A Holy Week Pilgrimage

A Holy Week Pilgrimage

Written and voiced by the Reverend Doctor Linda Spiers, convener of the Holy Landers Ministry Network and supply priest currently at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wallingford.

We all have an invitation to enter Holy Week with the whole of ourselves—body, mind, soul, and heart—as if being on a pilgrimage. To borrow words from the staff of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, the difference between being a tourist and being a pilgrim is “a tourist is one who passes through the land while a pilgrim is one who is open to having the land pass through her/him/them.” I believe we’re invited to let Jesus’ last days pass through us.

I carry in my heart blessings of being in our Holy Land multiple times with two powerful Holy Week experiences—walking Jesus’ Palm Sunday triumphal entry into Jerusalem and walking the Stations of the Cross in the Old City of Jerusalem. My Holy Land pilgrimages have not been during Holy Week, and yet these experiences have made it feel such. Along that Palm Sunday road is a stop at a small Mount of Olives church called Dominus Flevit that overlooks the Old City. According to Luke 19:41-42, Jesus wept over the city and said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” I imagine that Jesus continues to weep for Jerusalem and for all of Israel/Palestine’s living stones, the people who suffer from inexplicable tragedy now. The living stones cry out to us from afar and break open hearts. My heart aches and is broken with the humanitarian crisis that unfolds day by day.

Stations of the Cross are in the hustle and bustle of the Old City and are often walked early on a Friday morning. Amidst our prayers and singing at each station are the noises of carts rolling through the cobble stone streets, people swiftly moving and paying little attention to our devotions. I wonder if today’s noises are from guns or bombs or war planes overhead or children and other innocents crying out for food and water and shelter. Gaza is not within physical hearing distance and yet it is within heart hearing distance.

More than ever our continued prayers throughout Holy Week are needed, just as if we were pilgrims in the land. Prayers work, and prayers lead us to action and discovery of how our body, mind, soul and heart might respond. How will we make a difference in our own small way during this Holy Week to recognize the things that make for peace and remember the peace to which Jesus calls us?

I believe we’re invited to let Jesus’ last days pass through us, and our Holy Week liturgies open us to that possibility. May we each find that way of a pilgrim. May our pilgrimage through Holy Week lead us there with eyes open.

Guided by Love

Written and Voiced by Roxana Flores, Receptionist & Administrator for Communications & Media and The Reverend Deacon Félix Rivera, deacon at All Saints, Meriden & Missioner at Trinity, Lime Rock.

Noticing God and feeling God’s presence all around me is something I am particularly gifted at. I take pride in this because it wasn’t always this way. More times than I’d like to admit, in my younger, teenage rebellious years, I found it hard to notice God and feel His love. Once my children entered this world, I noticed Him everywhere in my ordinary life. Any time I see my parents grandparenting, my children laughing with their cousins, my siblings gathering at my parents on a Saturday afternoon; in all of that I see God.

In this season of Lent, depending on the weather, children look for opportunities to explore, to see in awe the splendor of the world created by God. They do this by playing in the snow, making snowmen, sledding down the hill, laughing as they enjoy this time together with their friends and family.

We have grown into adulthood in a world that we have allowed to distract us from God. The business of our lives in our work, following up on social media, politics, obtaining wealth have all had a serious impact on our humanity. Our lifestyles have blinded us from seeing God because we do not see the world through a child’s eyes.

As adults we rely on children to help us see God through their eyes. I have experienced God’s presence when I would go sleighing down a snow-covered hill with my two sons. It was magical, it was fun, and it brought laughter into my soul. I was aware of God’s creation looking at the snow-covered hills in awe and wonder, children and parents laughing and enjoying time together and having fun. The Feeling in this experience was LOVE – not only for my children but I felt divine Love.

In the Gospel of Matthew 18 we read of Jesus teaching the disciples. He is answering a question they asked of him. They asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”[1]

So, in this Lenten season let’s open our hearts and live our lives as children to help us focus on what life is all about: to see and notice God’s presence and be guided in love. AMEN


[1] Matthew 18:2-5 (NRSV)

Fishin’ for Mission at St. Peter’s, South Windsor

St. Peter’s is pleased to host “Fishin’ for Mission”, a fish fry fundraising event in support of the South Windsor Food and Fuel Bank.

In addition to a delicious meal, a tea cup auction will be held at the event.

