She’s been the United Methodist Church pastor for a bit over a month. But Rev. Heather Sinclair has already participated in one of Westport’s special religious observances.
In late July, she led the ecumenical Sunday morning service at Compo Beach.
The weather was perfect. Over 100 people came.
Meanwhile, just around the jetty, the Westport Weston Family Y held its 40th annual Point to Point Swim.
At the end of the service, when Sinclair asked everyone to form a circle and sing the closing benediction, she noticed a few newcomers. Point to Point swimmers — in bathing suits and towels — had joined the group.
It was a quintessential Westport moment. And — no offense to Sinclair’s previous postings — it wasn’t anything she’d seen in Greenwich, Shelton or Trumbull.
Though her pastoral career has been spent in Fairfield County, Sinclair is a Massachusetts native (Westford). She entered Colgate University planning to study medicine.
But a series of events — she took religion classes, got involved in campus church groups, and “did not do well in biology and chemistry” — culminated in her chaplain mentor encouraging her to look at the ministry.
She chose Yale Divinity School because of its diverse student population.
“I wanted to go somewhere not specifically Methodist,” Sinclair notes. She appreciates Yale’s “deep academic study as a springboard for pastoral ministry.”
She loved working in Trumbull, Shelton and — for the past 5 years — the First United Methodist Church in Greenwich. But when Rev. Ed Horne announced his retirement after 16 years in Westport, she relished the opportunity to move.
From her work in Fairfield County, Sinclair knew the church here was “open and welcoming for families, kids and people of all ages. The congregation is vital, strong and active.”
She also knew that — like all churches — it’s involved in an ongoing search to “figure out its place in the community, and the world.”
She had long admired Horne’s “voice for justice, and his pastoral manner.” It fit well with her own calling.
Now that Sinclair is here, she has found United Methodist to be indeed a welcoming place.
“They’ve embraced my family,” she says — her husband, an attorney in Fairfield who she met at Colgate, and their 10- and 8-year-old girls.
She is still exploring exactly how she’ll build on Horne’s foundation. “We’ll see what God has in store for us,” she says.
Sinclair says her passion is “connecting the church and community. Finding ways to work together — no matter what our religious backgrounds — is important. We’ll always be looking at how to bring hope and healing to the community.”
Sinclair knows that Westport has a strong interfaith clergy council. “I’m excited to explore it all,” she says. “We’re at a pivotal time, a key point for religious communities to speak out about justice and hope, and be a force for change in the world.”
Her style is “collaborative and relaxed. I believe in a cooperative ministry, one that celebrates a diversity of gifts.”
The church she now leads has a long history in Westport. But its current building on Weston Road is young enough so that some congregants were here when the cornerstone was laid in 1967. And new members join all the time.
Sinclair is still getting acclimated to Westport. She’s been to the Hall Family concert at the Levitt Pavilion — they’re congregants — and has hung out at Starbucks.
She “tags along” as her husband and daughters sail. (He’s got a 40-foot racing sloop.) In her free time Sinclair enjoys cooking, yoga, and finding fun things to do with her girls.
But, she notes, “I’m still unpacking boxes!”
With a few pauses, of course, to do things like lead a Sunday morning beach service for everyone who shows up.
Even those in bathing suits and towels.