Tag Archives: Saugatuck Congregational Church

Roundup: Shore Birds, Sundance, Swimsuits …

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An American oystercatcher is nesting at Compo Beach.

Parks & Rec is on the case.

Department staff has strung rope around the site, keeping people away from the fragile bird and her eggs. A sign offers information about her habits.

Another sign describes other threatened shorebirds. It’s fascinating to read.

And heed.

The oystercatcher sign …

… and another, describing piping plovers and least terns. (Photos/Dinkin Fotografik)

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An excited “06880” reader writes:

I’ll admit I got a little breathless when I received a Sundance email headlined, “Visit Our New Store in Westport.”

Westport?! This catalog has served as my retail therapy vision board for years; the source of countless subtle, dog-eared “tips” I’ve left for my spouse re birthday and holiday gifts.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Robert Redford-stamped brand, think Millie Rae’s meets Anthropologie — high-end, carefully curated, bohemian-Southwest-y silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothes, shoes and housewares.

I can’t wait to see how they deck out their brick-and-mortar store on Main Street (the former Ann Taylor — it’s only their 18th retail location). Am I excited enough about it to get the free gift for booking an “early access appointment”?

Why yes, actually, I might be. If they do this right, I think it’s about as perfect a fit for Westport as any catalogue-come-to-life could be.

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Last year, during the darkest days of the pandemic, the Westport Garden Club’s “Friday Flowers” project brightened up our town. Once a week, members placed beautiful bouquets at very visible spots.

The Garden Club has picked up again this year. The first Friday Flowers of 2021 was delivered to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Keep your eyes open every week. And if you see a Westport Garden Club member: thank her!

Friday Flowers at the church entrance. (Photo/Pat Nave)

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Speaking of Saugatuck Church: Boy Scout Troop 36 — which they sponsor, and provide meeting space for — helped make yesterday’s mattress recycling drive a huge success.

The Scouts picked up 34 mattresses and box springs throughout town. Then they headed to Earthplace, and helped load the items into a truck.

The Scouts’ efforts doubled the number of items received during Sustainable Westport’s project

Troop 36 Scouts also volunteered at Earthplace, filling containers with free compost for residents.

Boy Scout Troop 36 members, with mattresses and the recycling truck.

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Tracy Rosen offers a shout-out for a local business.

The other afternoon, she and a friend went to Shearwater for coffee. But they close at 4 p.m.

They decided instead to have a glass of wine next door, at Ignazio’s Pizza.

“They couldn’t have been nicer!” Tracy says.

“They set up a table for us outside, and lit a wood-burning fire pit. They were so hospitable,  just letting us sit there with our wine, never pushing us to order anything else. But their pizza smells amazing!”

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Westport PAL’s motto is “It’s all about the kids.”

And kids of all ages love car shows.

The PAL is sponsoring one on June 20 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., railroad station parking lot near Railroad Place and Franklin Street). In addition to cool cars, there’s food and raffle prizes.

Tickets are $15 each. But kids — that is, anyone under 12 — are free. Of course.

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The other day, “06880” highlighted the Connecticut Preservation Award for 70 Turkey Hill South.

An award ceremony was held last week, via Zoom. Here’s a video of all 10 awards. The Westport one begins at 16;13. (Hat tip: Bob Weingarten)

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There’s always something new at George Billis Gallery.

An opening reception this Friday (May 14, 4 to 7 p.m.) showcases “A Glimpse Ahead.” The figurative exhibit focuses on summer, with artwork that includes swimmers, surfers, pool scenes and waterscapes. The aim is to create a sense of peace, relaxation and joy.

Among the artists: Westporter Dale Najarian. She contributes abstracted waterscapes on canvas and wood panel.

The exhibit runs through June 13.

“Jewel Landscape,” oil on canvas (Dale Najarian)

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And finally … Happy Mother’s Day, to every “06880” mother out there.

None of us would be here without you. We love you, moms!

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.)

Remembering Frederica Brenneman

Frederica Brenneman — a pioneering Connecticut judge, longtime Westport resident and the inspiration for the popular TV series “Judging Amy” — died peacefully in Woodland Hills, California last month, after a long illness. She was 94.

In 1943, at the age of 16, the Ann Arbor, Michigan native left for Radcliffe College. She fell in love with the East Coast, and made it her home for the next 73 years.

In 1950 was accepted to the first class of women admitted to Harvard Law School. There she met her husband of 65 years, Russell Brenneman. They married in 1951 — the first married couple to graduate from Harvard Law.

Frederica (Freddie) Brenneman.

