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Sudanese diaspora longs for lasting peace in homeland

Friday, May 16, 2014

South Sudanese flee an attack on the South Sudanese town of Renk, arrive at a border gate in Joda, along the Sudanese border, April 18. Photo: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

Further ENS coverage on South Sudan, including recent video interviews with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is available here.

[Episcopal News Service] Almost three months have passed since Sudanese Angelina Rambang last heard from her husband. He’d been working with a bank in Juba, South Sudan, when fighting erupted last December after President Salva Kiir accused his sacked former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar of plotting a coup d’état.

The resulting conflict has forced some 1.5 million people to flee their homes to escape the violence, and thousands have died, a harsh reality as the Episcopal Church commemorates the Martyrs of Sudan on May 16. Kiir and Machar agreed to a truce on May 9, but fighting has continued in some parts of South Sudan and 5 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Rambang is taking each day as it comes. But the mother of four, a member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San Jose, says: “I am a Christian. I have faith in God that maybe [my husband] is hiding somewhere and maybe there will be a time he will call.”

The current conflict is “devastating, inexplicable,” she said, speaking by telephone one morning from her San Jose home during a brief break between returning from the school run and heading out to classes at Mission College, where she is a pre-nursing student.

“Too many people are dying, suffering,” she said of her East African homeland. “It must come to an end.”

Gabriel Tor, also a member of the Sudanese diaspora living in the U.S., describes the conflict in similar terms. “It’s needless, heartbreaking,” he told ENS during a recent telephone interview.

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After South Sudan separated from the Islamic north following decades of civil war and as the result of a 2011 independence referendum, “we had high hopes that we were going to be peaceful, a better economy, modernizing ourselves and building the civilization that we have missed for years,” said Tor, also a member of Trinity Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real.

Tor was five years old in 1987 when he and his elder brother fled to Ethiopia to escape Sudan’s civil war. Four years later, they returned to their home in Twic East, Jonglei State, but within months the wrath of the Khartoum government had forced them to flee again. Months later, they reached the Kenyan border. The Red Cross came to their rescue and drove them to the Kakuma Refugee Camp where they lived for 12 years, fighting malnutrition and outbreaks of disease.

“I give thanks that by the grace of God I have made it this far,” he said.

Like many Sudanese currently in their 30s who moved to the U.S. as part of a resettlement program and came to be known as the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, Rambang and Tor share similar stories of survival; talk of their deep, unwavering faith; and dream of a lasting peace in their homeland.

Rambang also left her parents at a very young age to escape the violence in southern Sudan. Like Tor and thousands of others, she walked hundreds of miles to Ethiopia, back to Sudan, and ended up at Kakuma, where she stayed for 10 years. She married her husband Joseph in 2002; they were resettled to San Jose in 2004. Many of the Lost Boys and Girls were resettled with the support of Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement program of the Episcopal Church.

After half a century of civil war, and all of the joy and hope that accompanied a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the formation of the new nation, the Sudanese diaspora has watched in shock as their homeland has been plunged back into conflict.

President Kiir is from the Dinka tribe and rebel leader Machar is Nuer, representing the two main Sudanese ethnic groups, which has led to claims that the conflict is tribal.

Rambang is Nuer and Tor is Dinka. Yet, like many of their fellow Sudanese, they share the same view that the current conflict stems primarily from political differences.

In many places, Tor said, Nuer and Dinka “are not in conflict because they realize that the issues are mostly political … The abuse came when both men [Kiir and Machar] used their tribal names to establish their claims.”

Even though there have been ethnic elements to the conflict and several instances of intertribal fighting, “it is the government and the rebels telling them to do this,” said Rambang, adding that in South Sudan, many Dinka and Nuer live peacefully and attend the same churches. “If you tie something to a rock and drag it, it will follow you. That is what the leaders are doing. They are the ones leading the killing of the people. The leaders of the country [are responsible] and they must bring this to an end.”

But Tor also acknowledged that the situation is very complicated, varies from region to region, and that it is challenging for accurate information to permeate all the communities of South Sudan, as well as the rest of the world.

For example, Tor said, “there are still Nuer generals standing with the army saying that this is not tribal and who some are calling traitors because they have not joined the rebellion against the government. But there are still many who are uneducated or uninformed who do not understand how this started or where it is going, and they are making it tribal.”

Bul Garang Mabil agrees.

“What is currently happening in South Sudan is not a tribal or ethnic issue but a failure of the post-war development programs in which tribal and ethnic affiliations have been exploited and manipulated,” said Mabil, who was resettled in 2000 to Jackson, Mississippi, after several years at Kakuma. Fourteen years later he is an active member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson and works for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“What is not being reported in the media is the level of propaganda that both sides to the conflict have been using to rally or scare others into supporting their causes for the violence,” he told ENS in a recent interview.

“Since Christians in the United States pressed so hard for an independent South Sudan and have spoken consistently against the actions of the Government of Sudan [in the north], we must speak with equal clarity and consistency and frequency against violence within [the] largely Christian South Sudan,” he said, underscoring the need for Americans to speak out on the issue and write to President Barack Obama and members of Congress. “To say nothing, or so say little too late, is to be complicit in evil. We must speak loudly and clearly against the killing, terror, and starvation and do what we can to nurture peace.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations on May 16 provided a template for an advocacy letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, urging him to support peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

The Rev. Zachariah Char shortly after his ordination in 2007. Photo: Diocese of Western Michigan

The Rev. Zachariah Jok Char also moved to the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 19, after calling Kakuma his home for 13 years.

He paid his way through college in Michigan, working as a dishwasher and at a meat factory, and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and biblical studies.

He now works in the refugee department at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has served as pastor of the Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan since 2007.

He was visiting South Sudan in December 2013 when the conflict erupted and was forced to abandon his mission to build a medical clinic in his home village of Duk Padiet.

“When I heard the sound of guns, the night of Dec. 15, I was so sad and ashamed because I was not expecting the South Sudanese to fight one another,” he said.

Before he was evacuated by the U.S. Embassy on Dec. 19, he was able to visit the hospital to donate blood for the wounded, especially the civilians, he said. He spent a week in Kenya, expecting that the fighting would cease and he’d be able to return to South Sudan. When it was clear that the war was escalating, he flew back to the U.S. on Dec. 30.

Like Bul, Char holds the politicians responsible and says that the only way to ensure a lasting peace is from relentless pressure from the international community.

The cover of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church publication show the Rev. Thon Chol being ordained to the diaconate by Virginia Bishop Suffragan David Jones

The Rev. Thon Chol, deacon of the Sudanese congregation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, said that the scale of human suffering and the scale of political greed among the leaders have not been sufficiently reported by the media.

Chol described his congregation, which is primarily Dinka but also includes other Sudanese ethnicities, as “very inclusive. If you talk to the average Dinka or Nuer, we all have the same dreams. Our politicians are sometimes the ones who don’t get along, and when this happens they go back to their tribal affiliation [and] … brainwash people to achieve their personal goals.”

The current crisis, Chol said, has taken a new emotional toll on the south Sudanese. “It was different when we were fighting the common enemy [the Khartoum government]. We thought that when we get independence everything would be OK. This latest conflict has somewhat killed our hope. We are fighting ourselves now … Right now a lot of people are very hopeless, but still as a Christian, as a pastor, I say we need to look to God. During the war God was our main protector.”

Chol, who was resettled in Michigan in 2000, was an ambassador for the Partners in Peace project in 2011 that worked among several villages in Jonglei State to build a society of reconciliation.

“There is a need for true reconciliation in South Sudan,” he said. “People need to talk and come to full admission and acceptance for a way to move forward. Here in the diaspora we also need reconciliation and dialogue. We need to open a new chapter.”

Chol raised concerns that some of the messages and responses from the Sudanese diaspora throughout the recent conflict have not always been helpful. “We have contributed to the current problem in South Sudan because there is inconsistency in what we’ve been saying. There has been so much propaganda and lies; a lot of hateful messages, very demeaning and targeting particular tribes. So we have been trying to address that. A lot of people pick up just pieces of information.”

The Rev. Ross Kane, associate rector at St. Paul’s, serves alongside Chol and says he’s heard tragic stories from members of the Sudanese congregation there, “many of whom have lost loved ones and have seen tremendous suffering.”

As a former Episcopal Church missionary in South Sudan, working with the New Sudan Council of Churches, Kane wishes that the church’s work for peace and reconciliation there would get more attention. “It profoundly changed the landscape in the region and should be a source for hope in overcoming the current conflict,” he said.

Episcopalians and Roman Catholics account for the vast majority of the population in South Sudan.

Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul was summoned to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to take part in the May 9 negotiations between Kiir and Machar. Deng led the two men in prayer before they signed the peace deal.

Deng was appointed chairperson of the national reconciliation committee by Kiir in April 2013, a move that highlights the central role that the church plays in peacebuilding and helping to heal the mental wounds in South Sudan following decades of civil war with the Islamic north.

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) hold Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul’s hands as they pray before signing a peace agreement in Addis Ababa May 9. Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Kane believes the path to peace can be found through the church, and in particular through the pioneering work of the New Sudan Council of Churches, an ecumenical body which facilitated grassroots peace negotiations in the 1990s, bringing together Dinka and Nuer chiefs, politicians and religious leaders in order to name past atrocities and to seek restitution.

“The peace process spread across southern Sudan, building unity among southern Sudanese; such unity proved vital in ending Sudan’s civil war and in securing South Sudan’s independence,” he said.

One of the challenges he senses with today’s conflict is that the government and other leaders “still behave like it’s a rebel movement, so there is a desire for wholesale political reform but no sense of how to do it without destabilizing things even more,” he said.

Kane says he feels “profoundly sad to see that the people who struggled for so long to find self-determination…are now undergoing such a tragedy.”

But he doesn’t lose hope. “When I see the people of South Sudan who are putting their lives on the line to accept refugees of different ethnicities in their home; when I see southern Sudanese church leaders putting their lives on the line for the sake of peace; when I see the way churches are collaborating with [tribal] chiefs and non-Christians, Muslims to try to form a peaceful movement … That is where I see God. The spirit is moving and there are witnesses for peace, but as much as they don’t make headlines, they are a major part of South Sudanese culture.”

Kane describes the Sudanese as “a proud people. They are, to me, the best representation of the indomitable human spirit. They’ve lived through decades of civil war, and they do not lose hope. There is something profoundly inspiring in that to me.”

Meanwhile, Rambang and Tor, Nuer and Dinka, along with their fellow Sudanese in the diaspora, continue to pray together for a lasting peace in their homeland.

The Rev. Jerry Drino has dedicated the last 10 years to supporting and mentoring people like Rambang and Tor, through his ministry at Trinity Cathedral in San Jose and his education and outreach agency Hope With South Sudan. He says he has shared in their suffering, but has been inspired equally “by their resilience, faith and optimism that God had not abandoned them and that God was in their suffering, in their struggles, in their dying and in their rebirth.”

“I almost have the feeling that there is no place to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by what is happening, because as long as there is the smallest sliver of light coming through the darkness, that is sufficient,” he said.

Over the years, Drino says he’s “participated in the weaving of a safety net for all of us, Sudanese and others, so that when disaster hits the impact is absorbed by the whole community.

“I am humbled to be a part of this community that will not be defeated, but in love look beyond the chaos to see a new society, a new church waiting to be restored and made new.”

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called the Episcopal Church to prayer and action for South Sudan. For further information and resources for prayer and action, visit: www.episcopalchurch.org/sudan

The U.S.-based Episcopal Church has long-standing partnerships with the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan, through companion diocese relationships, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) programs and the advocacy work of the Office of Government Relations.

Current companion relationships include Albany (New York) with the Province of Sudan, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) with Kajo Keji, Chicago with Renk, Indianapolis with Bor, Missouri with Lui, Rhode Island with Ezo, Southwestern Virginia with the Province of Sudan, and Virginia with the Province of Sudan.

Partnerships also exist through various networks such as the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and Hope With South Sudan.

Video: Young adult Eliza Marth talks about the importance of unemployment benefits

Thursday, May 15, 2014
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[Episcopal News Service] Eliza Marth represented the Diocese of North Carolina during “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,” a May 12-14 conference to train young adults in the skills necessary to transform unjust structures of society, frame the issues of domestic poverty and to stand with and be advocates for the poor.

Marth is a caseworker at Samaritan Ministries of Greater Washington, a nonprofit organization started by 12 D.C.-area Episcopal churches. Here she talks about the importance of unemployment benefits.

Video: Young adult Graham Simpson talks about second chances

Thursday, May 15, 2014
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[Episcopal New Service] Graham Simpson represented the Diocese of Western Massachusetts during “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,” a May 12-14 conference to train young adults in the skills necessary to transform unjust structures of society, frame the issues of domestic poverty and to stand with and be advocates for the poor.

Here he talks about his work with inmates in his local county jail and the importance of the Second Chance Act.

Video: Young adult Coreen Walsh talks about food security and nutrition

Thursday, May 15, 2014
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[Episcopal New Service] Coreen Walsh represented the Diocese of San Diego during “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,” a May 12-14 conference to train young adults in the skills necessary to transform unjust structures of society, frame the issues of domestic poverty and to stand with and be advocates for the poor.

Walsh works coordinating the farm, garden and agroecology program at Camp Stevens, an Episcopal Camp and Conference Center in Julian, California. Here she talks about food security and the importance of supplemental nutrition programs.

Video: Presiding Bishop preaches in Washington, DC

Thursday, May 15, 2014

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[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the following sermon during morning Eucharist May 14 at the Simpson Memorial Chapel in the United Methodist Building across from U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

She was among 50 bishops and young adults, from 14 dioceses representing the Episcopal Church’s eight domestic provinces, gathered in the nation’s capital for “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,”a conference sponsored by the Episcopal Church and Bishops Working for a Just World.

Honduras: Las escuelas desempeñan un papel en el auto-sostenimiento y en la sociedad

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Miriam Rivkin, un miembro de la Iglesia Episcopal San Barnabas en DeLand, Florida, visitó la escuela Santa María de la Iglesia Episcopal en Tegucigalpa, Honduras, en marzo durante un viaje para explorar posibles asociaciones… Foto: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – San Pedro Sula, Honduras] Las escuelas episcopales de la Diócesis de Honduras no solamente desempeñan un papel en el movimiento de la iglesia hacia el auto-sostenimiento; si no también desempeñan un papel en la transformación de las comunidades.

“Los niños se benefician de la educación, se emplean a los profesores, los estudiantes reciben una educación de la iglesia episcopal, el cual es también parte del programa de evangelización”, dijo la Rda. Canóniga Lura Kaval, Canóniga de la diócesis para desarrollo y nombrada misionera por la Iglesia Episcopal.

Las escuelas son la principal fuente de ingreso para la diócesis; estas administran siete escuelas bilingües basada en la fe, y sirven a  1,500 estudiantes desde jardín infantil hasta el 11vo grado, que es el grado final requerido en Honduras.

“En su conjunto, ellos están en negro; unos están en mejores condiciones que otros, pero todos se dirigen en la dirección correcta, con gran posibilidad de crecimiento”, dijo Kaval

Por ejemplo en La Escuela Episcopal Santa Maria en Tegucigalpa, el Rdo. Canónigo Joe Rhodes y su esposa, Tina, misioneros enviados por la Sociedad de Misioneros Anglicanos y Emisores, están trabajando para hacer que la escuela rinda más beneficios.

“Tenemos 158 estudiantes ahora, necesitamos 200 para obtener más rentabilidad”, explicó Rhodes a un grupo de La Iglesia Episcopal de San Barnabas en DeLand, Florida, que estuvieron de visita en marzo durante un viaje para explorar posibles asociaciones.

Como partidarios que apoyan la diócesis desde hace mucho tiempo, los Rhodes en los últimos años han dirigido una misión de corto plazo a Honduras mientras que  Joe Rhodes sirvió como rector de  La iglesia Espíritu Santo en Baton Rouge, Luisiana. Ellos han servido la escuela en los últimos 18 meses.

Al obispo Lloyd Allen fundó la escuela Santa María en 1994 mientras servía en la Iglesias Santa María; el obispo personalmente solicitó a los Rhodes que se muden a  Tegucigalpa para ayudar a la escuela a tiempo completo.

La Diócesis de Honduras administra siete escuelas bilingües basadas en la fe sirviendo a 1,500 estudiantes desde jardín infantil hasta el 11vo grado. Foto: Lynette Wilson/ENS

En los últimos años, Allen ha trabajado para centrar la atención de la diócesis para lograr el auto-sostenimiento para el año 2019; además del plan de auto-sostenimiento de la Diócesis, las escuelas tienen una estrategia independiente destinada a la autosuficiencia.

Como parte del  plan, los administradores están trabajando para alcanzar la acreditación internacional con la ayuda de  Steven Robinson, presidente de la  Asociación Sureña de Escuelas Independientes, una escuela de acreditación de los Estados Unidos.

