HOULTON, Maine — There will be a special service for retired Rev. Dale Holden at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 27, as she assumes the role of Pastor Emerita at the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Houlton. Holden held the position of full-time pastor at this church for 18½ years, having retired in 2006.
Since her retirement, Holden has been the minister of music for the Church of the Good Shepherd on Main Street in Houlton. Congregational pastors are requested not to be a regular communicant of their home church once they retire in order for the new pastor not to feel pressured by the presence of the retired clergy, so the Good Shepherd position fulfilled a need for Holden.
Holden said leaving her church was very challenging because this had been her church home and family for nearly two decades, and she did not have plans to leave the area.
Fortunately for Holden, she not only holds a Master of Divinity degree, but also a degree in music education. When she became aware of the need for a music minister at the Episcopal Church, she said she had found her answer.
Holden had been succeeded in 2008 by the Rev. Marc Fuller, but in 2010 Fuller was no longer able to fulfill the duties of pastor due to ill health. Like many churches today, there is not a large supply of clergy who are readily available to step in to lead a church, so the church members were left in a quandary without a leader; even at one time advertising the building for sale.
Before any sales transaction took place, the parishioners realized what a loss this would be to them and to Houlton, since the church had been a pillar of the community for nearly 200 years, a milestone they will celebrating this fall.
Church members enlisted the help of the Parish of Promise program sponsored by the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ., and found the Rev. Timothy Stohlberg, a Caribou resident, to fulfill the duties of pastor on a short-term basis.
Commuting more than 100 miles round trip from Caribou each Sunday, Rev. Stohlberg has been embraced by his new congregation, but not living in the community, he is not readily available for the many commitments of a pastor, such as meetings, hospital visits and funerals. Through much brainstorming, the idea of using the gifts and passion of their own former pastor came about.
Now, with the guidance of the state organization, the church members have set their focus on identifying new goals for the 21st century, realizing what worked for churches 100 years ago will not necessarily work today. The melding of the strengths of these two pastors will begin a new chapter for Houlton’s Congregational Church.
Holden grew up in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine. She attended the University of Connecticut, studying music education, and finished her degree at Gorham State Teacher’s College, now the University of Southern Maine.
Living in Freeport in the 1980s, Holden was the vocal music director in the Lisbon school system for two years and then became organist and choir director at the United Church of Christ in Bath, retaining this title for 18 years. She earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1986 from Bangor Theological Seminary. Holden remained in Freeport for two more years before moving to Houlton.
Holden was known as Rev. Dale Arndt when she took the position at the church in 1988. She and the two youngest of four daughters quickly settled into the community. It wasn’t long before Holden found herself as the accompanist for many high school musicals, children’s theater performances and community concerts, as well as directing one of those concerts.
In 1994 she married longtime Houlton resident, Jim Holden. They have a blended family of seven children and 14 grandchildren.
Stohlberg was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn. He graduated from North Park University in Chicago and received his Master of Divinity degree in 1994 from North Park Theological Seminary. He was assigned to the Evangelical Covenant Church in New Sweden, and after serving there two years, became an ordained minister. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Marcia. They are parents of three adult children and a 12-year-old son, Trey.
Stohlberg served as pastor from 1999 to 2009 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cromwell, Conn. He then returned to the Caribou area where he took a job as a mediator in the Maine Court System along with his pastoral duties in Houlton.
The public is invited to attend Sunday’s special service. The church is located at 45 High St. A reception will follow.
Correction: An earlier version of this article was incorrectly attributed to BDN State Editor Rick Levasseur. The article is by Karen Donato of the Houlton Pioneer Times.