Interim Conference Minister
Rev. Richard W. Cowles, Jr.
Born in 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rick was educated in Springfield public schools, graduating from Classical High School in 1966. He graduated from Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a B.A. in history in 1970. He attended and graduated from Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Center, Massachusetts in 1973 with a Master of Divinity degree.
Rick was baptized a Congregationalist, confirmed into the United Church of Christ at Faith United Church, Springfield, and was ordained to the ministry of the UCC in his home church in 1973. He has served four congregations: Trinity UCC, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as an associate pastor (1973-1976); Carversville Christian Church UCC, Carversville (Bucks County), Pennsylvania, as pastor (1976-1986); and Homer Congregational Church UCC as pastor (1986 to 2000); and Church of the Apostles UCC, Lancaster, Pennsylvania as Designated Senior Pastor (2011-2012). From 2001 through July, 2011 he served as a Regional Conference Minister of the New York Conference UCC.
As a local church pastor Rick displayed his passion for promoting local mission. He became involved in building two Habitat for Humanity homes in Homer, and in establishing The Home Store that sold donated household items to raise money to address issues of homelessness in Cortland County. The church also founded a Youth Center for middle school aged children in Homer. He was active in the leadership of the Cortland County Council of Churches, especially of the annual Chautauqua event of the Council and in serving as the coordinator of volunteer chaplains of the Mental Health Unit of Cortland Memorial Hospital. He also served two terms on the Community Services Board of the Cortland County Legislature (three years as chairperson).
While serving as the Designated Senior Pastor at Church of the Apostles, Rick concentrated his efforts in working with the Worship Design Teams of the congregation, creating weekly “blended” worship experiences for the Family Service. He also worked to strengthen the ongoing stewardship program, staffed the Visioning and the By-Laws revision committees and organized a new community mission of the church – The Apostles Academy of Arts & Sciences. The Academy offers music lessons, watercolor classes and coordinates the Heritage and Horizons educational program of adult learning.
As a Regional Conference Minister staffing the five Associations and ninety churches of the Upstate Region of the New York Conference, Rick worked in resourcing local churches in the UCC Search and Call process, providing resources for local churches and authorized ministers, and working with association councils and committees on the ministry. He led workshops and retreats in local churches on visioning, goal setting, stewardship, and leadership; as well as workshops and retreats for associations and the conference on meditative prayer, building healthy churches, and establishing community missions.
Over the years of his ministry Rick has led and/or participated in six mission trips to a conference sponsored ministry in Honduras, participated in ecumenical trips to Costa Rica and Romania in 1999 and 2000 respectively, shared in two pulpit exchanges in England in 1980 and 1992, led two delegations of New Yorkers to visit our Global Missionary Partners in southern Africa in 2006 and 2010, and participated in the delegation from the Commission on the Global Church to negotiate a Global Church Partnership agreement with Misión Cristiana in Managua, Nicaragua in 2007.
Rick is married to Susan. Susan has worked as an executive director of a private nursery school while in Homer and as a substitute teacher in Liverpool. They have two children, Peter and Sarah. Peter lives in Liverpool and works as a packaging clerk for Berne Dairy and is married to Mary (July 16, 2011). Sarah also lives in Liverpool and works Liberty Resources as a senior youth habilitation specialist in a group home for developmentally disabled youth. While Susan may visit Maine occasionally, she will continue to live in Cowles’ house in Liverpool. Rick is renting an apartment in Augusta.