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Archbishop of Canterbury joins multi-faith peace vigil for Iraq

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby with Muslim and Jewish leaders outside Westminster Abbey, London, 3 September 2014. Photo: Lambeth Palace

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined faith leaders and representatives from faith-based NGOs today for a vigil showing solidarity with the people of Iraq and affirming the message that #WeAreAllHuman.

Welby joined Imam Ibrahim Mogra, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani at the vigil outside Westminster Abbey by the Innocent Victims Memorial.

Speaking at the vigil, Archbishop Justin said he joined the other faith leaders in “unreservedly” condemning the way that minority faith communities are being “wiped out” in ISIS-controlled areas.

The Archbishop, who met and prayed with Middle East church leaders at Lambeth Palace this morning, added that faith communities must also “stand against” the recent spike in attacks against Jews and Muslims in the UK.

“This must stop. We are all human,” he said.

The vigil was jointly organised by Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and World Jewish Relief in partnership with the Church of England, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Movement for Reform Judaism.

Read more:
Archbishop’s statement on Mid-East’s Christians 

Archbishop on the “terrible suffering” in Iraq

Video: Archbishop of Canterbury on Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, September 4, 2014

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken of “a state of emergency” in the Middle East for Christians and other minorities.

After meeting and praying with leaders and representatives of Middle East churches at Lambeth Palace on Sept. 3, the archbishop said there have been “gross violations” of “fundamental rights and freedoms” in the region.

Read the text of the statement

Flanked by the other church leaders, the archbishop said in a statement to the media: “We gather today as Christians, including those originally from the Middle East, to stand in solidarity and prayer with our brothers and sisters, who seek to practice their faith and belief in lands where they have been a continuing presence since the beginning of Christianity,” he said.

Calling for justice “without impunity”, the Archbishop said the suffering of those bearing the brunt of ongoing terror “requires us to act and bear witness to their plight, whatever ethnic group or religious minority they come from.”

Later in the morning, the archbishop joined other faith leaders at a joint peace vigil for Iraq outside Westminster Abbey.

South Sudan bishop: ‘Did our martyrs die in vain?’

Thursday, September 4, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican bishop has challenged the people of South Sudan and its leaders not to dishonor the memory of national martyrs by fighting each other.

Bishop of Wau Diocese in South Sudan, the Rt. Rev. Moses Deng Bol, stressed that for the young African nation to have a viable future there needed to be “love and unity” among its people.

Referring to the 22-year Sudanese Civil War that resulted in South Sudan becoming an independent nation in 2012 he said, “Did our martyrs die so that we would fight each other? Did they die for no good reason and do we keep disgracing them with our actions?”

“We have all seen too much hatred and fear and as a country we need unity and love,” he said. “South Sudan has seen a lot of violence and death and many people have experienced evil things that they will never forget.”

“[But] if our country is ever going to develop and become a better place we must find a way to forgive this pain. This may sound like too much to ask and even unreasonable, but we must challenge ourselves to forgive freely as a people.”

Unity means plenty for everyone
Deng said that much good comes from unity and that people must see the need for unity for South Sudan to be a strong and prosperous country. “If we are united we can have plenty and become a country we can all be proud of,” he said.

“Imagine if President Salva Kiir and former Vice President (now Rebel Leader) Riek Machier could forgive each other now and form a government of national unity. What a statement of faith that would be for the future of our young country. It would give everyone hope,” he said.

“As long as we think only of tribes and settle disagreements with violence there will be no progress.”

Refugees can’t nation build
Reports indicate that more than 1 million people have been displaced inside South Sudan and more than 400,000 people have fled to neighboring countries of Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, as a result of the conflict.

Politically the country is divided along tribal lines, largely between the tribes of Dinka and Nuer. Bishop Deng said this is particularly damaging for a young nation like South Sudan.

In term of economic development, parts of the country have slipped back to the levels during the Second Civil War (between 1983-2005). Many people are stuck in UN camps, others are in internally displaced peoples camps, and others in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

The bishop said these displaced South Sudanese are in no position to produce anything for themselves or for the country.

“Life for everyone in South Sudan should get better and people should be more educated,” he reasoned. “We should be more united as a country and work together to promote peace and reconciliation everywhere in the country.

“Jesus did not teach hatred he taught forgiveness, and the life he lived serves as an example for everyone. There was no one that Jesus would not help because his faith in God was so strong,” he said.

General Convention 2015 exhibitor applications available

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Exhibitor applications are now available for organizations and vendors interested in exhibiting at The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention,June 25 – July 3, 2015 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay representatives elected from the 110 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Exhibitor applications are available through the General Convention website here.

The Exhibit area serves as a marketplace and educational arena for attendees. General Convention Manager Lori M. Ionnitiu explained that General Convention attracts thousands of people of all ages for more than one week which provides a desirable venue for exhibitors.

For more information contact Ionnitiu at LIonnitiu@episcopalchurch.org212-716-6048

Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council communiqué

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

[Anglican Communion Office] The Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council (AOCICC) met in Kilkenny, Ireland, from 27 to 30 August 2014.

This was the second meeting of the Council in its present round.

Major tasks of this meeting included:

  • Editing of a booklet which introduces AOCICC’s 2011 paper on Ecclesiology and Mission (Belonging Together in Europe) for the faithful of both communions;
  • Consideration of how to develop further concrete proposals for the common mission of the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches on the European continent;
  • Updating each other about developments within each Communion, including plans for the upcoming International Old Catholic Congress which will mark the 125th anniversary of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches;
  • Briefing each other about developments in the bilateral ecumenical relationships in which each Communion is engaged.

A special session of the Council was devoted to engaging with representatives of European institutions in Ireland, to understand better the possibilities for engagement and witness in Europe; particularly how to take advantage of the opportunities for consultation afforded the Churches under the EU treaties.

The Council prayed and studied the Bible daily and, having visited the St Willibrord exhibition in Carlow, celebrated the Eucharist at Leighlin Cathedral together with members of the Church of Ireland.

The Council is grateful to the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory for its hospitality, the Dean and parishioners of Leighlin, and especially to Bishop Michael Burrows and his family, who welcomed the Council into their home for the meeting.

The Council wishes to record its gratitude to Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan for her distinguished contribution to its work over the last five years, and assures her of its prayers for the future.

The Council will meet again in Zurich, Switzerland 26–30 May 2015

For further information, please contact the Revd Lars Simpson +41 44 211 12 76, lars.simpson@christkath-zuerich.ch; or Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan at the Anglican Communion Office, +44 20 7313 3930, alyson.barnett-cowan@anglicancommunion.org.

Present at the meeting:

Anglicans

The Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Co-chair
The Revd Jennifer Adams-Massman
The Rt Revd David Hamid
Mrs Jennifer Knudsen
Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Co-secretary
Mr Neil Vigers, Anglican Communion Office

Old Catholics

The Rt Revd Dr Dirk Jan Schoon, Co-chair
The Revd Professor Dr Angela Berlis
The Revd Professor Dr David R Holeton

41 St. Paul’s students earned AP Scholar Awards

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[St. Paul’s Episcopal School - press release] St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama, is honored to announce that forty-one students were listed among the highest scorers in the country by their performance in their AP courses and exams.

These AP Scholars have demonstrated college-level achievement through rigorous classes accredited by the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) which provides willing and academically prepared high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses to earn college credit. The College Board recognizes several levels of achievement based on students’ performance on the AP Exams.

AP Scholar: Granted to students who receive grades of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.

Kendall A. Bailey, Virginia G. Cottrell*, Nina C. Crawford*, Zoe S. Donalson*, Marissa F. Donovan*, Taylor L. Evans, William R. Foster, Hallie A. King*, Jonathan Landry*, Klaudia J. Larson*, Rachel McCaslin*, Whitney N. Myers*, Ellis K. Nobles, Matthews O’Connor*, Zachary B. Parker, Brockton M. Payne*, Rebecca M. Pober*, Graham Reeves*, Caroline E. Scott, Richard Smith, Virginia M. Vichi-Miller*, Benton G. Weinacker, Susan D. Wettermark. 

AP Scholar with Honor: Granted to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, AND grades of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.

 Taylor A. Bahos*, Ryan Cox*, Kellsey L. Daggett*, Matthew A. D’Alonzo, Victoria M. Falkos, George R. Irvine*, Wade K. Naritoku*

AP Scholar with Distinction: Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams, AND scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams.

 Abigail L. Blankenship*, Conner J. Denton*, Holly N. Friedlander*, Alexandra L. Goodwin*, Louis A. Henry*, Katherine B. Jeffries*, John F. Kavula*, Brewer G. Kirkendall*, Jessica R. Knezha*, Katherine M. Steadman*, Danielle C. Williamson*

National AP Scholar: Granted to students in the United States who receive an average score of at least 4 on all AP exams and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams.

 Abigail L. Blankenship*, Danielle C. Williamson*

To learn more about these scholars and the Advanced Placement curriculum at St. Paul’s Episcopal School, contact Morgan Berney, Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at 251.461.2145 or mberney@stpaulsmobile.net.

