that has been vacant since Shawn Fiedler concluded his ministry with us in August. On November 20 the Council unanimously approved the nomination, and Ashley will begin her ministry at Old South in February, following the completion of her current commitment as Associate Pastor of the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA.
A native of Evergreen, Colorado, a Theology & Religious Studies major at Seattle University, Ashley has Master's Degrees in both Divinity and Social Work from Boston University (2014) - and subsequently completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Serving in Norwell since 2018, Ashley has overseen the Christian Formation program for children, youth, young adults and families; has helped to guide the church through the beginnings of its anti-racism work; and has been a creative worship leader, an admired preacher and a deeply appreciated giver of pastoral care. Prior to her call in Norwell she worked as a program manager at Episcopal Divinity School, as Lead Pastor and Minister of Liturgical Arts at The Crossing (at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul), and as sabbatical supply pastor for four months with our Back Bay neighbors at Church of the Covenant.
Ashley will serve at Old South as our Associate Minister for a Designated Term: a two-year, full-time appointment that can be renewed for another specified term if Ashley and the Council so-choose. (If at some point the Council should decide to create a position for a "settled" (i.e. open-ended) Associate Minister, Ashley will be eligible to be an applicant if she chooses.) The designated term call was designed, in consultation with Associate Conference Minister Alex Shea Will, as a way of providing critical continuity to our congregation and our ministries through the conclusion of the current period of pastoral transition and well into the settling-in of a new Senior Minister.
Ashley comes to us with a keen interest in urban ministry, a heart for pastoral care, a love of liturgy and an appetite for administration and organization. She says that she views the planning of liturgy as a means of empowering people to use their gifts for God’s glory and the coming realm of justice and joy. And she says she's never happier than when she's working on a to-do list! A former stage manager, she says, about her love of planning and organizing, "A well run structure gives peace, so that artists have room to play." Her current colleagues say: "The empathy she shows is amazing. You feel deeply heard by her. It’s her authenticity that makes the difference." "I would trust her with any pastoral care situation." "She makes beautiful prayers - she really surrenders to the Spirit."
She and her wife, the Rev. Lindsay Popperson, live in Jamaica Plain; Lindsay is chaplain at Sherrill House and a pastor at the Old North Church in Marblehead. They are foster parents for young children and have a beloved dog, Pope Joan. Ashley is an aspiring distance runner and a lover of growing, cooking, and sharing good food. She loves a good novel and the New York Times Tuesday Crossword puzzle. She looks forward to trading in her car and returning to bike commuting to Old South!
This milestone moment is the right time for a few concluding words of appreciation from me - for the marvelous company of the members of the Search Group, Randy Billings, Sarah Cowles, Eliette Hilaire; for Katherine and Kate (and all our colleagues) who have tirelessly and gracefully risen to the challenges of being pastorally short-handed for the past few months; for all of the candidates we met during this search, each a gifted and committed servant of the church; and to Ashley, for hearing the same call we did to embark on this new chapter in Old South's life.
But I'll leave the final words to her - from her Profile - so you can begin to sense God's strong hand in this call:
“May our shared ministry brighten our hearts, and lead us closer to God. May our journey together transform us, to be more courageous, more loving, and more faithful. May our church become known as a place of thriving, where joy is found and healing abounds. May our ministry reflect the no-matter-what-ness of God, that all might find a truly radical welcome among us. May our church be a home for all who seek meaning and grace, for all who question, for all who seek spiritual belonging. May we work together, giving ourselves to God's dream of justice and joy, right here and right now. Amen.”
Interim Senior Minister