Berkeley, Calif.'s loss became Menomonie's gain when Rev. Rob MacDougall was installed as minister at the First Congregational United Church of Christ 25 years ago.
A native of Racine, MacDougall, 56, began life as a Lutheran and his career as a social worker after earning his undergraduate degree at St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn.
Working with communities and neighborhoods while helping transform lives became his passion while he was employed in Northfield and Minneapolis, Minn. But he realized that his secular work would best be coupled with a faith emphasis, and he chose to attend the seminary, pursuing his religious studies at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
Although MacDougall and his wife, Wendy, loved living in Berkeley, they found the cost of living to be prohibitive, and family ties in the Midwest beckoned. MacDougall was ordained at the First Congregational Church of Minnesota in Minneapolis in November 1985.
MacDougall was installed as pastor at First Congregational-UCC in Menomonie on Oct. 30, 1988. He has served the church as minister decades longer than any minister in the church's 152-year history.
MacDougall has shared his experience with cross-denominational groups and social justice work with the congregation and the community. Admitting that he anticipated that Menomonie might be “out-of-the-mainstream,” he was pleased to find it held the “health and strength of the faith community” he was seeking — and the city was more supportive than other locations where he had interviewed. MacDougall was further encouraged by First Congregational-UCC's “very impressive” membership.
Since his arrival, MacDougall has been instrumental in many advancements in the church: a major addition, renovation, a budget that has tripled in size, and mission trips both stateside and abroad. The larger community has benefited from Thursday's Table that provides a free weekly meal for those in need as well as having the church serve as a host site for numerous events.
According to MacDougall, accomplishments have all encompassed “the continued spirit of our church, the spirit of welcome for all people. It seems like we've had lots of conversations about this and it's been a very ongoing process. We're not afraid to undertake hard conversations.”
With a focus on ethical clergy retirement issues, in 2007, MacDougall received his Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minn.
He continues to serve First Congregational-UCC and the community. For example, he serves as a chaplain for the Menomonie Police Department, is a member of Stepping Stones' Board of Directors, is strongly involved with the ecumenical Taize services, serves on the hospital's Ethics Committee, and is a member of UW-Stout's Institutional Review Board.
In the past, MacDougall has conducted a multitude of worship services in senior living facilities, served as community liaison official for the Salvation Army as well as two Menomonie School Board committees, the board of directors at The Oaks, and he was a United Church of Christ delegate to the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Council of Churches.
In his spare time, MacDougall appreciates outdoor pastimes and participating in group activities.
MacDougall has enjoyed raising his family in Menomonie. He and Wendy, an R.N. who is the Director of Public Health for Dunn County, have three grown children, Molly, Jacob and Hannah. They are also the proud grandparents of one grandchild, Liam MacGregor, son of Molly and her husband, Ben.
For MacDougall, family, faith and community remain at the heart of everything.