RIP: Sr. Lucy Shetters of the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On August 29, 2014, the Rev. Sister Lucy of the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province (aka Lucy Lee Shetters) died in her 80th year of life, the 58th year of her religious profession, and the 34th year of her priestly ordination. Sister was the first woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and was well known throughout the Diocese. She was a native of Tennessee, born in Sherwood in 1933, and entered the Community of St. Mary in 1954. Bishop Horace W.B. Donegan, then Bishop of New York and Visitor of the Community, presided at her religious profession on September 27, 1956. On Sept. 4, 1958, she was sent as a missionary Sister to Sagada in the Philippines, where she served for seven years. In the mid-sixties, she served briefly in the Community’s schools: St. Mary’s School in Peekskill, NY, and St. Mary’s School in Sewanee, TN. She also served briefly as the Assistant Superior (1966-68) and Novice Mistress (1968 -72) at the Mother House of the order in Peekskill, NY. In the early 1970s she was appointed the Sister-in-Charge of St. Mary’s Convent in Sewanee, where she helped develop the retreat center that later became known as St. Mary’s Sewanee. In 1977, Sr. Lucy entered the School of Theology at the University of the South in order to serve as a priest for the Community and for the congregation that came to its chapel. She was ordained a priest by the Right Rev. Bill Sanders on May 7, 1980. Shortly thereafter, in 1981, Grace Fellowship Church in Garnertown called her as its pastor. She was also sometime chaplain for the Companions of the Holy Cross. She also served, off and on, as Sister-in-Charge of the Southern Province of the Community of St. Mary for a total of 36 years. Under her leadership, the Community embraced liturgical change, negotiated a transfer of the ministry and the ownership of the retreat center to an independent board, built a ! new convent and moved to the Community’s present location, re-established a connection with the Mountain Province, Philippines, and received the remaining Sisters there into the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, and established a branch house in Los Angeles.

Sister Lucy was also asked by the Diocese of Tennessee to extend her priestly ministry beyond the convent chapel. From 1988 – 1993, she served as vicar of St James Episcopal mission and got the grant that enabled the mission to build its present sanctuary and bell tower. From 1994 – 2008, she served as vicar of Epiphany Mission in Sherwood, TN. From 2008 onward, Sr. Lucy continued to serve the congregation at the convent chapel and Grace Fellowship as she was able. Her health, however, worsened considerable in her remaining years. Her death freed her of all pain, reunited her with her Sisters and family who have gone before, and joined her forever with the God who loves her most dearly.

Sister is preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Ruby Clark Shetters; her aunt, Linnie McBee; and her siblings: Johnny Shetters, Jerry Shetters, William Shetters, Letty Shetters. Her surviving relatives are Charles Shetters (Rockport, Texas), James Shetters (Aransas Pass, Texas), Roy Shetters (Ingleside, Texas), Bettie Kachele (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Linda Curtis (Decherd, TN) and Betty Sue Rollins (Sewanee, TN) her cousin.

Sr. Lucy’s life and ministry will be celebrated at a memorial service on September 20th at All Saints Chapel at 11 o’clock, followed by a reception. This service will include any and all who have been touched by her ministry. Her funeral service and burial will be held later at the convent on September 27th at 11 o’clock. All are invited to that service and the reception as well.

‘Women must be heard in church and society,’ says Melanesia primate

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“Your mission is to liberate women from cultural and religious beliefs that oppress and discriminate against women,” Archbishop David told MU delegates. Photo: Anglican Church of Melanesia

[Anglican Church of Melanesia] The Archbishop of Melanesia, who is also the patron of the Mothers’ Union (MU), has urged MU delegates to promote the place of women in the church and society.

The Most Rev. David Vunagi made the statement at the official opening of this 13th Provincial Mothers’ Union General Conference at the Melanesia Haus on August 25.

The theme for the conference was: Faithful Relationship in Unity, Mission and Service.

“Your mission is to liberate women from cultural and religious beliefs that oppress and discriminate against women,” Vunagi said.

“But before you can do that, you must take the initiative to raise your own self-esteem and liberate yourselves from the negative impacts of culture and religion that restrict the place of women in the church and society.”

He said women, particularly in Melanesia, have been conditioned by culture and religion to think that their place is at the periphery of any organization or body of people.

The archbishop urged church and society, especially in Melanesia, to listen to the voices of women, girls and children who are “always placed at the deep end of the stick”. He said it is only when church and society are listening that they can establish achievable goals to remedy unjust systems and structures.

“It should be part of the witness for the gospel that the church must work towards dismantling the conditioned mentality of the society that put women at the backburner. But women must have trust and confidence in themselves that they are equal partners of men in the mission and ministry of the Church.”

It is for such reason that this general conference can help women in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands recognize the negative impacts of the different forms of oppression and discrimination that have continued to hinder them in fully participating in the decision-making processes in the church and in the communities they live.

It is also for such reason that this consultation will help to develop a dynamic process that will help establish a societal environment that is truly free and inclusive to help women fully realize their worth and potential.

The general conference ran from August 25-30.

About 80 MU delegates from the nine dioceses across the Anglican Church of Melanesia plus provincial MU staff took joined the conference.

J. Michael Utzinger receives Burr award

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church] The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce its recipient of the 2014 Nelson R. Burr Prize. Recipient Dr. J. Michael Utzinger is Elliott Professor of Religion at Hampden Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia. He is honored for his article “The Tragedy of Prince Edward: The Religious Turn and the Destabilization of One Parish’s  Resistance to Integration, 1963-1965.” The selection committee noted that his article was deeply researched in primary sources, well written, cognizant of pertinent scholarly work and presented a nuanced interpretation that placed local events in a larger scholarly context.

This Burr prize honors the renown scholar whose two-volume A Critical Bibliography of Religion in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) and other works constitute landmarks in the field of religious historiography. Each year a committee of the Society selects the author of the most outstanding article in the Society’s journal, Anglican and Episcopal History, as recipient. The aware also honors that which best exemplifies excellence and innovative scholarship in the field of Anglican and Episcopal history.

Dr. Utzinger carries a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia (2000), an M. Div. from Yale University (1993) and a B.A. in Theology from Valparaiso University (1990). He was a Lilly Fellow for the Arts and Humanities 1999-2000. While at Hampden-Sydney he received the 2010 Cabell Award for Excellence in Teaching and was named the William W. Elliot Associate Professor of Religion in 2011.

Utzinger serves as moderator of the Southeastern Colloquium on American Religious Studies  (SCARS), and a contributing editor for the blog “Religion in American History”: usreligion.blogspot.com. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Robert Russa Moton Museum for the Study of Civil Rights in Education and on the vestry of Johns Memorial Episcopal Church. He participated on the Anti-racism Commission and the Commission on Ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia. At Hampden-Sydney, Dr. Utzinger is chair of the Department of Religion and has served as Associate Director of the Honors Program (twice as Interim Director) and as Associate Dean of the Faculty (2011-2014). He is Secretary of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church but had no involvement in the determination of the award.

Martin’s journey to the White House

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[St Andrew’s Episcopal Church - Seattle, Washington] Across the alley from our church, the four members of the Martínez family to whom St. Andrew’s has given shelter for the past twelve months will be moving on by the end of October. Their sponsor, Compass Housing Alliance, has provided excellent logistical and counseling support. The parents, Martín and Natividad, have both been thoroughly immersed in training and English language courses to equip them for the next phase of their lives. Their youngest son, Brandon, 15, will be a sophomore at Roosevelt high this fall and is on the football team. Martín Jr., 20,  has just graduated from Everett Community College and begins this fall as a full-time student on scholarship at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. He has also been working full-time this summer for a construction company and is saving up for college expenses as well as putting money into the bare-bones family budget.

Says Deacon Anne Novak, our early liaison with the Martínez family, “They have been wonderful occupants of Brighton House— very self-reliant, and have never asked for a single thing. I’ll be extremely sorry to see them go,” she says. Those of us who have had a small part in offering moral support and encouragement to them are humbled by their determination and resolve despite tremendous personal obstacles.

But this writeup is primarily about young Martín, whose outstanding achievements at Everett, and enrollment at EWU this fall are only part of this young man’s story and his keen sense of responsibility for his family, his fellow Latinos, and the larger community. In a recent extended conversation with him I learned that he helped organize a trip to Washington, D.C. this past June with some of his fellow students. Their purpose: to advocate in front of the White House for two days, for comprehensive immigration reform. On August 8 I interviewed Martín again at length about this trip and about his own future aspirations.

I should note that Martín is a “Dreamer,” the informal name for the granting of legal status to those who came at a young age across the border to the United States, and who have been in school here for at least five years. Two years ago President Obama established this category by executive order under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Initiative (DACA). Martín qualified.

Q. Martín, while you were a student at Everett Community College you helped organize this trip. Who went, and how did you get there?

A. There were eight of us, and we drove in two cars. Together we raised all the money for our transportation expenses, sleeping in our cars en route across the country. We also paid for a pretty shabby apartment, sleeping there on the floor as well as the beds.

Q. Why did you go, and what did you want to accomplish?

A. As young Latinos now living and studying in the United States, we wanted to go in front of the place where the president lives, to create more awareness of the critical need for immigration reform. But I also can’t deny that on the way we enjoyed some sightseeing as we crossed the country for the first time, and I wondered later whether we might have done more than we did.

