The Clare Congregational United Church of Christ began 2013 by welcoming its new permanent pastor and teacher, the Reverend Dr. Adam Webber.
Ministry is a second career for Pastor Webber, who worked first as a software engineer and then as a professor of computer science. In addition to a variety of scholarly journal articles and conference papers, Webber wrote two undergraduate-level computer science textbooks that are still being used around the country. “I enjoy helping students learn about computers, and I think I’m pretty good at it,” says Webber. “But for me, the work of being a pastor is even more fulfilling. In this work I get to be a generalist who touches people’s hearts, not just a specialist who touches their intellects.”
Pastor Webber came to ministry by way of music. “My father taught me the piano when I was five, and I’ve played off and on ever since. I wrote some music in high school, too, but then I got interested in other things, and my interest in music lay dormant for about twenty years. In 2003, my wife Kelly and I helped to start a new UCC church in Princeton, Illinois – the Open Prairie United Church of Christ. It needed an organist, and I volunteered. I wrote some choral music for the church, and did some lay preaching, and then after a while a whole variety of other things: web-site construction, lighting design, teaching adult classes, and so on. At the same time, I also started helping out with music and preaching for chapel services on the campus where I was a professor. During this time I began to understand that I needed to make a change. I began to understand that God wanted me to use my gifts to touch people’s hearts, to help people become more aware of their connections to God.”
Pastor Webber completed the M.Div. degree in 2011 at the Earlham School of Religion, a seminary in the Quaker tradition. He was ordained in 2012 in the United Church of Christ. “Though I’ve learned to love and respect the Quaker traditions, I’m still convinced that the UCC is the right place for me. This is a denomination that recommends progressive stances on theological and social issues, yet doesn’t force them on its members. Almost all decisions are made at the level of the local church, and I like that organization. I’ve been known to sing or even to dance in the middle of a sermon – whatever it takes to get the message across.”
Pastor Webber continues his interest in music. His second CD, “As a Deer Longs,” was released at Christmas. CDbaby.com describes it this way: “A progressive Christian mystic singer/songwriter performs new works over a wide range: from reverent spirituality to irrepressible humor, with stops along the way for folk ballad, piano blues, and instrumental meditation.” Webber says that some of his songs are suitable for use in worship, while others are definitely not. “Some of my songs are just meant to be entertaining. I like to make people laugh. I haven’t given a concert in over a year now, but I hope that once I get settled here in Clare I’ll find another opportunity to do that.”
And why Clare – what brought the Webber family here? “Kelly and I love small towns the best, and we felt right away that Clare was a good fit for us. The kids liked it too, especially the small-town friendliness we experienced here. And my son was completely won over by the Cops and Doughnuts! But most of all, the congregation felt like a good fit for us. The people here are welcoming. They love their church and their community. They’re proud of their historic building and their traditions, yet they’re very ready to try new things. I think maybe I was a bit of a stretch for them – they haven’t had a pastor like me before – but there just seems to be plenty of room in their hearts for me and my family. I’m excited about starting my work with this church. It’s a blessing.”
Pastor Webber blogs at adambrookswebber.com where there are examples of his songs, sermons, and other writings. Adam and his wife, Kelly, and children, Fern and Fox, look forward to meeting the community.