From Rachel......


Two conversations have stood out among the many conversations I have had. One person, just returned from a meaningful trip, is looking for the next step. He said to me, “I feel like I want to continue to be a missionary and I’m not sure how.”  The other, in talking about leading change in his role as a parishioner, said, “I didn’t set out on this path to be a missionary.” 
 
These two conversations have stood out because of their use of the word missionary . Until this month, it is not a word that I have heard others use as they talk about their lives. I have to wonder whether what I’ve always hoped is actually coming into being: that I in this role would be an image of who we are all meant to be as Christians, missionaries, people sent to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. (Even if we don’t like the word missionary and the oppressive tradition it represents to many.)
 
These two conversations also stood out because they point to what I suspect every one of us wrestles with in living as Christians: What does God call us to do with our unique gifts, experiences, and dreams? How do we know? What path does God have for us?

 Recently the six Region Missionaries were blessed with a two day time of retreat together. We returned to a core truth of our life together, to which we return time and time again: our relationship with each other is what sustains us. As we pray and talk honestly and reflect on scripture together, it reminds us of what is crucial to being a missionary. This intentional commitment to God and to each other reflects the particular vision of “church” that we have to share in these times. 
For so long, we have talked about church as something we go to on Sunday mornings. I don’t know what led to this image of what church is, but I can say that it is woefully incomplete and even misguided.  We are church; we are the body of Christ. Church is not a place or destination; it is a people; it is who we are.  
 
I believe it is in this intentional relationship that our individual calling as missionaries emerges and becomes clear.   And I wonder, what would it be like for all of us who are seeking God’s path for our lives to come together to listen, pray, talk honestly, reflect on scripture?  Do you do that with anyone? 
 
There are so many forces in our lives that push us into isolation, and tell us that we have to figure things out on our own. God’s Spirit is ready to offer a different reality of church, if we are willing to let go of whatever keeps us from crossing bridges and opening our lives to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
 
We may not have set out on the path to be a missionary; we may want to be one and not know how. Either way, we are the body of Christ, the Incarnation of Jesus anew in this world. I invite you to reach out to me if you would like to join me on this journey of being a missionary seeking God’s path.


 What would Jesus Do? Border Mission Trip a Ministry of Presence

Chuck Sharp, St. James, New London
 



We’ve heard on the news or read in the newspaper or on social media about the humanitarian crisis along our southern border with Mexico.
 
When I ask myself: “What would Jesus do?” I read the gospels and I find my answer.
 
•  Jesus would be with those in the desert with his Ministry of Presence;
•  Jesus would be doing water drops, planting crosses and praying for those who have died in the desert;
•  Jesus would be serving food, making beds, and handing out stuffed animals at the missions and shelters.
 
I am Chuck Sharp and a member of St. James New London. I spent four weeks, from September 9 through October 8, in the Sonoran Desert, south of Tucson, Arizona, as a missionary for St. James. I drove to Arizona in my camper van, which became my home, where I slept and ate for these weeks.
During this mission trip I was blessed to be able to go on over eight water-drop hikes with the Tucson Samaritans. I also went to plant crosses for those who had died in the desert, three times with Alvaro Enciso and two times to Cruzando Fronteras in Nogales, Mexico, with Rodger Babnew.
 
Everyone I met had a story to tell, and I was encouraged to share their stories with you.
 

Planting crosses with Alvaro was difficult physically because where the person died is often a mile or more hike through the desert. Planting the cross was difficult emotionally because the evidence of death is often still visible.
 
The visible evidence of death was there when we planted a cross for Porcario Perez Chavez. Porcario died on August 27, 2019. The soil where he died was dark with the oil from his decomposing body. This was quite stark and emotional for all of us. Knowing the name of the person who died and seeing the evidence of his death made real that Porcario was a person, a husband and a father, a Child of God. Planting crosses I experienced anger, sadness, and helplessness.
Visiting Cruzando Fronteras was vastly different. Cruzando Fronteras is more than a shelter: it’s a place the people call home while awaiting their credible fear hearing with US Immigrations. I was welcomed into this home as a brother, uncle, and grandfather. There were a lot of children living here, 35 to be specific. To these children, I handed out stuffed animals that were donated by a member of St. James. By a miracle of God, I had exactly 35 stuffed animals for 35 children. I played soccer and games with the children. One young girl came to me crying because she was upset about something the older boys had said to her. I picked her up and held her until she stopped crying, while her parents watched with smiles on their faces. At Cruzando Fronteras I experienced grace, joy, and hope.
 
Everyone I met was doing what Jesus would do.
 