Q. Say a little about the experience of demonstrating in front of the White House.

A. We were there with our placards for two days, for five hours each day. As we started protesting, several people gave us dirty looks. We listened to verbal abuse—“You’re not supposed to be in this country,” “Go home, wetback”, “You people take our jobs away”, “You don’t pay taxes”, and worse. It felt really bad to actually hear this face to face. But some other people gave us high fives and joined our protesting cause—especially college students. We even had over 80 people protesting with us. That felt really good.

Q. Did any of you visit the offices of Washington’s congressional representatives?

A. Yes, we visited the offices of Rep. Suzan DelBene (Dem., District 1), and Rep. Rick Larsen (Rep., District 2). Both representatives spoke personally with us.

Q. What was their response to your advocacy for immigration reform?

A. Rep. DelBene was very supportive; she understood the issue very well.
“Keep pushing for what you want”, she told us. And she reminded us that not only Latino immigrants needed our support, but also those from countries other than Latin America.  However, after keeping us waiting for an hour, Rep. Larsen gave us only ten minutes. He told us our cause was useless, that the immigration situation was never going to change.

Q. In this issue of immigration as our country is currently facing it, are there moral or historical reasons why it’s important to you personally?

A. First, this affects me and my family personally. Secondly,  immigration reform is basically a human rights issue. We immigrants are devalued as human beings; we are deprived of our human rights due to the lack of a social security number. Another thing regarding the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”. It was Europeans who used the term Hispanic to designate us, giving it a colonial connotation. Latino is a better term; we ourselves began to use it in preference to Hispanic.

Q. How can we in the churches respond better to the issue of immigration reform?

A. First, understand the issue! Create awareness. Educate people. Also the churches can support or join community and other organizations that are supporting immigration reform.

Q. Martín, what are your own personal goals as you set off for Eastern Washington University as a full-time student?

A. First, to get my bachelor’s degree. My major will be business management and administration, with a minor in psychology. At Everett I was president of Mecha, a national student group advocating the rights of Latinos. At EWU my classes begin the last week in September. I’ve already contacted the Mecha chapter there, and they’ve asked me to be a leader in their group.

Q. Finally, what would you like to do now to continue furthering the cause of immigrant rights?

A. I have a dream: to organize a large event for immigration reform that actually places the students themselves in the leadership of the event, as opposed to just participating.

Thank you sincerely, Martín! It’s been a special privilege.

– The Rev. Canon Dick Gillett is a parishioner at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington. 

Massachusetts Bishop Gayle Harris makes history in Welsh cathedral

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris presides during Eucharist at St. Asaph’s Cathedral in Wales on Aug. 31, becoming the first Anglican female bishop to preside at a Welsh Cathedral. Photo: Nathaniel Ramanaden

[Episcopal News Service] As the Church in Wales prepares to enable women to become bishops, Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts became the first female Anglican bishop to preside and preach in a Welsh cathedral.

“The church is not just enriched by women’s ordination, it’s more enabled and empowered by women’s presence,” she told Episcopal News Service during a telephone interview from the U.K. as she prepared for her historic participation in the 11 a.m. Eucharist service on Aug. 31 at St. Asaph Cathedral in Denbighshire, North Wales. “I see women bringing to the fore the desire that all people sit at the table of leadership, that all share in the benefits of the life of God. Nobody should be ignored or left out.”

Although the Church in Wales voted on Sept. 12, 2013, to allow women as bishops, it decided that church law would not be changed for one year to allow the Welsh bishops time to prepare a Code of Practice. The Church of England also made history when its General Synod, meeting last July, approved legislation to enable women to serve as bishops.

Bishop Gregory Cameron of the Diocese of St. Asaph invited Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris to preach and preside at St. Asaph’s Cathedral. Photo: Nathaniel Ramanaden

Harris’s visit came at the invitation of Diocese of St. Asaph Bishop Gregory Cameron, who said he’s been surprised at how long it has taken the Church in Wales to take the step to ordaining women as bishops.

“I’ve had significant experience of women bishops around the Anglican Communion, and their ministry is as natural and appropriate as our fundamental membership in the church, male and female,” he told ENS. “In fact, the women bishops I have known have been of exceptional ability and talent. It is precisely because women bishops are not new to the Communion that I’m delighted to have had the chance to invite Bishop Gayle Harris to join us, as we approach the date when women may be elected to the episcopate in Wales.”

But for Harris, the second African-American woman to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, her arrival in the U.K. didn’t go as smoothly as expected. The U.K. Border Force detained Harris for more than five hours and told her she would have to return to the U.S. even though she had the required paperwork and permissions, including from the Church in Wales and the Archbishop of York.

Despite the ordeal, Harris said that the border officers “were very polite, civil and courteous” and that once they’d discovered that her visit was legitimate, the deportation order was rescinded. “I know that the people at the airport were just trying to do their job,” she said, adding that the head officer of the U.K. Border Force offered her a personal apology for the detention being so long.

Harris was relieved to put the experience behind her and focus on the planned itinerary and upcoming celebrations.

Harris already had plans in place to visit the U.K. — to officiate at her goddaughter’s wedding — when she was invited to send a greeting to Crossing the Threshold, a conference celebrating the law change to enable women to become bishops.

She will attend the Sept. 4 conference in Cardiff and retired Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island will participate as a keynote speaker.

The Episcopal Church became the first Anglican Communion province to open the episcopate to women by an act of General Convention in 1976, although it would be another 13 years until the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris – Bishop Gayle Harris’s predecessor in Massachusetts – is ordained as its first female bishop in 1989. Last July, the Episcopal Church celebrated 40 years since the first women were ordained as priests. Yet the majority of Anglican Communion provinces still do not ordain women as bishops.

“There are places where we may not see women ordained to the episcopacy in our lifetime or even in the next generation but I believe God can call whoever He wants to call; male or female, black or white,” said Harris. “Sometimes it is hard for us to hear and discern that call and that’s why it takes longer in some places than others.”

Bishop Gayle Harris was ordained to the priesthood in 1982 and elected as bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 2002. That journey, she said, has had its ups and downs, but she has been sustained throughout by the presence of God.

Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris preaches Aug. 31 at St. Asaph’s Cathedral in Wales. Photo: Nathaniel Ramanaden

During her sermon at St. Asaph’s Cathedral, Harris spoke about being a follower of Christ and explained that discipleship isn’t easy and involves personal cost.

As the first black woman to celebrate mass in an upstate New York church in the early ‘90s, Harris received various reactions, both positive and negative. “No one in that parish had ever seen a woman in that sanctuary, but they took the risk to call me as rector” of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene Church in Rochester, New York, she said.

“During the first Sunday I chose not to celebrate but to sit among them to get to know them,” she added. Some parishioners said that they were not going to come back, Harris said. Fortunately, most did, including some dissenting parishioners who later admitted “it was not as bad as they had expected.”

“What’s important is the presence of God,” Harris said. “I am first and foremost created in the image of God. No one can deny that is my identity. But all of my experience of negative response is not over. I have been held as incompetent because of who I am as a black woman. That continues. I still think that this world has to deal with the difference of skin color. We keep bypassing that issue. As a black woman, sometimes I have to ask is it because I am a woman but most of the time it is because I am black and a woman. The race issue has not been dealt with.”

Harris said she is grateful to Cameron for his invitation to St. Asaph’s. “It says a lot about him and how gracious he is. But I see this as another opportunity to engage and encounter the other,” she said. “I believe God is in this moment.”

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

Social and environmental justice are intimately, profoundly linked

Friday, August 29, 2014

[Anglican Communion Environmental Network press release] “Sleeper awake!” is the opening call of a new Anglican resource for the Season of Creation, the third in a series published by the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.

The resource has sermon notes and liturgical materials covering the themes of climate change, eco-justice, water, creation and redemption and biodiversity.

It is dedicated to the memory of Professor Wangari Muta Maathai who in 1971 founded the Kenyan Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and the empowerment of communities.

“This third volume of resources helps us to see that care for Creation is rooted in social justice”, said the Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Co-ordinator Anglican Church of Southern Africa. “As we worship the Creator God in the beauty of a waterfall, we also raise our voices to protest with those who have no access to clean water and sanitation.”

Dr Mash reflected on the relevance and purpose of the Season of Creation. “There is a danger that care for creation and environmental concern are seen as a luxury for middle class Christians in leafy suburbs. So-called ‘Greenies’ or ‘tree huggers’ are perceived to be more concerned about the plight of the rhino than the plight of the vulnerable child. The connections between social and environmental justice are more intimately and profoundly linked. Ecological justice is relevant to everyone’s life, to everyone’s faith.”

Canon Ken Gray, Secretary of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, explained the growing significance of a focus on Creation in the church calendar. “While the seasons of the church year follow the life of Jesus through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter, the remainder of the church year encompasses Pentecost Season, which celebrates life in the Holy Spirit. Within Pentecost many Christians now celebrate a ‘Season of Creation’.

