Reaching Out, Helping Out

Hands on Hartford is working daily to help those in our community with a helping hand – and they’re right in our neighborhood. They serve the community in many ways from offering free meals, counseling services, a pantry, and reaching out to the homeless (those living on the street, the recently formerly incarcerated, or those who are in need) 6 nights a week.

One of their needs is toiletry kits they distribute to the homeless. Won’t you consider donating travel size toiletry items which will later be packaged into kits to be given to Hands on Hartford for distribution? Thank you.

Items to be collected:

Tooth brush, toothpaste
Comb, brush
Shampoo, conditioner
Deodorant
Wash cloth, bar soap
Disposable razor, shaving cream
Dental floss, mouthwash
Feminine care products

Additionally, full-size detergent and fabric softener are needed for their pantry. Items can be dropped off in the bins located at the back of the church, in Drew Hall, next to the office and the door leading into Drew Hall.

Any questions, call: Patti Beckett 860.633.6147

Boar’s Head Sign Up

Boar’s Head is back! Plans are under way for full-scale performances the weekend of January 7-8, 2023.

Sign up for the on-stage cast or behind-the-scenes crews here: https://forms.gle/W2n3J2wWBvoppBvK8.

Yes, we’ve said this before, but this time with much more confidence. In addition to in-person attendance, we also plan to offer at least one live-streamed performance.  Stay tuned for announcement of dates for cast sign-up and the opening of ticket sales. We hope you share our joy and excitement as this beloved annual tradition returns.


Sign up for the on-stage cast or behind-the-scenes crews here: https://forms.gle/W2n3J2wWBvoppBvK8


Then, YOU MUST be present IN PERSON on September 25 for measurements for your costume and have your photograph taken.

Moderator Earl Exum Office Hours

Moderator Earl Exum has “office hours” on Sundays after church. If you are interested in speaking with Earl about any joys or concerns, contact the church office at 860.525.5696 to schedule a time for an in-person, Zoom meeting, or phone call.

Ali Hager to Intern at AHCC

Ali Hager is a member-in-discernment in the United Church of Christ. She completed the first half of her theological education at Hartford Seminary, and is now a Master of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School. Ali feels a call to serve God both inside and outside the walls of the church. You may recognize Ali and her family among the regulars who help serve AHCC’s Community Meal on Sunday afternoons. She lives in the woods of Collinsville with her husband, two daughters, and far too many animals.

Important News From The Pastors

Dear friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you that on October 16, I will be leaving my role as Minister of Mid and Later Life at AHCC to return to the work of college chaplaincy.

The pandemic has been traumatic for everyone, and one population that has been severely and uniquely affected is young adults, among whom feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide are rampant. With my experience in college chaplaincy, I feel called to return to the university setting to strive to be a life-giving resource to young adults during this critical and unique moment in history.

This was an extremely difficult decision to make. I genuinely love Erica and Jordan, who have become like sisters to me. I deeply admire their senses of humor, their creativity, their passion, their unflagging hope for this church, their unconditional love, their indomitable faith, and their commitment to justice. Jack and Susan, also, have become like family to me. They are incredibly talented and imaginative musicians and worship leaders, and planning and leading worship with all of them has been a joyful endeavor that has enriched my faith.

While I will profoundly miss being a part of this incredible clergy team and member of this committed group of professional staff, I will also dearly miss being your pastor. Your kindness, enthusiasm, affirmation, and generosity are unmatched. Your passion for God and for this incredible church, your talented and visionary lay leadership, and your generosity of spirit have inspired me and give me great hope for the future of the Church Universal and this amazing faith community, in particular.

I wholeheartedly believe in the expert leadership of this church community and what AHCC is doing to help make love and justice real and tangible in our community and world. My life has been richly blessed by my ministry among you and alongside Erica and Jordan, and for that I will be forever grateful.

With deep gratitude and prayer,Tracy


Beloveds,

As I return home to you after a wonderfully refreshing sabbatical, ready to begin a new program year, I know the news of Rev. Tracy’s departure from AHCC as the Minister of Mid and Later Life was not the news you were expecting.

Even so, I am extremely happy, even grateful, that Tracy has been able to listen deeply to the Spirit’s calling – a calling which is specific and unique to her and the times in which we are living. Tracy’s ministry at AHCC has taken place exclusively during the pandemic, a season which has impacted and changed each one of us and our community. Which is to say that although I wish for more time with Tracy as a colleague at AHCC, I understand that these unprecedented times have uncovered needs and callings that we could not anticipate in March of 2020.

