From Rachel......

Did you hear? Habitat for Humanity of Middlesex County was able, through much persistence and generosity, to find a site for building a house in Westbrook, Connecticut. They hope to start building in the spring.
Gerry & Phil Piccola and Glenn Brielmann of St. Stephen’s, East Haddam, have had previous experience building with Habitat. When they heard, they wanted to meet with Dave Evangelisti, the President of the Board of Habitat/Middlesex – and a faithful parishioner in St. John’s, Essex. David has been involved in Habitat since 2002, and a crew from St. John’s has participated in different builds over the years.
So David, along with the Executive Director, Sarah Bird, met with us in Haddam to talk about the plans and their involvement. Towards the end of our time together, we talked about “why?” they did this: why did they want to be involved; why have they been involved; why make the time and use the energy to do this?

Here are some of their responses:

“It’s a tangible way to do what Jesus told us to do: love our neighbors as ourselves.”  
“Working alongside others and being touched by the desire to give that is in their hearts.”

“I don’t participate in a church community, but I believe in a higher power; there’s more to our souls that leads us to hope for something better. When people have a strong foundation for housing, they can have hope and emotional safety; they can be a child.”

“God has given me skills and a desire to help create something. I want to use that.”
The next day, I was with a group of clergy and asked them the same: “Why? Why did you pursue ordination, life in the Church?” They spoke of the love of the liturgy; the beauty of canticles at Morning Prayer; the gift of seeing prisoners weep after receiving the Eucharist; the lifelong formation that was always calling them forward, the hope to create experiences of real community.
What I noticed in both settings was the way in which the connections to each other seemed to deepen as we listened to each other’s reasons “Why?” There was no shaming, blaming, or rolling of the eyes. There was just simple, honest sharing of thoughts that were and are important to each. We were on holy ground together.
Did you hear?

There are good people doing good and faithful things everywhere around us. There are many and constant invitations to be a part of those things: in Christian communities and elsewhere. The question, “Why?” can lead us to see God’s Spirit and guiding force beneath all the activity.

Did you hear? As we share our “why” with others, we create a space for them to hear not just of our good works but of the good and gracious love of God who has called us to this partnership. That’s news worth sharing.

In Christ’s love, Rachel
The Mission Council

Rachel Thomas

The Mission Council of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) meets 5 times a year to do the work of ECCT in between Annual Conventions. (Read more about it here .) At the beginning of each year, the group has a working retreat day, to reflect on where God is calling them to focus this year.

The Southeast Region has a total of seven people on the Mission Council: Stacey Kohl and Steve MacAusland are our members selected by the SE Region; Ranjit Matthews, Linda Spiers, and Suzy Burke serve as a part of Ministry Networks; and Adam Yates and Bishop Douglas serve by virtue of their offices.

We thought it would be informative to ask them: “Why? What draws them to this work?”

Ranjit Mathews

Rector St. James’, New London

“I struggle with giving up family time to be here; giving up a Saturday is hard on me and on my family. I do it because I know that at this time in this world, we need leaders to be repairers of the breach. I want to offer my leadership to do that work of reconciliation; I want to be here for this.”  
Stacey Kohl
(pictured above with Ranjit)

Provisional Priest-in-Charge, Christ Church, Norwich

“God said, ‘put your name in!’” I like to look at the big picture and ask hard questions. The questions we ask here are the same questions we ask in our parishes. Sitting with those questions in this place is a reminder that we are all in this together.” 
Adam Yates, Rector

St. Stephen’s, East Haddam

I appreciate the opportunity to try to imagine and take the next steps into the future of the church.”

Suzy Burke
St. John’s, Essex

“It is inspiring to see this work and get a better understanding of ECCT. And I have a chance to shape the decisions we make as a team.” 

Steve MacAusland

St. Ann’s, Old Lyme

“I am a seeker, looking for ways in which I can be a true follower of Jesus, especially in terms of the care of creation. I want us to remember in our work that animals and humans share resources, and consider especially how we might respond to environmental racism.”

Linda Spiers

Interim Priest in Charge, St. John’s, Essex

“I believe we are a part of the whole. In a parish we can become insulated and forget that we are part of the larger body of Christ. When we forget this, we miss a part of who God calls us to be. Mission Council, like General Convention, where I have also served, help me experience the larger body of Christ.”

