In memoriam

Posted Mar 15, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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By Willie Sordillo


Susan P. DickernanIt is with deep sadness that we mourn the death of our sister in Christ, Susan P. Dickerman. Sue was to have co-directed the Pastoral Excellence Network with longtime colleague and friend Chris Braudaway-Bauman. Sue suffered a recurrence of cancer which took her life on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.

We will miss Sue’s tireless spirit, her deep faith, her easy laugh, her exceptional ability to organize events and projects large and small, whether in her local church, where she served as CE Director, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, where she served for 26 years, most recently as Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development, or on a national level. Sue’s can-do attitude was matched by none, responding to setbacks and obstacles which would send most of us into despair with a cheerful, “Not a problem!” And she backed it up with action, every time. Told at midnight that she needed to find a better instrument for a state-wide 200th Anniversary event for thousands, by 8:30 in the morning a borrowed, moved and tuned grand piano stood in place ready for service at opening worship.

Sue co-authored the original Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant proposal to the Lilly Endowment for the Massachusetts Conference, UCC, and for the next 10 years directed the program in Massachusetts and its extension into other parts of New England. She was a tireless, cheerful, and tremendously productive worker, but Fridays were reserved for time with her grandchildren, even if that sometimes meant bringing the bassinet into the office for a few hours.

Somehow, in addition to conceptualizing and overseeing an ever-expanding clergy peer learning program, Sue found time to get to know each young person under her wing at Edwards Church, UCC, often writing personal, handwritten notes to thank them for a job well done, congratulate them on some personal accomplishment or encourage them in some upcoming pursuit. Sometimes this care extended to a quiet, behind the scenes act of grace, as when she purchased text books out of her own pocket so that a deserving teen of modest means could attend community college.

Sue was often a pioneer lighting the way for the rest of us. She was an early advocate, creator and educator in the Safe Church movement. She was a mentor to many and an educator at heart, serving not only locally but as a Christian Education consultant for the UCC’s national setting.

Though it remains a mystery to some of us how she found time for it, Sue was an avid gardener and enjoyed deep and lasting relationships, some at a long distance. She is survived by two sons, Peter and Andrew, two grandchildren, Erin and James, and a myriad of friends and people who were strongly affected by her ministry.

We miss Sue every day, but we are deeply committed to carrying on the work we planned to do together to support and strengthen pastoral excellence.

Willie Sordillo is the Administrator for the Pastoral Excellence Network.

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry.  To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@cts.edu.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Susan Smith 14 May
    I met Sue several years ago when she invited me to participate in a Massachusetts Conference event. She was delightful, down to earth, and a joy to work with. I am sorry to hear she has left us ...but glad to have known her.

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