Thanksgiving, like many holidays, holds a space for both joy and grief. It’s an opportunity to appreciate those who are with you while being in remembrance of those who aren’t. It’s a time of reflection, holding loved ones close to you, and sharing food as a communal act of love while holding the Native and Indigenous peoples within your prayers and hearts.
Old stories about “Pilgrims and Indians” have traditionally carved out a singular narrative for this feast day, which in turn lacks respect for Indigenous perspectives and realities. At first glance, these conversations are uncomfortable because they force us to grieve what we once knew and wholeheartedly believed—narratives that once looked like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa become distorted like Pablo Picasso’s Seated Woman, a space where we reckon with disenchanted layers of new information.
Although difficult conversations feel heavy, you may find sincere peace in knowing that doubt is actually a door. I read in Spirit Wheel: Meditations from an Indigenous Elder by Steven Charleston“Faith is not the absence of critical thought, But thought put to the greatest question… Religion not a court but a laboratory. We were not made to conform but to explore.” The Episcopalian community is shifting as we learn to unlearn. Without questions, we do not learn new information, and without listening as a form of active worship, we do not grow into the inclusive community God wants us to be.
There is power in duality, friends; it is a pillar of faith because, in a world with individualized perspectives, environmental variables, and hereditary factors, the truth is that there are multiple truths when it comes to lived experiences. We must hold space for multiplicity, like Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror. Duality is a sacred experience that allows us to stand in the infamous world of “Both/And” thinking. Without it, existence would be one-dimensional.
Where there’s duality, there’s God…
Jacob was a cheater
Peter had a temper
David had an affair
Jonah was avoidant
Paul was a murderer
Thomas was a doubter
Lazarus was dead
Having hard conversations around Indigenous experiences was a mission Vicki MarkAnthony embarked on during her visit to the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, where she met up with 17 like-minded Episcopalians from Texas to work on three churches badly in need of repair, spend time with the children, plan activities, and learn from the elders (which required a lot of active listening).
Each day began and ended with communal devotions, led by one of my fellow missioners. Then we headed off to the day’s project, under the supervision of a woman with extensive experience managing disaster renovations. St. Andrew’s in Cherry Creek was not quite a disaster but in need of serious repair: windows were broken, floors had been flooded and warped, cracks in the wall were so wide the light came through, and both the outside and inside walls were in need of a paint job. The churches on the reservation are not just for worship but also for community gatherings, especially after a funeral or a baptism. And there are many funerals. When my former Rector, Ellen Huber, and her husband Kurt, formerly Rector of St. Peter’s Monroe, first arrived in 2020, they conducted over 50 funerals in the first month. Poverty, hunger, addiction, depression, COVID, and distances from healthcare have taken a toll on the Lakota people. But there is also much resilience, hope, and joy in each community.
Following the completion of each project, we celebrated with a Eucharist and sang Amazing Grace in Lakota before having a community meal. Since I had been asked to bring my banjo, the children gathered around, and we sang with joy. What a wonderful way to get to know the young ones of Bear Creek! At Cherry Creek, some folks played basketball with the teenagers while books and clothing were distributed after the meal. We learned how much the churches meant to the families in each community. Spending time with the elders gave us insights into their boarding school experiences, family traditions, love of the land, and connection to the horses, which freely roam throughout the indigenous communities. We also learned of the ongoing prejudices they experience from the non-natives, who own large tracts of rich crop land and horse and cattle ranches on the reservation, while the natives live on small plots in close communities.
At St. Andrew’s, we replaced broken glass with plexiglass, caulked the cracks, scraped and painted interior and exterior walls (painted in the 4 Lakota colors of red, yellow, black, and white), built a kitchen area for serving after weddings and funerals, cleared overgrowth, moved and reinstalled a wood stove, connected broken electrical outlets, dug drainage ditches, and installed new moldings and flooring. Only a few were construction experts; the rest of us learned on the job with lots of prayer. At St. John’s Eagle Butte, we painted the entry way (not technically a narthex since it leads to a community room) and repaired an exterior wall to the kitchen that a truck had driven through earlier that year. At the end of the week, we were invited to the Huber’s Black Horse Ranch, where they hold 4-H programs (America’s largest youth development organization) for the children, host summer camp programs, and offer Equine Therapy sessions (healing with horses).
We were invited to talk about the grief and joy we experienced while we were there and to spend time with the horses and nature, a source of healing. Lakota women made star quilts to present to the representatives of the three new churches. Christ Church Easton has recently installed theirs in the nathex, a symbol of a journey of discovery and a lament for our colonial sins.
