Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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Introducing First Church’s Interim Senior Minister

June 14, 2024

The Interim Search Team is excited to introduce the Rev. Dr. J. Michael Solberg as our Interim Senior Minister. His first day at First Church in Cambridge will be Monday, August 26, and he will preach for the first time on Regathering Sunday, September 8.

Mike has 34 years of experience as ordained clergy. He grew up in the Lutheran church (ELCA), was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has “privilege of call” in the United Church of Christ, having served UCC congregations for the last 22 years. (Many of us at First Church might resonate with his denominational journey!) Mike holds an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School, and a D.Min. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He and his wife Janine have two grown children. Mike and Janine plan to live in the parsonage while he serves First Church.

Currently, Mike is the settled Senior Pastor of The Union Church of Hinsdale, IL, an 800-member UCC congregation in suburban Chicago, where he has served for the last 11 years. In his profile, Mike shares some of his passions. He writes that he is passionate about dogs and pizza (Chicago deep-dish-style pizza, to be specific). He is passionate about preaching – “Preaching is the most important chance a pastor has to inspire, challenge, teach, comfort, and shape Christian identity.” And he is passionate about IAF-style community organizing, a model of faith- and broad-based organizing that we at First Church are familiar with in our work with GBIO – “If we are to serve Jesus’ vision that all may have life, and have it abundantly, then we have to organize people and money to effect change on the specific issues people care about.” This commitment to community organizing is long standing, and he currently serves as President of DuPage United, a social justice coalition working on issues such as gun safety, mental health, and affordable housing in the greater Chicago area. Mike has been a leader in the Illinois Conference’s partnership with the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola, engaged in a range of mutual ministry efforts, including one where he swam the English Channel to raise funds to build a school.

The Interim Search Team was impressed by Mike’s open, collaborative style; his extensive experience in providing administrative leadership in churches with large staffs; and his commitment and passion for worship and preaching. Even as he brings his own deep commitment and experience in social justice, he is eager to lean into and learn with us in our own racial and social justice journey.

Mike will be a first-time interim, but he has completed training for intentional transitional ministry, and, according to the references we spoke with, he will throw himself fully into the experience – being energized by new challenges and not simply “filling the space” between two settled pastors. We are confident that Mike is the leader we need in this time of transition and preparation for the next chapter of First Church’s story leading us into our Fifth Century.

Mike writes, “I am delighted to be joining First Church in this tender and hopeful transitional time. You show remarkable depth and breadth in your church life, both in faith-building and in faithful action. I look forward to working with you to set the stage for the love-and-justice-infused ministry that surely lies ahead.”

Jim Cairns, Claire Morgan, Stephen Weller, and Linda Ziebell
Interim Search Team