Category Archives: religion

Unsung Heroes #24

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

All across Westport, families and friends will gather to enjoy this warm, nourishing and traditional American holiday.

Putting on such a celebration is a lot of work. But it’s nothing compared to what goes on at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

For 47 years, the handsome white building near the center of town has hosted a community Thanksgiving feast. (With a little help from Christ & Holy Trinity Church around the corner, after the fire a few years ago.)

It’s a free meal. All are welcome. And hundreds come.

Some are alone. Others prefer the company of a community. No one asks questions. They just gather together, and enjoy the day.

A small part of the Thanksgiving Community Feast.

The turkey-and-all-the-trimmings event goes like clockwork. After nearly half a century, the church has it down pat.

Yet it takes a village to throw a townwide feast.

Over 100 volunteers make it happen. Saugatuck Church members, congregants from every other religious institution, non-believers — all pitch in.

They donate food, decorate the hall, do kitchen prep, set up tables, check in guests, cook, carve, serve, oversee the buffet table, bus tables, wash dishes and (of course) clean up. Three of them play keyboard, drums and sax, just for kicks.

They provide rides to the church for those who can’t drive, and deliver meals to those who are homebound.

They work magic.

A few of the volunteers at a Saugatuck Church Community Thanksgiving Feast.

The name of the holiday is Thanksgiving. Many of the helpers at tomorrow’s feast work behind the scenes. They never hear thanks.

That’s not why they do it, of course. Still, it’s nice to know you’re appreciated.

Which is why all the hundreds of Community Thanksgiving Feast volunteers — past, present and future — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

Thank you!

Halloween Church Horror

Looking for something to do this Halloween weekend, before Tuesday’s trick or treating?

Go to church.

Christ & Holy Trinity is getting into the “spirit.” They’re showing the classic Lon Chaney silent film “Phantom of the Opera” — with a twist.

The soundtrack will be improvised live on the church’s pipe organ by Todd Wilson.

He’s the real deal: head of the organ department at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Moviegoers are encouraged to dress for the occasion, and watch in costume.

Tickets are $35 for preferred seating, $25 for general adult admission, $10 for general children under 18, $60 per family. Click here for reservations.

The only thing missing is Zacherle.

Photo Challenge #145

Unlike Sam Cooke (and Herman’s Hermits), “06880” readers do know much about history.

Last week’s photo challenge showed part of a historic marker (click here to view). Very quickly, you guys (and gals) identified the location as the small Machamux park, nestled near I-95 off Greens Farms Road between Beachside Avenue and the train station.

You chimed in with other information: “Machamux” means “beautiful land” in Pequot. The plaque is on a boulder that’s the site of the very first Greens Farms meetinghouse.

But no one commented on the name of the young sachem on the plaque: “Chickens.” (Maybe people were too scared…?)

Congratulations to Fred Cantor, Joyce Barnhart, Seth Schachter, Robert Mitchell, Wendy Cusick, Jacques Voris, Amy Schneider, Seth Goltzer, W. Tucker Clark and Jacque O’Brien. You know your onions — er,  your Westport history.

But do you know where in Westport this is?

If you do, click “Comments” below.

Silent Vigil Wednesday Morning For Las Vegas

The Westport Weston Clergy Association will gather downtown tomorrow morning (Wednesday, October 4, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

The goal is to show solidarity with the people of Las Vegas following Sunday night’s attack.

The group will hold the banner currently on display outside the United Methodist Church. It quotes Maya Angelou: “Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it hasn’t solved one yet.”

All members of the community are invited to join in the silent prayer vigil, standing together against hate and violence.

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is the site of Wednesday morning’s silent vigil.(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Westporters Fight Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Westport’s Domestic Violence Task Force wants to make everyone aware of the issue — and what can be done about it.

The group has collected gift certificates from more than a dozen local salons. (One owner donated because her mother was a victim of abuse.) Haircuts and colors help women in shelters start new lives. Some are preparing for job interviews. Others need to change their appearance to avoid abusers.

The salons will be thanked on Saturday, October 14, at the Westport Unitarian Church Voices Cafe. All proceeds from Pierce Pettis’ performance will be donated to the salon drive. (Click here for tickets.)

Meanwhile, this Sunday (October 1), pinwheels will be displayed on Jesup Green. There’s one for every domestic violence call the Police Department received this year.

The chilling reminder that domestic abuse happens in Westport — as it does everywhere — remains on display all month.

Next Tuesday (October 3), volunteers from our police and fire departments will join Domestic Violence Task Force members at the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. They’ll hand out informational palm cards to commuters.

