Understanding Juneteenth Beyond June

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 Iconography Project with Kelly Latimore

Interviewed & Voiceover by Caela Collins

Listen to the Story


With the support of Bishop Diocesan, The Rt. Rev Jeffrey W. Mello, on Tuesday, June 20, the Racial Healing, Justice & Reconciliation Network and the Office of Mission Advocacy, Racial Justice, and Reconciliation created an Art Exhibition (on display until Convention; all are welcome to come and view) at The Commons, Meriden which diversifies sacred images as an embodiment of our collective spirituality followed by a lecture with artist, Kelly Latimore.

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

Mama

Kelly Latimore 


St. Joseph

Kelly Latimore 

Artist Statement:

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.

The Benefits of Silence

“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?”

It’s Time to Branch Out!

Written, Interviewed, Voiceover, & Filmed by Caela Collins

Listen to the Story

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:

Interview with Jacqueline Ford at St. Luke’s Parish House, South Glastonbury

Questions Asked:

  • Introduction
  • 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?

Get Involved!

Jacqueline FordJacqueline.Ford@ct.gov
Donations“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!”
Website: The Olive Branch

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?

From Longing to Belonging

Interviewed & Written By: Caela Collins

What if I told you belonging was singular? Often times, we package belonging as a way to be accepted and folded into communal spaces outside of ourselves. But what’s community when you aren’t even home within the confines of your own body? Who is the representative that stands in the place of your true reflection? What masquerade ball has your soul spinning around eggshells, dizzying your identity in the process?

When you come to the realization that belonging doesn’t require any external deliberation and it is only you who has that voting right, you step into your power of belonging to self. I won’t sugarcoat this journey; belonging is a consistent act that takes courage. It requires you to stand alone and belong to yourself above all else. Being a person of color requires a daily practice of choice: choosing to unapologetically stand firm in who the Divine has beautifully and intentionally created you to be, even if you are cast against a stark background. 

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI for short), a time where we highlight communities with connections to Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, and other Asian and Pacific Islander ancestries, consisting of approximately 50 distinct ethnic groups and speaking over 100 languages. I had a powerful conversation about cultural identity and the notion of belonging by coming home to oneself with Ranjit K. Matthews, our Canon for Mission Advocacy, Racial Justice & Reconciliation who is Indian-American.


Ranjit’s Cultural Roots:

My parents came here from South India, in the early 1970s. And they came separately. And they met here through mutual acquaintances, and they got married in around the Boston area. And you know, we’re from a part of India that’s called Kerala, which is in the southern part of India, which is a state where the Apostle Thomas traversed from the Middle East down to Kerala and evangelized. My spouse, Johanna and I, and my family, all of us are sort of a part of that Marthoma lineage and Mar Thoma means Church of Thomas. So, that’s where we’re from, we trace our lineage from Thomas.

Intergenerational Journey and ties to Priesthood:

My great grandfather was a Mar Thoma priest, and people from all over Kerala and I think South India would actually travel to go see my Veliappacha and my Veliammachi, that’s what we call them, to have my great, great grandfather pray over them, because he was known for his gift of healing. People would come and stay with them for a couple of days while he would offer prayers often times coming with tears. So that’s sort of the lineage. When my great grandfather died, my father wanted to be a Priest and follow my grandfather into ministry. That’s why he came to the United States. My dad would do lots of other jobs in the broader Boston community, like, working as a Therapist at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Massachusetts. He was an executive director of the Asian American Resource workshop. He was a banker and an insurance agent. My mom held a steady job as a hematologist at Mass General Hospital.

Finding a Church Community in the U.S.

My dad had a yearning to follow God. He came to this country to go into ministry, and he completed his master’s in divinity at Princeton, but didn’t have a community around him. And so because of that, we went to a lot of different churches in and around Massachustte, because he was responding to his call, and then found a home in the Episcopal ChurchAnd at that point, I was 11 years old. I guess, felt home at a church and outside of Boston in Milton, where we were going, I felt really moved there by a sense of embrace that I found from, a Priest there now a colleague, and a dear friend of mine.

Unknown Untethering

I went to college in, Washington, DC, and there, I was looking for an Episcopal presence. And I remember going because I wanted to replicate that same experience that I had at St. Michael’s in Milton, and find an equally embracing community. I found a community that a first was community oriented; but the theology they were preaching and espousing was rigidly fundamentalist, and conservative. I was instructed to not hang out with people who were from different religions, this is what we call Purity Culture, and those are my friends. I had friends who were Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Jewish, really from all over. I had to really give up part of myself to be part of the space and that was really awful.  I gave up going dancing and even gave away my Hip Hop CD’s, which I was told, were not of God.

