THE COSMIC CHRIST
IN THIS ISSUE
Starting as a seminarian at St.
Guns from municipal buy-back
Peter's in Cheshire, now back
program are dismantled, then
at Yale for more research, the
those parts used to create
Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp
tools for gardening
has been studying the cosmic
3 From the editor Karin Hamilton
12 Reflections on leading a retreat on the
spirituality of trees
16 Contours of a New Missional Age Ian T. Douglas
18 Disciples and apostles in God's mission:
one person's story
Laura J. Ahrens
26 Profile of John Armstrong Pam Dawkins
28 Profile of the Rev. April Alford-Harkey Karin Hamilton
30 Navigating the darkness Armando Ghinaglia
A Way of Life
Portland area clergy work
together offering resources and
opportunities for recovery in
A collection of photos and
highlights from this summer's
triennial General Convention of
The Episcopal Church
32 Navegando la oscuridad Armando Ghinaglia
34 In pursuit of God's imagination for His church Ajung Sojwal
35 Following Jesus ı Pop and lock — break dancing
in the city of New London
36 Following Jesus into the laundromat Don Burr
39 ECCT News
Clergy Transitions in a New Missional Age
LLJG: Parishes learning to listen
Lee Ann Tolzmann
45 I am a Christian: Jimmy Kearney Karin Hamilton
VOLUME 7, ISSUE 1 I OCTOBER 2018
Episcopal Church in Connecticut
290 Pratt Street ı Box 52 ı Meriden, CT 06450
203 - 639 - 3501 ı www.episcopalct.org
Publisher ı Episcopal Church in Connecticut
Bishop Diocesan ı The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
Bishop Suffragan ı The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
Editor ı Karin Hamilton, Canon for Mission Communication
& Media, email@example.com
Design ı Elizabeth Parker, EP Graphic Design
FOR JOY IN GOD'S CREATION
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the
world with beauty: Open our eyes to
behold thy gracious hand in all thy
works; that, rejoicing in thy whole
creation, we may learn to serve thee
with gladness; for the sake of him
through whom all things were made,
thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, p. 814
Change of address and other circulation correspondence
should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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from the EDITOR
Canon for Mission Communication & Media
...the voices of our columnists, profile
subjects, and others you’ll meet —
are those of the Episcopal Church in
Connecticut today, entering our new
missional age. Much is familiar; much
sounds new and different; and all is
and even fewer were ever taught how to put the two together
... Many still seem to think that Christ is Jesus' last name. By
proclaiming my faith in Jesus Christ, I have made two acts
of faith, one in Jesus and another in Christ. The times are
demanding this full Gospel of us now.”
Photo by Mitch Sears
What – or who – is the cosmic Christ? Is it academic
doublespeak — at best — or dangerous heresy — at worst? Or
something else of great importance and hope?
While I’ve heard of the cosmic Christ before, I didn’t pay much
attention until I heard of it again through a class I’ve been taking
at Mercy Center that recently looked at the “new cosmology” of
the past few decades and its implications on Christian theology.
Since then, pursuing it beyond the class, I’ve learned that it’s
not a new idea, though it’s become more widely known through
popular contemporary authors like Richard Rohr, OFM. Other
theologians and writers cited in various bibliographies include
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ; Thomas Berry, C.P.; Ilia Delio,
OSF; the Rev. Matthew Fox; and the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.
Its emphasis on the unity of creation make it related to, but
not the same as, eco-spirituality and care for creation. Celtic
spirituality and Celtic “consciousness” are also related and not
exactly the same.
Once you start to notice, you find more and more, both ancient
Richard Rohr, OFM wrote in 2015: “Most Christians know
about Jesus of Nazareth, but very few know about the Christ,
Before entering the ordination process in the Diocese of Maine,
the Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp was a high school science
teacher in the public school system. Then, she longed to bring
a spiritual perspective to her students’ study of science; now,
she works to bring her perspective and knowledge of science to
parishioners in The Episcopal Church.
She is pursuing her growing exploration of the cosmic Christ
with more classes at Yale, leading to an S.T.M. degree. In her
proposal for study she declared that there was “an urgent need
for the study and celebration of the cosmic Christ in Christian
ministry to address the social and ecological concerns within the
modern culture of the United States and globally.”
Further, she added, “the understanding of the cosmic Christ, the
one through whom ‘all things hold together’ (Col 1:17), offers
insight into the transcendence and beauty of human existence
in the body of Christ.” She also asserted that there was a call
to action in this understanding: People were led to a greater
sensitivity to suffering and injustice, and had a greater capacity
to fight against that.
I hope you will enjoy meeting her, meeting these ideas, and
reflecting on them with God. Her voice, and the voices of our
columnists, profile subjects, and others you’ll meet in essays
and articles, are those of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut
today, entering our new missional age. Much is familiar; much
sounds new and different; and all is moving forward.
The Cosmic Christ
‘How Miniscule this Planet’
Thomas H. Troeger
How miniscule this planet
amidst the stars at night,
a mote that floats in vastness,
mere dust that catches light,
yet, God, you count of value,
of boundless, precious worth,
all creatures who inhabit
this tiny, mite-sized earth.
Together faith and science
extend what we can see.
and amplify our wonder
at all you bring to be:
how energy and matter
have coalesced in space
as consciousness and meaning,
and hearts that yearn for grace.
And from that wonder blossoms
a wonder that exceeds
the reach of human dreaming
for meeting earth’s deep needs:
the Christ, in whom all matter,
all energies cohere,
is born upon this planet
and dwelling with us here.
By Christ we are connected
to every shining star,
to every atom spinning,
to all the things that are,
and to your very being,
around, below, above,
suffusing each dimension
with light and life and love.
©Oxford University Press 2015.
Reproduced by permission.
All rights reserved.
Exploring the Cosmic Christ
An interview with the Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp
Photo by Marc-Yves Regis
The Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp is a transitional deacon from the Episcopal Church in Maine, studying for her S.T.M. at Yale Divinity School, focusing on the cosmic Christ.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth
were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have
been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15-17 (NRSV)
The way many Episcopalians think
about Jesus is too small. Not that
they’re wrong, but that Jesus is more:
Jesus is the Christ. And if you think that’s
just a redundant phrase, you’re in for what
could be a life-changing conversation.
The Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp is a
transitional deacon from the Episcopal
Church in Maine currently pursuing a Master
in Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) degree at
Yale on the cosmic Christ, with a focus on
applications for parish ministry.
She is a former high school science teacher
who yearned to bring a more spiritual
perspective to her students so that, for
example, they could see how recycling
plastic honored the sacredness of God’s
creation. Instead, she is now doing the
reverse, bringing more science into theology
through teaching and learning about the
It all started with one forum on the
cosmos asking, “where was Christ in
all this,” using images from the Hubble
telescope, drawing on her science
background, and inviting discussion.
While earning her M.Div. at Yale Divinity School, Catherine Amy
served her seminarian internship at St. Peter’s in Cheshire, which
already had a good understanding of the sacredness of God’s
creation and actively participated in related ministries. The rector, the
Rev. Sandra Stayner, welcomed the opportunity to have Catherine
Amy join them.
Sandy recalled noticing how Catherine Amy’s love of the outdoors
(she is also a certified Maine Guide) and of science began to
coalesce with her divinity school studies and in particular with her
drive to explore the second person of the Trinity, realizing that all
things are with God from the beginning.
“It began to be clear in her mind that the second person of the
Trinity is more than the ‘human face of God’,” Sandy said, excited
about watching the spiritual growth taking place. “There was a
cosmic element, and she began to pursue that.”
It all started with one forum on the cosmos, recalled Catherine
Amy, asking, “where was Christ in all this,” using images from the
Hubble telescope, drawing on her science background, and inviting
discussion. It grew over time to regular Sunday adult forums plus
ongoing discussion groups.
Many in the congregation were supportive and interested in the
related sermons as well as the forums and discussion groups that
she led about the cosmic Christ. The questions pushed them all into
deeper contemplation and reflection.
Sam Dunlop, a member of the parish who participated in the forums
and discussions, said he learned there was already a basis for it in
Christianity, going back to its wisdom and prophetic traditions.
“I liked that it gets at some of the mystical traditions but doesn’t
command that one drop rational ideas,” he said. Still, he said, it took
him a while to get used to thinking about the cosmic Christ. “Christ
not only appeared at a certain point in time ... but was present from
the beginning and present across all time and space,” he said. “She
[Catherine Amy] gets you to ask if there’s a divine love behind the
As an added benefit to their discussions, Sam noted that it
transformed the way he saw the outdoors, providing what he called
a broader “spiritual history” of constant change and transformation.
IN WHOM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER
Catherine Amy is particularly drawn to the writing of Paul to the
Colossians in Chapter 1, verses 15-20.
“Christ is described as the one through whom all things are made
and in whom all things hold together, and that was my starting point
... for my own personal journey,” she said in an interview late this
past August, noting that others may “fall into it” through different
places in Scripture, or their own mystical experience, or through
contemplation. She described it as “like when you feel something
click,” like waking up, like remembering something that had been
forgotten, and admitted it was very difficult to find language to
“It made me really stop and think about what I understood Christ to
be, which was the human Jesus, the one who walked this earth and
whose story I knew; the good news I was hearing, the passion story,
the mystery of life, death, and the resurrection. All that was sort of
broken open into a bigger question for me: What does it mean that
Christ was before all things, before this human Jesus? I was puzzled
and intrigued by the phrase, ‘all things’ because logically, and in our
modern way of thinking and understanding of time — which is linear
— it doesn’t really make sense.
“It’s like seeing something beautiful or artistic or hearing beautiful
music," she said, continuing to explain. "It stirs your heart and you fall
into something enticing. That was my starting point, and the one I go
Next, she started to wonder why it mattered, which turned out to be
“’All things’ is a lot of things!” she said. “You can’t just think about
the human story .... you’re thinking about the rocks and the animals
and the creatures and their relationships and the whole cosmos and
everything,” she said.
As she continued to explore it, Catherine Amy said she was grateful
to find “mentors” who had asked the same questions and studied
it more deeply. First among these for her was Pierre Teilhard de
Chardin. She continues to discover more and more thinkers on these
IN THE NAME OF IT ALL
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the stars and galaxies;
in the name of the planets,
moons and the sun;
in the name of all that is we come.
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the oceans and the sea;
in the name of the mountain,
desert and plain;
in the name of all that is we come.
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the buffalo and bear;
in the name of the turtle,
eagle and whale;
in the name of all that is we come.
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the cactus and the fern;
In the name of the flower,
tree and herb;
in the name of all that is we come.
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the elements of life;
in the name of the soil,
water and air;
in the name of all that is we come.
In the name of all
that is we come together.
In the name of the children of earth;
in the name of the spirit
breathing in all things;
in the name of all that is we come.
“In the Name of All That Is,” by Jan Novotka
Copyright 2003, by Jan Novotka’s Music LLC. Used with permission.
“Teilhard de Chardin was a geologist who studied evolution and understood
the slow work of God through the rocks, and was a Jesuit priest and
struggled in a very pioneering way to bring together evolution and matter,
science and the mystery of Christ,” she said.
He also served in World War I as a chaplain, and “stretcher-bearer.” She
marveled that some of his insight came during the war.
“It’s actually where some of his cosmic vision came into place, through the
suffering and the turmoil and the chaos of the trenches,” she said. “You
would think you’d come out of that broken and full of despair, crushed
by what humans can do ... and yet [he came out of it] with heightened
compassion for those who suffer. Yet this vision of his, from the darkness,
was so profound and enduring. He wasn’t just sitting quietly in a beautiful
spot or stargazing.”
As her understanding kept growing, she noticed that her language was failing
to keep pace.
“The words are frustrating to me, but I see it and feel that this is the
presence of God, calling to us now, in a way that invites us to see, literally,
with our physical vision, the world is radiant through Christ all the time.
And that it matters, it’s urgent. And then [the understanding] falls into how
we understand social justice and how we see ‘the other’ as precious, and
how we see the earth as part of ourselves, and ourselves as embedded
in the earth. It’s become practical, for me, rather than a vision that’s just
“BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD”
Conversations at St. Peter's were essential to ongoing reflections. Parishioners
asked about why “cosmic Christ” and not “Great Mystery” or anything
referencing the Trinity. They wanted to know whether focusing on the
cosmic Christ was a deterrent to conversation with people from different
faith traditions. They struggled with traditional linear ways of thinking, and
dualisms common in our culture.
“I guess it’s hard to explain this, but to me, Jesus and the cosmic Christ are
not separate,” said Catherine Amy. She and the parish group looked at the
prologue to the Gospel of John, who wrote about the “Word made flesh,”
and also to the wisdom traditions, finding what could be called an organizing
principle to the universe that comes before Christianity.
“And yet Christ came into this work in a very particular moment in the
mystery of God’s love, and became incarnate, and that love is infinite and
timeless,” she said. “It’s the mystery of the incarnation of matter and spirit;
it’s the Jesus we know, who walked the earth and who we read about
through the gospels, who is this cosmic phenomenon. There’s no difference,
even though it feels like it doesn’t fit into our linear way of thinking.
“We have so many dualisms: heaven and earth, male and female, matter and
spirit, human and cosmos, human and God, young and old, mind and body,
and we sort of think these are natural categories. But there is a discussion
that comes sometimes through contemplative circles, or mystical writings,
of non-duality, where you fall into a realm of tension between two things
that you once thought were separate, but aren’t. That’s what the 'cosmic
Christ' is doing for me. If you go into the mystery of the incarnation, it’s very,
very hard to understand how the human Jesus could be the cosmic Christ
ecause [of the] way [we're] conditioned
as a modern human being[s], educated in a
certain way, through separated disciplines,
and the way we use metrics for progress
and how we think about results.”
The parish group at St. Peter's learned more
about Christianity's contemplative tradition,
which she said teaches us to be quiet,
empty our minds, and be still. It’s there
where she said she finds “moments of nonduality”
that may be glimpses into a reality
bigger than one she thought she knew,
where the concept of the cosmic Christ
makes sense; where a “resurrected life” can
be experienced here and now.