Aid and Resources
If you are interested in following the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission and/or the Black Horse Ranch, you can follow them on Facebook: Cheyenne River Episcopal or BlackHorseRanchEB, and their website is www.cheyenneriverepiscopalmission.com. You can make donations via PayPal. If you want to send checks, their mailing address is Rev. Kurt and Rev. Ellen Huber, PO Box 552, Eagle Butte, SD 57625.
Written by Caela Collinsfeat. the Hispanic Ministry Network
Without saying where you live, what you have, who you know , or what you do… Who Are You?
That question stumped you, didn’t it? Don’t worry; I’m pretty sure that’s a boat we can all collectively float in. When I first came across that question, it snatched away each and every safety blanket, leaving me exposed to fend for my identity in a way that required me to place my core under a spiritual microscope. It’s ironic, but the truth is, it’s easy to introduce ourselves through external things: job titles, favorite hobbies, who our close friends are, what town we live in, ect. But when those aspects are off the table, defining yourself, truly and internally, isn’t as easy. In order for other people to know who you are, you must do an internal inventory of the secret ingredients that make you, you and I can tell you, tracking down something as elusive as your core essence is courageous. To clarify: I’m not saying that the external things you connect with shouldn’t be important to you; anything that’s within your personal solar system holds value and is a great indicator of your orientation. I’m just painting a bigger picture, like René Magritte in La Clairvoyance, 1936.
The benefit of knowing the answer to the question above isn’t for yourself; it’s for the greater collective. When you know who you are at your core, you can establish the essence of your ministry and emit the very energy that represents your heart. That energy is what you want to contribute to the world as a means to aid all beings and free them from suffering. There’s beauty in knowing yourself because it is the very thing that helps build community beyond the surface, which is a journey one of our ministry networks has bravely embarked on.
From the Hispanic Ministry Network to the Diocese,
Our challenges are many, but we try to do God’s work with what we have. Our gifts are of love for one another, and our goal is to share that love with the larger community. Many of our parishioners speak monolingual Spanish. There are members who are monolingual in Spanish, some who are bilingual in Spanish and English, and some who are predominately English speakers. Some of the parishes are involved with a food pantry to assist those in need in the community. Many of our parishioners are working-class people who try to make ends meet to have food and shelter. Some work long hours to try to achieve this. The language barrier is overcome whenever diocesan events have translators from English to Spanish and when communications in social and electronic media are provided in Spanish. It opens the doors for the community and allows them to participate.
There are many cities and towns in Connecticut where there can be an Episcopal presence within the Latino community, which is a major opportunity for growth. The church has always been the number one source of social enjoyment for most families. It is usually the foundation that we get as children from our first educational lessons, beginning with learning our prayers. It’s where we are taught to have hope for medical and psychological healing and refuge. Religion encompasses every facet of our lives, as found in art and philosophy. The church plays a vital role in every community.
As the needs of the community transition, our hope is that the church can meet these new challenges. We are seeking potential leaders in our community to come and work with us and tap those who may want to discern in lay leadership and Holy orders, especially in the diaconate. There is currently one Latino deacon, one Latina transitional deacon, and five Latino priests: one Haitian Spanish speaker and two White Spanish serving in the eight parishes, ministering to the Latino community.
Amidst the challenges before us, we do try to find time for celebration for all God has given us through our various cultures in music, dances, costumes, singing, and, of course, food. Our music is rhythmic through our Spanish, Indigenous, and African influences. Our food speaks of an open invitation to the table, with all its cultural variety. Our costumes reflect our music: bright, colorful, and fun.
Ways to Engage with the Community: In order to engage the Community, we must engage in the resident’s lives. We must invest in the Latino Community with tangible actions by implementing and offering…
Food Drives in front of Local Grocery Stores
Online Educational workshops via Zoom
Engage in Community Issues: homelessness, domestic violence, health care, ect.
Open Dialogue in safe spaces beyond Sunday for mass
We formally invite you to connect with your local communities and visit our community with questions, volunteers, and ministry. We are eager to connect with the wider ECCT collective and want to exchange ideas and resources. This letter is not only an opportunity for you to get to know us, but an invitation for us to connect on a deeper level as we continue to participate in God’s mission!
Primary contact for Ministry Network
The Rev. Dcn. Felix Rivera
Let’s Connect, Plan, and Brainstorm!
There is no one Latin America, or Latino or Latin American culture. We often hear the terms Hispanic and Latino used interchangeably; however, each term holds a distinct cultural nuance.
