Category Archives: Blog

Rector’s blog

Water & Grace

January 14, 2017

In a recent interview the Surgeon General explained the new three-pillar health policy. Besides physical and nutritional wellness, Dr. Vivek Murthy is now also advocating consideration of emotional wellness. His statement is certainly not emotional. Science is telling us very regularly about the link between emotional well-being and health outcomes. The Surgeon General doesn’t mince words: “Stress is an epidemic in our country.” And many stress management methods are not healthy either. Establishing emotional balance, Dr. Murthy suggests, can happen through simple practices like sleep, social connections or meditation.

Establishing this emotional well-being in a stress-filled environment not only at work, in our school environment, but also in our socio-political context requires, I think, more than sleep or meditation. To block certain stress generating situations or thoughts we need to commit ourselves to specific values and practices that safeguard an unstressed space in mind and heart.

Baptism is part of these value practices that helps us destress and create this safe zone. Once a year we remember the baptism of Jesus and maybe this is an opportune time to highlight how baptism has never merely been a ritual for babies. To show this value of baptism let’s drop for a moment this churchy word ‘baptism’ that, as so many church words, has become laden with history and popular interpretations. The biblical backdrop of water symbolism has always been to highlight how grace seeks to revive the dried-out, overheated, worn-out components of our lives. Through water, grace is hoping to restore identity after people feel caught in the stream of historical events, compromising situations, violent oppressions, and yes at times personal sins. The biblical focus on water has always been to destress, unlock, or cleanse in order to reclaim dignity and liberty.

Running to the river for baptism won’t counter the stress epidemic the Surgeon General is worried about. Or maybe it would. Because time at the water is very relaxing. And reserving some holistic time to tend to the parts of our souls and bodies that are worn out by stress, can be very healing. The H2O-focus of our Biblical heritage helps us reconnect with the vital force in us that is like water, a crucial component of vitality. Discovering this vital force is like an arrival at the well, at a safe-zone space that helps us destress, regenerate, cool down, warm up, restart. May this Sunday’s baptism remembrance help us connect with the vital force of God’s grace in us.

Grounding Gratitude Amid Turbulent Storms

November 20, 2016

Napflix is the latest calming channel now streaming relaxing shows such as 2015 Cricket Matches, Koala Slow Life, or the 2016 Bocci Ball Tournament. Its humorist touch is in itself already a way of calming your mind. Watching three hours of ocean waves crashing on a tropical beach helps to detox a mind that has been absorbed by the suspenseful political season.

Whether it’s through Napflix, a walk in the forest, or a moment of breathing meditation, taking a break from the funnel effect of TV that is pulling us into the narrowing prospect of its narratives brings fresh air to our mind and our heart. Especially in a period when challenges come our way, it is important to deliberately change focus and widen our attention to the beauty of creation, the primal value of the privilege of existing, and acknowledging the blessings that come our way. Not that the wider perspective may solve all our problems, but losing touch with the beauty of the clouds, stars, or foliage, shrinks our daily life to a sense of immediacy and emergency that—while it may have some value and reason—pulls us away from multiple opportunities for joy, care, and gratitude.

Connecting with this wider sense of reality is exactly what helps us remain connected with who we are and what prevents the influences of the moment from shaping our values. This grounding wideness of gratitude resonates in one of the readings this Sunday (Colossians 1) when Paul prays: May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers.

May the wideness of God’s power and mercy strengthen us all to march onward, to fight the good fight, at times to step back and reconnect with our faith, with or without Napflix.

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Prayers for Our President and Our Country: Healing Unity Conversation at this Week’s Sunday Forum

November 13, 2016

Emotions have dominated the presidential campaign. In months to come emotions will be a leading force in the way people express their political preferences. So often emotions have been framed as inferior. But research on emotional intelligence and emotional awareness is telling us emotions should be taken more seriously. This election campaign, before and after the election of Donald Trump as our 45th president, makes the same argument. People on both sides of the political camps are speaking and voting with emotion, because reason or science, arguments or logic have made them left hurt rather than feel heard.

