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The pastor’s path from the New Haven Center church to the pulpit included a bar

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The bar was part of his father’s restaurant / nightclub that DenUyl ran in Muskegon, Michigan.

“I saw people sitting at the bar, which is reminiscent of church benches, lined up looking at you. I saw this unquenchable thirst. It was just universal, ”DenUyl said.

This led to the big questions of the meaning of life, followed by a theology school at McCormick Theological Seminary, in Chicago. He stayed there for four years while his wife was studying medicine to become a pediatrician.

Fast forward 40 years and DenUyl is now the new Senior Minister of Center Church on the Green, but New Haven was not an unknown entity.

Reverend Richard DenUyl climbs the renovated steeple to the bell level of Center Church on the Green in New Haven on October 5, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

He lived here while his wife made his residency at Yale New Haven Hospital and he continued to work with the mentally ill in what today would be called a street worker role.

While studying theology, DenUyl worked nights at a Chicago mental hospital, and after moving to New Haven, he found a job at a newly opened mental health crisis center in Meriden.

He drove a van through Greater New Haven to pick up people who were having thoughts of suicide or in the middle of a psychotic break. He said that the police would follow him, but more importantly that he would take care of the patients himself.

“It was probably one of the most rewarding things I have done. I learned a lot about mental health,” he said.

His pastoral career then began in the seaside community of Little Compton in Rhode Island, with a population of 3,448.

He served there for two decades, catering to the summer and winter crowds who brought tug operators, millionaires and professors from MIT to his service.

“What I really realized is that people don’t buy mainstream theology anymore. They want something meaningful, that talks about what’s going on in the world. So that’s kind of what I’m doing now, ”DenUyl said.

“The great reformer Karl Barth said you should have a journal in one hand and a Bible in the other. It’s kind of me, ”he said.

DenUyl then spent four years at the First Congregational Church in Greenwich.

DenUyl said: “Greenwich has a bad reputation, but it was probably one of the most energetic congregations I have ever been to.”

The new minister, similar to the experience of Integrated services for refugees and immigrants in New Haven, said the Church in Greenwich welcomed a refugee family literally on the day President Trump tried to close borders to people from several Muslim-majority countries.

After taking a year off, DenUyl took an acting position at Martha’s Vineyard before receiving a call from Center Church on the Green, which he said wanted to revitalize the parish.

“I liked it because I felt an energy. It’s like a big old sleeping giant, ”DemUyl said of the church’s facilities and place in New Haven and Connecticut history.

The immediate goal is to complete the rehabilitation of the 1812 church – the fourth on this site, the first having been founded by Reverend John Davenport in 1639, a year after the Puritans established the colony of New Haven.

The bell tower has been renovated and stabilized to prevent further water damage and its signature clock will soon show the exact time to residents and visitors of the Green.

DenUyl said the full renovation, which goes to the next roof level and then to the shrine, steps and crypt, will likely take until the end of 2022 to be completed,

Work continues on the steeple of Center Church on the Green in New Haven on March 3, 2020.

Work continues on the steeple of Center Church on the Green in New Haven on March 3, 2020.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

Donna Hall, church treasurer and member of its building committee, is happy DenUyl has taken up residence.

“We’re really excited about the energy he brings to the church because we’ve had acting ministers for a very long time now,” Hall said.

Hall’s day job is an urban project planner for New Haven, where she took charge of the Downtown Crossing, one of the largest infrastructure improvements that reclaims developable land on Route 34 and reconnects the streets of the city.

DenUly said what makes Center Church unique is that “it is the founding church of New Haven – truly the church in the city.”

“To me that means I’m here for anyone in New Haven who isn’t a member of another church, looking for support or a place to celebrate the life of a loved one.” , did he declare.

DenUyl said most people don’t wake up and go to church, “especially if you’re not religious.”

He’s launching a podcast he started on Martha’s Vineyard, which several hundred people have listened to in a matter of weeks, DenUyl said.

Jaret Lynch, right, from Wiss, Janney and Elstner, restoration engineers and architects from Shelton, tours the restoration of the Central Church on the Green Spire with the new pastor of the church, Reverend Richard DenUyl in New Haven on October 5, 2021.

Jaret Lynch, right, from Wiss, Janney and Elstner, restoration engineers and architects from Shelton, tours the restoration of the Central Church on the Green Spire with the new church pastor, Reverend Richard DenUyl in New Haven on October 5, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

The minister said there will be a 20-minute homily, followed by music relevant to what’s going on in the world. There are a few examples on the site.

DenUyl, 63, said they would use this to interest people in church. He said he found that all ages responded positively to the initial strain on the vineyard.

The minister said during his career: “I have not converted anyone. It was the people in the benches who converted me.

“In religion we try to separate the sacred and the mundane, but I have discovered through these wonderful people that I have met along the way, that the mundane and the sacred are closely related and that a religion that tries separating them is unnecessary, “said DenUyl, whose Dutch surname translates to” the owl “.

DenUyl said he always wanted to make an urban church. “It’s kind of a dream come true for me,” he said.

The minister said his wife continued her pediatric practice in Providence, RI, three days a week and came to New Haven on weekends to the apartment they rented at The Union, one block from the church .

Regarding his mission to increase membership at Center Church, DenUyl said you need to “create back doors” for people to come to hear the church’s message, which is why he thinks the podcast will be an important tool.

Soon a sermon on the lack of respect in society for anyone. Stay tuned.


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