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2013 Matching Gift Challenge benefits programs worldwide

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] A generous pledge of $500,000 in matching funds from a group of committed Episcopal Relief & Development donors led to an overwhelming response during the 2013 Matching Gift Challenge.  Inspired by the agency’s mission and moved to action by the opportunity to have gifts matched dollar-for-dollar, Episcopal Relief & Development’s community of supporters contributed a total of $953,098 during the fall campaign.

“I am continually moved by the generosity of our donors, especially those whose help made the 2013 Matching Gift Challenge such a tremendous success and allowed us to leverage this significant $500,000 match,” said Joy Shigaki, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Director of Advancement.  “Thank you to everyone whose support enables Episcopal Relief & Development to serve those in greatest need and transform communities in places beyond the end of the road.”

Donations to all funds – including Gifts for Life purchases – were eligible for matching, with the $500,000 match helping to sustain Episcopal Relief & Development’s work through the Global Needs Fund.  Partnering with local Church bodies and affiliated agencies in close to 40 countries, Episcopal Relief & Development develops and expands community-based programs that address poverty, hunger and disease.  Donations to the Global Needs Fund enable Episcopal Relief & Development to respond to urgent needs and continue these vital programs across the globe.

Episcopal Relief & Development’s integrated programs impact the lives of more than 3 million people annually.  Here are some of their stories:

  • Mariana in Angola started a business with a small loan from her savings group, and was able to welcome her new baby in health and comfort
  • Antonio in Nicaragua learned new ways of growing crops that gave more abundant harvests while protecting the environment
  • Liqin in China worked with her fellow senior citizens to clean up a local river and build a protected water supply with piping to her home

Churches, dioceses, schools, seminaries and individuals all make a difference by contributing in different ways.  To give a gift that can help strengthen communities worldwide, please click here.

For more information on Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs, please visit www.episcopalrelief.org/what-we-do.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Why Serve 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Young adults of color are invited to examine their gifts and explore opportunities at a June Episcopal Church retreat, Why Serve 2014: We are all called by God, but what does that mean for you?

Sponsored by Diversity and Ethnic Ministries of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), Why Serve 2014 will be held Thursday, June 5 to Sunday, June 8, hosted by Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, California.

Invited to attend this conference of fellowship, training, discernment, and self-care are young adults (age 18-30) from the Asian, Black, Indigenous and Latino communities of the Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church (ELCA), and other churches in communion with the Episcopal Church, including the Moravian Church, the Old Catholic Churches, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the Mar Thoma Church and the Churches of South India (CSI) and North India (CNI).

“Wherever you are on your journey, young adulthood is a time of transition and choices, but you don’t have to do it alone,” commented the Rev. Winfred Vergara, Asiamerica Minister.  “Join us on the campus of CDSP and continue discovering the possibilities, whether you are feeling called to be a clergy person, a vestry member, a nurse, a father, or a cook; whether you’re in school, working, or just in-between; whether you’re a regular church-goer, a used-to goer, or a seeker, we hope you’ll join us for this transformative experience.”

The conference is sponsored by Church Divinity School of the Pacific; the DFMS Asiamerica Ministries, Black Ministries, Indigenous ministries, Latino/Hispanic Ministries, and Young Adult Ministries; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Cost is $70 which includes meals, lodging, conference fees; fee does not include travel.

Registration deadline is May 5.

Why Serve Conference info and registration here.

For more information please contact Angeline Cabanban at 212-716-6186 or acabanban@episcopalchurch.org.
For those from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), contact the Rev. Albert Starr at albert.starr@elca.org.

Ukraine: ‘I am no longer shocked to see bodies’

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Fresh clashes were breaking out in the Ukrainian capital Kiev this morning, even after President Viktor Yanukovych announced that he was pulling security forces away from Independence Square – the scene of bitter fighting in recent days between pro-government forces and demonstrators demanding the president’s resignation and the repeal of the 2004 constitution.

Journalists reporting from the scene have reported that police snipers have opened fire on the protestors, and that some protestors are armed. At least 17 people are said to have been killed this morning, bringing the total death toll to more than 40.

“I am not shocked any more when I see dead people, but can cry any time without any reason,” said Alla Gedz, a member of Christ Church Anglican Church, part of the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe. Speaking to the Anglican Communion News Service, Gedz said: “Today we saw how the dead were pulled out of St. Michael’s [Ukrainian Orthodox] Cathedral and piled near those who died during the night.”

Gedz said that she witnessed a gathering of “Titushkas” – a state-sponsored civilian militia – outside the main police station in Kiev earlier this week. The church is preparing to become Patronage Parents to orphans and had to visit a number of government and charity offices: “From early morning till late at night we were at different places in the center of Kiev. We hardly left the center, because all the roads were blocked by the police.

“The traffic lights were off. The Metro, the main means of transport in Kiev, has been closed. People have to walk and Kiev is not a small village – it takes hours to get somewhere. All the entrance roads to Kiev are closed.”

The leadership of Christ Church has remained neutral about the political position in Ukraine. “To understand Ukrainians, people either have to be born with a Ukrainian heart and know the history or to serve this nation,” Alla said.

“We are very grateful for your prayers,” she said, “because being in the midst of the revolution we do have supernatural peace in our hearts.”

Black History Month: St. Barnabas ‘keeps hope alive’ in Pasadena

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In conjunction with Black History Month, the Episcopal News Service is featuring articles on historically black Episcopal congregations during February. Resources for Black History Month are available here.

Michael Mims, retired Pasadena City College professor who borrowed from his family archive to create the retrospective. Photo: Keith Yamamoto

[Episcopal News Service] Ishmael Bracy had come to experience the 32nd annual Black History Parade and Festival in Pasadena, California on Feb. 15.

Along the parade route, the 24-year-old Pasadena resident was drawn in by an eight-panel photographic retrospective spanning nine decades of the life of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church located on the historically black congregation’s front lawn.

“I feel honored to be exposed to the legacy of their contributions to the community, spiritual and otherwise,” said Bracy, of the display. “I’d like to see more people my age here, embracing the history that has kept hope alive for so long, and embracing the church and the community.”

(St. Barnabas is the second church to be featured in a Black History Month Episcopal News Service series in February focusing on historically black congregations. The historically black congregations were founded by African Americans who were not welcome in mainline Episcopal churches post-slavery and during racial segregation in the United States.)

As spectators and supporters mingled with vendors, hawking ice cream, T-shirts, black, red and green Pan-African flags, and balloons, Michael Mims, 75, a retired Pasadena City College photography professor and St. Barnabas member, was offering goods and services of another kind.

“I’m here to answer questions, to invite people to come and take a look, to give them information,” said Mims, who calculates that he has attended the church since he was three years old.

The “Early Years” panel included photos of his aunt, Rosebud Mims, who along with seven other African-American women founded the church in 1923. Nine years later, it was officially recognized as a mission in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Rev. Mayra Macedo-Nolan of Lake Avenue Church gazes at the St. Barnabas retrospective. Photo: Keith Yamamoto

For the Rev. Mayra Macedo-Nolan and her two-year-old daughter Zion, the photos were captivating.

“I’ve learned a little bit about the history of St. Barnabas, and I want to learn more,” said Macedo-Nolan, a pastor at nearby Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena.

“We’re going to be doing a community stations of the cross during Lent, and we want St. Barnabas to be included as the station where Christ is denied,” she said. “We chose to do that one here because of the way St. Barnabas started — the way things were done in the past was denying Christ – and also to look at the ways we still do that today.”

Church history, family history
Mims said he reached into his family archives to create the photographic display of the church’s history.

“I have pictures of my great-aunt, who was responsible for taking me to St. Barnabas in 1941,” Mims said. She was Laura Kennedy, who moved to Pasadena in the 1930s from Greenville, South Carolina to help Mims’ mother raise six children.

The photographs tell the story: of the first meetings, in the home of Georgia Weatherton on nearby Del Mar Street, where some 30 worshippers attended on Sunday mornings; of the 1933 dedication of the sanctuary; a 1947 confirmation service; the groundbreaking and 1972 dedication of the new parish hall envisioned as a community center; and of scores of gatherings, fundraisers, barbecues and celebrations.

