by Drew Page
|Rev. Alison Patton|
WESTPORT (8/8/2012) -- Most pastors hope to build something new when they are called to a new church. After a November fire damaged parts of the Saugatuck Congregational Church in Westport, Rev. Alison Patton has a chance to rebuild not only a congregation, but also the spaces used for their ministry.
Patton was born in California, but grew up in Connecticut and New Hampshire. After graduating from Bates College in 1992 as a Theater and Psychology major, Patton spent a year with a Pentecostal church in Chile as a global missionary intern through the United Church Board for World Ministries (now Wider Church Ministries). She returned to Connecticut to serve as a community organizer in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford. In 1996, Patton and her husband, Craig, moved to Chicago where she attended the Chicago Theological Seminary. After seminary, Patton was called to serve as the Director of Admissions and later Dean of Community Life at CTS. She worked at the seminary for 8 years before returning to Connecticut to serve as Associate Minister for Parrish Life and Outreach at First Church of Christ in Simsbury.
In August 2011, Patton interviewed for the senior pastor position in Saugatuck. She did not hear from the church for several months. On November 20, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a fire tore through portions of the Saugatuck church. The sanctuary was untouched, but offices and other meeting spaces were destroyed and the congregation was forced to worship elsewhere until repairs could be made. Immediately after the fire, Saugatuck contacted Patton and asked her to interview a second time.
An occasional series welcoming those new to serving in the Connecticut Conference UCC.
Though the congregation asked Patton to candidate immediately, she did not start as the new pastor until May 2012. In the months since she began her new role, Patton has already started rebuilding the church, though her focus is on the viewpoint of the congregation. She talks with them about being "a church without walls" and reminds them not to put their ministry on hold. Though the community is in between places, Patton wants them to realize that they are being called to be a faithful community right now. As they begin to rebuild the structure, Patton says the congregation has an opportunity to build a space that can serve the ministry of the church they have and will become.
"Our operating principal says we are building the future church," said Patton. "We're building a space that will accommodate new things and new generations."
For more information about the November fire and Saugatuck's recovery effort, read our story Steps on a Long Journey.
Drew Page is Media Assistant for the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ.