[Episcopal Relief & Development -- Press Release] In Puxi Village, a tiny locale in the Hunan Province of south central China, Liqin (Lee-cheen) greeted her visitors warmly and invited them into her home for lunch. She had just been packing up a meal to take to her husband, who was doing farm work in the field down the hill from their home. As she turned on the tap in her kitchen to fill her kettle for tea, she said, “What a good job you have done! Now we don’t have to worry about fetching drinking water from the ditch down the hill.” At 72 years old, Liqin often worried about how to get down and back up the hill safely, especially when rain made the ground very slippery. “Now we have tap water, which is very convenient,” she said. “Thank you so much for helping us to solve this big headache!”
Liqin’s guests were from the Amity Foundation, Episcopal Relief & Development’s local partner in China. Amity is an independent Chinese Christian voluntary organization that was created in 1985 to promote education, social services, health and rural development. The organization is active across the country, from China’s coastal provinces in the east to the minority areas of the west, working with local groups and individuals toward sustainable development. Its partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development currently encompasses a health and economic development program in Zhangfeng Township in southwestern China, and the water and sanitation program in three villages in Baojing County.
The program in Baojing began in 2012 in order to combat pollution and improve health in three rural communities: Puxi, Tiechang and Yama. Although China’s ever-increasing need for food production has put pressure on rural agricultural areas, the quality of the environment in China’s rural areas is very important, both for the health of the people living there and for the future of sustainable development. The government has passed strict regulations on industrial pollution, but this is not the only source of environmental degradation. Rural communities that lack sufficient waste disposal and sanitation infrastructure also contribute to pollution, and residents of these areas often suffer as a result.
Compounding these challenges is a factor that many rural areas face, which is that young people and able-bodied men tend to leave their villages and seek work in cities. This is often a necessity, and the remittances that these workers send back form a substantial part of a family’s income. However, this means that their home communities are primarily made up of women and elderly people, who may not feel that they have the skills or physical strength to undertake large construction or clean-up projects.
For Liqin and her community in Puxi, overcoming those feelings and recognizing the gifts and resources that they had were the first steps toward building solutions. These activities are the at the core of Asset-Based Community Development, a framework used by Episcopal Relief & Development that identifies and mobilizes area resources to build programs that are locally led and customized to fit the community. At the beginning of the program, before any work was started, our partners at Amity visited the three villages and gathered with all of the community members to do a mapping exercise.
“Since we are to implement the drinking water system and garbage disposal system, which involves every household,” wrote local partner Peng Zhong in a report, “we need to get a picture of the village map in our head [and] also in each villager’s head. In Puxi Village, we asked them to gather together and draw maps of the village and discuss how the project should be implemented.”
Peng continued, relating the story of Ms. Liu, an elderly woman who lives with her husband and their disabled 40-year-old son. “She held my hand and said, ‘Young Peng, thank you, what you have just helped us to draw is not just the map of our village, but the better future of us.”
The plan that the community members developed with facilitation from the Amity Foundation incorporates the construction of rainwater catchment systems and water storage tanks, the installation of sanitary toilets next to people’s homes and the implementation of garbage collection and disposal systems. The overall goals of the project are to separate and protect rainwater from pollution sources, and to preserve the environment through safe and effective waste management.
Liqin and her neighbors in Puxi have made significant progress on their projects, though it has not been without challenges. Chief among them are the remoteness of the village – 6 miles away from the nearest town on an unpaved road – and the age of the inhabitants. “People around 60 years old in the village are considered as ‘young people,’” an Amity Foundation report says. Yet rather than give up, the community is taking things at their own pace and completing the projects in stages.
“All of the beneficiaries of [the] drinking water and sanitary toilet project have participated in digging the tank or laying the pipe,” the report continues. It takes 10 days to finish digging a tank with size of 6’ x 8’ x 10’, which has slowed down the overall timeline of the project, but the community members feel very satisfied with their efforts and with the result.
“It is very hard work indeed,” said Liqin, “but we must work very hard too. I am getting old and am ready to see God. In my lifetime, I never expected to use such a kind of sanitary toilet. It is really convenient and clean.”
Overall, more than half of the households in the village now have access to safe tap water and sanitary toilet facilities, and many people are using the garbage cans and collection sites to dispose of their refuse. These efforts have greatly improved the living conditions and environment in the Huapuxi watershed, and the communities have established village environmental protection committees to help sustain progress and guide further projects. Eventually, as the villages in Baojing grow and develop more sophisticated infrastructure, agriculture and cottage industries can expand, bringing more life to the communities and even encouraging young people to stay and raise their families there.
“It’s something we see quite often, young people from rural areas leaving home to find work in the cities, but life definitely continues back home,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “Our partner, the Amity Foundation, is doing wonderful work in three mountain villages, helping local residents to get together and envision a better future. The work they are doing makes a difference in the lives of people living there now, but the hope is that small improvements will start to add up and create a place where young people will want to stay. All in all, these activities help further the larger goals of alleviating poverty, protecting the environment and strengthening families and communities.
Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.
[Diocese of Southern Ohio] The challenges were real, but the opportunities for a bold experiment in ecumenism outweighed them when the clergy and congregations of downtown Dayton’s Christ Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church worshiped together for five weeks in January and February.
When Christ Church learned that demolition of two of its deteriorating chapel walls would block the main and only disabled-accessible entrance to “The Great Lady of First Street,” the Rev. John Paddock, rector, immediately called his friend and colleague, the Rev. Rodney W. Kennedy, pastor at First Baptist, to ask if the Episcopalians could use space at First Baptist during this phase of the building project.
What Paddock had in mind was the Christ Church congregation worshiping at noon or later on Sundays. But when Kennedy suggested that the two congregations worship and do Christian education together, Paddock eagerly accepted his invitation.
“John and I are not only friends and colleagues, but we share a passion for social justice and racial reconciliation. Our joint worship was a natural for both of us. For a number of years, the rest of the First Baptist staff and I have worshiped at Christ Church every Wednesday, and the Order of Worship at First Baptist Church already came mostly from The Book of Common Prayer,” Kennedy said.
On his first Sunday in the First Baptist pulpit, Paddock said: “Different polities, different traditions, different amounts of water used in baptism, different ways of gathering and praising God. Sharing worship? How’s that work? Well, we’re going to find out. It’s so intriguing that both the Baptist and Episcopal press services and The Christian Century magazine are asking questions about this experiment. They’re really interested in how it will turn out. I can’t wait to find out myself!”
Each pastor approached the combined worship with his own particular hopes. For Kennedy, it was “that we would realize our commonalities as fellow Christians, and I wanted my congregation to experience the strength, consolation and meaning of weekly Communion.”
To what extent was that hope fulfilled? “The congregation responded in magnificent ways, but they weren’t ready to continue weekly Communion,” he said. “At least the possibility is now part of our conversation. When a church evaluates her practices, there is always a chance for genuine change.”
A representative response from the pews came from Linda Brown, a longtime First Baptist member, who said, “What really impressed me was the ease with which we came together as one body to worship Christ our Lord. An added energy was present. As the weeks went on, when I walked into the sanctuary, I didn’t see Episcopalians or Baptists. I just saw the family of God.”
Paddock’s hope was “that no one would be too put out over the five weeks that we would be out of our building. I was telling folks to think of it like going on a field trip. And the responses were overwhelmingly positive. By the end, people were trying to find excuses to keep going. The choirs are plotting reunions.”
