Poetry & Art Series

The Scenery of Advent Greenery

Written, Filmed, and Photographed by: Caela Collins

Listen to Story in English
Escuchar cuento en Español
Écoutez l’histoire en Français

I once read that our souls need to be reminded of what lies beneath the fear of darkness. I think this is especially true as we move from the season of Advent into Christmas. Here in Connecticut, especially in December, we move through days that are short and nights that are long. On December 21, we experienced the Winter Solstice, the darkest night of the year. It may sound odd, but the presence of light inhibits growth if it is not balanced with darkness. A seed, before it can grow and send up its shoots of green, needs time in the soil’s dark depths—it needs a season of undisturbed transformation. In darkness, a seed grows and brings about new life, which is why we “green” the church as we await Christ in Advent. We are waiting for this new life, this bright light, to emerge and bring us into the new season of Christmas. Let us explore three parishes within the city of New Haven which is part of the South Central Region, and learn how they green their churches during the dark season of winter as our spirits sprout towards the coming light that is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

From Top to Bottom we visited the following parishes:

  • Trinity on the Green, December 13th
  • St. Luke’s, December 18th
  • St. Paul and St. James, December 19th

Trinity on the Green, New Haven

Trinity on the Green with The Rev. Heidi Thorsen (visited on Dec. 13th)

The photos below were provided by the parish:


St. Luke’s, New Haven

St. Luke’s with Valarie Stanley (Sr. Warden) (visited on Dec. 18th)

St. Paul & St. James, New Haven

St. Paul & St. James, New Haven with The Rev. Stacey Kohl (visited on Dec. 19th)

ECCT Formally Enters into The Communion Forest

ECCT x Creation Care Ministry Network hosted a Liturgical service at Camp Washington, Lakeside on June 14, 2023 to bless three newly planted trees that were native to the local landscape and ecosystem.

As part of our induction into The Communion Forest, “a global initiative comprising local activities of forest protection, tree growing and eco-system restoration undertaken by provinces, dioceses and individual churches across the Anglican Communion to safeguard creation,” the three trees were planted in dedication to three ECCT Bishops: The Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, and The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Mello.

The Liturgy below was created by Margaret Sipple, Member of Trinity, Branford and Coordinator of the parish’s Creation Care Ministry Network Team:


The Trees that were Planted


Reflection by Bishop Diocesan:

“Thank you. What an honor, I don’t feel like I’ve been here long enough to deserve a tree. And it feels like an incredible gift but also a mark towards the future, that as we plant a tree, we think about how the tree will continue to grow and become more and more of the tree that God needs us to be, which is something we think a lot about as church. I love that it’s a berry tree, because one of the things I’m constantly reminded about fruit trees, is that sometimes it can take a couple of years for a tree to bear fruit. So I ask you to keep that in mind. When you think about the person for whom this tree was planted that sometimes we expect when God has touched our hearts or planted something new in us, we expect immediate results. And so I hope this tree reminds all of us to be patient with ourselves and to let God continue to nourish us and grow in us until in God’s good time we bear fruit together. And so thank you, I’m deeply honored.”


Reflection by Bishop Suffragan:

“I’m truly humbled and really blown away by this gift. This is incredible. I also want to give a shout out and a thanks to the Creation Care Network and let anyone know in ECCT, you can always join this network it’s an amazing network that’s helping us care for this fragile earth, our island home. I’m particularly humbled and honored that it’s here at Camp Washington. Particularly because this is such a pastoral space for young people in particular who come here and find in the summer a brave space where they can try on new ideas and be the people that God is calling them to be. It’s also that kind of space for all of us, every time of year, to use the space, this pastoral brave space to help us live into God’s call to us, to share his love more broadly.”

Creation Care Ministry NetworkThe Rev’d Dr. Anita Louise Schell priest@saintannsoldlyme.org
Camp WashingtonBart Geissingerbgeissinger@episcopalct.org

A Prayerful Life is the Bees Knees

Written By: Caela Collins

When I think of World Bee Day (May 20th), the word “Opportunity” immediately comes to mind. So many opportunities to lace this #ECCTStory with bee puns because unbeknownst to the ECCT masses, your Digital Storyteller is quite punny. All jokes aside, there is something very buzz-worthy about this worldly holiday that expands beyond the confines of honey. World Bee Day presents an opportunity for us to get closer to our Lord.

