From Rachel -




On January 7, after the mob stormed the Capitol building, disrupting the House and Senate proceedings, I saw this post from @greenanglicans

This is on my heart for friends from US today:

The Holy Spirit hovers over chaos Gen 1:1,2 The earth was waste and chaos, darkness covered the abyss and the Spirit was hovering over the waters.

Unlike the Babylonian myth of Creation where chaos is an enemy to be conquered, this formless mess is to be loved and fostered into being. An early Jewish commentary says this "A spirit of love before the Lord was blowing over the face of the waters." This holy wind is not a part of the chaos, it is God's motherly love conveying the promise of life, order and beauty to what was a mess. Because God's spirit was hovering over it, chaos became promise.

Today our prayers go out in particular to our brothers and sisters in the USA. It feels like all is chaos. We fall on our knees with you to ask the Holy Spirit to hover over the mess, to embrace it lovingly and prepare it for the light of God. The powerful Spirit of God will bring shape and meaning to what made no sense before.
Adapted from Fr George Montague, SM wau.org/resources/art
I found it so moving that our fellow Anglicans around the world – South Africa and beyond – were praying for us and with us. They could see our chaos, and had a word of hope and faith to offer. I’ve come back to this post again and again in the days since then, praying to live in the embrace of God and discern where God’s light and Spirit is hovering, moving, leading.

Different words of our faith tradition have spoken to me of this hovering and leading us forward. How many of us renewed our Baptismal Covenant on the Sunday after January 6th, and promised to “Respect the Dignity of every human being?” How many of us thought of the prayer of St. Francis, “Where there is hatred, let us sow love?” How many of us heard the good news from our Presiding Bishop, of choosing community over chaos? All of these are ways that God’s Spirit is bringing shape, meaning and light. 
And as I have pondered these words of leading, I’ve come back to the same challenge: daring to believe that God’s Spirit is actively hovering, moving, leading me forward, even when I feel uncertain. To trust, “What we have is enough” even if we don’t have the whole picture. Daring to trust that each time I do what I say I will do with God’s help, God’s Spirit moves us a step closer to the Beloved Community God intends for us all.

My friends, I believe God has given us what we need to be light in dark times. Sometimes it’s not what we want; sometimes it feels small; usually, we have to ask for help and then receive it, letting go of our plans and designs (NEVER an easy thing).

And then 22 year old National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman said it best at the Inauguration: "There is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it."
Amen. May it be so.

Rachel
Housing Ministries in the Southeast Region

There are 3 different counties represented in the SE Region of the Episcopal Church in CT: New Haven, Middlesex, and New London. This organizational reality at the State level can make it extra daunting to think about collaborating on challenges that affect our region as a whole. 

One of those challenges is in the area of housing for all. Deacon Ron Steed does a great job of keeping us up to date on the needs of the Homeless Hospitality Center in New London and the gifts of volunteering and working alongside those who are housing challenged. In this issue, we’ve asked a few others to give glimpses of what they do, and why:
 
Ann Faust, Executive Director of the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (https://growstrongct.org/ )
Cathy Zall, Executive Director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center (https://www.nlhhc.org/)
Jim Crawford, Education and Advocacy Committee Chair for HOPE Partnership(https://www.hope-ct.org/)
St. Andrew’s Madison on “Raise the Roof” in New Haven’s Habitat for Humanity (https://habitatgnh.org/
Coalition on Housing & Homelessness

Ann Faust, Executive Director of the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness


I’ve had various positions throughout the years related to housing: in housing development, community organizing and fundraising. This job brings all those skills together to work on systems change. I am truly blessed to witness the transformation that happens when a person, who has struggled to keep a roof over their head, obtains stable housing. It’s an absolute transformation. Their health improves; they reconnect with family and friends; and they begin to work on the issues that led to their homelessness.

The Coalition on Housing & Homelessness works in Middlesex County, Meriden & Wallingford to build the capacity of the region to address homelessness by convening a broad base of community leaders. The Coalition identifies duplication of efforts by creating opportunities to share and utilize resources more efficiently.

