Category Archives: religion

Pic Of The Day #1313

Saugatuck Congregational Church – back view (Photo/Rowene Weems)

Remembering Joan Sands

Joan Sands — for more than 30 years an English, reading and special education teacher in Westport — died Monday in Sarasota, Florida, after a long illness. She was 91.

A 1950 graduate of Skidmore College, where she majored in English, Joan later earned a master’s in education from Fairfield University.

Joan Sands

She and her husband Richard Sands, an orthodontist, moved to Westport in 1956. They were founding members of Temple Israel.

Joan loved literature, and was a member of numerous book clubs. She also enjoyed tennis, the beach and being out on the water.

Joan and her husband were avid patrons of the arts and lovers of jazz, classical music, opera, ballet and theatre. They traveled extensively both before and after retirement.

Joan and Richard moved to Sarasota in 1994. They were active in cultural and educational organizations including the Jazz Club of Sarasota, the United Way Foundation Council and Temple Sinai.

She is survived by her daughter Caren, sons Gordon and Jeffrey, 6 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of Joan’s life will take place in 2021. Email Gordie Sands (geszang-par@yahoo.com) for details.

Gifts in memory of Joan can be made to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund online or by check (34 Washington Street, Suite 310, Wellesley, MA 02481). (Hat tip: Dave Harrison)

Community Thanksgiving Feast Continues — With Changes

All over town, Westport families are reimagining Thanksgiving. Tables will be smaller; celebrations, more subdued.

Saugatuck Congregational Church has made changes too. The Community Thanksgiving Day Feast — a 40-year interfaith tradition — will not bring hundreds of folks together there, to share turkey, trimmings and fellowship.

But older and needy Westporters will not be forgotten. Organizers are working with OnTheMarc Events to provide meals through the Gillespie Center and Senior Center. Support comes from the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston, Westport Rotary Club, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Temple Israel.

Saugatuck Church has also organized a Thanksgiving hotline. Residents in need can confidentially request food assistance. Click here to fill out the form, or call 203-227-1261.

Donations are needed to help support the assistance program. Click here to help.

For 20 years, Coleytown Elementary School students have created holiday cards as Community Feast decorations. They’ll do the same, to accompany food at the shelter and Senior Center.

Saugatuck Church’s Thanksgiving may look different this year. But some traditions never change.

This year’s Community Thanksgiving Feast will look different from years past (above). ’
But the willingness of Westporters to support one another continues — this year virtually.

Roundup: Veterans Day, COVID Testing, Cottage Thanksgiving


The other day, “06880” reader Ernest Lorimer went for a break-quarantine COVID test at St. Vincent’s Health Center on Long Lots Road. He reports:

“The line was a little over 2 hours long, compared to less than an hour a few weeks ago.

“Three Westport police officers had firm control over the line. Cars were divided into 2 queues on either side of the drive. I imagine that was to get more cars off Long Lots, while keeping the drive open for emergency vehicles.

“Cars were not being taken out of the queue in a zippering fashion, which we are used to from traffic merges, but a string from one queue and then a string from the other.

“Officers kept exact track of those queues so no one was getting ahead of anyone else. But that didn’t keep people from haranguing them about queue management, often in heated fashion. Glad they were there!

“Next step in improvement: a Porta Potty. These lines aren’t going to get shorter.”


Westport’s Veterans Day service — traditionally held in the Town Hall auditorium — has been COVID-shifted outdoors. The Wednesday, November 11 ceremony begins at 11 a.m., at VFW Post 399.

The program includes posting the colors; remarks by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; placing of a memorial wreath by members of VFW Post 399 and American Legion Post 63, and a Westport Police Department firing detail.

The event concludes with honors to 5 veterans.

Because of the pandemic, attendance is by invitation only. Video of the ceremony will be posted on all town social media pages, plus Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020, soon after its conclusion.

The color guard, at last year’s Veterans Day ceremony.


