The pastor led the prayers beside a rough rock fire circle, and the choir sang beneath a canopy of solemn spruce trees.
The First Congregational Church on Valley and Walnut Street worships every Sunday, but once a year they gather in a sunlit clearing on the shore of Crystal Pond in Eastford. This year, Reverend Rick Haverly led a service that called for believers to recognize divinity in the natural world and be good stewards of the Earth. The church-owned parcel on which the service was held is named in honor of the Native Americans who once lived there: “Camp Wabbaquassett,’
“Our outdoor worship at Camp Wabbaquassett provides us with the perfect setting and opportunity to celebrate an ‘Earth Day,’ where we enjoy the wonder of creation and remember our responsibility in the beautiful and fragile ecosystem,” Haverly said.
Backed by guitar and piano, the worship band opened the service with a contemporary version of “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Rev. Haverly offered a responsive prayer that gave thanks for the soil, air, and water, and asked forgiveness for humankind’s misuse of the world’s limited resources.
In lieu of a typical homily, Rev. Haverly invited church member Linkesh Diwan to reflect on his experiences at the camp as a teenager. Mr. Diwan had recently returned from India, where he studied sustainable energy. He credited his many years spent at the camp as the source of his interest in environmental responsibility.
“Growing up here in Connecticut, surrounded by nature at home and here at camp has taught me to love nature,” Diwan said in his reflection. “To have a truly sustainable civilization means to acknowledge and work within the web of life.”
When the service was done, the congregation held a picnic and – fittingly – took time to enjoy the bucolic surroundings. Children dove in the water and caught bluegills while adults contemplated the lake’s sparkling façade, or simply basked in the abundant sunshine. The relaxing atmosphere mirrored the church’s casual approach to religious practice.
“For us, it’s about the journey,” said Lynn Hinckley, a member of the congregation for many years. “Our members are on a faith journey together.”
The setting proved an apt one for contemplation, Haverly said. “It’s a great place to experience the presence of God – in the beautiful surroundings and in the relaxed joy of the community.”
by Jason Bachand