Dear Members and Friends of Trinity Church,
We proclaim, during this year’s Stewardship Campaign, the importance of “Renewing our Spirits in Community.” Re-kindling our connection with each other – and with our wider community. This is what will help us not only to endure this time of trial, but also to thrive … even in the midst of ongoing challenges. We will get through this pandemic, together.
We thank you all for your faithfulness through the months of the Coronavirus pandemic. This time of separation has been difficult in many ways. Life as we knew it changed, and it will continue to be different in months to come.
Since my arrival, we have experimented with outdoor worship and fellowship. We experimented with Gazebo Office Hours. We now offer worship streaming live from our beautiful Sanctuary, an adaptation we would never have dreamed of in our pre-pandemic life! Change and adaptation all around.
How can we share the good news of the Gospel, follow Jesus as he heals and transforms, find sustenance in each other’s presence – even as this pandemic continues? Well, our experimentation continues!
The Re-Opening Task Force, the Vestry and the Worship Commission want to share good news about our common life as a Trinity parish family. Beginning on November 1st, Trinity will again offer in-person worship at 9:30 AM in our sanctuary.
We will invite a limited number to share in our live-stream worship, through prior registration, utilizing safe procedures. It is not yet safe to share in congregational singing, and we will continue, at present, to share in spiritual communion, with no distribution of bread or wine. We urge those in high-risk health categories to worship with us at home!
Our live-streaming worship offers comfort to all who continue to shelter safely at home. Our most fervent prayer is that ALL in our Trinity family remain safe. Those over the age of 65, those with health conditions or compromised immune systems, all who are most vulnerable to the effects of the virus … we encourage you to prayerfully consider your safety and remain at home.
Friends, please be assured that we will monitor virus levels around us and determine on a week-by-week basis whether to invite you to the Sanctuary.
Peace be with you, Rev. Andrea
On behalf of our Worship Commission, I invite you to gather with us on the evening of Monday, November 2 to pray for peace and justice in our national election. As people of faith and hope, let us be together in heart, mind, and Spirit, praying for healing and new hope across our land.
Friends, our role is not to be partisan, but to lift up ethical and moral voices in our Christian tradition, sharing readings from scripture and from our Book of Common Prayer. I do encourage you to use your right to vote, to express your conscience as an active participant in our common life.
We plan to gather because we believe God’s Holy Spirit is present in our national life. Individually, we express this belief in a variety of ways according to personal conscience. Collectively, we express this yearning through prayer.
Let us pray for a peaceful transition; for the polarization and demonization which has characterized this election to cease. As the pandemics of COVID19 and of racism continue around us, let us pray for healing to be real. Let us pray that those elected will be guided by God’s Spirit to strive for justice and peace for all of God’s children, for all of God’s creation.
Stay tuned for details of time and location – virtual participation will be possible.
Peace be with you, Rev. Andrea
“Wilderness without a Map”
Matthew 9:35 – 10:23
Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt
June 20, 2020
Trinity Episcopal Church, Newtown CT
When Jesus calls us to follow him, when he sends us out to serve, as lay people and clergy, a GPS would be helpful. When we are on a journey, or a pilgrimage, we want a road map - a clear set of directions, a destination, landmarks, some sense of certainty about the path. Poet William Stafford says: we “want a wilderness with a map.”
In the life of the spirit, following Jesus, there is often no such thing. When we least expect it, we can find ourselves praying, along with Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.”
When Jesus calls us, in Matthew’s Gospel today, when he sends us out to serve, we “want a wilderness with a map.” Instead, we’re off the grid! And sometimes, when we look to the Bible for help, we can’t even get the story straight! The story of Jesus calling fishermen to be disciples - it’s in each of the four Gospels, and it’s different every time!
Matthew, today, and Mark tell it when Jesus is just beginning his ministry. John tells it AFTER the resurrection! It is a story of reconciliation between Jesus and Simon Peter. In Luke, Jesus simply informs Peter “from now on you will be catching people.” It is a proclamation, not an invitation.