One of our area’s great organizations is the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. They fund programs like the Janus Center, which aids at-risk youth; Projecto Nueva Vida, which helps people who have been incarcerated re-enter society; FEED, which assists the less fortunate, and CREATE, which trains disadvantaged adults to be chefs.

Christ & Holy Trinity Church has been delivering donations to several food pantries sponsored by the Council. They also bring fresh produce from the Westport Community Garden to FEED.

Bridgeport’s Council of Churches is sponsoring a virtual “FUNdraiser” next Thursday (November 12, 7 p.m.). There’s music by Chris Coogan, a great auction and much more.

Christ & Holy Trinity asked me to spread the word. I’m honored to do so. Click here for the link.


Looking for a cozy, COVID-friendly Thanksgiving restaurant option?

The Cottage will offer in-house dining from 2 to 7 p.m., with a prix fixe menu ($95 per person; $45 per child under 12).

Reservations can be made via phone only: 203-557-3701.


And finally … On this day in 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented 4th term as president. He was first elected in 1932, during one of the darkest years in American history. This was his theme song.

 

Roundup: Staples Players, Alexandra Korry, Pumpkins, More


Mark Potts has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and — while he was a Staples student — the school paper Inklings.

Last night he reconnected with his alma mater. He writes:

Several years ago an unexpected storm deposited me in Kansas, sans ruby slippers. But my hometown is Westport. Once upon a time I was part of the team that launched radio station WWPT, and playing in the pit band for a Staples Players production of “Oklahoma” is one of my favorite high school memories.

So being able to sit in distant Kansas on Sunday evening and listen to the charming, expertly performed WWPT/Staples Players radio production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a great treat.

Bravo to all involved on a delightful piece of entertainment. It just proves, once again, that there’s still no place like home.

Behind the scenes at “The Wizard of Oz.” Plastic separated the actors from each other, in the Black Box Theater.


Alexandra Korry did not have a high profile in Westport. But when she died at 61 recently of ovarian cancer, the New York Times took note, with a long, admiring obiturary.

It called her “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”

She was one of the first women elected partner in the mergers and acquisitions department of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. She was also committed to public service, as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Her committee’s reports “criticized the New York City Police Department’sstop-and-frisk strategy, intended to reduce the proliferation of guns, arguing that it was disproportionately directed at Black and Hispanic people.

“And it concluded this year that disparities in state and local funding of education should be considered a civil rights issue because they denied equal opportunity to students in poorer, Black and Hispanic school districts.”

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alexandra Korry (Dick Duane for Sullivan & Cromwell)


Gene Borio sends along this photo:

He explains: “I didn’t know what this was until a woman walking nearby said it was weird: Every pumpkin on her block had been attacked by squirrels. 76 years on this planet, and I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had she.”


Two religious institutions’ coat drive for Person to Person is nearing an end.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


And finally … after more than 50 years on the road, Arlo Guthrie has retired from performing. The 73-year-old son of Woody Guthrie has suffered strokes.

He’s best known for “Alice’s Restaurant.” But his 5 decades of work go far beyond that 20-minute Thanksgiving garbage dump talking classic.

I saw him at the Westport Country Playhouse many years ago. He was the consummate performer. And I really loved that great head of white hair. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

Pic Of The Day #1284

Christ & Holy Trinity Church (Photo/Anthony Evans)

At Saugatuck Church, Black Lives Matter

Westport has many beautiful churches. But in terms of looks — and denomination — it doesn’t get more New England-y than Saugatuck Congregational.

Old, wooden, white, and set back on a broad lawn in the heart of downtown, Saugatuck Church makes a strong statement to everyone about history and heritage.

Now it’s making a strong statement about current events, and the role of a religious institution in modern society.

A “Black Lives Matter” sign has been hung across the front of the church. 

And it’s not a yard sign, or a banner you must squint to read.

The sign is big. It’s bold. It’s meant to be seen by everyone.

(Photo/Priscilla Long)

Yesterday morning — socially distanced because of COVID, but shoulder to shoulder emotionally — the church blessed the sign. 

