New pastor begins at Middlebury church
MIDDLEBURY — As a youth, Andy Nagy-Benson often visited friends in the Middlebury area.
Now, at the age of 39, Nagy-Benson has been able to relocate from Connecticut to the community he has so admired throughout the years — and he is doing so as the new pastor of one of Middlebury’s most high-profile churches.
The Rev. Nagy-Benson conducted his first official sermon at the Congregational Church of Middlebury this past Sunday, Nov. 29. He took his place at the pulpit following a roughly two-year selection process during which the church’s search committee reviewed 84 applications from prospective pastors.
“It’s very humbling,” Nagy-Benson said in an interview last week of his reaction to being selected for the job. “I know what the candidate pool was like.”
Nagy-Benson takes over for interim pastor Jonathan New. New had taken over for the Rev. Marthinus Riekert, who left the church in 2007 to head up a parish in New Zealand.
Nagy-Benson most recently preached at the Spring Glen Church UCC in Hamden, Conn. He had been pastor there for eight years, and entertained the idea of relocating upon seeing the job posting for the Middlebury vacancy.
“The church in Connecticut was wonderful,” Nagy-Benson said, though he saw in Middlebury a “new challenge. I wanted to seize a new opportunity. The locale was a major factor.”
He submitted his name and credentials for consideration. The Congregational Church of Middlebury’s search committee interviewed Nagy-Benson and invited him to deliver a sermon before the congregation this past August. The flock liked what it heard, as they unanimously voted to install Nagy-Benson as their new pastor.
“Pastor Andy will be especially effective in the ways in which he relates Christianity to the needs and challenges of our society and our world in the 21st century,” said John Emerson, co-chairman of the church’s search committee. “He believes that God works through the hands of human beings, and that we live out our faith by serving the needs of our fellow humans and our fragile planet. He will almost certainly welcome many new members into our church community, and I predict the community will thrive with his leadership.”
Nagy-Benson describes himself as a “people person” who will work hard to meet parishioners’ spiritual needs as well as take on projects to help the community at large. He said the Congregational Church of Middlebury’s recent, successful efforts at providing affordable housing and food for the needy were powerful magnets in attracting him and his family to Middlebury. Nagy-Benson and his wife, Gwen, have three young daughters: Ella (9), Mary (7) and Rachael (1).
“I’m a pastor who really values relationships,” Nagy-Benson said. “You can’t do this work if you don’t like being with people. I love to teach and I enjoy leading worship.”
Prior to his time at Spring Glen Church, Nagy-Benson had been pastor at a Congregational Church in Swanzey, N.H. He recently concluded a teaching stint at Yale Divinity School.
Nagy-Benson is eager to get started in his job. He will spend the coming weeks getting acquainted with the many people with whom he will be working and to whom he will be preaching. The Congregational Church of Middlebury has 270 registered members and attracts a flock of around 170 on many Sundays.
“I would like to thank the congregation and our neighbors who have welcomed us so warmly,” Nagy-Benson said.