“During its meeting in Auckland in 2012, the Anglican Consultative Council requested that all Anglican Provinces consider the inclusion of a season of Creation in the liturgical calendar as an expression of environmental concern. The World Council of Churches has for some time proposed that 1 September through to 4 October become ‘Time for Creation’. In 1989 the late Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Dimitrios I proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for the environment. On 4 October, Roman Catholics and other Christians celebrate the witness of St Francis.

“The Anglican Communion Environmental Network has released an online compilation of rites and resources demonstrating the huge and increasing interest in a Season of Creation.”

Canon Gray noted that in many Anglican Provinces, permission to use alternative rites, especially during primary Sunday services is required from the local bishop. “That said, where flexibility is permitted, even encouraged, many new rites contain resources of music, prayer, homilies, contextual introduction, audio-video presentations and Eucharistic rites for local use.”

Throughout this year’s Season of Creation, the Anglican Communion Environmental Network will post events, resources, stories and articles, including a feature on St Francis and Mahatma Gandhi and reports from the People’s Climate March in New York City on 21 September and links to a webcast of the ‘Religions for the Earth Multifaith Service’ at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in the evening.

The Network supports and promotes the Anglican Alliance ‘Oceans of Justice Campaign’ and the international, inter faith project ‘ourvoices.net’.

Links

Pilgrimage to Bishop Charles Henry Brent’s birthplace a joyous occasion

Friday, August 29, 2014

[Diocese of Toronto] Dr. John Alipit’s pilgrimage came to an emotional end inside St. George, Newcastle.

Dr. Alipit, born and raised in the Philippines and now living in Michigan, came to St. George’s in early August to pay homage to the man who had converted his parents to Christianity and provided him with an education that changed the course of his life.

“I practically shed tears when I first stepped into the church,” he said.

Dr. Alipit, a retired surgeon, was with a group of about 200 former students of St. Mary’s School in Sagada, a region in the northern Philippines. They had come to Newcastle to pay their respects to Bishop Charles Henry Brent, a child of the parish who had gone on to an illustrious career but is unknown to many Canadian Anglicans.

“I don’t think that there is any question that Bishop Brent was one of the best shepherds you would ever know,” said Dr. Alipit. “This is a spiritual journey for us, and now at last we are reconnected with Bishop Brent.”

In 1903, Bishop Brent, then a missionary bishop for The Episcopal Church of the United States, explored the area where Sagada is located and vowed not only to bring Christianity to the inhabitants but to provide education for them.

“Our area used to be a pagan, head-hunting region,” said Andrew Bacdayan, the president of St. Mary’s School. “Bishop Brent came and expressed his love for our people and worked very hard for our benefit.”

In 1904, Bishop Brent sent the Rev. John Staunton, an Episcopal priest from New York, to start a mission in Sagada. He provided schooling to the local children, and in 1912 St. Mary’s School was built. Over the years, the school developed a reputation for academic excellence.

“St. Mary’s School was one of the best in the Philippines, and we owe what we have to the type of education we got there,” said Dr. Alipit.

In the 1990s, the school was facing a financial shortfall, and by 2000 it was on the verge of closing. Alumni and their friends rallied to the school’s defence and put it on a sound financial footing.

Since 2005, alumni have been meeting every two years to raise funds for scholarships and school improvements. This year it was held in Toronto. “We chose Toronto not only because it is the area where Bishop Brent was born, bred and educated, but also for a special reason,” said Mr. Bacdayan. “We are a grateful people, and it is fitting that we, as alumni and friends of the school his bishopric founded, come to express our gratitude to his people.”

For many alumni, the highlight of the conference was the trip to St. George’s. They attended a special worship service that ended with rousing school songs, tears and hugs. The Rev. Eugene Berlenbach, the priest-in-charge of St. George’s, worked for a year to put it on.

“It was awesome, I cannot describe it,” said Rose Nabert, wiping away tears. “Here you are at the place where the person who came to you and brought the Christ to you lived. It’s overwhelming.”

Ms. Nabert graduated from St. Mary’s School in 1962. She went to a nursing school in the Philippines, then to a nursing school in Rochester, NY, as an exchange student. After a few years back in the Philippines, she attended Cornell University and then came to Canada. She lives in Toronto and is a member of St. Bartholomew, Regent Park.

“It feels like we’ve come full circle,” she said. “I know I wouldn’t be here without the missionaries. I never would have been a Christian. Our community in Sagada revolved around the school and the church. They were one. I don’t think I would have lasted away from home (in Rochester) without the church. It was very caring.”

The service at St. George was celebrated by Archbishop Terence Finlay, with assistance from Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones and Bishop Benjamin Botengan of the Central Diocese of the Philippines. After the service, everyone enjoyed music and dancing outside and a lunch in the parish hall.

Who was Bishop Charles Henry Brent?

Bishop Charles Henry Brent was one of the most influential clerics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of both the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church of the United States. His feast day is March 27 (BAS p. 24).

Born in Newcastle, Ontario, in 1862, Bishop Brent attended Trinity College School in Port Hope where one of the residential houses is named after him. He graduated from Trinity College, Toronto, and was ordained deacon and priest by the Bishop of Toronto. He took a parish in Buffalo, then tested his vocation at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge Mass., but subsequently withdrew to take on parish work in one of the poorest sections of Boston.

In 1901, he was elected first missionary bishop of the Philippines, which at that time was a new territory acquired by the United States at the conclusion of the 1898 Spanish-American War. In Manila, he was pastor to Americans in both the government and private sectors. Being a personal friend of the territory’s first civil governor, Governor William Howard Taft, he became an unofficial adviser to the colonial government. Most importantly, from the point of view of the marginalized non-Christian tribes in both the northern and southern parts of the colony, he was a prodigious builder of churches, hospitals and schools. St. Mary’s School in Sagada in the northern Philippines was built during his episcopate.

After departing Manila in 1917 to spend a year as Senior Headquarters Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the First World War, he returned to the U.S. to become Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York in 1918. At that time, he was already an internationally recognized figure, and later would appear on the cover of Time magazine.

Bishop Brent’s international recognition stemmed from his work in two areas. First, he strongly advocated the regulation of opium use which the American colonial authorities then considered to be a serious problem facing Philippine society. As a testament to his leadership in this area, he was asked by the United States government to preside at the International Opium Conference in Shanghai in 1909, and later to head up the American delegations to the international opium conferences held at The Hague, Netherlands in 1911 and 1912.

Second, he was also a strong advocate for world church unity, now known as ecumenism. In both his bishoprics in the Philippines and the Diocese of Western New York, he unrelentingly pushed for ecumenism, a personal crusade that began to bear fruit when he became the unanimous choice for president of the First World Conference on Faith and Order, which met on Aug. 3, 1927, in Lausanne, Switzerland. On March 27, 1929, while on a return visit to Lausanne, he died and remains buried there. He was 66. His granite grave marker has an eloquent Celtic cross carved on its top. His obituary in the Manchester Guardian said, “He could speak to businessmen or diplomats or undergraduates with equal ease, and all knew that a man of God had been among us.”

Due to the interruptions created by the Second World War, the meeting he presided at in 1927 finally culminated in the founding in 1948 of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. To some of his biographers, this was the crowning glory of his distinguished career.

Information for this article was supplied by Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones (retired) of the Diocese of Toronto and Andrew Bacdayan, president and board chair of St. Mary’s School of Sagada Alumni and Friends Foundation.

Episcopal priest helps campaign to house 100K homeless Americans

Friday, August 29, 2014

[Community Solutions press release] An Episcopal priest has helped to spearhead a successful national campaign to find permanent housing for 100,000 homeless Americans in fewer than four years. The Rev. Linda M. Kaufman, canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, directed national field organizing for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which announced last month that it had helped 186 communities find permanent housing for 105,580 chronically homeless Americans, including more than 31,000 veterans since launching in July 2010. As National Field Organizer, Kaufman oversaw community enrollment and training for the Campaign and logged over 140,000 miles of travel.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign is a national movement coordinated by New York-based non-profit, Community Solutions, which launched the effort in July of 2010. Kaufman served as the Campaign’s chief public speaker, addressing community groups and conferences around the country about how they could play a role. Kaufman credits her training as a preacher with preparing her for this work.

“Linda channeled her passion for social justice into organizing for the 100,000 Homes Campaign with such heart,” said Becky Kanis, who directed the Campaign. “She carried the opportunity to improve the lives of homeless Americans like the precious gift that it was, and people really responded to that.  I still meet people from all over the country who say things like, ‘Do you know Linda Kaufman? She really inspired us to make the changes we had needed to make for a long time.’”

Kaufman graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1986 and was ordained a priest a year later. Since 1997, she has been affiliated clergy at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. She began her journey working with people experiencing homelessness in 1985 as a volunteer at Mt. Carmel House, a DC program run by Catholic Charities. By 1993, she was working full time for a DC-based dinner program for homeless women. In the mid-1990s, she was asked to bring the then controversial Housing First approach to Washington, DC, and she reached out to Pathways to Housing in New York City to create a DC affiliate.