The menu includes fried fish, French fries, coleslaw, dessert, and beverage, with optional condiments. A gluten-free choice of baked fish is also available on request.

Tickets are $15 for a full plate, and $12 for a small plate (for smaller appetites). Guests may dine in or carry-out. Tickets are not refundable.

Please purchase your tickets by Wednesday, March 13. A limited number of walk-in orders may be available while supplies last.

Tickets can be purchased online at https://stpeters-sw.org/our-events/fishin-for-mission/

Discovering God in Our Relationships

Written and Voiced by Margaret Sipple, a member of the Creation Care Network and a parishioner at Trinity Episcopal Church, Branford.

Back in the 1980s when I served on the staff of Bishop Mark Dyer in the Diocese of Bethlehem, I asked him one day why Christianity had come to describe God as Trinity. His reply was that we human beings cannot begin to comprehend the nature of God as Love unless we understand that God is discovered in our relationships.

In the past several years, I have come to notice God’s presence not only in my relationships with family, friends, and neighbors but also in the relationships I experience with the squirrels, birds, bushes, and flowers in my back yard. Watching and interacting directly with these beautiful neighbors never fails to refresh my soul. It has become a new and indispensable way for me to experience our God of love.

When I was growing up and well into my adulthood, I had no idea that the way we were living our lives was heading us all into a precipitous rise in the Earth’s temperature. Now in my eighties, I have come to understand this hardest of realities. I have also learned that, if we are to interrupt this rise in global temperature and keep the Earth as a sustainable home for our young people, the time to act is now. 

Climate scientists are telling us that this is the decade in which we will set the thermostat for future generations. If we are to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, we need to reduce our carbon emissions in half by 2030. To accomplish this goal, we need to work together as individuals, as communities, and as countries around the globe.

Because of this urgency, this is a Lent when you and I must examine our relationship to Creation, to repent from old ways that exploited Earth’s gifts and commit to new ways of restoring them. And in making these difficult but necessary changes, we will surely discover anew our deep and eternal connection to the Loving God of all Creation.

Noticing the Beauty Before You

Written and Voiced by Sarah Louise Woodford, Canon for Communications & Media.

My morning commute from New Haven to The Commons takes me through a long sprawl of backroads before I pull onto State Highway 15. Then, the drive becomes even more of a pleasure as I pass by woodlands, thickets, and groves until I’m guided by the traprock mountains of Meriden to my final destination.

The trees in Connecticut are unlike the ones I grew up with in Ohio. There, you encounter rotund oaks and corpulent maples a few hundred years old. But unlike Ohio trees, the trees here are survivors. Connecticut was once farmland, a vast sprawl of fields hemmed in by stone walls. But when farming moved to the Midwest, the trees in Connecticut grew back, reclaiming the fields they had once lost to crop and livestock.

The drive is usually uneventful and rather soothing as houses and wooded thickets silently slip past the window, but then it happens—always when I don’t have the time to spare. The red of the car taillights ahead come closer and closer together until we all stop. Giant trucks and woodchippers loom in the distance and we in cars must form a single line so highway maintenance can happen. I have little patience as I wait for other drivers to move over. I am frustrated. I am worried about being late.

Recently, I noticed a beautiful thicket on my drive—the trees were grouped together on a hill with such pleasant precision and the stream that cut through the hill’s bottom sparkled in early spring sunlight. I gasped; what beauty fostered by a quiet, persistent resilience! How had I never encountered it before?

Then I realized why: this was the spot where most of the highway maintenance had taken place! Not only was it hidden behind large construction vehicles, it was also hidden because of my own frustration and worry.

There is so much beauty, so much resilience, that I miss when I fail to notice the things that are important in my life. In noticing, I gain back the awareness of God’s goodness. The goodness is always there, sparkling and ready for me.

On that day, the trees I passed felt particularly vibrant, and as I neared The Commons, the mountains of Meriden, broad and shelf-like, felt like an embrace, guiding me as I turned onto the exit ramp and moved towards my final destination.

Knowing Birds by Snow

Written and Voiced by Duo Dickinson, architect of Christ Church Cathedral’s 2021 award-winning renovations. You can follow him on his blog, Saved by Design.

“Water, is taught by thirst.

Land — by the Oceans passed.

Transport — by throe —

Peace — by its battles told —

Love, by Memorial Mold —

Birds, by the Snow.”

