From Rachel......

I got up at my early time to write and was delighted to see that the 5:30 a.m. sky was brighter than it has been for the last 3 months. The earth is turning; creation is stirring; those of us who love the warmth and the sun are regaining energy and hope.
I’m enough of a traditional Christian to know that the capacity to have energy and hope is a gift from God’s Spirit that does not depend on the seasons. In fact, even before I witnessed this early morning shift in light, hope has been kindled in my heart as I’ve traveled throughout the SE Region this last month.
I was present for the afternoon of the Vestry Offsite and was delighted to hear and witness fruitful conversations among those who gathered. There was real energy in the room to form relationships around common interests and engage in mission together. This brought me great hope: the life of this region bubbling up in new ways. Thanks be to God for this witness.
I was present at the meeting of all the teams that have been participating in the spiritual practices of Joining Jesus in the New Missional Age. Team members shared stories of the conversations they have had in the last few weeks. In my group, there were stories of encounters in food pantries, grocery stores, hospitals, buses, offices.
These were stories of gracious listening; they were stories that conveyed a deep desire to discern the best way to be with a person. It touched my heart to see the love each person brought to the encounter they were describing. It gave me hope to imagine a church where we practiced having and sharing such stories of faithful encounters in our day-to-day lives. Where, when there were difficult moments (a conversation turned troubling; an overly political focus), folks had a brave space to work through ways of talking and responding.
And I was a part of the crowd at the Coast Guard Academy listening to Ibram X Kendi. His books (particularly Stamped from the Beginning and How to be an Antiracist ) contain truthful, difficult to hear, stories of the centuries-long policies that have kept African Americans and other minorities at a disadvantage.
What blew me away in hearing Dr. Kendi was his complete graciousness, humility, and hope. Would I have responded to all those years of oppression by a similar graciousness? I doubt it. We have no other choice, he said. He maintains hope in spite of the pain and the backlash. Thanks be to God for his witness.
And I think of his words now, as we begin Lent: “If we are really for racial equality, then we’ll go to any lengths to bring it about.” His words remind me of the lengths that Jesus went to in order to bring God’s reconciling love to the world. His words challenge me to consider, for what hope am I willing to walk into pain, embrace suffering and go to any length to bring into being?
Whatever hope that is, may we know Jesus’ companionship in our pain and in the pain of others, companionship that reminds us that the Holy Spirit always brings new life out of death.
With grace and peace,