Christ Church parishioner and choir member Carole Ganim noted, “Many of us in the two churches know one another in other contexts: neighborhoods, work, community activism. We live, play and work together and share common interests, so worshiping together does not seem unusual, but rather a natural development and a welcome part of community life. And I loved singing with a big choir. We all want to do more of this.”
Kennedy and Paddock agreed that their greatest challenge was working out the logistics of consecrating and distributing the elements, which included wine and grape juice, during Communion. According to Kennedy, this was the first time wine ever was served at First Baptist Church.
“It got a whole lot easier once we clergy relaxed about it and trusted the Holy Spirit and the people to work it out,” Paddock said. “Isn’t that always the way?”
For Kennedy, the most memorable aspect of the experience was “the smooth integration of word and table. So powerful. We already pretty much used Episcopal worship, but to participate in it fully lifted me on high.”
What resonated for Paddock were “the joyous, full sound of the combined choirs, the full church and genuine hospitality – every week there were numerous expressions of thanks to us for coming to First Baptist Church.”
While acknowledging the role his and Paddock’s long-term friendship played in the successful collaboration, Kennedy said credit belonged “mostly to the Christian faith of two progressive churches that embrace hospitality, love of neighbor, openness to diversity and mutual respect.”
Enthusiasm for the experiment was contagious and ongoing. Paddock said. “Local interest is amazing. Just today, my dentist’s receptionist quizzed me about ‘the worship with the Baptists,’ and two days ago a Methodist pastor in a coffee shop wanted to know how it had gone.
Collaboration and cooperation are so rare these days, when something like this occurs, it’s real news.”
As for the broader ecumenical implications of the collaboration, Paddock reflected: “When we can figure out how to praise God together, not in some watered-down way, but out of the depth of our separate traditions, then we can experience a true gift.”
This article first appeared in the April/May issue of Interchange, the publication of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. Mary Thomas Watts lives in Wilmington and is a member of Christ Church, Dayton.
Christian presence and witness in the Middle East
Notre-Dame du Mont Monastery, near Beirut, Lebanon
21-25 May 2013
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The ongoing tragedy of conflict throughout the Middle East challenges people of faith throughout the world. As Christians, we share a vision of a healed world where no one lives in fear of death or violence. We have gathered here to listen to the stories of those who live in the midst of these conflicts, to stand in solidarity with those who suffer, and to strategize ways in which the wider world might encourage peace.
The task of our respective churches is to pray and work for peace, and to advocate for justice for all human beings, particularly those quite literally caught in the crossfire. We gather under the cross of the prince of peace in order that we might lead others toward peace.
We have the ability to educate our own members about the reasons for these conflicts, many of which are born of competition for the blessings of this life – food, water, fuel, land, the resources to grow food or earn a living – and the struggle for self-determination. We know that some of the violence is born of the desire for overweening control of other human beings – the lust for power which Jesus met and refused in the desert after his baptism. We know that a good part of the difficulty is the frightful lack of trust of others who claim different lineage, nationality, tribal history, and religious heritage. Yet the same God has created us all. God weeps to see his children at war, murdering one another and exploiting the weak.
Many of us feel quite helpless – we don’t know how to respond, except with lament. How long, O Lord, how long will you ignore the cries of your children in this wilderness? Come quickly and save these refugees, bring balm to the wounded, an end to the violence, and comfort to the frightened. Yet God has only our hands and hearts and feet to do his bidding in this world. May we make common cause here this week, may we stand in solidarity, and cry, “enough.” May we find prophets among us to challenge Pharaoh to let all God’s people go. May we find the courage to confront the powerful and the creativity to mediate and rebuild nations.
We may feel helpless, yet we share a dream for peace. That dream must continue to lead us onward, even if the way is shrouded in fog. We have seen peace come in Ireland and South Africa. We continue to dream of peace in Korea. I met a woman last week who told of being awakened in the middle of the night several years ago by such a dream, of God telling her to go to North Korea. She shared this with her husband, a Methodist pastor, who told her she couldn’t. He said it wasn’t legal for her to travel there given her immigration status – which wasn’t accurate. God didn’t let go of her, however, and she kept sharing her dream with others. Eventually she joined a tour group from California that took her to Pyongyang. She visited with other Christians, heard their stories, and came home and began to urge her friends to do what they could to help make peace in Korea. She went a second time not long ago, and this time her husband helped raise the money to send her. She told me that peace means crying together. That is the beginning of hope for a better future.
This woman has experienced Pentecost. The tongue of fire lit on her in the middle of the night, and she heard the same thing people of faith have been hearing for more than 2000 years – “God is doing a new thing, and you are going to be part of it.” She is one of the ones Joel was talking about, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and see visions and dream dreams.” The prophet was talking about the dream and vision we have shared for thousands of years, of a world where people can sit down to a feast together because there is no more poverty, injustice, or war – the same vision the psalmist shared: “you set a table before me, in the presence of my enemies… my cup is running over.”
Let us dream that dream together, even if it begins in lament.
 Psalm 23:5-6
[World Council of Churches -- Press Release] In an international conference on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), highlighted the significance of the cross as a symbol of hope for the global church in solidarity with Christians in the Arab world.
“We are called to carry our cross as disciples, but we must also carry one another’s cross, showing how we share this cross as a uniting symbol among one global ecumenical family,” said Tveit at the conference, organized by the WCC in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), 21 to 25 May in Beirut, Lebanon.
“Christian solidarity means that we care for life, rights and dignity of all human beings, while we work together in hope for a better future,” said Tveit. He went to say that Christian solidarity is much needed in the special context of the Middle East, which is faced with several conflicts and political upheavals.
“We are here to listen to the concerns of churches in the Middle East and learn from their experiences of living together in plurality with other faiths.”
“With open minds and hearts, and with prayers, we discern how we can work together for the future of the churches here in this region and for justice and peace for all,” he added.
Tveit said that the WCC has been deeply engaged with the issues of peace in the region, especially in relation to peace for both Palestinians and Israelis in accordance with international law. “Together with churches in the region, we advocate for peace that is based on respect for human rights, an end of illegal occupation and freedom from violence,” he added.
Tveit also discussed Syria, a country of significant concern to churches around the world. He said that the people of Syria have paid an enormous price for the failure of their government in protecting its citizens.
“This is the failure of the international community to provide a political solution to avoid the tragedy in Syria, which also includes the kidnapping of the two Syrian Orthodox bishops from Aleppo.”
It is only through influential engagement with the national actors and the international community that a political solution to end conflict in Syria should be found, stated Tveit.
Other speakers at the conference included Rev. Dr Michel Jalkh, acting general secretary of the MECC; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation; Rev. Habib Badr, president of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut; and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Joseph Younan III, the MECC’s president.
[Forward Movement -- Press Release] Forward Movement is pleased to announce the creation of RenewalWorks, a major initiative to revitalize Episcopal congregations and individual spiritual lives. Based on work that has taken place over the last ten years, RenewalWorks measures spiritual vitality in congregations and then helps local churches map a path to increase spiritual depth.
The Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, said, “Our historic mission is to reinvigorate the life of the church, and I cannot imagine a better way to do that than to encourage congregations to go deeper in spiritual engagement.” Gunn added, “Across The Episcopal Church, we see that the congregations that are thriving are places where discipleship is central. RenewalWorks has the capacity to change lives, grow churches, and reverse the decline in numbers in The Episcopal Church.”