Harold Bailey — chair of TEAM Westport, the town’s multicultural committee — spoke briefly.

On Friday, Pastor Alison Patton sent a letter to her congregation. She wrote:

We are getting ready to hang a Black Lives Matter banner on the façade of Saugatuck Church. We do so to support those among us who are black and brown, during a year that has been particularly hard on people of color, and to express our commitment to work against racism. This is a project initiated by our Arts and Ministry Team and unanimously supported by our Saugatuck Church Council.

Among the many inter-locking experiences that have defined 2020 is a heightened focus on systemic racism and its impact on communities of color. In response, many of you have taken steps to deepen your understanding of racism – reading, discussing, marching and asking, “What more can I do?” You have leaned into this moment with courage and curiosity.

Rev. Alison Patton

Together, we have grieved the harm inflicted on those among us who are black and brown. We have prayed, held small group discussions and shared resources to support our collective learning. We’ve begun to explore the uncomfortable reality that those of us who are white have advantages in this culture that are not afforded people of color.

We are only just beginning what is truly a life-long project: to unmask racism, unlearn our own biases, and develop the tools to build diverse, equitable and inclusive communities. As I said on Sunday, this is hard work; it is also heart work. It is uncomfortable and necessary and holy.

Why “Black Lives Matter”?

The work begins when we say, out loud, to each other and to our neighbors, that black lives matter – as much as any other lives. It is a deceptively simple assertion that has stirred up all kinds of discomfort, usually among those of us who are white. Some worry it implies that black lives matter more, or that other lives matter less. 

It might help to know that this line got its start not as a message to white folks, but as a tweet by Alicia Garza, who is black, to her own black community, at a time when they were feeling particularly vulnerable. It was a 16-character love letter.** To repeat her words now is to challenge the systems that have perpetuated inequality in ways that deny the intrinsic worth of black lives.

I know you’ve heard me say this before: I am deeply convinced that we are called to this project as people of faith and, in particular, as followers of Jesus, who insisted on the God-created value of all people and showed us how to love publicly in a world of inequality.

And I believe that church is the perfect place to launch this work: here, where we can wrestle, confess, forgive, learn, listen, stumble, get back up, reach out, and practice loving – ourselves and each other – the whole way through.

During the 2016 election, Saugatuck Church was open for prayer and reflection.

So, What’s Next?

When Council gave its support to the banner proposal, we did so with the recognition that we need to pair the words with real efforts to equip ourselves to confront and dismantle racism. Here are our next steps:

  • On Saturday, 30 members of Saugatuck Church will participate in a racial justice workshop led by Dr. Donique McIntosh, Minister for Racial Justice for our Southern New England Conference.
  • **On Thursday, October 29, our online small group, VOICES, will feature a podcast about the origin and history of Black Lives Matter.

This is just the start. There are more learning opportunities in the works. We will continue to dig deeper, examine our own habits, seek out partners, and ask what more needs to be done to banish racism in our lives, our church and the world. Please reach out to me if you have questions or ideas about these efforts.

Beloved, I am so honored to be doing this work in partnership with you. May God bless our words and our actions, our listening and our learning. May the Christ in our midst keep us curious and brave.

 

Roundup: Hybrid Schools, Hugh Jackman, Irrigation Ban, More


The current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice announced that decision last night, at a Board of Education meeting. It was driven by an uptick in coronavirus cases — a trend expected to rise this fall.

Public sentiment is divided. But Scarice called this “the prudent” and “correct” approach, based on current infection numbers, future models, the ability of educators to adapt to both in-person and distance learning, and input on how the hybrid model has worked so far.


Sure, it rained earlier this week. But Aquarion has announced a mandatory irrigation ban in southwest Fairfield County. The area — including Westport — has hit its 3rd “drought trigger” this fall.

Effective immediately, the ban includes automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers. (Hand-held watering, soaker hose and drip irrigation continue to be permitted for new plantings.)

The ban will help ensure “an adequate water supply for everyday needs, and give reservoirs time to recover for the spring,” the water company says.