Hispanic: refers to individuals who speak Spanish as their first language. Typically, are from Spain or a country that has been colonized by the Spanish.
Latino/a/x: refers to individuals with Latin American roots/heritage. This term can be applies to those who speak a Latin based language such as Spanish, Portugese, and French. Typically, live in territories such as America, Haiti, and Brazil.
The heritage of Latin America blends indigenous, European, African, and Asian peoples, languages, and cultural traditions. Therefore, it is possible for those within this community to be considered White, Creole, Black, or Indigenous based on their unique ancestral lineage in which terms like Afro-Latino stem from.
What About Connecticut?
The Latino/Hispanic community in Connecticut makes up about 17% of the population.
A multi-cultural and multi-race community with origins primarily from Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Mixed also known as Creoles or Criollo (pronounced cree-oyo) between White, Black and Indigenous) (20%)
The largest concentration of Latinos (greater than 30%) are found in the following cities/towns of Connecticut:
Sin decir dónde vives, qué tienes, a quién conoces, o qué haces… ¿Quién eres?
Esa pregunta te dejó perplejo, ¿no? No te preocupes; Estoy bastante seguro de que es un barco en el que todos podemos flotar colectivamente. Cuando me encontré con esa pregunta por primera vez, me arrebató todas y cada una de las mantas de seguridad, dejándome expuesta a defender mi identidad de una manera que me obligó a poner mi núcleo bajo un microscopio espiritual. Es irónico, pero la verdad es que es fácil presentarnos a través de cosas externas: puestos de trabajo, pasatiempos favoritos, quiénes son nuestros amigos cercanos, en qué ciudad vivimos, etc. Pero cuando esos aspectos están fuera de la mesa, definirse a sí mismo, verdadera e internamente, no es tan fácil. Para que otras personas sepan quién eres, debes hacer un inventario interno de los ingredientes secretos que te hacen, tú y yo puedo decirte, rastrear algo tan difícil de alcanzar como tu esencia central es valiente. Para aclarar: no estoy diciendo que las cosas externas con las que te conectas no deban ser importantes para ti; cualquier cosa que esté dentro de tu sistema solar personal tiene valor y es un gran indicador de tu orientación. Simplemente estoy pintando un cuadro más amplio, como René Magritte en La Clairvoyance, 1936.
El beneficio de saber la respuesta a la pregunta anterior no es para tí; es para la comunidad. Cuando sabes quién eres en tu esencia, puedes establecer la esencia de tu ministerio y emitir la misma energía que representa tu corazón. Esa energía es la que quieres aportar al mundo como medio para ayudar a todos los seres y liberarlos del sufrimiento. Es hermoso conocerse a uno mismo porque es precisamente lo que ayuda a construir una comunidad más allá de la superficie, que es un viaje en el que una de nuestras redes ministeriales se ha embarcado con valentía.
Nuestros desafíos son muchos, pero tratamos de hacer la obra de Dios con lo que tenemos. Nuestros dones son de amor mutuo y nuestro objetivo es compartir ese amor con la comunidad en general. Muchos de nuestros feligreses hablan solamente español. Hay miembros que son monolingües en español, algunos que son bilingües en español e inglés y algunos que son predominantemente angloparlantes. Algunas de las parroquias participan con una despensa de alimentos para ayudar a los necesitados de la comunidad. Muchos de nuestros feligreses son personas de clase trabajadora que intentan llegar a fin de mes teniendo comida y alojamiento. Algunos trabajan muchas horas para intentar lograrlo. La barrera del idioma se supera cuando los eventos diocesanos cuentan con traductores del inglés al español y cuando las comunicaciones en los medios sociales y electrónicos se brindan en español. Abre las puertas a la comunidad y les permite participar.
Hay muchas ciudades y pueblos en Connecticut donde puede haber una presencia episcopal dentro de la comunidad latina, lo cual es una gran oportunidad de crecimiento. La iglesia siempre ha sido la fuente número uno de disfrute social para la mayoría de las familias. Generalmente es la base que obtenemos como niños desde nuestras primeras lecciones educativas, comenzando por aprender nuestras oraciones. Es donde se nos enseña a tener esperanza de curación y refugio médico y psicológico. La religión abarca todas las facetas de nuestras vidas, como se encuentra en el arte y la filosofía. La iglesia juega un papel vital en cada comunidad.