Emily Dickinson, Poem 175

“The Little Ice Age” was a three-century dip in temperatures in the North Atlantic, probably caused by the sun’s changes, the same changes that made the Big Ice Ages. But that little ice age was part of Emily Dickinson’s youth. Boston Harbor froze. Growing season was short. Everything adapted to more snow, more cold.

Especially the birds, who ate the berries and bugs that the warmth gives us. So many went away to warmer places during those winter months. And Emily could not garden. Instead, she wrote by her window and noticed the birds who were there, in the snow that overwhelmed life for months.

Like the birds, no one knew that they were living through The Little Ice Age, or that it would abate in the next generations and would change again in global weather changes. They saw the snow. They had to abide.

Abiding is harder than striving. Acceptance is not the human default. We shovel the snow that birds walk on. We travel, even though standing still is easier. And it is hard, very hard for me, to simply know that I am loved.

Psychologists can deduce the traumas that preclude intimacy, the fears that propel dissociation – even the therapies that should undo ourselves into accepting ourselves. Sure. When it is the world we have and what we need is the dawn to see, we can turn on a lightbulb.

But the world we are given is often unfathomable. There is no justice. We, like the birds are often trapped in the snow. And yet, the gifts of God are with us in the cold—including the love that made us. In the lingering winter during Lent, even in the 21st century, the absence of the spring can allow us to hear it.

We cannot control and command happiness or justice or even warm air in winter. We are the birds in The Little Ice Age. But, unlike the birds, we can listen.


Translated Text – Texto Traducido – Tèks Tradui

Sweeping Away the Dust

Written and Voiced by the Reverend Canon D Littlepage, Canon for Advocacy, Racial Justice, and Reconciliation

As I sat in the Chapel at The Commons for Eucharist on Ash Wednesday, I found myself really enjoying the feel of the sun on my face as it shone through the window. At some point, my mind wandered to a few weekends ago when we had the first sunny day in what felt like a very long time. That day, just about everyone I encountered remarked on how amazing it was to see and feel the sunshine. There are seasons in our lives in which God’s presence is as radiantly obvious as sunshine after a spell of grayness. There are other seasons however, when God’s presence is much harder to perceive.

Sometimes we are very aware that we feel distant from God and cry out with the psalmist, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13). Other times, we might not even notice that we haven’t noticed God in a while. In his meditation “Moments of High Resolve” Howard Thurman describes the impact of the “dust and grit of the journey[i]”on our ability to stay connected to that which matters most to us. If I dared to guess, I would guess that most of us tend to experience the interference of the dustiness and grittiness of life more frequently than we experience the acute awareness of how far away we feel from God.

The season of Lent is an opportune time for us to notice those places where the accumulation of dust and grit is making it hard for us to even notice that we haven’t noticed God. I’ve found that noticing the dust and inviting God to sweep it away makes it more likely that I’ll notice God in the nooks and crannies of my life. And conversely, the more that I notice God in the nooks and crannies of life, the more I notice that the dust and grit isn’t taking up quite so much space. For me, this is truly the gift of Lenten disciplines. Whether one is giving up something or taking on something, Lenten disciplines invite our intention to pay attention to what we eat, what we drink, how we spend our time, how we spend our money, or any other number of ordinary elements of our lives. Thanks be to God that it is through noticing the ordinary that we open ourselves to more fully notice that God’s holy presence is always near.

[i] Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999), 209-210.


Translated Text – Texto Traducido – Tèks Tradui

The Evidence of Love: Response to A Case for Love film

Written and Voiced by: Caela Collins

Sweaterless

I found it.
The silver thread we’ve been tugging at, secretly anxious of its end.
Slowly growing in tangles, witnessing unraveled truth.
The woven fabric of this world coming undone.
Only to find that warmth never came from wearing knitted armor.
It came from the bare silver lining that took form in Adam’s dust.
Who knew that love’s loophole is what kept us clothed?
There’s no need to tie up loose ends with God’s thread.

Sweaterless, a poem by: Caela Collins

Today is Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, two commemorations that present a strong case for love. Going along the theme of noticing God’s love brought me back to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to action in the film A Case for Love: inviting us to take 30 days to practice love regardless of politics, religion, or ethnicity, because love is about all of us.

