From Rachel -

I was talking with someone during a prolonged job search many years ago about trying to listen for possibilities and keeping up with contacts and getting my resume out. His reply: “That’s it, keep your ear to the ground and your nose to the grind – and then just try to find a job from that position.” He had a point. (Try it physically and see where it gets you.)
 
I think of his words now because, alas, a year into COVID-19 lockdown, I am getting the sense that we are all in a position of trying to power through our prolonged Lenten life. Folks have made the transition to Zoom or YouTube or Facebook live – and are “over it.” We have gotten used to wearing masks and keeping our distance. And we are tired of it. Yet we keep pushing on with what we’ve been doing: ear to the ground, nose to the grind. We’ve learned how to do this.

I am not suggesting that we stop worshiping on-line and create outdoor spaces to prayerfully, safely gather. It’s where my heart is, but I shoveled enough snow this week to know that it’s not a realistic option. I am suggesting that we seek a different posture in our worship. I take my cue from the words of Matthew 6 that we just heard on Ash Wednesday:
 
“When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.” (Matthew 6:17)
The Rev. Gillian Barr offered this practice in Calvary, Stonington’s Ash Wednesday time of worship (you can see it here: https://events.locallive.tv/events/46031). An invitation to mark ourselves with oil, remembering the words spoken at baptism: “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit at baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” I’ve begun doing this daily as a Lenten practice, to remember that I am a redeemed, loved child of God by the grace and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
This daily marking means remembering the promises of the baptismal covenant. Even in the midst of Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, masks, and distancing, I am to proclaim the good news, to continue in Jesus’ teaching and life of repentance, to seek and serve Christ in all people, to respect the dignity of all.
It also means remembering that I am a part of something much bigger than my Zoom rectangle or laptop screen. In a very real way, the daily marking invites me to get out of my box – whether it is in walking new parks or new neighborhoods, or reading different voices.
 

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll try starting to stand through all of on-line worship instead of sitting on my comfy chair, remembering the words of Eucharistic Prayer B, “You have made us worthy to stand before you.”
 
What’s your posture right now? How might God’s Spirit be inviting you to reflect in your body the love and grace you’ve been given? I’d love to hear from you!
Rachel
 
P.S. The Rev. Erin Flinn also offered a way of moving through Lent with a focus on our hearts in St. Stephen’s, East Haddam, Ash Wednesday worship found here. And she knelt – a good posture to use, also.

Photos: Ashes to Go at St. John's, Essex; Ash Wednesday worship at St. Ann's Old Lyme in their Memorial Garden
Community Gardens in the Southeast Region
While the ground is still covered in snow, those who work in gardens see this time of year as a time to plan! On January 16th, the Community Garden Ministry Network of the Episcopal Church in CT met for a Catch Up and Start Up time over Zoom. You can hear about all the Community Gardens across ECCT here: https://www.episcopalct.org/Find-Resources/ministry-networks/community-garden/
 
In the SE Region, we have several community gardens, and we asked folks from St. Andrew’s, Madison; Holy Advent, Clinton; Grace Church, Old Saybrook; and St. Ann’s, Old Lyme to share a bit about their gardening work during COVID. They came back with favorite moments, ways they connect with God while gardening, and general information.
And, if you’re in a parish that doesn’t have the property to have a full-fledged garden, consider what St. James’, New London is planning for this year: a parishioner has offered land at her home to use to produce for Our Lord’s Pantry at St. James!
From Barbara Harms, Common Goods Gardens Volunteer,
Grace Church,
Old Saybrook

How does your gardening life affect your relationship with God and with others?

There is an adage among gardeners: “One’s nearer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” While working in the garden one cannot escape the wonder and beauty, the intricacies of God’s creation. How can one tiny seed within months produce dozens of pounds of juicy, vitamin packed tomatoes? Notice that bee deep within a zucchini flower moving on to others, pollinating them and causing nutritious vegetables to grow! Hear the bird songs; notice the earthworm’s work. These can only be the work of God!