I am very sad to see my gifted colleague, friend, and sister take leave from her position at AHCC. But I will always be grateful that I had Tracy by my side, helping me lead, during an extremely difficult era in modern history. We are better off as a community because of the love and care she has shared, and the wisdom she has imparted. I hope that each of you will take some time in the next few weeks to relay to Tracy your own gratitude. Please mark your calendars for a special celebration of her ministry during worship on Sunday, October 16.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be working with Tracy, our talented staff team and your lay leaders to develop appropriate short-term coverage as we prayerfully consider exactly what the future might hold. I ask for both your trust and your patience as we move through this process.

Beloveds, be well and I look forward to worshipping with ALL OF YOU this Sunday as we celebrate Homecoming Sunday at Asylum Hill Congregational Church! Much love to you today.

Always, Rev. Erica Thompson Senior Minister

The one constant throughout time and space and circumstance
is the love and grace of God that we experience in Jesus! We are never ever alone.

Very Tiny Visitors Welcomed at AHCC

In 2020, AHCC member and Asylum Hill neighborhood resident, Paul O’Mara was approached by the Knox Parks Foundation about AHCC being one of several downtown Hartford churches to host a pollinator garden. These gardens feature native plants that are good food sources for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial flying insects – and they are hard for them to find in urban settings.

He received approval for the garden to be installed in the AHCC parking lot facing Huntington Street and enlisted Susan Fellman, a long-time gardening volunteer at AHCC, along with Master Gardeners Paul Grimmeisen and Kathye Cipes, to get the garden established. Paul Grimmeisen was instrumental in leading volunteer efforts at the Community Garden on Huntington Street.

Paul O’Mara rototilled the vacant plot and Knox Parks made the initial donation of pollinator friendly perennials.

After planting, watering, and mulching, today it’s a surprising burst of color and vitality with regular visits from bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies. Church sexton Jorge Fuentes has also been enlisted to help with mulching, and Kathye Cipes and her dog, Friday, can often be found watering the plants and weeding.

Some additional plants have been donated by the Connecticut Science Center and it’s fun to see what is blooming from week to week. At the end of the season, birds are sure to visit to take advantage of seed pods from the spent flowers and insects as they get ready for migration or the colder weather ahead.

If you haven’t seen the Pollinator Garden, please take the time to see what’s growing and blooming.

Special Request: Do you have a birdbath you could donate to the pollinator garden? It will provide food AND water to our tiny visitors. Please contact Kathye Cipes kathye-cipes@hotmail.com if you have a birdbath or pollinator-friendly perennials that you would like to add to the garden. Thank you!

Summer Update

We are now officially into summer and a few weeks into Rev. Erica’s sabbatical, and wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your encouragement and support. We are having fun connecting with you, learning with you, and growing in faith and service together!

As you may have noticed, our beloved David Figliuzzi, former vice moderator, has returned to AHCC to help with sabbatical coverage following his graduation from Yale Divinity School. David has been making calls, doing pastoral visits, helping coordinate Adult Education events for the fall, and connecting with community leaders to help further our justice and community initiatives. He will also be preaching and helping lead worship. We are so grateful for David to share his many gifts with us!

As you may have seen on social media, Rev. Erica has been enjoying precious and sacred time with her family. We all miss her greatly, and are grateful for your continued prayers for her and your appreciation of her need for this well-deserved sabbatical time. We invite you to reach out to JordanDavid, or Tracy if you would like prayer or a visit, if there is anything weighing on your heart, or if you want to share a joy.

We invite you to click the button below and take a look at the all fun summer social events we have planned. You can see more information and registration in the calendar. We hope they will help deepen our connection to one another, and we encourage you to participate in as many as you can.

The summer worship series, Steps to Living our Fullest and Most Fulfilling Lives, starts July 3. The series will explore the themes behind the “Twelve Steps” and will invite us to discover ways to cultivate compassion for ourselves; to regain our agency and discover our strength; and to free ourselves from the harmful habits, toxic relationships, and burdensome dependencies that might be holding us back from living our fullest and most fulfilling lives. If you’re in town, we’d love to see you at worship in person, and if you’re traveling, we invite you to livestream Sunday worship.

