The sanctuary of Newtown Congregational Church was filled with family, friends, clergy, and members of the congregation Sunday afternoon, June 8, to celebrate the ordination for Alyssa De Wolf into the ministry of the United Church of Christ (UCC).
According to the UCC manual, “Ordination is the rite by which people whom God and the church have called to ordained ministry are set apart by prayer and the laying on of hands. It is recognition of a particular calling from God and its acceptance by an individual. Ordination gives initial authorization to perform duties and exercise the prerogatives of ordained ministry.”
Rev De Wolf came to Newtown Congregational Church (NCC) in 2011, and is a graduate of Yale School of Divinity, where she received her master of divinity in 2013. While in care at NCC, she served as minister of Christian nurture and mission, and served as a leader of the church youth group.
She has accepted a position as pastor of the First Congregational Church in Santa Barbara, which she begins in August. A native Californian, Rev De Wolf will find herself back in her home state and closer to family.
Speaking directly to Rev De Wolf during his sermon, the Reverend Matt Crebbin, senior minister at NCC, admitted that as excited as everyone was for her new assignment, the congregation of NCC “is heartbroken … We just wanted things to stay the same,” he said.
Addressing an earlier reference to the Prophet Joel’s lamentations on response to disaster — the “After” — Rev Crebbin also noted that Rev De Wolf had, along with the community and the church community, faced a lot of challenges during her time at NCC, including the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Her acceptance of the position in Santa Barbara, he said, seemed so safe until the recent gun tragedy there.
“We are reminded,” he said, “there are always more ‘afters,’ more places where God’s people need to hear the prophetic word.”
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Rev Crebbin read from the Book of John. “That’s all we can send you with,” he told Rev De Wolf, “to face the many ‘afters’ of this world. So we send you with a reminder: remember who you are. You are a gift of the Holy Spirit… Allow God’s spirit to be poured out, into you… That we love, is sufficient in all things.”
Rev Crebbin then joined with the Reverend Barbara Libby, Connecticut UCC; the Reverend Todd Shipley, moderator for Fairfield East Association; the Reverend Jennifer Gingras, chair of Fairfield East Association Committee on Church & Ministry; and other members of the UCC clergy in the service of ordination, acclaiming Allysa De Wolf as a worthy minister of the United Church of Christ. Other clergy in attendance on Sunday were the Reverend Bryn Smallwood-Garcia, senior pastor of Brookfield Congregational Church and Rev De Wolf’s ordination mentor; the Reverend Jennifer Whipple, associate Minister, Brookfield Congregational; the Reverend Eleanor McCormick, associate minister, United Congregational Church, Bridgeport; and the Reverend Jack Davidson, associate minister, First Church of Christ Congregational, Redding.
The laying on of hands was joined in joyously by those in attendance, connecting one to the other with hands on shoulders, reaching forward to the altar where the ministers’ hands were upon the newly acclaimed Rev De Wolf.
In her first official act as a pastor of the UCC, Rev De Wolf led the service of Communion, breaking bread and sharing the cup with the many present in support of her ordination.
Before she leaves for the West Coast, the newly ordained Rev De Wolf will present the sermon at the church that has hosted her for the past three years. On Sunday, June 15, the Reverend De Wolf will present a message she is calling “The Great Commission.”
Rev DeWolf’s sermon will be based on Matthew 28:16-20. Rev Crebbin will assist during the service. Services begin at 10 am, and all are welcome.
“I have been so blessed to minister at NCC for the past three years,” Rev De Wolf said Tuesday, June 10. “Through the mentorship of Reverend Matt Crebbin and support of the congregation I have learned so much. At NCC I experienced what church it supposed to be like: a family. As I move back West, I will miss all those in Newtown but will carry in my heart my NCC family for the rest of my life.”