Posts Tagged With: Connecticut

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Cemeteries

2017-03-07 16.25.23.jpgAs much as I walk, I rarely go through cemeteries. No reason. They just aren’t convenient to my usual routines. Maybe I’ll change my habits.

In New Canaan, Connecticut, I’m only a few blocks from the town center, so that’s the direction I’ve been hiking, looking, of course, for the best pastries in town.

Today, I went the other direction, down the hill, and entered a cemetery. I was amused at the names on the monuments:

Cloud,

Grave, and my favorite,

Ready.

I was also amused at the giant brouhaha Americans are having over immigration with the names—

Malizia,

Cheung and

Van Dusen

—all side by side. Probably, they weren’t from Ireland. Or, Native Americans.

I found the mausoleums with stained glass windows kinda interesting. Why would the residents of a cemetery need … oh well.

I think I’m gonna start walking through cemeteries. Who knows what I’ll find next?

 

Categories: Health, Humor | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Sandy Hook Elementary School

As a child, and as a young adult, I was taught to shy away from trouble. That was a good lesson for a lad. If there was a schoolyard brawl, teachers said not to get involved. There are Bible lessons about not hanging around bad folks doing bad things and avoiding all appearance of evil. (Psalm 1 and I Thessalonians 5: 22 are examples.) So I shunned playground fights. I never learned to play poker and I didn’t go to pool halls because gambling was involved. I was a good kid.

There’s a difference, however, in innocence and naiveté. And there’s a difference between being ten years old and thirty years old. As a maturing adult, as a pastor, I was much too ignorant for much too long about too much that was a part of our culture.

Sometimes my ignorance was funny: During a children’s sermon, when a little girl said she wanted a Jam Box for Christmas, I was befuddled. I knew what a jelly jar was, but not a jam box.

But my problem was more serious. If someone said a college friend who dropped out of school had been raped, I didn’t want to think about it. If I was told that a couple in the church was having trouble because the husband was having an affair, I resisted the idea: Surely, not him. I secretly hoped the couple would not come to me for counseling. I liked the husband and wife. My fears of the painful and the unknown paralyzed me.

Eventually, I made some decisions to become more aware, to grow up, to listen, to pay attention to what was really going on and not just live within my idealized fantasyland. Others might say I became more “worldly.” But I needed to know stuff I didn’t know. That didn’t mean I needed to smoke pot (I never have) or get in a bar fight (I never have). But I have made an effort to learn about worlds I previously had known little or nothing about.

What does that have to do with Sandy Hook Elementary School? This winter, in Connecticut, I live fairly close to Sandy Hook, where a young man shot his mother, then drove to the local grade school where he murdered twenty boys and girls between six and seven years old, as well as six of the school’s staff members before he committed suicide.

There was a time when I simply put such events out of my mind. Actually, that’s probably impossible. I suspect they go deep into your mind, manifesting themselves in different deep-seated fears, in dreams, in relationships, and in who knows what other ways. At some point in my adult life, I began to embrace the need to pay attention to the full range of human reality. Some people are ghoulish about such horror stories. They are voyeurs, weird and inappropriate. I have no desire to hunker down with the hideous and gruesome, nor do I want to turn my head away from the real pain and suffering in the world and pretend it’s not there. I’ve been to Buchenwald concentration camp. I’ve been to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where a bomb killed four precious girls attending Sunday school. I now try to pay attention to the full reality of our world.

Next month, I turn seventy. I’m glad I’ve learned some things since I was thirty, I no longer tell grieving parents, “It will be okay.”

I drove by Sandy Hook Elementary School this week and was reminded that some things are never okay.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

One Month in Connecticut, December 2016—Survived!

South Carolina friends asked me to keep them posted on my second winter sojourn into the great Frozen Northland, otherwise known as New England. It snowed again last night, about an inch where I live in the woods of Wilton, Connecticut. It’s not supposed to get above freezing for a week, with a low temperature predicted to be 9 degrees.

Wilton Baptist Church is the reason I’m here. There were 75 worshipers on Christmas Eve and 25 Christmas morning. Average attendance seems to be 35-45. The church is fully organized and functioning with different folks responsible for flowers, the Lord’s Supper, children’s choir, Sunday school classes, and other typical church activities. I’m impressed.

But, it’s a church, and there are always surprises. The congregation cannot support a full-time pastor without being creative. They own a manse (parsonage) where I am living, and they have made the difficult decision to sell it to help underwrite their salary expenses for the next three years. Property here is high, so that will provide a half-million dollars income ($500,000). Since I have been here, volunteers have been working day and night to paint and prepare the house to be sold for top market value.

