From Rachel......

I had a seminary instructor who used to say, “Text without context is pretext,” as a way of warning us against contorting the words of Jesus to suit our own needs. All these years later, they have stuck with me as a call to slow down, and pay attention to the context of what is happening in a particular place and time.

As it happens, “context” has recurred as a topic a couple of times recently. First, it was in talking about how during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, parishes sold their rectories because they were seen as financial drains because most clergy wanted to purchase their own homes. Now, with a changing economic and parish landscape, a rectory is a bonus to a clergy person. The context shifted.

Likewise, the Rev. Lee Ann Tolzmann, Canon for Mission Leadership in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, used the term to describe the changed context in which we now find ourselves as communities of faith. Once upon a time, parishes had full time clergy who stayed for years; now, most parishes offer half-time or quarter-time work, and clergy move every 6 or 7 years. The context has shifted.

We can name all sorts of places where the context in which we live has shifted over the years: personally, locally, and certainly globally.

Through it all, we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and in so doing pray for God’s wisdom, might, dayspring, and desire to come among us. No matter what our particular context in any given year, we hear anew the words that are so riveting from John’s Gospel: “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus, the defining text of God, came into our context 2,000 years ago and, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, comes anew into our context even today. Text comes into context for the sake of love.

Repeating these familiar hymns and words each year reminds me that my life is lived within the context of a larger life: the unseen and very real work of God’s redeeming love set loose in the world. The more I see my own life within that context, the more I sense a call and a challenge to align my words with the words of Jesus, and my ways with his ways. Rectories, clergy, even parishes come and go: the Word of God endures; the love of God holds us fast; the light of God shines on.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Rachel
January 9, 11:45 am: Afrocosmologies: American Reflections exhibit at Wadsworth Atheneum, tour with curator Frank Mitchell. The tour is free with admission: if you let Rachel Thomas know if you’re coming by noon on January 7, she’ll see if we can arrange for a group rate. Meet at the Museum Shop.

Pollinator Pathways

Deacon Ellen Adams
Deacon to the City of New London and St. James’ Parish 
 
Pollinator Pathways establishes pesticide-free corridors of public and private properties that provide a native plant habitat and nutrition for pollinators. Pollinators are bees, birds, insects, bats and small mammals who move pollen from one plant to another. There have been many communities in the SW Region that are developing pathways, and there is interest in the SE Region to develop pathways here as well. These pathways are done by town, but the parishes in our region hope to band together to support each other and form a project in each one of our towns.
  St. James, New London has already started working with community partners to create at least one pathway through our city. The Sunday School children launched our involvement in the project by planting wild flowers in jugs. Judy Benson, the chair of our Care for Creation committee, guided them through this process. First, they cut milk cartons in half and filled the bottom half with dirt. Then they took seeds off milkweed, coneflower, thistle, golden rod and NY iron rod plants and put them in the dirt. They poured a layer of sand on top, resealed the jugs with tape, and placed them outside. The seeds are expected to sprout in the spring and the children will replant them on the pathway route.
Some members of St. Andrews in Madison are already working with community partners as well.

If you are interested in being part of the region wide initiative, visit the organization website at

T here is an informational meeting on January 11, 2020 in Room 101 of the New London Building at CT College. Networking begins at 10:00 am followed by a presentation by Mary Ellen Lemay at 11:00 am. St. Anne’s, Old Lyme, has agreed to host a similar event, if there is enough interest from Episcopalians in our region. At the Sea Grant’s Coastal Certificate Gardening Classes, held in March, the focus will be on supporting the habitat of pollinators. Contact Deacon Ellen Adams at deaconellen98@yahoo.com if you are interested in being part of creating a pollinator pathway in your community.
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.

Did You Know This Tantaquidgeon Story?

Phil Ludlow
of
St. James’, Preston

  The following article was written in anticipation to Region’s planned visit to the Tantaquidgeon Museum in January.
 
In 1937 my Father, Howard Ludlow, and Chief Tantaquidgeon went to the first ever Boy Scout National Jamboree together. Ever since that trip my father and the Chief, an avid lover of the Boy Scouts, were friends; stories even suggest that Howard and the Chief were actually blood brothers. In his book, Mohegan Chief , the Chief makes reference to Howard in the last chapter: Gladys calls Howard for help to perform a native ceremony at the lodge. Howard had an Indian name of Chane, meaning “Elder Brother.” When Chief Tantaquidgeon signed his book for Howard, he wrote “Dear Howard, with all good wishes, yours in Scouting. Chief Tantaquidgeon.”
From 1949 to 1951 Howard and the Chief helped run the tribe’s Corn Festival at Fort Shantock with the Boy Scouts Order of the Arrow (OA). The Chief, with his two sisters Gladys and Ruth, would spend time watching me as dad would go off with the Chief to do Boy Scout events. Gladys and Ruth even had a back room at the Museum for me to stay.