Starting July 1, the RenewalWorks staff will be led by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, who is celebrating the conclusion of a successful ministry as rector of Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, IL. Sidebotham said, “I’m excited to begin this work, as we seek growth in our churches by focusing on the spiritual growth of the members of those congregations. It’s all about deeper relationships: with God, neighbor, self and the world.” Sidebotham previously served St. Bart’s, New York City; St. Columba’s, Washington, DC; St. Luke’s, Durham, NC; and St. Martin’s, Providence, RI. He is well known for his cartoons about church life and his animation work on the television cartoon Schoolhouse Rock!
The RenewalWorks program is based on research that began at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. The program has since been adapted to an Episcopal context and piloted in 50 congregations across the country. Congregations take a survey which benchmarks their scriptural engagement, outreach mission work, daily spiritual practices, and core Christian beliefs. When results come to the congregation’s leaders, lay leaders participate in a series of workshops to respond to the strengths and challenges revealed by the survey. RenewalWorks will offer and recommend resources to congregations and individuals on discipleship, mission, and evangelism.
Congregations and individuals who wish to learn more about the program and its potential impact may visit www.renewalworks.org. The next round of surveys will begin with participating congregations in the fall of 2013.
Forward Movement seeks to bring vitality and spiritual health to the church. Based in Cincinnati, OH, Forward Movement is widely known for its daily devotional Forward Day by Day. RenewalWorks is one of many ways that Forward Movement hopes to encourage people to live faithfully. Forward Movement is a ministry of The Episcopal Church.
[Interchange] Quietly, her face filled with sorrow, a battered woman confesses, “I shot and nearly killed my husband.” The viewer is close, as if leaning across the kitchen table to catch her words.
Shelia is one of four Ohioans who share their stories in the 26-minute documentary “The Right Track,” created by the Rev. Noel Julnes-Dehner. The film premiered May 21 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, Ohio, and will be broadcast later this year on television.
“‘The Right Track’ is a portraits-driven documentary about the struggle between justice and redemption as experienced by people who have committed crimes, served time and have returned to society,” said Julnes-Dehner. “The goal is to bring the people experiencing this alive, and in front of viewers, because we as citizens have decisions to make. Other people are going to prison, but we are all affected.”
Moved by the stories of the Rev. Jackie Burns, who is helping Christian ex-felons rebuild a constructive relationship to society, Julnes-Dehner decided to give faces to the statistic that more than 2 million Americans are incarcerated. A seasoned filmmaker, she won a significant grant for the project from the Ohio Humanities Council to help cover the costs. Canon Joanna Leiserson of Christ Church Cathedral in Cinncinnati, which sponsored the film, has written a study guide.
Reaching out to Cincinnati nonprofits who work with released prisoners, Julnes-Dehner found four people whose stories spanned the arc from “crime to point of change and battles for a stabilized life as returning citizens,” she said. She alternates the narratives of the four ex-prisoners with those of Hamilton County judges Nadine Allen and Norbert Nadel and prosecutor Joe Deters.
“I had read things about criminal justice in the papers, but it’s not as powerful as meeting people. The film doesn’t have a point of view: It’s to promote discussion. What are the values and principles that inform our laws?” Julnes-Dehner explained. How are justice and redemption defined by the Ohio legal system and by popular opinion? “How do Ohioans balance a second chance with personal shortcoming and recidivism?”
The impact of these first-hand stories was powerful in a preview shown April 14 at the home of Cincinnati philanthropists Cathy and Tom Crain, who hold salons to explore current issues. Their living room was packed with Cincinnati leaders including Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, several City Council members, Judge Allen, County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco and staff from major nonprofits who strive to prevent crime or help people overcome the barriers created by having a criminal record.
Moved by a brief excerpt of the ex-prisoners’ stories, the group dove into passionate sharing of news and hopes. Dr. Edward Latessa, a University of Cincinnati criminologist whose research has been key in Ohio’s criminal-justice reforms, described the factors in recidivism and the implications for choosing the best sanction for offenders in different risk categories.
Allen shared her joy over the fact that new state law has expanded her ability to award expungements, plus the option to review ex-offenders one-by-one and issue certificates of employability, making previously mandatory barriers to employment discretionary and protecting employers from the threat of negligent hiring suits.
Hamilton County re-entry director DeAnna Hoskins reported on new teamwork between her office, the university, Cincinnati Works and the county’s newly elected Sheriff Jim Neil to find appropriate followup for each individual convicted of crime. She particularly commended the new handling of child-support delinquency that emphasizes keeping parents in their jobs rather than locking them up, where they have no way to care for their children.
Julnes-Dehner designed the documentary to be a perfect length for a discussion in a church, school or civic group. Any church could invite public officials and nonprofits to a forum like the Crains held, using the film as a springboard. “The documentary offers no solutions but a jump-start for discussion about what Ohioans value and changes that could be made to benefit our communities,” said the filmmaker.
Dave Eschenbach, a leader of the cathedral’s weekly 5,000 Club community dinner, was galvanized to learn of the services available for ex-offenders in Hamilton County. “Many of these agencies could help the people we see every week,” he said. “I’m planning on inviting them to meet with our guests, so we can serve as a better resource.”
– Ariel Miller is the executive director of Episcopal Community Services Foundation in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. This article first appeared in the April/May issue of diocese’s publication, Interchange. For more information about “The Right Track,” contact the filmmaker, the Rev. Noel Julnes-Dehner, at email@example.com.
[Episcopal News Serve] For those living in what is known as Tornado Alley, this time of year is tornado season. On hot, humid days, people live with one eye on the sky, watching the clouds, and many communities have gone through the heartbreak of a tornado’s destruction and resolved to rebuild stronger.
As Moore, Oklahoma, begins to pick up the pieces after the massive May 20 tornado, a town 225 miles north on the alley is still coming back two years after one of the deadliest tornadoes in United States history.
The EF-5 ripped apart Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people and injuring more than 1,000 on May 22, 2011. Today Episcopalians across the state and beyond are helping to rebuild the city.
In one example, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Joplin, Grace Episcopal in nearby Carthage and All Saints Church in Nevada about 60 miles to the north, along with the dioceses of West Missouri and Missouri, have led the effort to build a home for a Joplin social service agency to use for families that are moving away from domestic-abuse and substance-abuse situations.
They are scheduled to turn over the home to Lafayette House July 20.
The Joplin tornado damaged or destroyed thousands of houses and businesses. A small cottage that Lafayette House used for single women in need of transitional housing was heavily damaged but was able to be repaired, according to the Very Rev. Steve Wilson, Grace’s rector.
However, the agency had long needed a place for families, and “it was pretty clear that one of the social inevitabilities [after a major disaster such as this one] was a real increase in domestic violence,” said Wilson. Thus, the need for such housing would only grow.
Plus, a large percentage of the housing destroyed by the storm was very low-income rental property, he said. People who already were struggling lived in that housing. In what Wise called the “almost frenetic boomtown” atmosphere that is Joplin today, low-income rental property is not being replaced.
“The economic burden that the tornado incurred happened to fall on people who likely had fewer resources of their own to deal with the aftermath of it and that was another factor in the diocese’s decision to do this particular project,” Lyon said. “It was a near certainty that the people served by it would be people who had fewer of their own resources to bring to bear than other persons might have.”
