Happy New Year folks. Things are starting out quite joyous for a couple of our Fellowship Congregations. The Third Church of Middletown CT has called The Rev. Dr. Daniel Schlorff. Daniel is a native Hooser who is delighted to have received the call to Third Congregational Church of Middletown. He will begin on March 1, 2023. (See bio below). Florence Congregational Church of Florence MA has called Rev. Dr. Marisa Egerstrom to their pulpit encouraged by her vision and passion for “out of the box” twenty-first century ministry strategies (See bio below). Many of you met her at the 2022 fall Fellowship meeting held at Third Church of Middletown. She shared some of her wisdom and theological reflections on the future of the American Protestant Church.
Several pastors and delegates of the Fellowship responded to the invitation to participate in the ordination service for the now Rev. Wendy Tarry of North Branford CT on January 7th. The service was a truly joyous and amazing experience as we celebrated with the congregation. We enjoyed a delightful reception following the service. North Branford Congregational has expressed strong interest in becoming a member of the Fellowship with hopes to be welcomed officially at the May meeting coming up on the 21st at the First Congregational Church of Waterbury. They are already provisional members of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (the NACCC).
Last week I was wonderfully surprised to have sixteen churches login to the Executive Committee meeting held monthly on Thursday evenings. This represents half of the thirty-two member churches and is a first since moving to Zoom meetings. I was very encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm of the delegates present at the meeting, and the growing interest in the work of the Fellowship.
Most recently I had the opportunity to visit the First Congregational Church of Waterbury. You may recall, Waterbury left the UCC to join the Fellowship last May. Following the worship service, beautifully led by Rev. Dennis McGuire, I conversed with several members of the congregation who noted their growing appreciation for the Fellowship’s work and commitment to the Congregational Way. The Moderator, Gary Post noted his gratitude to the attention of the Fellowship to his church. I also met with and shared information with a member regarding the Lay Ministry Program offered through the National Association. Believing he is being called into ministry, he hopes to engage with the program that we as a Fellowship sponsor through scholarships.
Rev. Dr. Daniel Schlorff:
Daniel’s undergraduate education comes from Olivet Nazarene University, where he majored in Philosophy and Religion and minored in Greek, Vocal Performance, and Biblical Studies. Originally a minister in the Church of the Nazarene, Daniel did some soul-searching and eventually found his way to the Congregational Way. His theological education comes from the University of Chicago Divinity School through Meadville/Lombard, where he also completed an internship at Fourth Congregational Church of Chicago (which is a church associated with the NACCC). He took a few years off studying to teach at Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin—Parkside, both in Kenosha, WI. While teaching undergrads, Daniel also resumed his professional ministerial career in Children’s and Youth Ministry as well as chaplaincy, which brought him to Connecticut in 2009.
He completed a second master’s degree at Hartford Seminary in Religious Studies, bridging the major traditions of world philosophies and religions with chaplaincy. After completing a 1,600 clinical hour fellowship as a chaplain, he started down the path of being a professional healthcare chaplain. Daniel then completed the Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.
In 2015, he started a church in New Haven, pastoring it until 2021 when it was ready to minister to the community without the “training wheels” Daniel had offered it. He then ended up back in healthcare chaplaincy, taking a part-time position as Chaplain at Connecticut Valley Hospital, just on the other side of Middletown.
These days, Daniel’s ministerial affiliation is with the Alliance of Baptists, and he maintains very close ecumenical and interfaith ties with other denominations and religions. Aside from ministry, Daniel sings in Yale Repertory Chorus and Yale Camerata, plays the bass for the American Chamber Orchestra, and loves on “Browser,” his boxer.
Rev. Dr. Marisa Egerstrom: Marisa is an Episcopal priest, artist, writer, and wilderness lover. She began her ministry in 2011 in the camps of Occupy Wall Street as the founder of the Protest Chaplain movement. She spent four years at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Boston’s South End as the Christian Education coordinator. After completing divinity school at Harvard in 2016, she was ordained in 2017, and served as Priest-in-Charge in Holyoke, Massachusetts, until 2020.
Marisa’s master’s thesis proposed a theory of “moral harm diffusion” by which systematic injustices committed on behalf of a people (such as state torture or mass incarceration) injure the compassionate and relational capacities of even the most privileged citizens. She completed her Ph.D. in American Studies at Harvard in 2021, where she wrote on the history of American uses of torture in the War on Terror. Marisa has also worked as a spiritual director for young adults and as a hospital chaplain.
Marisa’s current art and spirituality project, Tender Fire Studio, is an avenue for exploring post-petroleum methods of woodworking and larger questions of climate change, grief, and joy. Skiing in the trees and dancing to live music are two of her favorite methods of prayer.
I look forward to visiting with many of you in the coming months. It is a joy to meet so many devoted disciples of Christ and to work with you as you envision and plan your journey into this soon coming post-COVID world.
May your journey into 2023 be blessed abundantly by God’s love and embrace.