My personal journey in ministry began as the Assistant Minister in the Church of my baptism and childhood, primarily serving as director of the 200 child strong Sunday School and as youth pastor, while attending Divinity School. The Church was in Braintree, south of Boston, the seminary in Newton, west of the city and my daily commute arced around it on route 128. Once ordained, I became pastor in the northwestern CT. small rural town of Bethlehem for 5 very active and fulfilling years. Then, my ministry winded back to the North Shore of Boston in the small city of Beverly, neighbor to the more infamous Salem. For 18 years, I enjoyed being back nearer my roots and Boston, and the ocean, and more terrific restaurants than I could ever possibly dine at.
My next destination brought me back to CT., this time in the town most recognized for being the exit off 84 for UConn. I was amazed by how much the hills and farmlands of Tolland reminded me of my years in the Litchfield hills and topography of Bethlehem; it felt almost like circling ‘round.
Within weeks of retiring, the trek of ministry continued with my first “interim” position in the borough of Stonington, CT. near where the Sound meets the ocean. The weekly commute there was never a burden, driving from the narrow, windy roads of Ashford and Mansfield onto route 32 and the highways of 395 and 95. I would see road signs for the towns of Franklin and Lebanon, but didn’t venture into either until I was invited to interview for the interim position here. Going on-line for directions, the route was familiar up to the point where I turned right after crossing the Frog Bridge rather than left, then left again onto 289.
I looked in amazement at the stretch of the Green I could see from the Stop sign after the hilly ascent toward town’s center. Then I began to catch sight of the Green’s crowning glory, the Church. Steeple, clocks, weather vane, the traditional New England colonial ‘meeting house,’ brick rather than clapboard, was stunning in its majesty. In short order, my ‘long and winding road’ delivered me to the high pulpit, fearsome to some, and boxed pews of bygone times. Not as a detour but as a destination, not as a hostel but a church home, I felt welcomed right away and quickly included and valued. That’s a more important characteristic of this congregation than even the edifice’s beauty: making one feel included and valued. During all my ministry, I have believed that as long as the church is faithful to being the church, alive with Christ’s spirit, it will be fine, no matter what challenges, even apparent setbacks, upsets or disappointments may come. And that’s our mission too as the Church atop the Lebanon Green—to be faithful in all we say and do, loving and serving along life’s ‘winding road,’ together. I’m so glad the road has landed me here now.
-Interim Pastor Reverend Robert Wright Jr