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Hartford's Historic Center Church To Install First Latina Minister


Hartford — Hartford’s  historic First Church of Christ, also known as Center Church is celebrating the installation of the Rev. Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker as its permanent minister.  Originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico, Whittaker is the first female and first person of Puerto Rican heritage to serve as head pastor in the church’s 383 year history.
The 175-member congregation recently voted to install Whittaker after almost three years since abruptly calling her to serve as its designated-term pastor in 2012 when her predecessor left after just two years to head another church. Whittaker was previously the director of marketing and development at the Christian Activities Council of the United Church of Christ and the co-pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Esperanza.
The church is pleased to invite the public to join in a special service celebrating her installation on Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m. at 675 Main Street.
Whittaker is credited for not only successfully steering the church through an unexpected transition, but also bringing a fresh, centered revitalization of its activist heritage, which is to take a lead role in addressing social inequity and injustice issues, and improve the quality of life for the people of Hartford, according to church officials.
“I am honored and overjoyed by the decision,” said Whittaker.  “I look forward to continuing the great work we’ve begun within the church and beyond its walls. We’re experiencing a surge of new excitement and renewed purpose in all areas of our urban ministry and community engagement.”
“The most thoughtful and vibrant leadership is coming from women, and Damaris is an excellent example of the vitality and wisdom women leaders are bringing to the Protestant church,” said the Rev. J. Alan McLean, Minister Emeritus. He said she embodies the church’s heritage of taking leadership in moving beyond symptoms to finding long-term solutions to the problems confronting city residents such as homelessness and unemployment.  “She is the perfect person, from her native Spanish language to the fact she is a good preacher grounded in an articulate ministry and vision for the city.”
Whittaker said, “I am grateful, but also astonished by the attention for doing what it is I am called to do. I believe we all have the power to make a difference in our communities and in the world. I’m blessed to be planted in a faith community committed to people, social justice and the community I care deeply about.”
Whittaker, who has doctorate in ministry from New York Theological Seminary, is a recipient of the 2015 Vision Award in Social Justice by the Charter Oak Cultural Center. She was also honored last year as a thought leader and for her trailblazing contributions to social justice community engagement with a 2014 Catalyst Award from the Conference of Churches.  She resides with her husband, Sabas Whittaker, in Marlborough.
Those planning to attend her installation are asked to RSVP by phone at 860.249.5631.  Services will be followed by a reception. Families are welcome. Child care will be available. Clergy, religious educators and seminarians are invited to gather at 2 p.m. to participate in the procession. Clergy are encouraged to wear red or tropical print shirts.

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