Housing First, which became official federal policy under the second Bush administration, is a housing strategy that seeks to offer people experiencing homelessness permanent housing right away without requiring their participation in treatment or services. The policy, which boasts an 85 percent housing retention rate nationally, developed in contrast to traditional approached which required homeless individuals to achieve sobriety or obtain work before offering them access to housing. Housing First offers an array of supportive services, but does not condition housing upon them.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign helped communities across the country adopt the gold standard Housing First approach, which is supported by the research consensus. Kaufman was instrumental in convincing communities to make the shift.

“For almost 30 years I have known that working with individuals who are homeless is my vocation,” says Kaufman. “The 100,000 Homes Campaign has been a powerful outlet for my growing belief that we can actually end homelessness. For the first time, I have seen how individual communities can truly end homelessness on the ground. And, if communities can do it locally, then together, we can end homelessness nationwide.  I believe that this work is what God made me to do— and now I get to do it.  I am so grateful.”

History and Results of the 100,000 Homes Campaign
Community Solutions launched the 100,000 Homes Campaign in July of 2010 at the annual conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. At that time, just 36 communities had agreed to participate in the national effort to house 100,000 people. Community Solutions also set a deadline for this ambitious goal: July 2014.

Over the life of the Campaign, largely due to Kaufman’s diligent travel to every reach of the country, the number of enrolled communities grew to 186 in more than 40 states. Together, those communities attended monthly webinars and regional in-person convenings to share new ideas and problem solve together. They have also made use of social media and a virtual infrastructure to learn together and spur each other on. Participation was free of charge for all communities, thanks to the Campaign’s generous funders and partners.

Communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign have achieved success by doing four things differently:

  • First, they hit the streets at 4 a.m. to identify all of their homeless neighbors by name and build a file on each person’s housing needs. Kaufman served as the lead trainer in these efforts, conducting 15 such trainings across the country for more than 130 communities.
  • Second, they prioritize their most vulnerable and chronically homeless neighbors for the first permanent housing available, without preconditions. This research-based, Housing First approach is proven, even for those who have been homeless for extended periods of time or who face serious health conditions associated with an increased risk of death on the streets.
  • Third, they track and measure their monthly housing progress against predetermined benchmarks designed to put them on pace to end chronic and Veteran homelessness on the federal timeline. When the Campaign began, just 12 participating communities were measurably on track to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Today, that number has grown to 60.
  • Finally, they use data and process improvement techniques drawn from industry to streamline their local housing systems, making them faster and more easily navigable for the homeless Americans who depend on them. Many communities have reduced the time required to house a single homeless individual from over a year to as little as two weeks.

Communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign have helped speed the downward national trend in homelessness by focusing on Veterans, the chronically homeless, and those who face the highest risk of death on the streets. Between 2010 and today, Veteran homelessness has declined by 30 percent to 49,933, falling under 50,000 for the first time since the nation began counting. The largest decrease—almost 40 percent—has come among Veterans sleeping on the streets as opposed to shelters or in programs. These are precisely the kind of Veterans that Campaign communities have been working to target. During the same period, the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has dropped by fifteen percent from 109,812 to 92,593.

Communities participating in the Campaign have achieved significant improvement in their housing performance. They have gone from housing an average of 1.6 percent of their chronically homeless populations each month to 5.1 percent. Additionally, 60 of these communities are now on track to end chronic homelessness outright in the next three years. In 2011, that number was just 12.

Dramatic Taxpayer Savings
An analysis developed by Liana Downey and Associates, a strategic government advisory firm, estimates the total taxpayer savings from housing 100,000 chronically homeless Americans at more than $1.3 billion annually, based on a review of existing studies. This is due to the fact that chronically homeless people make frequent use of emergency services like the ER, where a single night’s stay often costs more than a full month’s rent in permanent housing. Connecting these individuals to permanent housing with simple supportive services to help them remain housed reduces public costs by as much as 37 percent each year.

Chronically homeless Americans are defined federally as those who have been homeless for one year or more, or four or more times in the past three years, and are living with a disabling medical condition. This group accounts for 12-15 percent of the homeless population in US communities yet consumes more than 70 percent of all public dollars spent on homelessness through high emergency service usage.

“Study after study confirms that it is cheaper to end homelessness than to let it persist,” said Rosanne Haggerty, President of Community Solutions, which launched and coordinates the Campaign. “Fiscal concerns are no longer an acceptable excuse for failing to end homelessness. Permanent housing with services, targeted to chronically homeless Americans, is the smartest, most cost-effective way to do the right thing.”

What’s Next?
In January, Community Solutions will launch Zero: 2016, a national effort to build on the success of the Campaign by helping communities get to zero on chronic and Veteran homelessness. Kaufman will continue to serve as the primary liaison to communities throughout the country looking to get more deeply involved in the national movement to end homelessness.

Coordinated by Community Solutions, the 100,000 Homes Campaign is a national movement of 186 communities working together to find and house 100,000 of their most vulnerable, chronically homeless neighbors by July 31, 2014. Since the Campaign’s launch in July of 2010, participating communities have found permanent housing for more than 100,000 of their homeless neighbors at an estimated cost savings to taxpayers of $1.3 billion. Learn more at www.100khomes.org and www.cmtysolutions.org.

La Universidad de Cuttington y la diócesis de Liberia en el epicentro de la crisis del ébola

Friday, August 29, 2014

Miembros del equipo de trabajo que dirige la descarga de suministros en respuesta a la crisis del ébola en el condado de Bong, Liberia. Foto por cortesía de la Diócesis Episcopal de Liberia.

[Episcopal News Service] La Universidad de Cuttington en Liberia, localizada en uno de los epicentros del brote del ébola en África Occidental, está atendiendo a sus comunidades vecinas, al tiempo que se preocupa del impacto de la epidemia en el futuro de la escuela, actualmente cerrada, y lamenta la pérdida de graduados y amigos.

Entre tanto, a través de Liberia y Sierra Leona, Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales se mantiene en contacto regular con sus asociados de las iglesias locales que “están apelando a su extendida presencia y a su fiable reputación para aliviar el sufrimiento y contener el brote del ébola” que ha causado la muerte por lo menos de 1.427 personas en África Occidental desde marzo de 2014, según un comunicado de prensa del 27 de agosto.

Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales informó además que asociados en ambos países están movilizando a voluntarios locales para promover información precisa acerca del ébola y distribuir suministros de higiene y saneamiento, al tiempo que la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia reparte paquetes de alimentos para las familias en las comunidades sujetas a cuarentena y ofrece equipos de protección básicos para los trabajadores de la salud en los hospitales locales.

Un miembro del personal de la Oficina Regional de África en Ghana de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales modela las máscaras, guantes, batas y otros artículos de protección que se han enviado a Liberia y se han suministrado a tres hospitales: el Hospital Phebe, el Hospital de la Redención y el Hospital H.C. Rennie. Foto por cortesía de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales.

Abiy Seifu, funcionario principal de programas de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales, describió la situación como “extremadamente desesperada”, debido tanto a la gravedad de la enfermedad como a la dificultad de contenerla. “Las personas quieren cuidar de sus familiares enfermos en la casa, temen ir a las clínicas porque muchos están muriendo y hay una enorme desinformación respecto a cómo se propaga el ébola. El temor a la enfermedad está empeorando el brote y debemos combatir este temor con información precisa y apoyo a las necesidades básicas¨.

La agencia informó que miembros del personal de Ayuda y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia están colaborando con los líderes sanitarios del gobierno en el condado de Bong para distribuir artículos alimentarios tales como arroz, aceite para cocinar y carne en lata en cuatro comunidades rurales que están sujetas a cuarentena.

El campus principal de la Universidad de Cuttington en el interior de la región central de Liberia se encuentra a unos 9 kilómetros Gbarnga, la capital del condado de Bong. Cuttington, fundada en 1889 en Liberia por la Iglesia Episcopal de EE.UU., tiene otros dos recintos, uno en la capital del país, Monrovia, y otro a unos 72 kilómetros al sur de Monrovia.

La universidad alberga la mayor escuela de enfermería de Liberia y, debido a que ofrece la única licenciatura en enfermería en el país, muchos de sus graduados trabajan en situaciones de terapia intensiva. Muchos aspirantes a médicos toman la licenciatura en biología de la universidad como prerrequisito de la única escuela de medicina del país, la Escuela de Medicina A.M. Dogliotti, y los graduados de Cuttington constituyen la mayor porción de los estudiantes de Dogliotti.

“Este vínculo entre Cuttington y la comunidad médica es auténtico y nos está causando una gran angustia”, escribió Henrique Tokpa en una carta del 25 de agosto. “Conocemos a las personas que intervienen en esta epidemia y nos sentimos solidarios con sus familias”.

El primer trabajador de la salud que falleció en Liberia víctima del ébola fue un graduado de la escuela de enfermería de Cuttington en 2012, escribió Tokpa en la carta dirigida al Rdo. Ranjit Matthews, funcionario de la Iglesia Episcopal para relaciones e intercomunicaciones globales. El enfermero, a quien Tokpa se refirió como el Sr. Daah, trabajaba en el hospital de Foyah en el norte de Liberia.

