Dear PJs Community,
Don’t worry, I will spare you from delving into the history of annual parish meetings, annual meetings, or meetings more generally… Instead I’ll just say that you won’t want to miss our annual meeting this Sunday over Zoom at 1 pm! We will reflect on the past year – the accomplishments, challenges, joys, changes, constants that our strong and steadfast community faced – and look ahead to what’s in store for this coming year.
We will hear reports from the Whitneyville Cultural Commons, our marvelous Minister of Pastoral Care, our formidable Music Director, and our trusty Treasurer, plus some updates from myself and my co-warden Brian on where we are as a parish. We’ll also vote in new Vestry members and approve the budget.
By holding the meeting at 1 pm, that should hopefully give enough time for those who have braved the snow to attend in person church to make it home and get some lunch before the meeting, and we should be done before Sunday afternoon football starts! Please don’t hesitate to email or call if you have any trouble accessing the Zoom meeting.
Stay warm, stay safe, and see you all tomorrow!
Dear PJs Community,
We have all heard it enough, “Transition is the New Normal”. But what does that mean for us as a Parish? It could mean anything from predictable unpredictability to turmoil and bewilderment. On Wednesday night, your Vestry met for our regular monthly meeting, and it was reassuring that some things are not changing. There is no change in the dedication, commitment, and faithfulness of this hardworking group. We reviewed our financial situation and with the expert guidance of our treasurer, David Hill, we settled on a budget for 2022 that keeps us solidly in the black. There was also considerable brainstorming around the most obvious issue of finding a new Priest-in-Charge. There is consensus that our priority is the quality and continuity of our worship services. A Priest-in-Charge is part-time, and we think the focus of that time should be on worship.
In years past, a Parish in transition would hire an interim Priest, then spend months writing a “Parish Profile” that the Diocese would use to promote the open position. The Diocese would screen applicants and then provide the Parish a list of candidates. They would be interviewed, and the Parish would pay for any travel expenses, then the Priest would be selected by the Vestry. Obviously, this was a time consuming and resource intensive process. The whole process could last up to 3 years. The current process simply involves the Bishop appointing a part-time Priest-in-Charge that has been approved by the Vestry.
Transition not only describes what we are facing as a Parish, but also what the Diocese of CT and the wider Episcopal Church is facing. While the number of parishes in need of a priest is increasing, there is a shortage of clergy. The turnover is more rapid, Priest-in-Charge appointments average about 3 years. Meanwhile, the number of Diocesan staff working on this process has been reduced. Even God’s work is hampered by the “supply chain” thing! Your co-
warden, Claire Cody, continues to be in conversation with the Diocesan Transition Minister to move our case along and looks forward to her scheduling time to meet with us, because until then our opening won’t even be listed on the Diocesan website. So those members of your Vestry that have contacts in the world of Clergy or the Divinity School are going to start circulating the word about our situation.
So, while “Transition is the New Normal”, patience is still a virtue! The process will take time but realize that your Vestry and Wardens are making every effort to advance our cause. We must also acknowledge the major contributions of our Pastoral Care Team, lay-preachers, musicians, technical team, Altar Guild, Parish staff and Sexton to keep the wheels at St. PJ’s turning. I strongly urge all of you to “Zoom” into our Annual Meeting on January 30th at 1:00 pm to learn more details of our budget, an update on the use of our building, the goals for next year’s Capital Campaign, the approval of new Vestry members and more. You will have to supply your own coffee and cookies! I hope to see you there. A Zoom link will be sent out by email shortly before the meeting.
Finally, I’ll share this "Prayer during a time of transition" published by an Episcopal Church in Texas several years ago during their Clergy search.
“God of love, in this interim time we pray for our Parish family, that we may be genuine in our self-reflection, tireless in our commitment, patient in our discernment, loving in our communication, open in our search, imaginative about our future, and daring in our faith. Be with us as we move forward, empowered by the love of Jesus Christ. Amen."