“Las escuelas aquí son realmente fascinantes, yo creo que ellas sirven un gran propósito, algunas de las escuelas tienen mucho camino por recorrer, pero el emblema, [El] Buen Pastor, en San Pedro Sula, es probablemente elegible ahora o si no está muy cerca de eso”, dijo Robinson, en una entrevista por teléfono con la ENS.

La acreditación no significa que todas las escuelas sean iguales; eso en gran parte depende de los recursos que tienen”, dijo Robinson. “Lo que significa que están sirviendo la misión que se propusieron servir”.

Una niña durante el servicio en la escuela dominical en la Iglesia Episcopal de San Pedro por el Mar en  Brick Bay en Roatán, Honduras. Foto: Lynette Wilson/ENS

En el centro de la misión de cada escuela episcopal  hay un compromiso con la educación Cristiana y la Diócesis se ha comprometido a traducir del inglés al español el Currículo de los Niños Episcopales, desarrollado por el Seminario de Teología de Virginia, para que lo pueda compartir con otras personas en busca de recursos de  educación cristiana en español, dijo Kaval. La Diócesis utiliza el currículo tanto en la escuela como en la escuela dominical.

Robinson empezó a participar con las escuelas episcopales en Honduras en el 2010 cuando conoció a Andrea Baker en una conferencia de la  Asociación Nacional de Escuelas Episcopales en San Antonio, Texas.

“Ella vio mi etiqueta con mi nombre y preguntó, ‘¿usted acredita? Y ¿podemos hablar?’” dijo Robinson.

Baker invitó a Robinson a visitar Honduras, lo cual él hiso. “Yo me enamore de las escuela y el trabajo del obispo Allen”, dijo, agregando que lo que las diócesis están haciendo con las escuelas es “el centro principal de lo que las escuelas deben ser”.

Desde entonces, Robinson ha estado involucrado con las escuelas y este verano planea llevar a cabo un taller de desarrollo profesional en  Honduras. Es una cuestión de trabajar con las escuelas para entender dónde ellos se encuentran, dónde necesitan estar, y ayudarles a  medida que crecen y se dirigen hacia la acreditación, dijo.

El Buen Pastor, la escuela que Robinson hizo referencia en San Pedro Sula, fue fundada en 1984 y desde entonces ha crecido con más de 500 estudiantes desde jardín infantil hasta el 11vo grado. Algunos estudiantes de El Buen Pastor se han  ido a los Estados Unidos para asistir a esas universidades.

Otras escuelas, como la escuela episcopal de San Juan en [St. John’s Episcopal School] en Siguatepeque, una ciudad pequeña en las montañas centrales, recién acaban de empezar.

Rick Harlow, jefe del proyecto de la diócesis y un misionero nombrado de la Iglesia Episcopal, explicaron que las escuelas sirven a  48estudiantes de grados de jardín infantil hasta el cuarto grado, el próximo año la escuela agregara el quinto grado y más espacio para los estudiantes de jardín infantil. La escuela tiene actualmente una capacidad para 80 estudiantes.

Las escuelas episcopales funcionan en el mismo calendario escolar de 10 meses que en las escuelas de los Estados Unidos, pero no de las escuelas públicas que tiene un calendario de noviembre a febrero, normal para las escuelas privadas del país. Por esta razón, las escuelas tienden a crecer de año a año ya que los estudiantes se gradúan de un nivel escolar a otro, y también debido a los nuevos estudiantes que se inscriben en pre- jardín infantil y jardín infantil.

Una manera de reclutar estudiantes es hacer que la escuela sea más atractiva. En marzo, por ejemplo, la construcción estaba en marcha en una calzada en forma de herradura, donde los padres pueden dejar y recoger a sus hijos en frente de la escuela en vez en la calle concurrida en frente de la iglesia.

El camino de entrada y el espacio adicional del aula constituyen la primera fase de la construcción; la segunda fase incluirá la cafetería, una concina y aulas adicionales.

“Hemos trabajado año tras año con los recursos disponibles”, dijo Harlow, agregando que los equipos de las iglesias en los Estados Unidos hasta han ayudado con la construcción del edificio de la escuela y aún hay una necesidad.

No muy lejos de San Juan, también en Siguatepeque, el Rda. Vaike Madisson de Molina empezó una clínica de primeros auxilios que tres años más tarde se convirtió en una escuela de enfermería reconocida por el Ministerio de Salud. En el 2009, Allen le dijo a su clero que ellos necesitarían ver a sus comunidades y crear algo para dirigir a sus misiones hacia la auto-sostenibilidad, entonces de Molina, inspirada por la leyenda de Florence Nightingale se dirigió a la asistencia sanitaria.

El Centro Episcopal de Formación de Auxiliar de Enfermería Nightingale abrió en diciembre del 2011 y graduó a sus primeros 14 estudiantes en diciembre del 2013.

La Rda.  Vaike Madisson de Molina muestra  representaciones arquitectónicas para la escuela de enfermería a la Rda. Canóniga Lura Kaval, Canóniga de la diócesis para desarrollo. Foto: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Teniendo en cuenta el éxito de la escuela,  de Molina tiene planes para un edifico de dos pisos que albergara aulas y un laboratorio junto a su iglesia San Bartolomé Apóstol, que trasladara la escuela fuera del salón de la parroquia.

“este proyecto, me encanta”, dijo ella durante una entrevista en su casa.  “Creo que Jesucristo está feliz… algunos miembros de la iglesia son incluso estudiantes ahora”.

De Molina eligió la escuela de enfermería, ella dijo, en parte porque a ella le gusta la historia de Florence Nightingale, el fundador de la enfermería moderna, el cual ella piensa que encaja muy bien con la historia de la Iglesia Anglicana, pero además porque ella reconoce la necesidad de tener una clínica médica permanente en la comunidad. Al ver la escuela de una manera que pueda dar a las mujeres, muchas de ellas son madres solteras, y esto les brindaría un medio de mantenerse por sí mismas.

Josselin Flores, 18, es una de esas estudiantes. Flores trabaja en la iglesia y estudia en  la escuela de enfermería, mientras que su madre cuida a su bebe de 18 meses.

“Quiero tener una vida mejor y cuidar de los demás”, dijo Flores en una entrevista en la iglesia.

Sesenta por ciento de  los 7.9 millones de personas en Honduras viven al nivel de la pobreza, de acuerdo a las estadísticas del Banco Mundial. El promedio de adulto tiene 6.5 años de educación, de acuerdo a los datos del programa de Desarrollo de las Naciones Unidas.

Fundar una Universidad Episcopal en Honduras es una meta a largo plazo del Obispo, especialmente en un mundo después del 9/11 donde es cada vez más difícil para los estudiantes asegurar visas para estudiar en los Estados Unidos y el índice del cambio de moneda el Lempira de Honduras y el dólar americano ponen el costo fuera del alcance para la mayoría de los estudiantes que viene de un país de bajos ingresos.

“No solo es el compromiso del Obispo tener  el modelo reforzado de autosuficiencia y no el de la dependencia… las escuelas no solo desempeñan un papel enorme, pero es a través de la educación de la Iglesia Episcopal  que se está en condiciones de cambiar una nación”, dijo Robinson.

De su experiencia y viajes, Robinson no ha visto otro sistema de escuelas independientes equilibrado que de un rendimiento de alto nivel al invertir.

“Soy muy bendecido y afortunado al trabajar con casi 400 de las mejores escuelas en el mundo, incluyendo 40 escuelas episcopales, y viajar por todo el mundo y hablar de una gran variedad de temas”, dijo. “No sé de ningún lugar donde escuelas episcopales buenas y fuertes tengan un impacto en toda la nación. Honduras puede ser impactada por el sistema escolar y no digo esto ligeramente”.

– Lynette Wilson es una editora/ reportera para Episcopal News Service

Young adults speak truth to power on Capitol Hill

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fifty bishops and young adults, from 14 dioceses representing the Episcopal Church’s eight domestic provinces, gathered in Washington, D.C., May 12-14 for “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,” a conference from an emerging generation of leaders to learn how to navigate the legislative process. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Paddy Cavanaugh knows what it feels like to grow up in poverty and rely on food and other assistance.

One of two children raised by a single mother who worked as a teacher’s assistant, Cavanaugh’s family received support from the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, and at times received rental assistance from their church and subsidized school lunches.

Yet growing up in Pasquotank County where 18 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and many people receive public assistance, Cavanaugh didn’t think of himself as poor.

A cradle Episcopalian, Cavanaugh, 23, now an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shared his personal story during “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty,” a May 12-14 conference to train young adults in the skills necessary to transform unjust structures of society, frame the issues of domestic poverty and to stand with and be advocates for the poor.