Ian Douglas

Bishop Diocesan

“This is a place to bring institutional and cultural change into being. I hope that, while we are an institution, we can create a culture in the Mission Council where all participate and claim their authority in the mission of God, so that the work of the people of God throughout ECCT can take off.” 

How can we in the SE Region support their ministry and this good work with our prayers?

Stacey: “Prayers for an open heart and open ears as we as MC listen for where God is moving in the ‘business’ of our church. For me personally, for a healthy balance of life as I live deeper into who God is inviting me to be.”

Ranjit: “Pray for me to ‘smoke what I’m selling’ and that I, too, am living the abundant life found in Jesus.”
Suzy: “wisdom, passion, courage.”

Linda: Pray for the decisions the Mission Council is asked to make as we do our ministry between Annual Conventions--for wisdom and clarity and listening with the ear of the heart.”

Steve: “Pray for the wisdom to know God’s will and the strength to carry it out, so that we will protect this creation, God’s greatest gift to humanity.”
Adam: “Pray for wisdom and compassion especially in our work with struggling parishes, and for the gift of imagination in considering new possibilities.”

+Ian:  Two prayers: That we will listen for and be attentive to God’s leading. That we will boldly go where God leads us.

Collaboration, Communication, and Consistency at St. John’s, Niantic

by The Reverend Tony DiNoto

Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

When it comes to providing Pastoral Care to the parishioners of St. John’s, Niantic, there are three critical areas that contribute to the effectiveness of our team: Collaboration , Communication and Consistency .

Collaboration between the Lay Leadership of our Pastoral Care Ministry Team and the Rector (me) is essential. For our lay Pastoral Care Ministers to provide timely and appropriate responses to the needs of our parishioners, there are times that I recognize that I must step aside. I offer my support, counsel and prayer to our lay ministers and respect their need to be empowered. We are aided by St. John’s Sisters of Prayer . This is a lay-led ministry team of the parish that gathers weekly for intercessory prayer in response to prayer requests that are received, and this team updates me about changes.

Effective Communication starts with St. John’s Parish Office, the Assistant to the Rector and me. It continues to be somewhat of challenge to become aware of a parishioner’s hospitalization due to HIPAA Compliance laws. We regularly appeal to parishioners to notify the Parish Office of any circumstances requiring our lay Pastoral Care Team’s immediate attention and response. I publish my cell phone number everywhere I can. A critical component that adds to effective communication is the informal networking between parishioners. Meetings of our Lay Pastoral Care Ministers and their leaders are essential.

Consistency in the manner in which our lay Pastoral Care Ministers respond to the variety of parishioner’s needs makes clear that everyone receives the same attention, care and support. Timely response is also part of maintaining consistency of care, both by the lay Ministers and clergy. Each parish’s situation is somewhat unique. Considering the size of St. John’s Parish, it is unrealistic to create the expectation that the Rector, alone can respond to each and every need.
One of the most critical aspects of consistency is the commitment to Confidentiality , which is expected of everyone providing Pastoral Care.  During periodic meetings of the Lay Pastoral Care Leaders and Ministers, this need is stressed again and again. Another aspect of maintaining consistency is screening potential lay ministers, discerning their gifts and their appropriateness for this important ministry. We require strict adherence to the ECCT’s “Safe-Church Guidelines” when it comes to discerning the gifts of those who aspire to join this ministry.
The Responsibility of all of us in St.Ann’s

by Mac Mummert

“In the end what matters, is how we treat one another.” Everything else is secondary to that. These words from a wise man (my father) are words to live by and we do strive to live by them at Saint Ann’s, Old Lyme.
At Saint Ann’s, pastoral care is overseen by the priest and the leader of the Pastoral Care Committee, Mac Mummert, who is also a member of the Vestry. Mac’s team includes those who pray, those who visit sick and homebound parishioners, those who check in through regular phone calls, and those who drive and provide other essential services for those in need. This team meets monthly to discuss those they support, and address issues surrounding their care. Usually a team member volunteers to visit a parishioner and will meet monthly with them to establish a meaningful and trusted relationship. The Prayer Shawl ministry makes and distributes prayer shawls to those desiring such comfort. Wheelchair accessibility to the church and parish hall is provided for those in wheelchairs and others for whom mobility is limited. 
While there is a priest and Pastoral Care chair and committee everyone understands pastoral care as part of our responsibility.

