Poetry & Art Series

Refugee: a Synonym for Christ

Written, Filmed, and Interviewed by Caela Collins

Listen to Story Here

“What’s your idea of a perfect day?” I quietly scanned the question, tracing the black font typed on a small strip of white paper that was neatly unfolded & laced between my fingers. The weight of this question was disproportionate to the thin sliver of paper it was printed on; so light that even a feather could outweigh it. Yet, there I was, calculating the formula for my perfect day that could fit in the span of 24 hours.

What do I like to do? What makes me happy… like really happy? What does “perfect” even look like? That heavy question on the thin piece of paper, gentle in its gaze, seemed to beam up at me, wide-eyed like an inquisitive child, eagerly waiting for my answer. With a few deep breaths, all the superficial things that once clouded my head, dissipated and the things that brought true joy to my soul shined bright like the sun.

So what did my perfect day look like?

Well, it was the ease of waking up to the absence of an alarm clock, a long hug from a loved one, putting my playlist on shuffle and every song being as good as the last, no skips required. It was getting a random compliment, not the kind of compliment that strokes an ego, but the kind of compliment that makes your inner light feel seen & appreciated. It was getting an extra donut free of charge at the drive-thru, meeting a kind stranger, finding the $20 bill you forgot about, deeply tucked into your wallet that your mom advised you to do in case of emergencies. Then it hit me, mom. It’s her, my dad, brother, grandmother, and every family member by blood or chosen that pours love into me.

At first, a perfect day was an accumulation of small simple moments that warmed my heart and grounded me in gratitude. However, the more granulated it became, I realized that it always led to sharing moments with the ones I loved most.

The above sentiment reigned true for the Karimi’s, a refugee family of seven, whom tightly held onto the notion that family was the most important remedy for turning even the most imperfect of days into something perfect.


“Jesus was born in a makeshift shelter, too — A place not really meant for human dwelling — And yet it was there that he met us, in the lowliest refuge. Two thousand years later, it’s good to remember That Christ is still being born, here and now, Most especially in places we’d rather not go,
Places from which we’d rather look away. God of illumination and incarnation, Open not only our eyes, but our hearts, That we may open, too, our hands And make generous offerings of love, As your holy light reflects from nylon tent flaps, Your holy song rises from a crackling campfire, Lit against the cold, against the night.
Amen.”
Prayer Written by Cameron Bellm
-Art Created by Kelly Latimore

We all know the Nativity story but as we explore diversified sacred images in our upcoming Annual Convention, we’re able to identify & reframe that story for what it truly is: a refugee story. Mary with child (Jesus) and Joseph were forced to flee, escaping persecution, from their homeland, a place that held everything they knew, but much like the Karimi’s, not everything they loved.

The Holy Family is still among us currently, in the faces of the refugee, the migrant, the immigrant, the poor and the oppressed. Many individuals are often in need of more clothing, blankets, food and better shelter; and much like the stable, Holy Advent, Clinton, opened their hearts and doors to a family seeking refuge.


The Karimi Family’s Journey, like tens of thousands of Afghans, began with the urgency to flee out of fear of persecution and escape from the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group whom took over Afghanistan in August 2021 after waging a twenty-year insurgency. For families like the Karimi’s, The Taliban targeted those who worked for the original government structure. After being badly beaten and hospitalized, the patriarch of the Karimi family, Mohammad Karimi, decided to find refuge, leaving the only home he has known.

The family escaped to Brazil, managing to live in a church basement for 3-4 months, then trekked to Tijuana, crossed into California, only to be arrested and placed in a ‘camp’ there. Unlike many refugees, the Karimi family was blessed to have contacts within the states, Saba and Mahdj, who opened their home to the Karimis. Without acquaintances who have gone before them and offered aid, there is a likely chance that the family would still be in that camp today.

Fast forward to December 2022, the Sunday before Christmas, the Karimi family attended a church service at Holy Advent, Clinton. From that point on their lives were forever changed:

Want to Help?

  • Help Financially: Checks can be written to Holy Advent Church, with ‘Refugee/ Asylum Seekers’ clearly written in the memo line.  All funds received will go directly to the Karimi Family.
  • Employment Opportunities (must be in Clinton or Remote): Please contact jrwagner04@gmail.com or maryetwagner@gmail.com

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

General Convention Day One

The first full day of legislation begins in Baltimore at The 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Watch the full update from the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, the Rev. Rowena Kemp, and Ms. Suzy Burke from outside Camden Yards.

Candle Lighting

Lighting a candle in prayer is a familiar gesture to many of us. The light reminds us of Jesus, the Light of the world, and invites us into the light of God’s presence. Unfortunately, this holy action can also be a dangerous one for our Mother, Earth.

Most candles are made of paraffin, which is derived from petroleum, a fossil fuel. Using fossil fuels to create candles contributes to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and, as a result, to climate change.

There are ways we can still engage in the ancient practice of candle lighting and care for God’s good creation. Use beeswax, soy wax, or other plant-based waxes, like coconut wax, all of which are largely carbon-neutral. You can also light a virtual candle, which we invite you to do here.

Join us in lighting an eco-friendly virtual candle

Take a moment and breathe deeply. Then read the below prayer. When you’re ready, click the screen or the play button to light your candle.

If you like, leave a comment below after lighting your candle.