And on Wednesday, October 25 (Unitarian Church, 7 p.m.), Lisa Aronson Fontes — a noted author, therapist, researcher and professor — will discuss coercive control in relationships.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month ends on October 31. Of course, the issue will not go away that day.

But in Westport, concerned citizens are doing all they can to help.

Unsung Hero #17

If you’ve been in Westport for any length of time, you’ve probably heard — and met — Jo Fuchs Luscombe.

She’s been involved in every aspect of life here — politics, education, community service. If it needs doing, Jo has done it.

But how many people know her back story?

A Dallas native, she was just a year old when her father — an oilman — moved the family to Venezuela. Jo grew up speaking Spanish — and gaining an important, real-world view of life.

She went to boarding school and college in Texas, headed to Katherine Gibbs secretarial school, got married at 19 and had a child at 20.

Jo Fuchs Luscombe

Her husband was in oil too, so they headed to Libya. Jo learned Italian there, and was once more immersed in a very different culture.

In 1969, the family moved back to the US. Her boys were 13 and 10.

In her mid-30s, Jo and her husband divorced. Encouraged by Rev. Dana Forrest Kennedy, she threw herself into every aspect Christ & Holy Trinity Church. She became president of the Women’s Guild, served on the vestry, and ran fundraisers.

She got interested too in the Westport Historical Society. Jo was a driving force behind the acquisition and restoration of Wheeler House — owned at the time by her church — as the organization’s headquarters.

In 1980, Jo was asked to fill out an unexpired term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public speaking did not come easily. But — as with everything else in her life — she worked to master it.

She won a full term on her own, then was appointed to the vacant post of 3rd selectman.

In 1986, Jo headed up her friend and fellow Westporter Julie Belaga’s campaign for governor.

Jo’s next step was the state House of Representatives. She served 5 terms — from 1987 to ’97 — and rose to Republican minority whip.

Retirement from state politics did not slow her down. As a member of Westport’s School Building Committee, she helped oversee 5 major construction and renovation projects (including the new Staples High School).

Jo Fuchs Luscombe (Photo courtesy of Westport Woman’s Club)

Remarriage did not slow her down either. Jo has been president of the Westport Woman’s Club (where she helped run major events like the art show), and is active in Westport Rotary, Greens Farms Garden club, and countless others.

As a longtime Westport Family YMCA board member, she helped shepherd the new building on its long, torturous journey from downtown to Mahackeno.

Her husband John says there is one reason she accomplishes so much: “She doesn’t sleep.”

There’s one more thing: Jo Fuchs Luscombe is one of the nicest, most always-smiling people you’ll ever meet.

Congratulations, Jo. And thanks from all of us, for all you’ve done in so many ways.

(Hat tip: Bobbie Herman)

Church’s “Black Lives Matter” Banner Gone — Again

The first time Westport’s Unitarian Church hung a “Black Lives Matter” banner on Lyons Plains Road, it lasted 10 months.

After it disappeared in August, church officials ordered a new one.

It was dedicated last Sunday — next to a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign.

This time, it took just 5 days before it too was gone.

It will be be back.

Rev. Dr. John Morehouse posted this message on Facebook:

“Every time the banner is vandalized it fortifies our resolve to replace it and underscores the very need for its existence.”

Hurricane Victims: More Ways To Help

Westport continues to respond to the recent hurricanes. Here are 2 intriguing ways to help.

Kidz Give Back — a local organization that lets children stuff, dress and prepare plush toy animals for others in hospitals or financial distress — encourages area youngsters to “send love” to boys and girls in Texas.

Their goal is 1,000 “Stuffed With Love” animals.

Clicking here brings up a donation form. $25 buys a kit with animal skin, stuffing, a wish star, clothing, accessories, gift card, “adoption certificate,” and bracelet so you (well, your child) can build a stuffed animal. Kits can be picked up at 23 Silverbrook Road, where the Wofsy family — originators of the project — live.

It takes less than 30 minutes to assemble an animal. You bring it back to their house; they ship it to Houston.

If you don’t want to assemble the stuffed animal yourself, your donation can purchase a kit for a child to do it.

The Wofsy family (from left): Hallie, Maya, Layla and Scott.

Help of a different kind comes from “Rhythms of Hope.” The benefit drum circle is set for this Saturday (September 16, 2 to 5 p.m.), at the Unitarian Church.

Westport resident Randy Brody — head of Sound Directions — offers his facilitation and drumming skills. Donations ($20 for adults; $10 for seniors; children under 12 free) to participate will raise funds for Direct Relief, which provides medical supplies and health services in areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Everyone is welcome. No drumming experience is necessary. For more information call 203-227-7205, ext. 14, or email rbdrumguy@sbcglobal.net.

