Rev. Derek van Gulden
I have been serving as the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Rockport, UCC since June of 2012. After a career as a Respiratory Therapist and retiring from the US Navy, I followed my call to ordained ministry by attending Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) where I obtained a Master of Divinity in 2006. While at EDS, I pursued my passion for international mission work traveling to South Africa, Cuba, and Kenya. I also obtained a certificate in International Mission and Ecumenism from the Boston Theological Institution in 2006. I have done medical mission work in Spain, Nicaragua, and El Salvador as well.
I have served churches in Vermont and East Bridgewater, MA. On a local level, I spent five years working with the City of Brockton’s police department helping them develop ‘Operation Divinity’, a ministry of presence both on the streets and in the homes of youth who had been victims or perpetrators of violence. My current interests are social justice, anti-racism, and mission work at the parish level.
Though I have been a pastor for 15 years, I profess to be more of a storyteller than a preacher. During a sabbatical from the church in early 2018, I studied with both master storytellers and a master biblical storyteller. I continue to share my love for storytelling with members of the congregation during weekly Old Sloop Storytelling time as well as through my preaching.
I grew up in Vermont in a large multi-racial family as one of ten siblings, some of whom are Native American, Korean, Vietnamese, African American, and White. My extended family is composed of members from India, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Haiti. I have three adult children: Cory who works in the art industry, Nathan who is a farmer, and Carleen who works in sales and marketing. I am married to the Rev. Sarah van Gulden, an Episcopal priest serving Trinity Episcopal Church in Haverhill, MA. We live in Rockport with our cat Mr. Tux.
I have had the privilege to serve as Music Director of The First Congregational Church since 1991, serving under 5 ministers during that time. I am also Professor of Music at Salem State University in Salem Ma. where I have taught since 1992. For information on my background please visit www.swansonmusic.com.
Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation
I have been the Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation since April 2020. I began attending the Old Sloop when I was in third grade and my mom found our church in the phone book! I have had various volunteer roles, including working in the nursery and teaching all different ages of Sunday school. I was an active member of the youth group during my middle and high school years. After I graduated from Eastern Nazarene College in 2010 with a BA in religion and a minor in youth ministry, I volunteered as a youth leader. Eventually I was appointed Assistant Youth Director, and later began my role as Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation.
I also work at Rockport Middle School as a paraprofessional, and I am currently working towards my certification in Leadership in Faith Formation with the UCC. It has been a great blessing growing up in such a loving community with the Old Sloop, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next!
Assistant Music Director
I have taught in the performing arts department at the Waring School since the fall of 1999.
As a resident of Rockport since 1990, I have also taught voice, chorus, and theater at every level of the Rockport Public School system. Currently Assistant to the Director of Music at the First Congregational Church of Rockport, I have directed the church youth choir since 1996, collaborating with neighboring choirs, the Cape Ann Arts Alive summer program in Gloucester, the Annisquam Village Players, and other local theatrical endeavors.
Locally I have performed with North Shore Music Theater, at the Firehouse Theater, at Gloucester Stage Company, and with various oratorio ensembles. I am the long-time director of Cape Ann women’s vocal ensemble ‘Leven.
Prior to moving to the North Shore, I performed with the Washington Opera Company, Kennedy Center Productions, Kansas City Lyric Opera Company and Educational Outreach Program, the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, and the Starlight Theater of Kansas City. (Oh, and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Christmas Party.)
I studied vocal performance at Brigham Young University. My graduate studies were in the opera department at the School of Performing Arts at Boston University, and I earned a BS degree in Communication Disorders and Elementary Education from Brigham Young University.
My life in Rockport has been rich with my husband, three daughters, various dogs and cats, a vibrant community, lots of hiking through the woods and along the rocky shores of Cape Ann, body surfing in freezing, but irresistible waves, blissful swims in quarry pits, very experimental gardening, and endless opportunities for DIY creative and recreative domesticity.