In the 309 years since its founding, Green’s Farms Church has seen a lot.
In 1779 the British burned its meetinghouse and parsonage. The current, handsome building on Hillandale Road — the 4th in the church’s history — has been there since 1853.
Over those 3 centuries, clergy and worshipers have weathered wars, snowstorms and hurricanes. The steeple blew down; the lights have gone out. Disease has ravaged the congregation — including the infamous influenza pandemic of 1918-20.
The latest calamity is one shared by the world: the coronavirus. To meet the moment, the church that began 78 years before the United States was born — and 124 before Westport became a town — has turned to a 21st century tool: an online journal.
Two dozen people contributed insights, including church officials and congregants. They range from young families to members in their 80s. Some have been members for 50 years; others, just a few months.
All responded to the question: “What have you learned from the lockdown?”
This is not a seat-of-the-pants, let’s-fill-some-pages project. After a description of GFC’s early response to the crisis — a drive-thru food drive, YouTube Easter service, Zoom confirmation classes — the graphically gorgeous journal gets into some very impressive reflections.
Some of the musings delve into God and religion. Others do not. Some answer the prompt through a cosmic lens. Others speak of loved ones. All are wise, honest and personal.
None are quick sound bites. Each is several paragraphs long. Clearly, everyone crafted responses with care, and respect for the reader. (Big props to the copy editor, too!)
Rev. Jeff Rider notes that “being present doesn’t require being in person.” Others wrote of new principles, hope, and feeling like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”
Taken together, says church operations director Claire England, the journal reflects “a diversity in life experience, and in how we all experience this period differently.”
However, “all are aware of how fortunate we are if we have shelter and family to call upon, and how important it is for the church to support not only each other, but the many who are suffering around us.” The church, she notes, has stepped up its outreach sharply.
What’s online now is the first version. “That’s the way most of us are getting information and staying in community at the moment,” England says. But she’s turning it into a book, which can live much longer than pixels.
And will be available 309 years from now, for the Green’s Farms Church of 2329.
(Click here for the Green’s Farms Church Coronavirus Journal.)