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Bishops Letter








The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D.
Bishop Diocesan






The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, D.Min.
Bishop Suffragan

A message from the Bishops
of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut


Bishops' Letter regarding Refugees


Dear Companions in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut:

Last Friday, January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order entitled: "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States". This far-reaching and sweeping Executive Order includes, but is not limited to: suspending our country's refugee resettlement program for 120 days, suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees for an indefinite time, reducing the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States in this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000,and prohibiting entry into the United States of citizens from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for a period of 90 days.

This Executive Order contravenes our American values of welcoming immigrants and refugees to our shores and makes a mockery of the words on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...."

As Christians, welcoming the alien and stranger is a fundamental feature of our faith. Hebrew Scripture over and over underscores the importance of treating the alien with hospitality and justice. "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 22:21) "Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice." (Deuteronomy 27:19) We recall that our Lord and Savior was a refugee, fleeing with his mother and father into Egypt to escape persecution and death. (Matthew 2:13-15) And Jesus reminds us that in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ himself into our midst. (Matthew: 25:31-46)

For over 35 years the Episcopal Church in Connecticut has worked to welcome refugees to Connecticut, first through Episcopal Social Services and currently in cooperation with Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services - IRIS http://www.irisct.org.  Our last three diocesan Annual Conventions articulated our support of IRIS and refugees. In 2014 we entered into a covenanted relationship with IRIS promising to work together closely in settling refugees. Read resolution here. In response to the growing refugee crisis in Syria, we committed ourselves in 2015 to co-sponsoring the resettlement of a minimum 30 refugee families in 2016. Read resolution here. And at our last Annual Convention in November we reiterated our support for IRIS and asked parishes and individuals to give to IRIS and consider sponsoring a refugee family. Read resolution here.

We cannot be idle as this Executive Order threatens to undermine the values that we stand for as Americans, as Christians, as Episcopalians in Connecticut. We, your bishops, urge the parishes and people of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to take action in one or more of the following ways:

    Pray: Pray for all who are adversely affected by this Executive Order and whose lives are threatened by these actions. Pray also that our President and his administration will have an amendment of heart and reconsider this order. We particularly invite you to add the prayer For Social Justice found on page 823 of the Book of Common Prayer to your personal prayers and Sunday Prayers of the People:
    Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
    Speak Out: Use your voice to share your concerns about the Executive Order. Write an editorial to your local paper; use social media to connect; participate in vigils, gatherings, and witness opportunities; and sign onto petitions. Along with other faith leaders, we your bishops have recently signed the Interfaith Immigration Coalition Letter to President Trump. See letter here.
    Advocate: Write, call, email, and text your local Congressperson and Senators Blumenthal and Murphy sharing your position on the Executive Order and encouraging their efforts to work against the Executive Order.
    Attend: Participate in the annual ECCT Companions in Mission Ministry Network conference: "Refugees and Immigrants: Across the Street and Around the World" to be held at St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford on March 4, 2017. Registration can be found at here.
    Collaborate: Work with your parish, other parishes in your area, ecumenical and interfaith partners, and community organizations to welcome refugees into your neighborhood through IRIS and other refugee resettlement agencies.

Additional ideas for how you can help are found on the Episcopal Migration Ministries website here.

Thank you for your attention to the plight of refugees and immigrants in the world, and especially in the United States at this time. May we see Christ in those who are different from us, welcoming strangers and aliens with open arms of hospitality, love, and generosity. God's mission of restoration and reconciliation compels us to continue to settle immigrants and refugees in our country.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D.                                                     The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens,
Bishop Diocesan                                                                                  Bishop Suffragan

Posted: 2/1/17



A message from the Bishops
of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut


Dear Companions in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut:

Our country is deeply divided. We are divided by: class, race, gender, sexuality, education level, religion, geography, blue and red states . . . and the list goes on and on. Sadly, the divisions in our country were exacerbated by the recently completed campaign season. The results of yesterday's presidential election reveal, once again, just how deeply divided we are as the United States of America today.

As Christians we believe that alienation, separation, and division is not the way of God. We believe that God in Jesus, fully human and fully divine, is able to take seemingly irreconcilable differences and bring them together in a new creation of unity, wholeness, and new life. God's mission is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." Our vocation, given to us in baptism through the Holy Spirit, is to participate with God in bringing about restoration and reconciliation where there is alienation, separation and division. "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18)

In his acceptance speech last night President-elect Trump said that "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division. . . . I say now it's time for us to come together as one people." He continued: "I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." And to those who did not support the President-elect he said: "I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country."

