Category Archives: religion

Music Rings Out At Jack Adams’ Memorial Service

Every Chrismas Eve for years, the Unitarian Church resounded with the sound of Jack Adams’ trumpet. Many of his students joined him, in memorable performances.

Music church rang out again yesterday, as family, friends and many fans gathered to pay tribute to the life of one of Westport’s most popular band leaders and teachers.

Jack Adams

Jack Adams

When Doug Davidoff realized that the exceptional acoustics of the Victor Lundy-designed church offered their own perfect tribute to the musician who died last month, he pulled out his iPhone and began recording.

The selections — played by a brass ensemble of 6 former students — provide a legacy as powerful as any of the heartfelt words spoken at the service.

Trumpeters Jon Owens, John Kirk  Dulaney, Andrew Willmott and Jon Blackburn, plus Dave Smith (French horn) and Jim Marbury (brass trombone), performed “Jesu Joy,” “Sheep May Safely Graze” and other brass favorites.

Speakers included former students who — inspired by Adams — went on to become music educators. Davidoff recorded the memorial statement offered by his mother, Denise Taft Davidoff. “It may have been been a ‘cornball’ thing to do, as Mr. Adams might say,” Davidoff conceded.

But it’s included in this tremendous tribute that Davidoff generously shares with “06880” readers — and Jack Adams’ countless fans, everywhere. Click below to hear it:

Food For Thought: Who Sits Where In The School Cafeteria

Martin Luther King said that 11 a.m. Sunday was the most segregated hour of the American week. He was referring to the segregation of white and black churches, of course.

But 11 a.m. weekdays may be the most segregated hour in American schools. That’s lunchtime — and day after day, week after week, the same friends sit at the same tables.

In Westport, the separation is not racial or religious. But it is segregation by friend groups.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

That self-segregation is the basis for this year’s TEAM Westport “Diversity Essay Contest.”

Open to all high school students attending any Westport high school, and Westporters who attend high school elsewhere — and carrying prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500 — the contest asks entrants to describe barriers that prevent students from reaching out to others different from themselves. They should then “identify specific steps you and other students in your high school” can take to help students break down those barriers — “especially in the cafeteria.” Entrants are also asked to discuss the “risks and benefits” of making that effort.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The contest follows last year’s very successful inaugural event. Students were asked to reflect on demographic changes in the US — describing the benefits and challenges of the changes for Westport generally, and him or her personally.

Applications for the contest are available here. The deadline is February 27. “06880” will highlight the winners.

(TEAM Westport is the town’s official committee on multiculturalism. The Westport Library co-sponsors the contest.)

A Christmas Gift At Saugatuck Church

Yesterday marked the 1st day back at Saugatuck Congregational Church, following a devastating fire more than 3 years ago.

The bells sounded wonderful. The feeling was warm and loving. And the 1st service — a Christmas pageant — couldn’t have started better: A beautiful harp piece, played by Staples junior Nicole Mathias.

Merry Christmasand welcome home!

Saugatuck Church Celebrates Best Christmas Ever

Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton, pastor, and Alex Floyd Marshall, associate pastor, just sent this wonderful note to members and friends of the Saugatuck Congregational Church:      

Joyful greetings to you on this Christmas Eve!

Today, two long anticipated events converge: the birth of the Christ Child and our return to our restored church at 245 Post Road East.

The anticipation is palpable; we imagine all the joy and wonder associated with every Christmas Eve, magnified by our return to a sanctuary that is, for many of us, brimming with memories of Christmases past.

Saugatuck Congergational church

Of course, there will also be folks worshipping in this space for the very first time, including your pastors! Whether you are a first-time guest, newer member or returning after years away, you will recognize the work that has been poured into rebuilding Saugatuck Church over the last three years.

Many historic details of the building have been lovingly restored. We have also made changes to enhance our use of the space, improve accessibility, and support our unfolding ministries.

As with any move, our settling in will take time. We joyfully open our house for worship this Christmas Eve, but note that the building is not finished; there is yet work to do.

