Longtime pastor retiring from First Congregational Church of New Milford
NEW MILFORD — About 20 cardboard boxes of books on football history fill one of the bookshelves in the Rev. Mike Moran’s office at the First Congregational Church on the Green.
The other shelf is full of old theology books, with a vintage camera placed among them. Old, empty canisters of Schrafft’s coffee and peanut brittle rest on the filing cabinet across the room.
The collections are a testament to his nearly 50-year career as a pastor, as well as a hint of what he will be doing when he retires on July 1 after 28 years at the church’s helm. The nearly 430 congregation members will have an interim pastor as they search for a permanent replacement during the next 12 months.
“I’m planning to go through all of my many books and maybe actually read one,” said Moran, 71.
Football and family
His father, Hap Moran, never spoke about his time with the Giants. Moran heard many stories about his father’s playing days for the first time when a crew from ESPN interviewed him shortly before his death in the 1990s.
“I had all of these questions I was trying to answer,” Moran said.
Moran’s retirement won’t be solely focused on his pastimes, however. He is also retiring to spend time with his daughters and their families in Philadelphia and Maine.
Family played a role in his decision nearly three decades ago to work at the First Congregational Church on the Green, where pastors tend to stay for a long time. He wanted a place where his daughters, Kathryn and Elizabeth, would be able to grow up without having to move while still in school. The church has been around for more than 300 years and has only had 15 pastors in its history.
He also enjoyed the church’s
community involvement, with several of its initiatives evolving into larger community programs, such as helping the homeless, starting teen and youth programs and teaching English.
“A lot of what this church does, it does in partnership,” he said.
Moran has taken on leadership roles within the community too, including convening the New Milford Clergy Association and serving on the ethics committee at New Milford Hospital.
Moran said he has felt connected to God since he was a child. When he was 8, he was separated from his parents when he stayed in a polio ward at a state hospital.
“I found great comfort in turning to God and saying my prayers,” he said. “I always felt very much at home in church after that.”
Moran knew he wanted to be a pastor when he was 12 and attending Sunnyside Reform Church, a Dutch reform church in Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y., where he grew up.
“The church I grew up in was very good at including young people, giving them leadership opportunities and encouraging them,” he said.
The only time he questioned whether he should become a pastor was in the 1960s while in seminary school at Rutgers University. His brother was serving in Vietnam and Moran considered leaving school to do the same. His brother encouraged him to stay and if he still wanted, to enlist as a chaplain.
While at school, Moran had his first taste of working with a congregation.
“I loved it,” Moran said. “It was more fun than I anticipated. I felt I was fairly natural and using the gifts I had.”
Moranmoved to New Milford in 1990, after graduating from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and taking on a variety of roles, including co-ownership of a weekly newspaper in New Jersey for several years and his first full-time preaching job in Proctor, Vt.
He said several memories stand out from his tenure in New Milford, including the time he and others went to St. Paul’s Chapel in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and provided meals and coffee to the crews working at Ground Zero. The first responders requested cigars to help mask the smell of what they were working with and a member of the congregation responded with a trunk load of Don Tomás cigars.
“We were very popular,” he said. “That was a bittersweet experience, to say the least.”
It’s really the people Moran said he will remember.
“I like coming to work every day because I have a great team here,” he said. “It’s changed over the years, but we’ve been really fortunate to have good people who want to be here, are friendly and competent. They want to make everything right.”