Pastor Paul Fleck grew up "crawling under the pews" while his mother played the organ at the Methodist Church in Columbia City, Ind.

Raised a Methodist, when "called by God into the ministry" in his 30s, Pastor Fleck entered the Boston University School of Theology with the goal of ultimately attaining a doctorate of divinity and serving as a minister in his childhood denomination.

Today, at age 40, he is finishing his doctorate at the Yale Divinity School while serving as part-time pastor at United Methodist Church in New Milford.

"I was impressed the moment I saw the church," Pastor Fleck said, "and when I learned the congregation's mission statement, I knew its visions, its beliefs and its values matched mine."

"Every member is a disciple," he said, quoting the mission statement. "The congregation is committed to deepening their knowledge of Christ, to walking the path that Christ walked and also is committed to bring other to be disciples of Christ."

Pastor Fleck becomes excited when he talks about his role in his new congregation. He speaks of leading its members in their "passionate spirituality," helping them further develop "the ability to talk about their faith passionately and openly, in an atmosphere of loving support.

He talks with pride about his wife, Renata Belfort De Aguiar, a physician and research scientist who practices at Yale-New Haven Hospital. They met in San Antonio and he's followed her as her career has taken her to Boston Hospital and then to Yale-New Haven.

Pastor Fleck's eyes twinkle when he talks about their 5-year-old son, Daniel, who is entering kindergarten this fall.

He is somewhat humbler when speaking about himself.

An attorney for seven years in his first profession, he values most the skill of listening carefully to others he developed at that time. It is a trait that makes for both a good lawyer and a good pastor, he said.

Pastor Fleck will mention briefly his time spent serving as the vice president of governmental affairs of the Chamber of Commerce in Corpus Christi, Texas. His law degree is from the University of Texas, he notes without fanfare.

Stacey Didato, chairman of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee at church, was among the members of the church who welcomed Pastor Fleck.

"We felt very blessed that the Bishop chose Pastor Fleck and believed he would be the right person for us," Ms. Didato said. "And we certainly agreed."

"He's really jumped in with both feet and more," she added. "Although his appointment with us is a part-time one, he's shown a great deal of commitment to our church."

Michael Duffy/Spectrum

Pastor Paul Fleck