Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Trinity Episcopalian Church, Shelburne

We are in the middle of what has been referred to as a 'polar vortex' here in the US. "What IS a polar vortex? Are you OK" come the anxious emails from home. People here are asking the same question. "I don't know what that is," they say with a shrug, 'though it's a little colder than usual for this time of the year - we don't generally get temperatures like this until the end of the month." On Monday it rained, and the rain pooled in the snow and then froze. All the fields, and most of our garden, are just deep sheets of ice. When we drove home from UVM this evening, all the house lights and Christmas lights were shining on the ice, like reflections in water, giving the impression that every house was marooned at sea.

Meanwhile, our house has the appearance of a perfect vortex as we pack for shipping and pack for the flight and prepare for the girls' farewells at school, and start to say our goodbyes. Three more sleeps in Vermont.

On Sunday we said farewell to our lovely church community.

Several months before we left NZ for Vermont, I was in a state of cold panic: we couldn't find accommodation anywhere. Vacation houses were too expensive, and there were no sabbatical houses, no fully furnished houses for rent. We were so desperate, we even considered shifting the whole Sabbatical to Boston (but I want to go to Vermont!).

Trying to make contacts in any way I could,  I thought I'd try a church community. So I looked for a church in the general area we wanted to stay in and emailed them. Nothing happened. A few days later, I was heading to bed feeling a little dismal: surely a church community would respond? Maybe the message didn't get through? I resolved to contact them again in the morning.

The next day I woke up to a flurry of emails  - people welcoming us to Vermont, offering help in any form. Trinity Church, Shelburne, had welcomed us in.

Trinity is one of the most beautiful small churches I've ever seen. It was built by the Vanderbilt Webbs as their own place of worship, using the architect who designed their 'cottage' at Shelburne Farms. And when it came to designing the stained glass windows - who shall we get to do the windows? - they went to New York and hired Louis Tiffany. When we went to the Met in New York, they had a special exhibition of Tiffany glass - but we have been lucky enough see his remarkable work every weekend.

Tiffany windows over the sanctuary

After the Vanderbilt Webbs had finished designing and building their own church, they then went on and built  Methodist and Catholic churches for their workers - which shows, I think, a remarkable ecumenical spirit for their time.

the chocolate chip cookie saint - by a Tiffany apprentice

However architecturally beautiful Trinity is, though, the people are what makes it truly beautiful. They have welcomed us warmly and made us feel like part of the community rather than like visitors passing through. They let me into the pulpit and gave Emily the starring role in the pageant.

Peggy, Jim  and Gail
Jim has been my wise adviser on living in Vermont, offering practical help in innumerable ways. He sent photos from his living room window when we were in the throes of acquiring visas and battling the myriad details of getting here, to remind me that this trip was going to be worth all the effort (oh Jim, you were right!). His habit of signing his emails +Jim did confuse me at first (was he a bishop?) but he says that we're all shepherds, and he's quite right. His wife, Peggy, is one of the warmest and most creative people I've met, and her warm hugs, along with Gail's bright smile, light up every Sunday morning.
A wonderful evening at Jim and Peggy's lovely condo in Hinesberg
We've made so many friends, here. Rick and David's sermons have been thought-provoking and rich. We've enjoyed the liturgy, the splendid food at coffee hour, interesting conversations, and just becoming part of the life of the parish. 

Mike and Lori Wilson - Mike was part of my research (and is the only person I've ever met who has read and loves Browning's The Ring and the Book)

Rick explains to Emily why we really need to buy a Mad river rocket sled....

....while Bruce pretends he's not listening. 

coffee hour is a great time to catch up on all the news

Trinity has been a warm home for us, welcoming and kind. Thank you for enfolding us into your church family.

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