LITCHFIELD HILLS — Dylan Mello recently joined the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut as the Northwest Region Missionary. His territory encompasses a vast area with Canaan and Litchfield at the top of the map, Waterbury in the middle, and Brookfield and Southbury at the bottom. At that time, he described his directive to Connect, Collaborate and Convene. Most recently, he has added an unexpected role, both for the church and his personal life: How to Live in this Time of Coronavirus.

In mid-January, Mello was considering how to join with Bishop Jim Curry’s Guns to Garden Tools project which involved working with police departments for gun buy-backs or confiscation, which would then be converted into garden tools, at healing prayer workshops and Vestry retreats at Camp Washington in Morris.

Since his previous career was as an athletic trainer for the UConn basketball team, also on his agenda was to put together an Appalachian Trail Ministry Network. The tentative plan was to invite hikers of all ages and affiliation to hike a portion of the Trail, probably beginning in Falls Village or Salisbury, cleaning up debris along the way, then stopping at a point to greet other hikers with water, snacks and conversation.

He also wanted to continue building relationships with the Naugatuck Valley Project, a Waterbury-based regional advocacy organization, and the environmental rights group out of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury. In the meantime, in his own words, this is what life is like now for Dylan Mello.

“Life has definitely been thrown into disruption for so many people and so many families. During this time of challenge and fear, I try to find the areas of peace and optimism. There has been a renewed focus on family, and being able to spend more intentional time together has been a joy. Along with this delight, there does come challenge to find balance and new ways to bring education to the house. My wife Alejandra, daughters Carolyn (5) and Violette (2) and I, as I’m sure many families do, need the ability to find the time for both parents to work. Thankfully, we have the option to work from home and this also presents the necessity to come together as a couple to provide the necessary time for school each day. We’ve tried to set a routine which can become interrupted, but we have our own school day at home. It can change from day to day, and we prioritize familial well-being over strict structure. With the help of the school community, we have found creative ways to facilitate learning throughout everyday activities.”

“There are so many resources that are available for families to find new activities with children. It can be easy for there to be an abundance of screen time, and these resources are helpful ways that have stopped some of the overflow of technology. Some of the things that we have tried include painting our doors like stained glass (washable paint), new science experiments, like making clouds in bottles or dissolving skittles, and finding new enjoyment with art. Our family believes that learning through play is a great way to balance our needs during this time. Opportunities for creativity, especially in our young children, are so important. We use this time to play games together as a family that incorporate different types of academics such as a hybrid game of “Simon Says” that blends decoding phonetic sounds while keeping our bodies in movement.”

“Communication during this time is important as is self-care and boundaries. It can become easy to get wrapped up in working all day, yet it is important to set limits. Our partnership has been so critical during this time. It hasn’t been easy, and I am full of fear for what occurs around us, yet I am grateful to have opportunity to just “be” together. Whether it’s taking our outline of the school day and adding something new, or finding new ways to play with things in our house, we press on, together.”

“When the time is right and safe for us to return to our ‘new normal’ I look forward to the gatherings and the opportunities to be together in person, to regain that sense of belonging we obtain from physical touch with our neighbors and those closest to us. Thankfully, we have many wonderful opportunities to remain in touch through the technology of today. With our isolation from in-person gatherings, we are still social via online connections. It’s not so much social distancing, but physical distancing, as we have opportunities to come together in different ways with our communities.”

“I am eager for the opportunity to once again gather together to hike in nature, especially the Appalachian Trail, take part in many of the events that were canceled, and have a stronger appreciation for many of the things that (at least for me) are taken for granted. Through these current events, I now have a stronger appreciation for our safety and how we live our lives. This poem by Laura Kelly Fanucci sums up so perfectly many of my feelings.”

When this is over, may we never again take for granted

A handshake with a stranger

Full shelves at the store

Conversations with neighbors

A crowded theater

Friday night out

The taste of communion

A routine checkup

The school rush each morning

Coffee with a friend

The stadium roaring

Each deep breath

A boring Tuesday

Life itself.

When this ends

may we find

that we have become

more like the people

we wanted to be

we were called to be

we hoped to be

and may we stay

that way — better

for each other

because of the worst.

Contacts for Dylan Mello through the Episcopal Diocese are dmello@episcopalct.org, 203-639-3501 x155, Instagram: NorthwestRegionECCT and Facebook: @NorthwestRegionECCT.

Connecticut Media Group