The Coalition is infinitely more powerful than the sum of the individual agencies and community leaders involved. Community partnerships and community outreach efforts are crucial to transforming the systems that address housing and homelessness issues. One of our volunteers said it best when she described the Coalition as the glue that holds the entire, complicated system together.

The Coalition is deeply concerned about the potential for mass evictions when the state moratorium ends on February 9. Early statistics show that over 250,000 of our state’s 455,000 renters are behind on their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown. Many of these households were already living paycheck to paycheck and cannot make up missed rent payments, even if they were able to maintain their employment. Government and philanthropy must step in with funding for eviction prevention.

It is not only the poor who stand to suffer from this situation. Many landlords in our state are small businesses with two- or three-family houses or small apartment buildings and are not be able to sustain themselves with no rental income. The ripple effect of mass evictions could lead to mortgage defaults, property tax defaults, foreclosures, blight, and a loss of affordable rental units that are already in critically short supply.
 
While the financial implications of mass evictions are enormous, the personal suffering from evictions cannot be understated. Eviction often leads to more than just a loss of a roof over your head. A “loss of agency” is one of the most pervasive effects of eviction. It is a loss of a sense of choice and efficacy in your life. It is also a loss of privacy, a loss of possessions, and a loss of dignity. It is the feeling that you are not in control of your own life. Through interviews with people who experienced eviction, the research concludes that eviction, even if it doesn't always lead to homelessness, is a stressful and profoundly destabilizing event- families are forced to split up, health declines, possessions are lost, and credit scores can be ruined, thus perpetuating poverty.
 
The pandemic has not changed our mission, just how we carry it out. In March, our Coalition and its partners quickly moved people off the street and out of our warming centers and into hotel rooms, where people could safely distance. We doubled down on our efforts to divert people from entering the shelter system and helped people get apartments of their own. When resources were scarce, the Middlesex United Way, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, the Middletown Health Department, the faith community, and many individuals came together to provide PPEs, frequent testing, and personal hygiene items. During the summer months, we were able to close the hotel rooms and help our guests find permanent housing with additional housing vouchers provided by the Connecticut Department of Housing. Now we face another winter, and the coronavirus is spiking once again. Our shelters are operating at reduced capacity to meet the CDC guidelines for social distancing and ensure the safety of shelter guests and staff. With funding from the State and FEMA, we are able to offer hotel rooms once again.

The pandemic has driven home an important lesson: Housing is a public health issue. Everyone in our community benefits from a strong social safety net that includes emergency housing and rental housing that everyone can afford.
New London Homeless Hospitality Center

Cathy Zall, Executive Director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center
 
I learned of HHC through my involvement with St. Francis House, an intentional Christian community in New London. When the city stopped funding emergency shelter, Fr. Emmett pulled together a group to fill the gap. HHC has grown from there. I cannot think of a more basic human need than housing. I feel blessed to be able to make some small contribution to helping address this need.
 
At HHC, we provide emergency supports (especially emergency shelter) and seek to offer the practical supports people need as they chart their path out of homelessness. Hospitality is central to our work – those we serve are our guests, and we seek to see each person as a unique individual with different needs and goals.
 
One of our most critical priorities at this time, very broadly, is restoring a sense of community. We need to know each other if we are going to care about each other. More narrowly, I would say that addressing income inequality has to be a top priority. How we manage this is not obvious, but we need a better safety net for those who cannot work and greater opportunities to earn a living wage through work. Presently, these are key goals.
 
COVID has made everything we do harder. A very small silver lining, however, is that the crisis has made clear that our focus in the area of homelessness has to be housing, not just congregate shelter. Personally COVID has also forced me to work largely from home, and I deeply feel the difference being separated from the energy of interacting with our guests on a daily basis. 
HOPE Partnership

Jim Crawford, Education and Advocacy Committee Chair


I was introduced to HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) when I was a member of the Westbrook Board of Selectmen, and I was invited to be on the Advisory Council when I served in the General Assembly as a State Representative in 2010. I saw, first hand, the challenges many families faced trying to secure affordable housing along the Shoreline. In addition, my career as a teacher in Westbrook exposed me to many folks forced to rely on academic rentals, making them nomads at certain times of the year. The impact this had on students was profoundly negative. HOPE’s success in not only creating workforce housing, but spreading the word about this pressing need keeps me actively involved.
The mission of the HOPE Partnership is focused squarely on providing housing that allows all members of the community to flourish without expending more than 30% of their income. HOPE pretty much says it all. The cost of living in Connecticut has caused a drain of our younger generation of workers; we’re losing far too much talent to other parts of the country.

