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32nd rector of St. Stephen’s to be installed today

“I want this service to reflect the truth that we all together make up the church,” said the Rev. Whitney Altopp.

The Rev. Whitney F. Altopp will be installed as the 32nd rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 3 p.m. in the church sanctuary at 351 Main Street.

Because it recognizes the joint roles of clergy and the people of the parish, the installation of a new rector is called a Celebration of New Ministry.

The Episcopal Church is exceptional among Protestant denominations in that the calling of a rector is both supported by the diocese — in this case the Diocese of Connecticut, which includes the entire state and more than 170 parishes — and initiated by the congregation.

Ms. Altopp came to St. Stephen’s in August 2012 after a national search.

“I want this service to reflect the truth that we all together make up the church,” she said. “My role is unique in the community of St. Stephen’s, but it is not a holier calling than baptism. Baptism is the highest calling.”

The celebration is on the eve of Ms. Altopp’s 10th anniversary of her ordination as a priest. “I was pregnant with my third child when I was ordained a priest at St. James’ Church in Montclair, N.J.,” she recalled.

Today she and her husband, Michael, have four children ranging in age from 6 to 14.

The announcement of Ms. Altopp’s being called to St. Stephen’s was made last May.

The Rev. Emily Richards, rector of St. Peter’s Church in Glenside, Pa., and former assistant rector at St. Stephen’s, will preach during the celebration.

Participating from the diocese will be the Rt. Rev. James E. Curry, suffragan bishop.

St. Stephen’s began as a mission church in 1725, and its first minister was the Rev. Samuel Johnson of Stratford, who served here as a missionary. The first resident rector was the Rev. David Belden, appointed in 1789.

The Diocese of Connecticut, which formally began with the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury as bishop of Connecticut in 1784, is the oldest organized diocese in the Episcopal Church.

The public is welcome to the Celebration of New Ministry and to the reception in the rectory after the service.

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