Catherine Amy realizes these moments may
be fleeting, yet their brevity doesn’t diminish
The words are frustrating to
me, but I see it and feel that
this is the presence of God,
calling to us now, in a way that
invites us to see, literally, with
our physical vision, the world
is radiant through Christ
all the time.
Catherine Amy Kropp
“I don’t think we can always hold this
vision, as we’re always so distracted,” she
said. “There are so many demands on our
time and our energy, and many of them
are very important – loved ones who need
attention, for example – and we can’t just sit
and contemplate. But I think that when we
do — and the scriptures are full of this you
know, telling us to 'arise,' 'taste and see,'
'awake,' for example — the world becomes
radiant, and you’re part of it. We all have
our moments where our hearts are still, and
we have a moment of revelation. It’s a very
intimate moment with God.”
Just like the small moments are brief portals
to something more vast, our responses can
be in small actions, as well.
“When we see, we know what to do, in our
own little space and time of this world, and
it will be relevant to the particularity of your
life,” said Catherine Amy, still struggling to
find the words to adequately convey the
For example, she said, you might suddenly
realize that you can open up your heart to
the person right next to you, to be more
compassionate, or you might see your
neighbor who you didn’t notice before. Or,
you might suddenly have the eyes to see
the suffering around you and you might be
willing to witness. Or, in a more mundane
or more practical sense, she said, you might
ealize it actually does matter
if you throw away or recycle
your coffee cup, or you might
think of the landfill when you
walk into the grocery store and
see everything so clean and
sanitized and packaged, and
think of where all of it is going;
you might actually buy things
“And you might actually think
that you matter,” she said.
She’s concerned that our
society focuses too much
on results, on progress or
products, so that these “small
acts” may be too easily
dismissed by people.
“Instead of saying to yourself,
‘Well, I need to go save the
world today,’ or, ‘I need to
solve this big problem [in the
world] today,’ maybe when you fall into a moment of vision, doing
the littlest things are the most profound.” she said.
She connected that back to Jesus’ teaching that the last will be first,
and the first will be last. “Be kind, love your neighbor as yourself,
think of those on the margins, and wake up to the little things not
miles away but right around you," she said.
“I'm struggling with the language,” she added, “but what I'm trying
to describe is basically the hinge or the journey from contemplation
to action. There’s some sort of mysterious moment. It's very
intimate and personal to you with your journey with God, that when
it happens you know how to act. I can't tell somebody how to act or
live their life. Maybe I can walk with them if they want. I can listen.
The acknowledgment of the cosmos
becomes an integral part of the narrative
of God’s incarnation in Christ, allowing
for growth in human spirituality, the
deepening of the communion between
humanity and the universe, the recognition
of the preciousness of all forms of life, and,
most importantly, a greater sensitivity to
suffering and injustice.
Catherine Amy Kropp
But we all have that sacred
inner space where God knows
our true name and our true
reality and 'knit us together
in the womb before we were
born,' and that primal sense of
God. And when we’re entering
into it with God our creator —
with whatever language we’re
using to grasp this mysterious
reality — we hear God’s voice,
whatever it is that God needs
to say to you. And you realize
you’re beautiful and loved and
that everything you do matters,
and you’re empowered.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
Coming out of her experience
at St. Peter’s, exploring the
cosmic Christ in a parish
setting, having also led a
related retreat for another
parish in ECCT, Catherine Amy
decided to stay a bit longer in Connecticut. She’s back at Yale, taking
another year to earn her S.T.M. degree (Master of Sacred Theology)
in their Religion and Ecology interdisciplinary program, in addition
to the M.Div. she earned earlier, prior to her ordination to the
transitional diaconate. Her advisor is Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker,
a widely-known lecturer and researcher on religion and ecology
and author or editor, with her husband John Grim, of related books,
video, courses, and an annual forum.
Catherine Amy’s S.T.M. proposal was titled, “For the Study of the
Cosmic Christ with a Focus on the Applications for Parish Ministry,”
and began with this:
There is an urgent need for the study and celebration of the cosmic
GOD'S GOOD EARTH ı PRAISE AND PRAYER FOR CREATION
The hymn text and the litany (also a hymn text) featured on these pages were recommended by Anne
and Jeffery Rowthorn and are included in their new book to be published this November, God's Good
Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation, by Liturgical Press. Both widely known, respected, and published,
the Rowthorns live in southeastern Connecticut and attend St. Ann's, Old Lyme. Jeffery, resigned bishop
suffragan of ECCT, has written hymns and litanies and compiled related books; Anne has compiled four
collections of ecological writings. Order the book and read more at litpress.org.
Christ in Christian ministry to address the social and
ecological concerns within the modern culture of the United
States and globally. The understanding of the cosmic Christ,
the one through whom “all things hold together” (Col 1:17),
offers insight into the transcendence and beauty of human
existence in the body of Christ. There is also a call to action.
Without embracing the cosmic dimensions of Christianity,
Christians are missing essential parts of the Christian
narrative, including the immense beauty of God’s creation
of which they are a part, as well as an awareness of their
responsibilities to each other, all creatures and to the
Earth. The acknowledgment of the cosmos becomes an
integral part of the narrative of God’s incarnation in Christ,
allowing for growth in human spirituality, the deepening of
the communion between humanity and the universe, the
recognition of the preciousness of all forms of life, and, most
importantly, a greater sensitivity to suffering and injustice.
The result is an expanding sense of love and compassion
for humanity. There is greater force and capacity to fight
injustice and to help the marginalized, the weak, the poor
and the persecuted; the ones through whom Christ leads us
to discover the kingdom and beauty of God.
The strength of this vision also lies in its ability to inspire
the preaching of the Gospel message during times that
are tumultuous, when people are divided, uprooted and
disconnected from each other and from the Earth. It
leads people to recognize and celebrate their cosmic
consciousness in the message that Christ is the one through
whom God reconciles all things (Col 1:20; Phil 2:10).
Catherine Amy plans to expand upon the work she began
at St. Peter’s in Cheshire to develop best practices in
spiritual formation; an examen; a practical guide for group
explorations of the natural world; training modules; possibly
a sermon series; and other ways to share the awareness of
the cosmic Christ.
She concludes her S.T.M. study proposal with her hope
and prayer: “With this awareness and understanding of the
cosmic dimensions of Christianity, Christians can participate
in the work of earthly and spiritual renewal and develop
the confidence and hope with which to address the global
Karin Hamilton serves as Canon for Mission Communication &
Media for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
TO EXPLORE MORE ON THE COSMIC CHRIST,
• A Buddhist monk in Thailand has been “ordaining” trees for
more than two decades, wrapping them in orange clerical robes
that are associated with the sacred, as a way to end the rampant
deforestation taking place there.
• Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall held a weekend retreat
on "God and the Cosmos" the weekend of the Perseid meteor
• Programs and leaders from Kairos Earth and from Metanoia of
• Yale University in New Haven offers a joint master’s degree
program in religion and ecology. It also offers a M.A.R. (Master of
Arts in Religion) concentration in religion and ecology, holds an
annual “Religion and Ecology Summit," and offers an online class
open to the public, “Journey of the Universe: A Story for Our
• Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim are lecturers and researchers
at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as
the Divinity School, co-directors of the annual summit, coauthors
and co-editors of related books, and producers of the
film, Journey of the Universe, used in the online course.
• Related concepts you may encounter in your research: cosmic
Christ; eco-spirituality; deep ecology; care for creation; Christian
mysticism; Christian contemplative traditions; Celtic Christianity
(and Celtic consciousness)
• More writers:
Thomas Berry, C.P.
The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Ilia Delio, OSF
The Rev. Matthew Fox
John Philip Newell
Richard Rohr, OFM
Brian Thomas Swimme
• Richard Rohr, OFM, has a series of meditations, and also leads
conferences and programs, on the cosmic Christ. Next spring
(2019) Richard Rohr, John Dominic Crossan, and Jacqui Lewis
are hosting a conference, “The Universal Christ: Another name
• There are many other writers and other programs. If a group
from two or more Episcopal parishes in ECCT want to develop a
related ministry network, they may collect a more comprehensive
set of resources for recommended study, identify retreats and
Reflections on leading
a retreat on the
spirituality of trees
“Listening in wild places, we are audience to conversations in a
language not our own.”
Robin Wall-Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Sun poured through the windows of the Retreat House
like sweet tea filling a glass. It was still early morning in
April so the redbuds were briskly applying themselves to
crafting an explosion of flowers, which the bees and wasps
celebrated with a chorus of “buzz.” On that morning a handful
of people gathered as well to listen, pray, and return blessings.
The idea for this gathering had emerged over cups of hot
tea and copies of Braiding Sweetgrass with Francie Thayer,
director of the Retreat House at Hillsboro back in 2017. As we
gathered together for the day we began to settle ourselves
into our silence and to welcome in the languages of the many
other companions for the day.
This particular offering on the “Spirituality of Trees,” held
at the Retreat House on the banks of the Tuckaho river in
Hillsboro, Maryland, was a space in time carved to hold up
the voices of the trees living on that land because the land,
and trees in particular, serve as teachers, companions, and
messengers of the Divine.
From Amos, the dresser of sycamores, to the companionship
of the fig trees alongside Jonah and Jesus, to the presence of
the mighty cedars of Lebanon that clap their hands for God,
and even between the tree of life in Genesis and the tree of
resurrection at Gethsemane, the witness of trees weaves
constantly through Scriptures.
As the Christian tradition developed this relationship with the
more-than-human world deepened. Celtic Christians drew
from the words of John’s Gospel, “in the beginning was the
Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…
all things were made through Him and without Him was not
anything that was made.”(John 1;1-3, NRSV) Christians read
the Creation as a living parable, and a living expression of the
heart of God, and it was into this rich tradition that we waded.
There was a constant pull between conversation and silence,
human community and expanded community, and the shape
of our morning reflected the movement between these
boundaries. We walked as individual humans embedded in a
network of creation, we walked as a collection of humans, we
shared our experiences with each other, we shared ourselves
to be experienced by creation, and finally we came together to
eat. During lunch we drank tea made from white pine needles
as a reminder that our lives depend on the generosity of those
plants and animals that provide for us, and that this generosity
speaks of a sacred presence of the Divine in the gifts of
food, oxygen, soil, and beauty — all of which trees provide in
By some standards this morning spent in sunlight, sap, and
branches, was a waste of time and resources. We only had
four people present. But I believe that sacredness does
not increase or decrease with human attendance, and the
sacraments are as holy with two people as with 20. On this
one morning we four sat in wonder and engaged in the sacred
practice of emptying ourselves and listening for the Divine
through communion with our more-than-human companions,
and that act of listening brings delight into the heart of God.
(Luke 10:39,42 NRSV)
The Rev. Rachel Field is ECCT's South Central Region Missionary. Rachel worked as a research biologist and
environmental educator on the eastern shore of Maryland before pursuing ordination and attending Yale Divinity School,
class of 2016. She served her supervised ministry placement at Church of the Woods, which is part of Kairos Earth.
Swords to Plowshares
Forging surrendered guns into gardening
tools in Connecticut
In the garden of a New Haven artist’s studio,
two bishops, one priest, and a sculptor
destroyed 138 guns. These guns were voluntarily
surrendered in a municipal buyback program
sponsored by the Yale-New Haven Hospital and
the New Haven Police Department in December
2017. This was the largest gun buyback New
Haven has seen since it began its buyback
program in 2011. The difference: these guns
would be turned into gardening tools.
Steve Yanovsky, Communications Director for the Newtown
Foundation, decided to pursue this endeavor here in Connecticut and
connected with the Rt. Rev. James Curry, retired Bishop Suffragan
of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT), who has been
involved with the movement against gun violence for years. “We can
choose differently for our neighborhoods.” Bishop Curry said.
“This isn’t a Second amendment issue because folks were invited
to turn in their guns to be turned into gardening tools. This is a new
understanding.” Bishop Curry said. He reached out to Officer David
Hartman of the New Haven, Police, and the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas,
Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, to make
concrete steps in the process of turning guns into plowshares.
BISHOPS DOUGLAS AND CURRY DESTROYING GUNS
IN NEW HAVEN
September 17, 2018, surrounded by New Haven police officers
and various media crews, Bishops Curry and Douglas, the Rev. Bob
Bergner, Priest-in-Charge at Grace and St. Peter’s, Hamden, and Gar
Waterman, renowned sculptor and owner of the studio, dissembled
138 guns. The stocks were removed and put into one pile, trigger
guards and hammers removed, and the remaining pieces of the gun
and barrels sawed in two; all parts to be forged into forks, shovels,
spades, and other gardening tools.
The organization behind this process and idea is RAWtools, Inc.,
based in Colorado Springs, CO, which started three months after the
tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Their mission: Disarm
Hearts. Forge Peace. With assisting financial support from ECCT,
Mike Martin, founder and Executive Director of RAWtools, brought
his expertise, two blacksmiths, two forges, and the hearths used to
heat the metal, to New Haven and created a pop-up blacksmithing
station at the New Haven Police Department.
Two blacksmiths from Virginia, accompanying Martin, trained inmates
in the New Haven Correction Center to forge the guns into gardening
tools, a hopefully cathartic experience for many.
Yanovsky said that “the idea of taking a weapon of death and
turning it into a tool to sustain life is the ultimate human affirming
experience.” Yanovsky was first introduced to the "swords into
plowshares" concept and RAWtools, back in 2016 when the Rev.
Jeremy Lucas, Episcopal priest in Portland, OR, won an AR-15 in a
softball team’s raffle and surrendered it to RAWtools. That AR-15 was
forged into three gardening tools.
“This is so tangible,” Douglas said about the process of working with
his hands to dissemble the guns. “To take implements of death and
destruction and turn them into tools to bring forth life, like in Micah
— swords into plowshares — is more than just a metaphor.” Douglas
said that a large part of his ministry here in the Episcopal Church in
Connecticut has been focused on guns. “This is just a wrinkle of
learning about guns and our community." he said.