From left, the Rev. Jesse Moses (third rector); the Rev. Alfred Norman (second and fourth rectors); the Rev. Alfred Wilkins, first rector; and the Rev. Ivor Ottley, fifth rector, who took the church to parish status. Photo: St. Barnabas archives

 

Also included, a snapshot of the church’s and the country’s history, the first vicar the Rev. Alfred Wilkins (1933-1943), who heeded “the call of his country, joining the U.S. Army as a chaplain,” according to a written history.

He was followed by the Rev. Alfred Norman (1943-1946, 1951-1970); the Rev. Jesse Moses (1946-1951); the Rev. Ivor Ottley (1977-1990).

Ottley challenged the congregation “to find its true vocation as black Episcopalians” and to commit to an ethic of stewardship, authenticity, education, leadership, ecumenical fellowship, social justice and outreach, “embracing the community beyond the walls of the church,” according to Mims.

The fruits of those efforts are apparent today, as members gathered curbside in front of the church on Feb. 15, applauding and cheering parade passersby, more than a dozen local school marching bands, African dancers and drummers, the Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternities and Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha sororities, equestrians and other service organizations.

They received accolades and shouts out of their own from parade participants like Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy.

“Yeah, St. Barnabas is in the house,” Kennedy called out, waving to parishioners as he passed the church, nearing the last leg of the parade route. “Thank you for being here, St. Barnabas.”

‘Embracing the community’
At least a part of that vocation has been a tradition of community involvement, according to the Rev. John Goldingay, a Fuller Theological Seminary Professor of Old Testament, who now serves as priest-in-charge.

“We’re only a tiny congregation,” but he and about a dozen church members regularly take part in cooking for, serving and eating with members of the homeless community at the Union Station Shelter in Pasadena, he said.

Together, they serve about 50 homeless adults every third Friday and it is an opportunity to enrich the lives of others as well as that of the congregation, he said.

“It is kind of a transitional place for people who are on their way toward being able to get back to work,” according to Goldingay, a Church of England priest for 30 years. He moved to Pasadena to teach and with his wife visited the nearby church of St. Barnabas “not knowing we’d find ourselves the only white people there,” he recalled.

“But we got this fantastic welcome, so much so that we stayed,” he said. “They seem to accept me as a human being, and as a priest, and a Christian.”

Radical welcome, belonging
That kind of radical hospitality is one way the church has attempted to navigate the contemporary challenges of shifting demographics, aging population, dwindling membership and resources.

With an average Sunday attendance of about 50 between two services, the congregation is weighing “how we can reverse that trend,” Goldingay said.

Over the years the congregation’s traditional African-American population increasingly has broadened to include members from across the diaspora, including the Caribbean and Central America, and also whites like himself, Goldingay said.

Mark Bradshaw, 32, a seminarian serving at St. Barnabas, agreed. “I am not black,” he said during a telephone interview with ENS, but added that he and his wife Katie were so warmly welcomed when they visited the church that “we became Episcopalians. We were confirmed at St. Barnabas and it has become everything my wife and I had been hoping and praying for in a congregation.”

He and the congregation have embarked upon several projects, he added. “I’m in the process of meeting people, updating the website, spending time during the week at the Jackie Robinson Park across the street,” he said.

“And I’ve been meeting with people in the congregation and we’re thinking about starting a new service or altering one of our services that would be very true to who we are and very liturgical but that might also be a service that would better meet the needs of younger persons,” he said.

He hopes that other newcomers can experience the same sense of belonging he has found. “I have never been a part of people so welcoming,” he said.

“Two years ago, Fr. John asked the congregation to share some of their stories from the civil rights movement and it was incredible,” he recalled. “Almost everybody had marched with Dr. King or had met him. The congregation takes a lot of pride in their history.”

Which made preaching about the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. feel a bit overwhelming, but it was an opportunity “to talk about how far we’ve come and the work of Dr. King, and to thank the congregation for how they welcomed us,” he said.

“It’s amazing,” he added. “This congregation that started because they weren’t welcome has become so welcoming. I’ve never witnessed before the kind of warmth with which they welcome new people into their midst. It’s a wonderful gift.”

St. Barnabas members gather in front of the church to cheer on the parade. Photo: Keith Yamamoto

Looking forward to the next generation
Showna Edwards, 31, seated in a folding chair in front of the church, had a bird’s eye view of the parade, and was patiently awaiting sight of the church’s parade entry –including several young people, along with Bradshaw bearing the St. Barnabas banner.

“It’s an exciting feeling to know the church is participating in the parade, to have our church known in this small part of Pasadena,” said Edwards, as she bounced one-year-old August Bradshaw on her knee.

“We’re a close-knit church family. I grew up here,” added Edwards, who sees signs of the church rebounding. Now, her three-year-old son Kaden is part of the Sunday programs.

“We have a Sunday school again. Young people are here. The church is growing. It’s very nice to see that, because it’s good support, to grow up with friends together in a church home.”

Gail McKinnon (far left) with Gloria Huffman (second left) St. Barnabas members who brought their Red Hat Society Nubian Roses of the Nile chapter sisters to the church and parade. Photo: Keith Yamamoto

Gail McKinnon and Gloria Huffman, long-time members, brought along some of their Red Hat Society Nubian Roses of the Nile chapter sisters – an international society of women who wear red hats and purple dresses and are dedicated to reshaping the way women are viewed in society.

“St. Barnabas is a family,” agreed McKinnon. “I’ve been here since 1995. I had been away from church for many years and I was welcomed back so whole-heartedly that it became my home. We love each other. We do a lot of eating. I joined and I’ve never looked back.”

The church, located across the street from the park named after baseball great Jackie Robinson, a native son, where the crowd had already begun to gather for food, fun and festival, the church also held an open house for the community.

For Pasadena residents John and Tina (who asked that their last names be withheld), the day was an opportunity to make historic and future connections for their five-year-old twins Phoebe and Perry.

Karla Enrequez and her son Matthew carry the St. Barnabas banner in the 32nd annual Pasadena Black History Parade. Photo: Keith Yamamoto

They visited Mims’ photographic retrospective and then pointed out the church’s parade entry, as Karla Enrequez and her son Matthew, along with Mark Bradshaw, bearing the St. Barnabas banner, waved to the crowds.

“This is so informative,” Tina, a professional singer, said as cheers and applause erupted for St. Barnabas.

“This is a whole historical perspective of the African-American past in Pasadena … This is a thriving community,” added Tina, who said she’d be back to visit the church.

Goldingay agreed, noting a growing interest among numerous parade watchers who visited inside the church. “Next year, we want to see how we can develop what we did this year,” he said.

As for Michael Mims, he spent much of the day telling family and church stories, stories of his aunt and about the many others who set the standard for keeping faith and hope alive in Pasadena and for moving the tradition forward for future generations.

“It’s been a good foundation,” he said of the church. “From a spiritual aspect, a community aspect, a family aspect, it’s been such a big part of my life. I don’t know what I’d be without St. Barnabas. I had a lot of mentors.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

Investing In Each Other: Savings Groups in Angola

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Every Friday morning at 7am, Mariana meets with her fellow members of the Amor (“Love”) Savings Group in Bairro Fofoca – a neighborhood of Luanda, the capital of Angola.

With their combined savings, the group members have formed a rotating fund that enables individuals to take out loans for small business enterprises.  As a member in good standing, Mariana was able to borrow 10,000 Kwanza ($100) from the loan fund to start a business selling children’s shoes, purchasing them wholesale and selling them at a profit of about 300-400 Kz per pair.  At the end of the two-month lending period, Mariana faithfully repaid the full amount plus 10% interest, knowing that this would enable another group member to borrow funds and keep the cycle going.

“When micro-finance programs are built upon members’ savings, they can have a sustainable impact,” said Tammi Mott, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Program Officer focusing on integrated programs in Angola.  “Since the members themselves create the revolving loan fund, they are literally invested in each other, and this feeling of solidarity and accountability encourages everyone to contribute and do their part.”

READ MORE >>

Click to download in Word document format.

National Cathedral awards contract for Phase I of earthquake repairs

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Washington National Cathedral press release] Since the day of the August 23, 2011 earthquake, Washington National Cathedral has been planning for the repair of the damage incurred as a result of the 5.8 magnitude shake.

