March 22, 2016
As we live into this Holy Week and prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday, March also honors Women’s History Month and offers an opportunity to recognize Plymouth Senior Minister Brigitta Remole.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of her ordination with the United Church of Christ and her nearly five-year tenure leading Plymouth Church UCC as the first woman Senior Minister in Plymouth’s 145 year history.
Born in Malawi, Africa, daughter of a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service (then wives were not allowed to work outside the home), Brigitta never witnessed women in a ministerial role, although she refers to her grandmother as a renaissance woman and a source of inspiration.
Informed by her childhood in Africa, she knew from a young age she would grow up to help people. “As a teenager in the Congo, I was very aware of the suffering where more than 50% of children never reached age five,” she says.
She attended Carleton University in Minnesota where she met her first woman minister at a nearby UCC church and became intrigued with the UCC’s commitment to social justice. “Until then, I thought all ministers were old and wise, male and had all the answers.”
Feeling the early stirrings of her pastoral calling, she earned a liberal arts degree in religion. She moved to New York City and worked as a paralegal in what was then the second largest law firm in the country. “That experience gave me pause,” she says. “I recognized my two loves were medicine/healing and ethics/faith.”
She started Yale with the intention of earning a combined degree in law and medical ethics. As part of her course of study, Brigitta soon found herself working in the role of Hospital Chaplain. “For the first time, I felt like I was in the zone.” She responded to the affirmation of this call by receiving a Masters of Divinity and became ordained.
Married, as the mother of two daughters, she served both as settled and interim minister for several churches, from small country churches to over 1200 member congregations. Along the way she also earned a Masters in Clinical Social Work from NYU.
Most recently, after serving as Senior Minister for more than a decade at Wilton Congregational Church in Connecticut, she received a call from the Plymouth Church search committee based on a recommendation from Plymouth’s Interim Minister Tom Stiers.
“When I arrived, it was during the OCCUPY movement; Marriage Equality was in progress; we received the gift for the organ…there was a lot happening!” In addition to her new Senior Minister position and cross-country move, Brigitta’s personal life offered challenges that first year, including major back surgery, the loss of her mother and moving her dad to Seattle.
“The past four years have passed quickly with the organ, capital campaign and renovation. With Seattle’s growth over the past several years, one of our ongoing questions is how do we be a faith community in the midst of all this change? The way forward requires collaboration and experimentation; we will figure this out together. As Christians, we are all called to unapologetically live out our faith in our time. I’m excited about the UCC direction under the creative leadership of Rev. John Dorhauer and his priorities around racism and interfaith dialogue. What does extravagant welcome require of us?”
In retrospect, Brigitta says that while she may be ‘older and wiser,’ “We are all living into the answers by being community, sharing and honoring one another’s stories and assuming vulnerabilities that make us human. Jesus was all about vulnerability and humility,” she says.
“I’m a pastor, first and foremost and am honored to walk with people on their journey.” —Janice Randall