Un doctor en medicina que ejercía en el Hospital Phebe —hospital luterano que se encuentra cerca del campus principal de Cuttington y que es la institución de salud pública más grande de la nación— que también enseña a jornada parcial en el colegio de las Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud en Cuttington, contrajo inadvertidamente el virus del ébola al mismo tiempo que se relacionaba con los estudiantes de enfermería de la Universidad de Cuttington, explicó el presidente.

“De la misma manera, la Universidad de Cuttington sigue expuesta a la mortal epidemia, el ébola, y a sus efectos consiguientes”, escribió Tokpa.

El presidente dio cinco ejemplos de estudiantes, ex alumnos y miembros del personal que han muerto, entre ellos “Kwee”, un ex empleado que murió junto con su esposa y su hijo.

Henry Callendee, deán de la Escuela de Pedagogía de Cuttington, ha perdido al menos 12 miembros de su familia que vivían, según Tokpa, en el condado de Lofa, que ahora se encuentra en cuarentena.

Al principio no se le prestó mucha atención al brote cuando estaba en los vecinos países de Guinea y Sierra Leona “porque no previmos la violenta naturaleza del virus del ébola”, escribió Tokpa en la carta.

Pero, para mediados de julio, con la “escuela de vacaciones” de la universidad funcionando aún, explicó Tokpa, “comenzamos a percibir inmediatamente que la situación se salía de control en una alarmante espiral de manera que tomamos algunas medidas inmediatas”, entre las que se incluyen el situar alrededor del campus cubos de agua clorada con caños para inducir a lavarse las manos.

El personal invitó a los médicos y al jefe de un equipo de trabajo sobre el ébola del condado de Bong a reuniones en el campus para instruir a estudiantes, profesores, personal y miembros de la comunidad acerca del virus y a como protegerse. Los funcionarios “comenzaron a concebir una estrategia sobre el cierre de la escuela” y a elaborar medios de enviar a los estudiantes a sus casas con recursos para concluir la labor del período, dijo Tokpa.

J. Kota Kesselly, decano de la Escuela de Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud de Cuttington, se ha incorporado al equipo de trabajo del condado de Bong, el cual se reúne a diario.

Y la universidad ha donado más de 567 litros de gasolina para ayudar al desplazamiento de vehículos que llevan a personas asignadas a enterrar a los muertos y responder a llamadas de socorro de “víctimas que aún viven”, escribió Tokpa. Las hortalizas del huerto de la escuela se han donado también, ha sido como los cubos para usarlas como puestos para lavarse las manos en comunidades que no pueden costear el comprarse uno.

En tanto los funcionarios de la escuela planeaban como cerrar el período de vacaciones, el gobierno de Liberia ordenaba el cierre de todas las escuelas como parte de un esfuerzo para contener la propagación del ébola. Cuttington esperaba reabrir en septiembre u octubre, según Tokpa.

La universidad depende de lo que recauda de la matrícula de los estudiantes para pagarles a sus empleados. A esos empleados no les han pagado en junio, julio ni agosto y enfrentan la posibilidad de que no les paguen en un futuro próximo, dijo el presidente en otro documento que envió a Matthews.

Además, la universidad tendrá que desinfectar todos sus edificios, según Tokpa. Con unos 3.000 estudiantes que esperan regresar, la universidad debe permanecer alerta cuando la epidemia disminuya y las escuelas puedan reabrir, agregó.

Los asociados de Cuttington en la Universidad de Rutgers en Nueva Jersey están suministrando algún apoyo básico a la universidad y al hospital Phebe en el condado de Bong, señaló.

A partir del 22 de agosto, la Organización Mundial de la Salud de las Naciones Unidas dijo que había habido 2.615 casos sospechosos y confirmados de ébola, entre ellos 1.528 casos confirmados en el laboratorio, y 1.427 muertes en Guinea, Sierra Leona, Liberia y Nigeria. La OMS afirma que la magnitud del brote del ébola puede haber sido subestimada, debido en parte a las familias que ocultaron a sus seres queridos infectados en sus casas.

Según la Organización Mundial de la Salud, el brote del ébola no tiene precedentes en muchos sentidos, entre ellos el número de trabajadores de la salud que han muerto. Más de 240 de ellos han contraído la enfermedad en Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria y Sierra Leona, y más de 120 han muerto, dio a conocer la organización el 25 de agosto.

“El ébola ha cobrado la vida de prominentes médicos en Sierra Leona y Liberia, privando a esos países no sólo de atención médica experimentada y dedicada, sino también de inspiradores héroes nacionales”, dijo la OMS en un comunicado.

La organización dijo además que muchas de las muertes ocurrieron entre los trabajadores de la salud que inicialmente no supieron que la persona que estaban tratando estaba infectada con el ébola, en parte porque muchos trabajadores sanitarios, especialmente en zonas urbanas, nunca habían visto la enfermedad y sus primeros síntomas son semejantes a otras infecciones endémicas en la región, como el paludismo, la fiebre tifoidea y la fiebre de Lassa.

Otros factores que contribuyen al elevado número de muertes incluye también la carencia de equipos de protección personal o su uso inadecuado, un personal médico demasiado pequeño para hacerle frente a un brote tan grande y “la compasión que hace que el personal médico trabaje en pabellones de aislados muchas más de las horas que se recomiendan como seguras”, apuntaba la organización.

“Algunas infecciones documentadas han ocurrido cuando los médicos han acudido sin la debida protección en auxilio de un paciente que estaba visiblemente muy enfermo”, decía el comunicado de la OMS. “Este es el primer instinto de la mayoría de los médicos y los enfermeros: ayudar al enfermo”.

La OMS informó el 27 de agosto que el ébola había irrumpido en la República Democrática del Congo. El brote en la Provincia del Ecuador [Equateur] se había rastreado hasta una mujer embarazada de la aldea de Ikanamongo que había cortado la carne de un animal salvaje que su marido había cazado y se la había traído. Comer carne de animales salvajes se considera como el principal conducto del virus de los animales a los humanos.

En Sierra Leona, la Diócesis Anglicana de Bo está participando activamente en el proceso de planificación e implementación del Equipo de Salud y Desarrollo del gobierno del distrito para el control del ébola, específicamente para la detección y control de casos, informó Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales.

“Algunos de los mayores obstáculos para frenar la propagación del ébola provienen de ocultar a personas enfermas y de tratarlas en las casas en lugar de buscar aislamiento y asistencia médica, a pacientes que escapan a la cuarentena y a prácticas de enterramiento que no contienen la enfermedad”, dijo Seifu, de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales. “Un mensaje y un control de casos culturalmente adecuados son esenciales para alentar a las comunidades a adoptar conductas que efectivamente combatan el ébola”.

La agencia informó que está actualmente en conversaciones tanto con la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia como con la Diócesis Anglicana de Bo en Sierra Leona que contemplan la expansión de actividades para llegar a comunidades remotas y en proyectos a largo plazo para abordar la creciente crisis alimentaria.

“Las restricciones al transporte y al comercio debido a la cuarentena ya están causando escaseces, pero puede haber repercusiones a largo plazo en el ganado y los suministros de alimento debido a la falta de acceso a los mercados y en la pérdida de la temporadas de siembra”, según el comunicado de prensa de la agencia del 27 de agosto. “Además, las familias cuyo principal sostén ha caído enfermo o ha muerto son particularmente vulnerables”.

Seifu dijo que uno de los puntos fuertes de los asociados de la Iglesia es que “pueden tener acceso a zonas a las que podría resultarles difícil llegar a otras organizaciones e incluso al gobierno. Me siento muy contento de que las agencias locales del gobierno puedan reunir recursos y experiencia para llevar a cabo una estrategia unificada. Esta asociación es importante ahora y lo seguirá siendo mientras la región se recupera de este desastre”.

– Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Liberia’s Cuttington University, diocese at epicenter of Ebola crisis

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Members of the task force leading the Ebola response unload supplies in Bong County, Liberia. Photo: Courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia

[Episcopal News Service] Liberia’s Cuttington University, located near one of the epicenters of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, is reaching out to its surrounding communities while worrying about the epidemic’s impact on the now-closed school’s future, and mourning the loss of graduates and friends.

Meanwhile, throughout Liberia and Sierra Leone, Episcopal Relief & Development is in regular contact with local church partners who “are leveraging their widespread presence and trusted reputation to alleviate suffering and contain the Ebola outbreak” that has killed at least 1,427 people in West Africa since March 2014, according to an Aug. 27 press release.

Partners in both countries are mobilizing local volunteers to promote accurate information about Ebola and distribute hygiene and sanitation supplies, while the Episcopal Church of Liberia is supplying food parcels for households in quarantined communities and providing basic protective equipment for health workers at local hospitals, Episcopal Relief & Development reported.

A staff member in Episcopal Relief & Development’s Africa Regional Office in Ghana models the facemasks, gloves, gowns and other protective supplies shipped to Liberia and given to three area hospitals – Phebe Hospital, Redemption Hospital and C.H. Rennie Hospital. Photo: Courtesy of the Episcopal Relief & Development

Abiy Seifu, senior program officer for Episcopal Relief & Development, described the situation as “extremely dire,” due both to the severity of the disease and the difficulty in containing it. “People want to care for sick family members at home, they are afraid to go to the clinics because so many are dying and there is a great deal of misinformation about how Ebola is spread. Fear about the disease is making the outbreak worse, and we are aiming to combat this fear with accurate information and support for basic needs.”