With Brother Merton, today, we cannot see the road ahead. We cannot see where it will lead. We met and gathered today wearing masks, actors in a strange play with no script where we don’t even know how to greet one other, social distancing. Can you tell I’m smiling, underneath my mask? My lipstick budget has gone way down!
We’re in the midst of a catastrophe, a global pandemic. There are no rules for how to do this. How do you do a job interview in the time of COVID? Lockdown restrictions are easing, but people are still dying. When will we have treatments, a vaccine? How do we be church, when we cannot gather?
We “want a wilderness with a map.” This life of discipleship, this pilgrimage of the spirit, requires of us a radical sense of openness to the unknown, the unexpected; tragedies, surprises, serendipity, grace. We embark on a journey with Jesus. We don’t know where it will lead. He doesn’t tell us what it will look like. It looks different for each and every one of us, because God’s creation is infinite in its diversity and variety of design.
What of those fishermen who follow Jesus? They drop their nets and walk with him – literally – from town to town, as he preaches and teaches and casts out demons and lays his hands on people and heals them. They walk with him as he performs miracles, as he gets angry in the temple, as he prays. They walk with him to his death; they walk with him in renewed life. Walking with Jesus – no GPS, no map.
Jesus asks for help. Did you notice that?? Wise people know when and how to ask for help. He knew he couldn’t do it alone! Jesus gives some pretty fascinating instructions. 1. Don’t pack too much. Travel light. Stay nimble and flexible. 2. Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Wow. You will be tested. Be savvy. 3. If people can’t accept your gifts, shake the dust off your feet and keep moving! Don’t let anything disrupt your inner peace. 4. Stay humble. Remember it’s the Spirit who speaks through you. You are just the vessel.
Jesus collects people to serve with him. Walking with Jesus also means walking with each other. In the late 1980’s, I was a Chaplain intern at Boston City Hospital, supervised by a Catholic nun. Sister Michele would listen to me, as I spoke of tragedies I saw unfolding in hospital beds. She listened to my frustration at pain I witnessed - AIDS, gunshot wounds – and how there was nothing I could do to make it better.
I will never forget the day she said to me: It’s not about fixing things. “This is a ministry of accompaniment.” We simply walk with people, and share their journey. I have a better understanding now of the power of presence.
Being Church these days is a form of ‘wilderness without a map.’ How do we minister to people, how do we grow disciples - when they’re out there, not in here? How do we fish for people? We have to re-frame our whole paradigm, and that’s not an easy thing to do. After a recent Annual Meeting, I found myself saying ‘We could spend all our time maintaining the bureaucracy – the organizational structure - of yester-year … but I don’t think that’s what Jesus is calling us to do.’
The Holy Spirit is alive and well in unexpected places and people. I found something so compelling in the Episcopal Church, I upended my life to be part of it. It was disruptive. I lost a lot. But I discovered creative, spirit-filled people experimenting with new ways to reach people with the message of Jesus.
I listened to a podcast recently, people who do mission development in our Episcopal Church. And there was the voice of my friend Tom Brackett, who works with the Presiding Bishop. He caught me in his fishing net, gave me hope at a time when I despaired about church. He was talking – on this podcast - about that feeling I named after Annual Meeting – that the organizational structures we created generations ago may actually stifle or inhibit the work of the Spirit.
He said: It’s like people who build (or inherit) a beautiful bird cage and sit around wondering where all the birds are. Those birds are beautiful and they’re out there! Rather than tinkering with the cages, how can we get out there - and find and welcome and bless the birds we long to be around? And invite them.
In 2006 my favorite preacher Barbara Brown Taylor published a book called Leaving Church. There’s a picture on the cover of a bird sailing blissfully out of its birdcage. At the time, I too was leaving a church, and people in it I loved. Jesus was beckoning me to follow him onto the street, a peripatetic ministry called Hospice, on the sacred threshold between life and death. I have always found God in margin places, liminal spaces, places of tragedy and loss.
One of the questions I was asking back in 2007 was this: how can you build a house around a guy who is on the road? How can we build a church around a Savior whose ministry is out in the world? We gather, we are fed, we are sent: how we do so is changing, has been changing for 2,000 years now. Perhaps change is the constant. It is, after all, a Gospel of transformation; how we live it … is in constant motion.
