Category Archives: religion

Pics Of The Day #1347

This afternoon, the Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church youth group offered a “drive-by nativity” … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… and then parishioners strolled through the church yard and sanctuary. There were cozy fires, carols, string ensembles, a chance to light a candle and a pause for private prayer. Jo Shields calls it “achingly beautiful … a far different holiday season than any of us are accustomed to, but Christ & Holy Trinity Church brought the seasonal sights and sounds home to the hearts of all who stopped by.” (Photo/Jo Shields)

Roundup: Churches, Safety App, GFA Athletes, More


For many years, Saugatuck Church collected baby gifts during their 5 p.m. Christmas Eve pageant. They were donated to women and children, through the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk.

Tonight, that worship is online. However, the church continues its tradition of gathering gifts to benefit women and children in crisis. And you don’t have to be a parishioner to help!

Just stop at the white church downtown (245 Post Road East) between 4 and 5 p.m. today. Pop your trunk; a volunteer will retrieve your gift.

This has been a very tough year, for women, children and the DVCC itself. Items needed include supplies and pajamas for babies, as well as crafts for older children.


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup noted that Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara is starring in a PBS holiday special.

She also did a much more local performance, at (and for) Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Her daughter Charlotte is a junior chorister there.)

You can enjoy Kelli — and many others — starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Just click on the CHT YouTube channel or Facebook page.

Kelli O’Hara at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.


M13 has led a $1.8M seed round in Prepared, a company building technology to keep school campuses safer. It was co-founded at Yale University by Staples graduates Dylan Gleicher and Neil Soni.

Prepared’s 1-touch mobile alert system enables administrators to instantaneously alert both the entire campus and 911 dispatchers to an emergency. Click here for a full story.

Neil Soni and Dylan Gleicher


Three Greens Farms Academy student-athletes from Westport have committed to colleges, to continue their academic and sports careers.

Connor McDonald will play tennis at Boston College; Piper Melnick plans to row at the University of California-Berkeley, and Mark Roszkowski heads off to Tufts University’s baseball team.

Congratulations to all 3 Dragons!

From left: Connor McDonald, Piper Melnick and Mark Roszkowski.


And finally … as always, The Band is there:

Westport Says Farewell To Vinny Penna

Police officers from far and wide joined hundreds of Vinny Penna’s Westport friends this morning, to bid a final farewell to their colleague and friend.

The retired deputy police chief died last week, at 51.

The Saugatuck native’s Assumption Church funeral Mass was livestreamed. A graveside service follows, at the Assumption cemetery on Greens Farms Road.

(Photos/Amy Schneider)

Pics Of The Day #1341

Yesterday marked the last night of Hanukkah …. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

… and meanwhile, someone put a Christmas tree in the middle of Sherwood Island Mill Pond (Photo/Matt Murray)

Roundup: Bowtie Cinema, Leveling The Field, Melissa & Doug, More


Movie theaters — remember them?! — are back.

The Bow Tie “Ultimate Royale” multiplex on US 1 — just over the border in Norwalk — reopens tomorrow. Features include “Monster Hunter,” “The Croods,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Elf,” The Midnight Sky,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Honest Thief” and “Tenet.”

The experience will be different than in pre-pandemic days. For example:

  • 100% reserved seating …
  • … but only 50% capacity
  • A temporary waiver of all advanced ticketing fees
  • Selling seats in an alternating pattern so each customer has an empty seat on either side
  • Contact-free purchasing of tickets and concession items
  • Mandatory face masks (unless eating or drinking at your seat)
  • Plexiglas barriers at box office and concession
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Limitations on restroom and lobby capacities.

You can also book a private movie party” for up to 20 guests.

No word on whether you will still pay $22 for a 10-pound box of Jujubes. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


Christmas caroling — remember that?! — returns to the Unitarian Church this Saturday (December 19, 3 to 4 p.m.).

It’s COVID-conscious of course: in the large parking lot, with masks and social distancing required.

In Unitarian spirit, there will be a mix of secular songs and Christmas carols. Everyone will use phone flashlights to sing “Silent Night” at dusk. Feel free to bring an instrument too!.

In the holiday spirit, if you want to join but don’t want to actually join people, email events@uuwestport.org for the Zoom link.

Not quite the Unitarian Church parking lot, but you get the idea.


Chloe Hackett is a Staples High School sophomore. She’s an athlete too.

As she and her family searched for a way to help others during the pandemic, they found Leveling the Playing Field. The non-profit seemed perfect.

It collect new and gently used sports and playground equipment, then distribute it to needy youth organizations. And it was founded by Syracuse University alums — Chloe’s parents’ alma mater.