Then add the psychological and spiritual trauma of knowing that in a matter of 20 minutes the storm killed 161 in a county whose population was about 100,000. “That’s a massive impact,” Wise said.
The Rev. Frank Sierra, rector of St. Philip’s in Joplin, said that Lafayette House has seen a 75 to 85 percent increase in clients since the tornado.
The site for the new house is two blocks north of the path of the tornado’s most severe damage, the area Wilson called “the devastation zone.”
According to a Storm Event Survey issued by the National Weather Service Forecast office in Springfield, Missouri, the tornado, rated EF-5 on the Enhanced-Fujita Scale, traveled 22.1 miles on the ground. “The six or so mile track within the City of Joplin was by far the most intense and devastating,” wrote Bill Davis, meteorologist in charge of the Springfield office.
Numerous well-built homes and businesses were “swept from their foundation, crushed or pan-caked in place, or blown and piled into other destroyed structures and debris,” he said.
In all, 6,954 homes were destroyed, 359 homes had major damage and 516 homes had minor damage. “The wood framing from most homes disintegrated into small pieces,” according Davis’ report. “This caused thousands of deadly projectiles.”
Nearly every business in a six-block stretch of Main Street was heavily damage or destroyed, as were a number of big-box stores on a commercial strip in eastern Joplin. The high school and the medical center were also destroyed.
More than 15,000 vehicles of various sizes and weight including buses, tractor trailers and vans were tossed over 200 yards to several blocks, with some being crushed or rolled beyond recognition, Davis said, adding that some owners never found their vehicles.
“Some of the vehicles were compressed and wrapped around the few remaining trees, while some were rolled into balls. Main steel roof support trusses were rolled like paper, and main support beams twisted or curved,” the report continued. “Portions of trees that remained standing were debarked and denuded.”
The storm tore parking lot asphalt from its base and tossed the chunks across streets in some cases. It also tore up 200 to 300 pound concrete parking stops that were anchored into the asphalt with rebar, and tossed them 30 to 60 yards.
“There were also some interesting features such as a wooden chair with four legs embedded into an exterior wood and stucco wall, and a rubber hose impaled through a tree,” Davis noted.
The Rev. Lauren Lyon, secretary of the Diocese of West Missouri, said the devastation was “unbelievable.”
“It really gives you a respect for the forces of nature and the whole concept of ‘this fragile earth, our island home,’ as the Prayer Book says; that all the power we are able to muster in terms of turning the natural world to our wills is often no match for the forces of nature,” she said.
Sixteen St. Philip’s households were hit by the tornado, according to Sierra. Twelve lost their homes and four their businesses. Ten other parishioners’ homes had minor damage.
“Everybody’s back in suitable housing and we’re glad of that,” Sierra said, adding that some people have only recently moved back in.
Shortly after the storm people across the diocese and the church wanted to help and Lyon said they were told that monetary donations would be best because they could be applied to a specific project or projects as needs were discerned.
Donors contributed just more than $100,000 in response to the diocese’s call, according to Lyon.
“We’re blessed by the support that the greater church has given us,” Sierra said.
About a week after the tornado, clergy and parishioners from the three Episcopal congregations met with some members of the diocesan leadership to begin deciding “what we thought we could do both immediately and long-term that would be helpful,” according to Wilson.
Among the ideas: garage sales where all items were free, connecting a defunct nursery with trees to donate with the agency running a program to help replant trees in Joplin and finding a way to help with what was an intense housing crisis in Joplin.
By that time, many agencies with expertise in house-building, such as Habitat for Humanity, were responding. “They were all on the ground making plans and we didn’t want to try to compete with them, particularly because we don’t have the resources to try to do that,” Wise said.
It was during that conversation that Grace parishioner Katie Platt, who worked as a counselor at Lafayette House, suggested that a transitional house would be a “more long-term solution for more families,” Wise said.
The land was already vacant and the Rev. Ted Estes of All Saints, who says he’s a “local boy,” negotiated the purchase of the property for what will be called the Rose Cottage from James Herron, the grandson of the owners of Rose’s M
arket. The market sat across from a school building which is now Lafayette House. Students used to come across the street to the store to buy candy, according to Wise.
Estes said that when he explained to the owner that the Episcopalians wanted to put a shelter for domestic-violence victims on the land, Herron “graciously sold us the property for a lower price.” A gift from the Diocese of Missouri helped with the purchase, Estes said.
Then came a lengthy building process whose hurdles included finding an available contractor and finding one who could deal with the paperwork that came with a constantly updated set of local building codes.
Jeff Neely, an Episcopalian who is a Carthage-based contractor, drew up the plans for Rose Cottage, donating his work. The three-bedroom, two-bath house has above-ground poured-concrete “safe room” designed to provide shelter from tornadoes.
The house was built using the roughly $100,000 donated to the Diocese of West Missouri, according to Lyon, and the diocese’s Episcopal Church Women have been gathering softgoods such as sheets and towels, dishes and pots and pans, as well as small appliances. ECW is also soliciting congregations throughout the diocese to furnish the house, Wise said. Members of the parishes have helped paint the interior, and landscaping – including roses for Rose Cottage – is planned as well.
ECW has taken on Rose Cottage as an ongoing project so that the families who spend time there will be able to take certain softgoods with them when they move into their own homes, according to Estes. They will set up a registry at a local store so that donors can help buy replacements for the next families, he said.
All those involved said it will be a joyous time when Rose Cottage officially becomes part of Lafayette House on July 20, even though it has been a somewhat frustrating process because people wanted to accomplish something helpful much sooner than two years after the tornado.
“We do understand why and we do want to get this done right but there has been some frustration in that Joplin as a city is coming back but it’s still not back,” Wise said.
Lyon said those involved have learned that “the process recovery and rebuilding is a slow one that requires a tremendous amount of faith and commitment to a purpose. Rebuilding after a disaster of those proportions simply can’t happen overnight and people take time to heal over that; communities take time to heal from that.”
Two years later, the healing is still not complete. Wise, who calls Joplin “my big city,” said that when he goes there to shop or eat out, it’s his impression that “the whole town is depressed as if the city is in a permanent state of PTSD.”
It doesn’t help that the tornado was not an altogether unusual event. Heavy storms moved through the area over the May 18-19 weekend this year and the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch May 20 for 26 counties in Missouri, including Joplin’s. That’s the way life is this time of year in Tornado Alley.
But, Sierra said, “If it happens again, we will deal with it. God will be with us. He has been with us through this time.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Diocese of Western New York] Residents of Randolph, New York, awoke May 20 to a village-wide rash of vandalism. Buildings had been spray painted with graffiti — some malicious and some an apparent cry for help.
Across the side of Grace Episcopal Church was painted a question of the second type: “Can I still get to heaven if I kill myself?”
As the Cattaraugus Sherriff’s Department spent the day investigating, the Rev. Tom Broad, Grace Church’s priest, pondered what the church’s immediate response might be. His idea was an unconventional one.
After conferring with two of the church’s lay leaders, he borrowed a can of spray paint from a neighbor and added the church’s reply: “God loves you with no exceptions!”
