For the past 22 years, Reverend Joe Tripp has served the United Congregational Church in Middletown, Rhode Island. Joe fostered an environment of acceptance for anyone and everyone that wanted to attend UCC, even during some pretty trying times, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Joe has taken his leave and is enjoying a much-deserved retirement. Prior to leaving he was named Pastor Emeritus at UCC.
Joe grew up in the Mohawk Valley area of central New York State. He was raised on an old dairy farm and was the 5th generation to live in the family homestead. Joe says that he is still close to many of his schoolmates from that era. After high school he attended Hobart College in Geneva, New York. He majored in history with a minor in women’s studies, education and Native American studies.
Following college he attended Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts, now known at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School. After three years, he graduated with a Master of Divinity (MDiv).
Since then, he has served churches in Falls Village, Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts. He came to the United Congregational Church of Middletown in 2000. “I have always had affection for this area as I started vacationing on Jamestown during my college days.” Joe says. “I happily accepted the call to serve the United Congregational Church as I was looking for a larger setting in which to conduct ministry after serving the church in Fall River.”
We asked Joe a couple of questions regarding his time at the United Congregational Church. He kindly agreed to answer them, even though he is currently traveling!
What would you say are some of your highlights (and even lowlights) from your 22 years at United Congregational Church?
The United Congregational Church has been a staple of protestant ministry on Aquidneck Island since its founding in 1695. I am one in a long line of pastors who have served the church. During my time here, I am most proud of our close affiliation with Temple Shalom and the late Rabbi Marc Jagolinzer, my cherished colleague and friend. Our collaboration set a special tone for both of our congregations. I am equally proud of our church’s continued missions outreach which has positively affected the lives of people both locally and globally. I was also pleased to be able to oversee the creation and renewal of many of the church’s physical assets which aided us in our ministry including the addition of a large parking lot that we are able to share with our neighbors at John Clarke Senior Living. Also, the creation of a Memorial Garden for the burial of cremated remains, the refurbishment of the interior of our building including increased handicap accessibility and a new kitchen. It was a privilege to serve such a vibrant and involved church for so many years!
2. What do you think makes Aquidneck Island a special place?
Aquidneck Island is unusual by the very nature of it being an island, The recurring joke that one needs a suitcase if one is leaving the island rings true for many who never feel the need to go elsewhere. There is a nice standard of living here for most, but at the same time there is the issue of homelessness and hunger as well. I have always enjoyed the history of the island and its natural beauty. I will always be drawn back here for vacations in the coming years to enjoy the offerings of the island.
3. Going forward what do you wish most for the congregation at UCC?
I am hope-filled for the congregation at UCC, Middletown. They are a vibrant congregation with many talented people. I am looking forward to watching them grow and shine in the coming years. As their Pastor Emeritus I look forward to reconnecting with them after a new settled pastor has been called following a search process which will take the next year or so. They are a special group and will always hold a special place in my heart.
What are you most looking forward to now that you are retired?
I am looking forward to some time to reflect on my life and ministry. I am also looking forward to spending quality time with my family of friends who I have collected since grade school! My time with them will no longer be limited because I have to return to church for Sunday worship! I also plan to continue to enjoy traveling the world as much as possible. It will be nice to be able to be spontaneous with invitations that come along and not have to worry about what day or time it is!
5. Going into 2023, what words of wisdom would you like to impart?
Most of all, I wish everyone a good 2023. It has been a challenging past few years with the pandemic and my prayer is that we have some time of stability without the worry of getting ill. The pandemic has taken its toll on us all and has shifted people’s priorities. Let’s hope we can all come back together and be stronger for all the challenges we have faced.
The United Congregational Church is looking for a new minister. Reverend Jonathan Morgan will serve as the interim minister starting February 1st.