ECCT has a longstanding relationship welcoming the tired, the poor, the stranger, the refugee, setting an example for the church, the state, and the country. In 1942, ECCT established the Episcopal Social Service, Inc. (ESS), a not-for-profit dedicated to social justice and human services. In 1982, ESS began resettling refugees as a part of its ministry, and was renamed Interfaith Refugee Ministry (IRM) in 1990. Then in 2007, IRM was renamed one more time as IRIS – Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services and made steps to becoming a self-sufficient, self-governing not-for-profit social service.
Although IRIS is a separate 503(c) not-for-profit organization, the church is still present as the current IRIS board members include the former Diocesan Bishop the Rt. Rev. Andrew Donovan Smith (1999 – 2009), the Rev. Ranjit K. Mathews, Rector of St. James’, New London, and the Rev. Peter E. Bushnell, Rector of Holy Trinity, Enfield.
This was the second year ECCT sponsored the IRIS Run for Refugees race, a decision made by the Bishops and Canons to further the energy cultivated in the Floor Resolution at ECCT’s 232nd Annual Convention (2016).
“It’s an honor and humbling to run as an ECCT person,” Carroll said, “IRIS does so much for refugees from war-torn countries to provide them with support, housing, and job skills. It’s an honor to be a part of this.” Bailey, a cradle Episcopalian, and member of a long lineage of Holy Spirit, West Haven congregants, was thrilled to be a part of the ECCT team “[Supporting refugees] is what ECCT is all about, helping one another,” Bailey said, “Everyone deserves a chance at a decent life.”
Joining Carroll and Bailey and the other 3,095 runners, were two ECCT employees: Karin Hamilton, Canon for Mission Communication & Media, and Alli Huggins, Digital Storyteller. “It makes me very happy to do something that I enjoy, while benefitting a terrific organization,” Hamilton said about her participation in the race.
Running for Carroll, Bailey, and Hamilton is not just a form of physical exercise and a way to participate in a community event, but a deeply spiritual practice. “I am more connected to God when I run,” said Hamilton, “running is absolutely a part of my spiritual life.”
The three ECCT runners ran without music, choosing to listen to the huffing and puffing of fellow runners and the natural sounds of East Rock Park. For Carroll, running allows him to think clearly, “I don’t run with music, I just run with nature and you get to really absorb God’s nature.” However, the fourth runner, Alli Huggins, needed the pump-up music of the band OutKast to get her through the long stretches of pavement.
Bailey, who after the race had to head back to Holy Spirit to deal with a maintenance issue, identified running as key source for his energy and dedication to his church; “[Running] gives me the extra energy to fulfill my own self schedule and duties to the church.”
The race ended back at Wilbur Cross High School with a time of fellowship, conversation, and international community meal. Most likely IRIS will keep with tradition and host the next Run for Refugee race on Super Bowl Sunday 2020. This continues the profound statement that before the country celebrates one American tradition, the community runs for the first and greatest American and deeply Christian tradition: welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.