A medida que las necesidades de la comunidad cambian, nuestra esperanza es que la iglesia pueda enfrentar estos nuevos desafíos. Estamos buscando líderes potenciales en nuestra comunidad para que vengan a trabajar con nosotros y reconozcan a aquellos que quieran discernir en el liderazgo laico y las órdenes sagradas, especialmente en el diaconado. Actualmente hay un diácono latino, un diácono de transición latino y cinco sacerdotes latinos: un sacerdote haitiano hispanohablante y dos sacerdotes blancos que hablan español que sirven en las ocho parroquias, ministrando a la comunidad latina.
En medio de los desafíos que tenemos por delante, tratamos de encontrar tiempo para celebrar todo lo que Dios nos ha dado a través de nuestras diversas culturas en música, bailes, disfraces, cantos y, por supuesto, comida. Nuestra música es rítmica a través de nuestras influencias españolas, indígenas y africanas. Nuestra comida habla de una invitación abierta a la mesa, con toda su variedad cultural. Nuestros disfraces reflejan nuestra música: brillante, colorida y divertida.
Formas de interactuar con la comunidad: para involucrar a la comunidad, debemos envolvernos en la vida de los residentes. Debemos invertir en la Comunidad Latina con acciones tangibles implementando y ofreciendo…
• Colectas de alimentos frente a las tiendas de comestibles locales
• Talleres educativos en línea vía Zoom
• Participar en cuestiones comunitarias: personas sin hogar, violencia doméstica, atención médica, etc.
• Diálogo Abierto en espacios seguros más allá del domingo para la misa
• Compartir recursos
•Servicios de traducción
Lo invitamos formalmente a conectarse con sus comunidades locales y visitar nuestra comunidad con preguntas, voluntarios y ministerio. Tenemos ansiedad de conectarnos con la comunidad ECCT más ampliamente y queremos intercambiar ideas y recursos. ¡Esta carta no es solo una oportunidad para que usted nos conozca, sino también una invitación para que nos conectemos a un nivel más profundo mientras continuamos participando en la misión de Dios!
Contacto principal de la Red Ministerial
Rev. Dcn. Félix Rivera
¡Conectémonos, planifiquemos y hagamos una lluvia de ideas!
No existe una sola América Latina, ni una cultura latina o latinoamericana. A menudo escuchamos que los términos hispano y latino se usan indistintamente; sin embargo, cada término tiene un matiz cultural distinto.
• Hispano: se refiere a personas que hablan español como su primer idioma. Por lo general, son de España o de un país que ha sido colonizado por los españoles.
• Latino/a/x: se refiere a personas con raíces/herencia latinoamericana. Este término se puede aplicar a quienes hablan un idioma de base latina, como el español. Habitualmente viven en territorios como Sudamérica, Centroamérica y el Caribe.
La herencia de América Latina combina pueblos, lenguas y tradiciones culturales indígenas, europeas, africanas y asiáticas. Por lo tanto, es posible que aquellos dentro de esta comunidad sean considerados blancos, criollos, negros o indígenas en función de su linaje ancestral único del que provienen términos como afrolatino.
¿Qué pasa en Connecticut?
La comunidad latina/hispana en Connecticut constituye aproximadamente el 18% de la población.
Una comunidad multicultural y multirracial con orígenes principalmente de Centroamérica, Sudamérica y el Caribe.
Negro o afroamericano (12%)
Indígena, nativo de Alaska (1%)
Mixto también conocido como criollo o criollo (pronunciado cree-oyo) entre blancos, negros e indígenas) (3%)
La mayor concentración de latinos (más del 30%) se encuentra en las siguientes ciudades/pueblos de Connecticut:
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Interviewed by Caela Collins feat. The Rev. George Roberts, Rector of St. James, Farmington
What does it mean to be a church that has lasted 150 years and is continuing to last, through so many different changes throughout time? and What is unique to your parish that you feel has aided in being able to have such longevity?
There is a real weight and I mean that in the very best sense. A weight to responsibility maybe is privilege to be living into the reality of what started in 1873 October of that year, and that the life of this community that has grown, expanded, ebbed, and flowed over 150 years, holding that responsibility in 2023. To me it is a real privilege and blessing.
What has helped us endure for all those years is, and I think, is probably true for any church that’s been around for a really long time is our people themselves. They are incredibly spirit filled and dedicated people who have in various ways channeled the hope, the expectancy, the love of Jesus through the generations of this church. Through the extension of hospitality, primarily to be in the place where we stand still, are a vibrant community that is a real period of energy and growth.
Can you tell me about the history of St. James?
