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Friday, April 17, 2009

Hitting the Ground Running

I began my new pastorate at the First Congregational Church, UCC, in Norwalk, CT on Palm Sunday, timing which is sort of the liturgical equivalent of taking a sip from a firehose. At the time, my big concern was that the excitement of my arrival would end up eclipsing the message of Palm Sunday, and I joked with several of the congregation's leaders that we needed to make sure that the church celebrated the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, not the triumphal entry of Paul Bryant-Smith into Norwalk.

At any rate, Palm Sunday was a great celebration, with 188 folks in attendance at the 10:30 service. One of the traditions of the church is that the confirmation class carries a full-size, rough wood cross into the sanctuary and leans it up against the pulpit. When they carried it in this year, they weren't exactly sure how to place it and ended up placing it so that one of the arms stuck right up in the very center of the pulpit, so I had to keep moving around so that I could see around it.

The Holy week services were fairly well attended, with Maundy Thursday being a joint service between FCC and United Congregational Church in West Norwalk. Good Friday was a simple afternoon service, with scripture readings and prayers, done by members of the congregation, including one woman from the community who stops in to pray from time to time and didn't even know that we were getting ready for the service.

Easter was every bit as good as I could have hoped. The congregation had more than 250 people present and, when they sang, the sound was incredible. This is a congregation that sings!! After the service, several people commented that they had come to worship because of the article that the Norwalk newspaper The Hour had run about my arrival in town the previous week, but that they would definitely be back.

Over the last two weeks, I've been living back and forth between Norwalk and River Edge, spending a couple nights in the new parsonage and sleeping on an air mattress, then coming home for a couple nights. During the interim period, the church spent a good deal of time and money in renovating the parsonage, but they saved the kitchen for last, wanting to have the new pastor's input on how it would be redone. As a result, Greg DeTroy, the church's gospel choir director, who is also a contractor, has gutted the kitchen and is replacing all of the cabinetry, countertops, sink, and flooring, while an electrician installs lots of light fixtures, a process that has Kimberly and me drooling in anticipation of our new kitchen.

Since there's no functioning kitchen in the parsonage, church members have had me to their homes for dinner every night that I've been in Norwalk, often inviting several other church members over for the evening. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know so many folks in such a relaxed setting. Fortunately, I've also joined the YMCA, so I'm hoping to burn off all of the calories that my parishioners' wonderful hospitality has sent my way.

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