Tag Archives: Rev. Alison Patton

Roundup: SHS Girls, GFA Boys Soccer Champs; 3 Pastors, Arline Gertzoff …

A year ago, the Staples girls soccer team won the state championship — and were disappointed.

It was actually a shared title, after a 0-0 draw with Wilton.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) changed the rule this year, adding penalty kicks if the final was tied after regulation.

The Wreckers had no need for that. Annabel Edwards’ true hat trick — 3 straight goals — in just 6:36 at the start of the 2nd half broke open a 1-0 game yesterday. The blue-and-whites cruised to their 2nd consecutive state “LL” (extra large schools) title, and 3rd in their history, yesterday at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford. The #3-seeded Westporters slammed #1-ranked Cheshire, 4-1.

Staples finishes the season 12-6-4. The loss was the first for the Rams (21-1-1), who got their lone goal with 9 minutes remaining.

Edwards’ selection as Most Valuable Player of the Match was a no-brainer.

She had plenty of help though. Natalie Chudowsky — who missed part of the season with US national U-15 team duty — scored the first goal. Her sister Evelyn assisted on 2 of Edwards’ strikes

Coach Barry Beattie has built a dynasty. And it looks like it will continue: Edwards is just a sophomore. Evelyn Chudowsky is a junior. And Natalie Chudowsky is only a freshman.

Congratulations to all of Staples’ newest state champs!

2022 state champion Staples High School girls soccer team. (Photo/David G. Whitham, courtesy of The Ruden Report)

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The Staples girls were not the only soccer champions crowned yesterday.

Greens Farms Academy captured the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council New championship yesterday in their division. The #7 Dragons handed #1-ranked Vermont Academy only their second loss of the season, in Lancaster, Massachusetts.

The match was tied 1-1 after overtime, and went to penalty kicks. Keeper Matt Maged saved 2 shots, clinching the win.

It was an equally dramatic season for coach Chris Mira’s GFA side. Ten games in, they were 4-6. They turned it around, finishing 11-7-2.

Maged is one of 6 Westport players on the championship squad. Others are Jared Buckman, Aidan Spellacy, Aneesh Roy and Oscar Nelson. Andrew Salem is from Weston.

Congratulations to all the Dragons!

Greens Farms Academy, NESPAC champs. (Photo/Amy Buckman)

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Three ministers — an Episcopalian, a Methodist and a Congregationalist — walk into a high school auditorium to see a play about saving gamblers’ souls …

No, it’s not a joke. It happened Saturday night.

John Betit (Christ & Holy Trinity), Heather Sinclair (United Methodist) and Alison Patton (Saugatuck Church) were all at the final performance of Staples Players’ (fantastic) production of “Guys & Dolls.”

They were not there to see whether the sisters at the Save a Soul Mission succeed. (Spoiler alert: They do.)

The pastors were there for personal — not professional — reasons. All 3 have at least 1 son or daughter in the show.

After final bows, the clergy trio went on stage. They memorialized the show, their kids — and their work — with a classic photo:

From left: Rev. John Betit, Rev. Heather Sinclair, Rev. Alison Patton. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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The very moving and very personal memorial service for Arline Gertzoff — the United Nations and Democratic Party activist, Representative Town Meeting member and proud Staples High School graduate who died in September — is now online.

The event was held earlier this month, at Town Hall. Click below to honor Arline. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

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Noelle Anastasia of Fairfield, formerly of Westport, died unexpectedly last week. She was 32 years old.

Born on on Christmas Day in 1989, she grew up in Westport.

She sang in the Bedford Middle School choir, and was an altar server at Assumption Church. Throughout her life, Noelle kept her faith close to her heart. She also loved to cook.

She studied at Norwalk Community College, and planned to return to school.

Her family says, “Noelle had a kind soul and a deeply loving heart. More than anything, she loved her daughters Isabella, 5, and Ella, 3. They were the lights and loves of her life. She loved her stepson, Jesus, and was proud of all he accomplished. Her family was the cornerstone of her life, but Noelle also cared for those who needed it. She gave freely of herself, of her time and energy, to help when help was needed. This generosity of spirit extend to animals. Noelle took in kittens that needed a home.”

