The Scenery of Advent Greenery

The Scenery of Advent Greenery

Written, Filmed, and Photographed by: Caela Collins

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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)

Finding Home

Written By: Caela Collins

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As Christmas 2023 approaches, I find it harder to separate the idea of the Holy Family’s past from the Holy Land’s present. Many feelings around the Holy Land’s past and future call attention to duality, refuge, belonging, and intergenerational knowledge. Much like the Holy Family, there are countless families today still searching for safety and fleeing injustice. I don’t know what 2024 will bring, but what I do know to be true is that God always finds a way to us amid troubling times—guiding us and helping us find a way home.

It is no coincidence that creation mirrors the liturgical seasons. Advent, which is in the winter, is a time of darkness and anticipation for light, and light is what leads us home. Uncertainty is the only constant in life, but similarly to the first and second candles of Advent, we can find hope and peace in the light of the Lord, who always leads us home. Sometimes “home” looks different than what we intended it to look like. It may even be miles away from your birthplace. But just like the stable Christ was born in, there is unassuming beauty in finding God in places we don’t normally tend to look.

During this past year, I’ve explored stories with you that discussed holding sacred space for duality, seeking refuge in a foreign land, pursuing belonging as an act of self-acceptance, and leaning into intergenerational knowledge. Some of these stories are thematically linked through the rest of the piece. It’s my hope that through these small recollections of themes, peace may sprout. The final theme I present to you this December is “Finding Home.”


Finding a Spiritual Home

The theme for this year’s 10th anniversary of Spring Training & Gathering was “Invite. Welcome. Connect,” which is a framework for intentional practices of evangelism, hospitality, and belonging. At the core of its teaching is the idea of having brave conversations:

Invite: When you invite people to your parish events and services, it’s not only about inviting people into a relationship with your community but rather inviting them into a relationship with Jesus.

Tips: Break the ice with local businesses, town hall, schools (pre-k through college), community centers, other churches (interfaith bonds), charities, police, and fire stations by starting a conversation on common ground. A commonality is that you all care about your local town and the people within it. Discover the various ways they use their unique skills and talents to contribute to the local community, and invite them to join your efforts in helping the community through partnership. Release expectations and pressure. Embrace helping others, know what’s coming up for your parish calendar, and affirm that they are welcome to join, participate, or simply gift their presence.

Welcome: Genuinely invite new people to your parish, affirm that they are wanted, welcome them with open arms when they have the courage to show up, and re-affirm that their presence was vital and made a meaningful difference. 

Tips: It all boils down to acceptance and love; when you can exhibit that to someone who may be new or re-introduced to church, that is the act of participating in God’s mission for a more inclusive and loving world. A brave invitation opens the door for the brave first step of someone new to your parish, which in turn allows them to feel truly welcomed within your parish community and to start a relationship with Christ.

Connect: Foster genuine connection by being your authentic self and allow a safe space for them to be their authentic self. This requires the sacred act of listening; be an active listener by paying attention, showing that you’re being present with them, deferring judgement, and responding appropriately.

Tips: Hear their story first. Ask questions that will help your neighbors discern their gifts. Take thoughtful and friendly action to build a genuine connection and a safe space. Leave behind the evangelical sales pitch and speak from a place of presence and friendliness.


Finding a Home within Your Mind

Not only in the busy season of Advent and Christmas, it is imperative to build a beautiful home within your mind to house your thoughts. Based on cognitive science, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day, of which 80% are negative. Overall, we spend 47% of our time thinking, which is more time than we spend doing most day-to-day things. This is why it’s important to be intentionally kind to yourself.

When you have repetitive negative thoughts, that creates a dungeon-like atmosphere with no life, no light, and no hope. When you counteract negative thoughts with various mindfulness practices, that dungeon in your head is instantly renovated into a beautified space filled with your favorite things—vibrant colors, rays of sunshine, bountiful plants, and a comfy bed that rivals what even the highest-rated hotel suite could offer. Make it a point to visualize a beautiful space that you can visit during tough times; explore what decor would bring you the most hope, peace, love, and joy. We live in our heads most of the time, so take care of your inner home!

