Willimantic once was a prosperous mill town. Then the mills closed.. Now jobs are scarce, poverty levels are high. With ECSU in town, and UConn just up the road, there’s enough housing pressure to keep rents high. The hill overlooks downtown. ECSU is on top and the beautiful, mostly well kept “Victorian Ladies,” where the mill bosses once lived, occupy the upper portion. Below Prospect Street the houses still are big but they’re closer together, not as ornate – or well kept – and most have been converted to multifamily rental.
Valley Street runs along the base of the hill. That’s where you’ll find St. Paul’s. It’s a neighborhood with some commercial activity, more older multi family rental, lots of halfway houses and sober houses, plus various social service agencies. Go a few blocks further south and you’re on Main Street, and almost to the river that powered the mills.
St. Paul’s has some local history: we’ve been a part of Willimantic since 1865, on Valley Street since 1883, in the present stone church since 1913. Social and economic justice issues long have been a major concern. They led to St. Paul’s founding the Isaiah 58 Ministry. Then, way back in 1981, Isaiah 58 opened the Covenant Soup Kitchen in response to factory closings. St. Paul’s nurtured the Soup Kitchen to the point where it could become an independent 501(c)(3) organization in 2006, and then buy the church and office building from St. Paul’s – at a very favorable price – in 2008. This freed St. Paul’s to focus on ministry and not property!
Our ministry is unique for both the Episcopal Church and the community. We provide spiritual support and a bridge to and for social service agencies working with the poorest of the poor in Willimantic. There are very many in need, and service provision is challenging! Our ministry functions to help people in deep suffering hang on and stay connected as they try to navigate the long path to stability.
The center of our ministry is a diverse, healing community, open to all, a place where it’s safe to be yourself, where there won’t be any religious tests or coercion. Troubled or serene? Homeless? Eat at the Soup Kitchen and/or First Baptist? Have a good job or perhaps you’re in school? Out of work? Maybe (un)comfortably retired? Transgendered, lesbian, straight, gay or other? Geek, technology challenged, or somewhere in between? Addicted to something, nothing, or a lot of things? You’ll find understanding, support, healing, God’s light and love at St. Paul’s! Wherever you are in your life’s journey, you – and the gifts you’ll bring to the community – will be welcomed.