MERIDEN — Center Congregational Church has named a Wallingford native its new minister.
Twenty-six year old Connor Filkins moved back to Connecticut to look for a church after graduating from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
“I applied in December, we met in January and February for interviews and things took off from there,” Filkins said. “We had some good interviews. We thought and felt like it was a good connection … I kind of already had some familiarity with the congregation... so it was an attractive option and in the interviews, it seemed like a great fit.”
Growing up, Filkins was involved in the youth group at First Congregational Church in Wallingford and did other church work.
“I did a lot of work with the Wallingford church on the work camp that they did two years ago,” Filkins said. “That home repair initiative that they were a part of and that they grew. I was very involved in mission work throughout growing up and in my college years too, which was really where a lot of my passion was and that ultimately led me into church ministry too.”
Center Congregational Church members were impressed by Filkins.
“He’s very open to discussion, he writes extremely well, he speaks extremely well,” said Deborah Gaffney, church moderator. “He listens a lot. All of those things are things that I would expect (from) a much older person. Somebody with more life experience and for a young man, he seems to have garnered all of that very early. We’re pleased as we can be. We really couldn’t believe it.”
As a designated term minister, with a current term of three to five years, Filkins will help the church figure out its future.
“The designated term minister takes on a goal of the congregation and also, once things are decided and if it’s decided to stay...the church has the option of hiring that person as a full time minister,” Gaffney said. “... What we’re wanting Connor to do is to help us figure out what the next step is — where are we going? Are we staying put or are we moving somewhere? What are we doing?”
Starting during the pandemic meant Filkins had to adjust his work to make the safety and well-being of church members the top priority. Services and church meetings have moved online. The building is closed to non-essential work. The church is hoping to host future parking lot gatherings so members can have an in-person connection.
“It’s been quite the adjustment for sure and our leadership has been taking our conversations about potentially reopening very slow and deliberately to allow for things to play out naturally,” Filkins said. “We don’t have anything set in stone yet. We’re trying to keep all of the variables in mind while also prioritizing the health and well-being of our church members first and foremost.”
Despite the restrictions, Filkins is excited to lead the church.
“I’m really excited for the conversations,” Filkins said. “I think churches around the nation are having really tough conversations and are faced with a very big cultural shift … We’re not necessarily just solely looking at what it will take to revitalize but we’re also putting on the table different and more creative and conventional options as well. We’re very early on in those conversations … I’m really excited to lead them through this process and really see what comes up from it. A lot of that is unknown, but I’m looking forward to it.”