Rev. Alison Patton: The Story The NY Times Should Have Told

The New York Times’ now-famous piece on the coronavirus in Westport — “How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a Super Spreader” — included a photo of The Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

The caption noted that the Saugatuck Congregational Church minister “led an online fellowship hour with parishioners on Sunday after her church in Westport closed.”

That was it. No quotes or insights from one of our town’s most caring residents — a wise, insightful observer of all that goes on here.

Many Westporters thought there must have been more to her brief appearance in the Times. 

There is. Rev. Patton writes:

When a New York Times reporter called to ask me how Westport was responding to the virus, I thought she had a great opportunity to write an article about the creative ways that communities are navigating the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s not the story the Times chose to publish. So I thought I’d write that story.

Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton

This has been a profoundly trying few weeks. Contending with the virus itself, the related fears, and the disrupted schedules has put a strain on all of us.

In the words of pastor and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber: “We’re not only experiencing a pandemic of COVID-9, we are also experiencing an ‘epidemic of disappointment.’”

How many of us have had plans derailed: championship games, theatrical performances, business engagements or family vacations? How many have lost income, access to hot meals or life-saving support systems?

That’s a lot of grief, even if we do manage to avoid or ride out the virus itself. And of course, there are those who have contracted COVID-19. This pandemic has been hard on our hearts.

We are all scrambling to adjust, to stay safe and grounded. But here’s what has struck me: We are also working hard to stay connected as a community. Saugatuck Congregational Church, along with most other faith communities in the region, has suspended in-person worship.

But like all our other faith communities, Saugatuck is finding alternative ways to stay in touch, counter isolation, encourage people and feed spirits. We are urging physical distancing while sustaining social connection. The responses I’ve witnessed remind me that we have an amazing capacity to adapt, when our connectedness is at stake.

I have so many examples. There’s the 91-year-old member who asked for technical assistance so she could participate in our online bible study by Zoom, and the member who joined our Sunday morning social hour via Zoom from his hospital bed — just 2 days after major surgery!

Saugatuck Congregational Church has anchored Westport for centuries.

There’s the patience everyone has shown, as we figure out how to use technologies that are new to many of us. We are muddling through with remarkable humor.

As one Saugatuck member observed, in response to our Zoom social hour and online small groups, ”What we’re doing is totally different, but really touching and human.”

I know it’s not just Saugatuck Church. Creative efforts to stay connected are springing up all over town. I suspect that everyone reading this will have a story to add. There’s the Westport neighborhood where residents circulated red, green and yellow cards in mailboxes, to help vulnerable neighbors safely signal if they need supplies or other assistance.

There’s the high school student who created a Twitter account to report on the local impact of the Coronavirus and share helpful information, and the families who compiled a website designed to support local businesses by encouraging online shopping.

There are the local artists who are sharing photos and music online, to inspire and encourage us. The list goes on and on. For my part, I am grateful for and inspired by all those who have responded to these trying times with such generosity and innovation.

Westporters have expressed their emotions in many ways. A neighbor took this opportunity to thank our first responders. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Crisis can do 2 things: it can bog us down in our own anxiety or kick start our creativity. Surely, both are happening here.

We all have days when we are worn out from having to revise our habits again and again, in order to stay ahead of an invisible threat. But I hope we can also lean into those creative impulses, bearing in mind that isolation is hard because we are, fundamentally, interdependent. So we figure out how to reach and sustain one another.

The best story isn’t how this virus started or who may have contributed to its spread. It’s how we will get through it, and eventually stop the virus, because we can only do that together.

32 responses to “Rev. Alison Patton: The Story The NY Times Should Have Told

  1. Janette Kinnally

    Great article and beautifully stated Rev.
    I truly wish The NY Times wrote that kind of article, but sadly these days many journalists capitalize on the negative and salaciousness of a story. It truly would have made a difference if they had been written the way you put it in your article.
    So glad Dan Woog sent this blog out to all of us so we could be uplifted this morning.
    Read a great article last night on – the discomfort you are feeling is grief. Talks about what you can control and not control during these times and gives suggestions on what you can do to feel better. I posted it on my Facebook wall if you want to read it too. Need as much inspiration and uplifting stories to counter all the negative ones in the news right now. 🙏❤️

  2. Thank you Rev. Patton for writing this!

  3. Rev. Patton thank you for your much needed insight, compassion and leadership.

  4. Sal Gilbertie

    Wonderful message. Thanks to Rev. Patton for writing and Dan Woog for publishing. Needing more of this kind of positive messaging.

