First Congregational Church of Wiscasset’s pastor of four and a half years, Josh Fitterling, is resigning. Fitterling announced in an email to members Thursday, Sept. 9, he shed tears and prayed for months, then three weeks’ leave “finally (gave) me space to find a clear mind and heart.”
When he took that leave, he told members he had burnout after the last year and a half of service during the pandemic. “None of us ever expected that we would be navigating such times and it has caused a lot of stress and strain in many ways. As pastor, this has been the most emotionally and spiritually exhausting work that I have ever encountered in this calling,” Fitterling wrote members Aug. 20.
Besides the strain of the pandemic, Fitterling’s Sept. 9 announcement cites family reasons for resigning, and states his last Sunday as pastor will be Nov. 21, when, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, he hopes to give thanks “for the ministry that we have shared” and everyone’s “new beginnings” at Advent.
Reached via text Sept. 9, Fitterling declined to comment beyond his remarks in the announcement. Members interviewed hoped the best for Fitterling, reflected on what he did with and for the church and said they will miss him.
“I’m very sad,” Nancy Roby, baptized at First Congregational in 1949, said in a phone interview Sept. 9. As pastors go, Fitterling has a lot of wisdom, understanding and compassion for someone so young, she said. “He can do anything. It’s remarkable. He’s an unusual person ... just outstanding in everything he does. And we’re going to miss him a lot,” including at art walks and other events she and others have taken part in alongside Fitterling. “It’s going to be,” she paused. “Hard. But I wish him well.”
Church clerk and longtime member Beth Maxwell said Fitterling has gotten the church more involved and visible in the community, as members wanted when they named him pastor. “It’s a lot of mixed feelings” right now, she said. “I know Josh needs to do for his life what he needs to do, but it is a tremendous loss, and we certainly will miss him ... Josh has done a great job.”
Maxwell added, while the church will need to talk about next steps, whoever follows Fitterling will not “replace” him, she said. “Because that can’t be done.”