Tag Archives: Rev. Heather Sinclair

Methodist Minister: Westport Church Still Welcomes All

Almost as soon as the United Methodist Church voted last week to increase restrictions against same-sex marriage, and the ordination of LGBT clergy, Heather Sinclair’s phone rang. Her email inbox filled up.

The pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston is a longtime advocate of LGBT rights. Years ago, the Weston Road congregation voted to become an “open and affirming” church, embracing LGBT parishioners.

The messages Sinclair got were supportive. “We’re with you,” they said.

Many of the first calls came from other clergy members in Westport.

“They felt like condolences,” Sinclair — who took over the pulpit last summer from longtime minister Ed Horne — says.

“It was like when a family member dies. One pastor told me, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ That’s what I say when I’m with someone who’s grieving.”

Last summer, Rev. Heather Sinclair was still unpacking in her new office.

The vote — taken by delegates at the church’s global conference in St. Louis — was both expected and a surprise, Sinclair says.

“The official stance for the past 40 years has been to exclude LGBT people from marriage and ordination. But this region has spoken out strongly against it.”

The vote was 53% for the measure to uphold and strengthen the bans, 47% against.

“We’re clearly not a ‘united’ Methodist Church,” Sinclair notes. “That’s part of where my sadness and heartbreak is.”

The other part is her desire for the church she loves to embrace LGBT members, fully and in all capacities. The statement adopted several years ago by the Westport church welcomes people of “all ages, races, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and economic circumstances.”

The United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

Sinclair was at the St. Louis conference, though not as a voting delegate. “It was a blessing to be there to support friends and colleagues with prayers, hugs, singing, fellowship, chocolate, coffee and more,” she emailed Westport church members when she returned.

“Now more than ever, we must be the love of Christ in the world, to our LGBTIA friends, family and neighbors, and to those who doubt our commitment to that love. Hope moves us forward.”

Yesterday morning, at her church’s men’s monthly breakfast, she offered reflections and thoughts on her experience in St. Louis.

Across the US, churches are wrestling with the question of whether to secede from the official organization and start a new denomination — or perhaps stay and fight.

The issue is complex. Deeds to Methodist churches are held in a general trust. “We can’t just take our building and leave,” Sinclair explains.

As the local congregation debates next steps, the pastor vows, “We’re here to be the same church as before. We’ll still serve dinner at the Gillespie Center. We’ll still prepare for Lent. We’ll still be a welcoming ministry to everyone.”

And she’ll still be buoyed by all the messages of support she’s received. Including so many from her fellow ministers and rabbis, all around town.

(Hat tip: Don Roth)

Rev. Heather Sinclair Takes The Methodist Church Pulpit

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.

Rev. Heather Sinclair is still settling in to her new office.

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.

The United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

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.