Tenants Harbor resident Connie Chandler-Ward died Monday, April 2 after an automobile accident in Warren. She was ordained an Episcopal priest the first month after the Episcopal Church allowed the ordination of women in 1977. After a tenure as associate rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Va., she was appointed Chaplain of Wellesley College in 1980 and served in that position for 10 years. In 1990 she left Wellesley and came to Tenants Harbor where she and two other priests, Rosanna Kazanjian and Judith Carpenter, founded the Greenfire Retreat House on the Wallston Road. Over the years that core community expanded to include a number of other Episcopal priests and lay women.
A key element of the Greenfire ministry was, according to Carpenter, its commitment to doing deep, inner work in the context of circles of women. In addition to offering hospitality for women on retreat and a variety of workshops, weekly meditation circles for local women followed by pot-luck suppers were the heartbeat of the enterprise. In addition, Chandler-Ward had the idea of also offering something called “Work Visions,” in which three Greenfire community members would meet with a woman for three session of two hours each, listening closely to her work-life questions and struggles and seeking to offer back to her what they were each hearing so that, Carpenter says, “She could more clearly and deeply hear herself. In their feedback, women told us that, although they had initially been quite intimidated by the thought of meeting with two or three of us, it felt natural almost immediately. We realized that this was simply what women have done for one another from time immemorial: We gather in a circle and offer one another her own turn, her own time to be heard.”
When Greenfire closed in 2007 Chandler-Ward and her partner Suzanne Chambliss Neil moved to a residence on School Street to be near Chandler-Ward’s longtime friend and fellow Greenfire community member Adelaide Winstead. Chandler-Ward, who had a lifelong passion for choral music, sang with the Down East Singers and with Solace, an a cappella choir who sing almost exclusively to those who are dying. —JW