In college, one of my three roommate’s had an assignment where they had to identify a plant that symbolized everyone in their acting class based on their personality, essence, or what I like to call, their overall vibe, then present it. After hours of researching a series of floral arrangements, there was one particular classmate that gave my roommate major planter’s-block. The block was so prevalent that me and my other two roommates were immediately inducted into the garden consensus of Room 304 that evening. While the makeshift floral advisory committee, aka my two roommates, offered suggestions for what flowers could be attributed to my roommate’s final classmate, I sat quietly and listened.

Finally, after some internal deliberation, I spoke up, “Your professor said plants, right? It doesn’t have to just be flowers?” I asked. My roommate nodded as everyone turned towards me, anticipating a great revelation that would fall from my mouth after sitting silently for so long. With my arms crossed, I flashed a Mona Lisa smile and proudly said, “Grass.” Everyone immediately started laughing but much like Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous portrait, I was quite serious.

There is symbolism in ALL of God’s creation, even something as simple or seemingly monotonous as grass. (P.S. My roommate did in fact go with my idea of grass, which represents interconnectedness.)


The Bee in Bible

Jesus wants us to live our best life, abundantly ( John 10:10 ), and we literally can’t do that without our Bee-FF’s.

A world without bees would seriously sting.

There are actually-factually over 60 references where bees are used in the bible, so they must be super important, right? Right, indeed: Bees are dire to our survival, they’re responsible for 1/3 of the food Americans eat due to pollination. Without them, the food-chain would deteriorate, over 100K plant species (including our fave fruits & veggies) would become extinct if bees were to go away.

How to Bee More Prayerful

My child, honey is good for you, so eat it. It is sweet on your tongue when you taste it. In the same way, wisdom is also good for you. If you find wisdom, it will help you in life. The things that you hope for in the future will surely happen. [Proverbs 24: 13-14]

Bees symbolize wisdom, new beginnings, and hard work; they are visual symbols of how God’s creation can help us lead a prayerful life. The momentous & ancient work that bees do by pollinating various landscapes in order to help crops and plant-life grow is truly holy work. They work to sustain God’s creation by upholding the true purpose of the land that God has crafted for us. Earth was created with the intention of abundant living and taking pleasure in God’s land how God intended to be. The wise yet interconnected workings of the Honey-Bee is devout and we can take notes. Bees respect God’s land which flows with milk and literal honey, collecting pollen & nectar from flowers in such a way that will cause the least amount of damage to them, leaving the flowers whole and unharmed.

How wonderful would it be to collect lessons and love from our peers in such a way that will also leave them whole?

How can we use our natural God-given talents mixed with some elbow-grease to work in ways that sustain God’s creation from landscape to creature?

How awesome and un-bee-lievable is it to know that our small steps can really create a huge impact?

A Prayerful life is the bees knees, no kneeling required.


The Beeger Picture

Take a look at some of the lessons I gained during my Bee visit at St. John’s, Guilford:

World Bee Day visit at St. John’s, Guilford to view their bees and pollinator garden/meadow.

Interested in Starting a Pollinator Garden or want Tips/Help with Beekeeping?

Poem: “Likeness”


A Poem Written By: Caela Collins

Likeness

A poem about the likeness between trees and humans by Caela Collins. Earth Day 2023

Like Trunks We stand tall and Like their stumps, sometimes we fall short.
In moments of despair, we bow our heads deep down into our shoulder blades and weep Like Willows.

Like blowing leaves, We shiver in the frigid wind when it grazes our epidermis.
We stretch to the morning sun Like broken seeds.

Like roots, We constantly thirst for more.
And Like bark, our palms hold lines.
Sometimes we forget how much trees are like humans.

