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Tag Archives: Saugatuck Congregational Church
As Americans debate a slew of important items, immigration stands at the top of any list.
Here in Westport, we’re far removed from our southern border. The Wall is an abstraction — not a reality — to most of us.
But — for one reason or another — the immigrant experience resonates with nearly every Westporter.
This month, several events shine historical, artistic, literary and nuanced lights on a variety of immigration stories.
On Friday, January 18 (6 to 8 p.m.), Saugatuck Congregational Church opens an intriguing exhibit.
“Art Across Borders” features the work of 18 area artists, from Guatemala, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. All migrated to the US. Each will share his or her own story, through art. The bold, emotional exhibit is curated by Rene Soto, owner of a gallery with the same name in South Norwalk.
“Lots of people come to the US — and to this area — for better lives,” says Saugatuck Church Arts Committee member Priscilla Long. “And many of those people express themselves through art.”
Saugatuck Church has long been concerned with social justice. This show is a natural outgrowth of that commitment. The exhibit will remain up for a month. Click here or call 203-227-1261 for more information.
The following week, a different house of worship offers a different program, on a different immigrant experience.
In June 0f 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi terror on the SS St. Louis were within sight of Florida. Heartbreakingly, they were denied safe haven by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Canada also refused entry.
The captain returned the ship to Europe, where countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and France accepted some refugees. Many, however, were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries. Historians estimate that a quarter died in death camps during World War II
Three passengers who survived — Judith Steel, Sonja Geismar and Eva Wiener — will be in Westport on Thursday, January 24. At 7 p.m., Chabad on Newtown Turnpike will screen “Complicit” — a film about the SS St. Louis’ ill-fated journey. The trio will participate in a post-film Q-and-A, led by its creator/producer Robert Krakow.
Click here for more information. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students.
Meanwhile, all month long — and into February — the Westport Library sponsors WestportREADS. This year’s book is Exit West. Novelist Mohsin Hamid follows 2 refugees who — against all odds — find life and love while fleeing civil war.
WestportREADS activities include book discussions, a conversation with migration experts, art exploration, world dance instruction, storytelling, music, genealogy research, and a presentation by a Syrian refugee family sponsored by members of the Westport community.
Click here for a complete calendar, and full details.
I guess we shouldn’t call it a “Christmas” tree.
A press release from the Selectman’s Office notes only that the town’s “annual tree lighting” ceremony will take place at Town Hall this Thursday (November 29, 5 p.m.).
Of course, the tree to be lit is a fir tree. You connect the dots.
It’s a fun, festive, kid-friendly event. The Staples High School Orphenians sing “seasonal” songs.
Speaking of Town Hall trees, this year the “Heritage Tree” — a longtime fixture in the building’s lobby — moves across Myrtle Avenue to the Westport Historical Society.
Each year, local artists add ornaments (yes, it’s that kind of tree). Past contributors include Mel Casson, Randy Enos, Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Howard Munce, Jim Sharpe, Leonard Everett Fisher, Jean Woodham and Hilda Kraus.
This year’s ornament comes courtesy of Victoria Kann. The author/illustrator of the popular “Pinkalicious” book series is a longtime Westporter.
Kids can help decorate the Heritage Tree this Saturday (December 1, 1 p.m.). Kann will read from one of her holiday-themed books (and sign them). Snacks will be served too.
The next day — Sunday, December 2 — another tree lighting takes place. It’s at the Saugatuck Center plaza, between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. Everyone is asked to bring unwrapped toys for children 10 and under. Al’s Angels wrap and deliver them to needy kids.
It’s set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Santa arrives at 5:15 — so I’m on safe ground calling this an actual “Christmas” tree lighting.
And the 28th annual Tree of Light ceremony will be held Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. It honors the memories of family members and friends who have died.
The site is Saugatuck Congregational Church. So, yeah: That’s a Christmas tree lighting too.
For nearly 50 years, Saugatuck Congregational Church has hosted — and done all the work for — the Community Thanksgiving Day Feast.
But just as traditions change — someone new in the family takes over the meal, somebody brings a great new dish — the longstanding Westport event has a different look this year.
Saugatuck Church is passing its turkey baster to the Inn at Longshore’s OnTheMarc catering. They’ll do the cooking — and the meal will be served at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Dan Levinson and Monique Bosch have stepped up to coordinate the feast.