Later that evening, Douglas and Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop
Suffragan, were invited by Roy McAdoo of Trinity, Collinsville to the
Simsbury Shooting Range. This separate event was an invitation
encouraged by McAdoo and others at a June 16 conversation with
ECCT gun owners at Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford. Destroy
guns in the morning, shoot guns in the evening; a paradox not lost
on Douglas. “It is important for me to learn more about all aspects
of guns in ECCT, so I can speak with more integrity, wisdom, and
authenticity,” he said.
The New Haven-based non-profit construction and landscaping
company EMERGE, which hires recently paroled individuals and
provides personal development and mental health programs, hopes
to become involved with the Swords to Plowshares program, offering
blacksmithing as a new skill for their staff.
“Gun violence is a gun and a heart problem,” Martin said. “For me
this act of turning guns into farming tools is a spiritual practice and
Allison (“Alli”) Huggins is the Digital Communication Associate for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
The idea of taking a
weapon of death and
turning it into a tool
to sustain life is the
partnership with the Holy Spirit. We need
help of those around us and the guidance of
the Holy Spirit.” Every tool will be assigned a
number and marked, so people can see just
how many tools have been made from guns.
Curry and Yanovsky hope to present these
tools to local agricultural high schools and
community garden plots in New Haven.
While this is the pilot test for Swords to
Plowshares with municipalities, Yanovsky
and Curry hope to work with more cities in
Connecticut, then expand this to all of New
“We no longer have to be tied to the
instruments of death, but rather of growth
and life,” Curry said. “God has been good to
us to get us this far.”
Bishop Jim Curry, above left, and Bishop
Ian Douglas, right, dissemble guns
at a New Haven studio.
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
Contours of a New Missional Age
Ian T. Douglas
In my address at the 2017 Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church
I said: “instead of describing our time as ‘post-Christendom,’ I wonder
if we might look at the context for of our lives in Christ today as more
of a ‘New Missional Age.’” I further said: “This New Missional Age
can be considered a new reformation, a new apostolic era in which
God is effecting God’s restoring, reconciling mission in new ways.” The
invitation to be forward-looking toward what God in Jesus Christ is up to
now and into the future, rather than backward- looking trying to reclaim
our place in Christendom, garnered applause — the first time ever in
one of my convention addresses. It was clear that the language of a new
missional age had struck a chord.
The “Region Needs Assessment,” undertaken in response to Resolution #9 of last year’s Annual
Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut corroborated this initial positive reception. Only
eight months after introducing the term “new missional age” into the lexicon of the Episcopal Church
in Connecticut, the 350 individuals interviewed for the assessment and 504 responses received to
an e-survey rated a score of 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5) on their awareness of, and a 3.3 on their interest/
investment in, what it means to be a parish in a new missional age.
What then are the contours of this new missional age in which we are called to be disciples, followers,
of Jesus, who are sent as apostles to be about God’s restoring, reconciling work in the world? And what
does it mean to be a parish in this new missional age? These are important questions worth pondering.
Living on the cusp between the church that was and the Body of Christ that is becoming, it is useful to
define first what the contours of the church and world have been even as they evolve into something
very different. In the 20th century (what I have identified before as the waning years of Christendom) the
focus for much of our lives as Episcopalian Christians was the church as an institution. An ecclesiocentric
worldview held sway putting the church at the center of our lives and where keeping church programs
and activities going was the prime imperative. This church was a product of the industrial age where
the accumulation of goods and resources, based upon an economy of scarcity, reigned. Interchange
between individuals was primarily transactional and the end to be achieved was growth. The icon of this
20th century Episcopal Church is the canonically required annual Parochial Report with its measures of
membership, Average Sunday Attendance, number of services held, pledging units, and investments.
In this new missional age the focus is shifting from the church as an institution to a new engagement
of what the living God in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit is up to in our daily lives and in
the wider world. The story of God’s redeeming love from creation to the end of time becomes a prime
narrative. Defining God’s purposes, God’s mission, in 100 words or less, is a helpful way of recentering
our lives as followers of Jesus. (shown on the next page, “God’s Mission: 100 Word Version”) We are
being called to move from an ecclesiocentric preoccupation with the church to a missiocentric focus
on God’s action, God’s mission, in our neighborhoods. The terrain in which we are called to be faithful to
God’s mission is defined by the digital age where information access and electronic communication rule
our lives. In this new world, personal transformation is valued over the accumulation of goods. Sharing
of resources networked through social media results in a new economy of abundance
where transportation, housing, and manifold other goods and services are shared – think
Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. This new age is fundamentally relational and connection to others,
primarily through digital platforms, is a prime value. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other
forms of social media, linking individuals across time and space as never before while
making billions and billions of dollars, have both fostered and resulted from this new ethic
of relational connectivity.
Economy of scarcity
NEW MISSIONAL AGE
Economy of Abundance
It is clear that the church as we have known it is ebbing away and a new Body of Christ is
being birthed. Better understanding the shifting contours from 20th century Christendom
to a new missional age helps to orient us in the midst of the dizzying pace of change we
are experiencing in the church today. Lay and ordained leaders in the Episcopal Church in
Connecticut are well aware of this seismic shift in our life together. The ECCT Leadership
Gathering, comprised of the Mission Council, the Standing Committee, the Commission
on Ministry, and the Trustees for Donations and Bequests, along with the Bishops and
Canons of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, thus have been actively engaged with the
question: “What is a parish in a new missional age?”
The Leadership Gathering and Bishops and Canons have arrived at a four-part working
description of what it means to be a parish today. First, a parish in this new missional age
is a community of theological imagination where our hearts and minds are moved by
God’s presence in our lives, in our neighborhoods, and in the world. Second, a parish is a
community fed by word and sacrament where our stories connect with God’s story in
Holy Scripture, and where we experience God’s grace in baptism and Eucharist. Third, the
parish is a community forming disciples and apostles in God’s mission where people
grow as followers of Jesus and are sent by the Holy Spirit into the world to join God’s
work of restoration and reconciliation. And finally, a parish in this new missional age is
connected to the wider body of Christ by sharing our lives with companions in Christ
across the Episcopal Church and the wider church.
This working definition of what a parish is in this new missional age keeps the mission of
God at the center of our life together in the local Eucharistic community. It appreciates that
in this digital world, the faithful are seeking transformation through God’s abundant love
resulting in more genuine relationships and deeper connection to God and one another
We are indeed living in a new missional age. The question before us as the Episcopal
Church in Connecticut is: can parishes, worshiping communities, Regions, and Ministry
Networks move forward together within the contours of this new missional age, and what
are we willing to commit individually and corporately to follow Jesus more faithfully in this
exciting time of change and possibility?
God’s mission is the restoration and
reconciliation of all people to unity with
God and each other in Christ.
God loved into creation —
the universe, earth, humanity.
It was diverse, and it was good.
Human sin entered and distorted our
relationship with God,
one another, and creation.
God yearns to make all whole again.
This is God’s mission.
God chose and liberated a people,
sent the law and the prophets.
God came in Jesus,
fully human and fully divine.
In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection
we are restored to unity
with God and each other.
God sent the Holy Spirit,
empowering the Body of Christ.
God co-missions us in baptism to
participate in God’s mission
of restoration and reconciliation.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas is Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church in
Disciples and apostles in God’s mission:
One person’s story
Laura J. Ahrens
In the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) we
often use the terms “disciple” and “apostle” to talk
about ways we are called to participate in God’s
mission. This article seeks to illustrate one way I
think about being a disciple (a follower) of Jesus
and being an apostle (one sent out into the world by
Jesus to share God’s love).
went on my first three-day retreat at
the Society of St. John the Evangelist
(SSJE) in Cambridge, MA 30 years ago.
It was a private retreat, meaning that I met
individually with one of the brothers at SSJE
several times a day to discuss my prayer
journey and I spent the rest of the time in
prayer (individually or corporately during
their beautiful worship services). I met with
Brother Tom Shaw.
At the beginning of the retreat, Tom invited
me to read Mark 10:46-52, the story of blind
Bartimaeus, and he asked me to imagine I
was somewhere in the story. “Who was I?”
he asked. “Was I Bartimaeus? A disciple?
The crowd? Was I Jesus (a radical thought!)?
Someone else?” This way of studying the
Bible was new to me. It invited the reader
to step into the story. “Imagine yourself on
this road to Jericho,” he encouraged. “What
are the sights, the sounds, the smells, who
is there and where are you in the story? And
then go deeper. What might God be saying
to you through this story? What does God
want you to hear in this story?”
While I don’t remember who I felt called to
be in the story that day, this teaching from
Tom led me on a journey of faith that has
profoundly changed and shaped my life.
Invited to go deeper into the scriptures, I
came to know God in a more intimate way.
It showed me a new way to listen to God’s
Word. I felt closer to Jesus as I imagined
myself in his story. I began to listen to his
teachings in very personal way, which led to
me feeling his presence in my life even more
closely than I had before.
Through the years I have prayed often with
this passage about Bartimaeus. Sometimes
I am Bartimaeus and I try on what it must
have felt like to sit along this road. I imagine
the range of feelings he might have had:
isolation, loneliness, sadness, and longing
come to mind. How long had he been sitting
there? How did he find the courage to cry
out? What was it like to then be healed
by Jesus? Being heard, seen, cared for,
and loved, I realize the impact this type of
healing can have on a person. I wonder how
his relationships with others changed as a
result of this healing and I see the challenges
and opportunities of his new journey. I
find comfort in the belief that his faith in
Jesus will continue to guide him and his
relationships with God and with others.
I realized that one of the things God was
teaching me about was God as healer. I then
began to explore the places in my heart or
soul that were longing to be healed by the
touch of Jesus, whether healing of a physical
pain, or a sense of loss, or loneliness, or
feeling overwhelmed. Through the years,
Jesus has heard the full range of my human
emotions (some in quiet prayer and some
in the voice of Bartimaeus, crying out for
healing). Praying with this passage and
others like it has taught me that I can offer
the range of my longings to Jesus and he
will walk with me in the discovery of healing
(sometime not as quickly as I would like or in
the way I suggest).
Sometimes when I pray I am a member of
the crowd or one of the twelve, learning
about how Jesus offers healing to others.
Trying on what it was like to be one of those
characters, I can prayerfully begin to explore
how I can be a voice that says, “He is calling
for you.” It prayerfully invites me to seek
to create spaces and conversations to help
others to come to know Jesus as healer.
Sometimes when I pray I feel called to try on
the role of Jesus. What was it like for Jesus
to walk this journey? How did he respond to
Bartimaeus’s response to his healing? I can
then wonder how I am called to be a vessel
for Jesus’s healing. My prayer is always
different and it is always an opportunity to
learn and grow in my faith.
For me, discipleship begins with finding
ways to listen to Jesus, to listen to God. I
listen through reading the scriptures, either
by myself or in community. I try to mine
what God is saying in these texts. I begin to
explore what God is showing me about the
nature of God and the nature of humanity,
opening myself to what God is calling me to
notice and to reflect upon.
I need a worshiping community to support
this journey as a disciple. Sunday morning
worship is a space where I can hear the
Bible read out loud and a sermon seeking to
expand upon the ideas God has shared. The
lectionary, the assigned cycle of scripture
readings we faithfully follow in The Episcopal
Church, challenges me and invites me to
hear and wrestle with stories I might choose
to ignore or find too difficult to understand.
The worshiping community works with me
in understanding these passages. Sermons,
coffee hour conversations, and bible studies
help me grasp what God is saying about
God’s very nature. What is God saying about
God in the Bible? I need to be reading the
Bible and studying it with others to come to
know these truths more fully.
The community can guide me in learning
about what God is saying and the nature of
God. Some of the themes I hear are about
God’s expansive and radical love, God’s
call for justice and God’s passion for the
poor and the marginalized. I learn about
what grieves God’s heart or what delights
God. Sometime I hear Jesus saddened by
complaints or lost opportunities. And always
I hear how absolute and real God’s love is for
Reading, especially reading spiritual
autobiographies and the spiritual writings
of others, also deepens my awareness
of the nature of God. For me, reading has
always been a joy and that God speaks to
me through the stories of others is a sheer
delight. Spiritual reading, like the Bible
readings, are brought more alive for me
when I read them in community. Recently, I
have come to know more about God’s joy as
I have led a "Book Study and Conversation"
at Camp Washington on the Book of Joy
by Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama. Our
communities help me
be a better apostle
as well as a better
conversations introduced me to what others
were hearing both in the text and in their
own experiences. Hearing stories of ways
God’s joy is revealed in others’ lives, I begin
to notice this joy more fully in my own.
I want Jesus to know me personally and
I also want to know about him. I want to
know more about Jesus who I follow as a
disciple, Jesus who is my friend as well as
my savior and my Lord. True friendship is
about really caring about the other person,
knowing what they love and what brings
them joy. It is also knowing what brings
them sadness and what keeps them up at
night. Friendship includes caring about their
family and where they came from, desiring
to hear their dreams and their longings for
the future. I want to know Jesus as best I
can, and scripture and conversation help me
to do that. It teaches me about God’s family
through the stories, songs and poems of the
Bible. It teaches me about God’s passions
and about God’s desire for all of us to be a
part of the beloved community, the loving,
liberating, reconciling people of God.
As I learn more about God, I can hear God
calling me to try on ways of sharing God’s
love. That moves me in wanting to be more
of an apostle of Jesus, one sent out to share
God’s love with the world. Being an apostle
means that I share what I know about God
through my words and actions. Being an
apostle is about intentionally seeking to have
my words and actions reveal God’s love.
Worshiping communities help me be a
better apostle as well as a better disciple.
Being an apostle can be something as
simple as a kind word or as profound as truly
listening to another person. It can transform
a person’s day or a person’s life. Worshiping
communities help me try on ways of being
an apostle that I might not have imagined
or been able to do by myself. I might join
a team at a soup kitchen or a food pantry.
Several of our worshiping communities
are working with IRIS, Integrated Refugee
and Immigrant Services, on refugee
resettlement; others are participating in
mission trips either locally or abroad. We
are listening for what God is up to in our
neighborhoods and how is God calling us to
join God and others there.