Fifty bishops and young adults, from 14 dioceses representing the Episcopal Church’s eight domestic provinces, gathered in the nation’s capital for the conference sponsored by the Episcopal Church and Bishops Working for a Just World, a caucus within the House of Bishops devoted to fulfilling the baptismal covenant to “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”

A handful of bishops make annual visits to Washington, D.C., typically in the fall, to meet with elected officials on legislative issues ranging from immigration to gun control to environmental protection, advocating positions supported by General Convention resolutions.

A few years in the making, this three-day conference marked the first time bishops organized the training for young adults; it wouldn’t have been possible without a Constable Fund grant, said Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James Curry, convener of Bishops Working for a Just World.

The Constable Fund provides grants for mission initiatives that were not included in Episcopal Church’s triennial budget.

Ebony Richardson, a young adult representing the Diocese of Washington, practiced being interviewed on camera by Macky Alston, the interviewer, and Lida Masoudpour, the producer, who conducted the Auburn Media training. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Attendees, mostly high school and college students and a few young professionals, spent May 13 at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in a daylong media training conducted by Auburn Media aimed at preparing them to engage the media and to craft their core message through narrative, Christian values-based storytelling.

Following the media training, they learned about the federal budget process and the difference between discretionary and mandatory spending; the 2015 fiscal outlook; and the basics of lobbying in preparation to meet with elected officials from their home districts in South Dakota, Massachusetts, Minnesota, South Carolina, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York and Texas.

“It really is what the church is about, equipping the saints to do work of mission,” Curry, who will retire later this year, said in an interview with ENS. “My hope is that this network can keep in contact across the issues and can build networks at home.”

Much of the work undertaken by the Washington-D.C.-based Office of Government Relations has a state-level component, such as the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion, said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst.

“Advocacy is part and parcel of our mission and we believe we won’t be whole as individuals until every member of Christ’s body has the same opportunity to be whole,” said Hafner. “Legislation is a powerful vehicle for promoting health and wholeness in our communities.”

Coreen Walsh, left, Diocese of San Diego Executive Council Member Roxanne Perfect-Knight and Kelly Mahon posed for a photograph with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California, foreground, in the Hart Senate Office Building. Walsh and Mahon are also members of the Diocese of San Diego. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

With the House in recess, bishops and young adults met with senators and their staffers to talk specifically about six poverty-alleviation programs in the discretionary budget: supplemental nutrition; Meals on Wheels and other community-based supports for vulnerable seniors; federal unemployment benefits and allowances; Head Start and other education programs; low-income housing assistance and homelessness prevention; and the Second Chance Act, aimed at helping formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives.

“We’re here today to bear the Rock of Ages up this hill,” said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in a May 14 sermon preached at the start of the legislative lobbying day at the United Methodist Building’s Simpson Memorial Chapel across from the Capitol. “All Jesus’ followers are meant to be climbing up the hill to spread a vision of eternal and abundant life. And we also claim the hope that there will eventually be an end to climbing up the hill.

“Remember that none of us goes alone to this task – we go in company, as part of the body of Christ, and the company of all faithful people seeking that eternal vision of holy and healed community.”

And as Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, pointed out during an address at the May 12 opening of the conference, relationships and solidarity with the poor precedes advocacy.

During the next day’s media training it became obvious that the young adults, whose adolescence has been marked by the Great Recession, had nailed the relationship and solidarity piece; like Cavanaugh, many shared candid firsthand experiences with poverty or their work with the poor and disenfranchised.

Dalton Wakefield, 18, of the Diocese of Dallas and a student at the University of North Texas, said he wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference; he also took offense to the use of the term “poor,” as a label. Later he explained that during the Great Recession, his family went from middle class to working class, a change in economic status that, he says, has forced him to “grow up” more quickly than he otherwise would have.

Ebony Richardson, 26, of Long Beach, California, who now studies mathematics at Howard University, represented the Diocese of Washington at the conference. During the media training she volunteered that her current success can be attributed to second chance programs in her home state.

“I got caught up with a bad crowd and went to juvy [juvenile hall]. I could say I didn’t know any better; it was all that I saw around me. But when I went to juvy, I realized I had to change my life,” she later explained in an interview with ENS.

Crime and violence dominate life in Richardson’s hometown, but despite falling in with “the bad crowd,” she was a high-performing student, and she credits the mandatory counseling she received in juvenile hall and government-sponsored after-school programs with helping her change her life.

“I was getting all A’s in school … but I needed an overseer [counselor] to tell me I could change my life,” Richardson explained.

It’s been 10 years since Richardson spent time in juvenile hall; her problems with anger and the subsequent acting out were not just personal, but community problems, and when she goes home now she sees what cuts to social programs, like the ones she benefited from, are hurting the community.

Bernadette Karpf, a high school senior representing the Diocese of Connecticut, over the last five to 10 years has witnessed the downsizing of mostly white-collar jobs in her hometown of Newington, a suburb of the capital, Hartford.

“Unemployment benefits have been a blessing to my family and my community,” she said.

Without unemployment insurance extensions, the long-term unemployed face losing their homes: when mom and dad can’t pay the bills, children end up homeless, said Rolf Lowenberg-DeBoer, missioner for community engagement in the Episcopal Church of Minnesota.

Even in Minnesota, a progressive state with a strong social net, children represent 46 percent of the homeless population post-Great Recession, he said.

As evidenced by the conference of bishops and young adults, the church has a responsibility to identify and develop new leaders in the church, said

Cassie Boettcher, left, a young adult from the Diocese of South Dakota, and Bishop John Tarrant, met with Carrie Johnson, center, a legislative assistant in U.S. Senator Tim Johnson’s office on May 14 to talk about poverty in their state. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

South Dakota Bishop John Tarrant who invited 19-year-old Cassie Boettcher, a college student and member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Watertown, South Dakota, to attend the conference.

But it’s not about preparing young adults to lead in the future, it’s to lead in the present, he said.

And as the Rev. Michael Angell, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for young adults and campus ministry, sees it, developing leaders is a way to bring millennials, the 80 million people born between 1980 and 1995, into the church.

Studies show millennials don’t see the church as either relevant to society, “all talk and no action” or they see it as too caught up in partisan politics. But in his experience with millennials, they have a “holy hunch,” meaning “the world as it is, is not the world that it should be.”

When viewed as a place where they can have a voice on issues of social and economic justice, young adults see the Episcopal Church as a place where they can not only become leaders, but where they can make a real difference in the world, Angell said.

“There is a real sense for young adults that the church is a place where you can lead and get things done.”

Cavanaugh’s family eventually left Elizabeth City, the town in rural Pasquotank County to move to Greenville, the 10th largest city in the state and home to East Carolina University, North Carolina’s second biggest university.

In his teens, Cavanaugh said he became aware of his economic situation, but he also become aware of his social position, and that being poor, yet being a poor white male, gave him social capital and access to networks that other poor people in his racially mixed community didn’t have.

And once the family moved to Greenville, he saw a way of life different from the rural poverty of his youth. Still, he hasn’t turned his back on his roots; with scholarships and financial aid Cavanaugh is able to study history and Christianity, with and eye toward social justice and ordination.

“I feel like this is where I come from, and I have an obligation to help the community,” he said.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

California diocese’s first eco-confirmation hailed a success

Thursday, May 15, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of California] On Saturday, May 10, the Diocese of California held its first-ever Eco-Confirmation at St. Dorothy’s Rest in Camp Meeker, California. The confirmation took place with the annual Woods to Waves health camps fundraiser hike at St. Dorothy’s. Two people renewed their baptismal vows, one person was received into The Episcopal Church, and seven people were confirmed.

The Eco-Confirmation itself took place not in the chapel at St. Dorothy’s, but outside, with the gathered assembly surrounded by redwoods. The Eco-Confirmation service closely followed the Confirmation service from the Book of Common Prayer. California Bishop Marc Andrus presided. “The Earth’s story of itself is the sermon I think we needed to hear on this day, and in this place,” Andrus said during his brief remarks.

The Liturgy of the Word for the Eco-Confirmation was a local modification of the Cosmic Walk originally created by Sr. Miriam MacGillis. A large basin of water, sitting in the center of a spiral of red rope on the ground, was blessed before an abridged version of the history of the universe was read. The red rope emphasized the presence of the Holy Spirit for the occasion of confirmation.

The Prologue to John’s Gospel began the stations of the Cosmic Walk, and after the lesson from John, a reader shared the story of the Great Flaring Forth at the beginning of time. Other events noted in the history included the creation of stars, galaxies, and our sun; the formation of the Earth’s atmosphere; the appearance of redwoods; Jesus’ birth; and the founding of St. Dorothy’s Rest. At each station a walker poured water from the baptismal basin into bowls marking the passage of time between each event.