We had at one time in this church, four generations of the founding family or one of them, of the parish, The Mason family. Henry Hall Mason and his father, Charles Mason, were the primary architects and builders of the initial church sanctuary, which is still our worship space.Charles was an immigrant from England, who came to the Farmington valley in the 1850s, I think, and he and his son have built this church from native stone and lumber mainly from this mountain. They hauled it with a horse and cart to this site, and did a lot of the work themselves with of course with other people.
When I first arrived, Henry Mason’s grandson, another Henry, was an aging member of this parish, and his son, Henry, who we call “Skip,” is a member of our choir, an active member of our church, a member of the vestry. He came on this year, partly to help us usher in this 150th. Henry’s daughter, Anne Marie is a member of this parish, and his grandchildren were both baptized in this parish during my time here, and so there is still a living, active legacy of the father and son who built and helped begin this worshiping community 150 years ago, and started the construction of this church in 1898. And so, we’ve been in this physical space for 125 years this year.
How would you describe the Spiritual Atmosphere of St. James?
There’s all this legacy and you can feel it, really, when you go into the worship space. There are these echoes of nurturing, and welcome and invitation and love, that really permeates the fibers of the pews and the walls of the church and the altar, which was installed in 1910 by Henry Mason, who built it, and it was dedicated in that year. So there are all these really wonderful reminders of a distant past, but it’s not so distant that we don’t still feel connected to it.
What we are trying to do to honor that legacy of Eucharistic and congregational blessing is to continue that history and legacy of welcome. Everyone really who comes to me, and has decided to join St. James over the last 10 or 11 years, they just feel welcome here. They felt like this was home for them spiritually, and they were seeking, they were looking, and they found a home here because they felt that blessing of welcome here. It’s a really welcoming church physically and spiritually. That’s a legacy that was established long before I came here. It’s one that we want to continue to honor by the way that we conduct ourselves and the way that we open ourselves up to the people who come to us.
Can you just tell me a little bit about the welcoming energy of your church? Like if you had to put it into words, what aspects about your church, make it both physically and spiritually welcoming?
Physically, it feels like a welcoming place, which I know is hard to describe. But I came here from serving as an associate at a large, brand new worship space in Columbia, South Carolina, and kind of pristine, stained glass filled church that was beautiful acoustically, and just a physically beautiful church. I quickly discovered that this very simple New England style Episcopal Church just had a physical warmth that you feel when you come into the worship space. All the dark wood, and the carved very simple, detail to the lectern, and the pulpit, and the altar, and all of it has a very kind of homey sort of feel to it, a personal feel. So is there is that welcome that you feel from the physical space when you come into it. I believe we’ve worked really hard over the years, and certainly, since I came here, to be a church of noticing, so we notice people andsayings; so when people come into our space, we kind of gravitate toward them. I’d like to think in the best possible sense not overwhelming them, but noticing that they’re they that they’re here.
Let’s dive deeper into a culture of “Noticing” Can you explore that in more detail?
This isn’t just me, it’s from the ushers to the people in the pews, noticing that someone is new, noticing that someone is seeking, and coming to that person and talking to them. The same is true for lemonade on the lawn in the summer or coffee hour during the program year. That not having people come in and just kind of be feeling disconnected and wandering around but really noticing that they’re here and connecting with them in what I believe is a warm and inviting way, channeling the Spirit of Christ’s Welcome to people as they come through our doors.
When I had the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with them in person, they’ve all mentioned how welcome they feel here, how invited and blessed they feel here; not in some kind of a generic sense, but they really feel a real spiritual, Christ centered connection. Feeling really connected to that open welcome that I think Jesus intends for all of us to experience in our worship communities.
Outside of the immediate Episcopal community how do you/ or do you connect with your local community, the neighborhood that the parish resides in?
Yes, we are in kind of a village, a primarily residential area and we’re surrounded by the boarding school, Miss Porter’s school, that is the girl school that’s right down the street from us, and has existed since before we did. We have a real what for us, and I think for them, too, is a really important connection. When COVID Initially came about, they asked us if we maybe had some space that they might be able to use, they were just trying to spread out, more social distancing, etc. So we invited them to use our parish hall during the week for classes. They were live streaming the class via video to the girls who were learning from home who had decided not to come back to campus, at least at that time.
We’ve had lots of connective energy, like that we had this past year, for the whole year, we’ve had Porter’s, intern; they have an intern program for juniors and seniors, where they can do real work in the community and learn something. One of the girls in the fall and two of them in the spring, working on specific projects related to our 150th. There was a girl in the fall, who designed our logo for the 150th in conjunction with our 150th committee. Then we had two girls in the spring that worked with me and created a video that is now on our main page. Really wonderful, kind of professional looking video, where they interviewed members of the parish about what they loved about St. James.
