Category Archives: Church profiles

Meriden's only synagogue looks to reach more people

WHERE WE WORSHIP

Temple B'Nai Abraham serves 170 families/ContributedMERIDEN – Meriden’s only synagogue, Temple B’Nai Abraham, is home to about 170 Jewish families and individuals and Rabbi Michael Kohn says the congregation is one of the friendliest he’s ever met.

“I wouldn’t want to be a rabbi of a synagogue I wouldn’t want to belong to,” he says, adding that the congregation reminds me of the warm one he grew up with in Philadelphia.

He came to B’Nai Abraham almost three years ago from New York.

The congregation was established in 1889 and built its first synagogue at 43 Cedar St. in Meriden for $5,000. Needing more room, in the 1950s the congregation moved to its current location at 127 E Main St.

Kohn says the congregation is trying new ways this year to get people more involved in the synagogue. They recently served a Moroccan dinner so people could learn about Jewish life in other regions and later this year they plan to possibly host Polish and Chinese dinners as well.

“It gets people involved,” he says, noting that congregation volunteers cook the meals. “It gives them an idea about other Jewish communities.”

For the next dinner, check the church calendar here.

Kohn says this year the congregation also hopes to enhance its religious education program and to organize more activities that will be accessible to the wider community. Many B’Nai Abraham members, Kohn says, are in assisted living homes. He hopes to be able to bring more services to them.

B’Nai Abraham is a conservative congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Because it’s the only synagogue in the area, Kohn says they often team up with congregations in nearby towns for special programs.

Shabbat morning services are held at 9:30 a.m. and evening services are at 6:30 p.m. Services are also held Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 8 a.m.

For information call (203) 235-2581 or visit http://www.meridentemple.org/main.html.

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Danbury church to host harvest fair, reach out to community

WHERE WE WORSHIP

First Congregational Church of Danbury to host Harvest fair/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleDANBURY — The smell of fresh apple pie and the hum of shoppers will be wafting through downtown Danbury on Saturday as First Congregational Church hosts its Harvest ‘n Holiday Fair.

The event will be on the church property, 164 Deer Field Avenue, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rev. Laura Westby said the fair will feature seasonal foods, arts and crafts, gift baskets and other items. The church thrift shop will be open and for the tirst time the festival will have an Amber Alert id booth set up.

Westby explained that the event is only one way that the church reaches out to the community. The parish was founed in 1696. Back then churches served as community meeting houses, which is an idea that the First Congregational is trying to recapture.

“We’re trying to reclaim that as part of our ministry here in Danbury. We have a huge facility, like a lot of downtown churches, and we don’t use it for ourselves so we’re making it available to different groups in the community so we can be that meeting place once again,” Westby said.

Besides allowing Alcoholics Anonymous groups and other organizations to use the building, First Congregational also hosts concerts, forums and other events. The church also serves as an overflow shelter for Danbury’s homeless population from November through April and has an active feeding ministry. Westby added that the church also has a strong global ministry, particularly in Haiti where they sponsor the Good Samaritan Hospital.

She said First Congregational is a hospitable church where all people can come, adding that the church has a large LGBT population. Each Sunday about 65 people worship at the church. Westby hopes that number will rise. Sunday services are at 10 a.m.

“We’re in a time of rebuilding and growing,” she said. “But I’m feeling very positive about things here.”

Services are fairly traditional, though the church is exploring ways to reach more families, possibly through a contemporary service in the future.

“This church is a good fit for someone who is looking for a faith community trying to live out the teachings of Jesus in the 21st Century,” Westby said. “It’s a great place for folks who didn’t quite fit in (somewhere else) and are looking for a community to just accept them where they are.”

For information visit http://www.firstchurchdanbury.org/ where you can find a link to Westby’s blog.

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Nalandabodhi Connecticut invites visitors

The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche/ContributedBLOOMFIELD – Volunteers have kept Nalandabodhi Connecticut running smoothly for more than a decade.

For years the humble Buddhist community gathered in homes, but about a year ago they moved into a Bloomfield office building on the top floor of 3 Barnard Lane.

Director Susan Busby explained that Nalandabodhi Connecticut operates under the guidance of The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, a leading scholar in Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Nalandabodhi is a network of meditation centers, study groups, and individual members who are committed to Tibetan Buddhism.