In addition to her children Noelle is survived by her parents, David and Michellel her husband Jesus; sisters Denise and Nicole; brother Steven; nieces Michayla, Dianna, Marissa, Danniella and Briannal nephews Matthew, Tyler and Jace, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

A Mass of Christian burial is set for tomorrow (Tuesday November 22, 11 a.m., Assumption Church).

Noelle Anastasia

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Mud is as much a part of “Westport … Naturally” as anything else.

Jonathan Prager captured a lot of it, in this photo with an autumn sun.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … Danny Kalb, a guitarist with the under-appreciated Blues Project band — died Saturday in Brooklyn. He was 80, and had battled cancer for 3 years.

As Mark Smollin notes in his book “The Real Rock & Roll High School,” the Blues Project first played in Westport in 1966. The setting was the Staples High School cafeteria — for the junior prom.

A year later, they were booked for two 50-minute sets in the Staples auditorium. with an intermission. But when they were detained in New York — finishing up a recording session — promoter (and Staples student) Dick Sandhaus talked theier manager, Sid Bernstein (of early Beatles fame) into sending Richie Havens to open the show.

After an hour, Havens was running out of material. So Bernstein had Jeremy Steig & the Satyrs drive up — at his own expense — to do a very long set until the Blues Project arrived.

At 11:30 the Blues Project finally took the stage. Half an hour later they were shut down, by a midnight curfew. Click here for a full obituary.

“06880” Podcast: Rev. Alison Patton

Whenever a minister moves to a new church, there’s a story.

The story was particularly intriguing when Rev. Alison Patton came to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

It’s one of our oldest congregations. In fact, the meetinghouse was where Westport was founded — from parts of Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston — in 1835.

Even more intriguing: The new pastor did not actually have a church to preach and work in. It was closed for rebuilding, after a Thanksgiving fire that nearly burned it to the ground.

What impelled her to take on that challenge? What has she learned about Westport in the years since? Why is social justice so important to her church, and to her personally? What drives her interfaith work in Westport?

Those are some of the topics Rev. Patton and I discussed in the latest “06880” podcast. Now — thanks to the Westport Library– you can hear our conversation. Just click below.

Roundup: Rev. Patton, AAPI Westport, Staples Sports …

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Saugatuck Congregational Church has been awarded a $50,000 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant. Funds allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Rev. Alison Patton will begin her 3-month sabbatical in June. She will volunteer with a marine conservation program in the Maldives, and spend time with her family on a regenerative farm in Costa Rica.

Patton says, “I used to think I wanted to be a marine biologist. I now know I’m not a scientist; I am an admirer of the natural world in all its rich biodiversity. In the face of a worsening climate crisis and multiplying threats to biodiversity, I believe we are called to help craft a sustainable future for our planet. I am excited to use this time to take a deep dive into 2 biodiverse environments, to witness the impact of climate change, explore what’s being done to combat it and share some of that adventure with my family.”

Kim Mathias — moderator of Saugatuck’s Church Council — says the congregation will also benefit from this time of rest and renewal.

“Spending time outdoors during the pandemic and working on this grant application have fueled SCC’s interest in environmental issues,” she notes. “While Patton is away, the congregation will deepen its connection with our local ecosystem, exploring the beautiful coastal community of Westport and surrounding towns and digging deeper into the issues surrounding climate change. They look forward to renewing relationships with one another while learning how to better protect our coastal environment.”

Rev. Alison Patton

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AAPI Westport was created in March 2021, following a rise in violence and racism against the Asian community. The mission of the group — which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — is to foster a sense of belonging within the community, while increasing AAPI visibility and awareness throughout Westport and beyond.

The organizers — all mothers — hope to create an environment where their children feel proud of their heritage.

Today they launched a website. Their Instagram is @aapiwestport.

Anyone interested in helping further their mission, through financial support or volunteering time, should email aapiwestport@gmail.com.

At an AAPI rally on Jesup Green last March, a flag flew at half staff in memory of Asian-Americans killed last week in Atlanta.

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It seems like every week, the Staples High School girls swim and dive team sets new records.

The latest came at the FCIAC championships last week. And not 1, but 3 records fell.

In a big way.

Freshman Annam Olasewere set a state and FCIAC record in the 50 yard free, with a time of 22.77. Her 50.18 in the 100 yard free also set a new FCIAC record.

