From Rachel......

This is the time of year for fog along the Connecticut River. I look out during my daily prayer time and sometimes I can’t see the hills on the other side of the marsh and river.
Most of us will recognize this as an apt metaphor for a life of following Jesus as a disciple. We can’t always see the way.
Your Southeast Region Leadership Team gathered with other Region Leadership Teams around the Episcopal Church in Connecticut during October. One of the realities that we all shared was the difficulty in discerning the exact direction for our work. What we noticed for our team is that we have to take time to be somewhat “messy:” trying on different ideas, seeing where the Spirit was speaking to all of us. Just as driving in the fog can take longer, so, too, setting course when things are not yet clear requires more time.
As the sun comes out, the air temperature starts to warm the ground and the fog “lifts.” So it is when we receive light or warmth from others.
This October I have witnessed the gifts of light and warmth in so many ways. A conversation with a team about starting a “Messy Church.” A time with a Lutheran colleague nearby that shed light on an emergent Refugee Resettlement effort. The Superintendent for New London Schools sharing her desires and needs with clergy of Greater New London. The Joining Jesus in the New Missional Age group in St. John’s, Essex, talking about their lives over dinner. 

In most of these conversations, the way is not yet completely clear – yet there is light and warmth. Surely, one of my greatest joys and challenges as your Region Missionary is sharing all these stories so that the light will catch and grow. Where do you see a glimpse of light? Share it with me, and help me learn how to share it with others in the region who may share the same vision.

What has become clearer (if not completely clear) is that our Region Leadership Team wants to be a community rooted in prayer and learning the ways of Jesus as we form relationships with the people of the SE Region.
What has become clearer is that people in this region care deeply about creation: both celebrating its beauty, and working against the effects of climate change. 
What has become clearer is that the Season of Racial Healing, Justice and Reconciliation means something different in each of our parishes.
The People’s Supper movement has a phrase that they use as a foundation for their work:  “Social change moves at the speed of relationships. Relationships move at the speed of trust.” 
This is a helpful reminder to me that the light of the way of Love, the reign of God, will only emerge as we learn to trust each other and form relationships with each other: relationships that go beyond a shared passion or parish; relationships that are rooted in our common bond through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so it is an invitation, when our way seems foggy, to reach out to someone else, and let Christ’s light emerge. 

With gratitude,

We asked two newcomers to the Episcopal Church in CT what they thought about our recent Annual Convention. Here’s how they each responded.  
The Rev. Gillian Barr,
Rector, Calvary Church, Stonington

I have come to Connecticut from the diocese of Rhode Island, where I served on the bishop’s staff and was involved in the planning and execution of our annual Convention. So I know how just much work and attention to detail it takes to make a convention go smoothly—and Rhode Island has only one-third as many parishes as Connecticut. I was very impressed by how smoothly everything went this weekend –from registration to the complex A/V support needed. I also appreciated the World Café process as a more productive and collaborate way to channel the energy and commitment formerly only able to be expressed through the legislative process. And I loved having vendors at the convention. Hopefully by next year I will have gotten to know enough colleagues and fellow Connecticut Episcopalian s that convention will also be a bit of a social event for me as well.
The Rev Dr. Anita Louise Schell,
Provisional Priest-in-Charge, Saint Ann’s Parish, Old Lyme
My first impression as a newbie to ECCT Convention 2019 is WOW! This was Homecoming Weekend in ECCT and I got to join in and savor all the good vibes. Those good vibes began long before Oct 26 when I received the registration materials while I as still working in my former diocese of Rhode Island. The registration materials were captivating and the draw of Bishop Barbara Harris could not be denied. I was ready for Convention– and it was only June!

As a delegate, I resonated with the minimal paper usage and marveled at the ease of reviewing the entire Convention packet from my mobile phone. It really was freeing and fun not to be encumbered by so many Convention materials. Lunch was a scrumptious meal and the table fellowship in the Convention hall stimulating and delightful in every way.

New to me were the World Café conversations. The energy in the small groups was palpable. They set a rich context for the resolutions of the afternoon session.

The highlights for me of the weekend were the worship services – both the anniversary celebration at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday evening and the happening of a Eucharist on Sunday morning, beginning with those amazing steel drums. I marveled at the diversity of musical expressions represented in both services and the sheer joy exploding in both worship venues. This was a Homecoming weekend – a gathering of all sorts and conditions of our diocese to share our common experiences, our hopes and dreams and labor, for a better world. We continue to forward because “we have come this far by faith.” I’m thrilled to be part of the family of ECCT and to have shared in this dynamic Homecoming weekend.
Annual Convention 2019

Three Food Pantries in the Southeast Region

By Beverly Olsen
Before this month, I had stepped into only one food pantry, and, beyond knowing the place needed food, I thought only briefly about the logistics of how all the food got there or how it was distributed. I had donated cans of food in baskets at churches; I had dropped off food at the Community Locker in Groton; I had seen startling statistics about folks living below the poverty line or below A.L.I.C.E., (an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget).

