Wintonbury Church: Endeavoring to Collaborate Locally, Regionally, and Pastorally
Co-operate. Ally. Work together. Pool resources. Unity. Co-labor. Collaboration is the heartbeat of Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Through the forty years of Rich Ainsworth’s pastoral leadership of Wintonbury, the church has sought to collaborate locally with other pastors, regionally with other church bodies, and even personally within their own church’s pastoral leadership team.
One of the ways this has happened for Rich personally is through his relationship with Marichal Monts, pastor of the Citadel of Love, a Pentecostal church in Hartford. They met through a pastors prayer group in 2000, and for several of the last twelve years it was just Rich and Marichal praying together once a week. This experience bonded the two pastors. They have both learned and grown due to this friendship. The two even joke about being cousins; Rich says, “It’s an endearment thing.” Rich continues, “When I first started ministry there was a real divide between Evangelicals and charismatics/Pentecostals, but now we have moved into a place of more unity.”
And now the relationship has been extended to include André Riendeau, another pastor at Wintonbury Church. André says he really views Marichal as a “ministry partner and brother.” Both Rich and André feel that unity is a calling on their lives, André says “because of Marichal we are able to put flesh to unity.” And that’s a good thing because André will be moving into the position of senior pastor of Wintonbury in July (but more on that in a minute).
Through this companionship between pastors a relationship has also been formed between the two churches. Rich and André have both spoken at the Citadel of Love and Marichal has also come to speak at Wintonbury. Rich says, the “people [of Wintonbury] know him and love him.” The two churches also collaborate together on a number of different projects including a clothes closet, Revitalize “Community Health Outreach”, and through The Hartford Project. Through the Citadel of Love, Wintonbury has been given a point of contact in the city; André says the Citadel “has given us a partner for doing ministry. It becomes the base of operations for us in the city.” One of the more fun things the two churches have been able to do together since 2008 is a yearly street festival called “Love Wins,” which is part of The Hartford Project.
Many other churches have also been connected together through The Hartford Project since its beginning in 2004. The Hartford Project is a collaboration between different youth groups with the goal of coming together to love and serve the city of Hartford. André cast the vision for The Hartford Project at a meeting of the Greater Hartford Youth Network in 2003, and in the first summer six different churches and 66 youth and youth leaders participated. Over the years this initiative has grown and evolved, and in 2011, twenty different churches with 380 youth and leaders were involved. Until this coming summer The Hartford Project was a week long, but this year because of the amount of churches and youth participating they are moving to two separate weeks. The leadership of The Hartford Project has been purposefully shared and rotated so no one church has ownership of the initiative.
Besides being catalysts for unity and collaboration with different pastors and churches in the region, Rich and André collaborate in pastoring Wintonbury. For the past six years, Rich and André have been preparing for the day that Rich would retire and André would take over as senior pastor. It has been a slow process of releasing André into more and more areas or pastoral responsibility, including preaching and vision casting. Over the past two years, they have openly communicated with the members about this change; they intentionally refer to one another’s sermons positively and let the congregation know they are on the same page. Rich says, “The packaging is different – but the Biblical content will remain.”
They had seen this modeled by a few churches, and Rich said he “wanted to do something different” because he was “concerned with what would happen to the health of the church when a new pastor came in, and would that pastor last.” Rich and André say to do this kind of transition, “It takes mutual humility and submission to each other. No competition where trust is at the basis, and it helps to be friends.” Through the shift they say Rich’s role has been to support André and André’s role has been to honor Rich. Rich says, “You have to let people use their gifts without being threatened. André’s strength is as a visionary. He lives there.” On July 1st, 2012, Rich will step down as senior pastor after exactly forty years and aid André in stepping up and into his new role. To do this effectively, Rich will stay on staff until around May 2013. During that time, Rich will continue to give pastoral care and guidance, teach at the Wintonbury School of Ministry, update administrative policies, and seek to serve André.
To learn more about Wintonbury Church, click here.