ECCT Wellness Videos:


Finding a Home with Others

“We spoke about the difference between being a tourist and being a pilgrim. As a staff member at St. George’s College once said, ‘a tourist is one who passes through the land, while a pilgrim is one who is open to having the land pass through her or him.” In other words, we go on this journey not just to ‘see sights,’ but rather to experience scripture in new and current ways.” These are words from The Rev. Dr. Lisa D. Hahneman, Priest-in-Charge at St. John’s, New Milford regarding the first in-person gathering of hopeful Holy Land pilgrims from the Holy Landers Ministry Network.

The Holy Landers Ministry Network is more than a pilgrimage group; it is a network of Episcopalians who seek to view our world through revitalized eyes. To allow foreign lands to remind them that we, as a people of all nationalities and backgrounds, are not merely words from the ancient text of the Bible but the living word in creation. Reaching back to the past to forge new paths for the future of Christ’s followers. Deepening their faith through a connection to the Holy Land’s past while finding spiritual home in the present and anchoring themselves in the mission of advancing the future by cultivating peace is how they hope to find home with others.

As we further uncover ways of “finding home,” let us remember to hold those who are currently in the Holy Land in our hearts and pray for a resolution to take place. May we give grace to those we do not understand and make intentional steps towards peace. May we lean on intergenerational knowledge passed down from the nativity story and know that God is with us in every season, even in times of persecution. Below are resources and an evening liturgy from the Holy Landers Meeting:


Understanding Juneteenth Beyond June

Written and Filmed by Caela Collins

Today marks exactly one month following the Juneteenth National Celebration. As of June 17, 2021, The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was passed by Congress with unanimous consent. This bill was passed over to President Biden whom signed it into law, making Juneteenth (June 19th) a federal U.S. holiday. Although Juneteenth is a fairly new addition to our list of U.S. federal holidays, it has been a core societal reset which flung the gates of God’s beloved community wide open; challenging the world to be the community God called it and needs it to be*. Stemming back to June 19, 1865, freedom from enslavement was embraced by more than 250,000 African Americans by executive decree.

For “Sacred White Folk,” a term used by Dr. Christena Cleveland, social psychologist, public theologian, author, and activist who has collaborated with the ECCT Office of Mission Advocacy, Racial Justice, & Reconciliation, Juneteenth is a celebration that can be widely celebrated alongside your Black and Brown siblings in Christ due to the divine nature of diversity. From lush green forests to dry sandy deserts, or the luminous stars within the night sky to the pitch-black depths of the frigid ocean, we can note God’s intentionality of diversity. The extent of physical variation within God’s creation is a reliable citation for the Creator’s purpose of painting a beloved community on this earthly canvas.

Quote: The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Mello:

“Jesus is the gatekeeper, not us…I hope you will challenge the church to be the community God calls it and needs it to be, I pray this room will not rest until the church lives up to its promise of being a place of love, and support, and community for ALL…I ask you to join one another, join together, in flinging the gates of God’s beloved community wide open, so that all who seek God may find and know God. That, my friends, is your task, that is OUR shared task and we will keep doing it with God’s help until everyone has life and has it abundantly. “

How to Celebrate Juneteenth

  1. Learn more about the holiday.
  2. Teach others, including children, about the holiday.
  3. Read books about Juneteenth.
  4. Watch videos and documentaries about Juneteenth.
  5. Have a Barbecue Family Feast highlighting red colored foods like fruit punch, red meat, watermelon, strawberries, and red velvet cake, symbolizing the bloodshed, sacrifice, ingenuity, and resilience of enslaved ancestors.
  6. Support Black-owned businesses.
  7. Listen to music from Black artists. June is also Black Music Month.
  8. Visit an African American Museum.
  9. Host a Juneteenth information session at your parish and hire a speaker of color.
  10. Create a Juneteenth inspired Liturgy via hosting a Juneteenth Sunday Service and invite locals within your community to attend and learn.
  11. Learn more about your parish’s past by connecting with the Witness Stones Project.
  12. Collaborate with local Black churches to learn about Juneteenth and its tie to Christianity as a time of Jubilee.
  13. Connect with our Office for Mission Advocacy, Racial Justice, & Reconciliation.
  14. Write a card or kind note or prayer for your Black and Brown siblings in Christ, appreciating their contributions and spread the gift of love.
  15. Contact and coordinate with your local towns or DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) Leadership to find out what Juneteenth events are happening within CT!