Members meet weekly to discuss and practice dharma, and Busby said programs are available for those interested in exploring Buddhism as well.

Weekly meditation is held Sundays at 9 a.m., and meditation instruction is provided upon request.

“It’s a calm, peaceful sitting,” Busby explained, noting that Nalandabodhi practices analytical meditation. “It’s all about training the mind that you can have unlimited passion and wisdom.”

This, she said, is often done through visualization exercises, also known as deity practice.

Once a month on Saturdays an all-day practice event is held at the practice center (you can see the schedule here).

Busby said that Nalandabodhi Connecticut also offers various study groups and each Saturday at 4 p.m. they gather to view videos of Dharma teachings by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and other lineage masters. On Sundays members meet at 10:15 a.m. to discuss Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s text Wild Awakening.

Busby described the Connecticut group as “small and cozy.”

Currently the organization has about 22 members, though non-members often regularly attend other programs and classes.

“We’re trying to get the word out that anyone can come,” Busby said. “There are a lot of people out there who want to learn how to calm their minds down.”

On the weekend of Sept. 12 Nalandabodhi Mitra Dean, Dr. Karl Brunnholzl will be teaching at the practice center.

For information call (860) 922-7764 or visit www. http://www.nalandabodhi.org/centers/usa/connecticut.aspx.

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West Hartford synagogue to host open house

Emanuel Synagogue to host open house/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleWEST HARTFORD – As the High Holy Days begin to draw near, The Emanuel Synagogue of West Hartford is springing into action hoping to find new members.

On. Aug. 11 and Aug. 15 the synagogue,160 Mohegan Dr., will host an open house event to introduce shul shoppers to its community.

Francene Turken Weingast, connections coordinator, said an open house will be held Aug. 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. It will start with minyan and will be followed with an opportunity to meet the staff and tour the synagogue.

“Everything we do is low key,” Weingast said. “Comfortable and relaxed is our style.”

Children are welcome to the open house, although the event is geared toward adults.

On Aug. 15 Emanuel Synagogue will host a sports jam and Ben & Jerry’s kosher ice cream social. Guests are asked to bring sports equipment to the event, if they have any. The sports jam will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and is free to perspective members.

Rabbi David J. Small said Emanuel’s goal is to be an extended family to its members.

“We aim to be a big synagogue, but feel like a small one where everyone knows each other’s names and knows each other’s faces,” he said.

The 91-year-old synagogue currently serves 620 families.

“We’re a very diverse group. We have people of all ages; we’re a very intergenerational congregation. We have gay and lesbian members, single parents, converts and intermarried couples. They’re very welcome here,” Weingast said.

Laurie Leader, executive director of Emanuel, said she has only been a member of the synagogue for a few weeks and can vouch for its hospitality.

“The welcome to me has truly been overwhelming. Something remarkably special is happening here. I can feel the arms of the congregation around me,” she said.

Small, who has lead the synagogue for nine years, said Emanuel is focusing on five areas as it works toward becoming a stronger community:

–   Loving people and being good to each other

–   Participating in prayer

–   Being a community of learning

–   Seeking ways to repair the world through activism and volunteering

–   Being committed to Israel and the Jewish people.

Emanuel, which houses Lollipop Nursery School during the academic year, also has an active Hebrew School, which is committed to working with students who have special needs.

To learn more about The Emanuel Synagogue, visit www.emanuelsynagogue.org. Those interested in attending either of the open house events are asked to RSVP by calling (860) 236-1275.

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Danbury church preaches love, justice

Danbury UMC is located at 5 Clapboard Ridge Road/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleDANBURY – Driving along Clapboard Ridge Road, you can’t miss Danbury Methodist Church. Its boat-like roof stands out – symbolizing praying hands lifted to God.

Organized in 1789, Danbury Methodist continues to have an active social justice ministry, said Rev. Karen Karpow. Helping others, she said, is part of a Methodist’s DNA.

“God is good to us and he expects us to be good to each other,” she said.

For 40 years the congregation has gathered in its current 7-acre location, 5 Clapboard Ridge Road in Danbury. Each Sunday about 110 people meet for the 10:30 a.m. service, though in July and August services will change to 9:30 a.m., preceded by an 8:30 a.m. Bible study.

Services are followed with a coffee hour.