I was up late the other night, and did some research on your founder the Rev. John Beach, whose conversion caused “alarm and consternation” in Newtown. He may be my new personal hero! I formally left the UCC a dozen years ago, and I still haven’t found anyone else who renounced Congregational ordination vows to become an Anglican priest. Now I have John Beach. Beach seems to have fallen under the sway of Samuel Johnson, one of 7 Congregational clergy who renounced their ordination in the ‘Great Apostasy’ at Yale to become Anglican clergy. A colonial wilderness without a map.
I found a blog on the history of Redding about Rev. Beach in 1731:
‘From a serious and prayerful examination of the Scriptures, and of the records of the early ages of the Church, and from the universal acknowledgement of Episcopal government for fifteen hundred years, compared with the recent establishment of Presbyterian and Congregational discipline,’ he was fully persuaded of the invalidity of his ordination, and of the unscriptural method of organizing and governing congregations as by them practiced.
He therefore, ‘In the face of Almighty God,’ had made up his mind to ‘conform to the Church of England, as being Apostolic in her ministry and discipline, orthodox in her doctrine, and primitive in her worship.” Boom! Now I have a companion on my lonely journey.
These days it’s not about an epic battle between Congregationalists and Anglicans in a colonial context. Our time of ministry is so very different. Some call it the end of Christendom, that long era when Church held a prominent place in society. It’s more like we’re back in the earliest days of the Jesus movement – trying to figure out how to share the Gospel to people and cultures who’ve never heard of it! We are those early disciples and apostles, sent out to serve. 1. Pack light. 2. Be wise. 3. Keep moving. 4. Stay humble.
Ministry in the time of COVID, in the latter days of Christendom, is forcing us to experiment with new ways of being church! Is this coming year a digital hybrid, some here, some at home? Would Rev. Beach film a sermon with his IPhone camera, Zoom with his peeps?? I bet he would!
We want a wilderness with a map. Instead, we have our creativity, our willingness to innovate and adapt, a sense of humor – and humility! – and we can find new ways to share the gifts of our Anglican heritage with a new generation. We have each other, spirit companions on the way. Jesus and the disciples and the apostles, we’re on the road TOGETHER. That’s the way it always has been, and always will be. Maybe, that’s all we need. Thanks be to God. Amen.
When will we be able to gather in our Sanctuary at Trinity Church for worship?? This is a frequent question! Let me take this opportunity in our weekly E News to give an update.
How and when to safely “re-open” the Trinity Church building is a matter of discernment and planning. But first, let us remember that the body of Christ – the people of the parish – have never stopped being a Church! We have engaged in worship and carried on with our ministries all through the lockdown.
We spent the summer installing an amazing live-streaming system. We now offer high-quality worship online. We even hired a new Priest! And the question of re-opening our building was necessarily on hold until that person moved to town, unpacked the socks and silverware, and learned a few names.
The very first meeting on my first day of work was, in fact, the question of safely re-opening Trinity Day School. Along with the Wardens and Vestry, we worked closely with the leadership of the School to ensure protocols and policies for safety in this ongoing pandemic. The school is now open. I invite your prayers for these children and families and teachers!!
I also met, immediately, with the “Re-Opening Task Force,” which is a subset of our Vestry. We consult weekly with Diocesan leadership and clergy in the ECCT about best practices, and want to be very clear that our ECCT Bishops, Canons and leaders urge caution about worshipping inside our buildings. The Confirmation service we hoped to have is postponed, in this same abundance of caution. None of us, as clergy, want to be viral super-spreaders. Your health and well-being is of utmost importance to us.
That being said, we recognize that we also have a deep need for community, for relationship, for being with each other in person. Some Episcopal parishes in our ECCT are beginning to worship inside the building, while many continue with the safer choice of outdoor worship.
As soon as I arrived, we began offering an outdoor Compline service on Sunday afternoons. Our youth are gathering outdoors. Blessing of the Animals and a trip to Camp Washington’s ‘Second Sunday’ will happen, outdoors, in early October! I am holding ‘Gazebo Office Hours,’ with rather fabulous success. A new Worship Commission is now offering Wednesday evening prayer with candlelight on the front steps of the Church – a very important outreach to our neighbors, with visibility on Main Street!