Thanks to the generosity of the Lily Endowment, the American Express/National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Partners in Preservation program, the Save America’s Treasures program, as well as grants and gifts from other organizations and individuals, the Cathedral has been able to raise approximately $10 million toward the total $26 million needed to complete all repairs.  An initial portion of that the initial funding was spent to stabilize the building post-earthquake.  The Cathedral is now poised to begin the first phase of repair work with the remaining funds restricted to earthquake repair.

After going through a competitive bidding process that started at the beginning of January 2014, the Cathedral is pleased to announce that the James G. Davis Construction Corporation has been selected from a group of three qualifying bids to implement the Phase I Earthquake Repairs.  This 12-14 month project will address the restoration of the interior ceiling, the removal of the existing interior protective netting and the restoration of the exterior east end, including the six flying buttresses where the most significant earthquake damage occurred.  All other repairs will be implemented as further funding becomes available.

Presiding Bishop to preach at St. Paul’s in London

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] At the invitation of the Very Rev. Dr. David Ison, dean, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori will preach at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Sunday, March 9 at the 11:30 a.m. GMT service.

“I look forward to joining the St. Paul’s community again and meeting the new Dean,” the Presiding Bishop said.  “I give thanks for the remarkable witness and ministry of this cathedral, and pray that its faithful leadership may continue to bless the people of London and far beyond.”

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori previously preached at St. Paul’s on July 25, 2010.

Day of Prayer is emotional experience for Sudanese congregation

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Members of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, Moorhead, Minnesota (Diocese of North Dakota) gather with their new vicar, the Rev. Michael Paul, following the worship service on the Day of Prayer for South Sudan on Feb. 16. Photo: Joe Bjordal/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The observance of a Day of Prayer for South Sudan on Feb. 16 took on a very personal nature at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Moorhead, Minnesota. The congregation is predominantly made up of Sudanese refugees and their prayers were not just for peace in the war-torn country half a world away, but specifically for mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers — family members left behind.

Many wiped away tears as their vicar, the Rev. Michael Kiju Paul, himself a Sudanese refugee, prayed “Father, save South Sudan!”

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called for the Day of Prayer saying “the world is increasingly concerned over the rampant violence in South Sudan.” The Day of Prayer was also observed in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in the Reformed Church in America.

The Rev. Michael Kiju Paul, new vicar of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, Moorhead, Minnesota (Diocese of North Dakota), leads the congregation in prayer for South Sudan before celebrating Holy Communion on Feb. 16. Photo: Joe Bjordal/Episcopal News Service

“I want to thank the presiding bishop for designating this day as a Day of Prayer for South Sudan. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to the Sudanese people here,” said Paul in an interview with ENS following the worship service. “We are badly hit and affected by what is happening back home. We weep for our country and the Americans here in our midst weep with us. The hearts of the members of this congregation are torn apart by what is happening back there.”

Massive loss of life and displacement
A 2011 referendum resulted in the division of the African country of Sudan into two nations —Sudan and South Sudan. The referendum was one of the conditions of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 that brought an end to civil wars that spanned more than five decades. But peace has been fragile. Last year a division in the government of the Republic of South Sudan brought about the ousting of the vice president and fueled rising unrest within the army. On Dec. 15, fighting broke out in the capital city of Juba between rival tribal factions of the Presidential Guard. Within days thousands of members of the Nuer tribe had been murdered in Juba and the unrest spread to other regions of the country and took on an ethnic dimension.

The International Crisis Group estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed since mid-December. The United Nations, which has observers on the ground in South Sudan, reports that hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the fighting and that 80,000 South Sudanese have crossed the borders in search of safety into neighboring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. U.N. observers also report that nearly two-thirds of the country’s population is at risk of food insecurity.

On Feb. 10, the Anglican Communion News Service published a report from World Watch Monitor saying that scores of female church workers were raped and massacred in the South Sudanese town of Bor. The report quotes Episcopal Bishop of Bor Ruben Akurdit Ngong, who said that women had sought shelter in a church compound and that most of the churches in the diocese had been destroyed by rebel soldiers.

In her call to prayer, Jefferts Schori noted that the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan “is partnering with others on the ground in that work of peace-building.” Speaking in Moorhead following the prayer service, Paul said the church in Sudan “has been in the forefront, mediating and talking and attempting to bring the warring parties together to discuss peace.” He said that the church was also “fully involved in the war that brought us independence and has never left its people.”

“Right now, in the bushes of South Sudan, in the cities and towns, the church is standing up and really trying to bring these people together to bring peace and allow people to begin to rebuild that country that has been ravaged by war for over 50 years,” said Paul.

On Feb. 10, the South Sudan Council of Churches issued a statement from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the site of peace talks, saying that church representatives, including Sudanese Episcopal Bishop Enoch Tombe, were on hand to “accompany the peace talks with prayers and to deliver a prophetic message of peace from God and the people of South Sudan … ‘We want peace in our beloved land. We are tired of war!’”

Deacon Zechariah Reng and Daniel Mabiroh Suhiuk pray before leading the weekly worship service in the Sudanese dialect of Dinka at St. John the Divine, Moorhead, Minnesota on Feb. 16. Photo: Joe Bjordal/Episcopal News Service

Remembering; praying; hoping
Emotions ran deep at St. John the Divine on Feb. 16 as prayers and memories focused on a homeland far away and left behind long ago – for some nearly 20 years.

Vestry member Helen Lodu was among the first Sudanese refugees to settle in the metropolitan area of twin cities Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota in 1995. She said “the war was just so bad we had to get the children out of the country.” They lived in Kenya for two years before they found an opportunity to go to the United States and join her brother, who had previously settled in Northern Minnesota.

Lodu, whose husband recently returned from Sudan and witnessed the current violence first-hand, said it was sad to have been at war for so long, to have fought to gain independence and yet be back at “square one.”

She was nonetheless buoyed by the Day of Prayer.

“This day means a lot to me because I have never been able to go back to Sudan and see my people. I pray that God will listen to the prayers of all who unite themselves; that one day peace will come; that those who suffer can enjoy the land that God has given them; and we can go back.”

Another vestry member, Albert Simbe, fled Sudan with his late wife in 1998 and settled in Fargo-Moorhead. He said he has recently received reports from relatives in South Sudan about the violence that has erupted since Dec. 15.

“I really feel grateful that people in the United States are thinking about the suffering people in South Sudan. What broke out there on Dec. 15 is terrible, with thousands of people killed, displaced and suffering with no food, no water, no essential commodities. I am praying very hard that the peace talks in Addis Ababa will succeed. If they do not, as one rebel leader said, the country will crumble,” said Simbe.

“I am praying that Almighty God will be among them in the peace talks, so that they will agree and the country can be at peace,” he said.

Hospitality brings a change of character
Lodu and Simbe are but two of nearly 3,000 Sudanese refugees who have settled in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The influx started in the mid-1990s and gained momentum around 2000 when dozens of the Lost Boys of Sudan began to arrive. They were refugees who fled war-torn Sudan without parents, often alone and seeking asylum initially in neighboring countries to avoid being drafted into war. Many would eventually settle in locations around the world.

Many of the arriving Sudanese refugees were members of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and Episcopal faith communities in the United States rose up and stepped forward to provide assistance. One of those communities was St. John the Divine in Moorhead, a congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota.

Barbara Glasrud, a 60-year member of St. John’s and its current senior warden, said on Feb. 16 that she remembers “vividly how it all started,” recalling a visit in the late 1990s from Andrew Fairfield, then bishop of North Dakota.

“He told us that these people were coming into our area; that they were Episcopalians and Anglicans; that they needed a church home; and that he would like us to welcome them. We did and the rest is history,” she said.

Glasrud said that in the beginning it was just a few of the Lost Boys. She recalls members of the congregation meeting them at the airport; helping to find housing, and for many basic clothing needed for a climate in sharp contrast to the deserts of Africa. Then, she said, families started coming and “soon we had a big population of Sudanese people in our congregation.”

Having changed the character of the Anglo congregation with Scandinavian roots that had worshiped in the historic church building since 1858, St. John’s called its first Sudanese priest in 2000. It was Lodu’s husband, Alex, who was ordained in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and was serving as a professor at a theological college in Mundri at the time of their departure. He served St. John’s for 10 years.