As a church community, especially as a bipartisan community like our beloved Trinity Church, we  now are facing the tall order of bringing unity, reconciliation and deep understanding for the emotions whirling on both sides of the (political) aisle. The primary task we face as a church community is doing this ministry and labor of helping people process these emotions that are not just real, but that speak of an experience of living in America that has not be heard or told or transferred into policy in a way that alleviates or remedies the causes of their pain, their fear, and their sadness, caused by a myriad of circumstances.

In discussing this church task at hand, Lucile Bruce and her husband (and our deacon) Kyle Pedersen suggested we take a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. It is a very blessed suggestion! Published in 1939, Bonhoeffer stressed how being Christian means community. That is what Christ brought as one of his first actions: bringing people together, across the political, socio-cultural, and moral dividing lines of his time. Life Together through Christ does not happen in spite of political differences, but after working ourselves through the emotional fold-lines that are carved in us by the divisions. The following quote from Bonhoeffer’s book goes straight to the heart of the church service work we need to reignite today. I apologize if the quote pulls you right away into the crux of the book. Copies of the book will be arriving on Monday. But please join us this Sunday at 10am during our Sunday Forum to start this healing conversation about Life Together. May God bless our president-elect Donald Trump, may God bless our country, and may God bless our efforts to join each other in order to build the unity and mutual compassion we all need.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 33-34:
“Human love is by its very nature desire—desire for human community. So long as it can satisfy this desire in some way, it will not give it up, even for the sake of truth, even for the sake of genuine love for others. But where it can no longer expect this desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short—namely, in the face of an enemy. There it turns into hatred, contempt, and calamity. Right here is the point where spiritual love begins. This why human love becomes personal hatred when it encounters genuine spiritual love, which does not desire but serves. Human love makes itself an end in itself. It creates of itself an end, an idol which it worships, to which it must subject everything. It nurses and cultivates an ideal, it loves itself, and nothing else in the world. Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ, it serves him alone; it knows that it has no immediate access to other persons. Jesus Christ stands between the lover and the others he loves. I do not know in advance what love of others means on the basis of the general idea of love that grows out of my human desires—all this may rather be hatred and an insidious kind of selfishness in the eyes of Christ. What love is, only Christ tells in his Word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love toward the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it.”

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There Is More between Heaven and Earth than Politics

November 4, 2016

According to a recent poll, a majority of citizens have one strong wish: for the election season to be over. This upcoming Sunday, Trinity’s guest speaker at our forum will help us shift our minds. We will welcome Christine Popp at our 10AM Sunday Forum, member of Trinity and founding alumnae member of our Trinity Girls Choir.

In January 2015, Christine decided to take the path of service when joining the Peace Corps.  The official plan was to serve in Ethiopia as a Health Extension Volunteer for 27 months. But Ethiopian national politics being on the brink of civil war changed those plans. Those months of service have been life-changing and amazing and difficult for Christine. With her blog (https://christinepopp5.wordpress.com) she kept her loved ones updated on where she was, what she did and learned. Now she travels around the country to create awareness and offer in-depth insights about the needs of Ethiopians and East Africans, in a place on earth that puts our needs and wants in perspective.

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Wondering In Fall

October 28, 2016

How beautiful is the fall season in New England! New Englanders know so well how rich the color palette of the American deciduous trees can get in our neck of the woods. The splendor of the foliage colors in this part of the world is second to none. You could almost say that its wonder should never be trumped by any other worry.

But life goes on and so it goes with wonder. Even though we live amid this nature’s marvel, daily chores grasp our minds. And like the foliage, wonder flurries down in elegance but irretrievably so. Yet, we should never let go of wonder, however naive it may seem at times. Even more important than the fall foliage in New England is the sense of wonder it generates. The leaves grow and flow with the seasons, but our sense of wonder is what helps us to stay rich. Because it is wonder that drives us, opens us, ignites our thinking, pulls us towards new initiatives.

It is this sense of wonder that this Sunday’s readings are calling to mind, when we hear Paul praying: “May God give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance” Ephesians 1.

In this time of hard work, worries, and prayers for our country, I pray that we preserve this divine gift of wisdom, enlightenment and wonder that keeps our lives rich and strong.