“My sisters and I play field hockey, ice hockey and softball year round,” Chloe says.

“Sports have taught us teamwork, discipline, commitment, determination and how to compete. They’ve given us an after-school outlet, and the opportunity to make friends. We are fortunate to live in an amazing town with so many opportunities, access to a wide variety of sports and the equipment to play them.”

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday, December 19-20, 10 a.m. to noon, at The Granola Bar), the Hacketts are collecting donations.

Cleats, field hockey sticks, lacrosse equipment, bats, hockey skates, footballs, softball gloves — it will all make a difference. Click here for a full list of acceptable and non-acceptable items.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the Hacketts have your back. They’ll leave a box in front of the restaurant, and make pickups daily.

The Hackett girls already have donations! From left: Alex, Chloe, Daisy. (Photo/Julianne Mulvey)


Melissa & Doug — the international toy company, and the Westport couple named the Bernsteins behind it — keep a low profile.

The company (and the couple) do many good things, out of the limelight. Here’s one that deserves notice.

They’ve partnered with the Whole Foods, selling toys in stores and online. Between December 20-24, 1% of sales at Whole Foods will support Whole Kids Foundation’s child nutrition programs.

Stock up on good food and great toys. And help children eat well. Melissa & Doug — and kids you’ll never know — will thank you. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)


Westport abstract expressionist painter David Stephen Johnson made his European debut earlier this year.

To share in his good fortune — and do his part to help local first responders — from now through mid-January, he is donating all proceeds of his Works on Paper sales to Norwalk Hospital.

Click here for some of the Works on Paper that make original, thoughtful holiday gifts (and support the community).

More of Johnson’s pieces can be viewed at his Compo Beach studio, by (socially distanced) appointment. Email studio@davidstephenjohnson.com, or call 970- 376-5058.

To see other works, click here or follow hisInstagram page: @david.stephen.johnson.art.

David Stephen Johnson


And finally … on this date in 1865, Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” premiered. The composer died nearly 40 years earlier, from either typhoid fever or syphilis. Just 31, he had composed more than 600 vocal works, 7 complete symphonies, sacred music and operas, along with piano and chamber music.

Be An Angel. Snap A Selfie!

After the year we’ve had, everyone needs a little hope and joy.

And an angel.

Inspired by a project in Kennebunkport, Maine, the Saugatuck Church arts and ministry team wanted to design something to engage Westporters as they passed by.

Call it the downtown church’s holiday gift to the community.

Katherine Ross designed the angel wings …

Katherine Ross designed the wings. Michael Brennecke cut them, dug the hole and mixed the cement to secure them on the broad lawn outside the handsome building.

… and Michael Brennecke dug the hole and mixed the cement …

“We have been so isolated from each other, and under so much stress,” says Rev. Alison Patton.

“We hope these angel wings spark a little playfulness, give us a way to connect with each other, and encourage folks to share.” (Don’t forget to tag Saugatuck Church!)

“The world needs love, justice and compassion this season So we ae calling all angels.”

A sign will go up soon, but you heard it here first: “Be an angel this season. Take a selfie to post!”

… while MaryEllen Hendricks is another member of the Saugatuck Church arts and ministry team.

 

Roundup: Environment And Social Justice, Pop-Up Art, Pop-Up Menorah, More


At first glance, environmentalism and social justice might seem to be different issues.

But they intersect powerfully. One example: petrochemical facilities — with all their toxic byproducts — are often located in predominantly minority, economically disadvantaged communities.

Wanjiku Gatheru wrote a provocative piece for Glamour: “Want to be an Environmentalist? Start With Antiracism.”

The 21-year old is the first Black person in history to receive the Rhodes, Truman and Udall scholarships. A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, she’s now studying in Oxford, England.

That’s where she’ll join the Westport Library on Wednesday, December 16 (7 p.m.), for a virtual event. She’ll discuss the intersection of those 2 movements. The event is co-sponsored by TEAM Westport, Sustainable Westport and Earthplace. Click here to register.

Wanjiku Gatheru (Photo/Sean Glynn, UConn)


The Greens Farms Elementary School PTA has organized a fundraiser.

They not only want everyone to help — they want to help other PTAs and organizations too.

When you buy a gift card from a participating local retailer or locally owned online brand — click here! — the store donates a portion of proceeds to the GFS PTA.

But GFS wants to spread the wealth. If your PTA wants to be considered — as part of a dropdown menu at checkout — email contact@payitforward.co.

Participants include ASF Sports & Outdoors, BD Provisions, Club Pilates, Dojo Westport, Posh Nail Salon, Shelala, Skin by Kataryna, Olive & Linen, Organic Krush, Posh Nail Salon, Romanacci Pizza Bar, Splatz by OneFun, Stew Leonard’s, Westport Masks and 3Dux.