Karpow, who has lead the church for the past three years, said there are plenty of ministry opportunities for members to get involved in, including disciple classes, United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women and various community organizations. Dorothy Day, for example, is a hospitality house that the church is committed to assisting. The church also works with the Shelter From Cold Program and the Appalachia Service Project, which provides housing services to low-income families living in Central Appalachia.

Karpow noted that Danbury Methodist also has an energetic 20-member youth group, which recently hosted a group of affordable housing activists from the national Bike & Build organization.

Communications Director Mark Baxter is a newer member of the church and has been involved in the new member classes.

“At this church the door is open to anyone,” he said.

Karpow agreed and said no one will be turned away from Danbury Methodist.

“What we provide here is a place for people to practice being a Christian, practice loving each other so when you’re called upon you know how to do it,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing here.”

For information on the church, call (203) 743-1503 or visit its website here.

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Historic Ridgefield church going strong

St. Stephens is located at 351 Main St. in Ridgefield/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleRIDGEFIELD – One of the 10 oldest churches in Connecticut, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church continues to be a staple in the Ridgefield community.

Founded in 1725, the suburban church has become a home for many young families. The Rev. Mark Delcuze said unlike many churches today, St. Stephen’s tends to have more baptisms than funerals – a sign of the church’s fresh energy.

An active nursery school keeps the campus buzzing during the week and on Sunday mornings 250 people visit the church for worship. Services are at 8 and 10 a.m.

“The music is pretty traditional,” Delcuze said. “I’m proud of the music program here.”

And with a bright, open sanctuary, it’s a perfect place for musicians to reveal their abilities. The sanctuary though, is not the original. The first sanctuary was burned down by the British in the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777.

Sitting on 6 acres, at 351 Main St., St. Stephen’s works hard to reach out to the Ridgefield and Danbury communities. Parishioners are active in Habitat for Humanity, Amos House Inc., Arc and has a strong relationship with its sister church in Mozambique.

Delcuze, who is president of the Ridgefield Clergy Association and the interfaith officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, has lead the church for five years. He said the church is known for its annual Nutmeg Festival which brings in 3,000 people each fall and raises about $40,000. Every penny raised goes to charity.  Throughout the year people donate their used goods to be sold at the festival.

He said the parish is made of people across the spectrum, including conservative heterosexual couples to gay couples with children.

“We’re not particularly republican or democrat,” he said.

Visitors are always welcome. Guests are given a loaf of bread and newcomers are invited to a bi-annual newcomers brunch where Delcuze tells them about the church and various ministry opportunities.

“There’s a vitality to St. Stephen’s. There’s a very strong heartbeat here,” he said.

The church will host a barbecue on Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information visit the St. Stephen’s website here.

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Watertown church staying afloat

Christ Church meets at 50 Deforest St. in Watertown/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleWATERTOWN – Christ Church Watertown is still alive.

There have been times, though; that Rev. Stanley Kemmerer wasn’t sure the church was going to make it.

About three years ago, after an extensive battle regarding homosexuality, the church was torn apart when most of the congregation left to form New Hope Anglican Church.

Though Christ Church, an Episcopal parish, can no longer afford its historic church building, the congregation continues to meet each week at Walker Hall, 50 Deforest St. in Watertown.

Kemmerer, who co-pastors the church with Rev. Mary Gates, said between 20 and 30 people attend service each week, adding that the church has a centering prayer group, a tutoring program and offers confirmation classes.

The church’s original building, located on The Green, is for sale and may be purchased by Taft School. Kemmerer said there are 49 bodies resting in the church cemetery, which will have to be exhumed when the sale is complete.

Christ Church also hopes to be able to rent space in the original church building after the sale is finalized.

“We left as owners, we hope to return as guests,” Kemmerer said.

Kemmerer and Gates came to Christ Church last year and Kemmerer said the church is a good fit for him.

“I love the people and I think it’s important for the process if we’re able to carry this type of ministry on,” he said.

The church is currently operating on donated money, which could run out as early as this summer.

Kemmerer, though, is at peace about the church’s financial position.

“There have been so many times I wondered if we’d be here tomorrow, and we have been,” he said.

He said the congregation has an energy that’s kept the church alive.

“There are very good people here, very dedicated people here,” Kemmerer said. “This is a different kind of church. We can do this.”

The church, which is open and affirming, meets every Sunday at 10 a.m.

For information visit the church website here.

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