The red rope of the spiral also reminded the gathering that throughout all of history fire and heat have led to change, growth, and development, not all of which have been good or helpful. Bishop Andrus, who brainstormed the Eco-Confirmation concept, is an outspoken commentator on the role of humanity in global climate change and the need for an amendment of life of the whole human people to restore creation that has been commended to humanity’s care. Futhermore, he consistently asks if respondents will respect the dignity of the Earth as well as every human being when making or renewing the Baptismal Covenant.

The confirmations, receptions, and reaffirmations took place in the center of the spiral while those present for support sang the refrain “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” Confirmands, re-affirmers, and reception candidates were from St. James / Iglesia de Santiago, Oakland; St. Stephen’s, Orinda; Christ Church, Alameda; and Holy Trinity / La Santisima Trinidad, Richmond. The service was in Spanish and English, and those being presented represented racial and age diversity, one of the diocese’s marks of church vitality.

When all candidates had been confirmed, received, or reaffirmed their vows, the assembly exchanged signs of the peace of Christ, usually a handshake or hug, before praying the Lord’s Prayer. For a dismissal, those newly strengthened on their Christian journey joined the bishop in asperging — splashing with holy water — the rest of the congregation. Participants moved to the starting point of the Woods to Waves hike as they sang, “We are marching in the light of God.”

The focus on the baptismal water — with it at the center of the assembly, blessing it to begin liturgy, and having everyone splashed to remember their baptisms — emphasized that baptism is the source of all Christian ministry, including care for creation. The story of the universe in its almost 14 billion years of existence resonated deeply as the congregation was surrounded by large, towering redwoods.

Some from the Eco-Confirmation service participated with over 80 people in the Woods to Waves hike to raise money and awareness for health camps at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Hikers began at St. Dorothy’s and ended the 14-mile hike at Shell Beach. Over $20,000 was raised on Saturday, and donations are still being received and counted. Every summer, St. Dorothy’s provides two weeks of camps for children with cancer and children with organ transplants.

In the 113 years that St. Dorothy’s has been providing camps to critically ill children, no family has ever been charged a fee to attend. Camp St. Dorothy’s is fully funded by individual donations, outreach grants, and foundation grants. $1000 fully covers the cost for one child to attend Camp St. Dorothy’s. Further information is available here.

Rapidísimas

Thursday, May 15, 2014

El Tribunal Supremo de Justiciade Venezuela declaró “improcedente” el recurso de la legisladora opositora María Corina Machado contra la decisión de ese cuerpo de despojarla de su investidura parlamentaria. Razón: “No se utilizó el debido proceso legislativo”.

En momentos en que se cumplen tres meses del inicio de las demostraciones estudiantiles en varias ciudades de Venezuela, la organización internacional Human Rights Watch ha hecho un largo informe en el que se menciona la situación de las cárceles en el país. Dice en parte el informe: “Las cárceles en Venezuela están entre las más violentas deAmérica Latina, allí existe una débil seguridad, infraestructuras en deterioro, hacinamiento por excesos de la población penal, guardias mal entrenados y corrupción rampante… los encargados han permitido que bandas armadas de malhechores tomen el control efectivo de las prisiones”.

Un documento emitido por los obispos católicos romanos de Argentina califica la presente situación del país como “enferma de violencia”, en donde los delitos han aumentado en cantidad y agresividad. La presidenta Cristina Fernández tomó las declaraciones como una crítica a su gobierno y dijo que se “pretende reeditar viejos enfrentamientos” como los sucedidos en los años 70. Observadores opinan que este documento rompe la cordialidad que existió entre ambas instituciones desde que Mario Bergoglio, arzobispo de Buenos Aires, asumió el cargo de papa. Los argentinos consideran la seguridad personal como la principal preocupación del país.

Luego de un aluvión de críticas por la realización de una misa negra satánica en el campus de la Universidad de Harvard en Cambridge, Estados Unidos, los organizadores del controvertido evento decidieron efectuarla fuera de sus instalaciones.

La secta nigeriana islamista Boko Haram ha dicho que está dispuesta a canjear las casi 300 jovencitas que fueron secuestradas hace pocas semanas, por los insurgentes arrestados por las fuerzas de seguridad del país. El líder del grupo añadió en un video que las niñas en su mayoría cristianas “han sido convertidas al islam”.

La Parroquia Anglicana de la Sagrada Familia en Tláhuac, estado de México, sirvió recientemente como anfitriona de una reunión con la comunidad ecuménica de Taizé. La reunión contó con jóvenes de todo México, 13 naciones de América Latina y Europa.LaComunidad de Taizées una comunidad monástica cristianaecuménica, fundada en 1940 por el teólogo suizo Roger Schutz, conocido como el Hermano Roger, en la localidad deTaizé,Francia, que continúa siendo su sede. Taizé es reconocida mundialmente como un foco deecumenismo entre los jóvenes.

Aldo Vara, ex capellán del Ejército Argentino, acusado de delitos de lesa humanidad durante la dictadura ha sido encontrado en una parroquia de Ciudad del Este. Dada su edad, 80 años y su salud cumple arresto domiciliario donde trabajaba durante los tres últimos años celebrando la Eucaristía y oyendo confesiones.

El Consejo Jurídico de la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Estados Unidos ha decretado que parejas del mismo sexo no pueden casarse en la iglesia pero si uno de ellos trabaja en una de las 13 agencias de la denominación puede recibir beneficios si el estado lo permite.

Los que defienden la Reforma Migratoria en Estados Unidos siguen “presionando” a los políticos que se oponen ella o no toman las medidas necesarias como el presidente Barack Obama. Lo que más le duele a la comunidad indocumentada latina son las deportaciones. Janet Murguía, presidenta del Concilio Nacional de la Raza, se refirió al presidente como “El Deportador en Jefe”. El senador Bob Menéndez y los congresistas Luis Gutiérrez y Mario Díaz-Balart se han puesto contra el presidente y públicamente le han pedido “que no destruya más familias” con las deportaciones.

Uhuru Kanyatta, presidente de Kenia, ha firmado una ley que autoriza la poligamia. La ley permite que un hombre pueda tener tantas mujeres como quiera siempre y cuando las pueda mantener. Kenia tiene 42 tribus y muchas no tienen límite al número de esposas que cada hombre puede tener.

Un amable lector nos escribe que en una reciente nota sobre San Juan Pablo II se habla de encubrimiento de abusos sexuales y él piensa que más apropiado sería decir “supuestos” abusos sexuales. Tiene razón nuestro lector, pedimos disculpas y vaya aquí la aclaración.

El gobierno de Cataluña, España, ha decidido otorgarle el Premio Cataluña al obispo anglicano jubilado de Ciudad del Cabo, Sudáfrica, por “su vigorosa y constante lucha por la justicia social”. La entrega será hecha el 3 de junio en el Palau de la Generalitat.

VERDAD. Honor a quien honor merezca.

Seminary of the Southwest graduates 33, honors three

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Seminary of the Southwest held its sixty-third commencement on May 13th at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Austin.

Justo González, Cuban American historian, theologian and author preached at the Holy Eucharist. The seminary awarded honorary doctorates to González, to the Rev. Alejandro Montes, the founding rector of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Houston, Texas, the first Spanish speaking mission to become a parish in the United States, and to Mr. John Jockusch, philanthropist, lay leader and member of St. David’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio.

Chair of the seminary’s board of trustees, the Rt. Rev. Dena Harrison and Dean and President Cynthia Briggs Kittredge awarded 33 diplomas to seminarians completing the Master of Divinity, MA in Religion, MA in Counseling, MA in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, MA in Spiritual Formation and Diploma in Anglican Studies.

Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest (LSPS) presented certificates to graduates of their Theological Education for Emerging Ministries program.

Commencement sermon

González honorary degree citation

Montes honorary degree citation

Jockusch honorary degree citation

 

Joyous celebration of Frances Perkins’ feast day from Maine to D.C.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The new Frances Perkins icon, written by Iconographer Suzanne Schleck, is displayed May 13 on the altar at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newcastle, Maine. Photo: Heidi Shott

[Episcopal News Service] In her many different roles as public servant but especially as secretary of labor in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cabinet, Frances Perkins exemplified these words, working steadfastly and ceaselessly to ensure that the poor and needy in our land “be maintained in health and decency.”

“Like Jesus who fed the multitudes rather than turning them away,” the Rev. Lu-Anne Conner of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newcastle, Maine said, “when Frances Perkins saw the breadlines during the Great Depression, she understood that her work was to ‘go and do likewise.’” And she did – by helping to create Social Security, secure a minimum wage, shorten the work day and by end child labor.