Oddly, the pandemic has had some positive effects for the organization. Attendance on Zoom meetings is far more robust than in-person meetings were in the past. We have far more input from members and our base is expanding. HOWEVER, the negative of these times is the inability for us to hold our traditional fundraisers. Financial constraints severely limit options for hiring additional folks to help carry out the wishes and directives of the Board of Directors.
In 1997, a woman slept on the steps of the Union Baptist Church in Mystic for three nights. On her last morning there, she joined the worship service and left a dollar bill with a note in the collection basket. Her note explained that upon losing her job she had become homeless. Three weeks earlier she had been stably housed.

The minister at the time, Rev. Dr. G. Kenneth Carpenter, shared the story with his and neighboring congregations. They agreed that there was a need to help the growing homeless population. In a call to action, they recruited the help of human service agencies, local business groups and the faith community. 

They focus exclusively on families with minor children, offering case management support and access to critical emergency services required to establish housing stability. From their website: “We seek to prevent homelessness before it happens, to use shelter as a destination of last resort, and to limit any family's time in shelter to a maximum of 30 days. Our core programs include Homelessness Prevention/Shelter Diversion, Emergency Shelter and Rapid Re-housing.”
From July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020, they served 326 families in housing crisis (1,057 family members including 419 adults and 638 minor children). This was a staggering 40% increase over the total number of families they served the prior fiscal year. Given the housing crisis brought about by the pandemic, they anticipate that the demand for their services will continue to escalate in 2021.

The Rev. Adam Thomas, Rector of St. Mark’s, Mystic, is on the Board of Always Home. The Rev. Ranjit Mathews, Rector of St.James’, New London, is on the Board of the Covenant Shelter in New London (https://www.covenantshelterofnewlondon.org/), which also provides emergency housing to families with children.

Always Home's mission is preventing family homelessness
St. Andrew’s Raise the Roof – 2020 Annual Report

Matt Valentine, St. Andrew’s, Madison,
The church’s coordinator for volunteer days at Habitat for Humanity

St. Andrew’s in Madison has a long history with Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven. St. Andrew’s supports Habitat through a local CT shoreline connection called Raise the Roof. Raise the Roof originated as a local outreach right here at St. Andrew’s, originally named Madison Cares, and has grown along the CT shoreline to include many inter-faith organizations, businesses, and school groups. St. Andrew’s has enjoyed opportunities to partner on builds with Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford, Temple Beth Tikvah, and North Madison Congregational Church, among others.

In its history, Raise the Roof has contributed more than $1 million toward affordable housing in New Haven and is currently sponsoring an 18th home. It may be important to note that Habitat is not addressing temporary housing needs for the homeless, but instead provides permanent, affordable housing for those that, due to various hardships, could otherwise not afford them. Homeowners participate in the building and take on a mortgage for their new homes. Through strategically acquired properties and new homes, the Habitat affiliate in New Haven has been successful in revitalizing city blocks and neighborhoods. As part of any build day with Habitat of New Haven, you soon learn that they are the largest builder of single-family homes in the city of New Haven – because they are the only one.
In 2019, St. Andrew’s was active in supporting Habitat and Raise the Roof through both financial contribution to Raise the Roof’s annual Gala of Stars: Dancing for the Cause fund-raiser as well as physical labor. Mark Auletta, Jim Dodington, Marty Gerst, and Matt Valentine teamed up with Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford to do work at 352 Peck Street in April. The build was completed in May of 2020 and is now the home of Maritz Rodriguez and Jason Villa.