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Giving Sunday: Honoring Your Pledge

October 21, 2016

This Sunday we will prayerfully honor every contribution to the ministry of Trinity. Giving Sunday is a time to express thanksgiving to God for the gifts we are able to share. It is also a time of discernment when we are still deciding on our contribution for our 2017 stewardship campaign.

Your support not only secures the preaching of the Gospel and the outreach of faith and care in our community. Your giving also celebrates the power of faith today, in a world where signs of faith are like nighttime candle lights, giving hope to those who lost their faith in the world, in humanity, or in God. Thank you so much for helping us all together carry on the torch of faith and hope when reaching out to our community.

We are all very grateful to this year’s Stewardship Committee, for their hard work and inspiring messages. Thanks to all of you for giving to Trinity through time, talent, and treasure.

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Rowena Transitioning to New Ministry

August 14, 2016

Dear Trinity Family,
Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Regretfully, I write to inform you that effective September 11th, 2016 I will conclude my tenure here at Trinity as your Assistant Rector.  This is a decision not made lightly but prayerfully.  I love my ministry here and everyone I have had the privilege to accompany on life’s transitions.  Yet, I feel called now to step out in faith and lead a congregation myself.  Effective October 1st, 2016 I will be appointed the Priest in Charge at Grace Episcopal Church in the Parkville section of Hartford.

Thank you for the opportunity to share in the ministry of Trinity on the Green over the past twenty-one months.  During this time, I had the opportunity to truly live into my priesthood, and understand the complexities of a program-sized parish.  At times it was difficult to understand the full scope of the ministry of a parish as large and as dynamic as Trinity.  Yet, I had the opportunity to pastorally journey with many of you.  What a blessing it has been to have this time of training and trying on new things with you in the parish and in the city of New Haven.

Thank you also for the care offered to me during my mother’s unexpected passing just two weeks into my ministry with you.  Please know that I will be forever indebted to you for the care offered me.

Again, thank you and may God continue to bless all of you.
In peace,
Rowena+


From our rector and wardens:

We are writing to inform you of an upcoming transition on our clergy team. Earlier this summer, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bishop Laura Ahrens asked our Trinity Assistant Rector, The Rev. Rowena Kemp, to accept a call to be the Priest in Charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Hartford.  With much consideration and thoughtful prayer, Rowena has decided that she is ready for this new challenge in her growth as a priest and has accepted the position.  Rowena’s last Sunday at Trinity Church will be Sunday, September 11th and she will begin her ministry at Grace Episcopal Church on October 1st.

Rowena’s ministry at Trinity has been one of inspiration and love.  We are sincerely grateful to her for the many opportunities she has provided all of us as we grow in faith, work, and love.  We will miss Rowena very much.  Her kind presence at so many Trinity functions, her well-delivered sermons, and her generous pastoral care are only some of the testaments to the difference Rowena’s ministry has made in our lives.

We offer heartfelt congratulations to her. Her call to be Priest in Charge is a confirmation of her growing excellence and we wish her all the best as she shares her kind personhood and many talents with her new parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church.

We will celebrate her ministry at our Parish Picnic on September 11th.  May God continue to bless Rowena and her compassionate, loving ministry.
Lisa Omark, Senior Warden
Charlotte Rea, Junior Warden
The Rev. Luk De Volder, Rector

The Jungle and the Law

August 7, 2016

Since April Mowgli has swung back into theaters. The 2016 John Favreau version is a computer generated image adaption that softened Rudyard Kipling’s admiration for power into a focus on the role of law. Keeping the power of this orphan-saved-by-wolves story robust, this 2016 Jungle Book is suggesting that we can only be true to our selves, if we abide by a common law. Kipling captured this theme of the law in a poem, “The Law of the Jungle”:
Now this is the Law of the Jungle – as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
To a former cub-scout this message still resonates as if this was my own story. The Mowgli sequel was our overarching cub-scout narrative; Bagheera, Baloo, Shere-Khan, Kha, and of course Akela, were all familiar characters to us. But Mowgli the man-cub was our best friend, the outsider that made us all feel at home in the daunting world that carried its label “jungle” as a comforting recognition. Yet, kind Akela adopted us all and taught us like her own cubs to be resourceful and persevering, but above all to value the power of a common agreement, the law of the Jungle.