Each year the deacons of ECCT gather
together on the Sunday after All Saints
to share in the ministry of Church Street
Eats at the Cathedral. We help prepare the
meal, serve it, and dine with the guests. It
is our way of supporting one another and
embracing our apostolic ministry. This past
year as I was sharing the meal with the
guests, I noticed a guest who reminded
me of the image of Jesus in one of Janet
McKenzie’s icons. I looked again and I felt
God stirring my heart. Honestly, I almost
cried. It was both a moment of affirmation
and a reminder of God‘s calling to share
God’s love.Whether I am at the grocery
store, out for a walk, or at Church Street
Eats, God’s love is everywhere. God is
calling us to join him in sharing that love with
There are many ways to explore being a
disciple and an apostle of Jesus. These brief
thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg of
this important conversation. How might we
share our own stories of seeking to be a
disciple and an apostle of Jesus? Sharing
our thoughts, wonderings and ideas with
one another we grow in our fullness of
participating in God’s mission.
I invite you to share online using #ECCT
your thoughts on being a disciple and an
apostle of the Lord. Please share words,
stories, ideas, phrases, or pictures of what it
means for you for you to be a disciple and an
apostle in God’s mission.
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens is Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
A Way of Life
How building a community that offers support
helps addicts’ long-term recovery
The scene is familiar, one that repeats
itself thousands of times a day
throughout Connecticut; a group of
people — women and men, black and white
— gather around a table for a meeting, with
a large screen at one end of the room ready
to beam in anyone who cannot be there in
The setting and purpose, however, are
In the second floor of the rectory
of Trinity Church in Portland, in a
room with an old fireplace mantel
and windows and wood trim that
is reminiscent of an early 20th
century parlor, six ministers plan
for a meeting of their faith-based
recovery group, New Life Journey,
the next evening.
Since January, this recovery group has met
weekly at Trinity Church; it is part of a new
ministry within the church, A Way of Life
(AWOL), that grew out of the evening’s
host, the Reverend Philip Bjornberg’s, belief
that building a community offering spiritual,
social and practical support will help
addicts’ long-term recovery.
Bjornberg is the relatively
new pastor of Trinity
Church; he was called
there in 2016, first to serve
as transitional missional
deacon and now as its
priest. He “got his collar”
on December 21, 2016,
when he was 60, and
commutes from his home in
North Stonington. His route to
the priesthood was not direct;
his past titles include
The roots for this Thursday meeting trace
back to another Episcopal church 15 years
from this steamy Thursday evening in early
summer; in 2003, too much alcohol sent
Bjornberg to a meeting in the basement of an
Episcopal church for help.
It was during a heart attack in 2006 that he
experienced God’s presence, he remembers,
but his real “theophany” came in 2009
during a battle with aggressive prostate
cancer, when he attended an Episcopal
healing service. As he was about to receive
communion, he remembers, he felt the
“absolute terror” of the revelation of God and
that “life is meaning.”
That revelation sent him to Fuller Theological
Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He moved back
and forth between Connecticut and California
for four years — attending seminary online
when he was here. He wanted to become
“theologically educated,” but didn’t know
what that would look like. Other students
convinced him to become ordained; he went
through the discernment process with Grace
Church in Old Saybrook.
In only two years, he’s become a familiar
face, and partner, around town.
“It’s about the relationships we’re building,”
Bjornberg said while describing
the formation of the ministry —
meetings with Portland officials,
police, other pastors and social
service agencies; the screening of a
movie about opioid addiction at the
high school with a panel discussion
after, which led to a teacher’s request
that he teach about addiction and
recovery to her 10th graders.
The Rev. Philip Bjornberg at Trinity Church, Portland.
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
Joanie Sylvia, of City Church in Middletown, sits on the steps of Trinity Church in Portland during “A Way of Life” meeting.
He goes as a counselor to Stonehaven, a 26-bed treatment center for
men and women, weekly, and saw how returning to sober houses
near their homes put patients right back where they started, with the
same influences and temptations but little support.
Most sober houses, he said, pack in as many residents as possible,
and those people only get together at meetings. His vision was of
a smaller house where the residents interact like family, stay for a
longer term than most sober houses, and take care of the property.
That vision — part of the AWOL ministry — is now a work in
progress. He bought a house at 399 Main Street — about a quartermile
down from the church — in December with a lump sum from his
pension. He and his wife, Susan, are forming Follow Me Home Inc.,
a 501(c)(3) that will lease the property from him and run the sober
house and related programs. They will build a company whose reason
to exist is to promote community at the grass-roots level, he said.
Their partner in the non-profit is a Wesleyan University student named
Lance Williams. Williams survived four deployments in Afghanistan
with the Army; Bjornberg heard him speak about the problems
soldiers face coming home and saw similarities with the challenges
“When he came back from Afghanistan, there was no place for
him to heal,” Bjornberg said; soldiers and addicts need the same
environment for recovery. “It’s very Biblical … the salvation that Jesus
was administering …”
Three men are already living in the house; one, who spent four
months at Stonehaven for DUIs, will paint the house with another
recent Stonehaven resident.
A Friday afternoon group of women who meet at the church for
prayers and knitting have crocheted afghans for the beds and the
church’s Outreach Committee now wants to be involved. Trinity
Church gave the sober house $5,000 for appliances and will have a
benefit concert series this fall.
“I just bawled,” Bjornberg said, when the women gave him the
afghans during Sunday services.
When full, the house will be home to no more than seven residents.
Whether those residents will all be male, female, or transgender he is
leaving up to God for now.
Instead of a program, he said he is building a community, in the same
way Jesus did. Bjornberg also has a more recent model to follow; he
and several of the other pastors visited Place of Promise in Lowell,
Mass., whose staff comes from multiple
faiths and churches. Their Christ-based
recovery program includes four long-term
residential homes and programs for children.
He describes the sober house as a “node” of
the New Life Journey program.
Our “transactional society” offers no real
healing, he said. What are needed are
“social entrepreneurs,” who can address
psychological, social, and spiritual needs.
According to Bjornberg, peer recovery
support groups are not new. But, he added,
some professionals do not consider groups
such as 12-step programs as treatment,
which he attributed to the lack of professional
In a 2009 monograph, “Peer-based Addiction
Recovery Support History, Theory, Practice
and Scientific Evaluation,”(Great Lakes
Addiction Technology Transfer Center and
Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health
and Mental Retardation Services), author
William L. White, MA, described multiple
characteristics of peer-based recovery support
These include using family, personal and
community support to aid in long-term
recovery, a focus on recovery and the
individual’s immediate needs as well as
long-term, continuous support, and “respect
for diverse pathways and styles.” This can
be done with, or outside of, professional
White also wrote that people in recovery
know how to support those with addictions
better than what he describes as “ineffective
and disrespectful professional interventions.”
“Historically, recovery mutual-aid movements
rise in the absence, under-funding,
ineffectiveness or collapse of professional
systems of care,” he wrote.
A GROUP OF PEERS
The ministers who gather at Trinity Church
define “peer-based recovery,” with Bjornberg
saying they apply the best practices from
their own experiences.
“We all came out of some kind of
recovery,” said Pastor James Woods, who
runs Streetfire Ministries over the river
Pastor Donald Watson of Grace and Mercy Family
society” offers no real
healing, he said. What
are needed are “social
entrepreneurs,” who can
social, and spiritual needs.
in Middletown with his wife, Pastor Karla
Woods. Pastor Karla Woods is also executive
director of Gentle Whispers Recovery, LLC,
a sober home for women in Middletown.
But, he said, you don’t need to be an addict
yourself to teach people; sharing different
perspectives leads to a collective sharing and
Most of us, the Rev. Gregory B. Winborne,
co-pastor of Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church
in Middletown, added, have some kind of
personal experience with recovery. They are
giving from their own hard-won knowledge.
Winborne works in the Recovery/12-Step
Ministry and provides Biblical and Spiritual
Counseling. He has also spent more than
20 years at the Department of Veterans
Affairs, specializing in chemical dependency/
substance abuse disorder, relapse prevention
and anger awareness/prevention, among
The AWOL Ministry started when Pastor
Donald Watson, a Federal Access to Recovery
provider offering mentoring, pastoral and
spiritual counseling, faith recovery support
services and more from Grace and Mercy
Family Ministries in Portland, connected with
Bjornberg and James Woods.
It is God's will that the ministers collaborate,
said Winborne. “It’s going to have to take the
church to help mend, pull this nation together
spiritually.” With this effort, he said, the church
is going out to the people, like Jesus did. “It’s
community that really counts.”
The connection has even blossomed into
some real-world help. Bjornberg has asked
Pastor Watson to teach the people at Trinity
about stewardship campaigns. Watson’s
church is on the edge of subsistence but has
funds sufficient for the year’s operations,
Bjornberg said, versus a traditionally wealthy
Episcopal Church that is running a deficit.
Winborne heard about Bjornberg from
Middletown’s deputy mayor. They wanted to
bring what Bjornberg was doing in Portland
to the wider community, involving other
churches. “I became a link,” Winborne said.
Those links tie churches with vastly different
demographics. Watson described his ministry
as “one step up from the streets.” They don’t
know church, he said, we have to teach them.
James and Karla Woods operate an actual
street ministry. We get them when they’re
torn open, “wounded and bleeding,” and get
them to a place they can be worked with,
Then, Watson said, they go to Winborne’s
church, Cross Street.
Bjornberg adds he sees this group as a
Eucharistic community. “We all drink from the
A.J. Niver listens to speakers in a small
group in front of the steps of Trinity
Church in Portland.
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
Photo by Marc-Yves Regis
Pictured clockwise, during a "Way of Life" meeting, are Ty
Warren, Sue Bjornberg, and Ed Davis.
We’ve come from
different [places] but we
are all one.
A SEAT AT THE TABLE
The Eucharist isn’t just a metaphor
here; before the ministers get down to
work, they start with the Eucharist, with
different ministers taking turns each week.
Sometimes, they participate in a “coast-tocoast
Eucharist,” connecting with the Woods’
mentor in San Francisco. Tonight, Bjornberg’s
wife joins briefly via Zoom from their home
but the technology fails part-way through.
Not all the core organizers are present each
week; others include Fred Faulkner from
the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, who
preaches at Trinity Episcopal Church in
Hartford and is director of operations for
The Open Hearth residential facility, Deacon
Wallace Collins of Faith Christian Assembly
and Ed Davis of City Church Middletown.
The Woods share the portable communion
kits they use in their street ministry —
sealed plastic cups of juice with the wafer
under another seal on the top.
Tonight is Winborne’s turn. “We come from
different [places] but we are all one,” he says.
The Friday night meetings with members
of the recovery group also follow a pattern:
social time with cookies and coffee, prayer
and a speaker, then they break up into
groups led by facilitators, where they discuss
that speaker’s theme.
The pastors take turns speaking each week;
they discuss the main theme in advance but
there is no agenda.
“We have structure, within reason,” Karla
Woods said. Hearing people share, her
husband said, “You can feel the spirit of the
The model, Bjornberg added, is not
preaching or teaching down, it’s testifying.
This is not an occupation or calling,
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
“Everybody here is breathing this stuff.”
Joanie Sylvia, from City Church Middletown,
said the ministers want to make sure
the group discussions are a safe place.
Participants say they feel more comfortable
than at Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics
Anonymous, she said.
And while recovery from substance abuse is
the most obvious need, Bjornberg said it is
not the only one. God, he said, is restoring
relationships, teaching participants how to
flourish in the right relationships with God and
They generally see a core group of 20-30 at
the Friday meetings, with one or two new
members each week. “It’s alive and I think it’s
going to grow,” Bjornberg said. They may not
come every week but they come back.
WELCOME TO YOUR NEW LIFE
It’s nothing unusual in this summer of 2018
in Connecticut, but the heat and humidity
have not abated overnight. This doesn’t keep
20 or so people from walking upstairs to a
classroom in Trinity Church on Friday evening.
With the windows open and a fan operating,
the room is habitable; the recovery group
God is restoring
participants how to
flourish in the right
relationships with God
members are busy catching up amongst
themselves and hardly seem to break a
Members grab a drink and settle into the
rows of chairs. A prayer is said, and then
Donald Watson of Grace and Mercy Family
Ministries in Portland begins speaking about
rejection. He opens with a personal story
from growing up in New Haven; folks don’t
teach you how to handle rejection when it
comes, he says.
It hurts to wonder how come this is not
working for me, whether it’s personal,
professional or not being picked for a team in
school. And those rejected, he said, will take
their hurt out on someone else, becoming
even more isolated and with fewer friends.
He got saved, he tells his listeners, and he is
able to move forward and realize his blessings
because he knows his past does not dictate
“Will rejection take you down, or will you
leverage it for the good in your life,” he asks,
before the group separates into smaller
Even with little formal structure, there are
rules for the smaller groups. Deacon Wallace
Collins, who offered the opening prayer and
facilitates one group, reminds people to
show empathy and self-restraint, practice
deep listening and not to interrupt. Collins,
part of the core organizing group, is from
Faith Christian Assembly in Middletown
and manages two residential units at the
Connecticut Juvenile Training School.
During one group session in another
classroom, everyone participated, taking turns
talking about the rejection they’ve faced, how
it has played a part in their addictions and
how they handle it, or don’t handle it, today.
Most of this group pulled chairs into in
imperfect circle on a rug. One young man,
though, sits apart. He does share, however,
and the rest of the group encourages him to
come amongst them. When he does, they
reach out to him — some with an embrace,
others with a pat on the shoulder. Despite the
heat, the time passes quickly; when the call
goes out, everyone gathers back in the main
Mary has been coming to this recovery group
for two months; she looks forward to it all
week. She is part of Pastor Woods’ Streetfire
Ministries in Middletown, and said she likes
the unity between women in that ministry.
She came to New Life Journey not because
of addiction but for help dealing with the
stress related to being homeless, off and on,
for 10 years. This group, she said, has such a
wonderful feeling of family.