In 1967, the mother of 3 young children, Frederica was working as a law clerk to the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee when the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark In Re Gault decision, held that children facing delinquency proceedings are entitled to due process of law — including the constitutional right to legal counsel. In the wake of this decision, Connecticut’s Juvenile Court doubled in size.

Frederica was appointed to the court, becoming the second female judge in state history. In 1978 she became a Superior Court judge.

Judge Brenneman was an influential figure in the field of juvenile justice, from its modern beginnings in 1967 and throughout her long career. She specialized in abuse and neglect cases, pushed for stronger legal protections for children, shaped clear statewide protocols and case law, trained countless judges, and educated caseworkers, attorneys, parents, and the public on court procedures. In 1979 she helped found Children in Placement, which monitors and supports children in Connecticut’s foster care system.

Over the years, Judge Brenneman and her work were recognized and honored by a wide range of organizations, including the Connecticut Bar Association, Radcliffe College, St. John’s University and Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, among others. In 2013 Harvard Law School lauded her, saying: “Venerable jurist and trailblazer, your distinguished contributions in the field of law as a passionate advocate for juvenile rights set an unparalleled standard for all graduates of Harvard Law School.”

Frederica (Freddie, to her friends) was a passionate lover of the arts, especially theater. She loved Tanglewood, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Broadway. She served as a deacon of South Congregational Church in Glastonbury, and Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Rev. Alison Patton says:

Freddie and her husband Russ were longtime Westport residents, and devoted members at Saugatuck Church. The bench next to our labyrinth was placed there in memory of Russ, 3 years ago.

Freddie inspired us all. As Judge Brenneman, she had an immeasurable positive impact on the lives of at-risk children in Connecticut. As Freddie, she gifted us at Saugatuck with her quick wit, clear thinking and abiding friendship. We miss her!

She was an avid traveler (Turkey and Tuscany were favorites) and an engaged alumna of both her undergraduate and graduate schools. From 1999 to 2005 Frederica served as advisor on the television drama, “Judging Amy,” which was inspired by her life and work, and which she co-created with her daughter Amy.

With her dignity, grace, humor and fierce intelligence, Frederica enjoyed a large and diverse circle of devoted friends, family and protégés, both within and outside the legal profession.

Frederica is survived by her sons Matthew and Andrew (Dr. Karen Cruz-Brenneman) and daughter Amy (Brad Silberling), and 5 grandchildren: Granger Brenneman, Charlotte and Bodhi Silberling, and Ava and Charles Brenneman.

Donations in her honor may be made to Children in Placement,

Friday Flashback #226

This could be one of my favorite “old Westport” photos ever. And not just because it shows the spot where I live today.

Westport Country Playhouse public relations manager Pat Blaufuss found it in the archives. There is no photographer’s credit, but it’s dated 1969.

There’s the Playhouse, midway up the right side of the photo. (Click on or hover over to enlarge). It’s been modernized, but looks pretty much the same.

Saugatuck Congregational Church on the left has not changed much. Neither have the gas stations: the one that is now Quality just east of the church, and the (now) Mobil across the Post Road. The buildings with (among others) Winslow Park Animal Hospital were there then too (lower right).

But the rest of the area is unrecognizable.

The big Victorian at the top was the Pine Knoll Inn. It was demolished in the early 1980s, making way for Playhouse Square and the Playhouse Condominiums behind it.

The long rectangular building with a white facade directly opposite the gas pumps was a car wash. I’m not sure what the white building set back from the Post Road in the entrance to Pine Knoll was, though I dimly recall the original Viva Zapata’s restaurant being somewhere around there.

And the smaller white structure to the immediate right of the Quality (then Tydol, later Getty) gas station, on the Post Road?

Originally a Dairy Queen, in the 1960’s it became the Crest Drive-In. It was a classic hangout for Staples students, a place for guys to show off their cars and girls to get guys to pay for their burgers.

Eventually the Crest gave way to Sam Goody, Alphagraphics and Qdoba. Today it sits as empty as the lot behind it was, that day in 1969 when an unknown photographer took this time capsule shot.

Roundup: Churches, Safety App, GFA Athletes, More


For many years, Saugatuck Church collected baby gifts during their 5 p.m. Christmas Eve pageant. They were donated to women and children, through the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk.

Tonight, that worship is online. However, the church continues its tradition of gathering gifts to benefit women and children in crisis. And you don’t have to be a parishioner to help!

Just stop at the white church downtown (245 Post Road East) between 4 and 5 p.m. today. Pop your trunk; a volunteer will retrieve your gift.