The question is a very real one in this town that has had its share of teen suicides. According to the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) 2011 survey, 19.3% of female respondents and 12.5% of male respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12-month period preceding the survey. The YRBS monitors priority health risk behaviors that
contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. The national YRBS is conducted every two years during the spring semester and provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools throughout the United States.
[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and others from across the globe reached out May 21 in prayer and support for Oklahomans, still reeling from a massive tornado that had injured hundreds and killed dozens of people, including 9 children, the day before.
“This is the first full day since the tornado and a lot is still evolving, information is still developing. The key is to make sure we can do what we need to do and provide support and resources to those who need them,” said the Rev. Canon José McLoughlin, canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, who forgot it was his birthday until someone reminded him.
“Imagine someone living in a neighborhood, a community, and all that gone, and seeing nothing but slabs where a neighborhood, and homes were, and where kids played,” he said during a May 21 evening telephone interview with ENS.
“It was hard to really focus or think about it being a birthday with so much going on and people in need, and figuring out all the things that need to be done.”
He had spent much of the day between two extremes: grappling with the sheer immensity of the destruction and a staggering outpouring of love and offers of support from around the world.
“It’s been remarkable. For the last 24 hours, especially, it’s been overwhelming, the amount of communication we’ve received from people ready to do whatever whenever” via e-mails, text messages and phone calls.
“The church has been amazing, from the presiding bishop reaching out to Bishop Ed Konieczny and the people at ERD (Episcopal Relief & Development), to parish priests — it’s just been amazing, the genuine outpouring of concern and genuine offers to help.”
[Episcopal Relief & Development has posted a page of resources for tornado relief here.]
McLoughlin said he and other diocesan staff had received expressions of concern from as far away as “Japan and Germany and Dubai … (and from) folks throughout the Anglican Communion” and from all levels of the church.
“It’s incredible the way they’ve reached out to us. Clergy across the country have reached out to ask what they can do, have said they’re holding us in prayer.
Right now, the diocese is still very much in assessment and short-term recovery response mode, he added.
“We’ve been cataloging every person who’s called in, what they’re offering, what they can do, just as we’re cataloging needs from parishes and priests to make sure we can be prepared as the days go on, because the real challenge is going to come when the media leaves and the work continues, and to make sure who’s available to help us,” he said.
As stories of heroism and service emerged, he celebrated the resiliency of Oklahomans, many of whom are beginning to shift from shock and rescue to recovery and helping one another.
Local clergy were still attempting to contact parishioners and to account for the status of all their members. The diocese offered immediate assistance to those in need of lodging, food, clothing, personal items and other essentials, he said.
The American Red Cross and other first responders were still keeping people away from some areas, “so I suspect in the coming days, once they’re no longer doing any recovery and when the clean-up starts, we’ll be securing people to help in clean-up efforts,” he said.
St. Mary’s School in Edmond had begun coordinated efforts to collect water and other comfort items such as toys and stuffed animals, but local agencies have said the immediate need is for financial assistance, the Rev. Bob Story, rector of St. Mary’s Church, said May 21.
“We’ve contacted two different agencies, the regional food bank and they’re telling us they need money,” said Story, who knew of two families displaced by the tornado. “They don’t have a need for other things right now; it creates a storage problem.”
And, while many people want “to do more than just write a check” at the present time, “the regional food bank in Oklahoma City is so well-coordinated now that they have a very precise knowledge of what they need and in order to fulfill that need, they just need money because it gives them the most flexibility,” he said.
The church had held an 8:30 p.m. prayer vigil the previous evening, “to express our grief over all the children who were killed,” he said. “We sent out an e-mail to the parish and about 15 people showed up spontaneously.”
Other vigils, including a 7 p.m. music and worship service “open to everybody” at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City, were planned for May 22.
Elsewhere, St. Paul’s Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also announced a 5:30 p.m. prayer vigil this evening.
“As people of faith, we can do a number of things, the most important of which are to offer our prayers to God and to support those agencies giving disaster relief,” according to a statement the church released.
“All donations will be directed to Episcopal Relief & Development for their work on our behalf to support the victims,” according to the statement.
Ironically, McLoughlin was headed to the airport the day the so-called “monster” tornado hit (May 20), to attend an Episcopal Relief & Development disaster preparedness training session planned in St. Louis.
Thinking about the May 19 storms and tornadoes that damaged some suburban Oklahoma City areas, and hearing radio weather reports, “I got a sense of what was happening,” he recalled.
“Something just didn’t seem right. I got to the airport and I never got out of my car,” he said. “I came back to the office and never left, and then the tornado struck.”
Last night, at the end of a very long day spent responding to such immediate challenges as property and other assessment, insurance assistance, cataloging resources and offers and creating a financial infrastructure to receive donations, McLoughlin shifted his focus.
“I spent the evening with my family” as he turned 44, he said. “The irony is, I’m sitting here at my house (in Edmond) and it’s a beautiful sunny evening, knowing that in just a matter of 40 minutes drive, how much damage was done, so much devastation,” he said.
“For some people, for a lot of people, the sun hasn’t started shining yet. It feels very raw.”
Once the media spotlight is gone, he hopes support and assistance will continue for what promises to be an extended recovery period.
“It’s clear this is going to be a long process. Just the extent of the damage, the number of homes that were destroyed, the businesses, schools – three schools were impacted, one was completely demolished. Just considering the amount of time needed to rebuild neighborhoods that are completely gone, the time needed to bring that infrastructure back … there’s a long road ahead for people to make the decision whether they’re going to rebuild.
“But,” he added, “Oklahomans are very resilient; they’ve been through tragedy before. These are hearty folks who stick together and help each other out. We’re blessed to have people committed to do whatever is needed.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.
[Episcopal Diocese of Washington] This blog is part of a series on ministry with young adults that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is featuring in May.
The Gospel, or Good News of God, is all about communication. In “The Baptismal Covenant” in The Book of Common Prayer we read the following:
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
In our worship, we declare the good news of what God has done in the world through Jesus Christ. We communicate this Gospel in more than words. Through sights, sounds, and smells we communicate God’s redeeming work in the world. Indeed, The Book of Common Prayer is itself a testament to the Episcopal Church’s historic intent on making interaction with the Good News as widely accessible as possible.
It is with this in mind that we address the subject of communication in regards to ministry among millennials. There’s no denying that the Internet has radically changed how we communicate. In fact, there isn’t much that the Internet has not had an impact on. Reading, dating, buying and countless everyday activities are much different than were a decade ago due to the web-based tools we have access to. It is safe to assume that how we engage the Internet has impacted the local parish as well. For millennials, navigating the Internet has become second nature. In the 1500’s the Anglican tradition used the technological advances at hand–the printing press, for example–to “proclaim” or communicate the Good News. In that tradition, how might we communicate with a generation coming of age with the communication technologies available to us?
The Millennial Impact Report released in 2012 documents a study on how millennials engage with nonprofit organizations. Religious institutions are different than other philanthropic organizations. Nonetheless, the findings offer insights for those churches interested in engaging young adults. For example, the study states that 65% of Millennials prefer to learn about nonprofits through websites, 55% prefer to discover these organizations through social media, 47% prefer to find nonprofits through e-newsletters. Less than 20% of millennials connected with nonprofits through print or face-to-face communication.
This does not mean that every church needs a flashy website. In fact, websites with too much are often the least effective. What this data does tell us is that the big red doors that lead into your worship space are no longer your “front door”–your website is. If so, how might we communicate clearly the good news breaking forth in our congregations and surrounding neighborhoods?
