ORRINGTON, Maine — The Rev. Carl B. Schreiber Jr. thought God was making a mistake when he was called to be the minister at East Orrington Congregational Church while still a seminary student.
“There were so many more experienced people out there,” he recently recalled of the time in January 2007 when the congregation called him to serve as interim senior pastor. “This church is so big, and the excuses [I made to myself] went on. I wrestled with my thoughts about being an interim, what this would say to others, but in the end, I let go of my fears, trusted the Holy Spirit and allowed God to lead me.”
Schreiber will be ordained at 4 p.m. Sunday at the church on Johnson Mill Road. The church also will mark its 175th anniversary with Schreiber as its permanent pastor.
He is the latest in a long line of Bangor Theological Seminary graduates going back to 1875 when BTS students began serving the church part time while completing their studies. Schreiber is the third seminary student since 1979 to begin serving the church while a student and end up serving the congregation full time.
The first was the Rev. Bob Carlson. When he was hired in 1979, there were only 68 members. On an average Sunday, 18 to 22 people showed up for services. The church had less than $50 in the bank, a pile of bills and an aging facility dedicated in 1842.
Mary Bowden, 73, of Orrington is the church treasurer and historian. She has attended the church since 1956 and remembers how things used to be.
“We had no running water, no bathrooms, no heat, and the doors were never locked,” she said recently.
Under Carlson’s leadership, the church grew to 500 members. A new building was completed in 1994 and dedicated the next year as “A Place of Continuing Ministry in the Congregational Way,” according to a church history,
The Rev. Adam Soderberg, who began working with Carlson while a student at BTS, became senior pastor when Carlson retired in 2002. Soderberg left Maine in 2006 to lead a church in Hartford, Conn., and Schreiber, while still a seminary student, began his relationship with EOCC.
Schreiber did not expect it would grow into a full-time job because he was on track to become a United Methodist as his father had been. Carl B. Schreiber Sr. retired from the U.S. Navy when Schreiber was 9 and enrolled at Bangor Theological Seminary.
The elder man served as pastor of Dixmont Methodist Church and Troy Union Church for 13 years before leaving the denomination to join the business world. The younger Schreiber, the fourth of five children and the only boy, actually went into the family business twice — once when he went to work for the family vending service and again when he entered the seminary seeking a second career in ministry as his father had done three decades earlier.
After his father died in 1993, the 34-year-old father of four began to feel that something was missing in his life. His daughters also began asking him questions about God and Jesus. So, as a family they returned to church and Schreiber began to feel a pull toward ministry.
He sold the vending business two years after his mother’s death in 2002 and surrendered to God’s call. After serving small United Methodist churches in Hancock County in 2005, Schreiber began working at EOCC in the winter of 2006.
“During that year, again I struggled with where God was leading me,” the minister said recently. “I am a Methodist through and through, and yet I was being pulled, led to believe that EOCC was the place he intended me to be.”
Schreiber graduated from BTS in May. Last month, he was approved as a candidate for ordination by the Congregational Christian Council of Maine, the final step before ordination Sunday.
“An ordination in the life of the church is a big event,” said Deacon Dan Moore, 47, of Orrington, who attended EOCC his entire life. “It’s a recognition that God is at work in and out of the congregation. For us, it’s a time to celebrate both and recognize that for 175 years we’ve gathered in this place to be called a church.”
Some of the qualities that make Schreiber a good fit for the congregation at this point in its history, according to moderator Rhonda Geaghan, 52, of Orrington, are his compassion and business background.
“He’s loving and giving,” she said, “he’s brought his family with him to become part of our church family but he’s also able to run and take of care of the business side of the church.”
Schreiber, according to Moore is recognized by the congregation for his role in leading worship, but he also pitches in to do whatever is needed. Earlier this year, the minister spent the night at the church cleaning the carpets.
“The God I wrestled with,” the pastor said, “is the God that called me not only into full-time pastoral ministry but to East Orrington Congregational Church. My Lord and my savior has called to walk with him humbly serving all people, not just in the walls of EOCC but outside as well.”
History of East Orrington Congregational Church
1788 – Town of Orrington incorporated.
1833 – Congregational Meeting House dedicated.
1834 – First congregational society in Orrington formed.
1842 – East Orrington Congregational Meeting House dedicated.
1864 – New bell calls residents to Sunday worship.
1875 – Begins association with Bangor Theological Seminary to supply student pastors.
1888 – Meeting Hall raised and vestry built underneath.
1931 – Church auditorium redecorated and repaired.
1964 – Leases Burns Memorial School for services.
1967 – Church buys schoolhouse.
1977 – Seminary student Bob Carlson begins serving as pastor.
1981 – Steeple purchased from South Orrington Methodist Church to replace church steeple.
1984 – Church marks 150th anniversary with pageant.
1994 – First worship service held in new meetinghouse across from original building.
2002 – The Rev. Bob Carlson retires.
2006 – Seminary student Carl Schreiber begins serving church.
2008 – The Rev. Schreiber to be ordained as church marks 175th anniversary.
Source: East Orrington Congregational Church