It's time now for all Americans in the richness our God-given differences to come together for the sake of our country and for the sake of the world. Let us work alongside one another in the fullness of God's love and promise. We can, and we must, bind up the wounds of division that separate us from God and each other.

As followers of Jesus we know that such restoration and reconciliation is possible. Let us redouble our commitment to God's mission of unity, wholeness, and new life. Let the love of God working in us overcome the divisions in our lives, in our country, and in our world. As the familiar hymn by Peter Scholtes reminds us:

We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all unity
may one day be restored.

And they'll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
by our love.

We will walk with each other,
we will walk hand in hand.
We will walk with each other,
we will walk hand in hand
and together we'll spread the news
that God is in our land.

And they'll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
by our love.

We will work with each other,
we will work side by side.
We will work with each other,
we will work side by side
and we'll guard each man's dignity
and save each man's pride.

And they'll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love.
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
by our love.

All Praise to the Father
from whom all things come,
and all praise to Christ Jesus
His only Son,
and all praise to the Spirit
who makes us all one.
And they'll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love.
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
by our love.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D.                                                     The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, D.Min.
Bishop Diocesan                                                                                  Bishop Suffragan

Posted: 11/9/16



A Letter to the People of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut
Reflection On Our Nation's Election


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

"Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of this land in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. --Book of Common Prayer, p. 822

On November 8, we will again be called upon to exercise our civic duty of voting for the leaders of our nation, our states and our local communities. It is a great privilege and responsibility to vote; one not available to all people around the globe. We give thanks for all those in our country's history who have fought for our democratic right to vote, and for those who continue to work today to ensure that such freedoms continue.

Sadly this election season has taken on a tone that is not worthy of our country's great democratic ideals. The political rancor and mean-spiritedness shown in the campaigns has too often resulted in distorted relationships in our families, in our communities, in our church and in our nation. We are thus reminded of the words of the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer that speaks of the sinfulness in our lives and in the world.

"Question: What is sin? Answer: Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation. " (BCP p. 848)

How often have the sins of racism, classism, and sexism been used by candidates to alienate sectors of the electorate from each other in vain attempts to win votes? How often have we, as communities and as individuals, been like the Pharisee in last Sunday's Gospel (Luke 18:11) criticizing those who favor a candidate not of our liking with characterizations that are unthinking, wrong-headed, unpatriotic, and even worse? Such is not the way of our nation. Such is not the way of God. We all need to repent for the sinfulness in this election season, seeking amendment of life and a return to wholeness with God and with each other as American citizens.

And when we are on our knees seeking forgiveness for how sin has crept into our hearts this election season, let us also turn to God and pray that these remaining weeks of the election season will be marked by a return to the civility, respect and unity that has historically characterized our American political processes. Let us pray that Election Day will be free from violence and that due process will prevail. Let us pray that there will be a peaceful transition of power following the election. And above all, let us pray that those who have been elected to lead our nation, our states and our communities will dedicate themselves to healing the divisions and hurts that have crept into our public life. Pray that God will bring us together in justice and in peace.

Our colleague bishops in the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts, the Rt. Revs. Alan M. Gates, Gayle E. Harris and Douglas J. Fisher, respectively, have called on all Episcopalians in Massachusetts to participate in a vigil of prayer for the election from noon on All Saints Sunday, November 6 through noon on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8. We would like to do the same, calling all parishes and worshiping communities in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to a similar vigil. Such vigils could be as simple as a special closing prayer or litany on Sunday, November 6; saying Morning, Noonday and Evening Prayer on Monday, November 7; or a continuous period of prayer with individuals and/or groups praying in shifts.

Resources at: www.advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/EpiscopaliansVote  and at Forward Movement's "Season of Prayer for an Election: website at: www.news.forwardmovement.org/2016/09/a-season-of-prayer-for-an-election/ .

We invite you to connect and share your ideas with ECCT by using our diocesan hashtag #ECCT and by tagging our diocesan Twitter account @EpiscopalCT. We would love to see what you and your parish or worshiping community are doing to prepare prayerfully for the election.

Finally, we urge you to exercise your right to vote on Election Day, November 8. We have a civic duty to participate in the political processes of our nation, our states, and our local communities. Please vote prayerfully.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D.                                                     The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, D.Min.
Bishop Diocesan                                                                                  Bishop Suffragan
October 25, 2016

Posted: 10/28/16



A Letter to the People of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut
Reflections: Finding Balace


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Many of us this summer found ourselves at times watching the summer Olympics from Rio de Janeiro. We were captivated by the talents of individuals and teams and reminded of the hard work and dedication of athletes all over the world as well as their supporting colleagues who helped make their athletic abilities the best in their field.

