By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — The Rev. Derek van Gulden is not new to Rockport.
But he is settling into town as the newest pastor of the First Congregational Church after stepping into the post last summer.
Van Gulden has felt a kinship with Rockport in the past. Previously, when his wife, Sarah van Gulden, had served at a position at a church in Burlington, the two made trips into Rockport and other towns on the North Shore because of the town’s and region’s scenery, he said.
”(I had a) very good sense of ease when I was up interviewing,” he said.
Raised in rural Vermont, van Gulden said he’s used to a close-knit town atmosphere, and that made Rockport an obvious choice.
Rev. van Gulden came to Rockport from East Bridgewater, where he served in his first full-time pastor position.
He met his wife at seminary school, and she currently works in Gloucester, in addition to doing work for the Episcopal Diocese of Boston.
Van Gulden said the entire community, not just his congregation, has been very welcoming and inviting.
Despite only living in Rockport for a few months, van Gulden already knows the places to be around town.
”We fell in love with Tuck’s chocolates pretty quick,” he said.
His family also took part in Rockport’s nativity pageant, with his wife playing one of the woman in Bethlehem.
He said the advent season from December to January was one of the most festive he has ever seen, adding that he viewed the arrival of Santa Claus via boat as “unique and beautiful.”
Van Gulden also frequents Front Beach to walk his dog, no matter what the weather may bring.
He will officially be recognized by his congregation and the community during his installation service at First Congregational on Sunday, Feb. 3.
The pastor said he believes it was a calling that brought him to Rockport in the end.
”When a church and a pastor come together, (it means) God has ordained long ago we would come together,” he said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.