The “Re-Opening Task Force” and the Vestry have sent you a survey, inviting your feedback about worshiping inside the Sanctuary. We have also written policies and procedures about building use and cleaning. This document is a rather dry and clinical - but necessary - precursor to re-opening.
When the Task Force meets next, we will review your survey responses. We will consult with the Worship Commission about that team’s wisdom, and then make a recommendation to the Vestry in October about next steps. We watch, to determine whether a predicted autumn surge of COVID cases arrives.
So, friends, hang in there! Stay tuned! God is not done with us yet! I hope you understand that with a question of this importance and urgency, we need to have appropriate process and discernment, feedback and consultation. In the meantime, join us at one of our outdoor gatherings, or sign up to read or offer prayers as part of a small group at one of our live-stream services in the Sanctuary.
But remember, the Church – the body of Christ gathered – never closed. We stayed away from the building, out of love for one another and for safety – but we never stopped being Church. Let us work together, with patience and with wisdom, to discern the next steps in this journey.
Peace be with you,
“Only connect! Live in fragments no longer.” This cry for human connection echoes to me from EM Forster’s novel Howards End, written from 1908 – 1910, a time when the author witnessed an explosive growth of technology and urbanization. There are some lush cinematic portrayals of this novel. (I love the one with Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helene Bonham Carter. Oh my!)
“Only connect!” As drama unfolds, this cry for human connection plays out in the relation or disconnect between social classes, between genders, between siblings, between industrialization and nature. Forster paints a profound sense of connection with the land and the history of the English countryside as the drama increasingly centers on an ancient home – a sense of place! – called Howards End.
“Only connect!” This cry has come from my lips all too frequently lately as I have struggled with a new Internet service provider. We have not yet arrived at functionality. (That’s me being polite.) So here I am, trying to meet you lovely people, trying to step into a leadership role with various teams and commissions … and I can’t even hold a WIFI connection! Voices break up, the visual freezes … the connection is dropped altogether. Eventually it fades back in, but the meeting is disrupted.
There is something about this fragmented connection that really pushes my frustration buttons! It’s probably a less-than-helpful perfectionism … being new, I want to prove you have hired a competent person! Instead, I can’t even get to the meeting! Aaah! My fingers poised over the keyboard, waiting; powerless. “Only connect!”
How do you start a new job in a pandemic, a new ministry? How do you lead a community of people when even meeting them is a challenge? How can we gather our people to discern how God is calling us to respond to the twin pandemics around us - COVID19 and racism? The WIFI struggle – “Only connect!” - is a microcosm of the larger question.
I am loving meeting you individually and in small groups at our Gazebo. Small opportunities for connection in this devastating season. But how can we gather the whole community?? It is still a question of safety, literally a matter of life or death. We struggle to connect. Some still feel incredibly isolated; others, masked, are out and about.
One of my daughters is teaching a classroom of 4th graders, and it’s all virtual. She calls me at the end of the day, tells me how hard this is! My other daughter is starting graduate school, and the whole thing is online. “Only connect!” As school begins, across this nation and world, we are all in this astonishing challenge together! There will be moments of frustration and fatigue for all of us.
I beg your patience with me as I seek to connect. Perhaps there is an invitation, for all of us, to be patient with ourselves as we navigate this autumn with its manifold risks and challenges. We are being stretched and shaped and changed in ways we cannot even fully fathom! So let us be gentle with each other, and with ourselves.
“Only connect! Live in fragments no longer.” This is our prayer. May God help us find the way! Amen.
The kitchen window at the Rectory looks out at a War Memorial. It’s lit up at night, when I stand at the sink doing dishes, making coffee. I’ve never lived in the shadow of a War Memorial. It makes one more aware of history, how the dead - and the conflicts they died in - are still a part of present life.
Chuck and I visited the Memorial our first weekend in residence. We read names of those who served – and died – in many conflicts: the War of 1812, Vietnam, the Civil War.