We also learned that it takes more than hard work to make a gold-medal winner. Gwen Jorgensen, who won the gold for the U.S.A. in the triathlon, spoke about the importance of balance in her life: balancing her workouts of running, swimming, and cycling with her diet, down time and sleep.

Balance. It is an important word for Christians. St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 430) often thought be the founder of western monasticism, wrote -- in his rule to the monks in his care -- about the need for balance in their daily life. He stressed a balance of prayer, study and time for manual work. Benedict's rule is not just for monks of his abbey, however, but for "any person who wished to live as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel." (New Advent website http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm ). For me, as I read Benedict's rule, I hear a call to seek to balance prayer, work (including study), rest, and play (including physical exercise).

For most of us, unless we're running camps and special programs, it might be easier to think of balance during the summer. Life has a slightly slower pace then, or at least there might be a few less demands on our precious time.

Summer seems to lend itself to prayer, work, rest and play.

We find our time in nature leads us into prayers of thanksgiving and praise for God's creation. Our summer chapels open their doors to seasonal residents, travelers and locals; we experience collaborative ministries with neighboring parishes as clergy take time away for rest and vacation; and we enjoy outdoor services or coffee hours as a form of refreshment and connection.

Our work takes on a different feel as we fill in for colleagues on holiday or find time to read, prepare, and vision for the coming year. We may have the opportunity to finish projects that were interrupted during the rest of the year or to tackle a new job.

Rest becomes a chance maybe for a lazy nap in a hammock or sleeping just a little bit longer in the morning. I've enjoyed going to bed early this summer...Having fewer late night meetings has given me the opportunity to enjoy an early dinner and longer sleep.

Play becomes a chance to walk in the early evening while the sun is still up late or to swim at one of Connecticut's great beaches or local pools. Perhaps you found time to play golf, tennis or sail.

My favorite play adventure is connecting with friends passing through Connecticut and spending time with friends.

For the past few years, I have traveled to Canada for a week every summer to spend time with my friend Bishop Linda Nichols. She is the newly elected Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of Huron and previously served as the Bishop Suffragan in Toronto.

Bringing my passion for "participating in God's mission" to Canada, we spent several days exploring her new diocese and diving deeply into some of the local contexts she oversees.

A food tour on Lake Huron had us tasting a variety of foods filled with local garlic and enjoying an exceptional array of goat cheeses. A trip to Stratford Upon Avon (in Canada) included seeing an outstanding production of Macbeth and enjoying an excellent fresh salmon dinner. Perch and trout were also part of our dining that week!

Coming home, I found my passion for exploring the local context in Connecticut continues to excite and intrigue me. Our local work, engaging and seeking to make connections with our neighbors and learning from them, is such a vital part of our listening in God's Mission. What is God up to in our local contexts? Not just our food and our entertainment, but what significant needs are in our context and who is God already working with that we might join? Listening, learning and joining God in the neighborhood! How delightful that my time of play fueled my passion for our great work in Connecticut! A gift of summer!

Balance. Pray, work, rest and play. It seems to be achievable for many of us in the summer. I'm curious how we can hold onto it in the coming months.

What ways can we open ourselves up to prayer in a new way as well as find ourselves delighting in Sunday worship and the routine of church school, choirs, and the gathering of old and new friends? Perhaps God is calling you to try on "Pray First"- an invitation from the Pray First network in ECCT (prayfirstct.org) to remember to Pray First...always...before meals, meetings, and times of rest and play. A prayer of thanksgiving or setting an intention for the upcoming time might be a way to Pray First. A centering prayer of slow breathing, offering perhaps a word...God, Love, Hope, might help us connect more fully to God in the activity ahead.

What ways can we include work in the balance of our lives, not letting it be all-consuming of our days, but giving it the honor and time that good and holy work requests of us? Perhaps it's exploring our passions in our work, or wondering: what is our desire for our work? and for ourselves? at our work. How can we ask God to support us in this quest?

Rest. Oh, rest. The late night meetings will return and demands on all of our time will increase. Can we honor our rest? I think of Jesus sleeping in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus knew he needed his rest to claim the fullness of life he was called to. Can we hold onto the image of the sleeping Jesus and honor that rest in our own lives?

And play. As the weather turns colder and the sun sets earlier in the day, our outside actives change, but our need for play does not. I invite you to share with your friends and colleagues both your practices of play and to ask them to honor your need for play. If we seek to hold one another accountable for our prayer, work, rest, and play we offer collegial support for all of us to find the balance that our Christian walk invites.