Introducing The Region’s Leadership Team: Maggy Gilbert
 Bev Olsen
Maggy Gilbert, new to our leadership team this year, was one of the first people I met when I moved to Mystic five years ago. At a Thursday morning Eucharist at St. Mark’s, she sat beside me, spoke to me and listened, and I felt welcomed. During this first meeting, I learned that Maggy had just finished a course in spiritual direction at the Mercy Center. Since then, life has led her in new and different directions, but those gifts that led her to be a spiritual director and those skills she honed in the course of her study have served her well in her work for the Lord. Maggy has a gift for hospitality; she has a gift for listening; and she has a gift for being open to any direction God may take her; she’s comfortable with the not knowing.
None of this came easily to Maggy, who grew up in SW Connecticut in a household where her father believed that religion was for the weak and participated in church only as a social obligation. God was not part of this experience. Maggy met God in the woods. To this day, she hikes. She goes into the woods, often with her husband, Bob, relishing the time with him, the earth and Our Lord.
Maggy didn’t come into a church community until she had the first of her three children. She and her husband had moved away from Connecticut as they followed Bob’s work. In her new life, she sought to raise her own children in a different household from the one in which she had been raised. Open to new ways of seeing family and the world, she was open to her neighbor’s image of a loving God, a loving Father, a perfect Father, wholly unlike her image of an earthly father. This neighbor was part of an evangelical tradition, and so Maggy followed her into this community. It was the right for her at that time in her life: the evangelical tradition was very black and white; it gave her something to hang on to; it gave her the solid assurance rather than fear and uncertainty and questions. This tradition also gave her the words to talk about her faith to others.
During this time, Bob supported her journey but resisted this tradition. Her heart’s desire, however, was to share faith as a family and with her husband, and despite the apprehensions of returning to a church that reminded her youthful experiences, she opened herself up and joined Bob at the church of his youth, the United Church of Christ. This opened up a new path on her journey and her faith grew.
When Bob and Maggy moved to Massachusetts, Maggy discovered an Episcopal church down the road. She attended and was embraced by its minister and congregation. She urged Bob to join her, to try this church. It turned out to be at just a right time. They joined this Episcopal Church in Massachusetts as this diocese elected a gay bishop, and it was at this time their son came out to them. Fully accepting their son as who he is, the Episcopal Church gave them a place to live the life they had and also live out their faith in community. Their son is now happily married and living in Chicago.
Since returning to Connecticut, Maggy has found herself called to serve with Kairos Prison Ministry, where her own journey and her gifts as a spiritual director inform her ministry. As part of Kairos, she participates in yearly retreats with prisoners, which are then followed with monthly reunions, developing relationships and working with prisoners to regain power of their own lives.
At one such retreat, a woman was visibly upset; Maggy broke from the group to walk and talk with her individually during breaks. During their walk, Maggy discovered that this woman was suicidal, specifically and literally talking of taking her life. Maggy informed the prison’s Chaplain, who explained that the woman was on suicide watch.
However, at the first reunion of the group, this prisoner came down the corridor with a huge smile on her face. She had been making connections with God and fellow inmates who were also on this spiritual journey. The prisoner was new person. As Maggy said, this was grace.
Recently, Maggy has been pushing boundaries – going out of her comfort zone. She went to the New London soup kitchen to sit with guests. I was surprised to hear that this woman, who has met regularly with women in prison, found this experience very uncomfortable, but she opened herself up to this – to seeing people, real people as they are.
Maggy agreed to join the Leadership Team because the “time was right.” She had just left her work with New Life Ministries when she received the call to join our Region Team. After thoughtful prayer, her enthusiasm and excitement grew and, within two hours, she had accepted the call. I don’t know if the time was right or if Maggy was just open to this new direction. We are lucky to have her.

Women are invited to join Rachel in conversation about Inspired by Rachel Held Evans on April 1 st (no fooling!) at 6:00pm at Hot French Chix, 59 Main Street, Chester, CT. Pease let her know you’re coming:  rthomas@episcopalct.or g

Southeast Region Collaborative Vestry Retreat
We invited Tom Angiers, of St. Stephen’s, East Haddam, to write a before and after paragraph. Tom worked with the team who put the retreat together, under the fabulous guidance of The Rev. Adam Yates.
Here’s the before.
At the March 30, 2019 St Stephen’s East Haddam Vestry offsite, we set a Vestry goal of exploring a Southeast Region Collaborative Vestry Retreat. As we thought about a Collaborative Vestry Offsite, we recognized that to lead the church in the years ahead, the role of the Vestry at St Stephen’s and at the Parishes throughout our region will need to continue to evolve to better serve the Parish and the greater Southeast Regional community. By gathering multiple voices and viewpoints from around our Region, we hoped to begin a regional discussion among Vestries, Wardens and Clergy about how we as a group might focus on areas of joint interest. Recognizing that each Parish in the region has individual strengths and energy, while at the same time limited resources, our vision for a joint offsite meeting was to consider how working together on targeted initiatives might provide a positive impact on Parishes and the communities we seek to serve.
And here is the after, written under the heading “Wow” at the end of the day.
As the February 15, 2020 Southeast Region Collaborative Vestry retreat drew to a close, it was clear that the Vestry members and Clergy attending from 8 of the parishes in our region greatly benefited from a day of open discussion and brainstorming around the path ahead. Our morning discussion focused on the role of the Vestry, followed by the consideration of the question of what can Vestries do to identify and foster passion and excitement for God’s mission. This opened up a creative dialog about working together jointly as a group. In the afternoon, the seven areas of joint interest we identified resulted in groups of Vestry members planning possible next steps towards implementation of these initiatives through regional collaboration. It is clear that consideration of joint collaboration across Parishes on targeted initiatives in our Region has begun resulting in the possibility of serving God in new ways together.
We asked those who attended to respond to this question: “What is the one thing you’ll take away from today?”
“Could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Retreat. Insights form the Workshops, the ideas and Exchange of Info were invaluable” – Ken Nogacek, St. David’s, Gales Ferry

“Hope – ideas for collaboration.” Louise Beecher, St. Andrew’s, Madison

“Feel more connected to the wider church. And I give thanks for Adam’s contributions to the Region and as our Rector." Ruth Vitale, St. Stephen’s, East Haddam
“We had a great response to a regional offering!” Ron Steed, Deacon, St. James, Preston & Grace, Yantic

“Refreshment of my Spirit.”