We don’t stop to listen to their jokes or join in on the laughter & applause from the rustling leaves.
We don’t pay attention to the polite waves from their swaying branches in our windows.
We look at them every day but don’t truly see them for who they are.

How lonely it must be for the Trees.  

Unlike Trees, we hide from the rain, which storms under the clouds and within our hearts.
We don’t recognize brokenness as an opportunity for a new life like the sprout from a seedling.

Unlike leaves, we don’t go where the wind takes us.
We’d rather plaster on fake smiles and oversaturate ourselves with superficial needs than hold on tight to what naturally nourishes our soul.

And like stained wood flooring or beautified headboards on that home decoration channel, we are disconnected from our roots.
Sometimes we forget how much humans can learn from trees.

How Lonely it must be for the Humans.

Caring for the Creator’s Creation

Written and Interviewed By: Caela Collins

Creation Care Ministry Network: An Ode to Natural Healing

Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life
.

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5
.”

Many of you know the lyrics above from Dolly Parton’s serotonin fueled morning tune, or what I like to call, the wake up anthem for weekday warriors, titled “9 to 5.” This song has been a big hit for obvious reasons: It’s just so darn catchy, irresistibly dance worthy, and its simply something that any and every person with an occupation can identify with. From the outside looking in, “9 to 5” was the perfect recipe for a morning workday theme song… well, kind of.

Sorry to all the Dolly fans, but this recipe tastes like it’s missing something; a key ingredient that we overlook too often, nature. How often do we appreciate the trees stretching along the highway ahead instead of focusing on the barrage of cars in line speeding ahead, stop to view the sunrise or sunset before we make the transition from home to transportation device, or even thank God for the fresh air that flows through our lungs and racing hearts as we rush to our workplace destination?


Most people don’t think of nature as part of their morning routine. I’m not here to tell you in a soft calming voice with Tibetan singing bowls looming in the background to ‘take your time and smell the flowers’ because much like the tone and pace of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” it’s simply not realistic during a morning rush, when you’re fiddling with keys and just trying to make it out the door in time. However, I can encourage you to take a peek out your window for a quick moment of awe in the natural world that man had no hand in creating. I can suggest that as you drag each foot out from under your covers and place your heels on the floor to take a few seconds and realize that you dwell on sacred ground that God perfectly handcrafted for your soul as your soles scurry along to your morning regimen.

Even when you’re not thinking about it, God is providing something tangible for the good of your soul each day: Trees that convert the light from the sun into oxygen and solid earth that keeps you grounded metaphysically.

I’m not 100% sure if I would have done a double take at Dolly’s lyrics if I didn’t have a powerful conversation with Colleen Murphy-Dunning, Program Director, Hixon Center for Urban Ecology, Urban Resources Initiative (URI); Lecturer in Urban & Community Forestry, and most notably a presenter for the 10th Anniversary of Spring Training & Gathering 2023! She offered me a new lens of nature through healing, which was quite inspiring and refreshing.


Colleen’s Journey

Colleen’s experience in social forestry, the connection between communities and their forests by using trees and woodlands to deliver social benefits to all groups within a local society, began during her time in Kenya. The ideology behind social forestry is to empower people to manage the forest for their own unique needs, desires, and communities.

Now, working with the New Haven Urban Resources Initiative (URI), a nonprofit organization, Colleen aides locals in the exploration of how to carry out forestry within their community. URI takes college students out of the classroom and into the wild, creates meaningful job opportunities for teens which has expanded to formerly incarcerated adults, and builds a community with those who are marginalized.

We don’t often think of forestry when we think of cities but there is an unspoken responsibility we all have to care for the Creator’s creation. Nature is everywhere if you decide to focus your lens; there’s still sunshine, trees, photosynthesis, even with buildings surrounding us, and with that, a source of healing appears.

Natural Healing

There’s healing in nature: physically, emotionally, mentally, holistically, and spiritually. Eco-Spiritualism at its core is the connection between human and the earthly plane that God has provided. For Colleen, listening is the cornerstone of the work she carries out, when it comes to social forestry, its a granular experience from neighborhood to neighborhood. Each community has autonomy over their local environment and craft it to their needs and desires. This was especially present in one of their projects, the Botanical Garden of Healing.

