The Rev. Nancy Foran will retire on Easter Sunday this year after 14½ years in the role. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

RAYMOND — The Rev. Nancy Foran will retire from Raymond Village Community Church on Easter Sunday after more than 14 years of expanding the church’s outreach and impact.

Foran, the church’s longest-serving pastor, is known for her community work and how she has “pushed boundaries for this church,” according to Music Director Patrick Martin.

“In a profession historically dominated by men, she is ensuring that she does not passively float about her ministry, but instead forges a pathway that may not always be comfortable for long-term churchgoers,” Martin said. 

“I think that when a lot of people think of churches, they think of very judgmental places,” Foran said. “We are all seekers on a journey, and together we can maybe find some of the answers, but I’m not going to get up there on Sunday morning and tell you, ‘This is what you have to believe or you’re going to go to hell.'”

Foran majored in religion in college and she worked as a secretary and waitress after graduating. It was only after visiting a friend at Yale Divinity School that she decided to pursue the calling.

Over the course of completing her three-year degree, Foran said ministry work became more personally meaningful. After being ordained, she worked as the Protestant chaplain at the University of Vermont, but struggled to accept the lack of opportunities for women.

“I thought that I was going to find my own church. But it was really clear that what was available to a woman was very much being an assistant minister to a man or having your own church in a very rural area where they basically couldn’t afford to hire a man,” she said. 

The Raymond Village Community Church is over 140 years old. File photo

Foran earned a master’s degree in Industrial Relations, got married and worked as a human resources manager while continuing to do volunteer ministry work. When her husband’s job brought them to Maine, Foran spent 10 years as the elder chaplain at the First Congregational Church in South Portland before ending up in Raymond.

There, she looked beyond the church’s walls and partnered on events and programs with community groups like the local library and Age-Friendly Raymond.

To me, you’re not being the church if you’re just in this building on Sunday mornings expecting people to walk in and sing the songs that your great-grandparents sang,” she said. “I’ve really tried as the pastor to be out there more in the community.”

She consistently preaches a humanist message, focusing on what we can do to be better people and make those around us better,” Martin said. 

The church provides free community meals, hosts coffeehouse discussion events and partners with the town’s Fire Department to install carbon monoxide detectors. It serves as a sponsor and venue for the Raymond Arts Alliance, is a member of Age-Friendly Raymond and hosts a variety of other community activities, including AA and Boy and Cub Scouts.

“She got us to look outside ourselves in the community,” said Caryl Gilman, a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee.

Foran said the size of her congregation has declined over the years and now has about 60 active members.

Her greatest challenge, she said, has been making the church “relevant in an increasingly secular, polarized community.”

When you have people, even politically, thinking so differently, how do you put forth a message where you’re not being accused of taking a stand when you shouldn’t,” she said. “Having said that … if you can’t make all this stuff relevant to what’s going on in the world today, what’s the point?”

Her ideas on worship, Martin said, explore “diverse cultural, spiritual and intellectual content and practices, allowing the folks of Raymond Village Church to break outside of their usual confines and gain some new experiences.” 

Foran decided to retire after celebrating her 70th birthday. She and her husband are expecting their first grandchild this spring, and she plans to work on publishing some books. She said she will miss the relationships she has formed at the church as well as preaching.

The church plans to hire an interim pastor for three years. “We think that gives us a little more time to work through with someone without feeling time pressure,” Gilman said. 

Nancy Yates — the church’s financial secretary, a deacon and a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee — praised Foran’s hard work and passion for social justice: “She’s no slouch, that’s for sure. We’ll miss her and her guidance.” 

“She’ll be sorely missed,” Gilman said.

 

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