“Hope for future cooperation among our churches.”

“Greater appreciation of the Region.”

“Peoples’ openness to new ideas – good listening, open-mindedness.” Alden Rockwell Murphy, St. Ann’s, Old Lyme.

“The questions: why? What does this have to do with Jesus/How do our efforts help us grow as followers of Christ?” Linda Spiers, Interim Priest in Charge, St. John’s, Essex

“Remember to always think of the abundance of things we have.” Judie Blackman Cochran, Grace, Yanti
“I took away an understanding of how to expand the role of vestry, to focus on more than mechanics (finances, building, etc.).”

“Willingness to offer ideas and work collaboratively to implement some of these.” Jill Foster, St. David’s, Gales Ferry.

“The ECCT SE Region has many engaged and involved vestry members who seem to be all working on the same issue…keeping our small, rural churches vibrant and growing.” Kendall Knox, St. Stephen’s, East Haddam”
“Pressing to move form a scarcity mindset to a mindset of abundance in how we can give freely and amplify our gifts as a vestry, parish, and region.”

“Great idea from St. Stephen’s: ‘Parishioners helping parishioners’ application to get a work party together to help with a small project or need.”

“Hope for the future of the church.” Diane Widger, St. Stephen’s, East Haddam

“Some good ideas for restructuring and organizing Vestry work.” Matt Valentine, St. Andrew’s, Madison

Thank you all for participating whole-heartedly. I look forward to seeing what grows from the wonderful garden planted that day. Rachel


Great day of Baptisms, Confirmations, Receptions and Reaffirmations of Faith on February 23. St. John’s in Essex crossed the Connecticut River to share in worship at St. Ann’s Old Lyme. 

Griddle cakes , leeks and daffodils ­— St. David’s Day is March 1 st

Jill R. Foster, St. David’s at Gales Ferry
On the banks of the Thames River in Gales Ferry our congregation and daffodils will join Christians everywhere to celebrate our patron saint – Welshman and merry monk, Dewi Sant, Saint David, who died at aged seventy on this day in 589 A.D.

It is astonishing now to look at that oldest of cathedrals in Britain, St. David’s in Wales, and know that this was the work of Dewi Sant – a good man, an educated man, a monk, priest, and bishop – whose life’s message was: Be Joyful — Keep things simple – Act in faith. Fourteen centuries ago, he built a little church in a quiet valley leading to the sea.

David, born in Wales about the time of fellow Briton Patrick’s death, was a “catalytic converter.” He sustained and spread early Christianity throughout western Britain, planting new churches and monasteries in a time of dire conflict and confusion, after Roman legions withdrew and while others invaded. St. David’s Cathedral was built around 550 A.D., about the same time St. Columba set his first monastery in Derry and before he left Ireland to found Iona, before Canterbury, 47 years before Roman empire Pope Gregory ordered St. Augustine to convert Angle-land, and before Hilda’s Whitby and Cuthbert’s Lindisfarne.

Anno Domini, Spring 1961, the phenomenal southeastern Connecticut industrial and population growth is creating a pressing dilemma for Groton’s Bishop Seabury Memorial Church: Explore with rector Robert Dresser and Diocesan Missioner the Rev. Edward Cook whether to move to larger space or to subdivide and envision an all new hometown mission for its hundred plus Ledyard communicants.