Organic Pastoral Care in St. Andrew’s

by John Armstrong

When I moved to the shoreline eight years ago, as many newcomers do, I “church-shopped.” After all, between Branford and Old Saybrook there are eight Episcopal churches! At St. Andrew’s a pastoral care ritual immediately touched my heart. During communion one or two parishioners, schooled in the art of healing prayer, would pray spontaneously one-on-one with anyone who came to the back of the church; they prayed with those in pain, those burdened with grief or guilt, those in need of healing for themselves or a loved one, or those wishing for personal prayer for any reason.

At the time my wife and I were grieving the death of her younger sister. It took us a couple of Sundays to work up our courage, but we eventually went to the back, shared our grief, and were prayed over. It was a moment of grace for us.

So we became members of St. Andrew’s, and I soon learned that both outreach and pastoral care are central to life at St. Andrew’s.

Pastoral care is care and support for members of the church community: the people in our pews, the people we know. I sometimes call it “in-reach.” It’s a ministry I feel God calling me to. It’s a many-sided ministry: much of it is lay-led, but our rector, Shariya Molegoda, leads our team of Eucharistic ministers bringing communion to the ill and homebound. We offer healing prayer at the back of the church as often as we can (but are short prayer leaders). Several parishioners are dedicated knitters and create lovely prayer shawls , which we bless and give to parishioners and friends ill or convalescing. During the Christmas season our youth visit homebound parishioners and carol their heart out. Loaves and Fishes , a food ministry that provides meals to parishioners in times of pastoral emergency, has been all too busy this past year. A recently formed prayer group meets one evening a month to pray for each other and for others in our community we know to be suffering. And in a new ministry, I have started to offer Morning Prayer at two local nursing homes.

Technically, there is a Pastoral Care Commission to oversee all this. In reality, though, each of the individual pastoral care ministries typically reflects the passion, energy and commitment of one or two people. In other words, we have abandoned top-down hierarchy in favor of spontaneous, “organic” (Bishop Ian’s word), up-from-the-bottom enthusiasm. This approach opens up pastoral care ministry to everyone. It encourages parishioners to participate in ways that match their personal style and interest. Common to all, though, is faith that God calls us to help our neighbor, and that Jesus lived to show us how to respond to that call.

Introducing The Region’s Leadership Team: Becky Honan

by Beverly Olsen

I recently had the opportunity to meet with one of the new members of SE Region’s Leadership Team, Becky Honan. Raised in Southeastern Connecticut, she and her husband, Shawn, live in Westbrook and are members of St. John’s in Essex, where she serves quarter-time as their Christian Education director. Her son, Mitch, has been working for the Youth Corps in Haiti -- serving to make connections to make things move. Finishing his time there, he will be working for the diocese in South Dakota starting in March. Her daughter Julia is in Vet School in Scotland.

While Becky had worked in schools with strict schedules, she now works several part-time jobs that allow her to manage her own calendar and pursue the tasks she loves, which also allows her to be available for her mother. She has served eight years as Education Director at St. John’s; she is working for a local art association; she babysits on Fridays; and she is starting her own small sewing business.

Working with the youth of the region and the diocese, Becky has been part of various attempts to gather statewide educators together and collaborate. These fell away. Five churches along the Shoreline attempted to collaborate in building a youth program. This too fell away. She believes in the necessity of working together, to bringing people together from other churches and from the community, especially in the challenging work with youth, who are often stressed with time and obligations. She wants to build collaboration, understands the challenges, and yet she seeks the secret to making it work. As a long-time participant in the ministry of the region, Becky will bring her past practices, her expertise, and her network of folks to her work with the Leadership Team.

I had previously met Becky when the Leadership team visited her home parish at St. John’s in Essex to hear about their adventures in trying on the new vision of Joining Jesus in the new Missional Age (JJMA). Becky has been part of this group since its inception almost four years ago, and the group’s enthusiasm and growth in this ministry was inspiring.

“That’s the future; all ministries should work like this,” Becky said, as she launched into the “Airport Story.”

Coming from visiting her son, Becky was traveling through the Miami Airport when her flight was delayed because of snow up north. Dressed for winter in Connecticut rather than the balmy temperatures of Miami, she began to take off layers until she was down to a graphic tee, reading, “I am a woman of faith.” (As she explained, owning many such t-shirts is one of the side effects of working in youth ministry.)