This has been a very tough year, for women, children and the DVCC itself. Items needed include supplies and pajamas for babies, as well as crafts for older children.


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup noted that Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara is starring in a PBS holiday special.

She also did a much more local performance, at (and for) Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Her daughter Charlotte is a junior chorister there.)

You can enjoy Kelli — and many others — starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Just click on the CHT YouTube channel or Facebook page.

Kelli O’Hara at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.


M13 has led a $1.8M seed round in Prepared, a company building technology to keep school campuses safer. It was co-founded at Yale University by Staples graduates Dylan Gleicher and Neil Soni.

Prepared’s 1-touch mobile alert system enables administrators to instantaneously alert both the entire campus and 911 dispatchers to an emergency. Click here for a full story.

Neil Soni and Dylan Gleicher


Three Greens Farms Academy student-athletes from Westport have committed to colleges, to continue their academic and sports careers.

Connor McDonald will play tennis at Boston College; Piper Melnick plans to row at the University of California-Berkeley, and Mark Roszkowski heads off to Tufts University’s baseball team.

Congratulations to all 3 Dragons!

From left: Connor McDonald, Piper Melnick and Mark Roszkowski.


And finally … as always, The Band is there:

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.

 

Pic Of The Day #1313

Saugatuck Congregational Church – back view (Photo/Rowene Weems)

Community Thanksgiving Feast Continues — With Changes

All over town, Westport families are reimagining Thanksgiving. Tables will be smaller; celebrations, more subdued.

Saugatuck Congregational Church has made changes too. The Community Thanksgiving Day Feast — a 40-year interfaith tradition — will not bring hundreds of folks together there, to share turkey, trimmings and fellowship.

But older and needy Westporters will not be forgotten. Organizers are working with OnTheMarc Events to provide meals through the Gillespie Center and Senior Center. Support comes from the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston, Westport Rotary Club, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Temple Israel.

Saugatuck Church has also organized a Thanksgiving hotline. Residents in need can confidentially request food assistance. Click here to fill out the form, or call 203-227-1261.

Donations are needed to help support the assistance program. Click here to help.

For 20 years, Coleytown Elementary School students have created holiday cards as Community Feast decorations. They’ll do the same, to accompany food at the shelter and Senior Center.

Saugatuck Church’s Thanksgiving may look different this year. But some traditions never change.

This year’s Community Thanksgiving Feast will look different from years past (above). ’
But the willingness of Westporters to support one another continues — this year virtually.

Roundup: Staples Players, Alexandra Korry, Pumpkins, More


Mark Potts has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and — while he was a Staples student — the school paper Inklings.

Last night he reconnected with his alma mater. He writes:

Several years ago an unexpected storm deposited me in Kansas, sans ruby slippers. But my hometown is Westport. Once upon a time I was part of the team that launched radio station WWPT, and playing in the pit band for a Staples Players production of “Oklahoma” is one of my favorite high school memories.

So being able to sit in distant Kansas on Sunday evening and listen to the charming, expertly performed WWPT/Staples Players radio production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a great treat.

Bravo to all involved on a delightful piece of entertainment. It just proves, once again, that there’s still no place like home.

Behind the scenes at “The Wizard of Oz.” Plastic separated the actors from each other, in the Black Box Theater.


Alexandra Korry did not have a high profile in Westport. But when she died at 61 recently of ovarian cancer, the New York Times took note, with a long, admiring obiturary.

It called her “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”

She was one of the first women elected partner in the mergers and acquisitions department of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. She was also committed to public service, as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Her committee’s reports “criticized the New York City Police Department’sstop-and-frisk strategy, intended to reduce the proliferation of guns, arguing that it was disproportionately directed at Black and Hispanic people.

“And it concluded this year that disparities in state and local funding of education should be considered a civil rights issue because they denied equal opportunity to students in poorer, Black and Hispanic school districts.”

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alexandra Korry (Dick Duane for Sullivan & Cromwell)


Gene Borio sends along this photo:

He explains: “I didn’t know what this was until a woman walking nearby said it was weird: Every pumpkin on her block had been attacked by squirrels. 76 years on this planet, and I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had she.”


Two religious institutions’ coat drive for Person to Person is nearing an end.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


And finally … after more than 50 years on the road, Arlo Guthrie has retired from performing. The 73-year-old son of Woody Guthrie has suffered strokes.

He’s best known for “Alice’s Restaurant.” But his 5 decades of work go far beyond that 20-minute Thanksgiving garbage dump talking classic.

I saw him at the Westport Country Playhouse many years ago. He was the consummate performer. And I really loved that great head of white hair. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

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.