Paul arrived in mid-2013. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Kajo Keji in South Sudan and after settling in the United States served St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Diego, California for six years. When financial resources no longer allowed St. Luke’s to have a full-time priest, Paul sought employment outside the church.

Aware that there was a Sudanese congregation in the Fargo-Moorhead area, he found work in window and door manufacturing. He asked his bishop in San Diego to introduce him to North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, who eventually asked Paul to volunteer at St. John’s.

“Father Michael seemed to fit right in,” said Glasrud, and in December the congregation called Paul to be its vicar, a part-time position for the timebeing.

Paul notes that without a Sudanese pastor, participation in the congregation’s three Sunday worship services – in English, Dinka and Arabic – had dwindled but have now started to revive.

“As the new vicar, I am working day in and day out, calling the Sudanese community to come back. There is a large Sudanese community here and there is no reason why we cannot gather as brothers and sisters to worship together.”

He also said that members of the congregation will launch new efforts to educate the community and other congregations in the diocese about the issues surrounding South Sudan and invite them “to pray for our country.”

Paul will formally be installed by Smith at a Celebration of New Ministry on Feb. 22.

Task Force on Study of Marriage wants your videos

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage wants videos from Episcopalians throughout the church.

The videos should focus on the topic: Give us your first name and tell a one minute story about your relationship or one you know well in which you have seen the image of God.

“We invite Episcopalians to prepare, produce and submit a one-minute video sharing their thoughts and feelings that we can use in our reporting,” commented Task Force member the Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr., Diocese of Ohio. “The videos don’t need to be professionally recorded – feel free to use a Smartphone or flip cam.”

The videos should be sent to wmebane@dohio.org

These videos will be used as part of upcoming presentations and reports to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

Task Force Facebook page here

Task Force YouTube here.

The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage is enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention.

Task Force Members
The members of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage are:
The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, Diocese of the Rio Grande
Carolyn M. Chilton, Diocese of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Diocese of Vermont
Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, vice-chair, Diocese of East Carolina
The Very Rev. Gail Greenwell, Diocese of Kansas
The Rev. Tobias S. Haller, Diocese of New York
The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr., Diocese of Ohio
The Rev. J. David Knight, Diocese of Mississippi
The Rev. Dr. Cameron E. Partridge, Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Very Rev. Dr. Sylvia A. Sweeney, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Resolution A050 is available in full here.

Anglicans urged to carbon-fast for Lent

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network (ACEN) is encouraging Christians around the world to take part in a “carbon-fast” this Lent.

The network is calling on Anglicans to take a deeper challenge than fasting from coffee, alcohol or chocolates this Lent, by reducing the use of carbon based fuels on which we all depend.

“We will take small steps for a more sustainable world, and by doing so rediscover a different relationship with God, with Creation and with one another,” the group says on its website, adding: “I can change the world a little in 40 days, but I can change myself a lot!”

For each week during Lent, which runs from Ash Wednesday on March 5 to the Saturday before Holy Week on April 12, the network has developed themed materials to focus on “a time of reflection and action.”

Under the headings, “Stuff,” “Water,” “Energy and Mobility,” “Food Production,” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Fix,” there is a prayer, a resource to read or watch, actions to take as an individual, some suggestions of community actions you can take, and something you can consider doing to “change the system.”

The network is also asking people to share the initiative using social media, and has produced cover photos and profile pix that people can use on Facebook.

More details are available at carbonfast2014.wordpress.com or facebook.com/greenanglicans.

Proposals invited for Native American program assistance

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Office of Indigenous Ministries and the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries invites Episcopal communities with Native American initiatives to submit proposals for the New Opportunities Grants, which provides funding for programs in 2014.

“The New Opportunities Grant was a project established to assist native people throughout the Episcopal Church to develop new and innovative approaches to their ministry,” explained Sarah Eagle Heart, Episcopal Church Program Officer for Indigenous Ministries.

Grant guidelines, requirements, forms, further information and application instructions are located here.

Deadline is April 15.

For further information contact Angeline Cabanban at acabanban@episcopalchurch.org

Prayers, support for South Sudan shared in Kentucky diocese

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kentucky Bishop Terry White offers prayers of healing for family members of those who have died in the recent fighting in South Sudan. Photo: Brian Funk-Kinnaman, Diocese of Kentucky staff

[Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky] Calling for prayers for the dead, and those grieving, orphaned, wounded, and displaced due to the recent escalation of violence in South Sudan, Episcopal Bishop Terry White led the Diocese of Kentucky in a Day of Prayer on Sunday, Feb. 16 at Messiah-Trinity Church in Louisville. A Eucharist commemorating the Martyrs of Sudan was followed by a time of fellowship and story-sharing.

The blended Episcopal-Lutheran parish is also a joint Anglo-Sudanese congregation. Louisville’s significant Sudanese population has grown out of more than 200 “Lost Boys” who arrived in Kentucky in 2001 after fleeing war in the Sudan. Many of the young refugees were assisted in their resettlement by Kentucky Refugee Ministries, an affiliate partner of Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Bishop Terry White greets a young parishioner during the exchange of the peace. Photo: Brian Funk-Kinnaman, Diocese of Kentucky staff

White called the diocese to the Day of Prayer as a show of solidarity and support for its Sudanese members after hearing “sad and sobering” reports from Deacon Daniel Kuol, who serves at Messiah-Trinity. Kuol and his wife, Deborah, have lost seven family members in the fighting in and around Bor, the birthplace of many of Louisville’s Sudanese population. In sharing the news of his family’s losses, Kuol called the community to act for peace and unity, saying, “We are Christians. We do not take sides. We must be peacemakers between those who are fighting.”

Kuol and a group of drummers led the congregation in a Dinka song recounting the journey of the “Lost Boys.” A candle lighting ceremony followed, during which church members read aloud the names of more than 40 relatives who have died in the fighting. Representatives from the families gathered around the bishop and received prayers for healing and hope. Representatives of other parishes in the diocese were present in person or through messages and gifts, as were ecumenical representatives of other Sudanese communities, including nearby Presbyterian and Missouri Synod Lutheran congregations.

In a statement released Feb. 4, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori encouraged Episcopalians to pray, and to help spread awareness of needs of those in South Sudan, writing, “The Prince of Peace serves the whole world.  As his disciples, may we do no less!”

Scripture readings were available in English and Dinka, and the sermon was translated into Arabic as well. White enjoined those gathered to work for a solution, saying, “We must all be peacemakers! Courageous reconcilers! We must all be filled with the unconditional love of God for all people, including our enemies.” After the sermon, the bishop invited the congregation to renew their baptismal covenant, calling on the community to “stay faithful to Jesus who died and rose again and who has destroyed death forever.”

Dan Dykstra presents a healing blanket to Mario Luwal, elder of the Dinka community, as a gift from St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Louisville. Photo: Brian Funk-Kinnaman, Diocese of Kentucky staff

The congregation processed out of worship to the traditional Easter hymn “Lift High the Cross” and gathered for a shared meal of traditional Sudanese and American potluck dishes, including ham sandwiches and Khoodra Mafrooka, a spinach stew.

The meal was followed by a time of story-telling, during which a panel of local Sudanese leaders shared their hopes for a united, peaceful life for the people of South Sudan. “We come from a great nation, and we must be united to one another,” said Alier Mareet, one of the seven speakers. The group thanked their “fellow Americans” for the support they have shown by welcoming the stranger and by participating in relief efforts intended to alleviate the suffering of the South Sudanese. John Deng, pastor of United Sudanese Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) urged those gathered to call on American political leaders to use their influence to work for an end to the violence, saying,  “We need the world to put pressure on the leaders of South Sudan to stop this terrible war.”

Bishop White’s sermon can be read here, and his Call to a Day of Prayer for South Sudan is here.

A statement from the United Thank Offering Board

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The members of the board of the United Thank Offering have issued the following statement.

Please join the United Thank Offering Board in giving thanks to God for the collaborative work between the Board, staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and members of Executive Council, the result of which is the creation of organizational documents that clarify and implement the work of the Board, grow the ministry of the United Thank Offering, and facilitate the relationship between the Board and Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).

