New priest will help ‘reimagine’ church’s future
This month marked a new chapter for St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton when it welcomed its new priest, Rev. Marissa Rohrbach, on June 5.
Rohrbach succeeds Rev. Alon White, who accepted a call as interim priest in charge at Christ Church in Redding after two years as St. Matthew’s interim priest.
Since she was a child growing up outside Philadelphia, Rohrbach said, she knew she wanted to be a priest.
“I knew when I was 11 that I was supposed to be,” she told The Bulletin. “I remember sitting in church and looking up at the priest and thinking: I’m supposed to be up there.”
When Rohrbach got older, she said, she “sort of resisted [ministry] a little bit.”
“My father died when I was young and for a lot of people, that’s a crisis-of-faith moment. It was never that for me, but I didn’t want to do this [ministry]. I was sad and upset, and I thought I’d go do something else,” she said.
“I got recruited to swim at the Naval Academy, lived in France a long time and thought maybe I would teach French literature and do all kinds of things.”
However, Rohrbach said, things changed in college.
“God sort of came and grabbed me and was like, ‘No, really. This is what you’re going to do’ — and God is persistent, so I entered the process to be a priest when I was a freshman in college.”
Rohrbach said having clarity about what she wanted to do in life was “a huge blessing.”
“I know for a lot of people, especially a lot of young people in my generation and younger, it takes a while for them to figure out what they want to be,” she said, “but for me, that was always really clear.”
After attending the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Rohrbach studied at Yale Divinity School for four years before being ordained.
Before coming to St. Matthew’s, Rohrbach served as the rector of a church in Meriden, Conn., for about four years. Before that, she served at a church in Philadelphia’s City Center District for two years.
Rohrbach also chairs the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Commission of Ministry, which helps oversee individuals looking to be ordained as priests or deacons.
“We also are charged with empowering and equipping all the baptized, so all of God’s people,” she said. “It’s really exciting and also really huge.”
Rohrbach has lived in Connecticut for eight of the last 10 years — four in New Haven, two in Meriden, and two in Old Saybrook. Rohrbach was offered the position as St. Matthew’s new priest in April and now lives in Wilton with her wife of three years, Lyn, and their two dogs, Becket and Micah.
As St. Matthew’s new priest, Rohrbach said, her “big roles” are to “plan and lead worship,” be a “pastoral presence for folks,” and care for not only church parishioners, but the people in town as well.
Rohrbach said she believes in the “old system of the church” or “parish model,” where “the priest is supposed to care for everybody in the whole area.”
“I think my job is also to show up at things in town, be around and be involved,” she said.
Rohrbach said her other job is to help St. Matthew’s “figure out where God is calling us to go” as the church “reimagine who we’re going to be in the future.”
“It’s about imagining the future, which is fun yet challenging,” she said.
“We really want this town to be a place where all people are welcomed, no matter who they are; where there’s a place for everybody. Building a community that is really committed to hospitality and welcome is a lot of work — fun, but a lot of work.”
As St. Matthew’s new priest, Rohrbach said, she hopes to bring fun and energy to the church and help build new programs and “ways to be involved in the community.”
“I also hope in this next season of our life, that we will be a really present witness to the good news of Jesus — and that we’ll have a lot of fun doing it,” she said.
“I’m really, really excited to be here and really happy to be with these good folk. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for us. It’s going to be great.”
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church is at 36 New Canaan Road. Information: stmatthewswilton.org.