Mark Auletta, Louise Beecher, Marty Gerst, Bill and Will Haydon, Heather Letkowski, Colin Morris, Gary Naegel, Agota Perry-Hill, and Matt Valentine participated in the build at 66 Sylvan Avenue in November. This home has now been completed and was dedicated for the Lopez-Sandoval family in January.
Middlesex Habitat for Humanity
Furniture Request
Middlesex Habitat For Humanity’s (MHFH) sixteenth house project is located at 382 Hammock Rd, North, Westbrook, CT. The newly built house will be the new home for a wonderful, well deserving family, Rebeca, Jeff, and their four children, Gabriel, 9; twins Ezekiel & Esther, 3; and Grace, two months old.

The family will be moving into their new home by March. Rebeca, Jeff, and their family need the following pieces of furniture: One bunk bed, two small bookcases/storage shelves, two dressers, one bedside table, three closet organizers, and six dining room table chairs. If you have any of these items and would like to donate them, please contact David Evangelisti at dage154@aol.com or 860-767-2075.Thank you for your continued support of MHFH’s mission


Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut

These families were among the first refugees settled by Start Fresh.
Amna Azrag and husband Ezairig Elnemair and their children will live in 122 Golden St., the dwelling on the left, while Ahmad Mahlo and wife Zainab Hbaish and their children will live in 126 Golden St., on the right, in Norwich. (Courtesy Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut)

Norwich — Two families are ready to put years of harrowing experiences, two civil wars, hunger, financial struggles, fear and anxiety behind them as they prepare to move into their new homes on Golden Street in the city's Greeneville section.
Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut are putting the finishing touches this week on a new duplex at 122 and 126 Golden St. that will end the years-long journeys for two refugee families that have escaped wars in Syria and Sudan. You can read more here:

Welcome New Clergy to the SE Region!
A Conversation with Kate Wesch, the New Rector of St. John’s Episcopal in Essex


JANUARY 9, 2021

Reverend Kate Wesch is joining St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex at the end of this month. Wesch is currently rector of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Seattle, and will move to Connecticut with her husband, mother, daughter and son. In conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, Wesch shares what made her fall in love with Essex and how she hopes to build community amid a pandemic. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

How did you come across the role at St. John’s in Essex?  We have not spent much time in Connecticut at all, but we do know some people in the area. We have a friend in Hartford who spent time in Essex who told me about the position when it opened. The friend has kids who are similar ages to my kids, and answered a lot of my questions about the area in a way that really made it sound like something that could be great for us. 

You can read the whole interview here.

Press Release announcing Erin Flinn as the new Provisional Priest in Charge
in St. Stephen's, East Haddam

EAST HADDAM — St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church announced this week that the Rev. Erin L. Flinn will be joining the parish beginning Jan. 5.

Though Flinn will not officially begin her duties until the new year, she has volunteered to lead services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day via Zoom, according to a press release.

“We are extremely pleased to have Erin joining St. Stephen’s as the priest-in-charge,” Gray Sawyer, co-warden of the church, said in a prepared statement. “She has so many wonderful qualities, and we think she will be a great fit for our congregation.”



A Collaborative Event Between the NW Region and IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services):

Refugee Perspectives on Racism in America

As communities throughout the U.S. grapple with racism, we have a lot to learn from new Americans, who are helping to build a brighter future. Two Congolese Americans who came here as refugees will share their experiences of navigating racism in the U.S. Bahati Kamyamanza is Manager of Youth Programs and Education Advocacy at IRIS--Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. Gladys Mwilelo is completing her B.A. in Strategic Communication at Central CT State University. Please join IRIS and the Episcopal Church in CT Northwest Region on January 31st at 6 pm.
Free Registration on Eventbrite: 

Hiking in Prayer in the SE



We’re walking and praying our way through these days – at least on Mondays when the weather allows. Please email Rachel if you’re interested in being kept up to date on each week’s site!

Deb Downes of St.James’, New London, picked up some items from our walk at Haley Farm State Park and painted this. Thanks for sharing, Deb!