New brands are being added all the time. If your business would like to join, email contact@payitfwrd.co.


Westport artist Michael Chait will sponsor another of his popular pop-up photo shows on the Saugatuck River this Sunday (December 13, 12:30 to 3 p.m., 11 Riverside Avenue).

It’s all outdoors. Smooth jazz/R&B music starts at 1:30 p.m., with the Dave Kardas Band. Pop by for the pop-up!

Michael Chait’s flag over the Saugatuck River.


Anthropologie’s Christmas decorations bring a bit of light to downtown Westport.

Now they’re joined by a menorah.

Happy holidays to all!

(Photo/Arlene Yolles)


As of yesterday, Westport had 786 cases of COVID-19 since March (722 confirmed, 64 probable). That’s up 87 total cases since last Thursday.

There have been 25 deaths, up 1 from last week. Click here for full statistics.


And finally … happy 89th birthday to Rita Moreno. In 1961 she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Anita, in the film version of “West Side Story.”

Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico’s in America!

Cathy Walsh’s Westport

After 30 years in town, Cathy Walsh knows Westport.

But despite all that time — and her long service on the Planning & Zoning Commission — it took a pandemic for her to really appreciate the things she sees every day.

For the past 9 months, Cathy has walked all over town. The day after Thanksgiving she did a 7 1/2-mile loop to Burying Hill Beach. The next day she took her regular 6 1/2-mile neighborhood walk.

Like many other Westporters, COVID helped Cathy see Westport through new eyes.

Unlike many others, Cathy stopped along the way to take photos. Here are some scenes from last week’s walks.

Burying Hill Beach jetty.

Burying Hill tidal creek.

Nyala Farm.

Greens Farms Church cemetery.

Saugatuck River, behind Belden Place.

Parker Harding Plaza footbridge.

Canoeing on the Saugatuck River, downtown.

Saugatuck River west bank, behind Arezzo.

Riverside Avenue walkway.

Rive Bistro restaurant.

Saugatuck River, looking north.

William F. Cribari Bridge, and Bridge Square.

Seahorse in Saugatuck. (Photos/Cathy Walsh)

Even during a crisis, Westport is beautiful. Thanks, Cathy, for helping us notice so much we don’t always see.

Jean Donovan: Not The Westport Girl Next Door

John F. Suggs is a longtime Westporter, regular “06880” reader and former Jesuit. He is also passionate about keeping Jean Donovan’s memory alive. John writes:

Jean Donovan

Forty years ago today, 4 U.S. churchwomen were kidnaped, tortured, raped and killed in a remote section of El Salvador. They were targeted for openly living with and caring for the poor in the midst of El Salvador’s bloody civil war.

According to a 1993 United Nations Security Council report, the women were ordered killed by the US-trained and funded Salvadorian military, which covered up their involvement in the murders and obstructed initial investigations.

Three of the churchwomen were Catholic nuns. The fourth — Jean Donovan — was a 27-year-old lay Catholic volunteer who grew up in Westport.

In many ways, Jean was like any other Westport kid. She marched in the annual Memorial Day parade with her Girl Scout toop, made her first communion at Assumption Church and her confirmation at St. Luke.

A member of the Staples High School class of 1971, she played on the basketball and field hockey teams. An accomplished equestrian at Westport’s Fiddle Horse Farm, Jean managed the tack room after school and supervised youngsters assigned to work in the stables.

Jean Donovan, at Fiddle Horse Farm. (Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

She was the quintessential Westport girl next door.

Until she wasn’t.     

Only 6 years after graduating from Staples, after finishing grad school and starting as an account executive at Arthur Andersen, Jean put her career on hold to pursue something radically different.

She applied for a volunteer position with the Catholic Maryknoll Lay Mission. The program required a 2-year commitment living with and serving an impoverished community in El Salvador.

Accepted into the program, Jean quit her job, to begin training and coursework.

Today it is common for young Westporters to go on service or mission trips. Some expect a transformational experience. Others pad their resumes to help get into competitive colleges.

As parents, we sign permission slips and write checks, knowing that at least the trip gets our kids out of the Westport bubble. We hope their experiences in communities of poverty might have a beneficial impact on them — something lasting, beyond serving as a great subject for a college application essay.

I believe it was here that Jean began to differentiate herself from the quintessential Westport girl next door.

A tribute to Jean Donovan and fellow churchwomen, near the spot of their murder in El Salvador.

Jean had already been accepted into the right undergrad and graduate schools. She had completed her studies, and landed that important first professional job.

