Ridgebury Congregational Church

Ridgebury Congregational Church

Interview with Rev. Deborah Rundlett

The Ridgebury Congregational Church owns about 5 1/2 acres, located right at the crossroads in town. This is a historic site dating back to the 1740s. This is the date of the church’s meeting house. There have been innovations through the years and times of extended decline. The crossroads provides a model and metaphor for the life of the church which has to do with independence versus interdependence. The land is ours, but we are shepherding and stewarding God's resources. This church at the crossroads is between Ridgefield and Danbury. Ridgefield is known to be a very wealthy community while Danbury is not 

The theme and motif of ‘movement ecology’ focuses their work on different levels. This has to do with self, with community, and with systems. We can't give what we don't have. The mystical path is a lot like intentional change in our leadership conversations we are having these days. The hope is to create an alternative community that will lead to a new ‘gathering house’ that works on many levels. This includes as a place for public assembly, a schoolhouse, a place in town for government elections, as well as a place for public worship. 

In the town, there is a Conservation Commission and a Wetlands Commission. Diana Butler Bass has a book entitled ‘Grounded’ that has been very helpful to the church in exploring these themes. The church could find a gift in letting go – letting go of the heresy of the urgent or constant busyness, etc. During the pandemic the church has created much more open space as a way of honoring their history and location. Forums, food, and well-being has been the main themes. There are even plans for hydroponic gardens. This all has to do with interdependence. The environment and social justice concerns are seen as one in this congregation. The poet works on a narrative level and the prophet helps us remember who we are. These are just two sides of the same thing. One question we have wrestled with is, ‘how do we be sustainable while also being innovative?’ 

This church is in decline. They were in a four-year transition before Debbie arrived. There is a video on their website entitled Ruby's Little Pantry that explains a little of this. The church has taken fences down literally and removed invasive species. There are now plans for yoga classes and farm-to-food meals, as well as hydroponics. 

When it comes to racism, the church asked, ‘how do we press outward and also weave inward?’ They had a planned pilgrimage that was cancelled due to COVID. They are asking, ‘what does it mean to unmask? how do we be beloved community? what does it mean for us to be poetic and prophetic? These three topics are coming up in the future for further conversation. 

Anti-racism work can't be built out of something that is ‘anti.’ Affirming and inclusion mean you have to acknowledge that is being denied. Weaving is what helps as this is a reconciling force. Just like Lyle Schaller said, ‘all change is loss.’ So how does the church grieve well? What is the resurrection narrative all about? This church has been going through some of the stages of dying that Elizabeth Kubler Ross had pointed out. We are also reflecting on Paul's passages of metamorphosis about what it is to take new form. 

For worship we are having music on the lawn. We are also having an artist reception indoors. Only worship teams are inside. There will be a candle blessing at the front step on Sunday nights and people can see the decorated space inside the sanctuary. At 7:00 PM the church rings their bell for essential workers. Everyone in the neighborhood has really appreciated this and they came out and wanted to ask if they could help. The church invited the neighbors to bring their own bells over and ring these bells too. This helped let the people of the church know that people can bring their own bells to ring and join. 

Currently, there are 52 members in the church and Debbie is only working half time. They know that money follows mission and that no longer should they focus on the ABCs of attendance, buildings, and cash but on the DEF of discipleship, equipping, and formation. 

Video Interview with Rev. Deborah Rundlett

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