It has come to our attention that some confusion remains over how the Bylaws and Memorandum of Understanding were created, approved and even over their content.  The Board wants to share some basic information regarding the process and content with the hope of helping those of you with concerns about the status of the United Thank Offering.  Please know that we are always open to questions; we welcome the opportunity to clear up any confusion that may impede participation in the United Thank Offering.

In October, members of our Board, along with the UTO Coordinator, met with members of Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) of the Executive Council.  We discussed the state of the Board in Executive Session and then decided that a small group of Board members and Executive Council members would meet to look at the governing documents of the Board, along with Paul Nix, who serves as legal counsel for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  We left the meeting in October feeling optimistic and hopeful that this process of working together would be mutually informative and help us chart a way forward.  In January 2014, the working group met in Texas to draft Bylaws and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). We spent a great deal of time discussing and deciding what was needed in these documents and those of us who represented the Board feel that the quality of these documents will give us a firm foundation for success moving forward.  These documents were then approved unanimously by the Board at the end of January and then by Executive Council at the beginning of February.  The Bylaws and MOU are available here.  As the life and work of this Board changes, these documents and our new policies and procedures will continue to change also.  We believe that these documents are an excellent and transparent description of the work we do, and highlight how the Board is growing structurally.

In spite of the Board’s approval and comfort with the new governing documents, we continue to hear concerns from within The Episcopal Church.  We will try to address some of the common concerns here.

1. Some people have shared the concern that the Board will no longer be responsible for the granting process, administration and ministry of the United Thank Offering. The Board continues to be responsible for the work and ministry of the United Thank Offering, including but not limited to granting.  As we have for many decades, we will work closely with the trained staff available to us through The Episcopal Church who continue to support our work and help us continually grow our ministry.  The ultimate responsibility of grants resides with the Board.  The Board bears responsibility for the annual granting process and the administration of the United Thank Offering. Like all of the granting agencies of The Episcopal Church, we do this in cooperation with Executive Council.

2. We have heard that there is a concern that the DFMS staff will take over granting ingathering funds or the operations of the United Thank Offering.  Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Sam McDonald, Director of Mission and the Rev. Heather Melton, UTO Coordinator are firm supporters of the work of the United Thank Offering and each has a Blue Box on his or her desk.  They have championed our ministry, supported our work, and listened to our concerns. Bishop Sauls is committed to making sure we are able to do that work and that we have access to the staff and resources we need in order to accomplish our goals, but he, or other staff members, do not approve or recommend grants, mission, or ministry undertaken by our Board.

3. The trust funds are legally held by The Episcopal Church (DFMS), as are all trust funds of the Church.  The Board creates a budget for the management of these funds for the triennium and updates it yearly.  We are aided in the financial work by the Finance Department of The Episcopal Church. They carry out our requests, and they help us follow sound financial practices.

2013 was a year of tremendous change for the United Thank Offering Board.  Not only did the president of the Board die suddenly, but also we were without a staff UTO Coordinator and were coming out of a time of study: INC 055 AD Hoc Committee. We began the process of searching for a new staff UTO Coordinator and we are pleased and excited to have the Rev. Heather Melton, who was hired in June, on the journey with us.

At the beginning of September, four members of the Board chose to resign. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did not fill these vacancies, as some have suggested. Instead, they were filled by the appropriate Provinces of The Episcopal Church in accordance with the 2011 Bylaws, which were then in force.  The majority of the Board remained and they continue to bring new ideas and hope to this important ministry.   As difficult as all of the changes which took place over the last 13 months have been, we believe that we are poised to move into the next 125 years of the United Thank Offering with a much better understanding of our history and the role of this Board in strong, supportive partnership with the staff and leadership of The Episcopal Church.

Please know that we are very interested in supporting the work and ministry of the United Thank Offering in your diocese.  We are currently developing new resources for parishes, children and youth as well as specific initiatives for our 125th anniversary. Our website: www.episcopalchurch.org/uto is a wonderful resource for basic information. We hope that you will continue, or begin to participate in the annual ingathering of funds that are then given out each year as grants to support local ministry.  We hope you’ll apply for grants so that we can hear the good work that you are doing and partner with you in it.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns that we have not addressed in this letter.  The Rev. Heather Melton, hmelton@episcopalchurch.org, is available if you need further information about the United Thank Offering, have questions regarding the process that unfolded or how your congregation might participate in this ministry.  She can also put you into contact with your province representative on the Board if you have specific questions.

Barbara Schafer, UTO Board President/Province VIII UTO Representative

UTO Board Executive Committee Members:
Marcie Cherau, Vice President/Province IV Representative
Dena Lee, Secretary/Province III Representative
Susan Howland, Financial Secretary/Province I Representative

La I.E. en la República Dominicana se propone alcanzar el autosostenimiento para 2016

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Los episcopales desfilan en procesión, por la avenida George Washington, más conocida como el Malecón, desde la catedral de la Epifanía en la Avenida Independencia hasta el Ministerio de Cultura, para la eucaristía de clausura de la 56ª. Convención Anual de la Diócesis de la República Dominicana. Foto de Julius Ariail.

[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, República Dominicana] Según la Diócesis de la República Dominicana sigue avanzando hacia el autosostenimiento, las relaciones de compañerismo y un creciente sentido de la mayordomía se mantendrán como componentes claves en el plan de la diócesis para lograr un mayor crecimiento y desarrollo.

“Es posible alcanzar la autosuficiencia con la ayuda de diócesis compañeras y con los empeños que hemos puesto en la mayordomía local”, dijo Julio César Holguín, obispo de la República Dominicana.

Para que la Iglesia prosiga su misión, siguió diciendo él, necesita del apoyo de las iglesias locales, de las escuelas y de otras instituciones, así como el apoyo de las Mujeres Episcopales, la diócesis compañeras y los individuos particulares que apoyan la Iglesia y su misión.

El presupuesto de 2014 fue aprobado durante la convención diocesana que sesionó del 14 al 16 de febrero y el cual incluyó acápites, conforme a los cuales cada una de las 55 misiones de la diócesis asumirían la mayor parte de sus propios costos operativos y pagarían un porcentaje de los salarios del clero. El lema de la Convención fue tomado de Juan 15:16: “Llamados a dar frutos que permanezcan”.

Durante su alocución a la Convención, en la que Holguín pidió oficialmente la elección de un coadjutor, dijo que la diócesis se había esforzado por garantizar su autosostenimiento económico, para lo cual, según sus palabras, había contado con apoyo en varios frentes:

  • Las congregaciones locales, la mayoría de las cuales tienen recursos limitados, han comenzado a asumir la responsabilidad por algunos de sus propios gastos, tales como mayordomía, servicios públicos, mantenimiento, salarios del clero, educación cristiana y programas sociales.
  • Las congregaciones han comenzado programas empresariales.
  • Las escuelas, centros de conferencias e instituciones de la diócesis continúan desarrollándose en sus propias capacidades administrativas y en los servicios que brindan, aumentando sus ingresos, así como su contribución a la diócesis y su misión en el país.
  • El Grupo Dominicano de Desarrollo y el subsidio anual de la Iglesia Episcopal proporcionan un apoyo continuo.

El subsidio, sin embargo, no se mantendrá para siempre y las diócesis de la IX Provincia de la Iglesia Episcopal, extendidas a través del Caribe y de Centroamérica y el norte de América del Sur, han comenzado a poner en práctica estrategias con vistas a obtener la independencia económica del histórico programa de subvención global de la Iglesia Episcopal, que en el trienio actual asigna $2,9 millones a la IX Provincia.

El obispo de la República Dominicana, Julio César Holguín, pidió oficialmente un obispo coadjutor durante la Convención diocesana que tuvo lugar del 14 al 16 de febrero. Foto de Julius Ariail.

Recientemente, por recomendación del equipo de trabajo de la Segunda Marca de la Misión, un grupo convocado por el personal de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS), el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal, durante su reunión del 5 al 7 de febrero en Maryland, convino en un plan de 18 años para [lograr] la “autosuficiencia”, en apoyo de una misión y ministerio sostenibles en la IX Provincia, que incluye la República Dominicana.

