The Rev. Deborah Blood brings years of experience in the local and wider church to her role as Conference Minister. Before a 10 year Pastorate at the First Congregational Church of Bloomfield, CT, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic congregation, she was a practicing attorney for 15 years primarily in litigation, Family law and mediation. She has served as Chair of the Wider Church Ministries Board and Common Global Ministries Board of the UCC, on Unified Governance Teams, and has traveled widely with the church to Israel/Palestine, South Korea, Colombia, India, Zambia and other places. She is a singer, loves the outdoors and loves Maine! After vacationing here since childhood, it is a dream come true to live and minister in this gorgeous State, with such wonderful people and churches!
Very well known to so many in the Maine Conference, Ron Baard is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison (B. S., Education) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M. Div.). He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology and Personality (with emphasis in pastoral counseling) at Claremont School of Theology. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Dr. Baard is a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, a member of Spiritual Directors International and the Society for Pastoral Theology. He served as the Imes-Lowry Professor of Pastoral Studies and Dean of Students at Bangor Theological Seminary until its closure in 2013. More recently, Ron has taught classes at Andover Newton Theological School and Boston University School of Theology. In pastoral ministry over many years, he has served as a local church pastor of a small U.C.C. church, a hospital chaplain, an associate pastor on a large church staff, a chaplain at a continuing care retirement community, and a full-time pastoral counselor.
Ron currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at New York Theological Seminary, and taught a pastoral care class for the Maine School of Ministry in the fall term of 2018. He is an active member at First Parish Church, United Church of Christ, in Brunswick, where his spouse Mary serves as Senior Pastor. In his free time he enjoys reading, movies, gardening, walking and spending time with his family, including his two year old grandson Caleb.
Anne Hodgman joined the Maine Conference Staff in the Fall of 2001 as a Resource Center Assistant. In the Fall of 2008, Anne became the Director of the Resource Center. After the conference office moved to Augusta in May of 2013, Anne took on the duties of Accounting Assistant which entails processing all of the Conference and Pilgrim Lodge bills, running the bi-weekly payrolls for both, submitting quarterly and annual reports to the State and Federal Governments on behalf of the Conference and Pilgrim Lodge.
In January of 2017, she added Executive Assistant to her duties as the transition away from the Resource Center began. Responsibilities include answering the phones, providing administrative support as needed, coordinates registration for events and the distribution of data, works on annual reporting to the Data Hub/yearbook, provides hospitality, coordinates the arrangements for General Synod delegates, oversees office machine maintenance, office supplies, maintains the Conference calendar, opens and distributes mail, custodial and other duties as assigned.
Anne is a mom to three adult sons, grandmother, to four grandchildren and lives with her husband of 44 years in Fayette, Maine. She is also a member of High Street Congregational UCC in Auburn where she has served on the Board of Christian Education, Board of Deacons, provided childcare in the nursery, the superintendent of Church School and as the Director of Christian Education for almost twelve years.
Renita L. Dehais has been the Treasury Assistant for the Maine Conference since December of 2014. Her responsibilities include: Accounts Receivable, all operations for maintaining the Consolidated Trust of the Maine Conference, some targeted financial reporting for specific projects and groups within the Conference, among other duties as assigned.
Renita’s involvement with the Conference prior to this position was as the Cumberland Association representative to the Coordinating Council (a predecessor of the current Board of Directors) from 2008 to August 2013 when she was hired to work on the Pilgrim Lodge Capital Campaign as the Donor Relations Coordinator. She was also a member of the Pilgrim Lodge Advisory Team from its inception in 2009 to its end in 2018.
Renita had worked in banking for 16 years prior to being a stay-at-home mom raising two wonderful children. During this time, she held various part-time jobs from picking apples at a local orchard to being an aide in a pre-school, to directing the children’s choir at church, all of which allowed her to work during school hours and to be home when her children got home from school. She finds skills learned from all of these to be helpful in her job at the Conference.
Renita has lived in Cumberland with her husband Bill since 1992, and is a member of the Congregational Church in Cumberland where she enjoys singing in the choir and playing handbells in the bell choir.
Nathaniel Blanchard is a University of Maine undergraduate currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science. He has served as a Communications Intern for the Eastern Maine Development Corporation and worked as a Marketing Coordinator for Eastern Maine Community College. Most recently Nathaniel was the Waterfront Director at Pilgrim Lodge. Nathaniel also serves on the Holden Historical Society Board of Directors.
Nathaniel is a member of the Holden Congregational Church where he is the chair of the communications committee. He also is an Assistant Scoutmaster for the Dedham-Holden Boy Scout Troop #21. In his spare time, Nathaniel dedicates himself to helping others by creating and improving community connections across Maine.
Some of his duties as the Communications & Information Technology Coordinator include managing conference communications, administration of information technology systems such as conference databases and resource portals, as well as the website, marketing, and public relations. Nathaniel also handles conference computer and mobile device systems, networking, data, and security. He also serves as the editor of the A.C.E. and other conference publications. We are very excited and happy to welcome Nathaniel and look forward to all of the amazing things that he will bring to and do for the Maine Conference!
