BRATTLEBORO — In her 2021 annual report to the St. Michael's Episcopal Church community, the Rev. Mary Lindquist writes: “seeds of new ministry started to blossom at St. Michael's. Not one, not two, but three substantive, Spirit-led initiatives presented themselves to our church with urgency and resolve.”
Thus, the work of the parish for the coming months - focused on community outreach as much as on internal well-being - is set for the church at the corner of Bradley Avenue and Putney Road.
According to a news release, the first initiative is the St. Michael's Interfaith Refugee Ministry. “An opportunity walked in the door” is how parishioner Jeff Lewis described the beginning of this new ministry at St. Michael's and in the wider community.
Lewis was approached by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation about a community initiative that would help resettle refugees in Southern Vermont. Responding to a call to faith communities to work as cosponsorship groups, several members of St. Michael's assumed the complex challenge of organizing volunteers within the church and collaborating with other area organizations.
The second initiative, “Building Hope for the Earth: Our Path to Sustainability,” has risen from the dire need to replace the roof of the 164-year-old brick church.
Last summer, St. Michael's Vestry and Buildings and Grounds Committee addressed that need, which led to an exploration not only of roof replacement, but also of the possibility of installing solar panels. This led to a discussion of St. Michael's moving toward 100 percent reliance on renewable energy and generating enough solar power for the church's needs as well as tithing 10 percent of the energy back to the community.
Lindquist's report relates that interest in solar panels began in 2008, when concerns about climate change surfaced and the church community wanted “to take seriously our call to be good stewards of the earth. . . . As faith leaders around the world, including our own Diocese, step up to meet this urgency as a core part of our missions, St. Michael's hears the call and wants to respond as a community leader.”
Though still in the information-gathering stage, St. Michael's hopes that sustainable energy practices will be in the implementation stage when the church installs new roofs on its buildings next fall.
Finally, St. Michael's is engaged in “Becoming Beloved Community (BBC),” a nationwide movement in the Episcopal Church focused on truth, healing, and justice.
In late January of this year, St. Michael's parishioners gathered to begin an 11-week series to begin “the process of confronting the wounds of racism in our church and in ourselves and discerning who God is calling our community to be in this time and in the future,” Lindquist adds.
Rector Lindquist notes that last winter the St. Michael's Vestry became more aware of mid-19th century Bishop John Henry Hopkins' writings that supported slavery. Hopkins was the first bishop of Vermont and his picture hangs in the Common Room of St. Michael's.
Lindquist writes that “through much thought and discussion about what to do with the picture and in discussion with our seminarian, Adwoa Lewis-Wilson, it became clear that we were being called to engage with wounds of racism in our church's history as well as to examine the role of racism in our lives today.”
Lewis-Wilson adds, “George Floyd unearthed something painful that we may have thought was (nearly) buried. Then the Episcopal diocese launched a Hopkins study. Then we saw Hopkins' picture on our own wall. . . . Through its invitation, we are beginning to speak more honestly together, to hope with more specificity and scope.”
The work of St. Michael's is open to the public. For more information, visit stmichaelsvermont.org.