"Be well, be safe, hold hope and keep the faith"
Dear St. PJs community,
On Monday, we celebrate and remember the inspiring and influential life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a man grounded in his faith, who believed deeply in the Christian notions of freedom, equality and justice, and that we have the power to make these a reality now.
This past October, St. PJs hosted a visit from Bishop Ian Douglas. Before the Sunday service, Bishop Ian met with the wardens, church leaders and Vestry. At that point, we were mostly anxious and curious about what the next steps would be after Harlon’s re-retirement – we trusted that the bishop would have all of the answers to our questions: When will we have a new priest? Who will that person be? Frustratingly, he urged us to be patient and have faith that the Holy Spirit, who is already mightily at work in our little parish, is continuing to do Her work and will lead us to the right person in God’s time. While this wasn’t particularly reassuring, I did settle down a bit, knowing there wasn’t much we could do at the time.
Instead, for most of our meeting, Bishop Ian had given us some homework: to read Dr. King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” He then led us in a discussion of the letter, urging us to focus on what it means to us today to be a church, particularly in a historically white, powerful denomination, and how Dr. King’s words from 1963 can continue to speak to us today.
I must confess ashamedly, I had never read the letter before, at least not deeply or in its entirety. If you have not read it before, or if it has been a while, I would recommend it. There is a button to click below where you can access the full letter. I know that many of us in the discussion with the bishop in October were struck by how it could have been written today, and how many of the points Dr. King makes continue to be relevant, if not even truer than before.
For a bit of context, Dr. King wrote this letter while he was sitting in jail after having been arrested in one of his non-violent demonstrations. While in jail, he saw a piece in a newspaper penned by eight white religious leaders, mostly from Jewish and mainline Christian denominations, entitled “Call for Unity.” In this piece, the authors (which included two Episcopal bishops), admonished the civil rights demonstrations, saying that it wasn’t the right time to bring up these issues, and the protesters weren’t going about it in the right way. Do these arguments sound familiar? In any case, this made Dr. King angry, and he wrote this letter in response.
I will highlight a few passages that particularly struck me, and encourage you to read the rest on your own time.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." ”
“Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”
“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." … So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”
"I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows."
My friends, it is always the right time to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We must be the ones to do God’s work in this world. This MLK day, I encourage you to absorb and ponder Dr. King’s words, then let them guide you to action.
O God in these turbulent days when fear and doubt are mounting high give us broad visions, penetrating eyes, and power of endurance. Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world, for a better distribution of wealth and for a brother/sisterhood that transcends race or color. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.
(Prayer written by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King)
Dear St. PJs community,
I spend some time every day at the level of an almost nine-month-old, watching and responding to her investigate her immediate world. Letitia never tires of hide and seek.” Where’s Grandma go?” I call out as I crouch behind a corner, making sure I hide my face, because it seems I am really hidden from view if she can’t see my expression (!). Off she charges, crawling as fast as she can until she starts to laugh hysterically, the closer she gets to ‘finding’ me. The game is hilarious to Letitia. The repetition and expectation of finding someone she knows makes all the difference.
During this season of Epiphany, we hear about manifestations of Jesus which highlight his divine heritage, beginning with the visit of the Magi. As baby Letitia follows my voice to find me, so the wise men follow a star to locate the baby Jesus. All of us need assistance to navigate life… a familiar voice to guide, a community to support, and, most importantly, an opportunity to become more acquainted with Jesus.
When you experience a moment of spiritual connection, how do you feel? Are you overwhelmed with joy, like Letitia? Maybe you sense a refreshing peace in your soul. Acknowledge and be grateful because it won’t last forever. It’s curious to watch a baby’s face change so abruptly from a wide opened shout of joy back to a straightforward expression of, “So, what shall we do next?” We adults are so burdened by cares; can we heed a baby’s natural temperament that allows her to reach for the next experience? God will lead us into new blessings when we follow. How do we know the way? Hang out with others who are also curious and eager to meet Jesus. Spend time in prayer, alone, as Jesus did. And give thanks.
In the name of the Trinity of love
God in community, holy and one (Iona Community blessing)
Tudy Hill, Minister of Pastoral Care
PJs Wardens and Vestry