Click here for water conservation tips.

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 Last Friday, Hugh Jackman stopped by the Remarkable Theater.

Okay, the Australian actor was not actually at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

But he did send a special message, introducing a screening of “The Greatest Showman” (and it had nothing to do with the music, by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul).

A video message from the movie’s creator and screenwriter Jenny Bicks also greeted the audience. The screening was in support of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Next up: “Playhouse at the Drive-in,” this Saturday night.


The Milken Institute Global Conference is in the midst of 8 days of inspiring talks and panels. This year’s topics are (of course) the global pandemic, and social injustice.

And (of course) it’s virtual. Over 4,000 of the world’s leading thinkers have tuned in.

There’s a solid Westport presence at the prestigious, 22nd annual event.

RTM member Kristin Schneeman is a director at FasterCures, part of the Milken Institute. Théo Feldman is an associate director, innovative finance there.

Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was featured in a conversation, while the hedge fund’s CEO David McCormick spoke on a panel called “Leadership: Moving Beyond Conventional Thinking.

Feldman adds: “During last year’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, I met a fellow Westporter: Russell Sherman. We realized his sister — Suzanne Sherman Propp — taught my daughter at Greens Farms Elementary School. And his niece did a play with my other daughter.”


As the weather turns cool, a pair of local religious institutions are sponsoring a coat drive for Person to Person.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


Speaking of help: last week’s Longshore Ladies 9 Hole Golf Association annual fundraiser brought in plenty of groceries for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet. The event also raised over $1,170, which will go to gift cards for food insecure Westporters.

Donations for the Longshore golf food drive.


And finally … in honor of Hugh Jackman’s Westport “appearance” (and Justin Paul’s music):

 

Roundup: Candidates’ Debate, BLM, More


The 2nd presidential debate has been canceled.

Today (Tuesday, October 13, 12 noon, Zoom), the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library fill the gap. They’ll sponsor a virtual one with our area’s State Senate candidates: Will Haskell and Kim Healy (26th District), and Tony Hwang and Michelle McCabe (28th District),

Initial questions will come from the Chamber board. Viewers can use Zoom’s chat feature to ask their own questions.

To register to watch this debate — or the video of last week’s State House candidates debate — click here and follow the links.


This Saturday’s international march for women’s rights builds on a similar march in January 2017.

A group of women, men and children from the Unitarian Church in Westport heads to Stamford to support that gathering. Click here to register.

The Church is also sponsoring a “virtual opportunity” (Saturday, October 17, 4 p.m.) for anyone concerned about being in a large group during the pandemic.

They also seek pictures, videos and written comments, on the theme of “why I would march if I could.” Email events@uuwestport.org. Put “Women’s March” in the subject line.


And finally … today is International Skeptics Day. Yeah, right!

Friday Flashback #213

It’s been almost 51 years to the day. But no one who was there has forgotten the energy and power of that afternoon.

October 15, 1969 was a national event: a “Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam,” Demonstrations occurred all over the country.

The cover of Staples’ 1970 yearbook included photos from that fall’s Moratorium march, in the form of a peace sign.

Sparked by young people, Westport protested too.

Staples students streamed out of school. Led by Westport police, and joined by teachers and junior high students, more than 1,200 marched down North Avenue, turned right on Long Lots, then onto the Post Road all the way to the YMCA.

Massing in front of the old Bedford building — the only part of the Y at that time — a crowd that swelled to 2,000 heard speakers, including Iowa Senator Harold Hughes and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein, denounce the war and demand peace.

They wore black armbands and sported doves of peace. They carried American flags, and chanted “Hell no, we won’t go!” Counter-protesters drove alongside, cursing them. A few threw eggs.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

A remarkable video of that Westport moratorium captures the day.

Staples senior Guy Northrop shot 17 minutes of the march, with a Bauer Super 8 camera. Eleven minutes survive, and have been posted on YouTube.

The video shows with remarkable freshness the power of that protest. It also serves as a unique time capsule. Much of Westport has changed since then. But much has not.