The weekend before several others from St. James would joined me in Arizona, I packed up my van for two days and two nights of mediation and prayer in the desert, not far from where migrant men, women and children walk and rest. I found God there comforting me through the difficult times of my mission trip. I felt God encouraging me to share the stories when I got back to Connecticut. I felt God calling me to service, to bring the needs of the migrants, God’s people, to St. James and the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
 
For more information:
Tucson Samaritans:         http://www.tucsonsamaritans.org/
Alvaro Enciso:                https://borderartists.com/2018/09/27/alvaro-enciso/
Cruzando Fronteras:      https://fronteras.azdiocese.org/
WWJD Mission Trip:        https://www.facebook.com/chucksharp59
SE Region Off site day for Vestries

The vestry of St Stephen’s East Haddam has worked with vestries of several other SE Region parishes to plan a Region-wide day for vestries on February 15 at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Together, we’ll consider this question and a plan for carrying out the first steps. Stay tuned for registration detail.

ECCT Convention October 2019

Olivia Pear, St. Stephen’s, Delegate to Annual Convention.
 
When I first arrived at the Annual Episcopal Convention, I was shocked to find the youth presence for the day would be limited to five teens. I honestly didn’t know much about the event, but I was under the impression that the youth would have a significant presence.

Entering the World Cafe, I could feel the mounting apprehension among my group as we realized we would be the youth voice for the entire conversation. Three of us went into the climate change discussion, and we stayed together for the beginning as we worried about what we would say to a room full of opinionated adults. However, once I broke off from my group, I was surprised by how willing the adults were to listen to what I had to say. I felt heartened that a community of like-minded thinkers was together in one room discussing this important issue.
As the conversation went on though, I noticed an increasing trend of adults wanting to support youth in fixing the problem of climate change, a problem we have neither the resources nor the power to address at our age. I shared this frustration with some of my discussion mates and was surprised to find that several of the adults changed their opinions after I brought this problem to their attention. Because of the welcoming atmosphere, I felt that, despite my age, I had been able to be an important contributor to the conversation, and I was ecstatic to see that so many of the adults in my faith community have similar concerns as me about our environment.

While I was pleasantly surprised with my interactions with the other delegates, I was disheartened to see that few churches brought their youth with them, as a large portion of the Convention was dedicated to the future of the Episcopal Church and how to draw in young adults. It seemed to me as if the root of the problem revolved around the fact that the young adults were not at the convention discussing where the church should go next.
Since the atmosphere was so incredibly inviting, I feel that churches from all over the area should bring their youth to help make decisions for the future of the church that they are going to be part of and to appreciate the inner workings and spirituality of the place that is a large part of their lives.



Tour the Tantaquidgeon Museum With Rachel!


I’m planning to go to the Tantaquidgeon Museum of the Mohegan Tribe in Uncasville on December 17 at 10:00 a.m. if all goes well, we’ll have a tour of the museum, time to explore this special exhibit, and perhaps even a look at the church that has been a part of the tribe’s life for almost two centuries. Please contact me at rthomas@episcopalct.org if you would like to come.



The Lord’s Pantry: A Food Pantry at St. James in New London

Beverly Olsen
 
In October I visited three churches in the SE Region that house community food pantries. I set out to learn about food pantries – their work, their needs, their volunteers, their relationship with the church, and the folks they serve. I looked for Jesus in these places. I visited the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries at St. John’s in Niantic on a Thursday (and you can read about that visit in the November issue of “The Bridge”).
 
On the following Tuesday I visited The Lord’s Pantry at St. James in New London. Eleanor Godfrey greeted me and shared their pantry with me. Much of the operation at New London reminded me of the work at St. James. Here, as at St. John’s, folks were stocking shelves and tables and coolers. Much of the perishable food—meat, milk, bread, fruits and vegetables -- had been trucked in that morning from the United Way’s Gemma Moran Food Bank. Both of these pantries rely on donations – both of food and money – and the Food Bank. (For information about the United Way’s SE Connecticut Food Bank follow this link: https://www.uwsect.org/foodbank )
 
In an adjacent room, chairs were set up for the clients. As at St. John’s the Pantry’s customers were seated and signed in before they shopped. To shop at St. James a customer needed a ticket, a ticket provided by Thames Valley Council for Community Actions (TVCCA) in New London. New clients will not be turned away their first visit even without a ticket, but they will be given direction to the TVCCA office down the street and expected to have a ticket in hand should they come again. (Find information about the work of the TVCCA at http://www.tvcca.org/about-us/ )
 
Eleanor, a member of St. James since she was 12, began her work at the Lord’s Pantry when she retired thirteen years ago; several years ago, she was approached to manage the pantry. Thirteen volunteers from the local area do the work of this ministry, including shopping at the United Way’s Gemma Moran Food Bank and local grocers, stocking and inventorying shelves and serving the shoppers. The week before my visit they had provided 52 families with meals for three or so days.
As the shoppers arrived, they sat and waited their turn, speaking, primarily in Spanish, to one another and catching up on news. Several folks availed themselves of the coupons that had collected, sorted and made available to the families. A nutritionist visits the Lord’s Pantry once a month. She has hung signs around the room sharing information on good eating. These signs are hung in pairs, one in English and one in Spanish, reflecting the large Hispanic community around St. James. In addition, she cooks a meal and teaches new ways to provide healthy, filling meals at low cost.
 
