New permanent minister named at First Parish Dorchester

Reverend Elizabeth Carrier-Ladd is the 24th settled minister at First Parish Dorchester. Photo courtesy First Parish Dorchester

First Parish Dorchester has a new permanent minister. The Reverend Elizabeth Carrier-Ladd, who has served at the parish atop Meetinghouse Hill since last August, is the 24th “settled” minister in the parish’s 391-year history.

Carrier-Ladd, who grew up in the Boston area, was a justice and outreach minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis before returning to Boston last year.

“First Parish Dorchester has been on my radar for many years as I’ve watched them do the real, important, deep work of interim ministry over the last several years,” she told the Reporter this week.  “When they posted the job opportunity, I jumped at it and really enjoyed my conversations from the beginning. I have just loved my time with them.

“There has been an incredible amount of alignment between who I am as a minister and who they are as a congregation from the beginning of our conversations that has only deepened in the six months that I’ve been with them,” Carrier-Ladd said.

The congregation spent those months in discernment mode before voting on the installation. 

In a statement issued on behalf of the congregation, church leaders said: “Rev. Elizabeth’s call to congregational ministry is based on feeling her sense of purpose most strongly in the awe of worship, beside a hospital bed, helping work through a disagreement or get to an important decision in committee work, listening to youth share what is real for them in their lives, and standing up in opposition to injustice everywhere, including in the streets. We are lucky to have her join us and look forward to sharing her ministry with our community partners and the larger Dorchester community.”

Going forward, Carrier-Ladd hopes to connect with the broader neighborhood and continue engaging in new and old community partnerships. 

“The thing that the pandemic has changed the most is that I haven’t been able to connect with the community as much as I would like to, and that’s going to be my top priority coming out of the pandemic, however long it takes,” she said. “I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

“And I’m looking forward to re-engaging with community partners that First Parish has a long history with, and striking up new relationships with partnerships is going to be an important part of how the summer and fall unfolds in our ministry.”  

One of those key partners is Fair Foods Inc., which has distributed food to the community from First Parish Dorchester for the past 32 years.

“Our building is one of our biggest assets. We try as best we can to be really generous with it because there are people who need it and we are happy to share it with other people and organizations.”

To that point, it was announced on Tuesday that the First Parish church will serve as a seven-day-a-week vaccine site for those with appointments beginning next Monday, Feb. 1, through a partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

Rev. Carrier-Ladd has had an impressive career in ministry, serving in several roles in the Midwest and California. She has also taught religious education, led several youth programs and international social justice-aimed service trips. She received a Master of Divinity degree from the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. 

If it can be done safely at that time, the congregation plans to hold a celebration next fall featuring its new minister’s formal installation ceremony. Until then, Rev. Carrier-Ladd will continue to lead Sunday services, support lay leaders, offer pastoral support to those in need, and work to deepen her relationships throughout the community. 

 “Our mission is really to return to that old notion of the meetinghouse, which is where the whole neighborhood or city would gather,” said Carrier-Ladd. “We’re still figuring out other ways of moving in that direction during the pandemic and planning for trying to build more connections that will lead us even further into that mission when we are allowed to reopen our doors.”