When I was making my decision to go into the service in 1965, I went to the Chief and he advised me to join the USAF (Jan 28, 1965). My Family visited the Museum often, and it was part of our lives as we grew up. The memories of the Chief are fresh in my mind everyday and this great man was a blessing to the world.

The Local Running group, The Mohegan Striders, made the Chief an honorary member, and I was there along with several others to present him with the first Mohegan strider jersey. After returning from the USAF in 1970, I was the last person to rebuild the Chief’s Longhouse, which stood at the museum for many years. I remember camping out in the Longhouse and sitting around the campfire as the Chief told us old stories.
Before the Chief passed away I met with him in his home. We talked of old times and he said to me, “I’m not the Chief any more I’m the Chairman.” I asked what he meant. He said: “Yup, I’m Chairman; I just move from that chair to that chair.” and we laughed.

Please note large stone in right of Museum photo. On the Large stone there is a smaller stone. Each guest that visits the museum must take the smaller stone and turn it in the hole in the center. Tradition and the hole continue to grow. The hole was the size of the smaller stone when I was a child. The stone was originally located near the front door of museum but has been relocated.



Tour the Tantaquidgeon Museum With Rachel!


I’m planning to go to the Tantaquidgeon Museum of the Mohegan Tribe in Uncasville on January 21 at 2:00 p.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 Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry

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 St. James’ The Lord’s Pantry on the following Tuesday.
 
On the following Friday I visited the Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry at Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich. It was created in 2018 by the merger of the former Norwich Area Clergy Association (NACA) Food Locker and Christ Episcopal Church Food Pantry, both of which had been operating independently. The food pantry at Christ Church had been in operation for about 10 years before merging. The two ladies I met that Friday morning – Mary Elizabeth Lang and Chris Murtha – had been approached by the NACA Food Locker as it closed it’s doors when the leaders of that organization were retiring. They approached the leaders at Christ Episcopal, who prayed before expanding of their ministry. Their own work had begun as the local folks came to the church seeking assistance from the church office. To meet this growing need, a food pantry was launched in the church’s basement. And for two years now, with the merger, this pantry has been a cooperation of several Norwich churches. This pantry is one of 14 in Norwich.

Unlike St. James and St. John’s, this food pantry gets no help from United Way or any other larger food supplier. They do not have the staff to make this connection, nor does the Food Bank’s scheduling dovetail with their own. They use food donated by local congregations. They also use monetary donations to shop at local grocery stores for food items they know they will need. The day I visited they received a large donation of food from the local synagogue, which regularly supports this ministry.
That Friday morning Mary and Chris stocked shelves, marking goods with expiration dates, while they talked to me. They had stories to tell of the customers who visit the Pantry: Elderly folks who have had medical issues which have left them unable to live off their fixed income; people in crisis – one client had a lung transplant; a surprisingly large number of older folks, many with large medical expenses; two sets of grandparents who suddenly have custody of grandchildren. In addition, in the neighborhood is a halfway house, which accommodates folks recently released from prison.

This food pantry, like others in Norwich, had had an increase in customers that August. The ladies explained that they believed that two factors accounted for this. Families with children faced financial stress as they prepared for their children to go back to school in September. In addition, applications for fuel assistance are submitted in August and families can only receive heating assistance for the coming winter if the last winter’s bills are paid.
 
They also walked me through their process, which was quite similar to the two larger pantries I’d visited. The customers fill out an intake form on their first visit – a form similar to The Emergency Food Assistance Program intake form provided by the Federal government. Because of the smaller space and fewer number of volunteers, shoppers are escorted through the pantry by a volunteer, who speaks to the shopper, encouraging selections and ensuring that food is equitably distributed.

I was surprised to learn that they distribute a large volume of dried beans; they have many shoppers from the Caribbean Islands who use these as a staple in their diets. In addition, they provide packages of plastic cutlery with canned goods having pop-tops that can be eaten without preparation; these serve those who are presently homeless.
In September, the pantry had served 273 meals a week – three meals for three days for each family—that’s over 1000 meals in that month. After a return visit last week, I learned that they have experienced a continuing upsurge in the number of clients that come in looking for food, now up to 38 to 48 families per week – which translates to 352 to 432 meals a week, almost 1400 or 1500 meals a month. Therefore, beginning in January 2020, they will be unable to buy certain non-food items – such as diapers and deodorant -- so that they can pay for more food. They would appreciate donations of diapers – in small packages, as these are easier to store, and many smaller packages serve many shoppers. They could also use deodorant.
 
