Morris is withdrawing from the Slatersville Congregational after 14 years
NORTH SMITHFIELD – Rev. Eileen Morris, a mainstay of Slatersville life for nearly 14 years, is retiring from pastor of Slatersville Congregational Church, UCC, later this month.
Morris announced her resignation to the community earlier this year. She told The Valley Breeze this week that she was looking forward to her retirement, but is having a hard time saying goodbye.
“I’ve always believed that if you love the people you serve, this work is no longer a job, and I love these people. So it’s hard to leave, but I’m really excited to see what the future holds, ”she said.
Morris, a native of Connecticut, has been a pastor since 2007. She and her late husband, Bob, were integral parts of the Slatersville community. Bob helped found the North Smithfield Food Pantry prior to his death by ALS in 2015. In addition to serving on the Pantry Board, Morris served on the North Smithfield Juvenile Hearing Board, the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Conference, and the United Church of Christ of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Ministerial Assistance Fund.
Reflecting on her journey into the ministry, Morris referred to herself as a “second career pastor.” She studied at the Boston Conservatory of Music before embarking on a career in finance, serving as a controller of a Boston venture capital firm, and owning her own consulting firm.
It was Bob, she said, who suggested that she consider a call to the service while she was in Winchester, Mass.
“I closed my consulting business and went to Andover Theological School. I started school on September 11th, 2011, ”she said.
She held positions in churches in West Newton and Wellesley, Massachusetts before joining the Slatersville Congregational. When she retires, she will have served as a pastor for nearly 14 years.
“I love the work that I do. I really love it and it was an amazing experience to be here, ”she said.
One of the highlights, she said, was seeing the church express its commitment as an open and affirming church. The people of North Smithfield, she said, are generous with the gift of their time and are often available on short notice to help.
Morris said she started contemplating retirement a few years ago while on a three-month sabbatical. She has family in New Zealand and looks forward to traveling there to spend more time with them after they retire.
She also looks forward to volunteering in cooking and children’s literacy programs. She plans to return to Winchester where she still owns a house.
The hardest part, she said, will be letting go of her church. According to the UCC tradition, the pastor and ward will both take part in “release vows,” which are designed to enable church members to bond with their new pastor.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve baptized 150 adults and children. For me personally, this is my legacy, ”she said.
A committee of church members is currently seeking an interim pastor to serve in the church for a period of one and a half to two years. After that, a committee will choose a standing pastor who will be confirmed by a vote from the congregation, she said.
Although the pandemic was difficult, Morris said that with 15 baptisms in the past 16 months, the Church had also maintained an active presence. In June they returned to personal service for the first time in more than a year.
Morris said she hoped the Church will continue to maintain its reputation as a source of prayer and support in the ward.
“It is very sad to leave here,” she said.