With joy, enthusiasm, and prayer,

Tracy and Jordan

Workshop Report: Being A Better Neighbor

The Neighborhood Vision Task Force created an incredibly thorough report, and this workshop (the first of many), held on May 16 was an opportunity to gather with AHCC members and delve into the report more fully, and discuss ways for all of us to bring it to life. The following are the highlights of what came from the discussion.

Ways of being: How can we be that would invite more relationship with our neighbors

  • Relationship Led: The ultimate byproduct of this effort is deeper and more plentiful relationships with our neighbors and each other. There may be things we do, events we host, goals we accomplish, but in the end, the measuring stick is relationships
  • Extend Hospitality: Hospitality is about offering grace to a stranger. What would happen if we simply extended that kind of hospitality to a larger population of our neighborhood? What if we extended more invitations for the things we do already?
  • Community Catalysts: If we can bring people together to talk about what matters to each other, we are destined to discover that maybe we are not alone, or as different as we might assume. We also might begin to see our differences as treasure to learn from. In fact, this happened even in this workshop

Short-term actions to take:

  • Sunday Meal – Could we do a special edition Sunday meal where we invite a broader population of the neighborhood, and encourage people to stay and engage in conversation over a meal?
  • New Members – Could we host a workshop like this with new members, or member candidates to get them involved right away?

Exciting Ideas

  • Youth Scholars/Youth Choir
  • Connecting the energy of people within the staff and with what is happening
  • Environment – what can we do within our walls, and outside of our building e.g., build a pavilion/patio/gazebo to use our outdoor space as a place to gather
  • Worship in the park, break bread with people in the neighborhood
  • Using music to heal trauma
  • Offer technical/production internships
  • Community meals expansion
  • Employment networking/job fair
  • Build a laundromat the community can use, and potentially operate

Questions for the community

  • What is the relevance of assumed issues – e.g., gun violence, homelessness, hunger?
  • How can we deepen relationships with who we already know, work with in the community?

A Note About the Texas School Shooting

Dear AHCC Family,

I am not sure I have the right words to even begin to describe how I am feeling today. When I first heard the news that there had been another mass shooting in our country, I am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t surprised. These horrifying acts of gun violence have become so commonplace that they barely register as a blip on our newsfeed. But as the reports came in explaining that this occurred at an elementary school and multiple children were dead, I fell on the floor sobbing. “What have we become?” I kept whispering to myself. I felt helpless and angry.

We have now learned that at least 19 children and 2 adults were killed. Last night, as I put my own children to bed, I stood staring at their little faces knowing that those parents in Uvalde, Texas were facing the unimaginable reality that that morning was the last time they would hold their babies. It’s heartbreaking and almost feels like too much to handle.

I want you to know that you are not alone in your grief and confusion. Each of us may feel or express it differently, but we all are affected. And it is not lost on me that for those of us who live in Connecticut, the re-traumatization of this event is very real, as not so long ago we learned of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many of you may be wondering, “When will enough be enough?” or “What can we do to protect our kids?”

The Massai tribe of Africa have a traditional greeting: “Kasserian Ingera” which means, “And how are the children?” This greeting reflects the high value the Massai place on their children’s well-being. Even those with no children of their own respond with the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place. The Massai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper function and responsibilities. “All the children are well” means that life is good and that the daily struggles for existence do not preclude properly caring for the young.

Friends, I am asking myself this same question today – How are the children? How are the children when they can’t go to school and be safe? How are the children when they hear parents and other grownups in their lives talking about yet another school shooting? How are the children when our leaders refuse to act on gun violence legislation, leaving the door open to more events like what occurred in Texas yesterday?

The answer, I believe, is this: WE have an opportunity to make the world safer for our children AND we can talk to them about the realities of this world in a loving and hopeful way. We are never to shy away from the fact that we don’t live in the Kingdom yet, and there will be loss and pain. But we also have a responsibility to ensure our kids grow up in a better world.

If you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, you are not alone. I want to make sure that you know your clergy are here for you – to offer support, to talk, to pray, to sit in silence together. Additionally, if you need help finding the words to talk with your children or grandchildren, AHCC’s Youth Director Tobey Aubert and I are both available to provide guidance or refer you to resources that may help you in having age-appropriate conversations. We are in this together and your AHCC clergy and staff are holding you in prayer as we navigate the realities of this tragedy.