The Rev. Kyle Oliver is the Digital Missioner for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. A young adult himself, Oliver said, “A church’s website ought to give a visual sense of what the parish is like.” And this can be done with simplicity and clarity. The report referred to above states, “In one glance at your website [millennials] want to know what your organization is doing, how they can participate, and how their participation helps the cause.” To communicate this does not require lots of information. But it does require that it be visually compelling–not complicated.
The Episcopal tradition prides itself on being hospitable and welcoming. Long gone are the days when a placard in our lawns was enough to communicate this truth. This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost–that miraculous moment in Christian history when the Spirit of God poured over his people and communicated the Good News of God in the language of all present. When we communicate, whether it be in a warm hug during the passing of the peace or through our websites, may we each consider how we communicate the Gospel in the “language” of those God seeks to embrace through us.
– Jason Evans is the Diocesan Young Adult Missioner with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington . Share your thoughts and reactions on Facebook.
Molitors comes to us from her position of associate rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where she has served for past three years. Molitors is originally from Ohio, where she graduated from Miami University with a BA and later earned her MBA from DePaul University in Chicago. Molitors entered discernment to become a priest during her time as an active lay leader at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wheaton. She graduated from Seabury Seminary with her master’s degree in divinity in 2009. She served as seminarian at Grace Episcopal Church in Chicago prior to moving to St. Mark’s.
[Seminary of the Southwest] The Rev. Jane Patterson, Ph.D. has been appointed assistant professor of New Testament at Seminary of the Southwest by action of the seminary’s Board of Trustees at its meeting on May 13, 2013.
Dr. Patterson has served on the adjunct faculty since 2010 teaching courses in Bible and spiritual formation. Her two-year appointment as assistant professor begins June 1. “Jane’s scholarship, faithfulness, and commitment to our students’ formation is outstanding,” says Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president elect at Southwest. “All of us, students and faculty alike, are thrilled that Dr. Patterson has accepted this appointment, which will bring her more fully into the life of the seminary community.”
Patterson has served St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, in the areas of adult formation and leadership development and is co-director of a ministry called The WorkShop guiding laity in the use of scriptures for discerning faithfulness in all aspects of daily life.
Dr. Patterson is a graduate of Seminary of the Southwest, and she received her Ph.D. at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. She previously served on the faculty at Seminary of the Southwest as Interim Director of Theological Field Education, 2003-05.
[Memorial Church of the Prince of Peace -- Press Release] The Memorial Church of the Prince of Peace, Gettysburg’s Episcopal parish, has just installed 21 memorials that a parishioner found to be recorded in parish records, but not among those displayed in the church. Prince of Peace is Gettysburg’s only church dedicated to the memory of soldiers of both sides of the Civil War, and contains more than 150 memorial tablets, stones and plaques. The parish began the memorial process in 1880 with a nationwide campaign encouraging veterans and family members to recognize their comrades and loved ones by placing memorials in its future church.
Parishioner Jim Thomas, of Biglerville, Pennsylvania, discovered the “missing memorials” while preparing for the 125th anniversary of the laying of the church’s cornerstone, which took place on July 2, 1888, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary reunion of veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Thomas compared original parish ledgers, receipts, and plans for the placement of memorials with those actually erected in the church, and found that 21 memorials were missing. Three of the memorials were still on hand, unrestored from a 1970 church fire, but the remainder included memorials that had been destroyed in the fire, or for reasons lost to time, been ordered but never created. The parish leadership promptly approved restoration of the three original memorials, and creation of new ones to replace those lost in the fire or never erected.
Thomas then designed the “missing memorials,” which were created by Gettysburg’s Codori Memorials, and with the help of his son Zachary, personally installed them in the nave of the church. In a separate project, Thomas is creating a display of parish historical artifacts and photographs, which will be on display throughout the remainder of the year.
Installation of the “missing memorials” is one of several projects marking the 125th anniversary. A series of concerts is scheduled throughout the year, and a Special Service of Commemoration and Rededication will take place at 9 a.m. on June 30, the Sunday closest to the anniversary date. On the actual anniversary, July 2, Prince of Peace will open its doors from Noon until 7.p.m. for visitors to view its memorials, old and new.
The parish’s name is taken from the biblical reference to Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace, and was selected so that the church would be a symbol of the peace, reunion, and reconciliation of the nation at the end of the Civil War, a fitting memorial for the soldiers of both sides of the conflict.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] More than 3500 members of churches in the Diocese of Texas and the Diocese of West Texas gathered in homes last Thursday, May 16, to share a meal and share stories of their faith. Episcopalians across Texas came together in groups of eight to 12, and engaged in a faith conversation.
Sharing Faith began in the Diocese of Texas in 2012, fashioned after Interfaith Ministries’ Amazing Faith Dinners in Houston, where people of different faiths gather for a simple meal and answer questions about their faith journeys. The Diocese of West Texas joined this year and there has been interest from the Diocese of Toronto for next year’s event.
“When this many Episcopalians gather at the same time, strategically to share stories of their faith, it is very powerful,” said Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas. “People from the same congregations got to know one another on a deeper level and met others from nearby churches.”
In its inaugural year, 25 percent of the Diocese of West Texas average Sunday attendance participated.
“This is a great number, a great representation of our members, and we are thrilled with the initial response,” said Bishop Gary Lillibridge of West Texas.
When St. Francis by the Lake in Canyon Lake decided to participate in the Sharing Faith dinner there were some uncertainties, so the vestry decided to model a dinner conversation in lieu of a sermon one Sunday in April.
The vestry set up a dinner table in the front of the nave, and sat down and answered questions on the prepared set of cards that are used at each dinner. The congregation heard the questions and listened as each vestry member delivered a personal response.
The Rev. David Chalk, rector of St. Francis, said that the pre-event went “very well.” One church member told him, “You should have warned us there would be tears this morning.” Chalk said, “We had a visitor that Sunday who stood up and told us she had not been to church in five years after her son was killed by a drunk driver. She said she’d never seen anything like this in church, but on hearing our conversation, she found the courage she needed to return to church.” This was the visitor’s first time to attend St. Francis, and she has met with Chalk and the vestry and plans to join their community.
Held on the Thursday evening before Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit was given to God’s people, the Sharing Faith Dinners are modeled as a time for participants to answer what difference the Holy Spirit has made in their lives; what impact faith has had on their lives. Questions are fashioned to help people articulate their experiences in a thoughtful way.
At an event in southwest Houston, parishioners of Grace Episcopal Church gathered at the Rev. Gena Davis’ home. Ten participants shared a Mexican food dinner at two tables and then gathered in the living room to share their stories.
Sandy McKneely was relatively new at Grace before she agreed to take part in the dinner.
“I’m a pretty assertive person, so I don’t know if every newcomer who had only been to church two times would have the courage to sign up and go to somebody’s house that you hardly know. But for me — I am at a point in my life where I am needing friendships in the faith community, and I thought that would be a good way to start to make some friendships,” McKneely said.
Participants shared stories of great joy and pain, moments when they questioned their faith, and moments when they were affirmed in their beliefs. Friends shared tears and tales as they learned about each other in a new, deeper way.
