Serving and Living in Community – Part 1

June 8, 2021

Written by Juanita Fox

SaraJane Munshower, a Garden Spot Village resident since May 2019, will serve a short-term assignment at Fishers Island Union Chapel on Fishers Island New York this summer. This blog captures her hopes for the summer. A subsequent blog will share her memories and reflections.

On June 1, SaraJane Munshower headed north to Fishers Island New York. After a 45-minute ferry ride from New London, Connecticut to the island, she was “home.” At least for the next five weeks.

SaraJane, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, agreed to serve the small Fishers Island Union Chapel congregation through early July 2021.

Fishers Island, measuring approximately one-by-seven-miles, is located at the eastern entrance of the Long Island Sound and is home to approximately 200 people on the off season. The population swells to about 1000 during the summer.

The congregation, which was established in 1898 is the only year-round religious presence on the island. Members of the church value their unique role as the only year-round church and desire to keep the church doors open, despite declining attendance.

A Catholic priest travels to the island on Saturdays to serve mass to the Catholic population and an Episcopalian priest summers on the island and serves St. John’s Episcopal Church. SaraJane was invited to serve in the short term after their current minister accepted a new call.

“I first met the congregation in 2013,” SaraJane explains. “I was the closest to an interim pastor they had, while they searched for a new pastor. I arrived at the start of Advent, led them through Christmas, returned for Holy Week and then finished up during the second half of the following summer.”

SaraJane continues, “I was there for two weeks in early 2020. The last sermon I preached was on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2020. I should have known then that it wasn’t going to be my last trip to Fishers Island.”

SaraJane thrives in the island lifestyle. She looks forward to connecting with old friends who feel like family as well as taking long walks through the island’s meadows and along the stony beaches. The island reminds her of the Isle of Iona, which has had a significant spiritual impact on her life.

The Union Chapel congregation recently started meeting after taking a break through most of 2020 due to COVID. Because contractors are removing asbestos from the historic building, the congregation will meet outside, under a tent for the summer.

SaraJane is thankful for that opportunity. As she reflects on her role for the summer she says, “I might be doing more listening to stories than preaching sermons. I’m preparing a sermon series on the Beatitudes, but I really desire to create a welcoming space where we can open the Word and experience the Spirit of God.”

Written by SaraJane Munshower as she reflects on her upcoming assignment on Fishers Island.

Union Chapel called
intermittent Island flock-
catching Ferry soon

Trading morning sounds-
clip-clopping buggy horse hooves
for ferry horn toot

Pray Beatitudes
breathing in ancient Wisdom
breathe out Gratitude

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