Church of Our Saviour

21 Marathon Street | Arlington, Massachusetts | 781-648-5962

Accessible Communities

Recently, my younger brother Jay and I walked along a lovely and secluded beach. “I have something I want to show you,” he said. I could tell that sharing what he wanted me to see was important to him, so I went and followed him down the sand path that seemed to stretch almost as far as the eye could see.

That which my brother sought to show me gradually came in to view as we walked along the sand. The emerging image was that of a small neighborhood of homes nestled on a narrow peninsula between Bridgeport Harbor on one side and Long Island sound on the other. What began as a remote outline of shapes in the hazy distance now stood in hard and silent relief against the late winter sky.

The neighborhood was abandoned. Walking off the sand of the beach path onto the hard, broken blacktop of what was once a main street, we entered a world of silence and sadness. Sadness because there were no longer any people to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the nearby ocean. The now empty homes stood ransacked and disheveled by time and neglect. Turning to Jay I asked the simple and obvious question “What happened?”

In 1996 a fire destroyed the only bridge that made this area accessible by car from the mainland. Since then, the only access to the area is via the long walk made by my brother and me along the barrier beach. Without adequate access to the mainland for emergency vehicles and services, the town of Stratford concluded that the neighborhood was not safe for habitation. Failing to secure the money necessary to rebuild the bridge, the residents of the neighborhood were forced to abandon their properties. This lovely community, once home to families, an amusement park and a summer theater company were left simply to decay and die, an anachronism of a seemingly simpler time.

Perhaps not. There is talk among residents and political leaders in the area to either invest in and renovate the land for local use or sell the land to the federal government. Either way requires rebuilding the bridge to the mainland. The usefulness of this beautiful area for people is contingent upon its accessibility to people.

Your vestry is actively engaged in a similar process. Right now, there is active and engaged discussion of how we can make our church more accessible. Not just to people with disabilities, but everyone, without exception. And it is more than just talk. As a first step, we on the vestry are working diligently to install a ramp so that accessibility to the church is not limited to those who can negotiate stairs. Factors of design, placement and installation of the ramp are all being carefully weighed and considered. Ensuring that what is conveyed visually by the installation of the ramp preserves what is important to us all as a community are all hugely important in our deliberations. The installation of this ramp is long overdue and, like the rebuilding of the bridge to the beach community in Connecticut, is vital if the Church of Our Saviour is to continue to be a place where God is accessible and useful to the people of the community which it serves.

Lent, I think, is at least in part about the same sort of thing. It is a time when we are called to abandon the clutter and clatter of busy lives that have a tendency to cut off our access to God. The journey of Lent is often like a long walk along a path of sand. The steps we take are often heavy, weighed down by the pain of grief, loss, and those whom we must release when once mutual paths diverge, leading each in separate directions. The footprints we leave in the sand say much about where we have been. The long walk of Lent allows God to gradually come in to view and restore our access to God thus allowing us a glimpse of what is to come in the celebration of Easter.

— Allen Whitaker, Co-Warden

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