“Esto surge de una necesidad para la IX Provincia de que los líderes de esas diócesis dependan de sí mismos”, dijo Sam McDonald, subdirector operativo y director de misión de la Iglesia Episcopal.

“Intentamos entrar en una relación espiritualmente más sana sustentada en la mutualidad y no en la dependencia”.

A partir de las tres diócesis que están más cerca de alcanzar la autosuficiencia —República Dominicana, Honduras y Colombia—, el plan requiere que cada diócesis reciba una infusión de fondos basada en una plan estratégico para lograr el autosostenimiento. En la medida en que puedan sostenerse a sí mismas, [las diócesis] se comprometen a colaborar con las otras diócesis de la provincia para ayudarlas a lograr el mismo objetivo.

Las otras cuatro diócesis de la IX Provincia son: Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Venezuela y Puerto Rico. La Diócesis de Puerto Rico se autosostiene. El presupuesto trienal también incluía $1 millón adicional para la IX Provincia con el objetivo de [contribuir al]  “fortalecimiento de la provincia para la misión sostenible”. Este dinero se le facilitará a las diócesis para acelerar su avance hacia el autosostenimiento.

El próximo paso para [las diócesis de] la República Dominicana y Honduras consiste en presentar propuestas que resuman cómo se empleará el dinero para promover el autosostenimiento, dijo Martha Gardner, presidenta del Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Misión Mundial del Consejo Ejecutivo, en una entrevista telefónica con ENS el 13 de febrero. Las relaciones de compañerismo, dijo Gardner, desempeñarán un papel importante en ayudar a las diócesis a alcanzar el autosostenimiento.

El obispo de la República Dominicana, Julio César Holguín, ordenó a cuatro diáconos durante la eucaristía de clausura de la 56ª. Convención Diocesana Anual de la Diócesis [Episcopal] de la República Dominicana. Foto de Julius Ariail.

La fuerza de las cifras
La República Dominicana es un caso a destacar. A lo largo de los últimos 20 años el número de relaciones de compañerismo ha aumentado de cuatro a 15; en los últimos 15 años, la diócesis ha crecido hasta llegar a tener más de 11.000 episcopales, 55 iglesias y más de 30 escuelas e instituciones. La diócesis tiene un presupuesto anual de $1 millón cien mil.

En 1998, se creó el Grupo Dominicano de Desarrollo con el objetivo fundamental de buscar los “recursos humanos, materiales y económicos que se necesiten para mantener el ritmo de crecimiento de la diócesis y proporcionarle a la diócesis la capacidad de mantener programas de ‘calidad’”.

En 15 años, el GDD ha recaudado más de $10 millones para financiar la construcción de instalaciones de infraestructura, categoría que incluye iglesias, escuelas, guarderías infantiles y clínicas, en la República Dominicana. Esto se ha mantenido como modelo de espíritu emprendedor a través de la IX Provincia.

Si bien “el autosostenimiento” significa que la Iglesia en la República Dominicana llegará el momento en que ya no dependa del programa de subvención global, el GDD desempeñará un papel importante en ayudar a mantener el desarrollo que ya está en marcha, dijo Bill Kunkle, director ejecutivo del grupo.

“El objetivo sería continuar el crecimiento, no querríamos estancarnos”, apuntó. “Es aquí donde los equipos intervienen en apoyo del crecimiento, expandiendo los ministerios y las asociaciones”.

Como director ejecutivo, Kunkle sirve de enlace, desde EE.UU., en la relación de compañerismo de la diócesis. Junto con Karen Carroll, misionero de la Iglesia Episcopal que ha prestado servicios en la República Dominicana durante nueve años, ayuda a coordinar de 50 a 70 equipos de misiones que viajan a la República Dominicana para ayudar a construir y mantener propiedades de la Iglesia, a dirigir escuelas bíblicas de vacaciones y a dirigir misiones médicas y de otras clases.

Los equipos de misión suelen visitar la República Dominicana anualmente; lo que puede comenzar como una relación de tipo “colonial” en el cual los norteamericanos quieren dirigir proyectos e iniciativas, con el tiempo da lugar a asociaciones sólidas en las cuales cada parte se beneficia.

El Rdo. Adolfo Moronta describe —a Todd Ousley, obispo de Michigan Oriental, y a Bill Kunkle, director ejecutivo del Grupo Dominicano de Desarrollo— una construcción que se encuentra en proceso en San Isidro. Foto de Julius Ariail.

Fue el concepto de asociación, más que el de simplemente enviar dinero para apoyar proyectos, lo que atrajo y ha sostenido la relación de compañerismo entre [la Diócesis de] la República Dominicana y la Diócesis de Michigan Oriental.

“Habíamos estado en ‘relaciones coloniales’ y esto es algo diferente”, dijo el obispo de Michigan Oriental Todd Ousley, que asistió a la convención diocesana.

Resulta claro también, dijo Scott Mayer, obispo de Texas Noroccidental, cuya diócesis también tiene una relación de compañerismo con la de República Dominicana, que las diócesis estadounidenses de la Iglesia Episcopal podrían aprender muchísimo de la manera en que la diócesis [de la República Dominicana] planta sus misiones.

“Plantan misiones donde perciben una necesidad, plantamos iglesias donde percibimos un ritmo de crecimiento”, afirmó.

 

Los asistentes a la convención diocesana se dividieron para discusiones en grupos sobre las Cinco Marcas de la Misión. Foto de Julius Ariail.

Los planes de autosostenimiento se configuran
Durante una reunión —en julio de 2013— de líderes laicos y ordenados de la IX Provincia y miembros del personal del Centro denominacional, el consenso fue que “la actual relación entre las diócesis de la IX Provincia y el resto de la Iglesia Episcopal está influido por la naturaleza de las históricas subvenciones globales que establecen una relación de dependencia. Esto no es espiritualmente sano, ni para la parte ‘dependiente’, ni para aquella de la cual ‘se depende’”, según dice un documento que se hizo público después de la reunión.

El documento, creado por el grupo de la II Marca de la Misión, surgió de una larga conversación que comenzó en serio en marzo de 2011 con una conferencia en Tela, Honduras.

En marzo de 2012, durante una reunión del Sínodo Provincial en la República Dominicana, las diócesis adoptaron oficialmente el autosostenimiento como un punto focal. En mayo de 2013, la conferencia de la Red Global de la Misión Episcopal que se celebró en Bogotá, Colombia, también se concentró en el tema del autosostenimiento.

Cada diócesis se encuentra en una etapa diferente del proceso. Aunque las diócesis de la IX Provincia comparten un idioma común, algunas están bien establecidas y otras son nuevas. Por ejemplo, la diócesis más reciente de la provincia, Venezuela, sólo ha sido oficialmente una diócesis de la Iglesia Episcopal desde 2006. La [diócesis de la] República Dominicana celebró, en 2013, 100 años como parte de la Iglesia Episcopal, y 116 de existencia. Colombia celebra 50 años este año.

El obispo Victor Scantlebury ha servido durante dos años y medio como obispo provisional de la Diócesis de Ecuador Central, la cual se ve muy diferente de la de República Dominicana.

“Mi trabajo consiste en reconstruir la diócesis y, al mismo tiempo, ayudarles a crear un plan de autosostenimiento”, dijo Scantlebury, añadiendo que sus tres principales áreas de concentración incluyen ayudar a la Iglesia a encontrar su identidad, a conservar a sus miembros y a enseñar mayordomía.

El plan de 18 años, apuntó, le toma a la diócesis hasta 2030.

“Parecería como que tenemos mucho tiempo, pero no a mí”, dijo Scantlebury. “Estoy laborando esforzadamente para hacer que el clero y el laicado cobren conciencia del hecho de que estamos en este proceso, y que pronto la Iglesia Episcopal [las subvenciones globales] habrá dejado de existir”.

Parte de ese reto es, dijo él, que en América Latina, donde la cultura catolicorromana sigue siendo dominante, los feligreses suelen dar una ofrenda a la iglesia durante los oficios, pero la gente no se ven a sí mismo como “mayordomos” [de Dios], afirmó.