  5. Love this SO much


  6. David Squires


  7. Topsy Siderowf

    Thank you Rev. Patton for your inspirational insights and comforting words and to Dan Woog for making 06880, even more so, our must read.

  8. China dictates what its journalists write so that its people remain in the dark and under control. Some of those who dared to tell the truth about the virus cannot presently be accounted for. We, on the other hand, live a free nation. I fully support whatever choice one needs to make in the present time, but I prefer to make my own choice about what to read and how to think about it. And I’m not going to self-isolate myself from reality.

  9. Michael Calise

    Thank You Rev. Patton for your inspirational message. And thank you Dan for publishing it. We will all get through this with flying colors as if it never happened.

  10. Lisa Marriott

    Thank you for writing the article that should have been written. I am so proud of this community. When I tell my family and friends from out of town what people are doing here, they are blown away by the creativity and generosity. Lunches for hospital workers -purchased from local restaurants, collections of medical masks, WFM taking over organizing meals for Gillespie Center, Cup of sugar to run errands for those that can’t and all the other things people are doing on their own to help make life better for those in not just our community but surrounding ones as well. THANK YOU ALL!!

  11. Thank you Pastor Alison for sharing your reflection on how our community is responding to the current health crisis we are living through. I appreciate what you wrote, but, moreover, that you saw the need for it to be written and did so. This action of “seeing a need and taking steps to meet it” is happening all around us. It inspires and encourages me every day to open my eyes and get things done.

  12. Kathie Bennewitz

    Beautiful. Well said and to the heart and moment. Wish that story was told—Thank you for sharing! We all need this kind of story and reflection right now.

  13. Larry Untermeyer

    Great story. It should be read by every Westporter and taken to heart, We are all in this wild ride together so hang on there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but only if everyone does their part.

  14. Andrea Cross

    Thank you Alison for this post, for being our compassionate pastor and for highlighting the town’s majority response. I have been just astounded by the immediate and creative ways members of our community have been assisting others and helping out. Westporters seem to have both oversized hearts and enormous organizational skills to execute good works.

  15. Jen Sollenne

    Perfectly stated Dan. Really enjoying your blog more than ever these days. Thank you

  16. Bonnie Connolly

    Thank you Alison for this thoughtful and amazing post. I would propose forwarding it the NYT reporter who initially interviewed you. It would be great if they published it.

  17. So proud of you, Alison! And, thank you Dan for posting it.

  18. Lynn Untermeyer Miller

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing this, Rev. Patton. A perfect way to start our day. Very much appreciated.

  19. Irene Mastriacovo

    Well stated. Much needed. Sadly, the NYT lost it in translation.

  20. Rev. Allison, Your thoughtful words are very inspiring and beautiful. Thank-You!

  21. Rev. Alison, Your words and actions are beautiful and very inspiring. Thank-you!

  22. THANK YOU!! My 70-something year old mother in Oklahoma was so mad at the NYTimes for their slanted and mean spirited reporting she wrote a letter to the editor! If they publish it I will share it here. Thank you Rev. Patton for turning the tide on the negative flow of information and writing something thoughtful, compassionate, real and…Westport!

  23. Thank you Rev. Alison for the uplifting article. In speaking with only a handful of our members over the past few weeks I’ve come to realize that we reach well beyond Westport to… Norwalk, Redding, Wilton, Weston, New York, Vermont, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, England, Italy, India…. it is acts similar to those that you mentioned that are growing everywhere and tying us all together even as the pandemic tries to pull us apart. The human spirit is amazing. Thank you for your inspiration and calming efforts.

  24. Susie Collins

    Good Morning Reverend Alison, Thank you for your kindness! With Spring here and Easter approaching, you bring us all a little Light. Like the emerging flowers. Well wishes from me to You and Yours. -Susie Collins

  25. Sylvia Corrigan

    Thank you for your healing words, Rev. Alison Patton!

  26. Pearl Lerner Kane

    Thank you. I was enraged by the article in the NYTimes. The snarkiest in that article was out of place and undeserved. Thank you for changing the tenor of the conversation,

  27. Great article! I encourage people to also check out Alison’s pieces on PBS’s American Portrait which were shot and submitted by Westport’s Livio Sanchez. Really insightful and beautifully produced pieces…

  28. Holly Wheeler


  29. perfection to read and absorb

    Sent from my iPhone