The Turning Point

But, it really came to the fore, in my sophomore year, when my family, and I, my dad, my mom, and my sister, we traveled to India. We did that every four years, and my parents hope was for my sister and I to be connected to our family’s heritage and keep my sister and also on a cultural level. I remember my father, who was now deeply within the ordination process within the Episcopal diocese of Massachusetts. He was very open and I was this guy that had these blinders on. I remember sitting with my father on my grandparents, veranda, one afternoon. I remember I was going through theological questions, of who was saved, who was not saved. My father, in his wisdom, said, you know, Ranjit, “Do you believe that everybody here in India, who are not Christian, do you believe they’re going to Hell? And then after a pause, he said, “Because that’s not the type of God that I believe in.” That questioned was a seed in my heart and it opened up my theological and spiritual imagination.

Two weeks later, my family and I were in a cathedral in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. We visited a city called Mysore, and the Cathedral which had trappings of British colonialism. But we walked down, we took off our shoes, and were wowed by the beauty of this spiritual place.  When we were heading back up, at the top of the stairs were two girls who had leprosy. And leprosy at that time was, I don’t know, was maybe a little bit more common. But they didn’t have any legs and they were pushing themselves around on like make shift skateboards and one of them very powerfully looked down at me while I was on the stairs, and, you know, she touched My Feet, which in India, within different cultures that are in India, it’s a sign of respect. You touch their feet, and you bring it to their mouth, or to the chest. And she did that to me. And I felt on a spiritual level, I felt like she was saying to me, Ranjit just be who you are, don’t judge anybody just being who you are. And I was seeing God in her and she was saying to me, you know, come and be here with me and India and fight for justice. And so that moment with her, that really opened my eyes. I think, that was my is a my most spiritual mystical moment was that moment, that was my awakening. And that moment led me into ministry, you know, in different work in South Africa, and Tanzania, and different places across the United States.


Ranjit K. Matthews with family in Kerala, India

How do you Honor the Belonging with Self?

I try to challenge the norms of White Supremacy by what I wear, my kurta’s, and things that I wear, even the foods that I eat, you know, even how I eat, it’s not just something that’s performative, it’s something that is who I am, right.

And so I have a lot of joy, and even what, you know traveling to India a month ago, people might consider going to be a vacation, but for me, it was, you know, it wasn’t really a vacation, but an real opportunity to deepen my connection, reconnect with my roots, and then help our boys, who are American through and through really connect to their foremothers, their extended family. It’s so deeply critical that we went on that trip, so that they can experience the beauty of our culture, of our food, of our clothing, of our language, of the noise, the color, just all of that beauty that I’m so proud of now. I didn’t have much appreciation of my culture growing up, from my name that teacher’s and others would struggle to pronounce, the aroma of mom’s delicious Indian cooking in my house when friends would come over, but it’s something that I’ve come to really embrace as part of me, so deeply a part of me.

What does your Absolute Unapologetic Full Self look like?

Just someone that is free. That doesn’t cater to the norms of society, that would allow me to be unapologetically me and not, not diminish myself. My great uncle Alex, who had many vocations as a physicist, a psychotherapist, like meditation guru who. I remember one time on the T in Boston, as we were heading for my father’s ordination. I remember seeing him dancing, without any inhibitions. All of us, his relatives are sitting on the train, a little embarrassed but our great uncles, he dancing because he’s free. He’s was unencumbered by the fact that people were staring at him how other people are looking at him that he’s free. And so remembering that and bringing him into my, into my mind space into my heart space, and realizing that he is part of my ancestry.

What Antidote can you give to those Seeking to Belong to themselves?

My real medicine is silence you know, and the quiet. That’s my prayer time when I can go so fully internally with God and that is such a real important gift to me to be able to do that. It allows me to space my to be authentic self. Reminding myself of my food, or language and culture, those nourishing spaces that that again, remind me of who I am. But we do have a thing, create our own space, and God has given us agency. So what has been important for me, is in whether they are groups of Beloved’s in my life, have friends in my life, that have nurtured me and connected with me. Sending me affirmations of love, irrespective of the institution or place, it’s just a space to be me, a space to be free and to take down your mask. Rest, being in touch with your body, if my mind, if my body, if my soul is rested, then it might be a space to dream and think with some theological imagination.

When you enter into a place that doesn’t necessarily look like you, those are the things that give me spiritual and mystical strength from God, you know, to, to show up unabashedly to show but some boldness, and with some strength.

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.

In the Midst of Mist

Interviewed & Written By: Caela Collins

Fear, a shadow we know all to well.
Something that comes knocking at our door

Regardless of any socially constructed differentiation that would coin any human as “other.”


Fear has no preference or boundaries for human territory.
It is inevitable in all of our lives;
Taking the form of layered mist, concealing the road ahead.


How far can you truly run to safe haven, with shadows attached to your heels?
Running: A survival instinct.
Running puts distance between you and the threat
And in the same stride, running also puts distance between you and the confident gift of faith.

Allow fear to knock on your door.
Give fear a seat at your dinner table.
Look fear in the eyes even if your heart, hands, and voice tremble.
And embrace a sacred space with fear to have a brave conversation.
After all, this is your home.


How close can you truly come home to yourself, while shining your light against the shadows?
Faith: A spiritual instinct.
Having faith in the same God who birthed galaxies, blessed you with the light of hope in the dark depths of a whale’s abdomen, quiet a lion’s roar to conceal it’s snarling fangs, crush venom by the fleshed heel, make giants tumble down to your toes, and effortlessly built the air you breathe.

The very air ironically prickling your nose hairs as you run.
Even though your stomach churns and legs quiver,
You hear God’s words: “Turn back my child.”
Fear is inevitable in all of our lives but Faith is too.


Allow fear to bang against your door.
Tell fear to have a seat at your dinner table.
Hold fear deep in your gaze.
And take up space where fear has no option but to have a brave conversation.
After all, this is your home.


What matters is your execution in how you address
the shadow of fear.
Who are you when fear is watching?
How faithful are you in the midst of mist?

-Poem for National Poetry Month: In the Midst of Mist By: Caela Collins


I came across a post today on Instagram that said “Let go of what you think it must look like.” How often do we lean on our on understanding? How quickly do we take a leap of faith over sprinting for the hills when fear is on our heels? If you’re being honest you may be leaning more towards less times than you’d like to admit. I had the opportunity to discuss what it’s truly like to be faithfully brave in the midst of mist with my coworkers and friends, Alison Hollo and Roxy Flores as they detailed their experience with Autism which was described as never truly knowing what’s next but having faith that everything will be okay even in the unknowing.

These women have inspired me and taught me so many lessons just in the 30 minutes we had to talk. They both have a commonality within the month of April: Autism Awareness Month. Alison, Senior Administrator, Office of the Episcopate and Roxy, Receptionist & Administrative Assistant at The Commons both have children with Autism.

As a storyteller there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to highlighting the stories of others; I’m merely a spectator who is often invited front and center to gain a small glimpse into their world. I like to search for meaning in all of the stories that I source. I hope to share lessons and widened perspectives that I know the readers and larger ECCT community can welcome into their homes. Most importantly, I offer an opportunity to merge worlds.


Great Expectations

Making plans are quite easy; it’s having overly defined expectations in life that completely get molded into something different which is difficult. The hard truth is that there’s no book you can read to fully understand Autism because it ranges in such a wide variety from person to person. It is a collective of individuals who differ even in language: identity first language (I’m Autistic) or person first language (I have Autism). Identity is personal and boils down to the way a person wants to self-describe.

There’s a level of acceptance that comes along with experiencing Autism because it lacks expectation and embraces what is. It’s a level of acceptance that can beautifully create a ripple effect within the lives around those who don’t have Autism. With that acceptance a lot of things are gained:

  • Slower pace *life is more enjoyable in its granular & singular moments
  • Growth in Empathy
  • More patience
  • Higher level of observance
  • Open mindedness

The Metamorphosis of Achievements

I urge you to become resistant to what the world has taught you around achievement. When we look at achievements we tend to measure them in an astronomical way because we’ve been ingrained to believe that bigger is better and louder is more powerful but speaking with these two ladies proved how inaccurate that notion is.