We’ve talked about doing like a Women’s Summit that would be hosted here, but essentially run by Porter’s that would do empowerment seminars for young women. And we always have a faculty member or two from Porter’s that are part of our community who’ve worked on those kinds of projects in the past.
I am the chaplain for the fire department fire houses. We have some church members from the Fire and Rescue Service in Farmington. We have cooperatively done first aid treatment days, CPR classes, we’re going to do another one of those in the fall that we host here but are actually done by members of the first responder community in Farmington.
The elementary school across the street, we’ve done some volunteering as story readers, etc. there and they have participated in our Thanksgiving basket collection that we do for the town of Farmington at Thanksgiving every year. Usually a kindergarten class will bring over one basket worth of stuff, and they’ll pull it over with a little wagon, and the whole class will come over and pull it over here.
We’re also involved heavily involved in New Britain with the Friendship Service Center, which is a full service. Homeless and substance abuse Center that provides residential treatment, residential housing, job counseling and coaching and then segue into apartments.
In regards to community engagement you’ve mentioned embracing failure through trial and error: Do you have any advice for other parishes who have had a failure, and trying to reorganize or create something new?
Yeah, I think that there has to be lay buy in, a group of people in your congregation, meeting with the leadership of any entity that you want to, in an area where you think you might want to exert some energy, and seeing what they need and asking them what they need, and how they envision a partnership working. So we got involved in the beginning in the area where they felt they had the greatest need, and as we got more involved, we realized there were other needs that they had as they were growing and expanding and we tried to be flexible and meet those needs, while at the same time continuing to come back to our community and saying, is this meeting our needs? And it’s okay to say okay, we believe this is part of our mission and ministry. And this is an area where we want to exert energy in. It’s alsoexploring what are the organizations that are doing this kind of work, and being willing if an organization no longer we feel is it is meeting that need that we have to exert energy. It’s being willing to pull back regroup, and say, Okay, do we need to explore other organizations and areas, that might be a better fit for this ministry?
Communication is tremendously important; and when it’s absent or lacking, it makes it hard to do the things that we need to do. So, openness, communication, being true to your mission, and being willing to reevaluate, I think those are the primary things that has been successful for us just in this one particular instance. But I think in all of the other things we’re involved in as well.
I love a good mountaintop experience, and in the Scripture passages appointed for last Sunday, we heard about two of them. Mountaintop experiences are moments when everything changes. You gain a sudden insight into something that up until then, was hidden. You see things for what they really are. And you’re never quite the same again.
But “mountaintop experiences” don’t only happen on mountaintops. I had such an experience during the summer of 1973, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a 23-year old college graduate who, until my senior year, had been planning on becoming a Roman Catholic priest, but I abandoned that. After a year working at a national news magazine, I was accepted to begin Georgetown law school in Washington, D.C. in September. In order to save up money, I came home to Connecticut for work. Through a friend of a friend who had a high-ranking job in the Department of Corrections, I was able to land the unlikely job of being a summer correctional officer at the old Seyms Street jail in Hartford. At the time, I realized I was lucky to land this job, and how privileged I was to have this friend of a friend get me an interview that, with zero experience, I most assuredly didn’t deserve.
Now you might be wondering how this 23-year-old suburban White boy who until then had been preparing to be a Roman Catholic priest did as a correctional officer? What struck me immediately was a disparity: All but one of my colleagues was white, while the vast majority of the incarcerated residents were Black or Latino.
The first evening got off to a rocky start: At supper time, another officer asked to borrow my keys and I inadvertently locked myself up on the third floor cellblock. Everybody else was downstairs, laughing like crazy, and there I was, alone and locked up on the third tier. “Hey, somebody go up and let that officer out,” was the amused cry from down below.
Several weeks later, having settled into the routine of the job, another officer and I had recreation duty outside after supper. One resident came up to me complaining that a guy named Charlie had stolen his commissary card. Other residents confirmed that this had happened. When I approached Charlie and asked him to see the commissary card to confirm the owner, he refused. I reported it to my fellow officer, who said I had to “write him up” on a disciplinary report. Which I did. As it turned out, Charlie had in fact stolen the man’s commissary card.
What I DIDN’T know was that Charlie was considered to be one of the toughest and most combative residents in the jail. It took 8 men to forcibly bring him to the holding cell that was known as “deadlock.”