Ed Davis of New Haven is not an official
pastor but he is a member of City Church and
helped launch City Church Middletown. He is
another in the core group of organizers. He
met Pastor Woods at St. Vincent du Paul’s
Soup Kitchen in Middletown; they became
friends and Woods invited him to be part of
organizing this Christian recovery group.
Deacon Wallace Collins leads “A Way of Life" meeting.
Davis, a 21-year member of Narcotics
Anonymous, said, “This is just a little bit
different,” with members and pastors who
are starting to build relationships with one
AA and NA are about getting free of the
substance through the higher power of the
fellowship, Bjornberg said. With this group,
the fellowship is the same but it’s talked
about differently. Here, he said, our problem
that is we have been isolated and alienated
from a relationship with God. The emphasis
now is love, and is being powered by the
inexhaustible love of God.
“We are not apologetic about our faith in
God,” he said, adding, “God reveals Gods self
in an infinite variety of ways.”
And on this Friday, that evening’s revelation
was sufficient to help everyone leave the
meeting chatting as cheerfully as they were
before it began, and looking forward to their
Pam Dawkins is a Bethany, CT based freelance writer. She is the former business section editor of The Middletown Press and the Connecticut
Formed by, with, and for church community
My involvement in the church had opened my mind up. Jesus was a … rabble-rouser”
whose message was take care of the poor, feed the hungry. “To me, that’s the essence
Childhood is a time of “musts” —
usually imperfectly implemented but
absolute in principle. You must be nice
to your brother; you must do your chores; you
must go to church each Sunday. As we get
older our “musts” evolve to fit into our lives
and reflect who we now are. A “must” that
frequently drops off over the years is regular
John M. Armstrong’s journey to a place on
the parish vestry at St. Andrew’s Episcopal
Church in Madison started with that church
“must” from his mother but took some
detours along the way.
Growing up in New York City, the son of
a Presbyterian doctor who played golf on
Sundays and an Anglican immigrant mother,
he lived near St. James’ Church on Madison
His first detour came in seventh grade, during
confirmation class; he needed his baptism
certificate but, his mother confessed, “We
just never got around to having you baptized
(although his brother and sister were).” So at
age 12, he was baptized into The Episcopal
Church; he still has the watch and Book of
Common Prayer from his godparents.
“In those days, you couldn’t take Communion
until you were confirmed,” said John, who
didn’t go to Communion, or back to church,
after the Baptism. For the next few years, his
religious experience was limited to morning
Scripture reading and music during chapel at
The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, which, he
said, had strong Episcopal roots.
“I always enjoyed the quiet time of those 10
minutes in the morning,” listening to hymns,
John, now 72, said. “It touched my heart
and something about it just seemed to make
The singing still gets him; he called the music
and upbeat, family-oriented 9:30 a.m. service
at St. Andrew’s, “really strong and powerful.”
He went back to Hotchkiss to teach English
for two years after graduating from Princeton
University with an English major that was
actually a “de facto” journalism major; he
wrote for the daily student newspaper, The
Princetonian, and has continued to write
for various publications, including Episcopal
churches and organizations in Connecticut.
After two years of teaching, John, who said
he was feeling guilty to not be fighting during
the Vietnam War, volunteered and spent four
years in the U.S. Army, from 1969 to 1973,
with a commission in the Medical Service
John is quick to clarify that he is a Vietnamera
veteran, not having served in Vietnam.
He would have been sent over in 1972 but
the Pentagon was reducing forces and the
only soldiers going over then were those who
were planning a military career and needed to
get their “ticket punched,” he said.
He met his wife, Rebecca, in New York
City, after graduating from Harvard Business
School in 1975. Rebecca, he said, was a
more serious Episcopalian and they “churchshopped”
around New York — to the Church
of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue, St.
Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and
back to St. James’.
It was at St. James’ that John first laid down
some adult church-going roots; a college
classmate was the assistant rector and
persuaded John to teach Sunday School, and
it is where he and Rebecca married.
Another Princeton connection got him
to move from banking to manufacturing;
this friend owned a small manufacturing
business in the heating and cooling industry
and needed a chief operating officer. The
oil embargo of 1976/1977 convinced the
company now was the time to expand into
solar power but the embargo ended before
the new direction took off.
What was taking off was the computer
industry; when Apple and IBM released their
machines in 1980, John, who had always
been interested in languages, taught himself
how to program; computer programs, he
said, have structure, like any other language.
John left the manufacturing company in
1980 and spent the next 25 or so years
as a computer systems programmer and
engineer, writing code for increasingly
elaborate machines. The business changed
fast and it was hard to keep up, he said.
“After a while I got kind of burned out.”
They had moved out of New York City in
the 1980s — it wasn’t a safe place to raise
a family, John said; they headed first to Cos
Cob and then Old Greenwich — Rebecca
is from Westport — to raise their children.
They joined Christ Church in Greenwich; “We
wanted our kids to get a little bit of a religious
education,” John said.
He and Rebecca sold the Weston house in
2010, downsizing to a New Haven apartment
for a year before they “tripped over” Madison
and very quickly decided on St. Andrew’s,
he said. Rebecca now attends a nondenominational
church in Greenwich. They
have two grown children — their daughter
is a pediatrician whose own daughter was
scheduled to appear in October and their son,
a wealth manager, and his wife are expecting
a boy in February. They already have a twoyear-old
Photo by Marc-Yves Regis
John Armstrong at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Madison.
At Christ Church, John became what he calls a “back bencher,” the
anonymous guy running the sound system, but said he felt lost in a
church of that size. It wasn’t until they moved to Weston and joined
Emmanuel Episcopal Church in 2000 that he moved into a more public
role as a lector. His knees shook during his first time reading, John
remembers, but the experience didn’t scare him off; he then trained
and is licensed as a chalicist.
Suddenly, John said, he enjoyed what he was doing and the people he
was meeting. He was a delegate to the convention, reading the Bible
and Marcus Borg, the late New Testament scholar and author whose
21 books made him a prominent voice in “progressive Christianity.”
He had an interest in the liturgy so joined the liturgy and music
committee. He also joined the social justice committee, which is now
a ministry network, an interest that has only grown stronger over the
“My involvement in the church had opened my mind up,” John said.
“Jesus was a … rabble-rouser” whose message was take care of the
poor, feed the hungry. “To me, that’s the essence of Christianity.”
A 2005 trip to the Scottish island of Iona was another mind-opener.
John said he was very taken by the Celtic Christianity he discovered
off the western coast of Scotland — “theology and gestalt, music and
Roman Christianity, he explained, is a hierarchical model – with God at
the top and people down here needing permission to get to him and
receive forgiveness of their original sin.
In Celtic Christianity, God is here on earth, among the trees and in our
hearts; we are basically good people, not corrupt from birth.
John has visited the Iona Community (https://iona.org.uk/) six or
seven times since 2005. Their website describes the community as
“a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and
social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.”
Rebuilding community is what he thinks the Episcopal Church should
As for his own ministries in God’s mission, his passion for social
justice has most recently led to his engagement with the anti-casino
efforts in Connecticut. And perhaps surprisingly for someone who
spent much of his career improving communication between people
and machines, his interest in liturgy has led him to a greater desire to
work with people.
He’s a lay visitor and recently organized a regional healing ministry
workshop. He wants to do more individual healing, laying hands on
someone and praying with them.
It’s “unbelievably powerful,” he said of experiences with this at St.
So he will continue to search for ways to help people, individually
and through a broader church audience. “I’m moving in the right
Pam Dawkins is a Bethany, CT based freelance writer. She is the former business section editor of The Middletown Press and the Connecticut Post.
Her voice cries out, Prepare
the way of the Lord!
The Rev. April Alford-Harkey
Shaped by growing up in the Episcopal Church, and passionate
about its liturgy, the Rev. April Alford-Harkey always felt that
she was called to an ordained ministry in the church but
it took a while for the path to become clear. There were some
painful moments both in life and in the long institutional process
that tested her vocational call.
Today, as an Episcopal deacon serving a church on Sundays and
working at St. Vincent’s Medical Needs Service as a chaplain to
its residents with special needs, their families, and the staff, she
can see that it all worked out right in the end and God carried her
“Part of my impetus to being a deacon and a chaplain is
that I don’t want people to be in those situations or those
places where they don’t have somebody to hold them up,
somebody to support them, that they feel alone,” she said.
“I don’t ever want anybody that I meet or know to ever feel
like they’re not worthy of being loved or to have somebody
be with them.”
EARLY LOVE OF CHURCH
April was raised in an Episcopal Church in New Hampshire
of the Anglo-Catholic “high church” tradition. She recalls
that there were elaborate and specific processions for each
season and that the priests wore antique vestments that
featured furs and jewels. Church school wasn’t enough for
“When was little, around six, I refused to go to Sunday School
because I had to be in church,” she said. The compulsion came
from her own internal sense, not a requirement by parents or
others. “Then once I started reading, I had to follow along in the
Book of Common Prayer. Even when I go back to my home parish
now, the older women will say, ‘We remember that little girl who
couldn’t sit still in the front pew, looking and walking around, and
trying to read the bulletin and the Book of Common Prayer.’ But I
always had to see what was going on at the altar.”
Once she was confirmed and could take communion, April felt
assured that the church would see her as an adult. She started to
preach and to lead summer Bible camps. She fondly recalls the
Photos: The Rev. April Alford-Harkey, Deacon, and her service dog, Sandy, work with
families and individuals at a center for adults and children with special needs.
Photos by Marc-Yves Regis
supportive group of older women who nurtured
her in the faith. Later, the church sponsored her
for ordination, which she and they all assumed
would be to the priesthood.
First, however, April – who acknowledges
she has learning disabilities as well as bipolar
disorder, earned a graduate degree in early
childhood education with a concentration
in special needs. She then ran
one of the first programs in the
country, in her home state, that
helped integrate children with
special needs into the public school
“It was very shaping,” she said
of the work. She enjoyed the kids
and helping them in the classroom,
she said, but was frustrated with
the pushback from communities
and parents who didn’t want a
“special needs child” in their kid’s
When April decided it was time
to test her vocation to ordained
ministry she signed up for the
Anglican Studies certificate program
at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS)
in Massachusetts. However, she was turned
down for the ordination process by her home
diocese in part, she said she was told, because
she was “too loud.” She didn’t plan to back
down on speaking out about injustice or stop
following what she believed was her call to
ordination, though, so while the decision hurt,
she decided to finish seminary anyhow.
That turned out to be a good decision for at
least two big reasons. First, she met her future
wife, Marie, at EDS, and second, while still in
the program, she came to see her path forward
as a deacon.
That second one happened because of EDS’
ministry residency requirement. To meet it,
April took a position as a chaplain in a children’s
hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. It was eye-opening
“I saw poor parents who couldn’t feed their
children giving them inappropriate food,”
she recalled. “Kids who didn’t have good
supervision, 14-year olds having babies,
children who were left alone at night because
their moms were sex workers and had to
go to work; kids who were supposed to be
adopted or in foster care who came in so
malnourished and abused they died. That
shaped me. I wished I knew a way to get in
front of it.”
She called it the longest year of her life, and
has no regrets.
“I left there grateful and I knew that God had
I don’t ever want anybody
that I meet or know to ever
feel like they’re not worthy
of being loved or to have
somebody be with them.
called me as a chaplain. I felt like this is what
I was meant to do. Maybe everything worked
out well. I wanted to be with people. I
wanted to be with them in the hardest times.
You know, I wanted to love them when
nobody else can love them. ... I just really
felt like God was using all of my gifts.” She
said it was like a light bulb going on when
she realized that what she was doing as a
chaplain was what she would do as a deacon.
April was accepted into the diaconal
ordination process in Connecticut, completed
the formation program, and was ordained
in January 2017. Diaconal assignment to
parishes change regularly, and in September
she accepted a new assignment to serve at
St. Thomas in New Haven on Sundays. She
had previously been at St. Monica’s, Hartford.
She loves the church part of being a deacon.
“If that is not the most awesome wonderful
thing to proclaim the Gospel and send people
out, [then] I have no idea of what else is,” she
said. “And I get to reverently set the table
for the Eucharist. I set the table for us
to have our meal. And you can’t do
that unless somebody sets a table.
I find that very special to honor the
Eucharist in a way that is just very
done well and done with care and
During the week, April serves as
a chaplain for special needs adults
and children at St. Vincent’s Special
Needs Services. She started in 2012
and was later was joined by Sandy, a
yellow lab service dog.
“The people I work with perceive
the world differently from the rest
of us,” she wrote in a recent essay
about her work. “People who
communicate differently, whose
bodies are compromised, who can’t
touch and be touched as easily as most
That earlier urge to speak up loudly about
injustice never went away. Today, she says,
she fights for justice for “her special needs
“You know we go against systems to try to
get them what they need,” she said. “We
love them when other people can’t love
them. You talk to parents when they’re at
their wits’ ends.” Her work encompasses
different aspects of providing care to
residents, day clients, families, and staff and
includes serving as chaplain for the hospice
program. Over the years, April has also
helped make the arrangements for marriages
and funerals, bringing liturgies of the church
into places where there’s been brokenness.
April recalled the Japanese art of repairing
broken pottery with gold, kintsugi, which
doesn’t hide the cracks and is often said to
make the piece even more beautiful. “I feel
like, in some ways, I get to fill the cracks so
we can see the beauty in the kids,” she said.
“God helps me. And so does Sandy.”
Karin Hamilton serves as Canon for Mission Communication & Media for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
Navigating the darkness
They confessed that they were strangers
and foreigners on the earth, for people
who speak in this way make it clear that
they are seeking a homeland. If they had
been thinking of the land that they had left
behind, they would have had opportunity
to return. But as it is, they desire a better
country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore
God is not ashamed to be called their God;
indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
The first sense I had that God might be
calling me came in a roundabout way
toward the end of my college years.
There was no ponderous voice from heaven
saying “become a priest” or “become a
lawyer.” There was no one who asked,
“what do you feel called to do?” There
was, after all, no discernment manual for a
student who found himself on the margins
of church and state, as a confused Christian
and an undocumented immigrant. There was
merely the muck and mire of earthly life.