When it comes to Autism, you learn that every small thing matters in a major way. Roxy’s 4 year old son recently learned how to wave at people in his own uniquely designed way, with his palm facing his face; it makes her eyes light up and chuckle just talking about it. His quirkiness is an adventurous exploration that reframes a new (and cooler) way to say “Hi.” Alison’s 22 year old son recently learned how to read on his own and although it took a higher level of persistence along his journey, there was no denying the joy that beamed from Alison’s aura when she expressed this achievement. Her son’s determination to unlock the power of words in spite of difficulty affirmed that good things do indeed come to those who build mental strength to endure the hard work of dedication.

What’s beautiful is that through the major feats within their children’s lives, it has reshaped the way they view their own achievements.

  • Everything is a celebration or small party where everything you do gets cheered on:
    I woke up today, yay! I got to work safely, yay!

Steeped in Gratefulness

Going back to the misconception of bigger being better, I realized the true power in experiencing Autism through the lens of it’s small lessons. The unique nature of people with Autism is so parallel to an art gallery filled with experiential artwork: a range of new ways to experience form. To expand palates that didn’t realize how much starvation of joy took place under the projection of their own harsh expectations. Autism reminds us that we truly have a creative God, one that’s an artist.

There is a joy that comes with the erasure of expectations when you are grateful for singular moments, or like Roxy says “I can’t see further than my nose right now.”

  • You don’t take anything for granted anymore because you’re rooted in gratitude. *Alison

Becoming Better

Growing into the shoes of a better version of yourself sounds exciting in theory but it’s not a curated path that’s neatly paved and always filled with sunny days. Both Alison and Roxy are still on their journey with Autism but the undertone felt more than hopeful. I was able to see how grounded these women were when placed in positions to stand firm in the midst of mist. They travel forward each day and don’t run away from fear.

Autism is unnavigated territory but much like life, we only know and understand the present. The past no longer exists and the future can’t exist because it hasn’t arrived yet.

  • Having a child with autism makes you more aware, forgiving, a better person, grounded, and thankful/grateful.

Take Aways

  • Don’t have pity on us – it’s one of the greatest gifts.
  • I’m a better person because of Autism.
  • Not easy but full of lessons.
  • Try not to judge and criticize when you see a parent struggling.
  • Be graceful and kind, patient to everyone.
  • Interacting with those who are/have Autism make their life more full and make their day.
  • Reframe the terms “regular” or “normal” to typical.
  • It is okay if your child is born differently – different is not bad.
  • It’s a learning process daily versus monthly experience.
  • Knowing more people within that community is important, so be open and connect with others who have similar experiences.

Episcopal Resource for Autism:

Rhythms of Grace:

A worship experience & program that especially supports children on the Autism Spectrum, but children with other special needs are encouraged to attend. hear a bible story, interact in therapeutic arts and crafts projects and share communion in a child-friendly environment. 

Oral History: Anne Rowthorn

An Interview with Anne Rowthorn: Environmentalist, Author, and Religious Lay Leader

Transcribed & Interviewed By: Greg Farr and Published By: Caela Collins

QuestionAnswer
Greg FarrAnne Rowthorn
Fun Fact: Anne’s husband is The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Rowthorn, Episcopal Suffragan Bishop of CT that was later appointed U.S. Bishop in Europe

I was very impressed though with the scope of your dissertation, the topic was on the development of recreational therapy in the United States, right? And you looked at the early 20th century all the way up to the present day. So that must have been very formative in how you thought about things in your later career endeavors?

Well, you know, I like the historical process and I enjoyed doing it. And I liked that recreation therapy really came out of the settlement houses in Chicago and New York, and it was helping a great deal in hard times. And there was a historical thread – I was a delegate to the diocesan convention. I was a New Haven deanery delegate and at that time that the church was organized not in regions but in deaneries. And we had a small suburban church in Hamden, where we lived, and we had a general annual general meeting where they elected the vestry members. And there was the delegate to the deanery [position] to the diocese, and nobody would take that position. So, they said, “Well, how about you Anne?” And, you know, I was just trying to finish this PhD, and I’m working part-time…

And the 3 kids!…

Yes, three kids! And so they said, “yeah, just go ahead and do it!”. And so actually, I did do it. We had 19 churches in and around New Haven. They were marvelous priests, marvelous lay people. It was very, very involved in the community.

Some of our members were instrumental in forming Columbus House, the first homeless shelter in New Haven, and their after-school programs. There were soup kitchens, feeding programs. We were probably, along with the Bridgeport Deanery, the most active deanery in the diocese. And we were very good at getting diocesan money to run our programs.

