Tag Archives: Rev. John Betit

A Proud Day For Westport

The rain that chased Westport’s 2nd annual Pride festival from Jesup Green to Staples High School never materialized. So there were no rainbows in the sky above the courtyard.

But nearby, in the auditorium foyer, hundreds of rainbows were on display. Buttons, artwork, t-shirts, bagels  — rainbows were everywhere.

The rainbow arch was a popular spot for photos.

And a rainbow constellation of Westporters — parents, grandparents, couples without children, 20somethings, clergy members, musicians, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and scores of kids of all ages — smiled, applauded and hugged all afternoon long.

A small part of the large Pride crowd. (Photo/Dan Woog)

From the opening remarks by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker — who said that the sponsors, Westport Pride, have made Westport “a better community” — to heartfelt stories from people like former Staples principal John Dodig, former tennis captain Luke Foreman, current students and Amis/Terrain executive chef Jes Bengtson, to entertainment by very talented teens,  and on through closing blessings by Temple Israel cantor Julia Cadrain, it was a day to celebrate inclusivity in our schools and community.

Luke Foreman describes his journey. (Photo/Marjorie Almansi)

The event drew nearly 1,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community, and many allies. They had — in both senses of the word — a very gay time.

Who doesn’t like rainbow bagels? (Photo/Dan Woog)

Staples Class of 2021 graduate Benny Zack returned for the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Former Bedford Middle School teacher Kerstin Rao, and Dr. Nikki Gorman. The pediatrician, and owner of Westport Medical & Wellness Center, was a featured speaker. (Photo/Bethany Eppner)

Rainbows were everywhere at Westport Pride. Kids’ activities included arts and crafts and face painting. (Photo/Bethany Eppner)

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, with an official town proclamation. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Former Staples High principal John Dodig inspired listeners with his story. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport RTM member Harris Falk dressed for the occasion … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… as did Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… while former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe sported an appropriate tie. (Photo/Dan Woog)

State Representative Stephanie Thomas lent her support. She’s running for Secretary of the State. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport Pride founder and festival co-organizer Brian McGunagle introduced his 3-year-old son Henry to the crowd. They loved him.  (Photo/Dan Woog)

Love is love. (Photo/Marjorie Almansi)

“The Number On Great-Grandpa’s Arm” Comes To Westport

A pair of bomb threats to a Bridgeport temple — just 2 days before the first anniversary of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — reminds us all that anti-Semitism is still very real.

Which makes an upcoming townwide, interfaith event particularly important.

This Sunday, November 10 (1:30 p.m.), the Westport Library will screen HBO’s Emmy Award-winning short documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm.”

The film — which features an intimate conversation between a young boy and hi beloved great-grandfather, an Auschwitz survivor — includes hundreds of animated drawings by Westport filmmaker/painter Jeff Scher.

The screening will be followed by an audience Q-and-A with Elliott Saiontz, the film’s young narrator; his mother, and Scher. The discussion will be moderated by Rev. John D. Betit, of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

One of Jeff Scher’s drawings in the film.

Monique Lions Greenspan has helped organize the event.

Her mother survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. “I know firsthand the incredible strength, optimism and gratefulness that survivors possess,” Monique says.

“Their stories provide invaluable lessons for both adults and children. I feel a deep sense of obligation to make our community aware of this opportunity for our children — and adults too — to bear witness to and learn from survivors’ experiences.”

Unfortunately, she says, in the aftermath of the Tree of Life Synagogue attacks — and others, in places as varied as Christchurch, Poway, El Paso and Halle — “it is more important than ever to commit to programs and discussions that clearly define expectations for, and the responsibilities of, all members of the community. Hate cannot be normalized.”

(The November 10 film is sponsored by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, PJ Our Way and the Westport Library. After the screening and discussion, the Nu Haven Kapelye offers “a musical journey from sorrow to joy, through the Klezmer tradition.” Both events are free. Click here for more information.) 

Pic Of The Day #342

It was an interesting Palm Sunday at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

After the procession — 3/4 of the way through this morning’s family service — the fire alarm went off.

Everyone quickly filed out of the church, while the great Westport Fire Department raced over to check things out.

Rev. John Betit improvised, and held communion outside!

The culprit was the incense used in the procession. Thankfully, today was not one of our many nor’easters.

Easter — a harbinger of spring — is only a week away.

(Photos/Amy Chatterjee)

Episcopal Church Tackles Legacy Of New England Slave Trade

Nationally, the Episcopal Church has spent years working on racial justice issues.

Locally, Christ and Holy Trinity Church is doing the same.

Recently, parishioners read — and discussed — Debby Irving’s thought-provoking Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.

“It was a soulful venture,” says Rev. John Betit. “People talked openly and  honestly about their own ignorance and stuggle.”

But, he adds, some congregants felt dissatisfied. They were unsure how to move forward on thorny issues of race.

They — and anyone else in Westport who wants to come — will take a step in that direction this Sunday (March 18, 11 a.m.). CHT will show “Traces of the Trade,” a true story of producer/director Katrina Browne’s ancestors — the largest slave-trading family in American history.

They were Northerners.

The documentary traces Browne and 9 cousins, as they work to understand the legacy of New England’s “hidden enterprise.” Family members are shaken by visits to Ghanaian slave forts and dungeons, and conversations with African Americans.

After the film, Dain Perry — one of Browne’s cousins — will facilitate a conversation about race, reconciliation and healing.

Perry — whose family are longtime Episcopalians — says the church shares responsibility for the slave trade. It condoned slavery, while the leading denomination in early America.

“Systemic racism is so big and hard-wired,” Betit notes. He hopes for a “softening of the ground,” as people “take a deeper look, and broaden their circle of awareness” about issues like slavery.

(The discussion also includes lunch. For more information call 203-227-0827. Click here for the film’s website.)