The Rev. Renee Kaufman is the new Minister of Christian Education at South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNKPORT — Ever watch the segment of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon called Box of Lies?

It is a part of the show where one has to figure out if their opponent is accurately describing what mystery object is inside the box, or if they’re lying about it — with some hilarious consequences.

Whether you have or haven’t, if you’re a parent of a middle school student, heads-up. An interactive, online version, especially for 12- to 14-year-olds is in the planning stages, said Renee Kaufman, the new Minister of Christian Education at South Congregational Church, UCC.

Kaufman began her part-time gig at the church in May, in the midst of the pandemic. She’s been getting acquainted with the congregation – as best as anyone can, as weekly services and events  are online only, for now – and organizing projects and programs in line with the responsibilities of the job.

Kaufman and her husband, Scott Cousineau, moved to York County in the summer of 2019, from Massachusetts, where he was senior pastor of the Federated Church of Norfolk, and Kaufman served as the congregation’s Minister of Christian Education. Cousineau took up his new duties as senior minister at First Parish Congregational Church in Saco in August.

And while she’s served in various capacities in congregations from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to Chili, New York, to Beverly, Masachusetts, and in other areas of New England, it is the role she is in now that Kaufman finds most rewarding.

“My first love is Christian education, working with children and youth,” she said.

Her responsibilities at South Congregational Church involve program planning for children, youth and adult education

And while the pandemic continues, Sunday services are taped on Friday, and available on Sunday mornings and throughout the week, along with Wednesday evening vespers and fellowship. A recent service included Kaufman, guest organist Carolyn Graham, readings by Joe Rolland and guest pastor Scott Kavanaugh.

For Sunday, July 12, Kaufman planned an art show and a socially distanced picnic (for a maximum of 50 people) on the River Green, an aptly-named space near the Kennebunk River on the church property. The Anne Allaire Art Show, named in memory of the artist and parishioner, started as project for children, and grew to accept works of art from all ages. and all mediums, said Kaufman. The show is expected to be soon available online.

Kaufman said she hopes to offer online meetings and discussions for youth on a variety of topics, including the pandemic among other issues.

“(We’ll talk) about what’s happening in the world, how to deal with the COVID crisis,” she said. Young people, she noted, have had no outlet to discuss some of the weighty issues of the day.

There are a couple of outdoor services in the planning stages for August, and currently, the church is considering how they’ll proceed with services and events after Labor Day, she said. The Christian Education team will also meet and determine the path ahead for Sunday School and other educational programming.

Kaufman was ordained as a minister in the American Baptist Church in 1990 and holds a degree in journalism, has trained in public relations, and earned a master’s degree in divinity from the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

At home, Kaufman and Cousineau foster dogs through a small organization in Memphis, Tennessee.

“We got our first rescue dog at Perfect Match Animal Rescue,” said Kaufman. Now, they have a total of four dogs of their own, and she figures they’ve fostered at least 90 canines over the past five years.

In the sanctuary on a quiet weekday, Kaufman talked about the transition the church is in as it searches for a new, permanent minister and how the congregation and those who minister to them has transitioned through the pandemic, seeking out new ways to deliver the message.

“We feel like there’s a renewed enthusiasm in the church,” said Kaufman. “We look forward to new programs and creating new ideas to bring people back into the church.”

To connect with South Congregational Church, go to: https://www.southchurchucc.org/.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: