The First Church of Christ in Woodbridge is proud to welcome guest preachers
and musicians from near and far. We are honored that these men and women
of the church have chosen to offer their blessed gifts of ministry to our parish.
Below are a few words about each of our guests.
To read more about our renowned guest musicians, please click the link link below.
Reverend Susan Murtha
Interim Minister 2022
Welcome Reverend Murtha!
The First Church Search and Renewal
Committee is very pleased to announce that we
have found a very qualified candidate to fill the
position of the Interim Minister. The Rev. Susan Murtha will be starting as of February 1, 2022. She is expert in helping churches turn around and comes highly recommended. She will work with us to help make us a stronger congregation, and in helping to find a settled pastor. Rev. Murtha has served a number of churches in the greater southern Connecticut area and has special training in Interim Ministry.
Reverend Hiram Brett
Reverend Hiram L. Brett is the Spiritual Care Coordinator and Chaplain at Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) in New Haven and serves as a chaplain in the emergency room of Bridgeport Hospital. Prior to joining CMHC, he served as pastor of Whitneyville United church of Christ in Hamden, CT. Reverend Brett is a graduate of Yale Divinity School (M.Div.) and Stanford University (MBA) and completed his residency in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Yale New Haven Hospital. He has completed International Federal Level 1 and Level 2 coach training and is working towards Professional coach certification.
Reverend Walter L. Pitman
Rev. Pitman grew up in Newtown, CT. He graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 1974 and from Andover Newton Theological School in 1979. He has served in churches in East Longmeadow, MA, Darien, CT, Chatham, MA and Southbury, CT. The reverend retired in 2019 and presently lives in Sharon, CT.
Author and Deliverer of Easter Sunday's Sermonette
Parishioner Constance Cryer Ecklund
Constance Cryer Ecklund,
a long-time parishioner of our church and active member of
the Music Committee, gifted us with a moving and insightful sermonette this Easter Sunday. Her impassioned delivery
filled our hearts with hope and joy, as her words spurred within us an invigorated optimism, so needed, after such a difficult time. We are truly grateful for her heartfelt gift of soulful inspiration.
Reverend Janice Touloukian
Pastoral Care is currently being provided by
the Reverend Janice Touloukian. Rev. Touloukian is an experienced minister and long-time member of the First Church of Christ. She continues to serve on the Board of Deacons and supports community events in all capacities. Rev. Touloukian offers her services regarding personal matters and supporting those in need of pastoral advice. She can be reached by telephone at: 203-387-4991.
Reverend Raquel Irizarry
Raquel is a graduate from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia School of Social Work, having received her Master’s in Divinity and Clinical Social Work. She is a social consciousness writer, and activist. Both she and her husband, Paul, for the past five years have been feeding the homeless and/or hungry at Port Authority in New York City. Currently she is the Council President for All Souls Bethlehem Church in Brooklyn. She also enjoys singing and doing photography.
Reverend Gregory Mobley
Gregory Mobley is a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Congregational Studies at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School. Mobley came to Yale in 2017 after twenty years of teaching Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Andover Newton Theological School and at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Rev. Mobley has written three published books and numerous articles and reviews. He has also done archaeological fieldwork in Israel and served as an editorial assistant on the Dead Sea Scrolls project. He is an ordained American Baptist pastor.
Reverend Martha Bays
Rev. Martha Bays graduated from Smith College, received a Masters of Education from Case Western Reserve University and earned her Master of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School. For 9 years Martha was the pastor at the Congregational Church in Killingworth, retiring in 2018. She has two adult children and three grandkids. Martha currently lives in Norwalk and enjoys doing pulpit supply.
Reverend Karl Duetzmann
The Reverend Karl Duetzmann began serving as pastor at the United Church of Christ, in Devon, CT in 2004.
Pastor Karl holds a Bachelor of University Studies cum laude from the University of Maine and a Master of Divinity Degree from Bangor Theological Seminary. We at the First Church of Christ in Woodbridge, welcome him as our Guest Preacher.
Reverend Anya Powers
The Rev. Anya Powers, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, was ordained at the First Congregational Church, UCC in Colorado Springs.
Anya is currently commissioned in the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant, Chaplain Candidate. After her ordination, she will submit an application for reappointment as a Chaplain and a 1st Lieutenant. On August 24, two days after her ordination, Anya began her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Residency at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado.
Everyone at the First Church of Christ, Woodbridge, Connecticut sends Anya congratulations on her impressive achievements and our love and warm support for her future.
In Appreciation of Our Retired Pastor,
the Rev. Shepard Parsons
The Second Letter of PETER (which is not “E”, and let’s not forget God has a sense of humor), at Chapter 1, Verse 5, extols us to supplement our faith with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with fortitude, fortitude with piety, piety with brotherly kindness, and brotherly kindness with love.
You have worked hard to supplement us. You have blessed us with your insight and your knowledge. You have borne setbacks occasioned by events out of your control and despite it all, left no doubt at all that you have loved us, as God urges us to love one another.
WE HERE WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT WE LOVE YOU, AND APPRECIATE THE PATH YOU HAVE URGED US TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO TAKE, THE PATH OF GOD’S GRACE. We appreciate your kindness, your sense of humor, and your practice of hospitality even under often difficult circumstances. We hope that wherever you go from here, whatever you do, you continue to employ your gifts in the service of our Lord and Saviour, and that you bless us, your flock, even those among us who may be counted as errant sheep. Though you will be absent from us, you and your family will remain in our hearts. Thank you for your lessons, thank you for your faith, thank you for sticking with us for as long as you did. Let Hope keep you joyful, and may our affection for you and our prayers for your salvation supplement you in turn for what comes next.
Roger B Calistro, on behalf of your congregation at the First Church of Christ, Woodbridge, Connecticut.
What is Worship
Excerpts from Ongoing Pilgrimage by George McLean Milne 1972
Pages 50-52, 140-141.
Minister of First Church of Christ Woodbridge, Connecticut from 1952-1979
The Shape of Worship
One of Jesus’ many deceptively simple statements comes to us from his words to the women by the well in Sumaria: “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” But how does one go about that?
The answer, of course, depends on what we think worship is, and here, I think many people of our place and time are hazy or misled. False conceptions of worship are one main reason why a lot of people aren’t here, and why some who come depart disappointed. Let’s look for a moment at a few of these inadequate views.
There is the idea that a service of worship is a conjurer’s act, in which the minister and his staff try to conjure up, if not God, then a mystical mood of religious feeling. This is done, variously, by lights, vestments, alters, music, bells and by the imagery of sermons and prayers. This conception goes back to the primitive mood music of tom-toms; it brings to mind the picture of Saul with the witch of Endor trying to call up the presence of Samuel, and it suggests how drugs and wine in worship have been used to help put subjects in a mood where they imagined that they were conscious of some exciting, ultimate reality. On this basis, our service here would be rated on how successful it was or wasn’t in making God materialize, somehow, to the expectant people.
The chances of anything like this happening are probably not more than one in fifty, and so the person who sees fit to come to church only twice a year is still about on target in terms of the church’s “scoring” at the occasion when he came! Worship cannot develop on that assumption: it is not a conjurer’s trick.
Still another inadequate reason for worshiping is to come expecting some shot of inspiration or guidance: “Get more out of living, go to the church of your choice!” “The family that prays together stays together.” “Find the help you need for your life,” and so on, It is true that worship can bring a real help to real people, but not probably in that way. A church is not a spiritual supermarket or even a general store, where we come expecting to pick up a week’s supply of the inspirational or moral commodity we think we need. Misunderstanding at this point can justify us in staying away from church because we don’t happen, in what is being offered, to get what we want, or because we don’t think we need it anyway.
A third misconception is to think of a service of worship as being a performance. Perhaps you’ve heard people say, “Go to Reverend so-and-so’s church: he puts on a good show!” But we aren’t competing in show business. A besetting temptation of ministries, choirs and organists is to imagine that we are performing for an audience to win their approval and applause. This is both vain and irreverent.
If people come to church, or stay home on the basis of whether the service is a good show or a poor one, then the problem of keeping them coming becomes as harassing and as impossible as, for example, keeping the “Lucy Show” going indefinitely at an undiminished peak of popularity.
Worship is not a performance; not a dispensary for shots of inspiration; nor is it a religious conjuring act. What, then is it?
It is first, last and always, a celebration-a celebration of what God is and of what God has done. The primary purpose of worship was put quite simply by the Psalmist: “To give the Lord the glory due unto his name.” See how the understanding of this purpose turns the whole picture around and puts it right.
We are not here to be entertained, or “psyched up” or calmed down, or straightened out. We are here to celebrate the wonder of God-in the Bible and in history, in nature and human life and above all in the life and love and death and rising again of Jesus Christ our Lord. Very simply, we come not to get, but to give. It is only when, as a congregation, we pass over in worship from the idea of getting to the idea of giving, that we have a real and lasting reason for being here and that worship itself becomes a reality and not just an exercise in self-stimulation.
Our puritan forefathers had this stalwart sense of objectivity. Their first reason for coming to church was not the subjective, self-conscious motive of doing something that would be pleasant, helpful or profitable for themselves; it was to fulfill their duty to honor the Lord of life and of salvation.
What are people’s reasons now for not coming to worship? “I’m not interested.” “I don’t feel the need.” “I’m busy.” “I’m in too many organizations.” “I don’t get much out of it.” “We often go away week-ends.” The church cannot afford to take any one of these remarks as insignificant or irrelevant, but there is a sense in which all of them are beside the point. What has happened-and this is what has devalued humanity in our place and time and diminished our stature as people-is that we no longer sufficiently regard it as an essential duty and as an obligation of our manhood to honor the solemnity of life’s events, the gravity of its responsibilities and the mystery, wisdom and power of its Creator and its Redeemer by some common, resolute and reverent acts which are an integral rather that an optional part of our lives:
“To give the Lord the glory due unto his name.”
This conviction has its roots in Christ. It was he above all who, seeing the present in all its ambivalent reality, affirmed and believed in the days to come, and lived for the potentiality of things and of people as yet imperfect, He saw the future apostle in Andrew the fisherman, the saint in the passion-ridden Mary Magdalene, the constancy, as yet so unconfirmed, in Peter’s impulsive nature. He saw, beyond his disciples’ ill-mannered quarreling over precedence, the graciousness of Christian fellowship and the pattern of heaven. In fact, St. Paul never tired of pointing out, he believed in the future of human beings and of the world so much that he laid down his life in confidence of what they might be.