I spent so much time working with other
immigrants who had no legal remedies and
trying to understand what opportunities I had
despite my status that any talk about God’s
calling—or worse, God’s promises—rubbed
me the wrong way.
In my Christian a cappella group in college,
I was assigned to sing the first few lines
of the old American folk song “Wayfaring
Stranger.” The lyrics, my musical director
said with some pity, reminded him of me: “I
am a poor wayfaring stranger / Just passing
through this world of woe.” The comment
hit close to home. I rebelled in my heart and
thought to myself, “What makes it so hard
is that I’m not a stranger. This is home.”
There was, after all, no
for a student who found
himself on the margins
of church and state, as
a confused Christian
and an undocumented
immigrant. There was
merely the muck and
mire of earthly life.
Despite my inner protest, I had no say in
the matter. I was in this country, but not
of it. Looking at my classmates and their
achievements, I wondered. What great work
could God call on me to do when I might be
deported at any time? What great promise
could God offer me when the future lay
shrouded before me?
Outside class, I did what I knew how to do.
I worked with legal clinics and community
organizations to help individuals apply for
immigration benefits and organize access to
legal assistance for those in need. I drafted
memos and lobbied legislators. I reviewed
countless press releases and argued on
talk radio. I marched with protestors and
translated for Spanish speakers. My work
was to help other strangers and foreigners
in this land make it their home, to prepare a
place where we all might belong.
All the while, I felt a persistent and subtle
pull elsewhere. I became Episcopalian and
discovered morning and evening prayer for
the first time. The opening lines of the office,
“O God, make speed to save us; O Lord,
make haste to help us,” punctuated my days.
The first response of the Eucharist, “Blessed
be his kingdom, now and for ever,” lingered
in my imagination throughout the week. I
felt a sudden desire to lead my a cappella
group and, in my senior year, a surprising
joy in carrying out that work. Without my
realizing it at first, God was inviting me to
see more than the closed doors around me,
to look beyond the fog shrouding the future.
God was inviting me to meditate on his work
in the world and especially on his work in
Christ, to glimpse eternity and the reality of
God’s promises here and now.
We are not guaranteed lives free from
disappointment or pain or suffering. We are
not guaranteed that others will love and
accept us as they ought, or that they will
treat us with the dignity and respect that
inheres in our very beings by virtue of our
humanity, for God in the flesh knows what it
means to lack these things.
Rather, God promises us that, in the midst of
the tests and trials we face, we will behold
his glory the more and more we turn to —
and turn into — Christ. God promises us
that, no matter where we are from, in Christ
we are no longer strangers and foreigners,
but citizens with the saints and members
of the household of God, heirs of an eternal
God promises us that,
no matter where we
are from, in Christ we
are no longer strangers
and foreigners, but
citizens with the saints
and members of the
household of God, heirs
of an eternal kingdom
that no power or
authority can overthrow.
kingdom that no power or authority can
As I begin law school this fall, I hold fast to
God’s call to contemplate these promises,
not to escape darkness by retreating from
the world, but to shed light on that darkness
by entering into the world, by wading into
its cases and controversies, its disputes
and its disagreements. I have learned that
oftentimes it is only there, in the midst of
the muck and the mire, that faith can offer
hope grounded in God’s love for this weary
world: “You will see greater things than
The Rev. Armando Ghinaglia is a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and a first-year student at Yale Law School. He was
born in Venezuela and raised in Texas before moving to Connecticut to attend Yale College, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in political
science in 2014. He later attended and graduated from Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale with a master of divinity degree in
2018. He is especially interested in the relationship between theology, law, and ethics.
Navegando la oscuridad
Porque los que dicen esto, claramente dan
a entender que buscan una patria; pues si
hubieran estado pensando en la patria de
donde salieron, tiempo tenían para volver.
Pero ellos anhelaban una patria mejor,
es decir, la patria celestial. Por eso Dios
no se avergüenza de llamarse su Dios; al
contrario, les ha preparado una ciudad.
La primera vez que sentí un posible
llamado de Dios fue de manera
indirecta hacia el final de mis años
universitarios. No hubo una voz fuerte
del cielo diciendo “sea un sacerdote”
o “sea un abogado.” No hubo nadie
que preguntara, “¿cuál es tu llamado?”
Tampoco hubo, por supuesto, un manual
para discernir la vocación de un estudiante
que se encontraba al margen de la iglesia
y el estado, como un cristiano confundido
y un inmigrante indocumentado. Solo
hubo el fango y el lodazal de la vida
terrenal. Pasé tanto tiempo trabajando
con otros inmigrantes sin remedio legal y
tratando de entender qué oportunidades
tuve disponibles aún con mi estatus, que
cualquier mención del llamado de Dios —
o peor, de las promesas de Dios — me
En mi grupo a cappella cristiano en la
universidad, me asignaron cantar las
primeras líneas del viejo canto tradicional
“Wayfaring Stranger.” Las letras, me dijo
el director musical con algo de lástima, les
recordaron de mí: “Soy un pobre viajero
extranjero / Pasando por este mundo de
dolor.” El comentario me pegó fuerte. Rebelé
en mi corazón y pensé, “Lo que es difícil es
que no soy extranjero. Esto es mi país.” Pero
Tampoco hubo, por
supuesto, un manual para
discernir la vocación
de un estudiante
que se encontraba al
margen de la iglesia
y el estado, como un
y un inmigrante
hubo el fango y el lodazal
de la vida terrenal.
a pesar de mi protesta interno, nunca había
tenido voz en el asunto. Vivía en este país,
pero no era de él. Viendo a mis compañeros
de clase y sus logros, me pregunté. ¿A qué
gran obra me podría llamar Dios cuando
podría ser deportado en cualquier instante?
¿Qué gran promesa me podría ofrecer Dios
cuando el futuro quedaba velado frente a mí?
Fuera de mis clases, hice lo que supe hacer.
Trabajé con clínicas legales y organizaciones
en la comunidad para ayudar a que personas
solicitaran beneficios de inmigración y
organizar acceso a asistencia legal. Escribí
notas legales y presioné legisladores.
Revisé incontables comunicados de prensa
y discutí con locutores en programas en la
radio. Salí con manifestantes y traduje para
hispanohablantes. Mi trabajo fue ayudar
a que otros extranjeros en esta tierra lo
hicieran suyo, preparar un lugar en el que
todos podríamos pertenecer.
Por otra parte, todo este tiempo, sentí algo
jalándome. Entré en la Iglesia Episcopal
y descubrí por primera vez matutinas y
vespertinas. Las primeras frases de las
oraciones, “Oh Dios, dígnate librarnos;
Señor, apresúrate a socorrernos,” puntuaron
mis días. La primera respuesta de la
Eucaristía, “Bendito sea su reino, ahora y
por siempre,” permaneció en mi imaginación
todas las semanas. De repente sentí un
deseo de liderar mi grupo a cappella y, en
mi último año, una alegría sorprendente
haciendo ese trabajo. Sin haberme dado
cuenta, Dios me invitaba a ver más que
las puertas cerradas que me rodeaban, a
ver más allá de la neblina velando el futuro.
Dios me invitaba a meditar en sus obras
en el mundo y especialmente en su obra
en Cristo, a vislumbrar a la eternidad y la
realidad de las promesas de Dios, aquí y
No tenemos garantizados vidas libres de la
desilusión o del dolor o del sufrimiento. No
tenemos garantizados que otros nos amarán
o nos aceptarán como deben, o que nos
tratarán con la dignidad y el respeto que es
inherente en nuestros seres en virtud de
nuestra humanidad; pues Dios en su carne
sabe lo que es carecer de estas cosas.
Más bien, Dios nos promete que, en
medio de las pruebas y los juicios que nos
enfrentamos, contemplaremos su gloria
mientras que nos volteamos más y más
hacia Cristo y nos convertimos en él. Dios
nos promete que, sin importar de dónde
venimos, en Cristo ya no somos extranjeros
Dios nos promete que,
sin importar de dónde
venimos, en Cristo ya
no somos extranjeros
ni advenedizos, sino
conciudadanos de los
santos y miembros
de la familia de Dios,
herederos de un reino
eterno que ningún poder
ni ninguna autoridad
ni advenedizos, sino conciudadanos de los
santos y miembros de la familia de Dios,
herederos de un reino eterno que ningún
poder ni ninguna autoridad puede derrocar.
Mientras empiezo en mis estudios en
derecho este otoño, me aferro al llamado
de Dios a contemplar estas promesas, no
para escapar a la oscuridad retirándome del
mundo, sino para iluminar esa oscuridad
entrando en él, vadeando en sus casos y
controversias, sus disputas y desacuerdos.
He aprendido que muchas veces solo es allí,
en medio del fango y del lodazal, que la fe
puede ofrecer una esperanza arraigada en al
amor de Dios por este mundo tan cansado:
“Cosas mayores que éstas verás.”
The Rev. Armando Ghinaglia es un diácono de transición en la Iglesia Episcopal en Connecticut y un estudiante de primer año en la facultad de
derecho de Yale. Nació en Venezuela y se crío en Texas antes de mudarse a Connecticut para estudiar en Yale College, dónde se graduó ciencias
políticas en el 2014. Después estudió y se graduó de Yale Divinity School y Berkeley Divinity School en Yale con una maestría de divinidad en el
2018. Le interesa en particular la relación entre teología, derecho, y ética.
In pursuit of God’s imagination
for his church
Stop Hiring for ‘Culture Fit,’” the headline on my news feed from
Quartz, caught my attention. The term “culture fit” is bandied
about in every sector of life that offers employment. Within the
Church, it’s often translated and understood as “good fit.” It’s a term
I have heard far too often since the time I got ordained and started
searching for a “call.”
The headline I saw featured psychologist and management expert
Adam Grant in an interview, where he says that companies hiring for
“culture fit” end up hurting the business in the long run.
“You end up attracting the same kinds of people
because culture fit is a proxy for, ‘Are you similar
to me? Do I want to hang out with you?’ So
you end up with this nice, homogeneous group
of people who fall into group think and then
it’s easier for them to get disrupted from the
outside, and they have trouble innovating and
changing,” says Grant.
Experiencing this country from the perspective
of one coming from a different culture and
society, I began noticing that the Church in
the USA seems more inclined to take lessons
from the corporate world when it comes to
management (nurture) and growth of the Church or a local parish.
I needn’t go into detail here about the repercussions of equating
the Body of Christ with profit-making corporations, but the fact that
social commentators have labeled a large swath of millennials as
“Nones” and “Dones” when it comes to their relationship and view
of the Church tell us plenty. I am more than empathetic toward the
“Nones” and the “Dones,” for if not for the unshakable love and
hope for the enigmatic “Body of Christ,” which I cannot separate
from my relationship with Jesus, I too would be a digit in the
statistics that make the “Dones.”
I am frequently asked this question, “Why did you choose to be
ordained in The Episcopal Church?” This was never a question for me
through the discernment process toward ordination in The Episcopal
Church. Now, after more than ten years of ordained ministry, this
has become a deeply personal question. I have wrestled with God
and my own sense of call into The Episcopal Church as I interviewed
with church after church for the position of rector, often making it to
the final list of candidates, only to find out the church decided not to
go forward with my application. The most common reason given for
I go trusting in God’s
vision of His magnificent
Kingdom free from human
descriptions where people
like me have always
their rejection of me was, they felt I was not a good “fit” for their
After one more of those times, when yet again, I was deemed not
a good “fit,” I struggled with the whole notion of being called into
God’s work in The Episcopal Church. In the turmoil of the emotional
battle within me, I heard a voice deep within my soul say, “I will
send you where I send you.” Since then, I have approached my
deep yearning to partner with God in His work in and through a local
church, more as a sending and less of a call. I am confident more
than ever that Jesus alone has the prerogative
to “call.” Those who dare to answer that call
will always be “sent” by Him to people who
will receive us with joy, but with many more,
we may have to shake the dust off our feet and
This is also when I began to understand that
churches often settle into a place of being
custodians of what it meant to be the Body of
Christ in imaginations past. An Asian woman,
like me, behind the Lord’s Table and in the
pulpit, has never featured in the imagination
of historically privileged white churches of The
Episcopal Church. I will never “fit” into the
picture that is already developed, framed and hung within the walls
of churches build to capture the imagination of God as experienced
in the past. Yet, I firmly believe, that I, and people like me, are sent
to the very places where we will be spewed out by systems held
captive to the imagined glory of a monochromatic past. Yet, I go
trusting in God’s vision of His magnificent Kingdom free from human
descriptions where people like me have always featured.
In God's sending of me to where he sends me next, I choose to
open myself to surprises of the Kingdom where lowly mustard seeds
become trees, where the last can be first, where a woman’s hidden
leaven transforms the flour, where the fisher-folk gathers all sorts
of fish and the monochrome snapshot of the past turns into the
panoramic masterpiece of God’s new creation.
This is faith for me, that I am sent not to affirm someone’s banal
imagination of the Body of Christ, but to proclaim with my voice and
in my body, the untamable imagination of a God who seeks not for
the good fit but for belief that the Body of Christ has resurrected and
is on the move.
The Rev. Ajung Sojwal immigrated to the United States from India in 1994. Her home state is Nagaland in the northeastern part of India. Ordained
in the Diocese of New York, she currently serves as Interim Pastor at Calvary Church, Stonington, CT.
Pop & lock — break dancing in the city of New London
One of the reasons why I was drawn
to New London was because it
was a city, and I consider myself
an urban priest. Months into my tenure
as rector of St. James', as I was cobbling
together the service for the celebration of
my new ministry here, I knew I wanted the
music and most importantly, the vibe, to be
connected to hip-hop. I have loved hip-hop
culture, and the music/art that comes from
it, ever since my teenage years.
I particularly love “conscious hip-hop.”