ROBERT BENSON PHOTOGRAPHY

A mother requested that the local forestry space become a sacred and safe space where members of the community can come for healing. It was a way to actively plant hope for the future and build this world together where they take care of each other and nature.

A path was created with names and ages of those who were victims to gun violence to reveal that the fallen were not forgotten. Through the conception of this botanical garden, a meditative experience was born and the community was able to heal through nature.


Key Takeaway Points

Identify what’s important to you / your community, be a well of knowledge, and a good land steward by reclaiming green spaces to meet the needs of the locals.
How can we listen and be inclusive in the way we think of stewards?
What planting could you do on your parish property?
I believe that faith communities have an important role to play in loving their neighbors by managing their landscapes for the common good. I plan to support churches in environmental and justice work as an expression of the Gospel. I have planted trees around the city of New Haven with teams of high schoolers and ex- offenders with Urban Resources Initiative. With the GreenSpace program, working with community groups, we restored abandoned lots and parks into thriving green spaces.
Gabe LaPage *Yale Divinity Student and co-presenter for ST&G23

The world is a fragile place.

The world is a fragile place.

The Rev. Dr. Anita Schell, St. Ann’s, Old Lyme

Years ago while team teaching a course at Southern Vermont College in Bennington VT, I was struck by what one of the professors said about the critical role our imaginations play in our life as people of faith. In the Tuesday evening Comparative Religions course, my team teacher invited us to look at the imaginary games we played at ages 3 and 4. These games would give us clues as to the pursuits of our later adult years. What games did you play that highlighted your dreams? It’s such a great question!

And, our imaginations are more than pondering our own dreams. Our imaginations can help us to envision how others live, and by imagining, can increase in us greater compassion and the courage to work for change in making a better, just world for all, no matter what the consequences to our comfort levels.  Such imagining a better world for all and striving to create concrete steps toward that goal were in evidence last fall at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as “COP26.”

24 lay and clergy delegates from the Episcopal Church representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and The Episcopal Church  were led by Bishop Marc Andrus of California. Part of the delegates’ mission was to learn about the state of the climate crisis and efforts to address it, and to bring what they learned back to the wider church.

During COP26, the Episcopal delegates (as well as their Anglican counterparts) communicated their priorities to U.N. member states, participated in meetings and discussion forums, shared updates on social media and hosted events, including a “Liturgy for Planetary Crisis” and morning and evening prayer services. Episcopalians participated virtually from the United States, Europe and South America. Good intentions and work notwithstanding, advocacy to reduce the negative impacts of climate crisis is not felt equally among communities in the United States and around the globe. Fragility is not a uniform experience. As our   Presiding Bishop Curry said in a Nov. 12 ABC News interview., “The most impacted [are] Indigenous peoples, people who are tied to the land, poor people.”  And “We will see more mass migrations of people looking for food. … These will have an impact on the poorest of the poor.”

Added to the reality of such injustice is the Covid-19 pandemic. As the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote during COP26,

“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the world to look at how we have been living and operating, when so much of what was considered ‘normal’ was not possible. We have been confronted by our behaviour: by our sin; our greed; our human fragility; our exploitation of the environment and encroachment on the natural world. For many this uncertainty is new. But many more around the world have been living with uncertainty for decades as the grim, real and present consequence of climate change.”

The Creation Care resolution #3 adopted at ECCT’s 2021 Convention specifically addressees this moral crisis with concrete action steps for every single one of us. As with addressing Covid-19 and racism, these resolves are intentional and mindful practices we as people of faith in CT can take in our Christian discipleship. While we know these unjust realities exist, concrete data received from the resolve steps of this resolution will enable us to better serve and support every community of our beloved ECCT, especially and particularly those for whom fragility is exacerbated by these multiple crises.

The world is a fragile place.  It has always been so. How can we confess where we have contributed to this fragility and turn to repair brokenness especially for those beings for whom fragility has always been a way of life?