From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference
from The Episcopal Church
 
From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference” is a campaign inviting Episcopalians and our neighbors to engage in one-to-one listening and sharing across the many differences that separate us. The conversations center on four questions: What do you love? What have you lost? Where does it hurt? What do you dream? Echoing the Latin phrase on the U.S. seal – E Pluribus (“from many”) Unum (“one”) – and following in the footsteps of Jesus, we trust that the spiritual practice of conversation across difference can help to knit us all into a diverse, more perfect union. Learn more about the questions, suggestions for going deeper, and find additional resources to keep your conversations going 
Opportunities for building our capacity
as disciples and apostles of light


What are your plans for Ash Wednesday and Lent? Please let Rachel know by February 1 at rthomas@episcopalct.org, so that she can include it in the next BLT. Other announcements welcome, also.




Have you seen this? Please pass it on to those over 75. And please help them navigate the website, if they need it.

If you are 75 or older and wish to register for a Covid-19 flu shot through Connecticut's Vaccine Administration Management System, you may go to this website:

Estate Planning Reminder: A Message From Your Chaplains to Retired Clergy and Spouses (and helpful for all of us!)

Our life of faith includes seeing to our financial health, including, according to the Book of Common Prayer (pg. 445) "the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the wellbeing of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses." The start of the year is a good time to look to our estate planning and visit or re-visit our will. Our Chaplains to Retired Clergy and Spouses have provided some direction to help you consider if any changes to your will may be needed. And if you haven't prepared a will, regardless of your age or health condition, now is the time!



Parochial Report Orientation
Tues, Jan 26, 2021 10:00 AM EST
Wed, Feb 3, 2021 6:30 PM EST
Thurs Feb 11, 2021 3:30 PM

Please join Rosanna Rosado, Canon for Mission Finance and Operations, and her team to review requirements and best practices for submitting accurate and complete parochial reports for the year 2020.
Coming, January 31: worship with the rest of ECCT

Our first "5th Sundays Across ECCT" liturgical offering of 2021 is only a few weeks away. Dean Lina Howell, along with three special guests, invite you to make plans to join Grace Episcopal Church in Stafford Springs, Holy Trinity in Enfield, and Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford live on ECCT's Facebook page on Sunday, January 31 at 10 a.m. to worship together
Safe Church Trainings
Winter 2021

All ECCT Safe Church Training (SCT) includes an online course followed by a 3-hour live session on Zoom. New online courses are designed to reflect whether you have previously participated in SCT, whether you currently have oversight responsibilities for events, programs or others engaged in ministry, and ministerial roles. More information and registration available here. https://www.episcopalct.org/Find-Resources/General-Parish-Operations/Safe-Church-Resources/
 
Four scheduled for February!

Fed by Word and Sacraments:
Here's a list of webpages for the parishes
of the SE Region
so that you can find current worship information
The best way to keep up to date: subscribe to each parish's newsletter, and/or visit their website for zoom connections and links to worship, learn, and act.
Parish Websites for the SE Region
 
Calvary Church, Stonington: http://www.calvarychurchstonington.org
St. Mark's, Mystic: https://stmarksmystic.org
St. James', New London: http://www.stjamesnl.org
St. David's, Gales Ferry: http://www.saintdavidsgf.org
Christ Church, Norwich: http://www.cecnorwichct.org
St. James, Preston: https://www.stjamespreston.org
St. John's, Niantic: https://www.stjohnsniantic.org
St. Ann's, Old Lyme: https://www.saintannsoldlyme.org
St. Stephen's, East Haddam: https://www.ststeves.org
St. John's, Essex: https://stjohnsessex.org
Grace, Old Saybrook: https://www.graceoldsaybrook.org
Holy Advent, Clinton: http://www.holyadventclinton.org
St.Andrew's, Madison: https://standrewsmadison.org


Contact for Retired Clergy

The Reverend Diana Rogers 

Clinton Church of the Holy Advent
 81 East Main Street
P.O. Box 536
Clinton, CT 06413-0536

Email: holyadvent@sbcglobal.net
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