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After a decade serving his parish at the United Methodist Church of Clinton, Reverend Dr. M. Craig Fitzsimmons will retire, though he plans to remain active in the curch. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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On Father’s Day 2018, Reverend Dr. M. Craig Fitzsimmons, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Clinton, will retire from pastoral life after 10 years as the pastor in Clinton.
“I’ve had a wonderful time here with this congregation,” Craig says.
Craig says that upon his retirement he will spend some time traveling to see family, but will still be involved in the church in some capacity.
“I’ll most likely still be working at the annual conference,” Craig says.
Craig also says he can see himself volunteering and going on some mission trips as well.
“It seemed like a good time right now,” says Craig of his decision to retire.
Unlike some, he didn’t always know he’d end up in the clergy.
“I thought I’d be an architect...” says Craig.
Craig says his father had some experience with carpentry, and that the two of them worked on some projects together.
“I can remember finishing my basement as a kid,” says Craig.
But then, Craig had some experiences that led him in a different direction.
The path to becoming a pastor began when he was younger and started volunteering with a church that helped at-risk youth in Waterbury. Craig began getting involved with the young people and saw the positive effect of that.
“I wanted to be dealing with people, the church helped that,” Craig says.
After a trial year in seminary school that helped him “feel supported,” Craig was ordained 43 years ago.
Craig says that while many members of the congregation know he spent time in Missouri before coming to Clinton, not many know why he was there. During his time in Missouri, Craig was a university chaplain and adjunct professor at Lincoln University, a historically black college in Jefferson City, Missouri.
“It was something I always wanted to do and got the chance to,” says Craig.
Naturally, Craig taught religion classes while at the school. Craig says he enjoyed his time at the school and calls his work there “a natural extension” of his joy of working with youth.
“I enjoyed being with people who wanted to learn, and interacting with young people,” Craig says.
Craig says a unique thing he did while at the school is take a group of students to Mississippi to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
“New Orleans wasn’t ready for us yet,” Craig explains of the Mississippi destination.
Craig says that many of the students had never done anything like that before, and felt the trip was “very exciting.”
Of the numerous highlights of his time in Clinton, a few stand out. One is a partnership with a program called HomeFront, which Craig describes as a “one-day building blitz” where volunteers work to repair a house for people in need. Craig says the church usually brings 20 to 35 people to volunteer for that event, and that the group has rebuilt homes in Clinton, Wallingford, and Madison.
“It’s just amazing what the volunteers do in a day,” Craig says.
Craig also mentions one thing he is “going to miss tremendously” is the mission trips the church organizes to places like Haiti, Mississippi, and Appalachia.
According to the church’s website, Methodists have been meeting in the present church building since the 1850s, something Craig “absolutely” thinks about from time to time.
“There were a number of other churches along the shoreline that didn’t continue. Our congregation keeps it in good shape,” Craig says.
In fact, Craig says that the church recently added a hospitality room that has a generator, handicap bathrooms, and a shower. Craig says the new room could be made available to different groups that may need space to stay in the case of disasters.
“That’s a pretty neat thing,” Craig says.
Craig praised the various cultural opportunities available in the area, and the cooperation with the other churches as highlights of his time here as well.
In his spare time, Craig can he found out on the golf course, and he loves to travel and see his family. He also likes to spend time woodworking and building, a remnant from his days of when he thought about being an architect.
“I knew how things were put together. It has come in useful throughout my life,” Craig says.
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