Senior Jessica Qi finished second in that event, with a season best 52.21. Qi also took second in the 200 free with a time of 1:56.05

The relay team of freshman Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and seniors Ella Alpert and Jessica Qi set a new FCIAC record in the 200 free relay (1:36.27) and also won the 400 free relay (3:31.87)

Staples moves on to compete in the Class LL and state open championships. More record-setting performances may be in the works.

Winning 400 meter free relay: From left to right Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and Jessica Qi

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Speaking of sports: The Staples High School boys soccer team raised thousands of dollars for their program — and several thousand more for Bridgeport Central High School’s soccer team — at last night’s annual Quiz Night.

The winning trivia team — Jacob Greenberger, Jackson Hochhauser Spencer Levine, Murilo Moreno, Jaden Mueller and Caleb Tobias. plus Oliver Clachko, wrestler/lacrosse player Nick Augeri and lacrosse player/WWPT-FM sports director Max Udell — answered questions like “What was the first word spoken on the moon?” (“Houston”), what is the only mammal that can fly (bats), and what is the first game played in “Squid Game” (Red Light Green Light).

They also took first place last year during COVID, when Quiz Night was virtual. This year’s event — which drew about 150 participants — returned again to the Staples cafeteria.

Quiz Night winners!

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As the weather turns cool, some equally cool classic cars turn up at Compo Beach.

Andrew Colabella spotted several — including this one, with a classic pose — over the weekend.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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“Westport … Naturally” never gets tired of autumn leaf pictures.

Of course, before we know it they’ll be done. And we’ll move on to snowscapes.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … on this day in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected 32nd president of the United States.

Stations Of The Cross Honors Racial Justice

A few dozen Westporters celebrated Good Friday yesterday through a marking of the Stations of the Cross. The walk was a call to dismantle racism, and pursue racial justice.

“Give us eyes to see how the past has shaped the complex present,” said Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Participants stopped at several sites related to Black history in Westport. Christ & Holy Trinity, Saugatuck Congregational Church and the Westport Museum of History & Culture collaborated for the event.

After an initial prayer in the Christ & Holy Trinity courtyard, the group headed to the entrance of the church parking lot on Elm Street.

Rev. John Betis, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church: the first Station of the Cross. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

They looked across at Bedford Square. In the 1940s, it was the back of a boarding house — accessible through an alley at 22 1/2 Main Street (later the entrance to Bobby Q’s) — that was the hub of a thriving Black community.

By 1949 though, it was considered a slum. The town would not grant permits for improvements. In December, residents asked the RTM to be considered for the affordable housing being built at Hales Court. They were denied.

In January 1950 — 8 days after a newspaper wondered what would happen if a fire broke out there — that is exactly what happened. Unable to obtain housing anywhere else in town, the Black community scattered — and disappeared forever.

Heading to the next Station of the Cross. (Photo courtesy of Christ & Holy Trinity Church)

The next station was the site of the former Ebenezer Coley general store, at the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza. The original outline of that saltbox building remains; it’s the former Remarkable Book Shop and (later) Talbots.

The river came up to the back of the store. Enslaved people loaded grain grown at the Coley farm onto ships bound for New York. There it was loaded onto larger ships, which sailed to the West Indies where it fed other enslaved Blacks.

The group then walked a few steps to the Museum of History & Culture. Ebenezer Coley’s son Michael owned the home at the corner of Avery Place and Myrtle Avenue. He managed the Coley store, and oversaw the enslaved people.

Bricks bear the names of over 240 enslaved and 20 free people of color, part of the parish of Greens Farms Congregational Church. They appear in the church log book as births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Owners brought their enslaved people into church for services, though they — and freemen — had to stand in the balcony above the sanctuary.

Bricks at the Westport Museum of History & Culture honor more than 200 Black men, women and children from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A short walk up Evergreen Avenue brought the group to the Saugatuck Church cemetery. Cyrus Brown — who, like many others affecte by racism and legal bias, went from being a landowner and farmer to a servant of the Gorham family — is buried there.

Brown’s relationship with the Gorhams was evidently strong. He is buried in the family’s plot, with a high quality headstone of his own.

A stop at Evergreen Cemetery. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

After that final station, worshipers walked through the woods to the Saugatuck Church property. The labyrinth on the lawn provided space and time for  final Good Friday reflections.

Walking through the woods, to Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A final stop at Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

(Historical background provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture.)

MLK Celebration: A Week Of Introspection And Inspiration

This year more than ever, it’s important to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And — now more than ever — it’s vital to do it on more than just Martin Luther King Day.