That’s OK. We are all works in progress….

Saugatuck Church logoSo, with deep gratitude to those who have worked tirelessly to make this return possible, including the members of our building team, contributors to our capital campaign, countless volunteers, faithful members – those who have labored, contributed and prayed on our behalf – we are delighted to say: Join us!…

See you tonight, in our star-studded sanctuary.

(Rev. Patton notes that the church — shut since a pre-Thanksgiving fire 3 years ago — hopes to welcome back various community partners who use their space sometime during the 1st quarter of 2015. A community-wide re-dedication worship and celebration is set for Sunday, March 8. There is still work to be done — but it will be done, finally, back at “home.” Merry Christmas indeed!)

In The Spirit Of Christmas…

Christmas is about many things — with family at the top of the list.

But some Westporters don’t have family nearby. And by late morning Christmas Day, plenty of people with families are ready to get out of the house.

So, for the 2nd year in a row, the Senior Center is the spot to go for a Christmas Day Community Reception (21 Imperial Avenue, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.). It’s free, and open to everyone — whether you celebrate Christmas with your family or not, or even if you don’t celebrate the holiday at all.

Last year’s event drew 90 guests. This year there’s a light lunch, treats, and music by the Bob Cooper Band. Support comes from the Senior Center, Homes With Hope and the Westport Department of Human Services.

But here’s the coolest part: The “hosts” are the Saugatuck Congregational Church, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Church — and Temple Israel.

No word on whether the “light lunch” includes Chinese food.

(Need a ride to or from the Senior Center for the Community Reception? Call the Saugatuck Church: 203-227-1261. To volunteer to help, or donate baked goods or stuffed animals (!), go to the Saugatuck Church website and click on the right side.)

Not Your Father’s YMCA

Despite this morning’s post, there are some holiday decorations downtown.

But they’re not Christmas lights.

And they’re not where you might expect them.

Alert “06880” reader Jeff Giannone sent along this shot:

Y menorah

A menorah stands ready for tonight’s celebration of Hanukkah — the “Festival of Lights.” Set for 6:30 p.m., it’s sponsored by the 4 synagogues in town. All Westporters — of all faiths — are invited.

So head down to the site of the recently vacated Y.

Or — as it was once known — the Young Men’s Christian Association.



Getting In The Candlelight Mood

Staples’ 74th Candlelight Concert is more than a week away. But the orchestra, choirs and bands are hard at work, rehearsing for the high school’s annual gift to the town.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be part of the “Hallelujah Chorus”? Here’s an up-close-and-personal view, from backstage behind the string section.



Rudolph Is No Longer Horny

Last night’s ice sculpture carving — part of the post-Town Hall-tree-lighting festivities held around the corner at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church — was very impressive. Rudolph was one of the creations — complete with his trademark red nose. JP Vellotti was inspired to take a photo.

But when he went back this morning, the very alert “06880” reader was surprised to see Rudolph’s antlers were gone. He took another shot.

Rudolph collage

Before and after.

JP asks: “Did they melt in the sub-freezing temps overnight? Or was someone naughty? Only Santa knows who will get a present or coal in their stocking!”

Remembering Elwood Betts

Elwood Betts — a proud Westport native, indefatigable civic volunteer and all-around good guy — died yesterday of cardiac arrest. He was 89.

His next door neighbor sends along this wonderful tribute:

This Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for having the honor of being the next-door neighbor of the soul of Westport for the last 6 years. Elwood Betts always had a pleasant hello waiting for me and my fellow neighbors, raising his arm with his big hand in the air with an echoing “Helllllllllo there!” When you heard that voice you knew who was outside, happy to see and greet you, rain or shine…

When we first moved to Park Lane, welcoming neighbors were first to inform us who was our street chieftain. He told us great stories about his beloved late wife, and all the joy he shared with her for over 50 years. A few years after we met, his son moved back into his childhood house to take care of his father, along with his lovely wife. We knew Westport was the right town for us to raise a family, but we had no idea we’d be blessed to live next to such a wonderful man.