“Celebrating the [May 13] feast day of Frances Perkins,” said Conner, “is particularly meaningful at St. Andrew’s because Frances Perkins worshiped here for 60 years.

“This year our celebration was made even more memorable by the dedication of an icon, a gift of the Rev. Amelia Hagen,”added Perkins’ grandson, Tomlin Coggeshall, who is a St. Andrew’s parishioner and lives at The Brick House in Newcastle – the family home where his grandmother spent so much time.

“My grandmother would be both thrilled and humbled. The icon is absolutely beautiful. I feel that my grandmother’s persona will inhabit it more and more over time.”

Frances Perkins Center Executive Director Michael Chaney, who attended the dedication, said: “The Frances Perkins icon is a moving image that reminds us of how she placed her secular work in the context of working for God and for the greater good of all people.”

In 1905 Frances Perkins joined the Episcopal Church. For the next 60 years, she derived inspiration, solace, and courage from worship and contemplation to carry out her work and to face her personal struggles. During regular weekend retreats at the All Saints Convent in Catonsville, Maryland, she “spent hours pondering spiritual issues and how to lead a godly life in a secular world…. The nuns found her in the early morning hours in the chapel, praying on her hands and knees for guidance,” according to Kirsten Downey in her book about Perkins, The Woman Behind the New Deal.  In Washington, she often attended early morning services during the week at the Parish of Saint James (now Saint Monica and Saint James).

Icons as invitation to contemplation and action
Upon seen the Perkins icon for the first time, Heidi Shott, canon for communications and social justice for the Diocese in Maine, said it “gave me tender pause. This beautifully written icon is a tangible object to remind me of what is possible when we use our gifts for God.”

And that is exactly what their purpose is, according to iconographer Suzanne Schleck, who wrote the icon.

“Icons,” said Schleck, “are an invitation to enter into relationship with God.”

Creating them involves artistry and inspiration. The process allows the “icons to come through our hands. As layer upon layer of light is added, a face emerges from the darkness. In both form and content an icon is a parable of hope, and faith in the redeeming love of our God,” Schleck wrote on her website.

Creating the icon of Frances Perkins, Schleck found inspiration in the fact that Perkins “put her beliefs and faith into action so effectively.”

“Taking care of others,” said Schleck, “is her message to us. when I look at it, it makes me laugh! Yes! It’s possible. You can live that way!”

The Rev. Amelia Hagen, right, gives the Frances Perkins icon to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newcastle, Maine. The Rev. Lu-Anne Conner, St. Andrew’s rector, and Tomlin Coggeshall, Perkins’ grandson, accept the gift. Photo: Heidi Shott

Biographer Downey said “It is fitting that Frances Perkins has been immortalized in an icon. She was a profoundly spiritual woman who constantly sought God’s guidance to help give every person in America, as she said, ‘the best possible life.’”

The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, a member of the Frances Perkins Center board of directors, commented that “it’s great to see an inspiring icon of this twentieth century saint.”

“Her apparel in the icon recalls what she characteristically wore, including her famous hat. The scroll features words with which she described her mission as United States labor secretary and as a Christian called to public service at a time of national crisis.

“Saints are reminders to us of how the reign of God is manifest in many times and places. A saint from our society, who lived not so long ago, is a challenge for us to realize God’s mercy is among us now and we are to live in accord with that mercy.”

A personal glimpse
Christopher Breiseth knew Frances Perkins well. They met when she was a visiting professor at Cornell University and a grandmother.

Breiseth, who chairs the Frances Perkins Center board of directors, was a graduate student and president of the Telluride House at Cornell.

He and his housemates invited Perkins to live with them at Telluride. Perkins gladly accepted, remarking to friends, “Do you know what those boys have done? I feel like a bride on her wedding night!” Breiseth said here.

Breiseth added that Perkins treated everyone with respect, even very tough political and labor leaders. There was an inner confidence combined with humility that reduced barriers, he said. She did not wear her spirituality on her sleeve but one knew in watching her day after day how profoundly religious she was.

The celebration of Perkins’ feast day continued down the East Coast on the route she so often traveled by train from Maine to Washington. Speaking at the Episcopal Chaplaincy Mass at Princeton University Chapel, Donn Mitchell, author of “Frances Perkins: Architect of a Gracious Society”, remarked, “The icon signals that the work and witness of Frances Perkins continues to bless us. I hope that it will also inspire us to emulate her steadfast love of the community.”

In Washington, D.C., Tomlin Coggeshall delivered the homily at an evening service on May 13 at the Parish of Saint Monica and Saint James, where his grandmother worshiped when in Washington.

Coggeshall also met with Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. A portrait of Perkins hangs behind Secretary Perez’s desk. She is, he told Coggeshall, a “gold standard for labor secretaries.”

“Her portrait hangs over my desk, so that every day I can be inspired by the example she set and the legacy she left for the department,” Perez said in a statement later released by his office. “She is one of the most extraordinary women in American history, and a guiding light for us as we work to expand opportunity for all.”

– Christiana Adams, a parishioner at St. Andrew’s, is a communications consultant and ed

Video: Archbishop of Canterbury on the South Sudan crisis

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]

[Episcopal News Service] “We must be battering down the gates of heaven in prayer” for South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says during an interview with Episcopal News Service.

During the past five months, South Sudan has faced its greatest challenge since becoming the world’s newest nation in July 2011, when it seceded from the north in a referendum on independence following almost half a century of civil war.

A separate conflict erupted last December after South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused his sacked former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Welby visited South Sudan in late January and witnessed some of the atrocities of the conflict. In the interview with ENS, Welby relayed his visit to Bor, in Jonglei State, where he said he saw dead bodies lining the streets and where he consecrated a mass grave.

In the midst of evil, Welby said that he saw God “in the extraordinary fact that after half a century of civil war, and the hardening that that causes, that we could stand in Bor and see people weeping with compassion because the spirit of God still moves with love in their hearts.”

But even as hope emerged on May 9 when the two rivals agreed to a truce and to forming a transitional government ahead of fresh elections, fighting has continued in parts of South Sudan. The humanitarian crisis is vast and the South Sudanese are desperately in need of the world’s support. The conflict has left thousands dead and some 1.5 million people have been displaced.

The church in South Sudan has played a major role in peace and reconciliation. Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, chair of the national reconciliation program, was summoned to the May 9 meeting between the two rivals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before Kiir and Machar signed the peace deal, Deng held their hands and led a prayer.

Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called the Episcopal Church to prayer and action for South Sudan, saying she would like Episcopalians “to learn more about the situation, to be in contact with their legislators, to pray, and to reach out to the Sudanese in their own neighborhoods.”

She was joined May 9 by heads of the North American Lutheran and Anglican churches in calling the church to prayer, especially as the Episcopal Church calendar commemorates the Martyrs of Sudan on May 16.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations provided a template for an advocacy letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, urging him to support peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

For further information about the crisis in South Sudan and resources for prayer, study and action, visit: www.episcopalchurch.org/sudan.

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop preaches in Washington, DC

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Pubic Affairs] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the following sermon during morning Eucharist May 14 at the Simpson Memorial Chapel in the United Methodist Building across from U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty
14 May 2014
Washington, DC

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Do you know the story of Sisyphus?  He’s a character in Greek mythology who’s condemned to roll the same rock up the hill forever.  Every time he gets to the top of the hill, the rock rolls right back down.  His story has something in common with Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, who has to repeat the same day until he gets things a little closer to right.  The difference is that Sisyphus is stuck for eternity.

We are in the same sort of uphill business, but we’re in it for the sake of eternity.  We’re here today to bear the Rock of Ages up this hill.  Jesus insists that his job isn’t to judge the world but to save it – by speaking what he’s been commanded:  eternal life.  That’s the word and vision we’re supposed to bring up with us.  All Jesus’ followers are meant to be climbing up the hill to spread a vision of eternal and abundant life.  And we also claim the hope that there will eventually be an end to climbing up the hill.

This understanding of eternity is shorthand for the Reign of God fully present.  It’s about humanity and all creation collaborating in an ecosystem of justice, living in freedom and holiness.  The Navajo word for it is hozho, often translated as beauty or balance.  Hebrew calls it shalom.  It means knowing that we are all related and connected, and that how we live affects all others – that we will only find peace and justice when we live consciously interdependent lives.  This is the vision that the prophets have always held up.  Hear again Isaiah’s banquet on the hillside:  “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples… he will swallow up death forever.  Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…”[1]

That’s what needs to roll up the hill today – that image of a holy picnic, so that all the people of this nation might enjoy the feast.  Go up that hill “as a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”[2]  Take your part in the body of Christ, and be that flaming vision of righteousness that Bishop Stacy referred to on Monday.  A verse we didn’t hear:

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,

They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:

God’s day is marching on.[3]

Be the flaming lamp that gives light to the world we share.[4]  Take your light up that hill, light fires in those who have grown cold or dead, and let it combine with others, to bring light to this and every nation.

