July 30, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
The Vestry and Wardens of St. PJ's are excited to announce that we will be joined by a new part-time priest-in-charge in September: the Rev. Stacey Kohl! We are looking forward to growing in partnership with her and seeing what the Spirit has up Her sleeve for the next chapter for our community! She will be joining us for three Sundays a month, and doing important work during the week. Continue reading for an introductory note from Rev. Stacey:
As the now infamous line from the classic late-90s movie, Jerry Maguire, says “You had me at hello.” St. Paul and St. James had me at hello or, perhaps more accurately, at the line I discovered when I googled St. Paul and St. James: “Centered on Jesus, Jazz, and Justice. All are welcome.” Jesus, Jazz, and Justice, and all are welcome — sign me up; and you did!
I am overjoyed to be joining the community of St. Paul & St. James as your next priest-in-charge. I thought, perhaps, you all might like to learn a bit more about me as we step forward together.
I am a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and am a cradle-Christian. I’m sure you’ll notice I didn’t say “cradle Episcopalian.” I was raised in the Southern Baptist church and spent many years participating in ministry within the evangelical world, including serving on staff of a mega-church for almost ten years. I can imagine, for some of you, the words “evangelical” and “Southern Baptist” can raise some alarm bells, as they have sadly become synonymous with some very troubling beliefs and behaviors. Perhaps you are even wondering, who has our Vestry chosen for us?
Well, rest assured, while my formation as a follower of Christ may have begun in the conservative evangelical world, it did not end there! God never stops revealing God’s-self and transforming us day after day. God has continued to walk with me, encouraging me to release harmful belief systems that were damaging to myself and others and embrace the expansive, welcoming, and open “Way of Love.”
Together with my husband, Zach, I made the move to Connecticut in 2012. Here we found not only a new physical home (both of us fell in love with Connecticut!), but a new spiritual one as well in The Episcopal Church at St. John’s, West Hartford.
It was while at St. John’s, I first acknowledged the call to ordained ministry God had placed in my heart long ago. As someone who identifies as female, my call to ordained ministry was not recognized or welcomed in the evangelical world of my youth. I had spent years attempting to deny who I was, and now I found myself being encouraged to embrace the fullness of who I am, a woman, an artist, a storyteller, and a priest..
Since my ordination to the priesthood I have served as Curate at St. Mark’s, Mystic, priest-in-charge at Christ Episcopal Church, Norwich, and most recently as Communications & Media Associate at ECCT. My family, including Zach, our 4-year-old, Henry, and our English Cocker Spaniel, Kermit, now call New London home. We are all looking forward to getting to know each of you; to share more of our stories and, even more so, to learn yours as we step forward on this journey together.
Blessings to you all and see you in September!
Breaking out of our comfort zone
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
Power in coming together
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,
A god who gives us strength
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!
PJs Wardens and Vestry