Elwood Betts at Evergreen Cemetery. That restoration effort was one of his many civic projects.

Elwood Betts at Evergreen Cemetery. That restoration effort was one of his many civic projects.

That first year we moved next door to him, before the arrival of our son, he would show me his library of historical photos and information about the town of Westport, his beloved church, his family heritage. Over the years, he had collected an incredible amount of facts about town because he loved it like his family. He was Westport in my mind, and he wanted to pass on his passion by leaving behind all the reasons why Westport meant more to him than just a zip code. He wanted everyone to embrace the depth of our cultural town.

The first piece of history he shared with me was when his church, Saugatuck Congregational, was moved across the Post Road in 1950. He told me how the road had been blocked so that 500 men, women and children could gather before the shored-up structure for a service of prayer and thanksgiving. They sang “Faith of Our Fathers” accompanied by a portable organ. Then at 60 feet per hour, the 200-ton building was moved down a 19-foot incline on 55 logs across the Post Road, to stand adjacent to the parsonage. He had all the photos in a bound book. I thought, “This guy knows his stuff!”

My wife and I quickly learned what mattered to him most: family and his church. He loved his kids and his grandchildren so much, a proud father indeed. He shared stories that made me think how lucky they were to have him as their family patriarch.

Last year at Sherwood Island, Elwood Betts (left) showed archaeologist Ernie Wiegand where the 1787 Sherwood house stood.

Last year at Sherwood Island, Elwood Betts (left) showed archaeologist Ernie Wiegand where the 1787 Sherwood house stood.

He was a rich soul who cared for everyone else first, putting himself last. When his beloved place of worship suffered a devastating fire, Park Lane was lined with cars for months. He stepped into a leadership role, towards restoring Westport’s centerpiece of grace and place for the faithful. People rallied for him, took his direction and the spirit of community spread from there.

I learned recently that because the church is under restoration, he had offered to host the men’s group on Thursday mornings at his home. Even at the age of 89, he was still thinking of ways to help his community.

Tomorrow I will truly miss wishing a “Happy Thanksgiving” to a man of such character, integrity, sincerity, and humility — my irreplaceable neighbor and friend, Elwood Betts.

God bless you and your family. Here’s thanks for all your efforts to make Westport what it is today. May we all live up to your standards of preserving its authenticity.

Click below for Elwood Betts’ oral history of Westport:

(Calling hours are this Friday, Nov. 28, from 5-8 p.m. at the Harding Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 11 a.m. at Greens Farms Congregational Church. A reception will follow.)

(For more “06880” stories about Elwood Betts: resurrecting Evergreen Cemeteryremembering the Hindenburg over Westport; remembering Sherwood Island Mill Pond)

Church Finds Sanctuary In A Temple

For 3 years — following a devastating Thanksgiving Week fire at Saugatuck Congregational Church — something remarkable has taken place in Westport.

Every Sunday morning, Temple Israel has welcomed the Saugatuck congregation to worship in their space.

Recently — as the church gets ready to return to its almost-renovated home — Michael Hendricks delivered this beautiful, thanks-filled sermon. It’s worth reading no matter what your faith — or even if you have none at all.

It is very tempting to look at today’s Bible text about the people of Israel despairing over water following their exodus from Egypt and think how it relates to our congregation’s situation since the fire that devastated our church home back in November of 2011.

The Israelites were afraid because they had no water. And we were afraid our lack of a building could threaten our identity.

No water. No identity. No existence. No wonder people get frightened.

Do any of you remember talking to our lay leaders in the first days and weeks after the fire? When they had to promise that everything would be okay. Even though they had yet to learn even what the first step would be. Even though they had no idea if any clergy candidate would have the courage to take on the senior pastor position we were still seeking to fill. In light of the incredible achievements that have taken place these last 3 years, it is easy to forget where it began.  But think what it must have been like for those lay leaders to ask for our trust at the beginning,

While the main damage was in the rear of the building, no part of the Saugatuck Church was untouched by some degree of fire, soot, water, and smoke damage.