Well, at one point, the Bicentennial of the Episcopal Church was coming up, and we always needed more money. So, I thought, well, I’ll write their bicentennial biography of Samuel Seabury, our first bishop, and then, you know, see if we can arrange some tours so that maybe Episcopalians of means could go to Scotland where Seabury was ordained Bishop.

And actually, that was the first thing I thought – if I could find more about this guy, then we would have a little bit historical basis for planning these tours. But then I thought, wow, this is so good, and he was such an interesting character, I would just write a book. The book did become the bi-centennial book of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and it was my first book – and it was a lot of fun doing it.

And I discovered his journals. and I edited those adding illustrations by a really marvelous woman named Jane Hooker, who was this New Haven artist. And so that kind of got me started.


So, the media has recognized you as a writer specializing in Eco-Spirituality. Tell me a little bit about that recognition if you would and about your understanding of the way theology and ecology, and the practice of those disciplines, intertwine.

What shall I say? Well, I’ve was very influenced by John Muir. And John Muir, as you know, grew up in biblical tradition. He had memorized all of the Old Testament by the time he was 12, and most of the New Testament. Yet going out to Yosemite, which was particularly his epiphany, but he had other nature trips. First, he really realized that this is where God is present – this is sacred land, this is my cathedral. And, and I feel that way too. Because I feel, truly going back even perhaps to my past, that I might have had a dysfunctional family but nature was always there.

Nature was always beautiful, though violent at times, but always regenerative. And, in fact, the land we walk on is really sacred ground. And, I saw, going back to my experience with the Lakota people, that they thought of the world of the land differently than we did. They thought that it was sacred, they thought that the sky was sacred. This is just built into their DNA, the sky, the winds, the animals are sacred. And it’s been my feeling, and that others very much like me, John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker at the Yale Forum for Religion and Ecology, that the churches need to open themselves up to the natural world as really a primary teacher. And I hope it’s not good sounding heretical to say that, that we have the Trinity of three persons – and God, the Creator … well, things have changed, we’ll have to say … is very much being eclipsed in the face of Jesus, the Redeemer.

And so, the three aspects of the Trinity are not treated equally. And, now is the time and our planet is truly suffering, as you know. And so the churches have a great role in opening up their doors and seeing that sacredness extends beyond the beautiful windows and the church … and even the community and even the people. Churches have a role in saying, “Well, who is my neighbor?” Well my neighbor is not just the neighbor sitting beside me in the church or where I live, but my neighbor is the animals, the ground, the plants, the sea, the sky. My neighbor is all of creation, and to widen their prayers and widen their spirituality to that idea of that my neighbor is the world – my neighbor is creation.

Which is including many people, many cultures.

Absolutely.


So, please allow me one last big question. You know, I was thinking about ‘healing’. Healing seems to be one of the primary themes that runs through most of your work because, you know, we’re not the Garden of Eden anymore. We have got problems and we’ve got things that need healing. How do you understand that concept or that process today? I know that we started out talking about lament. What does that look like for you today? Is it the same or different?

I think that we need to acknowledge what hurts. We need to acknowledge the causes of lament. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Joanna Macy? Joanna Macy is very much influenced by Buddhist tradition. And she kind of got her name through naming the dangers of nuclear build-up and nuclear weapons. And one of her conclusions – and she’s basically moved over to [writing about] the environment – was that we need to acknowledge the hurt, we need to acknowledge the danger, and only in acknowledging danger can we build ourselves up?

We have to break down the barriers. We do have to have to acknowledge the hurt. And, I’d say the other thing with healing, is if you want to talk about healing – I get healing every day. See there’s a field there [gesturing out through the window]. I wake up at six every morning and I take a little hike through the woods to that field. Then I’ll take a hike in the afternoon. So, creation is very hurt. We have many hurt people and hurt communities. The only way I combat that – just speaking for myself – is by a good dose of nature every day. The Japanese call it “nature bathing”. I just call it, “just taking a walk in the woods”.

Y(ASC) Me All About It

Interviewed By: Caela Collins

Who is Miranda Wilson?

My name is Miranda Wilson, I’m 24 (25 on March 31!) and I’m from Norwalk, Connecticut, my home parish being Saint Luke’s Darien. I’m currently a year into my placement as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps of the Episcopal Church (YASC).

My placement is in Geneva, Switzerland, where I am working as the Communications Officer for Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as serving as a Geneva Additional Representative at UN Geneva for the DFMS (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America).