“Yes, new mission,” says Bishop Walter Gray in mid-December, and on Epiphany January 7, 1962, our Gales Ferry Episcopal Mission enthusiastically began as one of the seven new diocesan missionary stations started in 1959 with the Rev. Edward Cook’s ministry. Praise be to God. Thanks be to brothers and sisters of Bishop Seabury with the many gifts from well-wishers near and far.
Why the name, St. David ? St. David was a hard worker, a keen missionary, and perhaps a bit of a taskmaster. First came giving Glory to God and hearing God’s word. Next, St David believed in a straightforward, lived mission of the gospel. Here in Gales Ferry, plank-holder Antonia “Toni” Waterman proposed this saint, who was steeped in mission. She reasoned we live near to the sea and ports and can reach out with sustaining acts of faith to our neighborhood and beyond. Would we follow St David’s lead, do St. David’s simple things to bring human joy and God’s love freely in community, to nurture freedom from fear, to live in harmony? Bishop Gray approved our name, “Saint David’s Episcopal Church,” on April 1,1962. This name more than nudges this parish without endowment to be mindful of God’s mission. As did St. David, we must rely on the faith and fiber of each other to pool resources and be generous. These days we serve meals (in our commercial kitchen and dining facility), share company (spending time with those who cannot come to us), raise resources (to work with others and to send our high schoolers on pilgrimage to Wales), and bridge differences (working on mutuality and learning from each other). We are a mix of folks coming together in faith with Dewi Sant to hone our hearts and stretch our hands in Christ to God.
March Events

Sunday, March 7, St. Paul’s, Riverside, CT: Companions in Mission Conference, “Equipping Saints for Mission,” 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Register at

Sunday, March 8, St. Stephen’s, East Haddam, 11:00 a.m.:  Presentation by Middlesex Habitat for Humanity about their work and the upcoming build in Westbrook.

Sunday, March 15, St. Ann’s, Old Lyme, 4:00 p.m.:  Lenten Choral Evensong.

Sunday, March 22, St. James, New London, 7:30 p.m.:   - Silent Movie Night with Robert Humphreville, organist. The movie is Chaplin's classic The Gold Rush .

Saturday, March 28, St James, New London, 7:00 p.m.: - Harriet Tubman: A Woman with a Railroad will be performed by Adwoa Bardele-Asante; Percussion provided by Ibiju Bandele
Lenten Series:

Fridays beginning February 28, Famous Fish Fries at St. James’, Preston , 3:30 pm – 7:00 p.m. (Baked or fried or both)
Mondays beginning March 2, Lenten Luncheons at Calvary, Stonington, 12:00 p.m.”  Food and sharing of different ministries supported by Calvary and its Episcopal Church Women group. 
Mondays beginning March 2, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m., St. Ann’s, Old Lyme:   A text book that you may use for this weekday class ,"The Way of Love Bible Challenge" is available through the office.

Wednesdays beginning March 4, - April 8 Holy Advent, Clinton, 5:00 p.m. A weekly service of prayer, anointing for healing, and corporate confession.

Wednesdays beginning March 4, Calvary, Stonington, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  Opening and Reading the Bible in the Episcopal Church led by the Rev. Gillian Barr.

Wednesdays beginning March 4, at St. David’s, Gales Ferry, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Soup and supper followed by discussion of how memory, faith and identity interact in our lives, in our church, in our past, and even in our future. There will be a separate program for kids.
Thursdays, beginning March 5, at St.Stephen’s, East Haddam, 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.: “Big Questions” of faith discussion over soup and bread.
On-going series:

Mystic Conversations on Race – an Intentional Book Club Kick Off Meeting: Last Tuesdays of the month, 6:00 to 7:45 pm Mystic-Noank Public Library, Ames Room REGISTRATION ENCOURAGED. Please email with “Mystic Conversations on Race” as the subject and include your name and phone number. QUESTIONS? Call (860) 572-9549 or email .
Coming in April:
Saturday, April 18, ECCT’s Spring Training, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Berlin High School in Berlin,CT. Registration is open ( and cheaper in advance!):
Sunday, April 19, Holy Advent, Clinton, 4:00 p.m.:  “A Jubilant Song,” the Yale Gospel Choir. 
If you have an event you would like to have listed, please send it to Rachel by the 20 th of the preceding month. Thanks! 

Daylight Savings is March 8th!

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