I truly believe that we live in community so that someday our answer to the question, “And how are the children?” can be, “All the children are well.”

Holding you in love,
Pastor Jordan Rebholz

Thrift Shop News

Over the past several years, we as a congregation have had to re-evaluate our ministries and how we connect with and serve our community. We have added and changed programs and events to work toward becoming the church we believe God is calling us to be. It’s been a difficult but important task, and we have only been able to do it with the support of our members and community partners, knowing that the Spirit is leading us to “love our neighbors” in new ways.

In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic began, so many of our ministries had to stop in the interest of safety, including in-person worship, Sunday school, and committee meetings, to name just a few. Another ministry that was affected was our Thrift Shop, which has been an important part of AHCC for decades. For many months, we stopped operations altogether to ensure we were protecting our neighbors and volunteers through an unprecedented and difficult time.

In January 2021, we began holding monthly “pop-up” thrift shops in the parking lot during the Community Meal, in an effort to continue serving our neighbors. At the same time, the newly assembled Thrift Shop Task Force took on the job of looking at how the Thrift Shop might be modified to operate in the new world we were living in. Over six months, the task force met and discussed how to respond to the pandemic, to changes in the neighborhood, and to available resources both human and monetary. At the end of their work, the task force presented a report to the Diaconate which included suggestions on how to move forward, and the formation of an ongoing Thrift Shop Advisory Committee to provide insight and support for the next phase. Led by myself and Africka Hinds, this team included AHCC members Dean Amadon, Lila Pierce, Sally Tresselt, and Karen Hewes, and worked closely with Moderator Tory Chavey, and Helena Carvalho, Director of Operations. Since the summer of 2021, the advisory committee has met regularly to discuss new possibilities for the Thrift Shop, including how to respond to a flood in the basement, locating temporary storage for Thrift Shop inventory, and looking into off-site locations. The ongoing repair and construction in the basement made it clear that the original location of the Thrift Shop would remain unusable for the foreseeable future. After exploring the idea of moving the operations of the Thrift Shop offsite and researching what that might involve, the advisory committee concluded that it would be both too costly and logistically difficult. Additionally, we recognized that the monthly Pop Up shops in the parking lot are incredibly labor intensive and not financially sustainable.

At the same time as the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee’s work was performed, the AHCC Roadmap 2024 was created and presented to the congregation, and the Neighborhood Vision Task Force completed their work of connecting with and listening to our neighbors to learn how we might better work together to improve Asylum Hill for all. The Thrift Shop Advisory Committee, taking into account the aspirations and goals of AHCC Roadmap 2024, the report from the Neighborhood Vision Task Force, and the desire to work in partnership with these guides and initiatives, presented its recommendations to the Diaconate at its April meeting.

We believe that in order to best serve our neighbors, we need to be intentional about how we move forward and take the time to reimagine the Thrift Shop ministry. It is the recommendation of the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee that the Thrift Shop stop its operations in their current form as of June 2022. For the immediate future, this means we will no longer be accepting donations of items for the Thrift Shop and will hold more frequent Pop Up Shops in the parking lot to ensure we can distribute all the inventory currently on hand. Further, the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee suggests we continue to serve our neighbors by holding seasonal clothing events, such as a school uniform drive in August and a coat drive in the late fall/early winter, etc. We see these changes as a necessary and vital shift in ministry that balances the needs of the neighborhood and the limits of resources.

At the same time, it is important that we celebrate the many people who have made the Thrift Shop such a wonderful ministry over the years, including the incredibly dedicated volunteers who spent countless hours sorting, cleaning, and displaying items, and our current Thrift Shop Coordinator, Sue Powell. We are so grateful to these wonderful individuals who have given their time and hearts in support of the Thrift Shop as well as to everyone who has donated items to this ministry. We pray that over the next several years, as we reimagine our mission, you will continue to support whatever direction we take as we find new ways to love our neighbors.

These are important and transformative times we are living in. We have always been a congregation that believes our mission is to “love God and love our neighbor” through the many ways we serve our world. While this is a change to the way we exist in the neighborhood, I believe it will allow us to step back and listen to where the Spirit is leading us so that we can continue the legacy of service and justice that is a hallmark of Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we look toward the future to find the ways we can love our neighbors in this new world.

In love and grace,
Pastor Jordan Rebholz

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