Friday, September 27, 2013

Pastor Reed says goodbye - By Elizabeth Richards

The North Windham Union Church is saying goodbye to the Reverend Dana Reed as he heads to Africa for one final assignment as a Navy Reservist. Though he doesn’t have concrete plans for what he will do when he comes back, he will not be returning to his role as pastor of the church, or to the ministry. 

“I came to the realization a few months ago that I really want to try something different,” he said. With the help of Heart at Work Associates in Portland, he explored his interests and past experience to help him discover what new direction he may want to move in. “I went full tilt into that kind of exploration,” he said.

For Reed has been an ordained minister for nearly 30 years, and served as pastor of the North Windham Union Church for 13 years. He has also served as a chaplain in the Navy Reserves for more than 20 years. He filed for an extension as Navy retirement approached in order to take this final set of orders to Africa. 

The position he will hold is that of Command Chaplain, the senior ranking chaplain on the base in the country of Djibouti. “This is a really great opportunity to go to a place I’ve never been to before, and to spend a good amount of time there,” said Reed. Additionally, the position will mean travel to seven other African nations that are supported by the command. He will leave October 14th for processing in Norfolk, VA. From there he will head to South Carolina for training, before spending seven months in Africa. He will retire from the Navy in May of 2014, when this assignment is finished. This position will give him an opportunity to interact with religious authorities and leaders of widely divergent groups, he said. “The African scene is a vibrant religious place right now,” he said.   

For Reed some of the highlights of his time at the North Windham Union Church are a result of being able to respond to social circumstances. Some of these had a national scope, such as responding to the events of 9/11 and the economic downturn of 2008. Others were more local, such as being able to assist families in dire circumstances. “In terms of accomplishments, it’s been more of how we’ve been able to respond to human need,” he said. 

One of his most meaningful experiences came during the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Reed was called upon by the State denomination to head up a disaster relief committee, as a result of people calling and wanting to help. The conference minister asked him to organize the efforts, and he created a structure to deal with the extensive needs. In close to two years of efforts, the committee had raised over $200,000 through their sister denominational churches, and had sent six medical teams and eight construction teams to the gulf coast, Reed said. 

At the same time, his reserve work took him to DC for a position with the Coast Guard. Through persistence and learning to navigate the fiscal system in DC, Reed helped secure additional funding to place six additional chaplains on active duty after Katrina. 

Doing something valuable both on the civilian side and the Navy side to help human suffering was one of his proudest accomplishments, he said.
Though he doesn’t yet have a job in place for when he returns from Africa, Reed said he will seek employment with a non-profit humanitarian based organization, or an equivalent federal position. On the federal side, he said, he feels there are a number of positions he’d be well suited for, but he would love to find a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“I’ve just found that I really enjoy starting with nothing, and setting something up quickly,” he said. Much of his training for the Navy prepared him for that kind of work. “You get there with minimal resources and then become that staging place for other things,” said Reed.   

Though a federal job is of interest, Reed said his family plans to stay in the Windham community for two years after his return, to allow his youngest child, who is now a sophomore, to finish at Windham High School. His older son left for college this fall. 

He compares leaving the church he’s served for 13 years to the experience of sending a child off to college. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet, because we’ve been contending with so many changes in our family,” he said, but he suspects it will be very difficult when it does. “You make deep associations with people,” he said. “It’s cradle to grave, and all the associated emotions with that. You get into the nitty gritty of people’s lives, and they trust you with that. You hear things, and you hold them in confidence, and then you leave.”  

Reed said he deeply appreciates being part of the community since 1986, and being able to foster deep and lasting relationships with people in the community. “I’m very impressed with the other churches, their clergy, the efforts that they expend daily, literally, in keeping this community as strong as it is,” he added.

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