ECCT Racial Healing, Justice & Reconciliation Ministry Network, Virtual Gathering

Sweet Honey in the Rock Concert at Trinity on the Green, New Haven

Sweet Honey in the Rock, the three-time Grammy nominee a cappella group, performs at Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, on Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 pm. The well-known group performs gospel and folk mixed with elements of hip-hop, jazz, and rhythm & blues. Performances feature ASL interpretation. Tickets are $75 plus fees. The concert is part of the celebration of longtime music director/organist Walden Moore, who is retiring.

Tickets are $75 plus fees. Tickets may be purchased at https://www.trinitynewhaven.org/calendar/sweet-honey.

Observance of the 175th Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in Connecticut

Written, Filmed, and Photographed by: Caela Collins

On Sunday, January 14th at Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, we reflected on a significant milestone in our diocesan history: the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in CT. We were filled with both gratitude for the progress we’ve made and a deep sense of responsibility for the work that lies ahead. This observance is a symbol of the beginning of a journey that calls our attention to Lamentation, Healing, and Celebration. The service does not mean to suggest that we have achieved a goal, but that we strive to seek visible and concrete ways to make amends with our history and our people.

Digital Storytelling Video Series

The Reverend Canon Harlon Dalton

“I am still basking in the afterglow.  The service was rich, honest, and deeply rooted in our faith.  Food for the mind.  Food for the heart.  Food for the road ahead.  La luta continua.” 


The Reverend Canon D Littlepage

“I was moved by the service, and grateful for the thoughtfulness that went into crafting the flow of music, prayers, scriptures, and meditations. As I prepare to join the staff of ECCT as Canon for Advocacy, Racial Justice, and Reconciliation, I was excited to see the collaboration among the Ministry Networks that were involved. The service was a wonderful reminder that I am stepping into a stream of intention and action that has already been flowing and filled me with hope that Episcopalians across Connecticut have not grown weary but instead are committed to the continued work of shaping the world around us more and more into a reflection of the Reign of God.”

How ECCT is Continuing the Work:

At the 2023 239th Annual Convention, Resolution 6 was passed, acknowledging the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the State of Connecticut. This resolution led to an acknowledgement of the pain and injustice of Connecticut’s 200+ year legacy of slavery and the complicity of the leaders and members of The Episcopal Church.

Further regarding this: in “2020, the 236th Convention overwhelmingly passed Resolution 7, which directed the bishops to create a task force as to reparations by ECCT in partial compensation for 400 years of discrimination and bias based on race.” This led to the passing of Resolution 5, where the 239th Convention of ECCT requested that the Mission Council appropriate an additional $10,000 for a reparation fund.

Finding Home

Written By: Caela Collins

Listen to Story in English
Escuchar cuento en Español
Écoutez l’histoire en Français

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

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

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


Finding a Spiritual Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finding a Home within Your Mind

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

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

ECCT Wellness Videos:


Finding a Home with Others

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

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

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


Mission Possible: The Reality of Duality

Intro Written By: Caela Collins

Journey of Discovery with Indigenous Peoples (JDIP) Native American Heritage Story from Vicki MarkAnthony (Senior Warden at Christ Church, Easton)

Listen to Story in English
Escuchar cuento en Español

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.

Left: Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci, 1500s) —– Right: Seated Woman (Pablo Picasso, 1932)

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.

Girl Before a Mirror (Pablo Picasso, 1932)

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
  • Moses stuttered
  • 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.

Refugee: a Synonym for Christ

Written, Filmed, and Interviewed by Caela Collins

Listen to Story Here

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

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

So what did my perfect day look like?

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Want to Help?

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

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?”

Witness Stones at St. Pauls, Wallingford

Adapted from the Sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wallingford, CT

By Amy Foster

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

On a sunny Sunday in June that serendipitously fell on Juneteenth, a day we had slated to honor the legacy of two former enslaved people in our own church by installing two Witness Stones, our lectionary felt like a gift from the heavens. As always, there were moments throughout the service in which we were reminded of our Christian mission to love others as ourselves, but Paul’s Letter to the Galatians seemed penned almost particularly for the day at hand. In it, Paul argues that we need to break down barriers and distinctions, recognizing, as he says in chapter 6, verse 2 of the letter that God shows no partiality. (Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians because some of them were listening to a group that was trying to limit and exclude certain types of people from the Christian movement in the first century.) Throughout the writing, Paul is adamant that because we are all equal in the eyes of God, we need to treat each other that way as well. Paul argues for inclusivity and love of neighbor (every neighbor!)—in this letter he reiterates Jesus’ Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This emphasis on inclusivity is behind much of the work of the Resolution 7 Task Force here at St. Paul’s. This task force was put together to carry out the ECCT resolution in 2020 that stated, among other things, that each parish would “take steps to research and document historic complicity in racism in their parish and communities.” In doing our research, with the help of both the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust and the Witness Stones Project, our goal has been to be more inclusive in understanding a fuller picture of our history as a parish.

We have learned through our work that there were at the very least about a dozen people enslaved by members of our parish, including by one of our rectors. We are taking steps to lift up the lives and labors of those enslaved people, to include them as an important part of the story of our community.

When we first started our research, Grace and Esau, whom we honor today, were our first discoveries because, in fact, they are actually named in the published St. Paul’s history that has been in use for decades! Grace and Esau were enslaved by Titus and Mary Brockett who were significant benefactors of the church in the mid-1700s. Mary outlived her husband Titus, and upon her death in 1777 she granted freedom to Grace. We can presume that Esau already had been freed by that point, as both Grace and Esau were granted a dwelling, some property, a cow, a bed, pots, and more, all of which would revert back to St. Paul’s upon their death. Based on property records found in the Wallingford Town Hall by The Witness Stones Project, we discovered that Esau became a small businessman, buying and trading a number of properties. Grace worked as a spinner and weaver, and she farmed alongside Esau. From census records we can determine that Grace died sometime after 1830 and Esau after 1840.

This is about all we know about these two individuals, and so I wonder about all that we don’t know. What were their lives really like? Were they able to get an education? Even when they were emancipated, what was it like for them to live in Wallingford—where were they welcome, and from where were they excluded? Were they ever allowed inside the church building—a building whose funding was partly made possible by their own labors? And what about their names? Were they given by their parents or by their enslavers? In fact, did they even have the opportunity to get to know their parents?

We will likely never fully know what the lives of Grace and Esau were like, but the parts of their stories that we do know help us understand just a bit more fully the story of our past. By learning more about everyone who contributed to our community, whether directly or indirectly, we develop a more inclusive and complete understanding of who we are. And, even more importantly, by recognizing and acknowledging injustices, whether past or present, we will be motivated to continue to work for a world in which all human beings are treated with dignity and justice. We know there is work to be done. We see it in the national news every day. We see it right here in our own town in the hateful and racist graffiti that was recently painted on our Vietnam War memorial. And we see it in the continued systemic inequities in so many parts of everyday life. Let us pray that our work with the Witness Stones Project and our continued learning will spur us to strive for a world in which there is no partiality so that we can someday live out the vision of unity expressed by Paul…so that, in all of our beautiful difference, we can be one.

Links for more information:

https://www.myrecordjournal.com/News/Wallingford/Wallingford-News/Wallingford-Juneteenth.html

https://witnessstonesproject.org/

All are welcome to join a workshop to learn more about Grace and Esau and about the history of slavery in Connecticut presented by the Witness Stones Project at St. Paul’s Wallingford (65 N. Main St., Wallingford, CT) on November 6 at 4:00 pm. The presentation will be followed by a prayer service. For more information contact the church at 203-269-5050.