CRUX 2018


Annual magazine of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut. Stories, columns, essays, interviews, and more.










The Cosmic



Swords to


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


Alli Huggins

Karin Hamilton

3 From the editor Karin Hamilton

12 Reflections on leading a retreat on the

spirituality of trees

Rachel Field

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


Pam Dawkins


2018 General


A collection of photos and

highlights from this summer's

triennial General Convention of

The Episcopal Church

Karin Hamilton

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

Ranjit Mathews

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

Karin Hamilton

45 I am a Christian: Jimmy Kearney Karin Hamilton


Episcopal Church in Connecticut

The Commons

290 Pratt Street ı Box 52 ı Meriden, CT 06450

203 - 639 - 3501 ı

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,

Design ı Elizabeth Parker, EP Graphic Design


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

Episcopal Church in Connecticut

( is a community of 60,000 members in

160+ worshiping communities across the state. It is part of

The Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church

( is a community of two million

members in 110+ dioceses across the United States

and in 13 other countries. It is a province of the Anglican


The Anglican Communion

( is a global community of 85

million Anglicans in 44 regional and national member

churches in more than 165 countries.

from the EDITOR

Karin Hamilton,

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

moving forward.

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

and contemporary.

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

Karin Hamilton

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

cosmic Christ.


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

whole thing.”

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.


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

describe it.

“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

back to.”

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 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



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

their value.

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.”



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


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


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

ecological crisis.”

Karin Hamilton serves as Canon for Mission Communication &

Media for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.



• 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

Judy Cannato

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

for everything.”

• 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

workshops, etc.


Reflections on leading

a retreat on the

spirituality of trees

Rachel Field

“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

Allison Huggins

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.



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

ultimate human

affirming experience.

Steve Yanovsky

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.



Industrial Age


Economy of scarcity





Digital 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

God’s people.

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

the world.

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

Pam Dawkins

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

aerospace executive

and flooring



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

facing addicts.

“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.


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


Our “transactional

society” offers no real

healing, he said. What

are needed are “social

entrepreneurs,” who can

address psychological,

social, and spiritual needs.

Philip Bjornberg

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

other topics.

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,

they said.

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

common cup.”


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.

Gregory Winborne


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

Lord moving.”

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.



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

relationships, teaching

participants how to

flourish in the right

relationships with God

and others.

Philip Bjornberg

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

his future.

“Will rejection take you down, or will you

leverage it for the good in your life,” he asks,

before the group separates into smaller

discussion groups.

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

next meeting.

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

John Armstrong

Pam Dawkins

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

of Christianity.”

John Armstrong

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

church attendance.

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 ( 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

be doing.

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

Karin Hamilton

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.”


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

and compelling.

“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.

April Alford-Harkey

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

Armando Ghinaglia

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.

(Hebrews 11:13-16)

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

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.

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

Armando Ghinaglia

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.

(Hebreos 11:13-16)

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

cristiano confundido

y un inmigrante

indocumentado. Solo

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

puede derrocar.

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

Ajung Sojwal

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

move on.

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.


Following Jesus

Pop & lock — break dancing in the city of New London

Ranjit Mathews

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

holy moment.

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

and life-giving.

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.


Following Jesus

Into the laundromat

Don Burr

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 (; 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.


ABOUT Laundry Love:

Megan Ferrell

Creative Director

of Communications

St. Mark's Episcopal Church

111 Oenoke Ridge

New Canaan, CT 06840

203.966.4515, ext.104

Laundry Love

Darunee Wilson

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

neighborhood might

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

ever been.

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

into being?

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

Karin Hamilton

Traveling lightly together and following Jesus into the neighborhood.

Luke 10

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


Tim Hodapp

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.


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.

Alban’s, Danielson.

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.


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.”





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

our successes.


We wonder together

about what God is up

to in our lives and in

the world.


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.

Karin Hamilton

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church met this past July 5-13 in Austin, Texas and

voted to:

• 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 for a list of resolutions by number and

title and their final status, then hop over to the Virtual Binder ( to read the

text. You can sort them by topic, too.

Friends of The Episcopal Church of Cuba at

their booth.


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.



Resources are online. 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

Karin Hamilton

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

The Commons ı 290 Pratt Street ı Box 52

Meriden, CT 06450

KEEP INFORMED I Sign up at for weekly eNewsletters with diocesan-wide news, information, resources, and events.

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

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