As we receive ashes on our foreheads, I wonder: How is love expressed within the context of our diocese? Who are we at our core, and in what ways has love molded us in Connecticut? I had to go deeper to understand how love guided us here to this place as a diocese. Putting PB Curry’s call to action, in action, led me to speak with coworkers and folks from the wider ECCT community to notice that silver thread we’ve been tugging at and find the evidence of love.

The Radical Love of Jesus

“We all have the capacity within our own lives to live out the love of Jesus and impact the lives around us in real and lasting ways.” ~Bishop Jeffrey Mello

Bishop Jeff has a background in social work, and as a clinician, he was trained to see a person, group, or organization holistically. They are not just one thing, but it’s their context, family life, health (physical/mental), and many other factors that lead to their disposition. From a social work lens, our Bishop Diocesan has honed in on a continuous discipline of deep, abiding love. What we learn from this is to love the whole person and not just the parts we agree with—love does not pick and choose who it reveals itself to. As he defined love in his context, the word that kept coming up was “sacrifice.” He expressed that sometimes we must sacrifice our own ease and comfort for wholeness. People pleasers show self-love in setting boundaries; in addiction, the sacrifice of immediate gratification is love for long-term health and wholeness; and putting on your own oxygen mask first reveals that the act of love is continuous; the work doesn’t end with yourself; it is the promise of healing and wholeness for everyone.

Storytelling is Truth-telling

“The conversation about love begins by the truth that we’re loved by God.” ~Bishop Laura Ahrens

Bishop Laura is an avid runner and swimmer. She understands that love contributes to a healthy way of life. In defining love, she was able to capture the idea of storytelling as truth-telling. From her context, love is a place of grounding, and when life disorients us, we are grounded by God’s truth in the divine love for us. We discussed the small moments and how they manifest in kindness, silly adventures, and sharing stories, which allow people to feel cared for. Our Bishop Suffragan uses love as a mindful grounding practice: being aware of God’s creation as a witness of love with the fresh air pumping in her lungs and the feel of water as she does laps in the pool.


Love in Human Form

Showing up consistently can show a person that you really do care about the longevity as they proceed through life. They don’t have to suffer alone.” ~Cyra Borsy

I had the pleasure of speaking to Cyra Borsy (a Candidate for the Diaconate) to better understand her perspective on love as a beautiful, healing experience. Immediately, she deemed love an act of selflessness, even when we come across individuals who are comfortable not living in a space of love. Which allowed us to dive deeper into the idea of comfort: are you truly comfortable when you live on the outskirts of the realm of love? To answer, it all boils down to how love, or the lack of it, shows up in the body. Living outside of love can feel like one’s norm when exposed to trauma, leading us to a sense of empathy/sympathy with that knowledge. What must that feel like in your body or muscles? How love lives in the human body both physically and emotionally reveals that living a life in fear leads to pain, where anger emanates. Living in love is a release and exhale that allows you to relax. Showing unconditional love and speaking certain truths in difficult spaces is where love can create a space of ease to help shift the narrative of a world that lacks love.


Unlocking Resistance

“At the heart of all their traditions when they’re at their best, is the golden rule: do or don’t do unto others you want done unto you. Love people the way you want to be loved. It’s an understanding as a reflection of the divine by serving that reflection.” ~The Reverend Mark Lingle

St. Francis, Stamford, is a parish that leans into and uplifts diversity because, as they plainly state on their website, it was God’s idea. A large part of love is trying to understand our neighbors. Sometimes there is resistance to venturing out or acting on our curiosities when learning about a way of life that is different from our own, but something magical happens when walls are torn down. The Reverend Mark Lingle gave me some insight on the benefit/beauty of interfaith connection: when you look beyond the surface level, surprisingly, you’re able to see how many similarities there actually are. We discussed how learning about other faiths can provide further learning about our own. He also noted that we learn more about ourselves when we learn about others. The interfaith reality is that we aren’t seeking to convert but come together for the greater purpose of caring for God’s community.


From Hands to Hearts

“I want people to see themselves as an image of God’s creation.” ~Marc-Yves Regis

If you haven’t already met him, Marc-Yves Regis, is our diocesan Photographer. You will see him at many of our diocesan events behind his camera. As an artist, his craft allows him to capture special and intimate moments of love across ECCT. Even I, as the Digital Storyteller who’s usually behind the scenes, am in awe of the moments of love Marc captures: joyful hugs, moments of connection, and ECCT folks expressing the love of Jesus to one another. When discussing love from a photographer’s viewpoint, Marc-Yves expressed how he always seeks to find people in the best way by showing them at their best. His lens of love also extends to the photographs he takes of Camp Hispaniola, a summer camp he began in 2009 in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Even in his camp photos, you can see his talent in showcasing the natural beauty of God through humanity.


