Falmouth church puts faith in new youth minister

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FALMOUTH — In an effort to re-establish youth as part of the congregation, the Falmouth Congregational Church has hired Tree Harmon-Hester to shake things up.

“This church is determined to grow, to get kids back in here,” Harmon-Hester said. “A lot of kids and families are just so busy and so involved in other activities … that people kind of lost sight of taking the time to really focus on some of the things that are most important in our lives.”

Harmon-Hester, 52, of Brunswick, is the church’s minister of Christian education. She will start the new childrens’ program on Sept. 7, with what she called the “Super Sunday Celebration.”

“We’re going to have a kids’ service; pretty much the first 20 minutes is going to be lots of fun. It’s going to be colorful, balloons, noise, you know we’re going to make music, we’re going to clap, we’re going to tap our feet,” she said. “We’re also calling it ‘Make a Joyful Noise.'”

She said she is also working on a youth program for students in junior high and high school.

“We’re really going to go outside the box a lot,” Harmon-Hester said.

Harmon-Hester said the church needs to grow with the times and needs to be a reflection of the world we’re living in.

“We need to really reach out to where the kids are, and not make them conform to perhaps an outdated method of, say Sunday school or church school,” she said. “I’m observing, listening, watching, I want to give, I want to create a program that the kids will love, that they’ll receive from, that they’ll feel freedom in, that they can participate.”

She added, “Church isn’t about sitting all buttoned up in the church pew.”

Harmon-Hester has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. She said she worked as a toy sculptor for 15 years, before her job was outsourced. She also has a master’s degree in creative  ministry from the Bangor Theological Seminary.

She said her main focus is “… to be creative, to find new forms of expression, authentic, no-holds-barred, you don’t have to wear a choir robe.”

She said new programs need to be interactive, and need to involve the things that youth are interested in.

“Not like a top-down, maybe not quite a bottom-up, but kind of an interplay, back and forth,” Harmon-Hester said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Tree Harmon-Hester is the new minister of Christian education at the Falmouth Congregational Church.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.