This hill could help build a city that sheds light on the nations.  That’s certainly what our forebears here hoped for.  We may doubt that this hill will ever induce the nations to stream in and learn righteousness, beauty, and balance in human relationships.  It’s been something of the opposite in recent years.  But the dreams you bear up here can help to warm cold hearts and remind us all of our interconnectedness.  As the psalmist puts it, when the people practice justice, God blesses it, and the nations stand in awe of it.  Consider your travels this day like marching to Zion, the beautiful city of God:  “Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known; join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne.”[5]

This hill is much like the one Jesus climbed when he went to confront the powers in Jerusalem.  It is the hill of Calvary as well.  It is a place of sacrifice, where each of us can offer something of ourselves for the life of the whole body.  May your offering this day bring healing and holiness.  Be like the widow seeking justice – keep knocking at the door of justice.

Remember that none of us goes alone to this task – we go in company, as part of the body of Christ, and the company of all faithful people seeking that eternal vision of holy and healed community.  Barnabas and Saul were sent out by a band of leaders and advocates in the church in Antioch, who represented the diversity of the Mediterranean world:  Simeon the Black, Lucius from Libya, and even Manaean, a member of Herod’s court (some say he was Herod’s foster-brother) – quite a range of ethnicities and social locations.  They sent them off to Cyprus and Greece to share this vision with the whole world.  You don’t climb this hill alone.  You go as part of the company of saints, on behalf of the forgotten in this land.  The message you carry today is an essential piece of bringing true peace everywhere.

Our hope lies in expecting to find God there ahead of us, already at work transforming hearts and minds toward that vision of eternity.  I would challenge you to expect to meet the image of God in your visits this day – in people who disagree with you, or seem not to listen.  Search for God’s image anyway.  Share what you know of the image of God in the poor, in yourself and in your neighbor.  You’ve had a remarkable experience of meeting the image of God in this gathering, which has now become a body of friends.  Can you share that light with those you meet today?

This Congress has had enormous difficulty recently in seeing the holiness of all sorts of others – those with different positions and strategic approaches to the nation’s problems, those with little voice in national politics, the hungry and poor for whom we used to claim the door was fully open.  You might take with you the torch of freedom, an image born of the more cosmic one we know as the eternal light of the world:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning,
And her name, Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome…

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, Tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door![6]

The Mother of Exiles welcomes the poor.  Anselm of Canterbury put it this way in the 11th century:  “Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.  Often you weep over our sins and our pride, tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment. You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.”[7]

Bear the torchlight up the hill, spread its flame, and open the door of true and holy freedom for all.

[1] Isaiah 25:6-8a

[2] Isaiah 49:6

[3] Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe, v 2

[4] Matthew 5:15

[5] Isaac Watts, “We’re Marching to Zion.”

[6] Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus.”  Inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

[7] Canticle Q, “A Song of Christ’s Goodness,” Anselm of Canterbury.  Enriching Our Worship 1 39

Special offering will help Navajoland ministry

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopalians have a great opportunity to aid and participate in the ministry for Native Americans through a special offering that will assist the ongoing mission work in Navajoland.

The Navajoland Area Mission is 26,000 square miles that spreads over Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“For over 100 years The Episcopal Church has had a presence in Navajoland,” Bishop David E. Bailey stated in an April letter sent to all congregations. “As we work to reclaim our traditional spirituality and culture, we must simultaneously address the damage incurred by our history. Some of that damage is emotional and some of it is physical.”

Among the requests cited by Bishop Bailey is the construction of new hooghans, a traditional Navajoland dwelling. He is asking for funds to build the ceremonial and educational hooghan at St. Christopher Mission in Bluff, Utah, one of the churches of Navajoland.

Hooghans cost $25,000 to build and are used for traditional ceremonies as well as educational purposes.

“I hope that you will consider joining us in prayer and giving to this Special Offering which promises new life for our people,” Bishop Bailey said.

Donations can be made online here or send checks to The Development Office, The Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave., NY NY 10017.

For more information contact Cornelia Eaton at ceaton@ec-n.org.

Comité de Solidaridad con las Personas Desnacionalizadas

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Comité de Solidaridad] Seis semanas después de la ronda de consultas del presidente Danilo Medina a sectores políticos y religiosos y a casi ocho meses de la infausta sentencia 168-13 del Tribunal Constitucional (TC), es tiempo más que suficiente para que se materialice la solución humanitaria y acorde con los principios fundamentales de la Constitución  y el derecho internacional que ha sido reiteradas veces prometida. Por encima de toda consideración está el sufrimiento y daño causado a decenas de miles de personas que tienen suspendidos sus derechos fundamentales.

1.- En primer lugar debemos señalar que este Comité de Solidaridad está constituido por más de 500 dominicanos y dominicanas de diversos sectores sociales con el objetivo de contribuir a una solución humana que reivindique los derechos constitucionales y los compromisos de la nación con los preceptos fundamentales del derecho internacional, con ánimo de entendimiento y respeto de la diversidad, no para estimular la confrontación, la exclusión y el odio que algunos tratan de sembrar.

2.- En cumplimiento de ese objetivo hemos tocado todas las puertas donde podíamos encontrar interlocutores, desde el presidente de la República y sus más cercanos colaboradores, al presidente del Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, el expresidente de la República Leonel Fernández, hasta el liderazgo político, empresarial, religioso y social. Es relevante que en todos ha habido comprensión sobre la justeza y necesidad de una solución que restituya los derechos conculcados, aunque por diversos caminos. Ello incluye a los dos mayores líderes del partido gobernante y que tiene absoluta mayoría en las cámaras legislativas, y de manera relevante a todos los líderes empresariales y religiosos con los que hemos conversado.

3.- Vale precisar que en la reunión que sostuvimos con el doctor Leonel Fernández hace cinco semanas, él nos informó de un consenso que había alcanzado con el presidente Medina para reconocer mediante ley las actas de nacimiento registradas por los oficiales del Estado Civil antes de la sentencia 168-13, lo que revocaría las desnacionalizaciones. Aunque compartiendo los criterios del TC que las ha considerado improcedentes, entiende que no se puede hacer pagar el “error del Estado” a personas que no han intervenido en su materialización.

4.- Seguimos sosteniendo que la sentencia viola una docena de preceptos constitucionales y reiteramos nuestra preferencia por una solución dominicana al conflicto originado por la circular 12-07 de la JCE y la sentencia del TC, partiendo del planteamiento del numeral 2 del Artículo 18 de la Constitución que reconoce la ciudadanía a “quienes gocen de la nacionalidad dominicana antes de la entrada en vigencia de esta Constitución”, así como del Artículo 110 de la misma Constitución que ratifica el principio jurídico de la no retroactividad de la ley: “En ningún caso los poderes públicos o la ley podrán afectar la seguridad jurídica derivada de situaciones establecidas conforme a una legislación anterior”.

5.- Sin embargo, si somos incapaces de hacer prevalecer los principios constitucionales en torno a los derechos de la nacionalidad de los nacidos en el país antes de la Constitución del 2010 que cambió el marco jurídico al respecto,  tenemos la posibilidad de apelar a una opinión consultiva de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), prevista en el artículo 72 de su reglamento y en el 64 de la Convención Americana de los Derechos Humanos, instrumentos ratificados por el Estado dominicano y que son parte del bloque de constitucionalidad de acuerdo con el artículo 74.3 de la Constitución de la República.

6. La prolongación de este grave conflicto solo sirve para que la nación dominicana siga siendo cuestionada en todos los ámbitos del derecho internacional y sigamos recibiendo acusaciones de xenofobia y racismo de organismos y organizaciones, así como de medios de comunicación social de todo el mundo. Esos cuestionamientos, en vez de disminuir como algunos esperaban, han estado en permanece crecimiento con el paso de los meses. Con el agravante de que al final nos espera un dictamen revocatorio y vinculante  de la CIDH  considerado inevitable a la luz de  su jurisprudencia, especialmente por la sentencia del 2005 sobre el caso Yan y Bosico.

