First Congregational Church of Orange City United Church of Christ

Greetings to the Florida Conference.

My recent months have been peppered with time for reflection. I entered the practice of ministry in August 1989 when the 27 members of the Forest Avenue Congregational Church in Bangor, Maine invited me to be their pastor.  I have since served 22 years in parish ministry and another 13 in Conference ministry while finding rich blessing and forgiving grace along the way.

It is my intention to retire on July 31, 2024.   While I would not trade these last nine-plus years for anything, I have discerned that now is the right time for me to explore the next phase of my life.  These years in Florida have been most satisfying and I will remember them with a great deal of joy as well as a little sadness at relationships that will change and routines that will no longer govern my days.

There is work left undone.  There always is at times like this and our talented Board and staff are well equipped both to finish some of that work and craft an exciting future for the United Church of Christ in Florida.  That future will depend on the ministries of our local churches and settings beyond the parish that are so impactful in the communities where they are grounded. Your witness is powerful and the conference is full of potential as a strategic plan nears implementation and the enthusiastic energy felt in our last annual gathering continues to inform our days.

I will spend our remaining time together doing my best to prepare for whatever and whoever comes next in the life of this blessed and beloved community.  My prayers for you will continue and I ask your prayers for me.  In this we will answer the admonition of scripture to ““Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). 

Be at peace, and be in touch, won’t you.


Rev. John Vertigan

Conference Minister, United Church of Christ in Florida

Daily Devotional



God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. God determines the number of the stars and gives to all of them their names. The Holy One lifts up the downtrodden and casts the wicked to the ground. God covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and makes grass grow on the hills. – Psalm 147:3-8 (abridged) 

I don’t know the names of all the stars, and I’ve never tried to count them. I’m content with trusting that God has done so. 

I cannot assemble the clouds or provoke them to rain. I make no claim to a green thumb, and I’m fortunate when a houseplant thrives despite my best efforts. It’s just as well that God sends rain to the grass and rivers to the sea. I certainly cannot. 

Yet I have nagging doubts about God’s capacity to cast down the wicked. (See how well wickedness is thriving in the world!) 

And I wonder whether God can be trusted with the brokenhearted, considering how many generations pass down the pain of unhealed wounds. 

It’s not complicated to praise God’s talents with nature. It’s harder to praise God’s abilities with people. Or maybe I just find it easier to praise God for the kind of work that I can’t control. Maybe I find it difficult to trust God with the kind of work I tell myself I should control. Rain falling, plants growing, seasons changing, rivers flowing—that’s clearly God’s work. But I think I should bind my own wounds, so God doesn’t have to, and pull my own pieces together so the Holy One doesn’t waste time lifting me.  

Bootstraps really trip up my faith. Still, I keep trying to use them. 

Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning. Merciful God, teach me my work and let me love you for yours.