My days include everything from running social media pages, creating service bulletins and email newsletters, to managing event logistics and taking part in meetings at the UN!

What is YASC?

The Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC, is a program for Episcopalians ages 21-30 that places applicants in different dioceses in the Anglican Communion around the world. Depending on their interests and skills, participants can work at churches, refugee centers, transitional housing, schools, and various other places connected to each diocese. In my YASC cohort, there are 10 of us, with placements ranging from Costa Rica, Italy, and Sri Lanka!

Where were you placed?

Originally, I was assigned a placement in Oman, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, I ended up instead in Switzerland. I’ve found it really exciting to be living in Geneva—it’s truly an international place, with so many international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and non-profits, all working to make the world a better place. It’s definitely been a bit of a challenge getting my French up to speed, but one that I’ve enjoyed! Working at Emmanuel has been a really great way to integrate myself in both the local and the expatriate communities.


Fun Fact:

In fact, Emmanuel is the only Episcopal Church in all of Switzerland (8.8 million people)! If you compare that to Connecticut (3.6 million people), which has over 150 Episcopal parishes, that’s a big difference.

I think this makes the local Episcopal community value Emmanuel even more, due to the lack of specifically Episcopal worship in Switzerland. It’s really exciting, as a young Episcopalian, to see such a vibrant Episcopal community flourishing outside of the United States.


From your point of view, what are some strengths of The Episcopal Church that empower you as a young Episcopalian?

As a younger member of the Episcopal Church, I think the Church is doing a lot right. One important aspect the Church has done well in is issuing public statements against injustice and inequality in our world. I was heartened by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement against the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022. It is important to me, as a young woman, to know that the Church I support also supports me in my right to have access to healthcare. I would not feel nearly as welcome or comfortable in a church that did not outwardly express support for women in that manner.

I also find it important that the Episcopal Church recognizes the marginalization and oppression of LGTBQ+ folks, as well as racial discrimination against Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and other minority groups. As long as these statements continue to be followed up with thoughtful, meaningful action, this is truly a step in the right direction.


In what ways can The Episcopal Church connect more with the youth?

However, I still think The Episcopal Church could do more to actively encourage and involve youth and young adults. It’s important that we have just as many opportunities to be on committees and councils that are making decisions. Having more young adults in positions of leadership throughout the Church allows our voices to be heard, as well as representation in a setting that often skews towards the elder portion of a population.  

In this day and age, social activism is more important now than perhaps ever to young people as we face an overwhelming host of issues in our world, and we want a Church which not only supports us in that, but actively partakes in it as well.


Describe how you adjusted to living in a different country:

In my life so far, I’ve been really lucky and privileged to have lived in various countries outside of the United States. While this comes with truly amazing experiences, adjusting frequently to life in a new country can be really challenging and exhausting. One common thread I’ve found in my experiences abroad has been the Episcopal Church.

HIGHSCHOOL

When I lived in Thailand following high school, I didn’t have an Episcopal church near where I was living. That made me realize how I, unwittingly, took for granted the steadfast presence of my home parish, Saint Luke’s Darien, in my life growing up.

COLLEGE

When I moved to Scotland for college, I looked specifically for an Episcopal church I could join. I became a Choral Scholar at St Andrews Episcopal Church in St Andrews, Scotland, and this provided me with an extra community throughout my time at school. Not only did I get to meet locals who weren’t necessarily students at the school, but I also became part of a warm, welcoming family of Episcopalians. My fellow choir members came to my musical and theatrical performances, gave me baked goods, and offered comfort and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I visit St Andrews now, the church is one of the places I’m most excited to go back to, because I know I will always be warmly welcomed by familiar and new faces.

NOW

Now that I am in Switzerland, having the Episcopal church here has only solidified my stance that having an Episcopal community while abroad is very important for me. There is something so beautiful, and also so comforting and familiar, about singing a favorite hymn from The 1982 Hymnal, or reciting The Nicene Creed both at home and thousands of miles away.

Wherever you go, The Episcopal Church is always the same, waiting to welcome you—how amazing is that?! Today, I’m enmeshed fully in the life of Emmanuel, learning French, attending meetings, workshops, and seminars at the United Nations, performing with a local Musical Theater group, traveling around Europe, and meeting amazing people from all over the world—I could not be more blessed to be a part of YASC and The Episcopal Church.