This t-shirt sparked a conversation. A gentleman asked her: are you religious? She told him. She talked about her job, her church and her faith. Killing time, they shared stories. He was a truck driver. During the chat, he asked questions about Lent. And interestingly, it seemed folks around were kind of listening in. over their shoulders. As the flight was called, the gentleman said to her that he hadn’t been in a church in awhile, but maybe he’d give it a try.

This is what Joining Jesus in the neighborhood looks like. As Becky said, “Softball it.” Share stories, small conversations, share that part of who you are. Listen. Be present. Be willing. Joining Jesus is about collecting stories.

Last Christmas Becky was given the gift of time with personal trainer. She is often wearing one of her many youth ministry T-shirts to her work out; these t-shirts opened up conversations with her trainer, small conversations, small comments. Recently her trainer, going through a rough spot, asked Becky for prayers. “People like to know we’re part of something bigger.”

Welcome to the Leadership Team, Becky.

There is a Facebook book group for women built around the “Way of Love” practices from the Episcopal Church. At least a couple of us in the SE Region are following along, and are going to get together in person monthly to talk about each book. The one for February is At Home in this LIFE , by Jerusalem Jackson Greer. If you are interested in joining in the Facebook discussion, the link is here:

If you’re interested in joining a conversation in person, let Rachel Thomas know. 
Happy Valentine's Day!!
February Events

February 4, 4:00 p.m. St. Mark’s, Storrs: Episcopalians in the Last Green Valley – Why are we here?

February 5, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Otis Library, Norwich : Raising the Consciousness of Race: Black and White; community conversation.

February 6, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., The Commons, Meriden: Resources for Ministry Networks. Register here:
February 8, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. St. James, New London, Hallam Chapel: Centering Prayer Meditation group.

February 13, 8:00 a.m .: Women’s Clergy Breakfast, Parthenon Diner, Old Saybrook.

February 13, 5:30 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and via Zoom : Climate and Environment Ministry Network.

February 15, 8:30 a.m., Incarnation Center, Ivoryton : SE Region Vestry offsite day together. Register at Eventbrite:

February 15, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Incarnation Center, Ivoryton : “Writing from Nature,” workshop offered by Chris Woodside of St. John’s, Essex. $50; 10% goes to camp scholarships. Contact her to sign up: .

February 18, 7:00 p.m., St. James, Preston: Healing prayers and Eucharist.

February 22, 7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, Cummings Art Center, Connecticut College (270 Mohegan Ave., New London): Benefit concert by New London Community Orchestra for Music City Strings free violin lessons program at the Public Library of New London .

February 28, 3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., St. James, Preston: Famous Friday Fish dinners. Every Friday during Lent!
January 29, February 5, 12 and 19, at 10:00 a.m. and/or
January 30, February 6, 13, 20 at 6:30 p.m., St. John’s, Essex: Book group study of INSPIRED: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again , by Rachel Held Evans, led by the Rev. Benjamin Straley. Please email the office at  to sign up, and indicate if you are interested in the day or the evening offering. OR sign up via Eventbrite.
Prayer for the SE Region
Almighty God, Creator and Redeemer, in the midst of the noisy din of the world and these changing times:
We lift our prayers to you for your Church, especially for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and for this, its Southeast Region.
Surround us with the clear assurance of your loving presence,
That we may grow confident in our faith and trust in your will;
Guide and teach each one of us to live in your word and walk in your ways,
That we may be a light of the living Word;
Expand the space in our hearts and in our lives,
That this region may be filled with your love and mercy for all;
inspire us; send your Holy Spirit upon us to fire up enthusiasm,
Create in us willing hearts and hands to serve you.
We pray for our Missionary, Rachel Thomas, that you give her the ears to hear
and the heart to discern your will for the Region.
Hear our prayer.
  We pray for the Leadership Teams to aid in your mission.
Hear our prayer.
 We pray for the priests and deacons in each of the churches in our Region and Diocese.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for each vestry and the leadership of every church in the Region.
Hear our prayer.
We pray for the Bishops and Diocesan leadership of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
Hear our prayer.
 Almighty God, we pray that we may proclaim your kingdom in this this Region and beyond, and become ambassadors for your dream of reconciliation and healing, the gift and calling you have given us through your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we offer these prayers.  Amen
Editorial Staff

Beverly Olsen
Eileen Perron