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The Reverend Kristen Provost Switzer celebrated her 210th day in service to Newtown Congregational Church in grand style.
With music, prayers, and not one but two cakes waiting for guests to cut in to, the Sandy Hook resident was formally installed as the church’s first minister of youth and mission on February 26.
As the church’s choir sang “God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian,” a procession of clergy entered the sanctuary Sunday afternoon. NCC Senior Pastor Matt Crebbin, who had minutes earlier welcomed attendees for “a special moment in the life of this congregation,” was joined by members and representatives from Fairfield East Association and The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ. The clergy made their way down the center aisle, and sat together in the first few rows of the sanctuary’s northern pews for the 70-minute event.
Casey Dunn and Chelsea Fowler, two young members of NCC, were charged with being acolytes for the service, a nod to Rev Provost Switzer new position at NCC.
In addition, NCC Youth Liaison Hailey Pankow led both the Call To Worship and Prayer of Invocation on Sunday.
In his sermon, the Reverend Shea Zellweger called the service “a mountain top moment.”
The shared pastor for First Church of Christ, Congregational in Bethany and South Congregational Church in Waterbury, Rev Zellweger said the Newtown congregation has “found the associate pastor of your dreams. You’re here to celebrate, on a Sunday afternoon, after having already been here this morning,” he said. He acknowledgment that “some of you probably skipped this morning’s worship service, figuring you’d get your church in now” drew chuckles and knowing nods from some in the pews.
Rev Zellweger also cautioned those in the congregation.
“The honeymoon will end,” he said. “Know that the carefully crafted job description probably missed a few things, and you will have to carefully approach these things. We are at the top of the mountain today, and we should make the most of it. Tomorrow you come down from the high, and it will be time to get to work.”
The actual installation was handled by the Reverend Jeff Lukens, from Fairfield East Association; and Robert Keegan, moderator of NCC. After each man offered readings and messages, and Rev Provost Switzer responded appropriately, the newly appointed NCC minister of youth and mission sported a big smile as she returned to her seat within the pews.
The Reverend Michelle Hughes, associate conference minister for transitions, Connecticut Conference, offered the afternoon’s charge.
“I applaud your courage to answer to God, to minister in this age,” Rev Hughes said to Rev Provost Switzer. “Our cultural landscape has shifted, and less people are attending church.
“You are called to make this ancient spiritual truth we honor, contemporary,” Rev Hughes continued. The newest staff member for Newtown Congregational Church has been called to create a loving community; to preach when it is popular, and when it is not; and to preach to people at all seasons of their lives, she said.
A minister, Rev Hughes said, must be prepared to cover everything for their church, from preaching to custodial services. They must read good books regularly. They will earn about $60 a week, and yet be expected to drive a good car, have no bad hair days, dress well, and not be too tall or too thin or too appealing.
A minister can expect 15 visits a day from the members of their congregation. They will be expected to spend all their time getting new members for the congregation, yet always been in their office, she continued, smiling.
“This is a tall order as you endeavor to follow your call,” Rev Hughes said, still addressing Rev Provost Switzer. “There will be great reward, and great struggle.
“There will be times when you feel alone. Maintain friendships and relationships that will be supportive. Keep the faith,” she encouraged. “Love the Lord, and love yourself.
“And don’t get confused,” she said in closing. “You don’t need to become God. You only work for Him.”
At the choice of Rev Provost Switzer, the afternoon’s offering was earmarked for Newtown Congregational Church Hospitality Hall. The drop-in food pantry offers items of food, small pieces of clothing, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for residents of Newtown and neighboring communities.
Scott Provost Switzer performed Hildegard Von Bingen’s “Meditations on a Theme,” accompanied by NCC Organist Phil Crevier, as the offerings were collected.
Rev Provost Switzer then blessed the collection, saying in part that the donations represented “a portion of that which you have given us. May they be a means of serving you in the mission to which you have called us.”
Rev Kristen Provost Switzer graduated from Newtown High School.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Northeastern University, a Certificate of Professional Ministry from Hartford Seminary, and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School.
She worked as youth group adviser at Monroe Congregational Church, youth minister of Spring Glen Church-UCC, and designated pastor of Prospect Congregational Church, UCC.
She was ordained on June 7, 2015, while serving at Prospect Congregational Church.
During a special meeting in July 17, members of Newtown Congregational Church voted unanimously to approve the hiring of Rev Kristen Provost Switzer as NCC’s Minister of Youth and Mission.
She formally became a member of Newtown Congregational Church in October, as did her husband.