Gardeners tend to be a joyful bunch, and many hands make lighter work when it comes to growing tons of food. This year, due to Covid, many volunteers did not feel able to help as they had previously. For those of us who did choose to come, with safety guidelines in place, we were blessed with a social outlet and camaraderie we needed more than ever. In the relative safety of the fresh air, with masks on, using our own tools and keeping our distances, we were still able to connect and serve.

The garden gives me the opportunity to witness God’s miracles constantly, to have the blessing of being a part of helping people in need, and to be able to participate in all that with others. For me, working in the garden is a hymn of praise.
From Brenda Naegel, St. Andrew’s, Madison

Describe your favorite moment in the garden:

It is difficult to pinpoint one favorite moment as nature itself provides one amazing moment after the next! Every visit to the garden reveals something magical—something budding where there was only dirt before, a perfect vegetable ready to pick and share, a gorgeous blossom, and an interesting insect or bird passing through. The most outstanding moments are when we have many age groups helping in the garden: from the little ones who are just able to hold a hose or pick a tomato, to the energetic youth who are willing to attempt any new skill you throw their way, to the mature gardeners who lend their expertise and talents. In sum, the garden provides such a unique opportunity where everyone can gather and participate in large and small ways for the greater good.

Beyond favorite moments, gardening this past year during the pandemic provided a rare “normal” moment. It was the one place we could go and be naturally socially distanced—talking over fences to garden neighbors to comment on the weather, strategizing how to tackle the latest gardening issue, and generally catching up in person after several long months of quarantine where two-dimensional faces had become the norm. Who knew how good it would feel to be distracted by the state of a cucumber plant rather than the latest news of the virus!
How does your gardening life affect your relationship with God and with others?

As I consider this question, I am compelled to say that my relationship with God affects my gardening life more than the reverse. I have gardened for many years and what began as just a desire to be outside enjoying nature and making things look pretty by planting flowers and such, has evolved into a response to a call to be a steward of God’s creation. Over time, I have become more aware of how broken our food systems are in this country and gardening is just one small way we can each make a difference to begin to heal that brokenness which distances us from our ability to grow food and ultimately from God.

Growing nourishing food locally is a positive response to just one of myriad sustainability issues that we face and is very doable. And further, sharing the fruits of one’s labors with those who are less able to access wholesome produce is again part of that call to serve and take care of our neighbors. Gardening is a truly humbling experience and reminds me that we walk humbly with God when we garden as we are really only there to coax things along—God is really doing the heavy lifting! When it comes to how my gardening life affects my relationship with others, I’ve learned that gardening is much more fun and rewarding when you do it with others. I am constantly learning from other gardeners and from nature itself.
The Food for All Garden

From Holly Richards, Holy Advent, Clinton

The Food for All Garden was very blessed: despite the pandemic and the many challenges of Covid-19 and the other garden-related issues we faced, we were able to continue with our mission. The Shoreline Pantries experienced an unprecedented number of families who received assistance in 2020. The Clinton Pantry on many occasions expressed their appreciation for all the produce that we are able to provide. The garden received an outpouring of support from the community, and with the tremendous effort from our volunteers, we were able to provide over 9000 pounds of fresh produce to the Shoreline Pantries in 2020. A total of 2040 volunteer hours was logged in, and we are so thankful for all their help. We are grateful to the new owner of Shoreline Garden Center (previously Shoreline Gardens) and their continued support, donating the majority of the seedlings that we grew. And we give thanks to the church for the use of the Parish Hall and its facilities. It is always greatly appreciated.
Looking ahead to the next growing season, we anticipate a continuation of a great need for food assistance in our community. The garden again will follow CDC guidelines to help maintain a healthy environment for our volunteers. We are looking forward to a safe and productive 2021 growing season. 
The Garden Gang

From Sue Joffray and Liz Jacobowitz, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Old Lyme
 
The Garden Gang at Saint Ann’s Episcopal Church enjoys tremendously our time spent working together. The camaraderie, especially during COVID, and sense of being productive, contributed to our own well-being. Our favorite moment each week has been viewing the full baskets of eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, squash, basil and other herbs, when the bounty is ready to go to The Shoreline Soup Kitchen Pantry at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. We imagine the joy on people’s faces as they select their weekly vegetables and know they are locally grown, and pesticide free

Our group started several years ago, by building eight raised beds and plotting out how to best use the space for our needs. We were motivated by the opportunity to work in God’s earth, supplying food to His needy and enjoying the opportunity to be with each other.