One of the things I learned in visiting these food pantries: what is needed. During the recent holidays the Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry was blessed with an outpouring of boxes of canned vegetables. They could use canned goods that make a meal: Chef Boy-R-Dee canned pasta meals, Beef-a-Roni, spaghetti and meatballs, chunky soups and stews, macaroni and cheese. They could also use large bags of rice and beans and cans or boxes of stock. Also needed are canned proteins: peanut butter, tuna, Spam – particularly turkey Spam. I learned that 100% juice boxes are a better choice than pouches, and that smaller containers and cans are a better choice than jumbo sizes.
 
I learned that a cash donation allows the Pantry to purchase those things that are needed but not donated. A visitor to the church came and saw the pantry and determined to give 10% of his business – a local neighborhood business -- profits monthly to the shelter, and this donation helps to keep this pantry in business.
 
The Norwich Interfaith Food Pantry is staffed with about ten volunteers and they could always use helping hand, particularly with stocking shelves. I was amazed that so few were serving so many with so little. The miracle of the loaves and fishes occurs each week in this pantry and all the pantries across our region.
 
I give thanks to all the people who make this work real. I pray each day for the those who work to serve and for those who are served. I thank all these folks for sharing their stories with me.
“It’s that time of year”


For transitions! We have a big thank you to the Rev. Adam Thomas, Rector of St. Mark’s, Mystic, and Suzy Burke, parishioner in St .John’s, Essex, for their faithful service as Members of the ECCT Mission Council from the SE Region. They have been dedicated and active participants and we appreciate their faithfulness. Suzy will remain on Mission Council as a member of the Racial Healing, Justice and Reconciliation Ministry Network.
We do welcome the Rev. Stacey Kohl, Priest in Charge in Christ Church, Norwich, and Steve MacAusland, parishioner in St. Ann’s, Old Lyme, who were selected as the SE Region Members for the Mission Council at our Region Convocation in September. We give thanks for them offering themselves to God, and pray that God’s Spirit will continually fill them with wisdom and grace.

For Annual Meetings!  These bring more transitions in leadership in each parish. Let’s keep each other in prayer as we all go through this time of letting go of 2019 and opening ourselves to God’s Spirit in new ways in 2020. 
 
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Mission of the Church, BCP, p. 257.)  
Rachel Recommends


Whether or not you have read the book – though I do recommend it – take the time to see this movie about the wonderful work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. It’s in theaters beginning January 9. I hope to go on January 13, 4:00 p.m. at Regal Theatres, 325 E Main St., Branford, if you want to join me there. 
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
January Events

January 2, 6:30 p.m .: Region Leadership Team potluck at the home of Becky Honan.
 
January 9, 11:45 a.m. : Tour of Afro-Cosmologies Exhibit at Wadsworth Atheneum
 
January 9, 5:30 p.m., St. Stephen’s East Haddam and Zoom:  Climate and Environment Ministry Network
January 9, 6:30 p.m. -8:00 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral:  Join Bishop Ahrens for a conversation about Pilgrimage in the New Missional Age. How our daily walks and longer travels can be pilgrimages to come to know God better and engage with our neighbors in new ways. Event is free; register in advance:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pilgrimage-in-the-new-missional-age-tickets-87232900955
 
January 11, 9:00 a.m., St. James New London:  Planning hikes in the SE Region.
 
January 11, Room 101 of New London Building at Connecticut College, presentation on creating a pathway for Pollinators: 10:00 a.m networking with 11:00 a.m. presentation by Mary Ellen LeMay.
 
January 15, 8 a.m., Clergy Women’s Breakfast at Parthenon Diner in Old Saybrook.

January 18, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m .: Mission Council Workday at Camp Washington
 
January 21, 2:00 p.m., Tantaquidgeon Museum rescheduled visit
 
January 31 – February 1, Mercy Center : Region Leadership Team retreat
  
Coming up in February
 
February 4, 4:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. (Click here for the poll to determine time), St. Mark’s, Storrs:  Episcopalians in the Last Green Valley – why are we here?
February 6, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m, The Commons, Meriden:  resources for Ministry Networks. Register here:  https://febfaithfulfutures.eventbrite.com
 
February 15, 8:30 a.m., Incarnation Center, Ivoryton : SE Region Vestry offsite day together. Registration info to come.
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