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,
PJs Wardens and Vestry