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Burlington church welcomes new pastor

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BURLINGTON — The Congregational Church of Burlington, founded in 1774, recently welcomed the Reverend Daniel Cohen as its new minister.

According to Cohen, the church first hired him to preach during the Advent season, the four weeks before Christmas.

“I felt like if they liked me, they could keep me, which made me want to be careful in order to fit in with the church culture,” Cohen said. “So I decided that, for my first sermon, I would ask the church to either nod, raise your hand, or say ‘amen’ out loud when I asked them for one. I told them that it would let me know three things: 1) they heard and agreed with what I was saying, 2) they told me to keep going, and 3) they were still awake.”

The members responded to his requests.

“To my surprise and delight, when I asked for that first ‘Amen’, I got a loud response from almost everyone,” Cohen said.

One of the best things about being the pastor of 268 Spielman Highway Church, he said, is how warm and welcoming people are, especially to members of other races.

“Although the congregation is predominantly Caucasian, they have shown my wife, son and granddaughter nothing but love from the day we walked through the door. My wife is Jamaican and she says people here have been more welcoming than other churches, which were predominantly African American,” Cohen said.

Cohen said the church’s sense of humor is also a big plus.

“Although I am deadly serious about salvation, I like to crack jokes during my sermons,” he said. “It keeps people awake.”

Recently, while giving Communion, Cohen noticed that the cups were filled to the brim.

“So in case you spill any on your clothes, don’t worry, the church will cover the dry cleaning bill,” he said. “But I didn’t approve that last message with the deacons, so I might get in trouble. .

“At first when I came here I thought it was great that they all liked my sense of humor,” he said. they all had a great sense of humor as well. It’s one of the ways they show love to each other.

Cohen said her path to Christianity was not what most Christians experience.

“Essentially I took the scenic route,” he said. “In fact, I was raised as a secular Jew whose parents did not believe in God. I ended up becoming a Buddhist in college, majoring in Eastern religion at Columbia University in the 1980s.”

Then, in 1993, he had a life-changing encounter with God, he said.

“I went to a large charismatic church in West Haven, which is now called Vertical Church. I went there because I wanted to impress a woman I wanted to date. I didn’t know what God had in store for me,” he said, adding that he noticed everyone at the church was doing the same things at the same time.

“We all prayed together, sang together, read the Bible together,” he said. raised mine. But I thought everyone had their hands up. The next thing I knew was that the pastor called me to come before him to give myself to the Lord in front of a thousand people.”

He said he was affected by his experience at church.

“I only raised my hand because I had tingles all over,” he said. “Although it was, apparently, the Holy Spirit, at the time I was so skeptical that I thought they had pumped chemicals through the air vent, which made me feel like Par here.”

It started the journey that took him to Burlington, where he is now the church’s designated pastor for at least the next year, he said.

“Although none of us know exactly what God has in store for us, I hope to pastor this church for years to come,” Cohen said. “They’re so loving and welcoming. The worst thing about them is that they keep complimenting me, telling me how awesome I am. I try to tell them it’s all about Jesus and seriously mocking my humility, and dangerously close to making me think ‘it’s all about me’.”

Cohen said he made the allusion in the audiobook he released on Google Play last year, “That’s Not All About You! The Secret Joy of Practical Humility.”

Parishioners said the church is changing for the better.

“Reverend Cohen has only been here a few months, and I can already see a change in the church,” said member Jan Minor.

“Since he came here, he has added a new dimension to our worship,” said Deacon Paulette Evans. “Before, we were a quiet church. Now we like to say ‘Amen’ when he asks us.

She was referring to the three “amens” that Cohen requests from his congregation as he delivers his weekly sermon.

“I come from a church that worships in the African American tradition,” Cohen said. “It’s a very different style of worship than what they’re used to here in Burlington.”

At first, he said he was reluctant to bring too much of his African-American preaching habits to Burlington.

“At first I was afraid to ask a predominantly Caucasian Congregational Church in New England to say ‘amen’ when I asked them for one,” he said. “I had seen some of their services online and hadn’t heard a glance from the congregation. Yet I wanted to be myself. And even though I wasn’t going to preach call and response, shouting and dancing in the spirit in the pulpit like I did at Friendship Baptist Church in Hamden, I really wanted to bring some of that energy to my sermons in Burlington.”

Cohen can be reached at 203-671-8737. The Congregational Church of Burlington holds services on Sundays at 10 a.m. and a prayer service at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, followed by a Bible study at 7 p.m. All are invited to attend.