We assign ourselves to special days for watering, but as a group we meet every Thursday afternoon. And we do have fun. Putting up tomato cages or bean trellises can be a time of great laughter. How many gardeners does it take to put up one cage? We are a group of six ladies, some very knowledgeable about gardening and some happy to just be workers. As we dig and plant, we catch up on each other’s lives. Feeling the sun, breeze and gentle rain as we work, reinforces our closeness to God and His great bounty. 

A Prayer

O God, creator and source of life, we thank you for the gifts given from your abundance and through the work of human hands, by which we are all blessed with nourishing food. Pour your blessings on all farms and on the multitude of fruits, grains and vegetables nourished by their soils. Pour your blessings on those who work the land in love and reverence, that the earth may yield its abundance and that we your children may be fed. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Community of the Sisters of the Church, p141, “God’s Good Earth” by Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn.) 
Volunteer Greenhouse Space

We would love to hear from anyone with experience in gardening in a greenhouse. Our Lord’s Pantry in St. James’, New London, is feeding a lot of people (over 100,000 meals last year), and produce is expensive. If there are folks who could come together to offer space for a greenhouse and maintain it, with the proceeds going to Our Lord’s Pantry – that would be a huge gift. We think there are grants available to help, but time is of the essence. Please contact Lori Sarkett or Rachel Thomas if you can help.  

Collaboration is a blessing
By Judie Blackman-Cochran
(Grace, Yantic) and
Robert Peck
(St. James, Preston)
 
St. James, Preston and Grace Church, Yantic, have a long standing commitment to collaboration, having been very active together in the former regional Deanery. When the two parishes began to share clergy, parishioners started coming together at each of our Parish Halls to assist the other to provide Fish and Chips and Chicken Pie Suppers. As we came to know one another, the Holy Friendship was formed. We began to address a challenge: How can we do God's work when the laborers are few? The recent collaboration of the Holy Friendship has been helping with the Sunday Norwich Community Meal.
 
The collaboration began when a vestry member from St. James contacted the community meal coordinators about taking on one of the Sundays with Scout Troop 75 of Preston, and Grace Church had also talked about becoming involved with the community meal. Subsequently, representatives from both churches met at Lee Memorial Church, where the Sunday community meal was being held at the time. When Covid-19 came in March, the meal changed from a hot meal made on the premises to a boxed lunch given out to people at St. Vincent de Paul Place.

Mid-summer 2020 we asked members of Christ Church in Norwich to join us. We got together in October with three representative church members and picked a menu. Meeting outdoors at Grace and socially distanced, we divided up what we thought were the items needed for a lunch for 120 people. Members of St. James, Grace, and Christ Church committed to working under protocols for the pandemic and signed up for a Sunday in late November. The Scouts of Troop 75 stepped up to help parishioners prepare meals. Preparation spanned some fifty households baking cookies, making turkey wraps and collecting fruit and water. The meal items were bagged in Martin Hall at Grace Church with five volunteers, all masked. Our first community meal was delivered and distributed to over one hundred people on November 22nd of 2020. A good time was had by all. It was fun to see everyone!
 
With this project a success, in January of this year we picked three more dates to work together doing the Community Meal. Neither St. James nor Grace has been able to have its Chicken Pie Suppers or the annual Fish and Chip dinners due to Covid-19 restrictions. The social aspects of those events are truly missed. On the bright side, three churches and a Boy Scout Troop have developed a lasting relationship that serves the needs of many in the greater Norwich area, and the organizations have seen an increase of members who would like to help with the Community Meal.
Ways to be fed by Word and Sacraments this Lent
Daily:
St. Mark’s, Mystic, 2021 Lenten Reflections: Join Pastor Adam each weekday of Lent as we walk slowly through the Passion Gospel according to John. Each day we will reflect on 1-4 verses of John 18-19, pose a question, and share a prayer On YouTube (videos go live at 6:30 a.m.) or in Print
Print link: Download a 16-page pamphlet with all 33 reflections by clicking here.
 
