To the Church Council of the First Congregational Church of Waterville, United Church of Christ,
I have felt a calling to work in Christian education and youth outreach for a while, and am excited to be your new Sunday school teacher and Christian Ed Supervisor at the First Congregational Church of Waterville, United Church of Christ. My faith journey has been long and full of turns, pauses, challenges and epiphanies, but I have not felt more comfortable in and committed to a congregation as I do today, and I look forward to becoming more active in our community by teaching the Sunday school class each week.
My faith journey began as a child at the First Congregational Church of South Portland, a UCC church that provided me a Christian education from baptism through confirmation. I sang in the children’s choir, joined the youth group, and went through confirmation. However, as I grew older, my interests and activities drew me away from regular church attendance. It wasn’t until college that I would respond to my desire for more religious investigation in my life. I was on my way to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with a Management Studies minor when I decided to add a Religion major halfway through my junior year at St. Olaf College. I did this out of an insatiable interest in how religion has shaped the world and how it has impacted history. My interests, I told myself, were purely academic.
As I moved on to my MA in Educational Theatre and Social Studies education at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education, Culture, and Human Development I did not search out a church, but I developed a love for helping students grow and flourish. Seeing their eyes light up as they understood a new concept, or became excited about a new project filled me with joy. This joy continued as I taught at the undergraduate level while working on my MPhil in Drama at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. Much of my teaching focused on facilitating discussions, mentoring students as they devised original work, and helping students read and write critically. These collective experiences will serve me very well as the Sunday school teacher and Christian Ed Supervisor at the Waterville UCC.
While living in Canterbury I became active in a church community for the first time since the South Portland UCC. I was very deeply involved with the Ichthus Student Group, a student fellowship group based at my church, St. Peter’s Methodist Church of Canterbury. The group met regularly for lively discussions, the organizing of church events, and the planning of services which we would lead semi-regularly. I felt like I had a group that I could be honest with, and friends that I could confide in. This is the type of community I would like to foster at our church and within our Sunday school.
The second major development in my religious life came when I decided to begin training as a Street Pastor in Canterbury in October of 2016. I was looking for a way to bring my faith to life, and the Street Pastor charity dedicates itself to helping, listening to, and caring for the most vulnerable people on the city’s streets. We patrol between 10pm and 4am every Saturday (9pm to 2am every Friday in Bangor, where I volunteer now). This is not a preaching ministry, but rather a calling to pastoral care. We hand out water bottles, blankets, and gloves to those sleeping in the streets, offer flip flops to young ladies that have abandoned their high heels after a night of clubbing, or wait with someone semi-conscious, laying in a doorway, and covered in puke as their parents drive to pick them up. We care for those on the margins and welcome and serve all who are in need. Each of these experiences made me feel like I was serving God’s creation in the most real and direct way I ever had. I feel a very similar calling to pastoral care by teaching Sunday school, and hope to pass on those same values to the children of our congregation.
It is my hope that the children in my Sunday school class will grow in faith and begin their own journeys in the way of Jesus Christ. I will aid them on this journey by helping them gain a working knowledge of basic Bible stories as they are raised in the Narrative Lectionary, allowing the students to learn along with their family members in the congregation. All of this work with be carried out with an emphasis toward drawing out from those stories the essence of our understanding of God, revealed in, by, and through Jesus: God as Creator of Creation, love, truth, grace, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, kindness, knowledge, compassion, and generosity. I thank you for considering me for this great responsibility and look forward to potentially working with you in the future.
Sarah Irene Mills
University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent — MPhil in Drama from the School of Arts
NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education, Culture, and Human Development, New York, NY — MA in Educational Theatre and Social Studies, May 2012
St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN — B.A Cum Laude in Theatre, Religion, and a Management Studies concentration, May 2010
Aspirations Counselor (through Americorps), Lewiston High School, Lewiston, ME - starting September 2018
Street Pastor, Canterbury, UK and Bangor, ME — Oct. 2016–Present
Street Pastors are called to help, listen, and care. This is done through pastoral care on the streets of our cities at night. We try to act as Jesus’ hands on the street, giving out water, blankets, hand warmers, flip flops, and tootsie pops to those in need. We also administer basic first aid, emergency care, and spiritual support if necessary. We work with police and club and bar staff to facilitate a safe and enjoyable night for everyone. We pray for peace on the streets, and actively work to make God’s kingdom on Earth a little more perfect by honoring Jesus’ commandment to love and care for our neighbors. Through this volunteering I have gained emergency first-aid training, drug, alcohol, and mental health awareness training, and community care training, as well as strong interpersonal and emotional empathy skills.
Ichthus Student Fellowship Group, St. Peter’s Methodist Church; Canterbury, UK — April 2013–Sept. 2017
As an active member of the Ichthus Student Fellowship Group I took part in weekly discussion groups on topics ranging from gender identity to the Book of Revelation. Together we planned events for both our group and the church community, and prepared church services which we would lead semi-regularly. Whenever we led the Sunday service, I would deliver the Children’s Story, and received praise from the Junior Church leaders for engaging the young people in the subject of our lectionary readings. I also worked with my fellow group members to renovate the Upper Room of our 1811 church building, creating a space for our group to meet in and for the whole church to enjoy. These sort of projects are the type of large-scale projects I would love to continue to do with the Sunday school.
Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent; Canterbury, UK — Sept. 2014–June 2016
While leading seminar groups in two separate first-year courses, I taught a curriculum focused on allowing students to devise their own projects and performances. I would reinforce the information in the assigned readings through activities, demonstrations, and discussions. The students would prepare performances, produce written work, and participate in dialogues to support their learning. When scaled down, I believe this highly student-focused pedagogy will serve to engage the Sunday school students in the new Narrative Lectionary curriculum.
Student Teacher, Convent of the Sacred Heart Lower School and James Baldwin High School; New York City, NY —
Sept. 2011–May 2012
During the second year of my MA program, I spent one semester student teaching Kindergarten-4th grade students dramatic arts at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Lower School in Manhattan. As part of this experience I led students through a predetermined curriculum, as well as devising my own lesson plans around stories, theatrical styles, or group projects. I also wrote and helped to direct the fourth grade Christmas show about Christmas traditions in colonial America. In my second semester I student taught in two American History classes at the James Baldwin High School in Manhattan. James Baldwin High School is a transfer school, serving students who have not succeeded either academically or due to behavior issues at other schools. In this very different setting, I worked with a diverse student body and again taught both existing lesson plans, and those of my own devising. In this second placement I gained a greater understanding of how to cater to the needs of students of vastly differing abilities. Throughout the whole placement I kept the focus on awakening the desire to learn within each student, asking them questions, and learning how they could best connect with the material, something I will continue to focus on if given this position.
Ability to communicate biblical and theological ideas and stories simply and effectively to populations of many ages A foundation in student-focused pedagogy, with an emphasis on student-led discussion and devised work Proficiency in teaching both from preprepared curriculums and my own unique lesson plans
A strong, progressive, Christian faith that drives me to serve my siblings in Christ using all of my skills; striving to make our church community a grace-filled, affirming, loving, and altruistic congregation from the oldest member to the youngest