Development staff members of the Episcopal Church of Liberia are working with government health leaders in Bong County to distribute food items such as rice, cooking oil and canned meat in four quarantined rural communities, the agency reported.

Cuttington University’s main campus in the interior of the central region of Liberia is about six miles from Gbarnga, the capital of Bong County. Cuttington, founded in 1889 in Liberia by the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, has two other campuses, one in the country’s capital, Monrovia, and another nearly 45 miles south of Monrovia.

The university is home to the largest nursing school in the country and, because it offers the country’s only bachelor’s degree in nursing, many of its graduates work in critical care situations. Many aspiring doctors take the university’s bachelor’s in biology to use to make the pre-requisite of the country’s only medical school, A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and Cuttington grads make up the largest portion of Dogliotti students.

“This link between Cuttington and the medical community is real and is causing us great anguish,” Cuttington President Henrique Tokpa wrote in an Aug. 25 letter. “We know the people involved in this epidemic and we sympathize with their families.”

The first medical worker in Liberia to die from Ebola was a 2012 graduate of Cuttington’s nursing school, Tokpa wrote in the letter to the Rev. Ranjit Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s network officer for global relations and networking. The nurse, whom Tokpa referred to as Mr. Daah, was working in the hospital in Foyah in northern Liberia.

A practicing medical doctor at the Phebe Hospital – a Lutheran hospital located near Cuttington’s main campus and the nation’s largest public health institution – who also teaches part-time in the College of Allied Health Sciences at Cuttington unknowingly contracted the Ebola virus and at the same time interacted with the Cuttington University’s nursing students, the president said.

“Along these lines, Cuttington University remains exposed to this deadly epidemic, Ebola, and its attendant effects,” Tokpa wrote.

The president gave five examples of students, alumni and staff who have died, including “Kwee,” a former employee who died along with his wife and son.

Henry Callendee, dean of Cuttington’s School of Education, has lost at least 12 of his family members who live in a now-quarantined town in Lofa County, according to Tokpa.

At first, not much attention was paid to the outbreak when it was in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone “because we did not anticipate the violent nature of the Ebola virus,” Tokpa wrote in the letter.

But by mid-July, with the university’s “vacation school” still operating, Tokpa said “we immediately began to sense that the situation was spiraling out of control so we took some immediate measures,” including placing around campus buckets of chlorinated water with spouts to encourage hand washing.

The staff invited doctors and the head of a Bong County Ebola task force to campus gatherings to educate students, faculty, staff, and community members about the virus and how to protect themselves. Officials “began to strategize about school closure” and worked out ways to send students home with ways for them to finish the work of the term, Tokpa said.

J. Kota Kesselly, dean of the Cuttington’s School of Allied Health Sciences, has joined the Bong County task force, which meets daily.

And the university has donated more than 150 gallons of gas to help run vehicles for people assigned to bury the dead and respond to calls for aid from “live victims,” Tokpa wrote. Vegetables from the school’s garden have been donated as well as buckets for use as hand-washing stations in communities that cannot afford to buy their own.

As school officials were planning how to shut down the vacation term, the Liberian government ordered all schools to close as part of an effort to stem the spread of Ebola. Cuttington had hoped to reopen in September or October, Tokpa said.

The university is dependent on the tuition charged to students to pay its employees. Those employees have not been paid for June, July and August, and face the prospect of not being paid in the near future, the president said in another document he sent to Mathews.

Plus the university will have to disinfect all of its buildings, according to Tokpa. With 3,000 students expected eventually to return, the university must remain on alert when the epidemic subsides and schools can re-open, he added.

Cuttington’s partners at Rutgers University in New Jersey are supplying some basic support to the university and Phebe Hospital in Bong County, he said.

“We have to remember that these communities in West Africa now struggling with Ebola have only emerged in recent years from more than a decade of civil strife,” the Rev. Canon James G. Callaway, general secretary of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion and treasurer of the American Friends of Cuttington, told ENS. “This is the second time that Cuttington University has reorganized itself to address its community’s needs. As the Liberian civil war was just ending Cuttington opened its campus to retraining former combatants for new livelihoods as they are now marshaling resources to overcome Ebola.  As educators they are showing that leadership starts with service.”

As of Aug. 22 the United Nations’ World Health Organization said there have been 2,615 suspect and confirmed Ebola cases, including 1,528 laboratory-confirmed cases, and 1,427 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. WHO claims that the magnitude of the Ebola outbreak may have been underestimated, due in part to families hiding infected loved ones in their homes.

The Ebola outbreak is unprecedented in many ways, according to the World Health Organization, including the number of health care workers who have died. More than 240 health care workers have developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 have died, the organization said on Aug. 25.

“Ebola has taken the lives of prominent doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia, depriving these countries not only of experienced and dedicated medical care but also of inspiring national heroes,” the WHO statement said.

The organization said many of the deaths occurred among workers who initially did not know that the person they were treating was infected with Ebola, in part because many health workers, especially in urban areas, have never seen the disease and its early symptoms are similar to other infectious diseases endemic in the region, like malaria, typhoid fever and Lassa fever.

Factors contributing to the high number of deaths also include shortages of personal protective equipment or its improper use, far too few medical staff for such a large outbreak, and “the compassion that causes medical staff to work in isolation wards far beyond the number of hours recommended as safe,” the organization said.

“Some documented infections have occurred when unprotected doctors rushed to aid a waiting patient who was visibly very ill,” the WHO statement said. “This is the first instinct of most doctors and nurses: aid the ailing.”

WHO reported on Aug. 27 that Ebola had broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak in Equateur Province has been traced to a pregnant woman from Ikanamongo Village who butchered a bush animal that had been killed and given to her by her husband. Eating bush meet is seen as a major way the virus moves from animals to humans.

In Sierra Leone, the Anglican Diocese of Bo is actively participating in the government District Health and Development Team’s planning and implementation process for Ebola control, specifically on detection and case management, Episcopal Relief & Development reported.

“Some of the biggest challenges in stopping Ebola come from hiding sick people and treating them at home rather than seeking isolation and medical assistance, patients escaping quarantine and burial practices that do not contain the disease,” said Episcopal Relief & Development’s Seifu. Culturally appropriate messaging and case management are essential in encouraging communities to adopt behaviors that will effectively combat Ebola,”

The agency reported that it is currently in conversation with both the Episcopal Church of Liberia and the Anglican Diocese of Bo in Sierra Leone regarding expansion of activities to reach remote communities and longer-term engagement to address the growing food crisis.

“Restrictions on transportation and commerce due to quarantine are already causing shortages, but there may be a longer-term impact on livelihoods and food supply due to lack of market access and missed planting seasons,” according to the agency’s Aug. 27 press release. “In addition, families whose main breadwinner has fallen ill or died are particularly vulnerable.”

Seifu said that one of the key strengths of church partners is that “they can access areas that might be difficult for other organizations or even the government to reach. I am very glad that the local government agencies have recognized this strength and that they can pool resources and expertise to implement a unified strategy. This partnership is important now and will continue to be as the region recovers from this disaster.”

Bishop Tengatenga to preach at Episcopal convention in Charleston

Thursday, August 28, 2014

[Episcopal Church in South Carolina press release] The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, a distinguished leader and teacher in the worldwide Anglican Communion, will visit Charleston in November as the preacher for the 224th Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Bishop Tengatenga will give the sermon at the opening Eucharist on Nov. 14 as Episcopalians across eastern South Carolina gather for the two-day convention at the Church of the Holy Communion, 218 Ashley Ave. in Charleston.

Bishop Tengatenga is the chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the four “Instruments of Communion” that serve the worldwide family of Anglican/Episcopal churches. He served as bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi in southeastern Africa from 1998-2013.

In May, he was appointed as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Global Anglicanism at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teaches courses in missiology, contemporary global Anglicanism, and related subjects.

In announcing the appointment, the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of the University of the South’s School of Theology, said: “Dr. Tengatenga has few peers in his extensive experience in the leadership of the Anglican Communion and his understanding of the church’s mission throughout the world. His leadership of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and of the Anglican Consultative Council gives him a comprehensive knowledge of Anglican mission throughout the world that few can equal.”

Bishop Tengatenga has been a member of the Anglican Consultative Council since 2002 and has been its chairman since 2009. The role of the ACC is to facilitate the cooperative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion, exchange information between the Provinces and churches, and help to coordinate common action. The Archbishop of Canterbury serves as President of the ACC.

As chairman, Bishop Tengatenga also serves as chairman of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

He has contributed chapters to several books and given talks and lectures in many places. He is the author of Church State and Society in Malawi (2006); he co-authored an HIV/AIDS training manual, Time to Talk (2006) with the Rev. Dr. Anne Bailey; and has edited The UMCA in Malawi: A History of the Anglican Church (2010). He is on the editorial board of two journals: the Journal of Anglican Studies (Cambridge university Press) and Modern Believing (Liverpool University Press) and is a regular reviewer of articles for the Journal of Theology in Southern Africa and the Journal of Gender Relations in Africa. His other fields of interest are post-colonial theory, African traditional religions and, race, and ethnicity studies.