On demand: The Valley of Grief: A Lenten Prayer Journey, Christ Church, Norwich (https://christchurchnorwich.org/lent-2021/)
The valley of grief is one we have become well acquainted with this past year. Lent seems an especially appropriate time to pause and reflect, giving space for our grief. 
Join us for a 5-week at-home Lenten Prayer Journey, offered by the Rev. Stacey Kohl.
 
Sundays, St. Stephen’s, East Haddam:
Book Study (beginning about 11:30 a.m.) of Presiding Bishop Curry’s new book Love is The Way. There will be a time of reflection and story sharing after worship each Sunday.

Wednesdays, St. John’s, Essex:
10:00 a.m. Prayers for healing and spiritual communion over zoom;
5:00 p.m. Wind down your Wednesday evenings with fellow parishioners on Zoom for a meditative and quiet prayer service
 
Wednesdays, St. James, New London:
A Lenten series will be offered via zoom at 6:00 p.m. It will be based on The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus- Centered Life. We will focus each night on a different spiritual practice that is offered at St. James and we will discuss other ways we connect with God. March 3 – Pray, featuring Compline; March 10 - Rest –featuring Centering Prayer; March 17 - Worship – featuring music as a spiritual practice..March 24, Bless and Go - featuring fellow parishioners about the work they do in the community.
 
Thursdays, Calvary, Stonington: (except Maundy Thursday, extending into Easter Season)
7:00 p.m. on Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87506473421#success),
Each week we will focus on a different spiritual practice in the “Way of Love.” During the week in between sessions we will each try on that week's practice in our own lives and then we will reflect on our experiences the following week.
 
Thursdays, St. Paul’s, Westbrook: online Bible Study at 7:00 p.m. We are having some wonderful discussions and all are welcome to join us.

Fridays at 8:00 a.m.: The Rev. Ron Steed continues to offer Guided Healing Prayer via Zoom.
By phone:+1 301 715 8592; Meeting ID: 841 7355 5856; Passcode: 041951

Fridays, St. Ann’s, Old Lyme:
3:30 p.m. in the Memorial Garden, Stations of the Cross (February 19 through March 26). 
Turning To Bless

This last year has brought us face to face with mortality, injustice, limits -- what else? As Christians we believe in a God who makes all things new; who brings life out of death and whose Spirit prompts us to join God's work of repairing brokenness.

And at the same time, we are perhaps prone to being stuck in past ways, and have trouble discerning - or trusting - those new small voices.

The Rev. Rachel Thomas, SE Region Missionary for the Episcopal Church in CT, invites you to this time to name, lament, and offer expressions of mourning, for wherever we have each experienced brokenness this last year: to receive God's blessing in those places. And then to TURN: to name the new urgings we are experiencing, as we seek to carry forth God's blessing in a new way in the days to come.
Saturday March 27, 2021
 9 AM EST
Lenten Quiet Day at Camp Washington
 
Join us for a time of reflection and renewal in the midst of your Lenten journey. Our time together will be held outside in the chapel (weather permitting) while observing all physical distance guidelines. The day will consist of four sections: Each presenter will offer a reflection/meditation followed by an activity such as journaling, discussion, walking, and other hands-on activities. You are welcome to bring a bag lunch to enjoy after the program. There is no charge for this program however registration is required.

"
Ways to continue following Jesus
as disciples and apostles: 

Episcopal Relief and Development Fund

The Episcopal Relief and Development Fund supports global issues and US disaster responses. They are currently working with many different organizations to bring food, warmth, and shelter to people in need in the state of Texas. We have provided a link for those who would like to donate to help those still struggling from the storms Texas has been facing.
Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare Drive-thru Food Distribution Sites

Mondays from 9:30 a.m.-noon - in the parking lot across from Pistol Pete's Bar And Grill (28 Stonington Road, Norwich)

4th Thursday of the month at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, 222 McVeagh Rd., Westbrook,
10:00 a.m. - noon.


A few parishes have supported the work of the Homeless Hospitality Center in New London by collecting supplies for cleaning, for those moving into new homes; and by collecting blankets. These are always welcome!
 