The dedication reads: “Newtown remembers with grateful prayers and solemn vows her sacred dead [and] her honored living who ventured all unto death that we might live a republic with independence, a nation with union forever, a world with righteousness and peace for all.”
I wonder, often, what this town was like during the Civil War. I just picked up a book by a local historian on the history of slavery in Fairfield County. I look forward to learning more.
This grand old house, as I understand it, was built just after that terrible, bloody conflict ended. (1870? 1890? I’ve also seen 1867.) What was the supper-time conversation - within these walls - about the state of this nation when the paint, the timber was still fresh?
The division of that Civil War, the original sin in this great nation of slavery … we see today this ancestral pain continue. People in the streets this summer – this summer of what the Episcopal Church in Connecticut calls “twin pandemics.” COVID19; and racism. The connection between the two: the disproportionate death toll in communities of color.
There is such a sense of grace and space in this home with its high ceilings and tall windows. We wonder: who were the people who slept here, drank morning coffee, prayed for loved ones? Who witnessed other pandemics, other wars; hoped for a better future??
I’ve never lived in the shadow of a War Memorial. It reminds you history is still with us.
Friday is 9/11. We pause, and remember that day of unspeakable loss. 2,977 lives. We remember where we were, who we were. We know, in our bones, the importance of remembering. People of Newtown, you know, in your bones, the importance of remembering. Bearing witness: we carry memories. I know, in my bones.
We may also pause, as we reflect on 9/11, to seek – and we cannot fully comprehend! – to acknowledge the growing toll of those lost to COVID19. Almost 200,000 Americans, and the number grows every day. In the absence of national mourning, leadership, how can we fathom such a loss? How can we bear this witness? Where do we go from here, as a nation?
We offer to God these twin pandemics, and our own personal losses. Our profound concern about our nation. We bear witness to its past, and we endeavor to live into our hope of justice, of health, of equality and freedom yet unattained by many. From our Book of Common Prayer, a prayer for the social order:
“Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart (and especially the hearts of the people of this land), that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
It’s time for ‘Blessing of the Backpacks.’ On a Sunday, just before the kids start a new school year, normally we’d invite everybody to bring their shiny new backpacks to church for a special blessing. Not just young kids! College students heading back to campus, adults with their briefcases or laptop bags – anybody starting a new grade, a new job, a new school … it’s that season of new beginnings. We feel the air starting to chill, the leaves show a little bit of color. It’s back to school season!
Normally, for ‘Blessing of the Backpacks,’ we would invite everybody, at the end of announcements, to come forward and make a huge pile of backpacks in the front of the church. We’d get everybody in a semi-circle, and we would all raise our hands in blessing and I would say a special prayer of blessing for a new academic year, that we would feel God’s presence with us. If someone was feeling a little anxious, it was a reminder that our Church community was WITH us in a new adventure. The children were so excited!
This year, no ‘Blessing of the Backpacks.’ We will return to this beloved tradition next year … we hope. This Labor Day, as some of our youth head back to their classrooms – and some join their peers online in virtual learning – we are not yet gathering indoors as a community of faith. But we are praying – fiercely! –for our students and our teachers as they take up the challenges of learning and teaching in these days of COVID19.
We pray for the safety and well-being of our children, teens and adults in a new school year! We pray for administrators and leaders making agonizing decisions, for all support staff who keep our schools and pre-schools running. We lift up to God how stressful it is to plan curriculum, set up classrooms, pack lunches and get down to business in a pandemic that is ongoing. So much uncertainty about what the fall will bring.
So, let us join our hearts and minds and spirits together virtually, and bless those shiny new backpacks, praying God will keep our loved ones safe! Please pray with me:
“Holy God, surround and uphold our students and our teachers in this ‘back-to-school’ season. Fill our children with a love of learning, our teachers with the joy of instructing. Keep our loved ones ever in your care. Guard them from illness, from anxiety, from worry. Help us to stay safe, to wear our masks, to make wise choices and decisions. Show us, O God, how to love and care for one another in community, that we move through these days in mutual support and care. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
Peace be with you all,
Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt
“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering; pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake, Amen.”
