Plymouth Church, a thriving 400-member church in Brooklyn, New York, is seeking an Assistant Minister. Our congregation includes families, particularly those with young children, a large number of professionals, and longtime members of the community. While Plymouth is a member of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC), our members are from diverse religious backgrounds, united in our Christ-centered ministry. We seek an energetic minister who will be involved in the pastoral care and leadership of Plymouth Church. Areas of responsibility will include adult and youth education, missions, outreach, and worship.
Plymouth Church is a Congregational Church gathered in 1847 and led by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher from that year until 1887. It continues as an autonomous Congregational Church. A vibrant, growing church, Plymouth is located in Brooklyn Heights, a thriving neighborhood across the East River from lower Manhattan.
AN OVERVIEW OF PLYMOUTH CHURCH
After years of flat membership and attendance prior to 2004, our attendance has grown by over 150% to about 240 average Sunday attendance and member rolls have grown 45% over the past 10 years to about 400 and we have grown in more ways than numbers alone can indicate. Members come from a wide range of backgrounds and are in varied places in their faith journeys. Our sense is that many of today’s new members are attracted more by spiritual need than social habit. We have had particular success in attracting families who want a Christian upbringing for their children. The growth of our Sunday school, with a current average of 75 children each Sunday, is certainly a bright spot.
The Senior Minister and Church Council will begin a process to discern, develop, define, and communicate a clear vision of God’s will for our church. We are hopeful this process will offer clarity, direction and help guide our decisions as we move forward together.
Plymouth is blessed with a wonderful music ministry. Our Sunday worship benefits from professional singers in the adult choir. There are four children’s choirs and a tone chime choir with a combined total of 80 choristers.
Plymouth maintains a self-sufficient preschool that has operated in the Brooklyn Heights community for 21 years. Plymouth Church School is a highly successful and sought-after preschool with a great reputation in the community. Beyond providing revenue for the church, it functions as a form of outreach, bringing new members to the church each year without requiring overt or explicit overtures from the church itself.
We are optimistic about the future of Plymouth Church as a vessel of God’s shalom and are working proactively to position ourselves to deliver on our potential. Plymouth functions with Ministry Teams instead of committees. The teams include Children and Family Ministry, Worship and Arts, Membership and Fellowship, Stewardship and others. The Christian Help Ministry has increased the rigor and Christian focus of distributions made from our endowment funds. Plymouth is the Brooklyn's largest faith based supporter of Habitat for Humanity, sponsors a homeless shelter for four weeks each year, works closely with the Mission School of Hope in the Cameroon and is active in anti-human trafficking.
Plymouth Church is looking for a new Assistant Minister who can deepen our faith and lead us through the kind of growth that will best use Plymouth’s gifts for God’s work in the world. He or she will need vision, strong preaching talents, and leadership ability and must be comfortable in an urban environment. For the right person, Plymouth could be a huge opportunity, and we’re looking for a minister who is eager and equipped for the challenge.
OUR SUNDAY WORSHIP
Sunday worship at Plymouth, which begins at 11:00 a.m., uses traditional Reformed liturgy, including an emphasis on the central role of preaching. Plymouth is in many ways, as one member aptly described it, “the church of your childhood.” After an opening hymn and prayer, perhaps preceded by an introit from the choir, we join in a responsive reading, confession of sin, and assurance of pardon. We sing the Gloria Patri together, and we warmly greet one another with the peace of Christ. The passing of the peace is special at Plymouth, a lingering moment in which members take down their urban defenses, exchange hugs and handshakes with friends and newcomers, and prepare for worship. Children come forward for the children’s sermon and proceed to Children's Sunday School. Their joyful exodus is followed by a few moments of quiet prayer before we move forward with the offering, doxology, Scripture readings, and sermon.
Music plays a central role in our service. The Plymouth Choir is an accomplished group even by New York City standards, anchored by a core of eight professional singers. The congregation also sings with enthusiasm, which is fitting. Plymouth was the first church to encourage full congregational singing during hymns, having produced, in 1855, the first hymnal with words and music side by side.
Substantive, challenging, and inspiring preaching is something for which our congregation thirsts and to which it genuinely looks forward on a weekly basis. This period is the eye of the hurricane of life in New York City—the calm yet forceful center that holds the rest of our frenzy together.