 Even in communities I would have sworn were affluent and thriving, we find families who struggle day to day and month to month to make bills, pay rent and feed their families. However, I had no real knowledge of how food pantries worked or of how we as a community go about feeding the hungry.
I set out to discover just that by visiting three churches in the SE Region that house food pantries. All of these pantries are the collaborative efforts of neighboring communities. All rely not only on donated food but also on monetary gifts to provide folks with the food they need. All try hard to serve those most in need and to do so with equity and grace. Over the next three issues of The Bridge, I will share my visits.
I first visited St. John’s in Niantic, whose pantry doors are open from 5 to 6 on Thursdays. When I arrived in the early afternoon, food had already been delivered to St. John’s and was being set out on tables and portable shelving. The room was a bustle of activity. Kirsten Babbin greeted me. Kirsten is a parishioner at St. John’s who, on that day, was managing an annex to the food pantry called Pantry Pals. She introduced me to Sherrie Weiss, who works for The Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries and manages the Food Pantry at St. John’s.

Sherrie gave me a tour of the space and explained the process. Chairs were set up on one side of the room for prospective customers, and on the other side of the room’s divider were the shelves and tables. As the last days of the fall harvest were upon us, there was an abundance of produce, much donated from the gardens of Holy Advent in Clinton and Grace in Old Saybrook. A bread team had picked up donated bread from local grocery stores, and a truck had delivered purchases made at the United Way’s Gemma Moran Food Bank in New London.
Sherrie explained what would happen when the doors opened. Each customer would check in – providing identification and, if it were their first visit, intake information. Each of the clients would also draw a number. By using a lottery system to determine who goes through the pantry first, long lines waiting all day have been avoided. As the shoppers make their way around the room, a volunteer standing at each of the tables and shelves would aid shoppers, explain the limits for the day, and they would also to ensure that the folks not only got what they needed but also that the food was distributed equitably.
The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP manages the pantry, while the church – and neighbors – provide space and volunteers, about 60 volunteers work at St. John’s. The SSKP is an interfaith service that provides food and fellowship to those in need. This organization was founded almost 30 years ago and has grown remarkably from one community meal serving eleven folks in one church to a non-profit organization managing five pantries, serving hot meals at nine sites, and providing enough food for 1,134,143 meals during the year.

The week before my visit, this Food Pantry served 113 families, primarily serving folks who are recommended by Social Services. This number of folks usually only appear at holiday time, but the recently the Pantry has been serving larger and larger numbers of people.
In a room adjacent to the food distribution was the Pantry Pals, a room run and stocked by the parish. Kirsten Babbin showed me around this room, a room filled with non-food items such as clothing, games, and household items – items that the guests of the pantry could use. Kirsten shared the story of a man, a large man, who was having difficulty finding a coat for the approaching cold weather. Keeping her eyes open for something that would serve his needs, she put aside a coat until the man returned.
That day I saw Jesus in the connections between the volunteers and between the volunteers and their shoppers, greeting one another with grace and being Christ for one another. I also so Christ in the abundance: the 30 year commitment to feed the hungry, the force of communities working together to effectively feed those in need, and the shared harvest given freely from local congregations. A loaf of bread and five fish turned into enough to feed a multitude.
Next Month: Read about my visit to The Lord’s Pantry in New London
And In January: I will share my visit to the Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry at Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich.
Each parish seems to have a different way to pray for each other and for the concerns of the parish at large. Here are two testimonies to the gift of a regular “Prayer Group” as a way of expressing the love God gives us towards each other and the world as a whole. 