I read this prayer the other day at my first graveside service here in Newtown, wearing black on a scorching August day. This is one of my favorite prayers from our Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
When I was first ordained – back when I was a UCC minister – I borrowed these words from the Book of Common Prayer to add to my funeral service. There is a dignity and a timelessness – and poetry! – in these old prayers that beckoned to me, even then; long before I sought Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church.
‘Keep watch, dear Lord’ … please, keep watch. We pray for those on the Gulf Coast this week, facing hurricane winds and water. We pray for those in California, facing wildfires. We pray for those killed and maimed by racism, for peaceful protesters hurt by armed vigilantes, for victims of gun violence across our land. ‘Bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted’ … keep watch, we pray.
Heal our nation, God, from our original sin of racism, from this deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. ‘Give thine angels charge over those who sleep.’ Protect medical workers, Holy One; comfort and uphold grieving families. And what of our own fatigue, our own personal struggles and losses and just plain tired-ness of it all??
‘Give rest to the weary.’ I pray each of you are finding moments of rest and renewal – and re-creation – as summer hints of autumn. I pray for moments of rest after the upheaval of moving. I rejoice in the blessings of meeting you, gradually, in ways so altered by social distancing! We meet each other in out-of-the-box ways. We delight in the promise of new relationships unfolding; slowly, this time, but surely.
‘Shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake.’ At the heart of this journey of life is our God-planted heart of joy, even in the tumult and pain of this world. Shield your hearts, friends. Guard your spirit, your joy; this will sustain you when the going gets tough, when the storms come and waters rise. How? In prayer and in community.
Seek quiet moments to listen to the still, small voice inside and be nourished. Seek connection – holy connection by sharing your story in community. And turn to the ancient words of our faith. ‘Keep watch, dear Lord,’ keep watch. Amen.
Beloved Saints of Trinity Church -
On behalf of the Wyatt Family, thank you for your beautiful welcome to Trinity Church, to the Rectory, to the Newtown community!
Chuck and I arrived late on Friday, August 7th, tired and disoriented from packing and cleaning and moving … to find the most delightful greetings. Food, drink and pantry items … fresh garden flowers … gift certificates to local restaurants (yummy treats!) … cards and gifts … and a booklet with personal messages and recommendations of local hikes and activities.
We sat on the floor and ate peanut butter sandwiches, and spent our first night on a guest-room mattress already delivered … the moving truck arrived first thing in the morning. It has been a whirlwind of unpacking, and preparing to begin a new call. Our daughters Molly and Emma, and niece Julia, have already been to visit.
You are so fortunate to have such a lovely and historic Rectory. Thank you for all that you do to make it so comfortable. So, this week … how to begin a new call in a pandemic?? Well, the same way we’ve all been living these past 6 months! Zoom, FaceTime and phone calls, email, and socially distanced outdoor visits.
I know many of you have questions about what Church will look like moving forward. I do, too. I will be consulting with the Re-Opening Task Force, with our leaders at the ECCT, and with the Vestry and Staff about how we will share in worship, outreach and fellowship. Please know our safety and well-being is my priority.
As I finish a post-move time of quarantining, we will meet each other this coming Sunday, August 23rd in a Zoom Coffee Hour/Meet & Greet at 11 AM. With some prayer and conversation, we can begin to get to know one another!
I do look forward to opportunities to meet you face to face, mask to mask! Here’s one idea:
Gazebo Office Hours!
Let’s find a (socially-distant, masked!) way to meet one another. I would be glad to hang out in the Gazebo and chat, or go for a walk – set a time with me; let’s say “Hello!” email@example.com
As I make my way into the community, please let me know of pastoral care concerns. I am honored to walk with you in this journey of faith and life … please let me know how I can pray for and with you.
Peace be with you,
Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt
The Rev. andrea castner wyatt
The Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt is honored to accept the call of Trinity Episcopal Church to serve and lead as Rector. She looks forward with joy to walking with the people of Trinity Church, and to discovering with you what Jesus is up to in Newtown, CT. Contact Rev. Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 203-426-9070.