Following our Sunday worship service, we join each other for Fellowship Hour in our social hall. This is a time for members to catch up on the past week or make plans for the week ahead, and to get to know new faces. It is also a time for kids to enjoy some unstructured play, either in the gymnasium or on the playground.
In addition to this typical flow of worship, we observe Communion on the first Sunday of each month, alternating between having lay leaders serve members in the pews and having congregation members come forward. Given our congregational demographics, infant baptisms are a frequent and joyous occasion as well. Plymouth also holds a number of special services at Lent and at Advent, including a Sunday evening carol service that draws many from the community, as well as our Christmas Eve service, which draws a large crowd rivaling Easter morning.
Plymouth Church stands at the corner of Hicks and Orange Streets in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn, directly across the East River from the Financial District in Manhattan with its growing residential population. Brooklyn Heights is a neighborhood of tree-lined streets with brick and brownstone row houses, most from the 19th century, interspersed with low-rise apartment buildings, stores, and restaurants. The express subway lines to both the east and west sides of Manhattan converge within walking distance of the church, but life in the neighborhood—getting coffee; grocery shopping; seeing a movie; going to school; having pastries, dinner, a sandwich, or a drink—is lived on foot. This creates the opportunity for countless face-to-face encounters; we are constantly running into friends and making new ones. In the middle of the city, this is a safe, family-oriented community with many of the attributes of a small town. E.B. White, from Here is New York (1939):
In this way, Brooklyn Heights is much like the adjacent neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene, and DUMBO (“Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”). Geographically, Plymouth is fortunate to sit at the axis of all of these neighborhoods, and it therefore draws its membership from all.
Like Plymouth, this part of Brooklyn is growing. On the waterfront, just a few blocks from the church, the new 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park is the most ambitious addition to the city’s parklands since Central Park. New restaurants in the area—many of them acclaimed—are abundant. (The old restaurants are good, too, and some are legendary. We are irreparably spoiled when it comes to pizza.) New buildings are going up. There are nearly a thousand new housing units under construction within a 10- to 15-minute walk of the church.
Few will say Brooklyn Heights is the center of “cool” in Brooklyn, but we undoubtedly benefit from having it nearby, from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to countless other music, sports, and performance venues, shops, and places to get very good coffee. Additional cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and Pratt Institute are only a few blocks or subway stops away. The much-loved but unsung staples of city life are here as well. Our most recent minister was deeply sad to say goodbye to the diner near the church. The man who runs the coffee cart will know your order on the third day you show up.
Brooklyn is known as the “borough of churches,” and there are indeed many here, of all stripes. Brooklyn Heights alone has two Catholic churches as well as strong Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations; the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue also has deep roots in the neighborhood. Like Plymouth, these are historically significant institutions, but in many ways opportunity has never (or at least, not in our lifetimes) been greater for churches here. The pendulum that once flung young, energetic families out of the city to the suburbs has swung back hard, and many families are choosing to stay in the city and rear their children here.
The local public elementary school in Brooklyn Heights, P.S. 8, is thriving. Some of the city’s best private schools are here, including Saint Ann’s School, the Packer Collegiate Institute, and the Brooklyn Friends School. Plymouth Church has its own preschool, which has flourished with the commitment of parents to seeing their children raised in a loving and close community here in the city.
REV. DR. BRETT YOUNGER, SENIOR MINISTER
Brett accepted the call as Senior Minister to Plymouth and began his ministry in June, 2016. He is excited about living in Brooklyn, and more delighted with the congregation he serves. Brett loved leading worship, teaching about the Christian faith and being part of the Plymouth family.
Before coming to Plymouth, Brett served as a preaching professor at Mercer University in Atlanta for eight years. He served as a pastor for twenty-two years in Texas, Kansas, and Indiana. He is the author of four books that not nearly enough people have read.
Brett met his wife at seminary. He and Carol have two sons, Graham, a lawyer in Atlanta, and Caleb, a student at New York University School of Law.
As full-time Assistant Minister, you will be involved in the overall pastoral care and leadership of Plymouth Church. You will report to the Senior Minister. Your specific areas of responsibility will include:
- The development and management of Christian Spiritual Development for youth and adults
- Provide leadership for youth confirmation
- Coordination of the youth program with Sunday School
- Guidance and coordination of Christian Help activities focusing on social justice and outreach
- Assisting and leading public worship, including occasional preaching
- The engagement and assimilation of newer members
- Other tasks as assigned by the Senior Minister