7.- Como planteamos en comunicado del 29 de noviembre, “La superación de este conflicto, que ha dividido profundamente a la sociedad dominicana, permitirá centrar la atención en la recién presentada propuesta de  “Plan Nacional de Regularización de Extranjeros en Situación Migratoria Irregular”, discutido durante casi dos años. Esta propuesta parece más realista y viable, y supera considerablemente las dos versiones anteriores. La misma  contempla las medidas fundamentales para iniciar el control de la desproporcionada inmigración haitiana. Saludamos este esfuerzo normativo que deberá proseguirse con otros de carácter nacional y bilaterales, al tiempo que reclamamos que no se le contamine pretendiendo ahora aplicarlo a nacionales dominicanos, nacidos en el país, como ocurre en el Párrafo del Artículo 8 del Proyecto.”

Superemos definitivamente este diferendo y permitamos que el gobierno concentre toda su atención en los grandes propósitos que presentó al electorado hace dos años.-

Santo Domingo, 13 de mayo del 2014.

Equipo de Coordinación

Miguel Ceara Hatton               Carmen Amelia Cedeño

Juan Bolívar Díaz                    Mons. Julio César Holguín K.

Víctor Víctor                              Wilfredo Lozano

Eulogia Familia                       Cristóbal Rodríguez

Rev. Mario Serrano                 Ana Selman

Guadalupe Valdez                   Pavel Isa Contreras

Roque Félix                               Sergia Galvan

Guillermo Esterlín                   Manuel Robles

Boston-based non-profit Episcopal City Mission divests from fossil fuels

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Episcopal City Mission press release] Episcopal City Mission (ECM), an agent for social and economic justice with headquarters in Boston, MA, has decided to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. The unanimous vote of the ECM Board of Directors took place at the May 8 meeting after months of research, reflection and deliberation that included diligent analysis of the potential financial impact of divestment on its investments. The Finances Committee and the Board of Directors were satisfied that ECM’s portfolio manager has designed an investment strategy with comparable returns so that their fiduciary responsibilities for the endowment can be exercised without exposure to fossil fuels.

The action of the ECM Board comes in part in response to a Resolution passed by the 2013 Diocesan Convention on “Environmentally Responsible Investing.” The Diocesan Resolution calls for a freezing of direct investments in the Carbon Tracker top 200 fossil fuel companies; its asks that the Trustees of the Diocese, congregations, and other affiliated institutions research and identify “best in class” fossil fuel companies and that assets of the Diocesan Investment Trust only include “best in class” fossil fuels companies after November 2013, and it calls for the design of “an alternative investment vehicle that is free from fossil fuel production companies.” ECM, an institution affiliated to the Diocese, had already limited its exposure to fossil fuels only to “best in class” companies prior to November 2013. After the November 2013 Diocesan Convention, ECM began to work with its portfolio manager to explore an alternative instrument, free of fossil fuels. On May 8, 2014 ECM adopted it.

After the vote, the Chair of the Board of Episcopal City Mission, The Rev. Noah H. Evans, said: “It is my hope the ECM’s actions here will encourage other Episcopal organizations, including our own Diocese’s Trustees of Donations and other investors, to take a hard look at their portfolios and whether they are in line with their faith commitments, including social justice and caring for creation.”

ECM’s Executive Director, Dr. Ruy O. Costa, quoted the teachings of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome that “creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God,” and commented: “I hope that what is manifested in our work and through our investments is a theology of caring: caring for our neighbors, caring for the future, and caring for nature.”

Episcopal City Mission works for social and economic justice with special attention to the needs of the urban poor. ECM mobilizes Episcopal parishes, individuals and resources in partnership with other community organizations for social structural change. ECM supports community organizing, mission-related investments in affordable housing, community economic development, and public policy advocacy.

New Zealand: Synod sees way forward for same-sex blessings

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Anglican Taonga] General Synod on May 14 passed a resolution that will create a pathway towards the blessing of same-sex relationships – while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage.

It will appoint a working group to report to the 2016 General Synod on “a process and structure” that would allow those clergy who wish to bless same-sex relationships – using a yet-to-be developed liturgy – to do so.

The working group will also be charged to develop “a process and structure” to ensure that clergy who believe that same-sex blessings are contrary to “scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law” to remain fully free to dissent.

The “process and structure” in their case would mean these clergy would not only be exempt from performing these same-sex blessings – but that their “integrity within the church” would be assured, and they would have full protection for their dissent in any relevant human rights legislation.

Synod has therefore upheld the traditional doctrine of marriage – but also moved to find ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, regardless of gender.

In effect, it has also established a four-year timeline for change to take effect: the working group will present its recommendations to the 2016 General Synod, and any constitutional and canonical changes would then have to be reported back to episcopal units before confirmation at the 2018 General Synod.

New liturgy to be developed
The working group has been asked to propose a liturgy to “bless right-ordered same-gender relationships” – and to develop a process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which such a new liturgy might be adopted.

Synod has also asked the group (which is yet to be formed) to report to the next synod on the impact of its work on the church’s theology of marriage, and of ordination.

The preamble to the resolution adopted by the General Synod also includes an unreserved apology to the LGBT community:

“Over many years,” this reads, “our church has become increasingly aware of the pain of the LGBT community. All too often our church has been complicit in homophobic thinking and actions of society, and has failed to speak out against hatred and violence against those with same-gender attraction.

“We apologise unreservedly and commit ourselves to reconciliation and prophetic witness.”

‘Recognition’ now for couples
In the last part of the resolution, synod says it is “acutely aware of the desire of some clergy to make further response pastorally and prayerfully to LGBT people in their faith communities.”

It therefore says such clergy should be permitted “to recognize in public worship” a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community – provided the permission of the licensing bishop is gained, as well as the permission of their vestry.

Such “recognition,” however, “cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.”

“We recognize that this may cause even further distress,” the resolution says. But noting the commitment of the church to move forward, “we ask the LGBT community to recognize that any process of change within our church takes time.”

Archbishops commend spirit of debate
The archbishops say that by adopting the resolution, synod has shown its commitment to protecting diversity in the church.

And they have expressed their gratitude for the way synod has debated the issues and come to its resolution.

Archbishop Winston Halapua says synod has shown “it is committed to ongoing talanoa as it considers change” and is following “the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”

Archbishop Philip Richardson was equally moved by the way debate flowed:

“We have witnessed across the church,” he says, “a depth of extraordinary trust and respect. There is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point.

“There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”

• The full, unedited text of the General Synod resolution is available here.

The Rev. KyungJa (KJ) Oh will become Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation’s director of field education and formation

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

[Bexley Seabury Federation press release] Bexley Seabury Federation President Roger Ferlo announced May 12 that the Rev. KyungJa (KJ) Oh, a Seabury MDiv alumna (’00) and current DMin student, will become the Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation’s director of field education and formation. Oh is currently rector of The Episcopal Church of the Advent in Walnut Hills, Ohio in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Oh will join the staff on July 1 and be based at Bexley Hall in Columbus, Ohio, located on the campus of Trinity Lutheran Seminary. As director of field education and formation, she will oversee a comprehensive field education program, direct the seminary’s spiritual formation program, provide worship resources for students, and serve as an academic advisor and pastoral leader.

Oh has been a priest in the Diocese of Chicago and chaplain for the Oncology Department at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She has studied theology at Cambridge University in England and French literature at the Sorbonne, and holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Illinois Wesleyan University. She lives with her partner, Melissa McNeill, and has two children and two grandchildren.

Test

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ministry of missionaries featured in new Episcopal Church video

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The mission, ministry, and impact of Episcopal Church missionaries on a local community through the Episcopal Volunteers in Mission program are featured in a new video here.

The video about Episcopal Volunteers in Mission features two  missionaries, Kyle Evans of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and Dan Tootle of the Diocese of Maryland, as they minister to the people and travel through the streets of Haiti.

“The ministry of Episcopal Volunteers in Mission is far-reaching and important,” commented the Rev. David Copley, Mission Personnel Officer. “The video illustrates the hands-on work, spiritual transformation, and positive impact of two of our missionaries in Haiti.”

Episcopal Volunteers in Mission is a program for adults 30 years and older who are interested in exploring their faith in new ways by living and serving in communities around the Anglican Communion. Currently there are 43 adult missionaries serving in 19 countries including, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Jerusalem, Kenya, Qatar, South Africa, Taiwan, and Tanzania.

The video was produced by the Episcopal Church Office of Communication.

In addition, a different program designed for ages 21-30 is the Young Adult Service Corps, commonly known as YASC.  YASC is a ministry for Episcopal young adults who are interested in exploring their faith in new ways by living and serving in communities around the Anglican Communion. Currently 24 young adults from 24 Episcopal Church dioceses are serving as missionaries in locales throughout the Anglican Communion.

For more information about the Episcopal Volunteers in Mission program or YASC, contact Copley at dcopley@episcopalchurch.org.

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