En la República Dominicana, la diócesis ya ha comenzado a asumir el papel de la mayordomía, el cual también conduce a una dinámica más saludable dentro de la diócesis y estimula a los sacerdotes a desarrollar sus propias estrategias para el autosostenimiento.

“Tenemos que ser creativos y pensar en lo que podemos hacer”, dijo el Rdo. Vicente Peña, quien, por ejemplo, gestionó con el gobierno para que le permitieran usar gratis el centro cultural para el oficio dominical de clausura de la convención, porque la catedral no era lo suficientemente grande para darle cabida a las más de 1.500 personas que asistieron.

En sus conversaciones acerca del autosostenimiento y de la dinámica más sana que crearía entre las diócesis de la IX Provincia y la Iglesia Episcopal, el equipo de la II Marca [de la Misión] reconoció “la pragmática realidad de que existe un futuro potencial de disminución de ingresos a nivel denominacional para que puedan sostenerse las históricas subvenciones globales”.

Y afirmó, “puede que esto sea una convergencia providencial del deseo y el reconocimiento de la importancia espiritual de liberarse de la dependencia y la realidad muy probable de que los modelos actuales no son sostenibles indefinidamente”.

– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Students to develop life, job skills through Kansas youth program

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] High school students in inner-city Kansas City, Kansas, soon will get the chance to develop life and job skills, thanks to a new program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that has received funding from the Episcopal Church.

A $35,000 Jubilee Ministry grant will fund the start-up this fall of “Youth in Transitions,” which the church’s priest, the Rev. Dixie Junk, described as a youth development program.

The need that sparked the church’s grant application was simple – the local school district sends students home at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays to provide time for staff training. Through a series of meetings with community groups, church members heard that there was a real need to find something meaningful for high school students to do during that time.

The new program will provide selected students help in several areas:

  • Life skills – personal finance, nutrition and healthy eating, and communications;
  • Job-readiness skills – how to complete a job application, interviewing and networking;
  • Community service training to become a volunteer in one of the church’s existing food ministry programs – food pantry, Saturday morning hot breakfast and community garden; and
  • Quiet time for reflection, something school officials identified as a missing element in many homes.

About half of the one-year grant is earmarked for hiring a part-time program coordinator, which Junk said is the key to the program’s success. This person will oversee the program’s selection of student participants and recruit the volunteers who will teach the skills classes.

The rest of the grant funds will provide curriculum materials and technology equipment for instructors and students, as well as classroom tables and chairs.

Junk said the church, which is located in the city’s urban core, will rely on volunteer labor and in-kind donations to convert some existing rooms, like an under-used library and chapel, into spaces where students can learn and study.

Grant recognizes an innovative program
The Rev. Mark Stevenson, who became the Episcopal Church’s first domestic poverty missioner last September, oversees the Jubilee grants. He made a trip to St. Paul’s in late January to get a first-hand look at plans for the start-up of the new program.

He said that St. Paul’s was selected from 59 applications because this program can be used by other churches around the country. “What we liked about this program was the ability for it to be replicated in different contexts,” Stevenson said.

The grant committee was searching for a model ministry that showed innovation and creativity, had an educational component, and could be duplicated elsewhere.

Junk said she has received support for the new program from Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland and Commissioner Ann Murguia. In a letter that accompanied the grant application, Holland praised the church’s outreach efforts that support its neighborhood and reach thousands of people each year. He said the youth start-up will bring “our kids up to speed on important job readiness and life skills that can be harder to come by in urban environments.”

Murguia’s letter said St. Paul’s will fill a gap that currently isn’t being met by schools or the local community, to help “prepare young people for the realities of the work force and the responsibilities of citizenship.” She called St. Paul’s efforts “a great service and benefit to our city.”

Junk said area employers told her some of their young employees lack the work and life skills the church’s program will teach. They have promised to send them to the church’s new program to catch up.

She said government officials also have pledged their help in connecting businesses with the church to provide additional trainers and to enhance the course content.

Culinary program is long-term goal
Junk said that if St. Paul’s can find the money, they would like to provide an expansion of the successful Culinary Cornerstones chef training program operated by Episcopal Community Services, a social service agency of the Dioceses of Kansas and West Missouri.

That program is based at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Mo., and teaches high-end cooking skills to students whose backgrounds (often drug addiction or jail time) make them hard to employ. The program helps place graduates in restaurant kitchens across the metro-Kansas City area.

To make that expansion a reality, St. Paul’s would need nearly $20,000 to buy restaurant-grade equipment for its kitchen, and another $125,000 to put in a parking lot to accommodate events that Culinary Cornerstones students cater as part of their training. On the church grounds there is room for only about a dozen cars now, so the church relies on street parking for Sunday services and weekday outreach efforts.

In the meantime, Junk hopes they can begin to offer training for other kinds of restaurant jobs, such as waiters and waitresses, which can provide meaningful jobs for high school students.

She admits expanding into the culinary program is ambitious, given that St. Paul’s has a small membership, operates with a barebones budget and receives financial help from the diocese. But if the Youth in Transitions program is a success, Junk hopes it can serve as leverage and incentive for community partners to want to make the culinary training possible. Episcopal Community Services has pledged to help make those connections.

Junk said this grant goes a long way to showing others that St. Paul’s is committed to helping create a better neighborhood. “The larger our position as a vital member of this community, the more likely there will be resources to help us,” she said. “There will be more people in our corner fighting to make sure we make it.”
Encouraging people to work with the poor

Stevenson said that one of his roles as the church’s domestic poverty missioner is to encourage more people to work directly with poor people, as St. Paul’s already does and will expand with its new program. “Our goal is that one in four people will work with the poor,” he said, “and one in four parts of the budget and every program.”

Cuts to the Episcopal Church budget in recent years mean there is less money at the denominational level to put into this work, but Stevenson said “that’s a good thing. It gets us out of our silos and celebrates the fact that all good ministry happens at the local level.”

Stevenson saw the transformational power of fighting poverty when he was canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. “When you sit with someone who had nothing and lost that, who had a job and lost that, then you see how God starts working in their lives,” he said. But it also transforms the lives of people who help. “When you start living this, you are changed.”

Stevenson said he wants to offer Episcopal Church members a new approach in the ministry to help people get out of poverty. Instead of starting with the needs of the community, he suggests looking at the passion of people who are ready to give. In that way, well-intentioned programs don’t wither when people have no interest in participating in them “It’s more about helping people determine what their treasure is, so they can begin to give that away,” he said.
“The reason I’m in this job is to define new ways to help you do the work God is calling you to,” he said.

– Melodie Woerman is the director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.

Training equips volunteers to launch, sustain outreach ministries

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kokie Dinnan, standing at far right, is among the instructors for Beyond the Walls: Outreach Ministry, Administration and Fundraising, offered in the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Dinnan is executive director of Family Promise of South Palm Beach County. Photo/Family Promise of South Palm Beach County

[Episcopal News Service] Luz Espona Perez-Iturbe’s relatives in her native Argentina were surprised to hear that some Americans go hungry. But the need, she tells them, is real, fed by the economic downturn, unemployment and government budget cuts.

Perez-Iturbe is seeking to meet that need in a collaborative effort between two Miami-area Episcopal churches: St. Faith’s in Cutler Bay, which operates a food pantry, and her parish of St. Luke the Physician, Kendall, which will support food-collection efforts. She’s taking a leadership role in the initiative, learning how to assess the community’s needs, marshal resources and volunteers and understand it all within a scriptural context thanks to a diocesan training program for laity and clergy involved in congregational outreach.

“Beyond the Walls: Outreach Ministry Development, Administration and Fundraising” is a yearlong certificate program that Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida offers in partnership with the Diocesan School for Christian Studies. Open to all in the diocese, and required for diaconal students, the program provides classes led by visiting professionals who teach the basics of beginning, operating, funding and sustaining a congregational outreach ministry.

The program’s genesis was in workshops offered through Episcopal Charities of New York when the Rev. Donna Lise Dambrot was associate director.  She brought the concept to Southeast Florida when she became president and executive director of Episcopal Charities there in 2009.

“There’s a certain DNA of congregational outreach ministry that’s very different” from a typical social-service agency, she said. “It’s very often volunteer-based, and people feel called to serve perhaps as a result of our Gospel call of Matthew 25. But they don’t have the skills or the tools to really create and manage and operate and sustain the program.”