Prayer is Universal - St. John's Episcopal Church

by Chelsea DiDonato
The St. John's Prayer Group has been a staple ministry over the past twenty years, and has been parishioner led since the time of its conception. It is not a publically well-known group, but they welcome anyone who would like to join them. They currently meet once a month except during the summers. They meet in the Parish Hall at St. John's to review their list and a little bit of fellowship, and they currently have four members. The group is also considered to be a private group because there are parishioners or loved ones on the list that choose to remain anonymous from the "home prayer list" that is publicized in the Sunday church bulletin.
Carol enjoys implementing prayers into her everyday life as it gives her gratitude to pray for others. When I asked her to think of a time that affected her, she couldn't help but chuckle at a conversation she had with Fr. Jonathan quite awhile ago. Periodically the group will check in with someone who gave a name to the group. So, she followed up with Fr. Jonathan regarding a name he gave her, and if you know Fr. Jonathan, he can always take a sweet reminder from someone else gracefully.
He told her the person they were praying for could probably come off the list as they were doing pretty well, and "God has enough to do." Carol told him, "Well, I don't know about your God, but my God can do it all. I am counting on that," and Fr. Jonathan said, "Oh, oh yes, ok, keep them on!" This was a reminder to Carol and Fr. Jonathan that when praying for others, it creates a space to open yourself up and to get yourself of the way because it's about the person you’re praying for.
The Prayer Group is an essential part of St. John's community, and a reminder to everyone that we're all human and struggles are a universal part of our lives. Prayer Group is a great way to remind yourself to be grateful and lend your time and mind to someone in need without costing a thing.
Calvary Church Stonington, CT – A Brief Report
by Karen McGee, Leader
According to oral history, the Prayer Group at Calvary Church in Stonington was initiated around 2000 by our Rector, Mark Robinson and led by our Deacon, Mary-Lloyd Brainard. We were helped by Father Emmett from St. Frances House in New London who taught us reverence in our conversations with God. We moved from around the table in the Sacristy to a circle around the altar in the sanctuary. The group has been sustained by a focus on need and gratitude.
Today we meet on the 2 nd and 4 th Friday of every month with between 1 and 12 people present. We spend our time praying for individuals, communities and churches as we share our love for them in prayer. We don’t dwell on specifics because we know that to “God all needs are known and no secrets are hid.” We pray for things too deep for words during silent times. Individual members of the group bring reflections from their readings, and we say the Lord’s Prayer and end with a song and someone always saying “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
We have seen the power of prayer. One time, two years ago, we received an urgent call: “Our grandbaby is about to be born and she may not make it. They think she weighs less than a pound.” The word went out and we gathered around the grandfather at the church within the hour. We prayed for little Addie, and a beautiful grandmother sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella . Prayer was ongoing, and today Addie often climbs from her grandmother’s lap and crawls to the kneeling rail. Her grandmother retrieves her, and we all nod in thanks for this little life that we prayed for over two years ago. Now our prayers are filled with gratitude and joy for this precious life.
Prayer Group is a vital part of our church life. We welcome all to join us in person or from where ever they might be especially on our scheduled time. Life in our church would be incomplete without the prayer team.

November Events

November 2, SE Region Communications Workshop with ECCT’s Digital Storyteller, Alli Gannett – web sites in the morning, Social Media in the afternoon. More info here:

November 2, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., St. Ann’s, Old Lyme:  Planning an offsite retreat for Vestries of the SE Region, all Wardens, Vestry and clergy welcome to attend.

November 2, 7:00 p.m, St.Andrew’s, Madison : Candlelight prayer service of remembrance in the memorial garden. 

November 2, 7:30 p.m., Connecticut College, New London : New London Community Orchestra benefit providing the Music City Strings program for free violin lessons. $10 donation. 
November 3, 4:00 p.m. Church of the Holy Advent : Glee Wahlquist Concert Series, “Songs from Spain” featuring Michelle Murray Fiertek, Sprano, Joseph Van Doran, Guitar, and Stephen Scarlato, Piano. Free will offering November 3, 4:00 p.m. St. Ann’s, Old Lyme : Choral Evensong for All Saints

November 7, 11:00 a.m., St. James’, New London : UTO Ingathering Worship, the Rt. Rev. Laura Ahrens presiding.

November 9, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. St. John’s, Niantic : Annual Christmas Basket Bazaar

November 9, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Grace Church, Yantic:  Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie Supper

November 9, 6:30 p.m., St. Stephen’s, East Haddam:  Serendipity Silent and Live Auction. 

November 16, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m, St. James’, New London : Dinner, Cabaret and Silent Auction for The Anglican Singers; $20/adults, $12 child 12 and older.

November19, 7:00 p.m. St David’s, Gales Ferry : Public Service of Healing.

November 23, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. St. Mark’s, Mystic : Christmas Bazaar

November 23, 4:00 p.m. Calvary, Stonington : Concert by soprano, Lisa Williamson, as a fundraiser for the Calvary Music School.
Coming in December

December 7, 9:00 a.m. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, East Haddam : Cookie Fair!

December 7, St. Andrew’s, Madison: Holiday Fair

December 7, 4:00 p.m., Calvary, Stonington: Stonington Madrigal Singers will hold their Christmas concert and reception. 

December 8, 2:00 p.m., St. Ann’s, Old Lyme:  St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble

December 10, 6:30 p.m. Calvary, Stonington:  Celebration of New Ministry for the Rev. Gillian Barr

December 15, 4:00 p.m., St. Ann’s, Old Lyme:  Advent Lessons and Carols

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
Chelsea DiDonato