As I was doing the paperwork relating to Charlie, I reflected on the experience. Apparently having some pastoral gifts still at work within me, I reflected on how the incident might have gone differently and was moved to seek some sort of reconciliation with Charlie. Before I left for the night, I went down to the cell to see Charlie. I assured him that I was not there to taunt him, and told him that I was going to be off for a few days. I told him that I was sorry about the way things turned out that evening. I told him that I was going to do some praying & reflecting on how the events of the evening might have turned out differently. I asked him to do the same. It was pretty clear that Charlie was in no mood to deal with me, and I didn’t blame him.
When I returned three days later, Charlie was out of deadlock and back in general population. At supper time, he approached me in the dining hall and said he appreciated my visit to him that night. He invited me up to his “house” and said he had something to show me. Now it occurred to me that this might be a trap, but, with my 23-year-old naivete and my Christian belief in the basic goodness of all people, I said, “Of course!” So after supper, he brought me up to his cell, and there he proudly showed me two walls literally covered with intricate, beautiful pencil drawings that, with more sophisticated materials, would have been considered of professional quality. He said, “I thought you would like to see what I can do.”
In that moment, Charlie was transfigured before me: No, he didn’t appear in glistening white robes with a radiant face like Jesus on the mountaintop or Moses when he comes down. But just as Jesus was revealed on that mountaintop to the disciples for who he really was, Charlie was revealed to me in that moment, as the person he was in his essence. He wasn’t the angered, callous young man who challenged the world with bravado, but the talented young man who had a beautiful dream for his life to be an artist, one who had a beautiful vision of what the world could be. That dream, like the dreams of so many other young men whom I met that summer, never came true for a variety of reasons and massed situational layers, which collectively were so overwhelming as to snuff out his dreams at such an early age.
I don’t think that it is much of a stretch to say that in the confrontation and reconciliation that Charlie and I experienced, we were each transfigured in the eyes of the other, our relationship changed by seeing something in the other that had not been visible before. Were we going to be best friends forever? No. But we developed a respect and appreciation for the other that changed the both of us for the better. I truly believe that God was present in that moment of sharing.
When you think about them, the two mountaintop experiences we read about in Exodus 34:29-35 and Luke 9:28-36 actually worked on two levels. In the case of Moses, the encounter with God changed his own appearance before his people – his people saw and understood him in a new way. However, Moses’ experiences on the mountaintop also changed him — his understanding of God and of his relationship with God. Likewise, in the passage from Luke, the apostles are given the unique opportunity to see Jesus for who he is – the Son of God, in the angelic company of Moses and Elijah. In that appearance, they themselves were changed – they understood that this rabbi they were following was indeed connecting them to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in new and transformational ways. This understanding led them to a new understanding of themselves.
My friend and seminary colleague, Maryetta Anschutz, an Episcopal Priest and founder of The Episcopal School of Los Angeles, said that “We cannot escape God, Immanuel among us. God will find us in our homes and in our workplaces. God will find us when our hearts are broken and when we discover joy. God will find us when we run away from and when we are sitting in the middle of what seems like hell.“
As God has done since the Creation, God today is summoning us to a re-visioning of what God’s dominion is like in this present time. Who is God calling us to be in this time – as individuals, as public citizens, as the church? How does being a Christian make a difference in our day to day lives? How can the transformative relationship we have with God transform our relationships with one another? How can we see each other in that new light that only God can shine upon us? Even in the midst of distress, even in the midst of pain and suffering, even in the cold and lonely reaches of a prison cell – perhaps, even especially in those times and in those places – God is inviting us to open ourselves up to one another, in mutual vulnerability – to see in each other the light of Christ, the presence of God’s love.
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. “
Teach others, including children, about the holiday.
Read books about Juneteenth.
Watch videos and documentaries about Juneteenth.
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.
Support Black-owned businesses.
Listen to music from Black artists. June is also Black Music Month.
Visit an African American Museum.
Host a Juneteenth information session at your parish and hire a speaker of color.
Create a Juneteenth inspired Liturgy via hosting a Juneteenth Sunday Service and invite locals within your community to attend and learn.
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.
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.”
Kelly Latimore is one of the most celebrated artists of contemporary religious icons, that’s dedicated to prayerfully creating art depicting “God in plain sight.” Latimore’s modern take on the centuries-old practice of iconography in recent years fuses bible imagery and modern cultural resets. He substitutes well-known biblical figures for those who represent the marginalized and oppressed. For instance his piece, “Mama,” a pietà icon, which represents the 13th station: ‘Jesus is taken down from the cross’. In this image, Jesus is depicted as the late George Floyd, an image that was carried by Black Lives Matter marchers.
