Tag Archives: Rev. Jeff Rider

Historic Church Offers COVID Reflections

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.

Green’s Farms Congregational Church

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.

An opening shot from the Green’s Farms Church’s 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.”

Rev. Jeff Rider’s reflections.

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.)

Unsung Hero #88

Little things mean a lot.

This year, Greens Farms Elementary School is performing its first play: “The Lion King.”

Director/producer Laura Pendergast — a GFS parent — and teachers Ellen Hardy and Suzanne Sherman Propp have prepared for months for this week’s show.

Dozens of school hours, plenty of work at home, and countless contributions from parent volunteers have gone into the production.

A crucial full-cast rehearsal was scheduled for last Saturday. Then, disaster struck. In anticipation of snow, all Westport school activities for that day were canceled.

Finding space for 70 children seemed impossible. Realizing that Town Hall auditorium might be an option, GFS parent Danielle Dobin called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Rev. Jeffrey Rider

It was not available. But Marpe suggested she contact Greens Farms Congregational Church, and ask about using the Fellowship Hall.

It was Friday evening. Danielle called Rev. Jeff Rider. She did not know him at all — they’d never met or spoken.

He said he’d check the calendar. Soon, he said the space was free — and that GFS was more than welcome to use it.

The location — smack in the middle of the Greens Farms neighborhood — was very convenient. The room was perfect. The cost was free.

And on Monday — when Westport schools were closed because of the overnight storm — Greens Farms Church opened its doors again, for another rehearsal.

Speaking for the entire GFS community, and citing his flexibility and generosity, Danielle nominates Rev. Rider as “06880”‘s Unsung Hero this week.

As she notes: “Thanks to Rev. Jeff, we went from stressed out to Hakuna Matata in no time flat.”

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Send nominations to dwoog@optonline.net)

The show must go on: Rehearsing in the Greens Farms Church Fellowship Hall.