Randy Brody and his drums.

 

Buckets And Banners

Two Westport religious institutions have announced important projects.

Saugatuck Congregational Church is collecting supplies to assemble emergency cleanup buckets for hurricane damage in Texas and Florida.

The initiative — part of Church World Service — is open to all Westporters. The goal is to create one or more 5-gallon buckets with resealable lids. Contents should include:

  • 4 scouring pads
  • 7 sponges (1 of them large)
  • 1 scrub brush
  • 18 reusable cleaning towels (like Easy Wipes)
  • 1 50 ounce or 2 25 ounce bottles of liquid laundry detergent
  • 1 16-28 ounce bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
  • 1 12-16 ounce bottle of household cleaner that can be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
  • 1 package of 48-50 clothespins
  • 1 100-foot or 2 50 foot clotheslines
  • 5 dust masks
  • 2 pairs of non-surgical latex gloves
  • 1 pair of work gloves, cotton with leather palm or all leather
  • 24-28 heavy duty or contractor-type 30-45 gallon trash bags on a roll, removed from carton
  • 1 6-9 ounce bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent.

A clean-up bucket.

All cleaning items must be new. Liquid items must be capped and securely tightened. Place all items into the bucket, packed securely. Snap the lid on tight, and seal with packing tape.

The bucket should be cleaned well. It cannot have held chemicals of any kind.

Buckets can be dropped off behind Saugatuck Church by this Saturday (September 16). Signs say “Clean-up Bucket” at the drop-off point.

You can provide items from the list too, without buckets. Church members will assemble buckets on Sunday, and arrange for transportation.

Funds can be donated too, to defray costs. Checks made payable to Saugatuck Congregational Church (with “emergency buckets” in the memo line) can be sent to 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880 (attention: Dana Johnson).

Buckets can be dropped off behind the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

“This is a great way for a family, school group or neighborhood to lend a much-needed hand,” says co-coordinator Melissa Banks.

“As someone who had to clean Superstorm Sandy debris from my home, I know this thoughtful gift of kindness in an overwhelming experience would be greatly appreciated.”

“Damage is massive. It’s hard to know how best to respond to a crisis,” adds Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

“This project gives us a concrete way to contribute to flood recovery. These buckets are desperately needed, and have a huge, positive impact. We’d love to be overrun by buckets assembled by the many caring and dedicated hands in Westport.”

Questions? Email dana@saugatuckchurch.org.


Meanwhile, the Unitarian Church prepares for the re-dedication of its Black Lives Matter banner this Sunday (September 17, 12:30 p.m.). Community and faith leaders have been invited to attend. Everyone is welcome.

At the dedication last October, Rev. Dr. John Morehouse said, “It is our intention for this banner to open a dialogue with others in our community about race, and our role in ending racism.”

Church officials say that happened. People called to support, question and disagree with the banner. Conversations were respectful and civil.

Last month, however, the banner was removed. No one has been identified, and no motive is clear.

All that remained of the “Black Lives Matter” banner last month.. (Photo/David Vita)

Rev. Morehouse calls the outpouring of support in the weeks since the incident “tremendous. Our community has proclaimed that hate has no home here. If necessary we will replace this sign and every other sign which is vandalized and stolen. We will not be intimidated by the forces of bigotry and hate.”

The new banner was purchased with donated funds.

The Unitarian Church banner.

Former Westport Rabbi Takes National Stand Against Hatred

On Thursday, a front-page New York Times story reported on the reaction of 4 major rabbinical groups to Charlottesville.

The organizations — representing a variety of Jewish religious practices — strongly criticized President Trump’s reaction to the carnage. They also announced they would not participate in a traditional High Holy Days conference call with the president.

The Times quoted Rabbi Jonah Pesner —  director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — as saying that Jews were appalled by Trump’s equivocal response to the events.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner

Pesner — who participated in 2 High Holy Days calls during the Obama administration — said there was “a lot of sadness” about the decision not to speak with Trump.

Westporters remember Pesner as assistant rabbi of Temple Israel from 1997 to 1999.

“Those of us who were privileged to work with and learn from him knew that he was destined to accomplish much,” recalls former senior rabbi Robert Orkand.

“Indeed, he went on to serve with great distinction at Temple Israel in Boston, and as a senior vice president of the Union of Reform Judaism before assuming his current position.”

Orkand is “proud to call Rabbi Pesner my friend, colleague and teacher. And I am proud that his leadership has led the religious movement I served for more than 40 years to take a courageous stand in opposition to bigotry and hatred.”

(Hat tip: Susan Farewell)