The below artwork was purchased by ECCT in June 2023
“As an artist, I’m entering into this improvisation or this dialogue, which I think doesn’t happen in a lot of artists’ work. Working on this artwork with churches can be very hard. But what is so gratifying and is a gift to me is that part of the work: the communality, the conversations about images that mean something to them and that want to push them toward communities and push them toward new ways of being in the world and new ways of relating to one another. I wouldn’t be able to enter into that if I wasn’t doing this work specifically, so I think it’s just about receiving those gifts and doing the best I can to translate that gift [of commonality] into the work.“
“We are just constantly inundated with images. What happens, especially with the social media world, TikTok, Instagram, whatever, is that we can be so quick to speak about something. I hope my art has the potential to teach us not to speak into something but to learn how to observe, to be still, and observe something. And that’s my hope for these images, that they can potentially create dialogue. Not only an internal dialogue but also a dialogue between each other. And that just observing and not speaking into something, I think, is the first part of connecting to the piece of art, whether it’s art in churches, in this iconography, or elsewhere.” -Kelly Latimore
Food for Thought
“What is our church art for? Is it glorified wallpaper, or can it be something that can help us see each other, see in new ways and see God in new ways?”
Written, Interviewed, Voiceover, & Filmed by Caela Collins
As June comes to a close let us realize that it is the month of magic, not the kind of magic that hides in the depths of a Mary Poppins carry-on or the depths of a black top hat. Its also not the kind of magic that’s tucked underneath the cool side of a pillow, appreciating in value as the clock strikes midnight. June represents the kind of magic that can’t be contained, the kind of mysterious wonder and awe that only God can comprehend fully. God speaks to everyone in their own unique way whether it be dance, or nature, or liturgy. However, one profound way God’s magic emanates isn’t that of songbird nannies, rabbits, or tooth fairies, it’s in the stillness and silence of universal reminders to abundantly & unapologetically love our earthly siblings.
June’s true magic is born through reminders, which hold the magical wisdom of God’s word:
A reminder to accept one another as they are and where they are. (LGBTQIA+ Pride Month)
A reminder that our Black & Brown siblings in Christ are equals, not by emancipation, but by birthright. (Juneteenth)
A reminder to respond with compassion to those who mask their despair with anger, irritability, and bitterness. (PTSD Awareness Month)
A reminder to protect & prevent American children and teens from a man-made epidemic through programs like Swords to Plowshares.(Gun Violence Awareness Month)
A reminder that monetary success, material assets, and hierarchical titles can fly far away like Icarus [*Proverbs 23 4-5] but to keep core memories with loved ones extremely close to your heart and soul. (Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month)
A reminder that the word “home” isn’t exclusive to tangible walls and curated designs inspired by the latest trend on HGTV; its wherever you have love, feel safe, are seen & welcomed. (Immigrant Heritage Month)
A final reminder that June enchants us with is to help keep one another safe from the workplace to anyplace (National Safety Month). With the help of The Rev. Matt Handi, Priest in Charge at St. Luke’s, South Glastonbury, ECCT visited the parish house next door to learn more about a charitable pop-up shop called The Olive Branch.
Branching out can be a bit daunting, but not for Jacqueline Ford, founder of The Olive Branch, South Glastonbury and bureau of external affairs, Department of Children and Families (DCF). In regards to National Safety Month, St. Luke’s, South Glastonbury created a safe space for The Olive Branch to grow roots as it spreads it’s branches to offer peace and reconcile family relationships:
How did you get Started with The Olive Branch? and What brought you to St. Luke’s, South Glastonbury?
Why South Glastonbury?
What called you to do this work?
What is a story that has always stuck with you?
Why name it The Olive Branch?
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or even starting their own charitable pop up shop?
Explain what DCF is and how it connects to The Olive Branch:
What is the Olive Branch Experience?
Tell us about your collaboration with St. Luke’s, South Glastonbury?
“We are accepting new toys for birth to 18 and we’re in desperate need of items for our teenage population they can email me and we can make arrangements to meet in the community. I’m thinking about having different hubs in the community, but we’re gathering items all year long. It’s not just about Christmas time. It’s really about all year long!”
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.
“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.”
Interested in some pastoral R&R or summer camp fun for the youth? Reach out to Camp Washington!
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.