A kit would include these items: Mop, Broom, Paper towels, Toilet paper, Dish soap, Disinfectant cleaner (Lysol, Fantastic, or other multipurpose cleaner), Glass cleaner, Bathroom cleaner, Sponges, & Floor cleaner. Please contact Deacon Ron Steed at 860-326-9576 if you’re willing to help. Thank you
For the Unemployed:
Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen . (BCP, p. 824)
Calvary, Stonington offers Monday Luncheons to go during Lent: good food and funds that towards outreach projects 

Join ECCT Archivist Greg Farr and other panel researchers for a discussion on research strategies and resources available to engage in the work directed by Resolution #7 from our last Annual Convention. Knowing ourselves as individuals, groups, and societies begins by remembering the past, and this work is informed by historical research. This Faithful Futures event will focus on initiating such research and on the shared experience of researchers already engaged in the work of discovering their parish’s complicity in racism and the social institution of slavery.
ECCT Stories: Joining Jesus: Cathedral Redevelopment Project
Written by The Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral.
 
The Cathedral Redevelopment Project is a venture whose seeds were planted seven years ago, bearing fruit of creativity, innovation, and hope for our collective participation in God’s mission at the corner of Church and Main street in Hartford and beyond. Read the full blog post here.
If you would like to contribute a story, reflection, poem, art, etc. to the ECCT Stories blog, please send an email to storytelling@episcopalct.org to be considered. Please keep it to under 600 words (in a Word Doc preferred) and any photos/images you'd like included.
2020 Parochial Report and ECCT's RHJ&R Addendum
Due online March 1 to TEC and ECCT
 
The 2020 Parochial Report is now available on the General Convention website and is due March 1. Instructions are available in English, Spanish, and French. The 2020 report includes a new narrative section, which invites congregations to reflect on the opportunities and challenges encountered in the midst of the pandemic. Also new are questions about online worship and the impact the pandemic has had on congregational life and finances. The report also asks about the congregation’s involvement in racial justice and reconciliation work. ECCT's RHJ&R Addendum is also due March 1 and can be completed online.
Safe Church Training Winter 2021
 
All ECCT Safe Church Training (SCT) includes an online course followed by a 3-hour live session on Zoom. This training is grounded in our call to seek and serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being. It offers an opportunity to increase and enhance our ability to live out our Baptismal Covenant within our communities of faith and in the world beyond.


More Resources from the wider church

Announcing "The Commons Companion" Resource for Parish Leaders

Now available on ECCT's website
 
ECCT Finance and Operations Team worked ardently over the last several months re-designing and expanding the former "Treasurers Newsletter." The newly designed resource "The Commons Companion" will serve to facilitate parish leaders in the following areas including; best practices, finance and human resources, clergy compensation, administration, and much more. 


Grants from The Episcopal Church

Application deadlines vary
 
New Episcopal Community Grants, deadline March 15, 2021: The Episcopal Church’s New Episcopal Communities grants are intended to support operating/program expenses such as salary and benefits, insurance, rent, educational materials, and other operating needs, and are open to any New Episcopal Community with a sponsoring Episcopal diocese. The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on Church Planting and Congregational Redevelopment announced that its sixth set of grants are now available for Episcopal dioceses and mission developers who are envisioning, planning, or growing new worshipping communities and missional enterprises throughout the church. Four categories of grants are now available including Discernment, Seed, Growth, and Harvest grants.
 
Creation Care Grants, deadline March 26, 2021: Recognizing that much has changed in our world this past year and that much work needs to be done, in this grant round the Task Force seeks to support long-term ministries that focus on addressing the inequitable and systemic impacts of environmental racism and support regional and local collaborative ecojustice projects.
 
Becoming Beloved Community Grants, deadline April 12, 2021: The Presiding Officers’ Advisory Group on Beloved Community Implementation is pleased to announce the availability of grants to catalyze the church’s work of racial healing, reconciliation and justice. Allocated by the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, the intent for this funding is to build capacity and increase Episcopal engagement in four primary fields: telling the truth about our churches and race, proclaiming the dream of Beloved Community, practicing Jesus’ way of healing and reconciliation, and repairing the breach in institutions and society. 

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

Click here if you would like to subscribe to enews
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