Let me explain why: Conscious hip- hop
connects to the political realities and telling
the truth about injustice in the U.S and the
broader world. I have always seen hip-hop
as a counter-cultural narrative against the
dominant systems and principalities that
can overwhelm our day-to-day lives. But it
was only when I landed up in Hollywood,
California 18 years ago, working with a nonprofit
called, “Hope in Hollywood,” that I
came to understand how truly dope hip-hop
was. (Yes, I just said dope.)
My colleagues at Hope in Hollywood were
Frank and Marlon, young adults who were
transplants from H-town, Houston, Texas.
They and the Rev. Jamie Edwards-Acton,
rector of St. Stephen's, Hollywood, helped
assimilate me into the culture that they
were building on Yucca and Gower streets.
Essentially, Hope in Hollywood was an
organization that sought to provide space
for young adults in the Greater Los Angeles
area to dance and gave opportunity to others
to come alongside them as mentors. The
inspiration was taken from a
similar effort in Houston
called Youth Advocates,
Inc., which St.
Stephen’s rector had learned
about and, after exploring it further,
decided to replicate.
On a Monday evening, we
would drive the Hope van
to different parts of L.A. to
provide transportation for break dancers who
couldn’t otherwise make it to Hollywood.
We would have dinner first, which was just
a fun experience. It seemed that somehow
the food would just show up. The dinner
was a time for us to gather and chat and get
to know one another.
After the meal, the breakers would go to the
parish hall, a DJ would be spinning, and then
the magic would begin. We had B-boys who
were just starting out, B-boys and B-girls
who had been dancing for a long time, and
young adults who just loved hip-hop culture
and wanted to be there to watch and be a
part of something dope.
In my eyes, this was all about Jesus. It
was all about solidarity and love of a group
of people; it was a commitment to walk
alongside them and honor the dignity not
only of the breakdancers and the group of
folks surrounding them, but also ourselves.
This whole magical season of my life
occurred back in the summer of 2000, for
two and a half months. It was a wonderfully
I very much believe in the Episcopal Church
of Connecticut’s practice/mantra of
going/being out in the neighborhood.
Following Jesus out into the
of New London means showing up and
building relationships of authenticity and
dignity. It means believing in the truth that all
are made in the image and likeness of God.
This is also what it means to be a part of the
Jesus Movement. It’s a loving, liberating,
and life-giving relationship with God, each
other, and Creation.
When I arrived in New London back in
May 2017, I knew intuitively that the hiphop
sub-culture was alive in this city, too.
It just had that vibe. And in exploring the
city and meeting its people, I found it. We
connected. Some of the dancers joined us
at St. James’ at our celebration of our new
ministry. Now, starting this November 1,
we’re launching a hip-hop ministry here in
New London that will be supported in part
by a young adult ministry grant that we
received from The Episcopal Church.
If nothing else, offering a space to break
dancers in our community, a space to revel
in dance, a space that I hope some breakers
will call home – this is the definition of loving
To this day, Hope in Hollywood, in my eyes,
was one the most honest embodiments of
the Realm of God that I have seen. It was
life giving, and it was real. Now, when I walk
out into our New London neighborhood,
I can only behold the excitement when I
chat with friends who are excited about
the opportunity to start our own Hope in
Hollywood, here, in our city.
This is what it means to follow Jesus out
into the City of New London. This, my
friends, this is Us.
The Rev. Ranjit Mathews
is the rector at St. James,
New London. Prior to that,
he served on the staff of
the Presiding Bishop as
the Partnership Office fo Africa.
Into the laundromat
Volunteers, friends, and partners of ECCT's Southwest Region branch of Laundry Love pose for a group photo.
Love is a funny thing. We love Jesus!
We love our families. We love sports,
travel, and good food. Some of us even
love our work. Some of us love laundry.
OK, perhaps love is too strong of a word; yet,
some of us do enjoy washing and folding,
the aromatic detergents and dryer sheets;
and we can even appreciate a crisply ironed
shirt, or the feel of a well-tailored, freshly drycleaned
business suit. And who doesn’t love
their favorite pair of jeans, freshly laundered
and warm out of the dryer on an autumn day?
We take all of these things, which help us
present ourselves to the world, for granted.
As I sit in this country laundromat (in the
rural northwest corner of the state), typing
this article, with only the spin of my clothes
drying in the background to bring me peace,
I find I am reminded of the flurry of activity
that occurs at Laundry Love. On the First
Wednesday of each month, in a lively
laundromat in my hometown of Norwalk,
a growing team of folks from four parishes
in the Southwest Region of the Episcopal
Church in Connecticut (ECCT) partner with
several local agencies and businesses to offer
laundry resources to those for whom the cost
of doing a few loads of laundry presents a
Just imagine if you will that, for whatever
reason, times are tough and we need to
make a choice between spending twenty
dollars on two loads of laundry or the same
amount on groceries, baby formula, or some
other life staple. Imagine trying to apply for a
job without a clean set of interview clothes.
Perhaps, this month, the challenge is meeting
a new landlord wearing clothes we’ve not
laundered for some time. These are things
which might wash across your mind and flow
into your heart as you scour the Laundry Love
website (laundrylove.org/); that is if you can
make it beyond the first the opening quote...
“If I had clean clothes people would treat me
as a human being.”
Laundry Love, originally founded in California,
is a ministry with the wider community
grounded in the baptismal covenant of The
Episcopal Church; in particular, to “respect
(and perhaps help restore) the dignity of every
human being.” Laundry Love is described on
its website as a “modern day foot washing.”
The ECCT Southwest Region branch of
Laundry Love launched on February 7, 2018.
They operate on the first Wednesdays of
the month from 3 – 9 p.m. at Giant Laundry,
a new, state-of-the-art laundry facility in
East Norwalk. Currently, the effort is staffed
Photo by Don Burr
predominantly by folks from St. Mark’s, New
Canaan; St. Luke’s, Darien; St. Paul’s on the
Green, Norwalk; and Christ Church, East
Norwalk in partnership with Giant Laundry,
Triangle Community Center, Open Doors
Shelter, and Norwalk Pizza & Pasta.
In the fall of 2017, after dialogue developed as
part of St. Mark’s Hands and Feet Initiative
— an effort to look beyond traditional parish
“outreach” and engage the world as the
hands and feet of Jesus — individuals and
parishes were invited to share a meal and
dream what might be: St. Mark’s invited St.
Paul’s on the Green; St. Paul’s invited St.
Luke’s; the parishes invited the laundromat
and the pizzeria, and so on.
By mid winter, they had a plan for a fourmonth
trial. The location had been chosen
in part due to its convenient location on the
local public transit bus line, across from the
East Norwalk train station and the pizza place.
A generous amount of money was raised
to sustain the ministry well-beyond the trial.
Those funds continue to sustain Laundry
Love, and will do so beyond this calendar
Much of the financial resource goes toward
operating the machines and for detergent,
and of course, pizza -- all of which are
supported by deep discounts provided by
Giant Laundry and by Norwalk Pizza & Pasta.
Laundromat ownership buy-in has been
critical to the success of Laundry Love.
Jennifer Krouse, of Christ Church, East
Norwalk, is impressed by the collaboration.
“I feel this is a most worthwhile program
for everyone,” she said. “The clients are so
appreciative of the opportunity to do their
laundry; their children learn how to help the
parents and see total strangers assisting each
other; the pizza parlor makes some money
but generously reduces the price of the
pies; and the laundromat also makes some
money but donates the use of their machines
and their assistance, all in support of our
community. It is a wonderful chance to work
with and serve others.”
People power has been almost easy to come
by, with something for people of all abilities
to engage in with Laundry Love. There
are currently close to 50 people regularly
involved. Not all of them are affiliated with
one of the start-up parishes, as some folks
have come to work in hopes of launching
Laundry Love in their own neighborhoods.
Mark Ledermann of St. John's, Stamford first
learned of Laundry Love during a presentation
at an ECCT Southwest Region Convocation.
It’s the people he’s met as a volunteer that he
finds most meaningful.
“I remember talking with Mike about the
Yankees as his laundry was drying,” he
said, reflecting on people he’s met so far.
“Mike started to remember a time when
he was a kid and would sit with his Dad in
the bleachers, watch the game and eat hot
dogs. I shared my time as a kid watching the
Orioles with my Dad. I remember playing
tic-tac-toe with James and talking about Hot
Wheel cars. And Jonathan, who talked about
mistakes he had made but how hopeful he
was that this time things are turning around.
I remember the kindness of Elaine, Nancy,
Fred, and you, my first night as a volunteer."
The world is often harsh
and unforgiving, and it
is in these small times
that we can see a little of
the Kingdom of God.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
ABOUT Laundry Love:
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
111 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT 06840
About Laundry Love
Laundry Love is a neighboring
movement that partners with
groups, schools, and local
laundromats to wash the clothes
and bedding of low-income and/or
no-income families and individuals.
The Laundry Love initiative
consists of regular opportunities
to come alongside people who
are struggling financially by
assisting them with their laundry.
Laundry Love partners with local
laundromats in cleaning clothes
and linens of low-income or noincome
families and individuals.
We see the laundromat as a place
where strangers become friends,
people are known by name, hope
is hustled, and the worth of every
human being is acknowledged and
You can find a map and info about
current sites, and a guide for how
to get involved, on their website.
Photo by Don Burr
Laundry Love in action at the Giant Laundry in East Norwalk
Existing relationships and new partnerships
have been important to the success of
Laundry Love in Fairfield County. One unique
way is that Open Doors Shelter provides a
van (driven by a Laundry Love leader, who
also serves on the Open Doors Shelter
Board of Directors) to move shelter guests
back and forth, from the shelter to Giant
Laundry. This has been an especially helpful,
rather than having folks transport heavy
laundry on the local bus.
Early on in the dreaming of what Laundry
Love might look like in Fairfield County,
the plight of teens and young adults who
are no longer living at home, due (in part)
to their families not accepting them, had
been brought to the attention of the St.
Mark’s Hands and Feet. The ever-increasing
number of under-resourced LGBTQ youth
and young adults is one reason Laundry
Love leaders invited the leadership of the
Triangle Community Center to be part of the
Located in Norwalk, the Triangle Center
serves the LGBTQ community of wider
Fairfield County. The Triangle Center took
a lead role during the training session by
offering a workshop on cultural humanity;
preparing Laundry Love workers to engage
with and welcome anyone who might
come to Laundry Love. The workshop went
well beyond a glossary of terms and an
introduction to pronouns; and it seems the
effort has been employed well in the areas
Just imagine what your
look like if following
Jesus meant meeting your
neighbors once each month
to do laundry.
of respecting dignity and the stewardship of
One Laundry Love participant, who
found Laundry Love through the Triangle
Community Center surveyed Laundry Love
in this way, “This is a wonderful program and
really helps, especially the destitute and or
homeless. Washing just a load or two can
be costly and it's a challenge to put money
aside for basic hygiene for many people
suffering and hidden in plain sight. At first
I was apprehensive myself, how does it
work, how will I be looked at as a homeless
person. Last thing someone needs already
at the bottom is to lose what dignity one has
remaining. Volunteers there are very friendly
and helpful and never look down on me or
make me feel little. They are all sweet and
kind, compassionate decent human beings
and it gives me a reminder there are good
decent caring folks out there that try and do
their part to help their fellow human beings.
Major kudos to the founders of this program,
the people and organizations that donate to
make it happen and most if all, triple kudos
for all the volunteers that come in and help.
Bravo! A program that actually helps those in
need of a little help.”
Darunee Wilson, of St. Luke’s, Darien,
“knew immediately” that she wanted to be
involved when she first heard of Laundry
Love; “It was such a good idea, and such
an obvious need, and I knew that I could
be immediately useful to someone. And
through the months, as we have figured out
how the machines work and when the pizza
arrives, we have also come to know the
people who show up regularly. No one is the
same, and no story is the same, but they all
have a need we can meet. In a world where
there are so many needs, I feel happy for
two hours just to concentrate on one need
and one group of people. And what a great
group of people we all are, a good group
to spend my time with. The world is often
harsh and unforgiving, and it is in these small
times that we can see a little of the Kingdom
of God. It is my privilege to be there once a
month and be a part of that.”
When following Jesus with our neighbors,
love often has the first and last word. Just
imagine what your neighborhood might look
like if following Jesus meant meeting your
neighbors once each month to do laundry. It
might look like love.
Don Burr is Executive Assistant to the Chief Talent Officer in the Human Resources Department with Norwalk Public Schools. He is a postulant
for the diaconate and is assigned as a deacon intern at Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport.
Clergy transitions in a
New Missional Age
Lee Ann Tolzmann
“We need choices, so make sure we get a large pool of candidates.”
“We need to attract young families, so find us a guy with kids.”
“We need to grow the church, so find us someone with a proven track record.”
Frequently heard requests from parishes in transition
All around the Church, life is not the way
it used to be, and the clergy transition
process is no exception. Being ordained
to the priesthood is no longer a guarantee of
a lifelong career nor even a full-time job. In
Connecticut today, only 40% of our parishes have
a full-time priest, and that number shrinks every
year. Due to the norm of two-career families,
clergy, like all professionals today, are far less
mobile than in the past. Clergy retirements far
outpace ordinations, and will continue to do so
for years to come. Increasingly, retired clergy
no longer want to take part-time positions, and,
when they do, they do not wish to relocate. All
of this means much smaller pools of candidates
for our full-time positions and no candidates at all
for most of our part-time ones. At any given time,
there are 20-25 quarter-time positions open in
An applicant pool of eight to ten is considered
great, and no open position, no matter how
appealing, generates a pool of more than thirty
candidates. I get emails almost weekly from
colleagues around the country seeking more
candidates for full-time positions. There are very
few young clergy (67% of clergy in ECCT are 55
or older, which is only slightly above the national
average), and having a rector with kids does
not mean you will attract young families. There
is no proven way to grow a church anymore.
We are facing the reality of demographics. For
those under fifty years old, Church membership
is an anomaly, not a norm. And it’s not because
younger people don’t have spiritual lives to be
nurtured. The truth is that they have no interest
in the twentieth century model of Church we
embody. Their time and money are both in short
supply, and they have no interest in contributing
either scarce resource to keep institutions in
business (i.e., to “keep the doors open”).
to making the world a better place for all. And,
the God that has been made known to us in
Jesus Christ, the God who has been revealed
to us in Holy Scripture, has called us to the holy
work of healing all that is broken in all of creation.