“On Saturday night before I went to bed, I was thinking about going to Grace the next morning. I was thinking about seeing those people and I knew their names,” McNeely said. “That was an indicator to me that I made some connections, and it certainly makes going back more comfortable. I learned that Grace is a place that I want to return to.”
At Christ Episcopal Church, San Antonio, a group of young adults and College Missioner Allie Melancon attended and took some college students from other denominations. Melancon said what they took away the most is the determination to gather again and not wait for the church to say, “OK it’s time to share faith again.”
In Pearland, south of Houston, organizers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church adapted special questions for children and held family style Sharing Faith dinners throughout the weekend. Children were even given time to create a response to questions through drawing pictures.
In the small East Texas town of Henderson, young children came to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in their pajamas, were fed dinner and had a program of their own while their parents participated in a Sharing Faith dinner in the parish hall. The Rev. Patsy Barnham said it was important to make it possible for young families to participate and allowing kids to come “ready for bed” was helpful to her congregation.
In homes and churches, and other creative places, Episcopalians across Texas learned a great deal about each other as well as themselves through the simple act of sharing a meal and sharing their faith.
-Luke Blount is a staff writer and communications specialist in the Diocese of Texas; Laura Shaver is the communications officer in the Diocese of West Texas.
This week, the Senate considers a five-year Farm Bill that will have profound implications for hungry and malnourished people in the United States and around the world.
Despite promising improvements in the Millennium Development Goals, an estimated one billion people still live on less than $1.25 each day, 870 million people are chronically undernourished, and 2.6 million young children die each year from malnutrition. Meanwhile, extreme poverty is growing in the United States. Between 1996 and 2011, the percent of families living on less than $2 a day more than doubled, totaling 1.65 million households (including 3.55 million children) in 2011.
By strengthening domestic nutrition programs and enhancing U.S. food assistance to the world’s most impoverished, lawmakers considering the Farm Bill have an opportunity to alleviate the cycles of hunger and poverty that deprive millions of the food that they need to survive and thrive.
Unfortunately, the Senate has proposed over $4 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP currently supports 45 million people in the U.S. every year with benefits to purchase nutritious food. These cuts would rob nearly 500,000 households of essential SNAP benefits.
Food for Peace provides approximately 1.4 million metric tons of food each year, saving lives in dire emergencies and combating chronic hunger in poor communities around the world. The Senate is considering reforms that would expand the reach of Food for Peace, making it an even more effective vehicle for global food security.
As Episcopalians, we advocate for programs that support needy American families and those at risk of hunger around the world. Now more than ever, your voice is crucial to ensuring that SNAP and Food for Peace are fully funded.
[National Council of Churches -- Press Release] The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches has issued the following statement:
There are no words to express the agony and grief that lie in the wake of killer tornadoes this week in Oklahoma.
As we gather today as representatives of the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches, we and the millions of members in our congregations weep for those who have lost loved ones and property. Our prayers go out especially for the bereaved whose losses cannot be overestimated.
There are few things in life more painful or more difficult to understand than natural disasters over which we have no control. We beseech a loving God to be a powerful presence in the lives of those who have lost so much.
We know millions are already seeking ways to offer tangible support to the victims of Moore. Church World Service is preparing ways to reach out to the victims of this disaster, and we urge all persons to be as generous as possible in supporting these efforts: http://www.cwsglobal.org/
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Church of England -- Press Release] On May 21 2013 the House of Bishops released the following statement on Women in the Episcopate.
“At its meeting in York the House of Bishops of the Church of England has committed itself to publishing new ways forward to enable women to become bishops.
“In its discussion on the issue of women in the episcopate, the House received and approved for publication the report from the Working Group on Women in the Episcopate which was set up on 11 December to prepare new legislative proposals following the General Synod’s rejection of the last legislation on 20 November 2012.
“The report of the Working Group presented four new options as a way forward and proposed that the General Synod should consider those options at its meeting in July. The Working Group also proposed a timetable which would involve the legislation starting its formal stages in the Synod in November and receiving Final Approval in 2015.
“The House of Bishops has agreed that the report of the Working Group should be published with a separate report from the Archbishops on behalf of the House setting out the House’s recommendations to the General Synod. The House has also asked the Business Committee of the General Synod to arrange for a substantial amount of time to be available at the General Synod in July for facilitated conversations in small groups before the Synod comes to a decision on the way forward.
“The House also approved the necessary changes in its standing orders to ensure the attendance of senior women clergy at its meetings. These changes were proposed following the House’s decision at its meeting in December to ensure the participation of senior female clergy in its meetings until such time as there are six female members of the house, following the admission of women to the episcopate.”
Episcopal Relief & Development has been in contact with local partners in the Episcopal dioceses of Fort Worth and Oklahoma following tornadoes on May 16 and May 20 that caused severe damage and loss of life. These devastating events were caused by a large storm system that set off tornado alerts from Texas to Minnesota. Weather threats continue, with severe thunderstorm advisories in place from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago, and the highest likelihood of tornadoes in the area between Dallas and Little Rock.
At this time, Episcopal Relief & Development encourages prayers for those impacted, and for first responders who are providing immediate assistance. Donations to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Tornado Response Fund will support outreach efforts in affected areas and help meet urgent needs. Because local capacity to receive and house volunteers is currently very limited, interested individuals are requested to sign up via the US Disaster Program’s “Ready to Serve” volunteer database to be contacted down the road when help is needed.
Local responders and authorities are currently assessing the situation in Moore, Oklahoma, just outside Oklahoma City, where a two-mile-wide tornado leveled neighborhoods and destroyed two elementary schools on the evening of May 20. Of the 24 deaths currently confirmed, seven were children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. According to reports, debris and road damage are hampering search and rescue efforts.
The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma posted the following message on their website: “Thank you to all who have reached out to us in response to the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma. We are in the process of assessing the situation and coordinating assistance to our communities.”
Katie Mears, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director of US Disaster Preparedness and Response, has been in contact with the Rev. Canon José A. McLoughlin, Canon to the Ordinary, and anticipates partnering with the diocese to assist those most vulnerable following this disaster. “We’re prepared to do what we need to do and we’re going to do what we can,” McLoughlin told Episcopal News Service in a story published on May 21.
Earlier, on May 16, an EF-4 tornado hit the town of Granbury, Texas, killing six people and destroying dozens of homes in the neighborhood of Rancho Brazos.* Other tornadoes touched down in Cleburn and Millsap, south and west of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, posted a message on the diocesan website asking for prayers and noting that the diocese will work with the local Episcopal congregation in Granbury to determine how best to use collected funds.
“Let us be the hands and feet of Christ,” he wrote, “reaching out to help our sisters and brothers affected by these devastating storms. Please join me as we hold up in prayer those who have suffered bodily injury, loss of home and especially those who have died. And please continue to pray for all the public servants who are there to serve.”
Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program offers resources for churches, parents and teachers ministering to children after disasters:
- Working with Children After a Disaster: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Ministering to Children After a Disaster (Grades K-5)
- Ministering to Youth After a Disaster (Grades 6-8)
- Ministering to Teens After a Disaster (Grades 9-12)
Katie Mears posts tips for advance preparedness and appropriately timed response on Episcopal Relief & Development’s blog, and the US Disaster Program’s preparedness planning guides are available in the online Resource Library.