A native of Gloucester, Massachusetts, now a resident of Bath, Deborah L. Goodwin earned her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. Both a first-generation college student and a self-described “late bloomer,” she returned to academic life after a varied career in non-profits and industry. While studying the New Testament in her master’s program, she became fascinated by the Jewishness of Jesus. This led her to focus on the history of the Jewish-Christian encounter when pursuing her Ph.D. Her dissertation director at Notre Dame was the late Rabbi Michael Signer; that dissertation, published as Take Hold of the Robe a Jew: Herbert of Bosham’s Christian Hebraism, is the first book-length study of an innovative twelfth-century Christian exegete who relied on Jewish sources. Deborah recently retired from the Religion Department at Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) where she taught courses on the history of Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, the problem of evil, and “Religion and Ecology,” which focused on environmental justice and sustainability. A life-long birder, hiker, and gardener, she continues to work on the intersection of religion and climate justice.
AbbyLynn has been delighting in the joy and ministry of storytelling since graduating from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1999. She has served churches in New Hampshire and Maine in the roles of associate pastor, director of program development and pastor and firmly believes storytelling to be a vibrant way of shaping community, worship and pastoral care that effectively shares the Gospel. AbbyLynn is working on her doctorate of ministry at Portland Seminary of George Fox University and currently serves as part-time co-pastor at the Acton Congregational Church UCC in Maine. Since beginning work on her doctorate she has been diligent in learning the secrets to developing the craft of oral storytelling for the virtual world. The results of which can be seen on her YouTube channel, Sacred Storytelling Lab. She is thrilled to pass along these secrets to others wanting to learn more about the art of oral storytelling. AbbyLynn also loves sailing, is a USCG Captain and runs a coastal sailing retreat business with her husband that operates out of Saco Bay.
Rev. Dr. Deborah M. Jenks is an Ordained Ministerial Partner (Disciples of Christ) with standing in the Sunrise Association of the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ. Deb has served in the Maine Conference UCC for 25 years as a pastor in churches in Western Maine, Central, and Downeast Maine and for the last seven years in intentional interim and transition ministry. Deb’s teaching experience includes teaching in Bangor Theological Seminary’s Small Church Leadership Program, the Maine Conference’s Academy of Church Life and Leadership, and the Maine School of Ministry. Deb’s experience also includes serving as a member and chair of two Association Committees on the Ministry, and work as a Hospice Spiritual Advisor and Grief and Bereavement Coordinator in central and northern Maine.
Deb has a M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, New York City, a D.Min. from Bangor Theological Seminary, a M.S. in Pastoral Counseling from Husson University, and two units of Intentional Interim Ministry Training from the Interim Ministry Network.
Deb also from time to time serves as an instructor for the Maine School of Ministry.
Larry R. Kalajainen is a retired United Methodist and United Church of Christ pastor, who has served forty-four years in parish ministry on three continents. A native of western Pennsylvania, he earned degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, Asbury Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and finally, the Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christianity at Drew University.
Following seminary Larry and his wife Carol trained to serve as missionaries with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. They were appointed to serve Chin Fu Methodist Church in the city of Kuching, the capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where they lived for the next six years. Larry’s role in the bi-lingual parish was to lead the English-speaking congregation and the large joint youth group of about 50-60 young adults between 16-30. He also occasionally taught as an adjunct faculty member in the Anglican diocesan seminary in Kuching.
Returning to New Jersey at the end of 1980, he served two more pastorates in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church while also pursuing his doctoral studies. During this time, he also taught courses as an Adjunct Professor at Drew Theological School and at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
In 1994, he was called to become Senior Pastor of the inter-denominational American Church in Paris, France, and served for nearly ten years before returning to the U.S. to serve First Parish Church UCC in Brunswick, Maine and later, the Scarsdale Congregational Church UCC in Scarsdale, New York. He retired from the United Church of Christ, and returned to New Jersey for one final three-year appointment at the Island Heights UMC, before also retiring from the United Methodist Church.
One of Larry’s lifelong concerns has been to bridge the gap between the academic study of the Bible and its application to the life of the local congregation. His writing and teaching have combined the critical study of the scriptures and Christian history with pastoral resources for individuals and congregations, particularly in the area of spiritual formation. He published three books with Upper Room Books, all of which had their origins in his adult Sunday School class in whichever church he was serving. The first was A Lenten Journey: Travels in the Spiritual Life Based on The Gospel of Mark, (1990). Then followed An Advent Journey: Preparing the Way of the Lord (1993). The third book in the series was Psalms for the Journey: The Lord’s Song in Ordinary Time, (1996). His most recent work, The Bible Says. . . How Good is the Good Book? was published by Wipf & Stock in 2013. He has also been a strong supporter of full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons, as well as other minorities, in the life of the Church
Larry is an avid reader of contemporary fiction and non-fiction. He also loves cooking and baking artisanal breads, and has pursued a serious interest in travel, art museum-crawling, and fine art photography for fifty years.
Since retiring to their home in Brunswick, Maine in 2016, he has been teaching part-time at the Maine School of Ministry (UCC). He has also taught in the United Methodist Course of Study which is similar to MESOM. He and Carol are members of the choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on most Sundays, but also regularly attend Hope Gateway United Methodist Church in Portland to support that congregation’s intentional ministry to immigrants and asylum seekers. Currently, he serves on the Board and as a volunteer at The Gathering Place, a day-shelter ministry for the homeless and marginally-housed. Carol has been heavily involved in leading a corps of volunteers helping to support and integrate twenty families of asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.