July 23, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Last Sunday, the PJ’s community tried yet another new thing! We left our familiar space to travel across town to worship with another Episcopal community at St Thomas’s on Whitney Ave. Its lovely stone edifice has always seemed to be HUGE to me as I drive by it often, but walking up those steps that day, it was not so big and inside, it was very welcoming.
I dare say our PJ’s contingent matched or perhaps outnumbered the congregants of St. Thomas. (It is July, after-all!) I noticed we were all decked out in our Sunday Church clothes too. I was proud of us being there to support this endeavor!
Rev. Keri Aubert, their rector, preached on the familiar Martha and Mary story. She focused her comments on the change Mary was proposing by her presence at Jesus’ feet, rather than staying in the kitchen, the designated position for women. Mary was changing the expectations and paradigm of that day.
So, in some small way, perhaps we were also changing the dynamic by breaking out of our comfort zone, by a simple ride across town to worship with new sisters and brothers. Who knows what this gesture will mean for us?
On August 7th, we will welcome folks from St Thomas to worship with us at PJ’s. Who knows what this change may bring? God is among us all and breathing fresh air and life among us and within each and everyone.
Blessed be our God now and forever!
Marilyn J. Bergen, Vestry member
July 9, 2022
Dear PJs Community,
When I first arrived in New Haven, I was fresh out of college and just starting graduate school. This was the first time I felt like I was really “adulting” - renting an apartment, paying bills, etc. - and the farthest away from home I had ever lived. At some point, I decided to check out some nearby churches, to see if I could find a church community. Having grown up Episcopalian, I thought I would start with checking out an Episcopal church. I became very quickly overwhelmed! From driving and biking around New Haven, I had seen multiple Episcopal churches. From some Googling, I discovered that there are seven Episcopal churches in New Haven. Seven! In addition to the Episcopal Church at Yale.
I started trying a couple different ones, but didn’t make it too far through my list. St. PJ’s was the second of the seven that I went to, and I immediately knew it was home. I felt the warmth of the people, the willingness to try new things, the commitment to justice and the community, and not to mention some incredible music!
Even as I knew that PJ’s was my church home, I started asking about whether there was any collaboration, any sharing, any joint services or anything between all the different Episcopal churches (and other places of worship!) in New Haven. The answers I got were a bit vague, dated, or simply no.
We are living in what Bishop Ian calls the “new missional age” of the church. In 2020, for the first time since the data has been collected, less than half of Americans reported belonging to a house of worship (church, synagogue, or mosque). In general, churches are faced with declining membership and aging populations. We are living in a time where the church is no longer the center of society, and it is forcing churches and churchgoers to think more deeply and creatively about what it means to be “church” and how we live out the Gospels today.
In my opinion, this is a time of opportunity. We can no longer rely on the power and privilege that the Episcopal church held in New Haven for decades. We must instead refocus on mission, on community, on each other. It is up to us to look towards the future, to recenter ourselves in Jesus’ example of radical love, rather than getting caught up in grieving what the “church” once was.
I think PJ’s is already living into this opportunity. We are willing to try new things, to explore new possibilities such as our partnership with the Whitneyville Cultural Commons, to have these conversations and look to the future, as the group involved in the Reimagining Church project can tell us.
The next thing we are trying is a new partnership with our neighbor Episcopal church, St. Thomas’s! For two Sundays this summer, we are inviting each other to join in worship. On July 17th, St. PJ’s will be closed and worship will be held at St. Thomas’s. On August 7th, we will invite St. Thomas’s to join us in return. Check out the flyer below for more details. It is my hope that this is just the beginning of more collaboration between our two parishes and hopefully others in the future!
Another new collaboration is a New Haven-wide Vacation Bible Camp the first week of August. Spearheaded by Trinity on the Green, this is another opportunity for all of the New Haven churches to share resources and work together.
I truly believe that the way we can change the world is by coming together. There is power in sharing resources, focusing on a common goal, reaching out to our neighbors, building connections, and learning from each other. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19–20.)
I’m excited to continue building partnerships and collaborations, within our community and beyond!
Peace and blessings,
July 2, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
This holiday weekend, I'm feeling like there is a lot to pray for in our nation. There always is. A lot to despair about, a lot of news to make hearts weary.
But I'm also trying to hold on to good news, to hope. I'm remembering the countless people: activists, organizers, teachers, leaders, who are tirelessly working for justice, peace, healing, and freedom in this world. I'm celebrating that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in this week as our first Black female Supreme Court justice. I'm smiling because despite a rough start to the season, my little tomato plant is now growing big and strong.
And I'm remembering the best news of all - that we follow a God who loves everyone as children, a God who gives us strength in our lowest moments, a God who calls us to stand up against injustice, inequality, and oppression.
I share with you the Collect for Social Justice from our Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Claire Cody, co-warden
P. S. Mark your calendars now for out "church exchange" with St. Thomas's! More details are below. On July 17th, let's show up at St. Thomas's as a strong representation of St. PJ's - to make new friends, to worship with our neighbors, and to learn from each other!
June 18, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Today, Saturday, June 18, 2022 there will be a gathering of thousands, hopefully hundreds of thousands, of people in the nation's capital for the “Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls”.
In 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America. They sought to build a broad, fusion movement that could unite poor and oppressed communities across the country. They named this effort: "The Poor People’s Campaign. "
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described two Americas, "One small and beautiful where some have freedom, dignity and plenty, and the other where millions are daily constrained by the harsh realities of poverty." Here, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, over 140 million people either live in poverty, or are just one health crisis, accident, or job loss away from financial calamity. In the country with the largest military budget ever, we lose more soldiers to suicide than we do on the battlefield. There exists no shortage of resources or tools to help our veterans or the poor, rather, there is a scarcity of political will and moral consciousness.
Today, the "Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival" has reorganized to continue Dr. King’s unfinished work. Co-chairs of this campaign, The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, are organizing people “to come together to confront the interlocking injustices of poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism”. These are each huge and complex issues and addressing them will require a movement "that will shift the moral narrative, impact policies, and influence elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor and impacted people".
In their May 2018 TED Talk, Drs. Theoharis and Barber discuss poverty as a human creation, the result of people not following God's will. They seek to change the narrative about why people are poor. They advocate for living wages, guaranteed income, and universal health care. And they describe how, in times of moral crises, people in this country have organized, risen up, and demanded change, like the abolitionists, and women suffragists. In her recent book, "We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign", Rev. Theoharis writes that Deuteronomy 15 “lays out prescriptions that are given so that the people of God know what to do to ensure that there is no poverty – that God’s bounty is enjoyed by all. It concludes that because people do not follow what God has laid out, ‘there will never cease to be some in need on the earth’ “ Verses 4 & 5 read: “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today”.
She also offers this prayer:
God of justice and life, we lift up to you 140 million of your people who are being abandoned in the midst of abundance. Grant us the wisdom, courage, and love to do your will: to organize society around the needs of the poor. May we strive to make earth as it is in heaven. Amen
If you can’t be in Washington DC, you can tune in to a live-stream of the event here: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/livestream/
Brian Fillmore, co-warden
PJs Wardens and Vestry