The Timeline of Love

“Love as being an ideal: it has a meta nature that it is the norm for all feelings. Concern fits in, connection, care, goodness, faith, all the things that we cherish as virtues and values are all under the umbrella of love- it’s a transcendent feeling.” ~Greg Farr

In an impromptu conversation with Greg Farr, ECCT Archivist, and Paul Eaton Hamilton, St. Mark’s Archivist (Bridgeport), I gained a valuable viewpoint on love in a historical context. Paul spoke with me about St. Mark’s, founded in 1920, and how challenging America in the 20s and 30s was for people of color. However, when you look at the historical-faith context, these Black Episcopalians focused on a mission to create a community of believers; they held together their equanimity to create a loving community. To reiterate that storytelling is truth-telling, we must be mindful of shifting the narrative of love. Love is ever-present and has the power to survive in desolate circumstances. But to be rooted in its power, we must understand and be attentive to a multitude of varied experiences where love was an act of preservation for some, and an act of revelation for others.

Our Archivist, Greg, noted that truth sits underneath our many cogwheels of stories and calls us to greater understanding. The more we learn to explore our past, the better equipped we are to be saints of the church. Looking at our context within the Episcopalian faith, we have consistently weighed in on the balance of things, finding a middle way. It is finding the middle way that is an act of love.

As we all explored love through the span of time, we concluded that it has always persisted with our knack for balance in a world that we simultaneously could and could not control. In the end, it all boiled down to knowing that the most important factor of love was being able to cash in on a priceless vibe and find your people.

And we are each other’s people, as we receive ashes today and eat just one more piece of Valentine’s Day candy before we put it away for Lent. May the next 40 days be a time when you notice that silver thread that ties us together, that tethers us to God’s, that gives us a focal point to notice God’s love. Let this be the evidence of our love.

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Reflection: Invitation to Holy Lent 2023

February 22nd marks the beginning of the season of Lent

If you’re reading this, you’re likely not a stranger to the season of Lent. And yet, if you’re a human with life demands and commitments, Lent seems to sneak up every year, surprising us with how far into the calendar year we are. Perhaps even tempting us to double down on not-yet-enacted-upon New Year’s resolutions.

Crucifix

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.” The Book of Common Prayer, 265, Liturgy of Ash Wednesday

These words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy give us some anchors: anchors that provide more than just a chance to double down on resolutions, anchors that give us insight into how Lent might be less a season “to do” (or, “to don’t”); and more a season “to be” with God in a potentially deeper and intentional way.

What might the invitation for “self-examination and repentance” look like?

Our siblings in 12 step recovery programs are some of the experts, here: the fourth step in recovery calls for making a “searching and fearless inventory of ourselves”. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions offers this caution: “Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach.” For those of us feeling stuck in our faith journey, this is a space for curiosity, giving us the chance to sit with our deep selves and with God. This is an invitation to ask about where our resistance and “stuckness” sit, preventing us from moving closer to God and our siblings in Christ.

What does the invitation to prayer, fasting and self-denial look like for you this Lent? How and where are you making space for the Holy?

In Pursuing God’s Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton gives us this helpful description of discernment: “Discernment, in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God – both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives.” Maybe the invitation to prayer, fasting and self-denial looks like giving up chocolate. Yet, Barton’s description, and the invitation of Lent bids us look past chocolate or wine or too many visits to Starbucks, to see how God is active in the mundane and ordinary slivers of our lives.

Finally, what does the invitation to God’s holy Word look like for you this Lenten season?

What a gift we have in Scripture and in our liturgical life that steeps us in Holy Scripture week after week! Yet how invested are we in the capacity for Scripture to be the lens through which we see the world?


At the end of it all, the invitation to a holy Lent is a gift the church extends to each of us, inviting us to seek and see the spaces where we might move ever-so-closer to God and one another. If you’re overwhelmed by all that this invitation might mean for you, take a deep breath, light a candle and make space for the Holy. Start there.

Written By: Rebekah Hatch