Waiting for the doors to open and speaking with some of the volunteers, I learned that a day care – which uses the food pantry space during the rest of the week – is also housed at St. James. Sheila, one of the day care volunteers, summed up the morning’s experience of Christ in this place. She exclaimed that St. James, and its pastor the Rev. Ranjit Matthews, are living examples of what God should be: the parish opens its doors and lets folks into the house; they are Christ to one another.
 
And In January: We will share the ministry of the Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry at Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich

Prayer Shawls Offer Pastoral Care



St. Ann's, Old Lyme
Jane Keydel
 
Our Prayer Shawl Ministry began about 14 years ago, though there had been individuals making shawls before that date. Susan Jorgenson, co-author of the book Knitting into the Mystery came to our group and led us in a day of Introduction, leading us through the process: starting with prayer and choosing the yarn to the blessing of the finished shawl and giving it to a designated person. Since that time, we have created and passed many along.

We knit a pattern with a repetition of three, representing the Trinity. So the whole effort is enfolded in this awareness and prayer.

Shawls are given at a time of stress or crisis, so they bring a deep sense of being blessed and surrounded by God's love.

Many individuals have expressed their delight in the gift of a shawl. One person wrote “I was very touched to receive the beautiful prayer shawl, knowing the love and prayers that go into the making of one. It truly is a special gift and I thank you deeply.” As our lord told us: “Love your neighbor” and “Do good to those who suffer.” It is a privilege to pray for and wrap others in God's love for each of us.

Many have been the contributors and creators of these shawls, and we are blessed to be a part of this effort.
St. Mark's, Mystic
Ann Ragsdale

Mine are the simpler of the two
Always the same pattern and type of yarn,
You, the artist, challenged to invent
New patterns, new colors;
Both of us joined the morning
We were asked to give two shawls
To two ladies in Georgia,
One whose life was saved
By a kidney given by the other.
 
In Loving Memory of      
Judith Grant Roure
11/16/2019

Calvary Church, Stonington
A Grateful Recepient

I cannot thank the Calvary Prayer Shawl Makers enough for taking the time to show so much love and care for those who desperately need the reminder of Jesus’ presence, provision, and protection in their times of greatest need. You all are truly the hands of Christ in each of these shawls and His feet as you bow in prayer to bless and lift up those who may not be able to care for themselves. (Just as I could not for over a month and a half before coming home.) During this process, I have learned that what many people view as an “antiquated” or a “simple” gesture is exactly the opposite to the person receiving it. These shawls require not only time, but compassion, patience, perseverance, and love. These qualities — fruits of the Spirit — show that Christ is living His will through you, by His Holy Spirit, and that makes you all shine with the radiance of Jesus Himself. I can only imagine how Christ smiles on you each time one of his Children receives a shawl from your hands. May the Father continually bless your hands and raise up new women with hearts and hands eager to continue this beautiful ministry.
                                                                                                                      
P.S. My shawl is beautiful! The perfect length to warm my legs.
 
Signed, Prayer Shawl Recipient
December Events

December 1, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Christmas in Clinton; tree lighting at Andrews Memorial Town Hall at 5:00 p.m. featuring the choir of Holy Advent.  

December 7, 9:00 a.m. – noon, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, East Haddam : Cookie Fair $8.00/pound!

December 7, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 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 7, 9:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. St. James, New London : St. Nicholas Bazaar hosted by. The St. James Quilters and Jumble Shoppe are co-hosting the event.

December 7, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Holy Advent, Clinton : “Bearing Worthy Fruit" an advent retreat exploring the Gospel of Matthew.

December 7, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. St. John’s, Essex is one of the open “houses” on the Child and Families Essex House Tour.

December 8, 4:00 p.m. St. John’s, Essex:  Lesson and Carols with reception following.

December 8, 4:00 p.m. St. David’s, Gales Ferry : Lessons and Carols with reception following.

December 8, 5:00 p.m., Holy Advent, Clinton: Traditional Candlelight Service of Nine Lessons and Carols including guest musicians and soloists and the Holy Advent Choir.

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

December 14, 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., St. John’s, Essex:  Advent meditations, readings, and contemplative prayer followed by Eucharist and lunch. Please contact the Rev. Benjamin Straley benjamin@stjohnsessex.org , so they can plan on numbers for the lunch.

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

December 15, 5:00 p.m., St. James, New London : Anglican Singers present Lessons and Carols.
 
December 17, 10:00 a.m. Tantaquidgeon Museum, Uncasville : visit to museum and special exhibit.

December 17, 7:00 p.m., St. James, Preston : Service of Healing & Holy Eucharist.

December 21, 4:30 p.m., St. Paul’s, Westbrook: Anglican Singers present a Christmas concert. 

December 21, 6:00 p.m., Church of the City, 250 State St., New London : Homeless Memorial sponsored by St. Francis House and New London Hospitality Center. 
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