God’s mission is as important and relevant as it’s
Given all of the above, the clergy transition
process can no longer focus on searching
for a new rector who will bring what a parish
has discerned they want or need. It has to be
focused on discovering the work that God is
calling a parish to do, the future God seems to be
calling them towards, and then discerning with
candidates whom God is calling to do
that work with them.
And all those part-time jobs? We’re ordaining folks
for part-time work, but there will never be enough
of them for each parish to have their “own” priest.
My colleagues at The Commons and I are working
on discerning with sets of two (or maybe more?)
parishes together whether God might be calling
them to share a priest. This is not a “yoking”
or “clustering”, but rather an agreement on the
logistics of details, such as what times worship
could be, in order for a priest to be at both places
on a Sunday. The Church of Our Savior in Plainville
and St. John’s Church in Bristol, along with St.
James’, Preston, and Grace, Yantic, have stepped
into this experiment and several other pairs are
discerning about it.
God is up to what God has always been up to:
radical, saving, life-giving, world-changing work.
We just have to keep asking how we can be part
of it in today’s world. What do we need to do to
become the Church that God is continually calling
In Connecticut today,
only 40% of our parishes
have a full-time priest,
and that number
shrinks every year.
Here’s the good news: they do want to contribute
The Rev. Lee Ann Tolzmann serves as Canon for
Mission Leadership for the Episcopal Church in
Parishes learning to listen to
God and one another in community
Traveling lightly together and following Jesus into the neighborhood.
In late 2016, the Episcopal Church
in Connecticut (ECCT) and three
other dioceses launched a missional
experiment known as “Living Local Joining
God” (LLJG) aimed at changing “church”
by introducing new practices, being faithful
to the gospel, and engaging God in the local
The other dioceses included Southwestern
Virginia, East Tennessee, and Maine. The
experiment was based on the work of the
Missional Church Network, whose leaders
include Dwight Zscheile, Craig Van Gelder,
and Alan Roxburgh.
“LLJG is learning how to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus,
in community,” said the Rev. Tim Hodapp,
Canon for Mission Collaboration, who serves
as the point person for the Episcopal Church
in Connecticut in this. “The only way I can
do that is to be vulnerable enough to bring
my prayer life [and] make it dependent upon
another person so that I am learning about
and listening to and understanding God in my
life through someone else.”
The experiment started in 2016 was, in fact,
a multi-year undertaking in conjunction and
consultation with the Missional Church
Network, which continues to support it. The
work is done locally, however.
LLJG is learning how
to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus, in
When the current phase of LLJG ends,
ECCT leaders will review whether to offer
this diocesan-organized, parish-based
experiment again to other parishes here and
if so, what tweaks we might want to make.
PARISHES AND TEAMS
The bishops and Canon Hodapp identified
and invited a limited number of parishes
to participate. Initially this was one in each
Region. Over time there were changes for
various reasons. As of summer 2018 the
parishes included Christ Church, New Haven;
Trinity Church, Southport; St. John’s Church,
Essex; and a Tri-Town grouping that includes
Trinity, Brooklyn; St. Philip’s, Putnam; and St.
Each of these identified a team of lay people
— a “parish guiding team” or “PGT” — who
were willing to meet monthly to pray, learn,
and practice. Each had a coach to work with
them, usually a lay person from another
parish. The tri-town group was an exception
and the missional curate serving at Trinity,
Brooklyn took on that role.
The PGTs have been learning about and
following the spiritual practices listed for
all parishes in this new missional age:
Listening; Discerning; Trying On; Reflecting;
and Deciding. They regularly spend time
Dwelling in the Word and walking through
their neighborhoods. Some have started
trying on experiments in being with, and
finding God, in their community: sitting
in soup kitchens to chat with the guests,
or having conversations with the staff
and customers at local coffee shops, for
The clergy – currently the Revs. Peggy
Hodgkins, Jonathan Folts, Jane Hale, and
Stephen Holton — meet separately as a
peer group to learn how to support their lay
At first, even among the final parish groups,
the initiative was met internally with
hesitation. It was new, unfamiliar territory,
and “listening to the neighborhood” without
a plan for just exactly how it would work
was a struggle. Gail Lebert, a coach from
St. James’ Glastonbury who works with the
team at Christ Church, New Haven, said her
role was to nurture the group and encourage
them, to keep them on track and not get lost
in the process.
“Beginning by just focusing on listening to
how God was speaking to the group was
foundational,” she said, “and then it grew to
listening to each other, and listening to the
The Rev. Jane Hale, who serves a coach as
well as priest to the tri-town group, affirmed
both the early concerns and the growing
emphasis on listening.
“In the beginning there was a lot of
trepidation and tentative feeling associated
with the unknown of this,” she said. “But
learning to listen was the starting point,
and learning different ways of listening.
Beginning with Dwelling in the Word and
listening to how God is speaking to us in this
context, and our lives. Then we expanded
that to listening to each other’s stories —
bringing our group together since we are
from three different parishes. Then that
brought curiosity of practicing this listening
in the community.”
Ed Burke, a Parish Guiding Team member
from St. John’s in Essex, said that his
team members have learned how to
respect, listen, and understand each other
and they’ve all learned more about the
importance of listening in beginning to
understand the needs of others. “Everybody
has problems, and very few people really
listen,” he said. “I am trying to see God in
the face of every neighbor that I meet and
by doing this, I’ve been blessed with the
start of some very nice relationships.”
Jane Hale suggested that LLJG requires a
different frame for evaluation. “This isn’t just
an experience we are participating in, it is
a way of life God is inviting us into, and the
only way to move through it is with practice
and listening,” she said.
MORE LEVELS OF LEARNING
A diocesan leadership team meets
periodically with the parish teams and the
clergy teams. Their task is to listen and to
interpret what the PGTs are learning and
how those experiences can inform the next
steps for ECCT; they send their reports to
the bishops. In addition to Canon Hodapp,
the diocesan team includes the Rev. Lee Ann
Tolzmann, Canon for Mission Leadership; the
Rev. Don Hamer, rector of Trinity, Hartford;
the Rev. Peter Thompson, assistant rector
at St. Paul’s, Norwalk; Scott Konrad, lay
leader of St. John’s, Essex; Valarie Stanley,
lay leader of St. Luke’s, New Haven; Maggie
Breen, Northeast Region Missionary; and
the Rev. Paul Sinott, ELCA Associate to the
The bishops and Canon Hodapp meet
annually with their counterparts in the other
dioceses to share what they’re learning.
Alan Roxburgh, from the Missional Church
Network, visits every 3-6 months to meet
with each team to discuss experiences,
learnings, and next steps.
“What I’m finding in this is the heartbeat of
what it means to say I’m human and I’m not
alone,” said Tim, reflecting on the experience
of LLJG in Connecticut. “I feel like we’re
reclaiming those ancient disciplines of the
early church, of the first centuries ... [as] little
communities of believers."
He admits he’s not sure what’s next.
“Who knows where it's going to go,” he
said. “And I love that possibility. I do think
it's that basic for us, as people reading the
Gospels. What is so wonderful about this
process is that it’s proving the point. Frankly,
if you have the Word of God and if you have
a neighborhood, the miracle of the Gospel,
the hope of the gospel, the possibility of life
that the Gospel gives us is not only credible
— it’s real. By walking with God, traveling
lightly, in the neighborhood.”
FOR PARISHES IN A
NEW MISSIONAL AGE
We listen to God by
dwelling in God’s Word,
and in stories of God in
our lives and in our
As we hear from God
and one another,
we ponder how God
might be calling
us to take action in the
We experiment with
new ways of joining
in God’s mission,
trusting that God uses
our failures as well as
We wonder together
about what God is up
to in our lives and in
We adopt new ways
of being the Body of
Christ as we listen,
discern, try on, and
Karin Hamilton serves as Canon for Mission Communication & Media for the Episcopal Church in
General Convention 2018
listens to its diverse membership and
makes resolves that shape
future common life of Episcopalians
ECCT Deputy the Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell speaks
during debate in the HOD.
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church met this past July 5-13 in Austin, Texas and
• Work on changes to your Prayer Book slowly and intentionally while “memorializing”
the current one;
• Authorize Holy Eucharist Rite II with “expansive language” for Trial Use; include
additional multicultural liturgies in the Book of Occasional Services; and provide for
marriage rites for the whole church;
• Adopt policies and make changes to institutional processes and our canons (church
laws) that we believe will set us on a path to greater equality, fairness, diversity,
safety, and inclusion;
• Design a simplified parochial report “relevant to the diversity of The Episcopal
Church’s participation in God’s mission in the world”;
• Welcome the Church of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church;
• Embrace continuing church-wide priorities of evangelism, racial truth-telling and
reconciliation, and care for creation;
• Demonstrate support for immigrants;
• and so much more. Ultimately more than 500 resolutions were considered. Read the
summary of actions at generalconvention.org for a list of resolutions by number and
title and their final status, then hop over to the Virtual Binder (vbinder.net) to read the
text. You can sort them by topic, too.
Friends of The Episcopal Church of Cuba at
WHAT IS GENERAL CONVENTION?
General Convention is the triennial meeting of The Episcopal Church. The most recent one
was the 79th. Most active bishops, and some resigned bishops, attend and meet as a
House of Bishops. Each of the 100 domestic and 10 overseas dioceses can elect and send
up to four lay deputies and four clerical deputies to meet as a House of Deputies.
In a parallel event, representatives of the Episcopal Church Women gather for their Triennial
Meeting and join the bishops and deputies for most worship services. The National Altar
Guild and the Daughters of the King also hold their triennial gatherings around the same
time and place. At General Convention there is also a Young Adult Festival; children’s
program; Official Youth Presence; teams of other youth and their chaperones from various
dioceses; a vast exhibit hall; side events including dinners hosted by seminaries and other
interest groups; and – this year – opportunities to join public witnesses, some against gun
violence and others in solidarity with immigrants at a nearby detention center.
Bishops United Against Gun Violence led daily
prayer sessions and distributed crosses.
ECCT bishops and deputies pose in the House of Deputies.
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry gives a
blessing at a worship service.
Church members witnessed at a residential
detention facility housing immigrant women.
View from ECCT’s table during Dr.
Catherine Meeks' TECConversation talk.
Bishop Laura J. Ahrens of ECCT with Bishop
Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba.
WHERE DO I GO TO LEARN
Resources are online.
episcopalct.org/gc79/ ı A list of
Connecticut participants and resolutions.
There’s also a linked list of daily
eNewsletters sent to ECCT from General
Convention and some videos, a guide
to how resolutions move through the
process, a link to the General Convention
Media Hub, which has recorded
sermons, podcasts, daily news shows,
presentations, legislative sessions, and a
link to Episcopal News Service articles.
Abigail Zimmerman addresses the crowd at the public
witness organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
Photos: BUAGV daily session, Sandra Cosman; Dr.
Meeks on screen, Alli Huggins; Group, provided;
PB Curry, Episcopal News Service; all others, Karin
An ECCT youth team, with chaperones, attended General Convention 2018. Photo at Camp Washington. Clockwise from lower
left, the Rev. Rebekah Hatch; Elizabeth Rousseau; Neal Minto; Andew Gausepohl; and the Rev. Curtis Farr. Missing from team
photo: Christine Babbitt.
Photo by Rebekah Hatch
I am a Christian
An interview with Jimmy Kearney
Jimmy Kearney, 19, is a freshman at the University of
Connecticut at Storrs, studying mechanical engineering.
His home parish is St. John’s, North Haven, where he
served as an acolyte. This past summer was his 10th
year at Camp Washington. Outside of his studies, camp,
and church, he enjoys ultimate Frisbee. He played the
sport in high school and continues now at UConn. He is
also an Eagle Scout and currently serves as an assistant
scoutmaster in Hamden.
Q. Do you consider yourself a Christian?
Photo by Marc-Yves Regis
A. Yes. Yes I do. I believe being a Christian is about being your best self and about helping others, and I try to do that. I also believe in
Jesus and go to church.
Q. How did you become a Christian?
A. I was born into it, and brought up as a Christian. The first time I really embraced it was when I was 8 or 9 years old; it was the first
time I went to Camp Washington. I learned how God connects us all together, to love one another. I realized I was with people who
had the same beliefs as I did.
Q. What does it mean, in practical terms, to be a Christian?
A. It means going above and beyond, being someone who tries to live by the Word of God and who treats others the way they want to
be treated; being a person who goes out of their way to help others. In the end, it’s all about helping one another.
Q. Can you think of an example of when your faith guided your actions?
A. This past year I was debating about whether or not to be a counselor at Camp Washington during the summer or to join the Air Force
National Guard, to pay for college. The National Guard would have shipped me to Texas. In the end, I decided to be a camp counselor.
I realized that there will be other times I’ll have to train, but this was one of the few times I’d have to be a counselor. I’ve wanted to
be a counselor since I was 10.
Q. Do you have friends who are not Christian?
A. Most of my friends are not Christian, and have no religious background. They’re good people.
Q. What do you appreciate about being a Christian?
A. I appreciate the opportunities, especially for experiences: going to Camp Washington; mission trips to South Dakota, Massachusetts,
and Vermont; working at church events, like VBS. I’ve always been a person who enjoys community service. Our church has “30
-hour famine” for teens each year; teens fast and raise money and awareness. I wouldn’t have otherwise ever had the opportunity to
do that. Also, there’s a family aspect: I consider my church my second family. Whenever I had to do a fundraiser, they were the first to
buy whatever I was selling, and they helped me raise money for my Eagle Scout project. They’ve been really supportive.
Episcopal Church in Connecticut
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Meriden, CT 06450
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Bishop Jim Curry dissembles guns at a
studio in New Haven. The guns came from
a city buy-back program, and the parts will
be used to make gardening tools.
Photo by Marc-Yves Regis