Tag Archives: Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton

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.

Blessing Of The Animals This Sunday At Saugatuck Church

Everyone is welcome inside Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Pets and other animals — not so much.

But this Sunday (April 28, noon to 2 p.m.), every living thing will be welcome at the sweeping front lawn, on the Post Road just a dogleg from Myrtle Avenue.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates joins the church in co-hosting a Blessing of the Animals.

The Great Lawn of Saugatuck Congregational Church is well suited to a Blessing of the Animals.

All are welcome to bring a pet leashed, or safely contained (recommended for pythons). You can also bring a photo, for an individual prayer of blessing (probably even better for that python).

Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton will lead the service. She’ll include all wildlife in her prayers.

She’ll give special blessing to Westport’s ospreys, for their continued protection and a successful nesting season. A banner will feature photos of the raptors, all originally posted on “06880.”

Representatives from Wildlife in Crisis will be there too. They’ll answer questions about local wildlife, and discuss their rehabilitative and release efforts.

Also on site: Susie Collins of Sitting Pretty Dog Training.

Our pets and wildlife are true blessings.

On Sunday, Rev. Patton is honored to bless them.

(For more information, call 203-557-0361 or email wasa1@optonline.net. The rain date is Sunday, May 5.)

A dog waits to be blessed.

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.

Saugatuck Church: Walk Our Rainbow Labyrinth!

Last fall, members of Saugatuck Congregational Church joined Eagle Scout candidate Liam Borner, in building a labyrinth. It’s on the edge of the front lawn, underneath trees.

Labyrinths are a series of concentric circles with many turns, all leading to a center. They’ve been important spiritual parts of many cultures for thousands of years. Walking a labyrinth provides a calming meditative state that re-energizes, reduces stress, helps re-focus and nourishes the soul.

Saugatuck’s labyrinth has 7 rings — the same number as colors in the rainbow.

Recently, church members prayed for the residents of the Orlando shooting. Realizing that the rainbow flag has special meaning to LGBT folks, congregants lined each labyrinth ring with a different color.

Saugatuck Church labyrinth

The Saugatuck Congregational Church labyrinth.

The tribute takes on added layers of meaning now, with more violence in Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

“We remember all those who have been impacted by the violence in our world — of every faith and nation,” says Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

Everyone — church members and not — is invited to walk the colorful labyrinth.

“Take time to remember, grieve, contemplate ways to honor our human diversity, or simply walk in silence. All are welcome!” Patton says.

Rev. Alison Patton Takes The Pulpit

Soon after the November fire that devastated the Saugatuck Congregational Church, Alison Buttrick Patton had her 2nd meeting with a committee searching for a new pastor.

The congregation was reeling. No one knew what lay ahead — including how, or even if, the near-200-year-old church would survive.

But out of that meeting came a conviction — on both sides — that Alison and the Saugatuck Church were a good fit.

Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton

“I was deeply moved by the way everyone handled the fire,” she recalled last week. “One of their prayers included an appeal that this tragedy might open the congregation’s hearts to the suffering of others. That was a key moment for me.”

The committee was equally impressed with Alison’s vision for the church, her commitment to social justice, and her eagerness to be involved in the life of both the congregation and the Westport community.

On Tuesday, Rev. Patton joins the church as its next pastor. Next Sunday (May 6), she will lead her 1st service — at Temple Israel, its temporary home.

Alison comes to Westport from First Church Simsbury. Since 2007, she has served it as associate minister for parish life and outreach. She has been vitally involved in interfaith work, and the town’s homeless shelter. Both are key elements of the Saugatuck Congregational Church’s ministry too.

But Simsbury has a building. Right now — and for months to come — Saugatuck is a church without walls.

That could have driven a way a less intrepid pastor than Alison.

“There’s a lot of rebuilding work ahead,” she admits. “But this is also a key moment. Doors can be opened very creatively. Despite the grief of losing a building, this is a very exciting time for us all.”

When Alison arrives — her family will join her when school ends — she plans to do “plenty of listening.” She laughs, “there are lots of dinners planned. I know I’ll be fed very well!

“I want to immerse myself in routines, and understand from the inside out exactly who this congregation is,” she adds. She hopes to find “ways and places to celebrate together,” and looks forward to “a party or two. Maybe even on the front lawn!”

She is also eager to “know and meet the greater Westport community — the one in which the church lives and breathes.”

As for the church’s bigger vision: “We’ll figure that out together.”

Alison’s style — at least, what those around her would say — is “energetic, creative, and dynamic.” Worship can be quiet, she notes, “but it also needs to move and inspire us.”

She likes collaboration. Some of her best thinking and planning is done in groups.

She is passionate too about “justice, and living a faith that makes a difference in our lives — and others’.”

Ian, Craig, Tobey and Alison Patton.

The move from Simsbury will not be easy. However, Alison says, her husband Craig is a fiction writer who knows that Westport honors the written word. Their sons Tobey (age 9) and Ian (6) have  explored the beach, and the great playground behind the parsonage. (They also love Shake Shack.)

“Our entire family has been so warmly welcomed already,” Alison says. “I think this town will be a great fit for us. People in Westport seem committed to their community, and concerned about their environmental footprint.”

But she knows this town thrives on contention. “It strikes me as politically diverse,” she says. “People make their voices known. I look forward to those conversations.”

One aspect of Alison’s new ministry has not come up much: the fact that she’ll be the 1st female senior minister in the 182-year history of the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

“I don’t think about it,” she says. “My mother and godmother were ministers, and other women in my life were also ministers.” (Her father was a minister too.) “I’m just very used to it.”

This week, the church starts getting used to a new minister. One who is very conscious of storied its past, and very excited to lead it into the promising future.