But many things have not changed.
For one, everyone is invited.
For another, it’s still free. Partners — including Main Street Resources, Saugatuck Congregational, Christ & Holy Trinity, the Unitarian Church in Westport and Temple Israel — are making the day possible.
And — perhaps most importantly — tons of volunteers are needed. All ages are welcome. To help in any way, click here.
PS: Need a ride? Just click here!
PPS: Homebound? The Senior Center is delivering Thanksgiving meals. Call Sue Pfister at 203-341-5098 to receive a turkey and trimmings.
(The Community Thanksgiving Day Feast is November 22, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Those pesky time capsules.
We keep burying them. And keep forgetting where they are.
It happened a few years ago with Greens Farms Elementary School.
Now it’s Saugatuck Congregational Church’s turn.
In 1866 a time capsule was buried under the cornerstone of their then-new Sunday school building. The church was located across the Post Road, and up the hill from where it is now — approximately where the gas station and adjacent bank are, near South Compo Road.
In 1950 the church was moved — v-e-r-y slowly — across the street, to its current location by Myrtle Avenue. At the same time the school building was relocated to Imperial Avenue, where it created what is now Bedford Hall at the Westport Woman’s Club.
The cornerstone was not unearthed during the move. No one seems to know what happened to it.
Now — 68 years later — the Westport Historical Society is on the case.
If you have any idea of the whereabouts of the Saugatuck Church cornerstone — or hey, any other in town — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for God’s sake, the next time you bury a time capsule, leave detailed instructions!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
All across Westport, families and friends will gather to enjoy this warm, nourishing and traditional American holiday.
Putting on such a celebration is a lot of work. But it’s nothing compared to what goes on at Saugatuck Congregational Church.
For 47 years, the handsome white building near the center of town has hosted a community Thanksgiving feast. (With a little help from Christ & Holy Trinity Church around the corner, after the fire a few years ago.)
It’s a free meal. All are welcome. And hundreds come.
Some are alone. Others prefer the company of a community. No one asks questions. They just gather together, and enjoy the day.
The turkey-and-all-the-trimmings event goes like clockwork. After nearly half a century, the church has it down pat.
Yet it takes a village to throw a townwide feast.
Over 100 volunteers make it happen. Saugatuck Church members, congregants from every other religious institution, non-believers — all pitch in.
They donate food, decorate the hall, do kitchen prep, set up tables, check in guests, cook, carve, serve, oversee the buffet table, bus tables, wash dishes and (of course) clean up. Three of them play keyboard, drums and sax, just for kicks.
They provide rides to the church for those who can’t drive, and deliver meals to those who are homebound.
They work magic.
The name of the holiday is Thanksgiving. Many of the helpers at tomorrow’s feast work behind the scenes. They never hear thanks.
That’s not why they do it, of course. Still, it’s nice to know you’re appreciated.
Which is why all the hundreds of Community Thanksgiving Feast volunteers — past, present and future — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.
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.
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).
“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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
“06880” is not in the business of promoting upcoming art exhibits. There are too many worthy ones — how can I single out any?
But rules are made to be broken. Two upcoming events are well worth your time. Both have local roots — and are also of global interest.
“Westport to Cuba: Building Bridges” takes place at the Saugatuck Congregational Church on Friday, January 6 (5 to 8 p.m.). Over 50 large photos will be displayed, from the church’s mission trip last June. This is a great way to see one of the world’s most fascinating and quickly changing countries, through the eyes of 25 Staples High School students and 15 adult chaperones.
The next day (Saturday, January 7, 12 to 4 p.m.), the Westport Historical Society hosts an “Art to the Max, Now or Never” sale and celebration. It’s the last day of their exhibit about Max’s Art Supplies, the iconic downtown store that drew together Westport’s artists’ community, which in turn influenced American illustration.
Original art — from some of the over 70 famous artists and cartoonists in the show — will be on sale.
(PS: If you haven’t yet seen the exhibit, go! There’s a recreation of owner Shirley Mellor’s classic corner of the store, a replica of the famous clock — and a sampling of the amazing art displayed in Max’s window during the store’s fantastic 4-decade run.)