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Part-Time Pastor Promotes Community

When he was a teenager, George Engelhardt's parents helped to found North Haven's first Methodist church. It is not so surprising that he now leads his own congregation in Easton, which has been deemed New England's first Methodist Church.

"Church was more than just a Sunday morning thing," he said of his childhood. He has been pastor for two years at Jesse Lee United Methodist Church , founded in 1789, and knew even before going to college that he wanted to study theology and go into the family business.

He previously had served four years at a church in North Haven and 29 years at a church in Cheshire.

"I knew about the church, and I knew some of the special challenges that are here," said Engelhardt, who lives in Hamden and commutes to Easton three days each week. The pastor position, which is traditionally reassessed yearly in the Methodist church, was a full-time gig before he had it. But because he lives in Hamden and spends the rest of his time visiting sick people, he could commit to serving only part time. The church's goal is to find a pastor who lives and works here full time.

The location presents challenges for church leaders, he said. "It's a challenge for the church to continue to draw on people's time, talent and loyalty given everything else in life that makes people so busy and life so full," he said. Engelhardt pointed out that busy local families find it difficult to make time for church on Sundays.

But still, Engelhardt said he hopes events such as the church's Turkey Dinner fundraiser the first weekend in November will help residents to gain a better sense of community. "One of the things I do notice about Easton — there aren't obvious places where people get together and churches can fulfill that."

The church is located at 25 Flat Rock Rod.

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