Benedict knew that a balanced life keeps us focused on God and walking the Christian way. I invite all of us as we move into our fall season to reflect on this balance. Using Benedict or another rule, find ways to keep your focus and your health. We are our best when we live a balanced life. Benedict knew it. The athletes at Rio de Janeiro knew it. And we know it too. Let us seek to care for one another in the months ahead, inviting conversation and support to one another as we live into our busy autumn lives.

May our walk with God and one another honor the balance that grounds us in our Christian faith.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan
Ecclesiastical Authority
September 6, 2016

Posted: 9/10/16



A Letter to the People of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut
Reflections: Thoughts about work and prayer


"Come sit beside me",

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I think in my 25 years of ordained ministry I have preached a few good sermons drawing on the lesson from Luke 10:38-42 that we heard on Pentecost 11. The passage tells the story of when Jesus says to Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful, Mary (your sister) has chosen the good portion (Translation from the RSV)." Mary was sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to the teachings of Jesus, while Martha was distracted by a variety of tasks.

We know the sermon and we know the message. We are all Marthas in a busy world. We are anxious and troubled about many things. We know in our hearts and in our minds that our faith calls us to slow down, to listen to Jesus' words of love and compassion, to breathe his message of hope and new life, and to share his model of healing and reconciliation with our neighbors far and wide. We know it, we can talk about it, and we can give a healthy and heartfelt nod of assent to it. And then our Martha comes back into the picture with all of the anxiety and troubling thoughts and we are off and running with our "Martha-lives."

Here's the thing. A week after I preached my most recent sermon about Martha and Mary with Jesus, I kept having this image of Mary coming into my mind and into my heart. In this image she was still sitting at the feet of Jesus, but this time she was not looking at Jesus, she was looking at me, beckoning me to come sit next to her. "Come; sit beside me," she seemed to say as she patted the ground and then looked to Jesus. Her message was clear: my sister Mary and Jesus are both waiting for me.

This image has been a challenge and a blessing to me this summer. With Bishop Ian away on sabbatical, my workload has increased as I've taken on the role of Ecclesiastical Authority. For one thing, I attend more meetings. It also means that I'm the solo bishop working with Canon Lee Ann Tolzmann and our now more than 30 parishes in some kind of clergy leadership transition.

Regular busyness continues as well, as I work with others to explore new missional curacies, new ideas for part-time ministries, and new collaborations between parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) and between ECCT and Lutheran (ELCA) congregations. Our Ministry Networks are growing and emerging, focusing on human trafficking; the environment; domestic violence; poetry; music, liturgy and the arts; and much more. We are welcoming new clergy to Connecticut and saying goodbye to others called to share their gifts elsewhere.

Many of us are in learning mode, gaining skills and designing new ministry adventures for the fall. All around ECCT people are exploring ways to reach out to our local contexts in new ways.

Our conversations are increasingly less about church structures and more about what structures we need to respond to the anxieties and troubles we see around us. As news of violence locally and globally continues to flood our senses, we know that our work is to change the culture that feeds this lack of trust and supports broken relationships. Our work is about listening, learning and building bridges that lead to new relationships and new life. It's new work for many of us, and we are making some missteps and learning from them and trying on new ideas and new ways of thinking and being in the world.

I'm loving both the busyness and the gift of prayer during this time. I have begun the practice of several times a week sitting for 10 minutes in a quiet space and imagining myself sitting next to Mary, listening to Jesus teach. I open my heart to hearing a word of scripture that God might be offering to me on this day. Sometimes I'm reminded of something I heard in church on Sunday or another passage that I have encountered during the week, sometimes old favorites come into my mind. Sometimes I just enjoy the silence that feels like a Word even unto itself. I've been grateful for this practice in these summer months.

Mary's call to come sit beside her and listen to Jesus reminds me and all of us that our hard and faithful work is not fueled by our anxious fears but guided by the gentle compassionate God whose focus is on healthy relationships, compassionate justice, and healing peace. Our work is best done when we are clear why we are doing it and who we are as the people of God. And that clarity that comes from our prayer, when we accept Mary's invitation to come sit next to her and listen to our Lord. She and Jesus are waiting.

Before the summer turns to fall, it is my hope that each and every one of us somewhere in some way will join Mary at the Lord's feet for a time. To sit, to listen, to learn. And then to come away, refreshed and renewed for the busy Martha-lives that call to us every day. The work is there and it will always be calling to us. Let us respond to that work not with anxiety but guided by the heart of Jesus and fueled by our passion for the God of Peace.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan
Ecclesiastical Authority

Posted: 8/4/16