Layla F. Saad

The town is already gearing up for next Sunday’s conversation with Layla F. Saad, author of the compelling “Me and White Supremacy.” The livestreamed event is set for 12 noon. (Click here to register. Click here for more details.)

But that’s just the start of a week-long series of virtual events. For the first time, Westport is expanding its MLK celebrations beyond a single keynote.

Rev. Alison J. Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church says, “In recent years we have shifted the focus of the Dr. King celebration from a remembrance of his groundbreaking leadership to an occasion to deepen our understanding of the continuing impact of systemic racism. There’s a need to equip ourselves to more effectively unmask and dismantle racism in our lives and community.”

Saad’s talk will be followed 2 days later by a panel discussion on “Me and White Supremacy: What Can I Do Next?”

The January 19 session (7 p.m.) focuses on the process outlined in Saad’s best-selling workbook, a 28-day challenge “to combat racism, change the world and become a good ancestor.” Click here to register.

The week culminates with “New Works/New Voices,” an evening of original monologues in response to Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” (Thursday, January 21, 7 p.m.). It’s a world premiere, with Gracy Brown, Tenisi Davis, Tamika Pettway and Terrence Riggins sharing new works exploring themes surrounding racial justice. Click here to register.

Monologue authors ready for world premiere.

There’s more next month. February will include many opportunities for “profound personal engagement on the impact of white supremacy and privilege,” says TEAM Westport’s Bernicestine McLeod Bailey. Details will be announced soon.

TEAM Westport is co-sponsoring the Martin Luther King celebration, with the Westport Libraray, Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Weston Interfaith Council and Westport Weston Interfaith Clergy.

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.

 

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.

 

Livio Sanchez’s “American Portrait”

Last month, Westport’s Livio Sanchez was chosen to be part of an elite team.

As part of its 50th anniversary, PBS selected 100 videographers and photographers from around the country — 2 per state — to help define what it means to be an American today. The “American Portrait” project will focus on the beliefs, traditions and experiences that make up this vast nation.

Little did Sanchez — or anyone else — know that soon, life in America would abruptly change.

Livio Sanchez

Sanchez — an award-winning editor, producer and director who has worked with top ad agencies, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Nike, GM and the New York Times — quickly shifted gears.

He’d already done 3 stories. Now he’s documenting life during the coronavirus crisis.

PBS has pivoted too. They’re planning a special broadcast. Sanchez’s subjects are being considered as possible leads.

The videos are short, but compelling. Subjects include Stephen “Doc” Parsons and Griffin Anthony. Sanchez met both while playing men’s baseball for the Westport Cardinals.

Also included: Saugatuck Congregational Church Rev. Alison Patton. Sanchez met her and her husband Craig when their sons played on the same Little League team.

A screenshot from one of Livio Sanchez’s PBS videos.

Click below for links to several videos. As we all grapple with COVID-19, these clips provide compelling looks into American life, yesterday and today.

Stephen “Doc” Parsons

Griffin Anthony

(In addition to pros like Sanchez, the PBS series will include submissions from the public. Click here to see the trailer for PBS’ “American Portrait.”)

Saugatuck Church Opens Black History Art Show

The Saugatuck Congregational Church mission statement includes a commitment to “welcome all people.”

Those are not just words.

The downtown congregation hosts a wide range of 12-step programs. Last year they sponsored a show of immigrant art.

In 2018, Saugatuck accepted an invitation from the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport to pair with a predominantly African American church. The goal was mutual learning about the impact of racism in our culture and communities.

Small groups from Saugatuck and St. Matthew Baptist Church met several times. A Westport participant said he was amazed to learn what he had not been aware of.

Saugatuck’s Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton and St. Matthew’s Rev. Aaron Best remain in touch. Their congregations will continue to connect.

St. Matthew Baptist Church

Dan Long participated in the exchange. An artist and member of Saugatuck’s arts committee, he helped organize last year’s “Art Beyond Borders” show, featuring works by Latin American immigrants.

The opening — with art, music and poetry — drew a very diverse crowd.

Dan wanted to organize more shows at his church, honoring diversity and fighting racism.

He died suddenly in June. His wife Priscilla and arts team members have taken up the cause.