Jean had no need to make this 2-year service commitment to help advance her career. If anything, her decision derailed it — at least with Arthur Andersen.

So why did Jean do what she did?

Though I never had the pleasure of knowing Jean personally, I’ve worked hard over the years to help keep her memory alive in Westport. So I have given this question a lot of thought.

Based on all the information that I’ve gathered, I believe her decisions to not only quit her job and make this commitment, but also to stay in El Salvador as the violence escalated, were the result of her making a spiritual discernment.

This centuries-old decision-making process seeks to assist an individual in determining their best course of action. The person first becomes aware of the interior movements and deepest desires of their heart, then tests and evaluates its validity in alignment with God.

A tribute to Jean Donovan hangs outside Assumption Church. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Two weeks before Jean died, she wrote a friend in Connecticut about the final decisions and actions she was about to take, based on what I believe were the results of her spiritual discernment.

The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme, and they were right to leave….

Now I must assess my own position because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.

Today let’s remember and honor this once quintessential Westport girl next door, whose discernment and subsequent action culminated in making the ultimate commitment to protect and care for the most vulnerable of all.

(Jean Donovan will be remembered this Sunday [December 6]. during the 11 a.m. mass at Assumption Church. Attendance is limited, due to COVID; click here to reserve a seat. The mass will be livestreamed.

(In progressive Catholic social justice networks, Jean Donovan is considered a saint. A Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship at Santa Clara University — a Jesuit school — supports students interested in social justice, while in Los Angeles the Casa Jean Donovan Community Residence houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

(Her story was told in “Salvador.” Written by Oliver Stone — who directed it too, as his 1st major film — the character based on her life was played by Cynthia Gibb. Amazingly, she too is a Staples High graduate, exactly 10 years after Jean Donovan.)

Trying Times At Temple

The departure of Cantor Dan Sklar from Temple Israel earlier this month surprised members of the congregation.

But, he says, the notion that he resigned — and that officials did all they could to retain him — is “a complete fabrication.”

In a video released yesterday, Sklar — who also earned a dual degree as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College — calls the temple’s version of events “disingenuous.” He says he was threatened with termination because of anger issues.

Cantor and Rabbi Dan Sklar

Sklar does not deny those issues. They are real, he says — and the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Sklar studied for the cantorate in Jerusalem during a period of intense suicide bombings. He saw their aftermath.

In his years at Temple Israel, Sklar says, he had several “outbursts of emotion.” They were related to issues of building security and COVID-19 — for example, threats by intruders, and unmasked people in the sanctuary. They were directed at colleagues and staff members, not congregants, he says.

In the video, he describes the pain of being barred by the temple from co-officiating at a funeral — and having no contact with the grieving family. He was also prohibited from contact with students he was preparing for bar and bat mitzvahs.

Sklar expresses gratitude to the many families and friends for the support they’ve shown. Despite losing his job — and his family’s health insurance — in the midst of a global pandemic, Sklar smiles a bit at the end.

Recalling Sabbath services on the beach, and “sharing life’s joys and trials,” he notes that being a cantor and rabbi “is not a job. It is who I am.”

Click below to see Dan Sklar’s video:


Last night, Temple Israel’s board of trustees emailed the congregation:

Dear Friends,

We are heartbroken to have to write this letter this evening.

We all recognize the imprint Cantor Sklar has had on our congregation and will cherish the memories we have of him. We know how important he has been to you and your family in times of celebration and mourning alike. We assure you that he has had a similar role in our own lives. He has deeply enriched the fabric of our community.

We are disappointed that Cantor Sklar has chosen to mischaracterize certain events that culminated in his departure from Temple Israel.

Unfortunately, over the course of recent years, Cantor Sklar exhibited behavior that resulted in a number of documented incidents which unambiguously violated our congregation’s code of conduct.

Last week, we reached a written separation agreement that was approved by Cantor Sklar and his counsel. The agreement would have generously provided for Cantor Sklar and his family. It would have enabled him to move on to the next stage of his career with his reputation intact and provided financial support for his family during a lengthy transition period.

Today Cantor Sklar revoked that agreement and chose to make public a number of hurtful and untrue accusations against Temple Israel.

We do not believe this is the appropriate forum to share the details of the numerous incidents that led to our decision, but we do want to assure you that we did everything we could to accommodate Cantor Sklar both in recent months as well as over the course of a number of years. Sadly, despite the many accommodations we provided, the situation became untenable. It was a painful but necessary decision we had to make despite the pandemic.

We wish Cantor Sklar and his family only the best. We understand this will be an emotional transition for Temple Israel, but our congregation is strong and resilient. Please feel free to reach out to us; we will support one another though this.

L’shalom — wishing you peace and comfort.