While the main damage was in the rear of the building, no part of the Saugatuck Church was untouched by some degree of fire, soot, water, and smoke damage.

It was at that point of greatest doubt and fear in the Bible story – when there was no hope left – when the ordinary physical world had exhausted its ability to sustain existence – that God steps in and the miracle takes place. Water suddenly, impossibly springs not from a hidden well or oasis, but from a dead, arid, hard rock. And the people of Israel are saved.

Like I said, it is tempting to see parallels in this story with our own congregation’s feelings of wilderness wandering these last 3 years.

Especially now when our return to our church home is imminent and the realization is beginning to sink in that through the grace of God, the contributions of many, and the exhaustive work of a few, we are going to survive this ordeal.

I am, however, going to resist the temptation to draw these parallels.

I am going to resist this temptation because, despite the similarities, in some crucial and pivotal ways our recent experiences, difficult and unsettling as they have been, really don’t parallel the experiences of the people of Israel at all.

And that’s why, though I’m sure some variation of this story undoubtedly happened, I’m not surprised that nobody thought it important or dramatic enough to record it. But, sisters and brothers, I can’t help feeling that, in its own way, this might be the greatest story never told.

And, with regard to Saugatuck, this would be the wilderness story that most closely resembles our experience.

Because before we ever got anywhere near thirsty enough to feel threatened, before the lack of a place to meet for worship ever came close to dispersing us, our friends at Temple Israel said to us, “Come. We have space. We can figure this out. Worship here.”

For that, we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid, and because of that we share a bond that I hope continues as long as both congregations exist.

Temple Israel

Temple Israel

As most of you know, there was a time when the congregation of Temple Israel was welcomed to celebrate their services at Saugatuck Church. And while I am proud, but not surprised, that Saugatuck was the church that opened its doors to our neighbors of a different faith tradition, I confess that I am unable to see the symmetry in our now being welcomed to worship here.

From where I sit, sadly, there is simply no comparison in a church allowing the symbols of Jewish worship through its doors, and a Jewish temple allowing the symbols of Christian worship to enter theirs.

The history of the last 2,000 years, the history of the last 100 years, very understandably and more regrettably than I can ever express, may for some have lent an aura of threat and violence to the symbols that for us read as nothing but pure and holy love.

Nevertheless, these last 3 years, we have taught our stories to our children in the same classrooms that the Temple uses to teach their stories to their children. We have met on the Sabbath to worship God in the same space that the Temple meets in on Shabbas to also worship God.

And I can’t tell you how powerful and how humbling it has been for me these last 3 years that we have been welcomed to celebrate Christmas and Easter – think about it, Christmas and Easter – in Temple Israel’s sanctuary.

Neighbor helping neighbor.  Reaching across the things that separate to lend the helping hand that is needed at the moment.

In its own way, is there a more needed miracle in the world today?  Maybe even in the entire history of the world? It almost makes the water from the rock miracle seem easy.

Before returning home, Saugatuck Congregational Church offers thanks to Temple Israel.

Before returning home, Saugatuck Congregational Church offers thanks to Temple Israel.

God bless Rabbi Orkand, Rabbi Shapiro and Rabbi Friedman. God bless Rabbi Mendelsohn Graf and Rabbi Schwartz. God bless Cantor Silverman  and Cantor Sklar. God bless Lisa Goldberg. God bless Greg Jones and Troy Golding.

And maybe most importantly, God bless all the members of the Temple Israel congregation who never got the chance to work with us or get to know us, who maybe felt threatened by our presence in their holy place of sanctuary and, by the grace of God, welcomed us to worship here anyway.

Your generosity and courage saved us from ever really having to face that threat to our existence that the people of Israel faced in their wanderings

You have written yourselves a place in the history of our congregation that we can never forget.

You have taught us a lesson in true welcoming that we had better not forget.

Thank you.