Maybe the timing of this new version of The Jungle Story is no coincidence, when a good number of people today express the sense of loss of justice. Law seems to be more ethereal these days. Several people mentioned lately how in their circle of boards, schools, or neighborhoods, rules are sometimes considered to be obstacles or mere suggestions. The emphasis on the individual has caused an erosion of rules that are meant to give strength to all. The rules are still in place, but the sense of law, why we have the law, seems to evaporate.

If cub-scouting or the Mowgli story could remind us something, it is the importance of a common law, of covenantal living. More than a set of rules, the sense of the law among the group influences and determines the strength of its members.

It is this ‘sense’, so hard to grasp, that is part of what the Gospel of Matthew is seeking to convey in order to explain what Jesus is all about (theme of this Sunday’s sermon). Kipling did it in his own way. But this sense of law is not a neutral factor of our lives. Because either the law wins or the jungle wins. And depending on the outcome our lives will look very different. Maybe through Mowgli and Matthew we can revive a much needed mindset of justice and law that is put in place to strengthen us all.

God’s peace,

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A New Turn

July 31, 2016

My family trip to Europe over the past weeks was certainly an overwhelming confrontation with the growing turbulence of terrorism. The destabilizing and war-like attacks have become so numerous that for some, Pokemon Go and its “augmented reality” has been a welcome relief.

But signs of hope have also been popping up during this past week. In response to the gruesome killing of the French priest, the Rev. Jacques Hamel in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, last week, the Catholic Church of France has called their members to make today, Friday July 29, into a day of fasting and prayer. This spiritual response to ISIS-terror is not just meant to be non-violent in kind, but it is also appealing to the level of change that is needed. These kinds of abhorrent violence, that are plunging Europe into a state of war, can only be uprooted where they germinate: in the hearts of people.

Numerous people have decided to join this day of fasting and prayer. The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, has announced that he will personally join this spiritual initiative. And the Muslim Council of France has responded in kind: all Muslims of France are called to go to mass this Sunday to join Christians in worship, to express compassion for the inflicted pain and suffering, and to show unity as citizens.

Slowly religious leaders are forging a bond of hope, transcending the differences and creating a covenant of dialogue that breaks down fear and hostility. This is a new turn of events, maybe still fragile, but perhaps a crucial one. Another type of “augmented reality,” not a digital one, but a renewed religious one is being built in the hearts of people. As faith communities we indeed need to be instruments that generate powers of hope and compassion and renewal. I pray that at Trinity we are able to join this hopeful trend amid the turmoil of our age.

It is so good to be back home and I am ready to continue the blessed labor of building community and faith. I very much look forward to seeing you soon. God’s peace.

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Forgotten Insights from the Gospels; Summer Preaching Series 2016

June 26, 2016

What “evangelical” means has a clear definition in our American culture. But do these “evangelical” values actually match the values of the Gospels?

For centuries the Gospels were practiced through a summary of “evangelical” living that was very different than the current popular view of what “evangelical” means. Each Gospel presents a particular tool-set on how to be Christian. And the Gospels promote three particular insights in how to live as Christian: in poverty, chastity, and obedience. However, those specific tool-sets and three “evangelical” insights have been forgotten or have been buried under monastic traditions that at times have obscured their meaning.

During this 2016 summer we will dive into these forgotten insights of the Gospels and take a closer and modern look at how they define Christianity. This is not a summer course in exegesis. Rather, we will explore how the (forgotten) roots of our culture can bring balance and sanity in our challenging times.

June 26: Forgotten Insights of the Gospels – The Rev. Luk De Volder (download sermon)
July 3: American Evangelicals versus the Good News – The Rev. Luk De Volder
July 10: Poverty – The Rev. Rowena Kemp
July 24: Chastity – The Rev. Rowena Kemp
July 31: The Gospel of Mark – The Rev. Luk De Volder
August 7: The Gospel of Matthew – The Rev. Luk De Volder
August: 14: The Gospel of Luke – The Rev. Luk De Volder
August 21: Obedience – The Rev. Rowena Kemp
August 28: The Gospel of John – The Rev. Luk De Volder