Yesterday, our fine part-time secretary/administrative assistant told me she has a new fulltime job requiring her resignation here. Phooey. We will be sorry to lose her. She is a faithful and good worker, and we will need to replace her. Churches don’t just run themselves. People behind the scenes make organizations work.

Last week, the first Sunday of the New Year, a family of four joined the church. I’m having dinner with them tonight to talk about their faith journey. This is the fun part of being a pastor.

My friends want to know what kind of foolishness I’m up to with regard to sightseeing and traveling around the area. Facebook is the easiest way to participate in my over-sharing! I post too much there, I’m sure, but I enjoy the humor and the sometimes-lively discussion.

Sally flew up for our 44th anniversary and Christmas. The truth is we ate, slept and churched our way through the four or five days she was here. Oh, and we went to the movies to see LaLa Land, which we both liked. I was glad the Wilton folks got to meet Sally and she got to meet them.

I drove over to Boston to visit with Julie and Tom for two days and watched the Clemson-Ohio State game with them. Since I was a nervous wreck, I’m not sure that was exactly fun. But we won, so I’m going back over on Monday to watch the National Championship Game. Go Tigers!

Finally, I went into New York City. Because of poor planning, I went two days in a row. I had a ticket to see The Great Comet of 1812, a musical about a portion of War and Peace. The very next day, I had a ticket to Front Page starring Nathan Lane and John Goodman. Best part of either trip was a long subway ride to The Cloisters, a recreated Romanesque and Gothic showcase for Great Art. Not on most “must see” lists, but it has been my favorite thing in New York City so far.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Over My Head

Disoriented is the word that best describes my first few days in Connecticut as the Interim Pastor of Wilton Baptist Church. I feel strangely clueless. It’s been a weird few days. It’s already snowed. I purchased an electric blanket. My printer’s not working. I’ve already been to an Urgent Care “Doc in a Box” to follow up a complication from hand surgery. They’re painting the inside of the house where I’m living. The shower downstairs doesn’t produce hot water but the shower upstairs does. I live downstairs.

Welcome to Life! I love it.

Two days ago, on the second Sunday of Advent, the church gathered for worship and I preached my first sermon here. Oddly enough, the sermon was about Peace, but I wasn’t feeling very tranquil. Pastor friends and I have joked about praying that something should happen in a worship service that isn’t in the bulletin. But it’s not a joke. God’s Spirit is not, after all, predictable. We can organize the deck chairs on the Titanic, but it’s better if someone (or Someone) comes up with a strategy to keep the ship from sinking.

Wilton Baptist was to celebrate Communion, but the Lord’s Supper wasn’t mentioned in the bulletin. We had Communion anyway. Throughout the service, I think I was standing when I should have been sitting, and vice versa. I forgot to turn the microphone on; then, I forgot to turn it off. During the Lord’s Prayer, the congregation asked God to forgive us our trespasses and my prayer asked God to forgive us our debts. Oops.

It was that kind of Sunday.

As a pastor, I’ve discovered I’m only a small part of the process. I enjoy the shade of trees I didn’t plant. I put one foot in front of the other in the ordinary way, but, amazingly, extraordinary things happen. I like that. It takes some of the pressure off a single individual. None of us are doing anything, as our preschool children say, “All by myself.”

I’ll prepare sermons. I’ll meet with the Pastor Search Committee. Still, I’m absolutely certain that I’m part of Some Thing Bigger than I am. That’s good to remember.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Christmas in New England

A few months ago, the Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut asked me to serve as their Interim Pastor beginning the Second Sunday of Advent. I accepted and I leave to drive there next Thursday, December 1.

Another year, another adventure.

Yes, I have the seasons mixed up. I should be in the South during cold weather and go North in summer, but that’s not the way 2016-2017 worked out. Here’s the Quote for the Day on one of the websites (Daily Dharma) I read:

“When we reach out to what is unknown to us, we let go of the notion that we can control what we experience.” Ken McLeod, Where the Thinking Stops

Wilton Baptist, averaging 35-40 people in attendance every Sunday, is practically a megachurch compared with Trinity Baptist of Hanover, where I served last winter. Wilton Baptist has an active congregation, Sunday school and music program, and outreach ministry. They’ve had fine pastoral leadership over the years. My task is to help them transition to whatever and whoever is next for them.

They own a manse, so that’s where I’ll stay. I’m told New York City is just a short commuter train ride away, so I expect I’ll go into NYC occasionally.

Sally will fly up to see me over the Christmas holidays. I loved having guests in New Hampshire, so come visit if you can. There’s a spare bedroom. I’m taking enough grits so I can have company stay over.

My address and contact info will be

Marion D. Aldridge

222 Mountain Road

Wilton, CT 06897

(803) 413-2734

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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