Born in Kwekwe, in what was then Rhodesia, on April 7, 1958, Bishop Tengatenga he began theological training and priestly formation in 1979 at Zomba Theological College in Malawi. He continued his theological training at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, where he earned a master of divinity degree and was ordained a priest in 1985. He has done graduate work at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Malawi, as well as honorary degrees from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, and The General Theological Seminary in New York City.

South India alcohol ban could include Communion wine

Thursday, August 28, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches in India’s southern Kerala state have given a mixed response to government proposals for a total prohibition of alcohol within 10 years.

While Christian leaders have welcomed the ban, which will be gradually phased in over the next decade, some are concerned at calls for Communion wine to be included.

Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam of the Church of South India’s South Kerala diocese, told the Financial Times, “There are so many drunkards in our society – it is a grave concern among the people. It is very good to abolish alcohol from this land. They cannot stop it in a day, a week or a month, but the church is supporting the government to get rid of all these things.”

However, there have been calls from some quarters for the church to come under the ban and replace all its Communion wine with non-alcoholic substitutes.

ucanews.com reported that Vellapally Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a Hindu political group, demanded the government cancel 23 licenses issued to Roman Catholic dioceses, religious orders and other Christian groups to produce Mass wine.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Archbishop Francis Kallarackal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly
had earlier stated that wine was integral to mass being con-celebrated by Christians all over the world and so could not be banned.

Syro Malabar Church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekat told PTI, “No church uses anything other than wine. We will continue the tradition,” he said.

Thomas K Oommen, bishop of the Central Kerala diocese of the Church of South India (CSI), told the New Indian Express that “it [Communion with wine] will remain unchanged until the world ends,” adding that calling for Communion wine to be included in the alcohol ban was not a proper interpretation of a decision “that could contribute to the cultural advancement of society.”

However, Bishop Philiphose Mar Chrysostom of the indigenous Mar Thoma Syrian Church told ucanews.com, “Churches should think about using grape water, as had been the practice in the past, instead of wine.”

Speaking to the media on Monday, V M Sudheeran, president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), said the call to ban wine in churches was not appropriate considering it had been part of centuries-old ritual and tradition.

“It is for the Christian church to think over whether liquor should be banned. The interference of external forces is not proper.”

Keralans consume the highest amount of alcohol of any state in India and temperance groups have been pressing for a total ban to address a alcohol abuse problem across the state.

There are those who have criticized the move, however, saying that it will be a very bad decision for the tourist industry in a state that welcomes around 800,000 visitors a year.

‘Self-sustainability, unity are church priorities’: Central Africa primate

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Archbishop Albert Chama emphasizes the need to foster unity across the province and working towards one common goal. Photo: Bellah Zulu/ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Most Rev. Albert Chama, primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), has emphasized that self-sustainability and unity remain top priorities for the church.

“As a transnational province, we’re encouraging investments in the various countries to make sure that the national churches and subsequently the province is self-sustainable,” the archbishop said in an interview with ACNS at the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC) offices in Lusaka shortly before chairing a meeting with the Zambia bishops to discuss the sustainability of the church.

“As a province, we’re coming up with various programs, such as training workshops and conferences, to make sure that everyone, including bishops, clergy and laity, especially the youth, get involved in the development and growth of the church and other aspects of church life.”

Chama said resources raised from the different activities and investments will be used to improve missions across the province. However, he also acknowledged the different stages of economic development of the countries making up the province: Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

“The Church in Zambia for instance needs to do more in the area of investment and only then will it become easy to do various missions and grow the church,” he said. “But we continue to share best practices from the dioceses and parishes across the province so that we can learn from one another and grow together.”

The archbishop emphasized the need to foster unity across the province and working towards one common goal. “A bigger family means a bigger voice,” he said. “CPCA has been able to contribute immensely to the global Anglican Church because of the unity we enjoy.”

Chama spoke of how the province was able to help the church in Zimbabwe during the persecutions endured by the Anglicans there when excommunicated former bishop Nolbert Kunonga and his supporters grabbed church properties.

“Provincial unity is crucial because when one part is affected, we’re all affected,” he said. “When Zimbabwe had challenges, the province came in and helped where it could.”

He added: “It is because of the unity we enjoy that our Episcopal Synod even resolved to invite [the Anglican Consultative Council] to Lusaka, Zambia within our province. We believe it’s because of this unity that we strongly feel the need to share with the Anglican Communion.”

However, the archbishop emphasized that for unity to be promoted and upheld, there was need for consistent communication and sharing of information both within the province and the rest of the Anglican Communion.

“Information needs to be shared on the best practices of evangelism and other aspects of church life that can help transform ministry,” he said. “We also need to keep learning from each other on how we can appropriately contribute to the socio-economic development of our countries.”

Chama reiterated the importance of church leaders “leading by example.”

“When people see a leader in the forefront advocating for a cause or even involving themselves in activities, they see the seriousness of that activity.”

The Anglican Church in Zambia has been brainstorming various areas of possible investments including an ambitious plan for a housing project that could help the Church’s finances in the long term.

Local churches empower communities to stop Ebola spread

Thursday, August 28, 2014

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] In Liberia and Sierra Leone, Episcopal Relief & Development’s local Church partners are leveraging their widespread presence and trusted reputation to alleviate suffering and contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,427 people in West Africa since March 2014.

Partners in both countries are mobilizing local volunteers to promote accurate information about Ebola and distribute hygiene and sanitation supplies.  In addition, the Church in Liberia is supplying food parcels for households in quarantined communities and providing basic protective equipment for health workers at local hospitals.

“The situation is extremely dire, due both to the severity of the disease and the difficulty in containing it,” said Abiy Seifu, Senior Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.  “People want to care for sick family members at home, they are afraid to go to the clinics because so many are dying and there is a great deal of misinformation about how Ebola is spread.  Fear about the disease is making the outbreak worse, and we are aiming to combat this fear with accurate information and support for basic needs.”

Local development staff of the Episcopal Church of Liberia are working with government health staff in Bong County to distribute food items such as rice, cooking oil and canned meat to 500 people in four quarantined rural communities.  Volunteers are delivering food and sanitation supplies to homes, and demonstrating correct mixing procedures for different concentrations of bleach water for hand-washing and cleaning.  The supplies also include a hand-washing station made by installing a spigot in a covered five-gallon bucket, and a poster with accurate information about how to prevent Ebola and what to do if a family member presents symptoms of the disease.

Text of health messaging poster being distributed in Liberia:

You can stop EBOLA!

Always wash your hands with soap

  • Do not hide sick people
  • Do not touch dead body
  • Do not eat bush meat
  • When you are sick with fever, headache, body pain, etc.
    Go to the hospital quick, quick, quick
  • Listen to health workers – they know how best to help you

EBOLA can catch big people and small children

Efforts in Liberia also include radio messaging in local dialects through 15 stations in nine counties and the distribution of bumper stickers with key messaging to churches of other denominations.

The shipment of facemasks, gloves, gowns and other protective supplies from Episcopal Relief & Development’s Africa Regional Office in Ghana arrived in Liberia and were given to three area hospitals – Phebe Hospital, Redemption Hospital and C.H. Rennie Hospital – in a commissioning ceremony by The Most Rev. Jonathan B.B. Hart on August 26.

In Sierra Leone, the Anglican Diocese of Bo is actively participating in the government District Health and Development Team’s planning and implementation process for Ebola control, specifically on detection and case management.  Diocesan staff trained local health volunteers who had already been active in the Church’s malaria and HIV prevention efforts to assist with education, case identification and contact tracing.  The volunteers also distributed hand-washing stations.

Contact tracing is one of the most important but often most difficult aspects of disease control, especially because the incubation period between when a person contracts Ebola and when they show symptoms can range from two to 21 days.  Trusted local volunteers who are familiar with community members and their relationships and daily routines can be extremely helpful, both in identifying cases and contacts, and in encouraging their neighbors to follow the correct procedure when someone is sick or has died, in order to prevent further infection.

“Some of the biggest challenges in stopping Ebola come from hiding sick people and treating them at home rather than seeking isolation and medical assistance, patients escaping quarantine and burial practices that do not contain the disease.  Culturally appropriate messaging and case management are essential in encouraging communities to adopt behaviors that will effectively combat Ebola,” Seifu said.

Episcopal Relief & Development is currently in conversation with both the Church of Liberia and the Diocese of Bo in Sierra Leone regarding expansion of activities to reach remote communities and longer-term engagement to address the growing food crisis.  Restrictions on transportation and commerce due to quarantine are already causing shortages, but there may be a longer-term impact on livelihoods and food supply due to lack of market access and missed planting seasons.  In addition, families whose main breadwinner has fallen ill or died are particularly vulnerable.

“One of the key strengths of our Church partners is that people know them and they can access areas that might be difficult for other organizations or even the government to reach,” said Seifu.  “I am very glad that the local government agencies have recognized this strength and that they can pool resources and expertise to implement a unified strategy.  This partnership is important now and will continue to be as the region recovers from this disaster.”

Donations in support of Episcopal Relief & Development’s response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa may be designated to the Ebola Crisis Response Fund.