A Great Example

On June 18th, 2023 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Hebron hosted a Juneteenth Service. In creating this Juneteenth service, the parish did something groundbreaking by having the descendants of formerly enslaved persons by the parish’s 1st rector officiate the service.

Quote: The Rev. Ron Kolanowski:

“While I was away at a family wedding, I was confident that our lay leadership and others in the wider community would join hands to make this a memorable experience for all.  The descendants of formerly enslaved persons by our first rector took an active part in leading much of the service.  The family is half Muslim and half Christian, and both took active part in the service.  We’re especially indebted to Zakiyyah Peters Hasan for bring us a powerful word for that day and helping to shape the service to reflect the values of all.”

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

Creation Care Campus Eco Clean-up at Christ Church, Greenwich

Grab your garden gloves and join other parishioners and the Creation Care Committee for an eco-work morning. We will identify and remove invasive plants, look for good ideas to advance the environmental health of Christ Church, and enjoy fellowship and time in nature. Visit Dogwood Books & Gifts and show your work gloves for a free coffee!

Ekklesia Ballet presents: “Body and Land” at Trinity on the Green, New Haven

Ekklesia Ballet presents “Body and Land” in a one-night only engagement at Trinity on the Green in New Haven, CT. This performances celebrates the relationship between human beings and their environment, and fittingly serves as the opening to Trinity’s art show “Sacred Earth: An Exhibition on Faith, Creation, and Human Responsibility” running June 17-26. Doors open for browsing the art show at 5 pm, and Ekklesia takes the stage at 7 pm.

Admission is free. Please reserve parking on the church premises for those with mobility concerns.

How to Bring Electric School Busses to Your Community Webinar

It’s Earth Month! Be sure to get outside to love and appreciate all the beauty of Spring. The Interreligious Eco justice Network (IREJN) will offer two Webinars to help with the quality of our air.

The first is on Monday, April 18 at 7PM, on “How to Bring Electric School Busses to Your Community.” CT has money to upgrade busses, but who will receive it? Learn how to apply for your school district.

Register: https://electricbusestoyourcommunity.eventbrite.com

Our next Webinar will concentrate on weatherizing our homes to reduce the amount of energy we use. Join us on Monday April 25 at 7 PM to explore “Energy Efficiency as Eco-Justice”.

Our Webinars are free, but donations are welcome for our work. Go to www.irejn.org for more info. Blessings!

Care of Creation Lenten Bible Study and Reflection at St. John’s, North Haven

Beginning March 6th and continuing through Lent as the spirit leads us, St. John’s – North Haven will be offering a Bible study and reflection focusing on our care of creation. We will be using the short book “How Can I Care for Creation?” by Stephanie Johnson as a tool to inspire group conversation around creation Bible readings and our role as God’s people in the care and use of the Earth and its resources. The book can be purchased through Amazon in either paperback or Kindle form. Participants of all generations are encouraged to join in the conversation either in person or through Zoom following our 9:00AM Sunday services at about 10:30AM. Contact Jennifer Bassett at jbassett1966@hotmail.com for more information.

Care of Creation Lenten Bible Study and Reflection at St. John’s, North Haven

Beginning March 6th and continuing through Lent as the spirit leads us, St. John’s – North Haven will be offering a Bible study and reflection focusing on our care of creation. We will be using the short book “How Can I Care for Creation?” by Stephanie Johnson as a tool to inspire group conversation around creation Bible readings and our role as God’s people in the care and use of the Earth and its resources. The book can be purchased through Amazon in either paperback or Kindle form. Participants of all generations are encouraged to join in the conversation either in person or through Zoom following our 9:00AM Sunday services at about 10:30AM. Contact Jennifer Bassett at jbassett1966@hotmail.com for more information.

Care of Creation Lenten Bible Study and Reflection at St. John’s, North Haven

Beginning March 6th and continuing through Lent as the spirit leads us, St. John’s – North Haven will be offering a Bible study and reflection focusing on our care of creation. We will be using the short book “How Can I Care for Creation?” by Stephanie Johnson as a tool to inspire group conversation around creation Bible readings and our role as God’s people in the care and use of the Earth and its resources. The book can be purchased through Amazon in either paperback or Kindle form. Participants of all generations are encouraged to join in the conversation either in person or through Zoom following our 9:00AM Sunday services at about 10:30AM. Contact Jennifer Bassett at jbassett1966@hotmail.com for more information.