As I sit in my apartment on the last day of 2020, reflecting on the many changes of the past 12 months, I feel overwhelming gratitude for all of the unexpected blessings this year held. I realize many faced incredible challenges and hardships due to COVID-19. I personally confronted loss, loneliness, and difficult changes. But when I think about the year as a whole, I am filled with love for the many new people in my life, as well as time spent with good friends and family. I am excited for the year ahead. I anticipate continuing to settle into my apartment in Middletown and the church community in Southington in 2021. For my own enjoyment and to celebrate the joy of those with whom I spent the year, I’ve compiled a brief recap of 2020.
A highlight of January was leading my third Andover Newton Retreat. These retreats were highlights of my experience at Yale Divinity School. Time on retreat always nourishes my relationships with friends and with God.
I had two opportunities to guest preach in February. I traveled home to Ohio and preached at First Congregational Church of Hudson on February 16, 2020. (Little did I know I would be returning to Ohio again only one month later and end up spending almost five months of the year in Ohio?)
I also provided pulpit supply for my friend Rev. Katrina Manzi at the church where she serves, Middlebury Congregational Church.
Before lockdown, I traveled with a group of Andover Newton and Yale Divinity School classmates to Arizona and Mexico. I was inspired to organize this trip after Rev. Dr. Randy Mayer spoke at Andover Newton’s Convocation in October 2019. I wrote a brief reflection based on our trip here. There is so much I could say about this trip, but the thing I carried with me for most of the year was how special it was to spend those few extra days with some of my closest friends from Divinity School before we all went our separate ways due to the pandemic.
In the midst of the uncertainty of the early pandemic, I returned home to Ohio to visit with my parents indefinitely. With the anxiety producing news each night, I was grateful to spend the time with my parents. While still finishing graduate school, there was plenty of time for exploring local parks, puzzles, and cooking good food.
I finished CPE! I began Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Griffin Hospital in October 2019. The first five months of my internship were filled with many hours visiting patients in the hospital. But when COVID-19 arrived, I shifted to telephone calls and other ways of visiting and caring for people during the pandemic.
I continued to spend a lot of time outside, cooking and doing puzzles!
I graduated from Yale Divinity School! After three years of full time study, it felt so good to turn in my final papers.
Another highlight, on the last day of May, I became an Aunt! My brother and his wife had a beautiful baby boy, Cole. I didn’t get to meet him in person until July.
After 10+ weeks “visiting” my parents in Ohio, I drove back to Connecticut to move out of my New Haven apartment. This was a bittersweet move. I loved my cozy little apartment, Fisher Hall #504, especially the bookshelves! Leaving a place you love is especially hard when you don’t quite know where you are going next… however, by the end of the month I did!
Amidst the packing, I enjoyed getting to socially distanced visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in-person for a few months. One of my favorite things of the year was a walking tour I led! A few friends and I each read The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. The book is set in New Haven and draws on the Yale Secret Societies for inspiration and magical storytelling. I led a walking tour around New Haven visiting the spots mentioned in the book.
My original summer plan had been working with several UCC congregations in Northeast Vermont. I wasn’t able to physically work in Vermont due to the pandemic, but I was able to craft a very meaningful project to work on remotely from Ohio. I interviewed 23 individuals representing congregations across the state of Vermont, primarily focusing on the Northeast Kingdom. I worked very closely with three clergy in particular (Ed, Elisa, and Alyssa) and it is hard to believe I haven’t met them in person yet!
The report that I prepared was downloaded over 100 times! And it was even featured in a news article from the National Office of the United Church of Christ.
August was a time for new beginnings! I moved into a new apartment in Middletown, CT. With help from my parents, it felt like home very quickly.
After a brief search and call process earlier in the summer, I had accepted my first call, Associate Pastor at First Congregational Church of Southington. My first day was August 17, 2020. Getting to know the congregation has been a highlight of the year!
Heaven gained a special angel in August. Helen Holmes was my Grandpa’s partner for the past few years. She enlivened our family gatherings and is greatly missed by all who knew her. One of the last times I saw Helen we were enjoying Handel’s ice cream together. Helen loved gift giving and God. I am grateful for the many scripture inspired gifts I received from her and I will always think of her when I see them in my apartment or in my office at church.
I enjoyed exploring my new home base. A dear friend from Yale Divinity School, Rev. Helena Martin, is serving the Episcopal church in Southington. Having someone to walk and grab coffee with in my new town is great!
Elizabeth Park Rose Garden had been on my Connecticut Bucket List since 2019. I finally had a chance to go in September. I look forward to visiting again in the spring!
I also had the pleasure of speaking at a John Carroll University alumni event, “God in All Things: A Reflection and Connection Program.”
This was a big month for me professionally – I was ordained! And installed! These two big events happened one week apart, thanks to the grace of God and the support of many clergy, friends, and family.
Another highlight of October (and probably the year) was visiting the Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, MA, and Mass MOCA, in North Adams, MA. After not visiting any museums for seven months, the day I spent viewing art at the Clark and Mass MOCA were incredible. Plus the fall foliage was stunning!
At the end of November, we said goodbye to our family dog, Marley, who brought us joy every day of his nearly 13 years. I feel like I have seen more friends lose a pet this year than any year before. I am grateful I got to be with my family and Marley for his last days on Earth. He was the best dog!
I enjoyed another art excursion visiting Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, NY. The day I visited was a little gray and rainy, but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits. I wandered around the large art installations and the grounds for nearly three hours and then stopped for lunch in Newburgh, NY. I hope to return to Storm King again next spring or summer.
A pandemic birthday was celebrated with lunch outside and a walk with a friend!
Advent is my favorite season in church life and this Advent was filled with many blessings at First Congregational Church of Southington. One highlight was organizing my first Christmas pageant, “Mary, You’re On Mute,” which took place via Zoom.
This was my first year co-leading worship on Christmas Eve and it was certainly a year to remember. We had a lovely outdoor service at 2 PM. The 5 PM service might have been rainy, but the Holy Spirit came through as we cracked our glowsticks for “Silent Night.”
Even though I was technically on my own on Christmas Day, I didn’t feel lonely with multiple Zoom calls and Facetime sessions with family in Ohio. In the morning, we all made a cocktail/mocktail mimosas together!
Looking ahead to 2021
As I said at the beginning, I am so grateful for those who I shared this year with (whether we connected in person or online). I dream of safely visiting those near and dear to me and I hope that will be possible in 2021. Whatever the New Year has in store, I’ll be ready with a book and a puzzle!