Contributions to the Tornado Response Fund will assist dioceses responding to recent disasters, and donations to the Global Needs Fund will help sustain vital year-round preparedness and response work in the US and around the world. Gifts can be made online at www.episcopalrelief.org, by calling 1.855.312.HEAL (4325) or by mailing a check to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] A sea of red – that’s how one might describe the nearly 150 members of St. Catherine of Sienna Episcopal Church in Missouri City as they marched into the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ 164th Diocesan Council meeting. They proudly displayed their church banner and sang “Soldiers of the Savior,” an original composition by their music minister, Barbara Vestal. Smiles were on their faces, and joy was in their hearts – the congregation had waited nearly 14 years to be elevated from mission to parish.
“Having been at St. Catherine’s since November of 1999, first as children’s minister and now as music director, I can honestly see that the hand of God has been moving us forward spiritually, creatively and lovingly in his time,” Vestal said.
The congregation’s journey began with a Eucharist celebrated the evening of July 3, 1999, at the vicar’s home in Sienna plantation. Twenty people gathered for that first celebration of a newly formed church, which would live into the “via media” theology of the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Vincent Uher, the founding vicar, loved music, so it always was an integral part of services. Hospitality time followed worship. And the new congregation expanded quickly: After several weeks, it outgrew the vicarage and moved to the YMCA in Missouri City for Sunday worship, spending time before each service changing a bare space into prayerful area.
Occasionally, when there was another event at the Y, the congregation had to worship elsewhere – someone’s home, a local park – wherever members could find a place. They called themselves the “church on the run.” This was before the prevalence of Internet use, e-mail and texting, so phone trees were the preferred method of communication about where the congregation would meet each week.
Stability came when the church moved to a storefront location – an old Tuesday Morning site – on Cartwright Road in Missouri City in the spring of 2000. Members scrubbed, painted and cleaned out the former store and, in time, created a respectful worship space.
The congregation worked together to furnish the new church. One member built an octagonal wood altar. Another painted “stained-glass” windows on the wall. Another member covered the walls with pen-and-ink stations of the cross. An organization in New York donated items such as candlesticks, crosses and vestments.
In August 2006, the congregation moved into its current location, a 25-acre property in the Sienna Plantation subdivision of Missouri City. It contains a sanctuary, four classrooms, a kitchen and office space for support staff.
During the transition from home-based worship to their current facility, the people of St. Catherine’s demonstrated faithfulness and endurance.
- As an infant church, they survived the serious illness of the founding rector in the fall of 2000 and were led by lay leaders and an interim rector, the Rev. Karl Choate, for many months.
- They welcomed a female priest, the Rev. Stacey Fussell, and also saw the departure of some members because she was a woman.
- The congregation was saddened when she moved out of state in 2008, leading to a period of self-governance through the bishop’s committee and another interim priest.
The church celebrated its new status at the council meeting on Feb. 9. St. Catherine’s Church now has almost 400 active members. Its school has an enrollment of 85 children, ages 2 through 5, with extended hours available for youngsters who need after care.
Among the many outreach programs now in place are Samaritans’ Purse, mission trips by youth and adults to the North American Indian Ministry in South Dakota, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Nets for Life, Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry, Rainbow Room of CPS, and canned food and pop tab collections for Ronald MacDonald House.
Now that St. Catherine’s is a parish, some things have changed: The congregation will no longer receive financial support from the diocese; its priest is now the rector instead of the vicar; and the governing board is now the vestry, instead of the bishop’s committee.
“There are many things that we have learned from this amazing experience; far too many to name here,” said the current rector, the Rev. Mike Besson. “At the top of the list? That there is nothing that we cannot do as a congregation, with God’s help, no matter how impossible it may seem. We know that this has happened so that we may be bold and fearless in our life with Jesus Christ … who knows what he has in store for us now?”
[Seamen's Church Institute] What’s fashionable on the high seas this winter? Some mariners will sport a new hat designed by Kristine Byrnes of Allentown, NJ, winner of a contest to keep seafaring ears warm.
North America’s largest mariners’ service agency, the Seamen¹s Church Institute (SCI), debuts new garb for mariners this winter. Earlier this year, SCI asked the world to outfit the next generation of mariners with an original knitted hat pattern based on feedback chaplains received while visiting vessels in port. Mariners said their ears were cold.
Mariners must dress for the extremes of the world’s temperatures. Common shipping routes take them through exceptionally cold climates, which feel even colder on the water. In the North Atlantic, winter temperatures drop down to -30%C (-22%F); and in the United States, mariners on the inland waterways work outside for hours in temperatures hovering below -20%C (-4%F).
Each year, volunteer knitters for SCI’s Christmas at Sea program knit and crochet tens of thousands of hats and scarves for mariners working on the water during winter months. These handmade gifts connect mariners with land dwellers, who, as the beneficiaries of mariners’ sacrifices to deliver goods from all over the world, offer a sign of thanks.
Workplace safety restrictions mean that mariners must wear specially designed apparel; those restrictions even include the “extras” mariners don to stay warm. Accordingly, SCI’s knitting program, a venture of the Institute that began 115 years ago, developed patterns to meet these requirements. The patterns exclude features like pom-poms and tassels commonly found on store-bought winter knitwear.
Up until now, seafarers wearing handknit hats supplied by SCI have topped their heads with the sea’s most famous hat: the watch cap, a pattern almost as old as seafaring itself. SCI pairs that with a scarf (also specially designed by SCI for the maritime workplace environment) and delivers it to mariners working at Christmastime. If you imagine mariners as hardened old sea dogs, their faces at the delivery of these knitted gifts will change your mind.
Curiously, while visiting ships this past winter, SCI’s intern, 24-year-old Jania Billups, lost three hats. The wind did not take them nor did the sea. Rather, seafarers — seeing her wooly hat — asked Jania if they could have it because it had earflaps.
SCI’s Christmas at Sea Program Manager Paige Sato took this as a directive for the 4,000+ volunteer knitters she coordinates from across the United States. Sato inaugurated a contest for a new mariners’ hat pattern to supplement the watch cap — a special design that would meet workplace safety requirements and also incorporate the ear-warming features that mariners requested.
Called the 1898 Hat (in honor of the founding year of the Christmas at Sea volunteer knitting program), the winning design of the contest features a double-knit earflap that stays put without tying below the chin. Chosen from a pool of 12 submissions, the hat should keep mariners¹ ears sheltered from the cold. Seafarers themselves evaluated the various designs, trying them on and offering feedback to the contest judges. They told the judges they liked the design because it looks good on, and, “The hat feels warm over my ears,” said one seafarer of the MV Ever Refine, traveling up the East Coast of the United States.
The 1898 Hat pattern goes into circulation this month to the joy of mariners everywhere. Knitters can download the pattern from SCI’s website at seamenschurch.org/cas and submit finished products throughout the year. This winter, SCI hopes that, while providing a new, warming style for seafarers, its interns get to keep their own hats.
Founded in 1834 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church, though nondenominational in terms of its trustees, staff and service to mariners, the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York & New Jersey (SCI) is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America. Annually, its chaplains visit thousands of vessels in the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Oakland, and along 2,200 miles of America’s inland waterways and into the Gulf of Mexico. SCI’s maritime education facilities provide navigational training to nearly 1,600 mariners each year through simulator-based facilities located in Houston, TX and Paducah, KY. The Institute and its maritime attorneys are recognized as leading advocates for merchant mariners by the United States Government, including the US Congress, the US Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and maritime trade associations.