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NUMC Pastor ‘Encouraged’ Following Inaugural Drive-Thru Ash Wednesday Ministry



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Reverend Stephen Volpe had 18 people visit him during the inaugural session of a Drive-Thru Ash Wednesday Ministry last week.

The new pastor of Newtown United Methodist Church announced last month he would be in the parking lot of the Church Hill Road house of worship from 7 to 8:30 am February 14, when he would distribute ashes to anyone who wanted them on the first day of Lent.

He had promised himself that he’d be happy if he saw five people, he mentioned between visitors. By the end of the 90-minute offering, however, Volpe welcomed enough people — NUMC parishioners and nonparishioners alike — that he was “ecstatic,” he said later that morning.

The morning after this season’s biggest snowstorm dropped over 13 inches of snow in town, Volpe was bundled in a parka, a knit hat down over his ears and very heavy gloves protecting his hands. He’d taken additional precautions before heading outdoors: A container of hot coffee was always within reach, and lip balm was being dropped off.

When the wind wasn’t blowing the near-freezing temperatures were tolerable. When there was a breeze, it was another challenge.

Nevertheless, Volpe’s face held a steady smile and he eagerly watched for visitors.

A card table was set up along the eastern side of the parking lot. It had been placed so that those who pulled into the 92 Church Hill Road parking lot could roll down driver’s windows and be within easy reach of the pastor’s hands for the placement of ashes on their foreheads.

A few visitors opted to park and walk to Volpe, which he also welcomed.

Each guest received the ashes and a prayer. He also offered a brochure from the church about its Ash Wednesday offerings, including its traditional evening service.

At his previous church in Plainville, Volpe had a similar ministry for Ash Wednesday. Last year he welcomed more than 100 people, he said.

He is already planning for next year in Sandy Hook, he said this week.

“I’m very encouraged,” he said.


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

With 13½ inches of fresh snow on the ground, Reverend Stephen Volpe bundled up before heading outdoors for his first offering of a Newtown United Methodist Church Ash Wednesday Drive-Thru. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Volpe holds his hand up while praying with three children in their family’s minivan who had just received ashes on February 14.
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