First Church Windsor

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107 Palisado Avenue , Windsor , CT 06095
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(860) 688-7229

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First Woman Senior Pastor in First Church in Windsor

posted on August 01

“I’m excited about the opportunity to join a list of distinguished pastors, some of whom served First Church for forty years,” says Rev. Nicole Grant Yonkman, who recently moved to Windsor with her family after serving as copastor with her husband, Rev. Todd Yonkman, at Beneficent Congregational Church in downtown Providence.

“First Church is a welcoming place that respects people wherever they are in their faith journey, and I invite everyone in our community to come and experience our message of justice, progressiveness and compassion.” Founded in 1630 by Puritans who sailed from England on The Mary and John to exercise their religious freedom in the colony of Massachusetts, First Church has a long legacy of breaking the mold. After settling briefly in Dorchester, Mass., in 1635 the founders moved to Windsor, known for its brisk fur trade and fertile land. Only 20 senior pastors have served at First Church in its 386-year history, a remarkably low number given the church’s legacy.

Reverend Grant Yonkman told the Windsor Journal that she is very honored to be the first woman senior pastor at First Church in Windsor, following clerics who have left their mark in the history of Christianity in America. “It feels like big shoes to step into, and I'm not always sure what people expect, but so far it's been a wonderful experience,” she said. “I've been very much welcomed and feel very part of the community already.” While the Founders of the church would have been very surprised to see a woman in charge – to put it mildly – the new senior pastor agreed, one of the strengths of First Congregational, she noted, is that it is not afraid to say “Maybe we got it wrong before, but this is who we are now, and we are still relevant for the community.” “I think maybe that was part of the congregation's thinking by calling in a minister who was not exactly the same as all the others,” she said, “as they wanted to step out in faith and they knew that they needed to expand their horizons, and think about their future in a new way.” The focus of much of Rev. Grant Yonkman's work in Providence was to provide leadership as the church was trying to figure out how to evolve in the modern multi-racial, and multi-cultural environment. “That was a really rich and wonderful experience that spoke to the community that the city has become,” she said. Is she going to move the church in the same direction in Windsor, the newspaper asked? “I am not a person that tries to impose my will,” she responded. “I am trying to find out. That is something the congregation wants to reflect on, and they are not there yet, and they are trying to figure out how to be a more effective witness in this place.” First Church in Windsor, a member congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), is an open and affirming church, welcoming people of any age, marital status, sexual orientation, nationality, and mental, emotional or physical challenge. The church is a host site of UCC Racial Justice Training in southern New England, has been active in refugee resettlement, sends youth service trips to repair homes damaged in natural disasters, and hosts community forums on topics including “Our Muslim Neighbors,” which recently drew 45 guests to the church’s social center, Nelson Hall. Rev. Grant Yonkman lives in Windsor with her husband, Todd, and their teenage daughters, Olivia and Fiona. She shares pastoral duties with First Church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Charlene Corbett, who will lead a youth service trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation, in Pine Ridge, S.D., this summer. Reprinted by permission from The Windsor Journal

First Church Windsor

(860) 688-7229 Click to email