A special exhibit — “Celebrating Color in Black History Month” — opens this Friday (February 21, 6 to 8 p.m., Hoskins Hall). Six area artists of color — Jeffrey Nelson, Amir Hines, Clyde Theophilus McLaughlin, Shanna Melton, Michael Brinkley and Lesley Koenig — will share their work.

Some of the work in the Saugatuck Congregational Church art show.

The show ends March 10. But Saugatuck Church’s commitment to multi-culturalism, and against racism, continues.

In May Rev. Donique McIntosh — minister for racial justice for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ — will be a guest preacher.

(“Art Beyond Borders” is open to the public, whenever the Saugatuck Congregational Church is open. Call first — 203-227-1261.)

Saugatuck Church: Arts Infuse Faith With Energy

Many things attracted Rev. Alison Patton to Saugatuck Congregational Church, 6 years ago: the town and congregation. The church’s commitment to social justice. The opportunity to help rebuild, after a devastating fire.

But when she arrived, she realized something else: Creativity and artistic expression was part of Saugatuck Church’s long, historic DNA.

Saugatuck Congregational Church

Services were still being held at Temple Israel when photographer MaryEllen Hendricks talked to Rev. Patton about a project. She was working on “Thin Places” — a show based on the Celtic belief that there is a thin divide between the holy and real worlds.

After that show, the church formed an Arts Committee. The goal was to make the arts a focus of congregational life.

“Arts” was defined broadly. It encompassed music, theater, visual arts — even color and lighting in the church.

As the committee went to work, church leaders realized their pews were filled with men and women who had arts and creative backgrounds. Many had never melded their talents with their faith lives.

So as the church mounted exhibits, sponsored concerts and developed programs, it also started conversations about how the arts fit into everything Saugatuck Church does.

A photo from the “Irresistible Vietnam” photography exhibit, by Joan Cavanaugh.

One example is the recent exhibition, “Irresistible Vietnam.” Its genesis was a trip church member and skilled photographer Joan Cavanaugh took to that country. When she mounted her show she also brought Hang Nguyen, her guide on the trip, to the church. The result was a fascinating discussion, and a sharing of 2 cultures.

“We explore the mystery of faith through the arts,” Rev. Patton says. “Sometimes that’s inspiring. Sometimes it’s challenging.”

And sometimes, she continues, “the Protestant tradition talks about faith only intellectually. We want to engage the entire body — not just the head.”

“Creativity is an outpouring from God,” explains committee member Joanne Leaman.

Dan Long — an artist, designer and Arts Committee member — adds, “Because art engages you, it has a calming effect. It helps you find order and peace. That’s something religion can also do.”

But, he notes, “art also challenges. We want art to touch and stretch, too.”

An image from the Cuba mission trip photography exhibit, by MaryEllen Hendricks.

There are many ways to engage people through the arts. Gospel choirs supplement traditional hymns. A photographic exhibit of the church’s youth group mission trip to Cuba conveyed spiritual connections. Miggs Burroughs’ “Signs of Compassion” lenticular photos portrayed an Emily Dickinson poem through sign language.

The church and Westport Library co-sponsor a concert series that includes the West Point Glee Club, a New Orleans jazz fest, classical harp recitals, a Caribbean steel drum show, and guitar ensembles.

Dereje Tarrant signed part of an Emily Dickinson poem, in Miggs Burroughs’ “Signs of Compassion” lenticular photo exhibit.

The church is particularly proud of a new organ. It’s being handmade in Germany, for installation next year. A special viewing room will allow anyone to watch music as it’s being created.

Beyond traditional “arts,” an annual flower show honors the beauty, power and uplifting spirit of nature. A labyrinth helps understand “how we experience the holy spirit through the way we see, hear, even move,” Rev. Patton says. And a colorful display of 32 signs lining the driveway said “welcome” in 14 different languages.

The Saugatuck Church labyrinth.

Even young members are involved. Each May, 7th graders present “Story Tent.” The dramatic portrayal of biblical stories goes far beyond the usual “church play.” Youngsters spend the entire year creating the show — and lead the worship service that day. (This year, it’s May 20.)

Rebuilding after the catastrophic fire offered the church “an opportunity to really think about aesthetics,” Rev. Patton notes. “Every part of our church — even the gardens and lawn — are important.”

The arts are alive and well at Saugatuck Church. And, Rev. Patton says, they’re there for all Westporters to enjoy.