So, for example, a group of enthusiastic volunteers may begin a food pantry or after-school program that the community begins to depend on, she said. But as the core of volunteers decreases over time, and no sustainability measures are put in place, the program gradually dwindles and closes.

In Southeast Florida, Episcopal Charities began offering workshops to address issues such as how to use volunteers, how to construct a budget, how to market an outreach program. With a Roanridge Trust grant, the agency made Online Outreach University video workshops available.

But they decided “this isn’t enough,” Dambrot said. “There has been no program … that really offers the soup-to-nuts type of toolbox of ‘how do you do outreach ministry’ that’s geared to congregations and the real specific and particular needs of congregational life.”

So Episcopal Charities created a curriculum and partnered with the diocesan school. Classes are offered at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Fort Lauderdale. Students also can take an individual class – say, just to learn about developing a program budget. The diocesan program currently has eight students – the highest of any class in the school — with the number attending almost doubling for some individual sessions, Dambrot said. Her mantra is: “Just keep flexible and keep responsive to the needs we hear from our community.”

The course begins with sessions exploring what called the students to outreach ministry and the discernment process for choosing an outreach program. Subsequent classes tackle topics from how to create a program budget and developing and sustaining a committed core of volunteers to marketing, funding sources, grant writing, preparing for leadership succession and assessing the ongoing need for a program’s services.

Dambrot teaches some classes, but outside presenters from various agencies, including the Episcopal Church Office of Communication, teach most of them.  “We have assembled a panel of teachers that are professionally doing the work that they’re teaching,” she said.

Kokie Dinnan, executive director of Family Promise of South Palm Beach County, has led classes on how to recruit, train, use and retain volunteers. An interfaith ministry, Family Promise houses homeless families in congregations on a rotating basis and helps clients access needed social services. Previously, she did children’s and family ministry in Episcopal congregations and saw firsthand the need for supporting and educating those involved in outreach, she said. “Any opportunity that can be given to support those that are doing work in our community is vital and valid and important.”

At Family Promise, “I train volunteers all the time, but this was like training the trainer,” she said. Her most recent Beyond the Walls class had students of varied backgrounds, including some diaconal students. “They were hungry for how to be able to take what they’re learning and take it back and implement it in their lives.”

Her instructions on engaging volunteers begin with the importance of the “personal ask.”

“People don’t necessarily respond to an advertisement,” she said. It’s also important to recognize people’s skills and what they do and don’t enjoy doing. “Help them to be able to use the gifts that they want to use. Put them where they’re going to feel comfortable.”

Once people are involved, she said, “I don’t think you can ever tell a volunteer too many times how much you appreciate them and thank them for what they’re doing.”

It’s also important to empower volunteers and make sure they feel like you’re working together to accomplish something, she said. When someone works with her, “I don’t want people to feel like I am the boss and you have to do this because Kokie said so. I want people to be empowered and to come and say, ‘Look, this needs to be done. How can we accomplish this?’”

“Everyone needs to have a stake in what you’re doing,” she said. “If you can provide that, your volunteers are going to stay. … To me, it’s all about relationship building.”

Perez-Iturbe, who previously volunteered at Zoo Miami and in youth ministries, said taking the diocesan course has taught her to take volunteering seriously, as well as how to organize herself and tools for assessing a community’s needs and how to meet them.

“Going to do ministry … sometimes you don’t really know what to do and how to do it,” she said. “I’ve been volunteering for many years. I kind of know how to do things as of now, but this is like the ABCs, and Scripture-based. Everything that I do now, I truly understand the Baptismal Covenant behind it.”

“There’s not a lot of money; there’s a lot of need,” she added. “This course helps you develop, see what the need is, allocate resources accordingly and wisely.”

She also appreciates that the instructors provide contact information for following up if you need assistance with a particular issue, she said. “You can call them back and say, ‘Hey, can you help me with this?’ and they’re so welcoming.”

St. Luke’s first food collection for the pantry at St. Faith’s will happen Feb. 23. This sort of collaborative ministry Perez-Iturbe is fostering is precisely the sort of ministry Episcopal Charities likes to support.

“Our goal is to create a collaborative diocesan outreach that transcends the walls of a particular congregation because we think that’s the best way or the most loving way we can serve people, realizing that each community has its own specific needs and challenges,” Dambrot said.

“Sometimes our congregations tend to be a little insular. They want to work together, but sometimes there’s maybe not even a thought of, ‘Hey, let’s collaborate with the church down the street or the nearest Episcopal church … and maybe we can do something big and in the process create community and in the process maybe enlarge our hearts in the gospel.”

“I see Episcopal Charities as really a part of that process of gathering people, taking them outside their doors and bringing them together, creating a community of those who feel called to serve.”

To serve potential students located a long drive from campus, they plan to offer online classes in the fall using Webex, an online video conferencing service, and an audio-visual screen system the diocese has in different locations, Dambrot said.

She hopes they can offer the Beyond the Walls training to the wider church as well, she said. “We definitely plan on taking the materials and having the material available because they’re great materials. … We want to make this available beyond the walls of the diocese.”

– Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.

Kansas bishops call on state’s senators to reject anti-gay bill

Monday, February 17, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] Diocese of Kansas Bishop Dean E. Wolfe and Diocese of Western Kansas Bishop Michael P. Milliken wrote the Kansas State Senate on Feb. 14, urging senators to reject that state’s House Bill 2453. The bill would allow public and private employees the right to deny services, including unemployment benefits and foster care, to same-sex couples on the basis of religious freedom. The bishops’ letter came two days after the Kansas House passed the bill.

The text of the letter follows.

Some people regularly suggest that the Church should stay out of politics, but we regret to observe that the current political agenda is encroaching upon fundamental principles that Christians, and people of all faiths, hold dear: compassion for the poor, safety for all people and equality for everyone.

House Bill 2453, which is currently before the Kansas Senate, proposes to legalize discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, attributing the excuse for such discrimination as “religious freedom.” In truth, this bill is not about religious freedom but is aimed at creating state-authorized bias and inequality.

Under this bill, government employees could refuse to offer services to their fellow citizens and taxpayers, while claiming religious motives. Business owners could refuse goods and services to people they perceive to be partnered gay or lesbians without repercussion. This proposed legislation is reminiscent of the worst laws that permitted discrimination against people on the basis of color, sex or nation of origin. The intent of this bill is an affront to the beliefs of all Kansans who support equal treatment under the law for every human being.

Kansas history is filled with examples of standing up for the expansion of rights – in our abolitionist,  free state roots; as the first state in the country to elect a woman to a political office;  and as a place identified with contributing to the end of school desegregation. We have a high calling to provide equality and equal opportunity to everyone.

For Episcopalians, our faith is unequivocal. Our Baptismal Covenant asks, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?” Promising to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being requires us to be adamantly opposed to legislation that does none of these things.

Our biblically based faith calls us to live out the command of Jesus Christ to love one another.
You cannot love your fellow Kansans and deny them the rights that belong to everyone else.

We urge the rejection of this bill so that our great state might continue to stand for justice, dignity and equality.

In Christ,

The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe
Ninth Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

The Right Reverend Michael P. Milliken
Fifth Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas

Jackie Jamsheed becomes Connecticut operation, finance canon

Monday, February 17, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut press release] Jackie Jamsheed of West Hartford, Connecticut has been hired as the canon for mission operations and finance for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. She starts Feb. 24. Jamsheed comes from the private business sector and has experience in leading teams and transforming businesses. She started her career with the World Bank and was most recently a senior vice president with Webster Bank. She is a native of Iran and member of a local Episcopal Church. As canon she will head the business and finance department that serves the diocese. Her work is collaborative with other staff and supports the engagement of people in God’s mission.

Dominican Republic moving toward self-sustainability by 2016

Monday, February 17, 2014

Episcopalians processed from Epiphany Cathedral on Independence Avenue down George Washington Avenue, better known as the “malecón,” to the ministry of culture for the closing Eucharist of the 56 annual Diocese of the Dominican Republic Diocesan Convention. Photo: Julius Ariail

[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic] As the Diocese of the Dominican Republic continues toward self-sustainability, companion relationships and a growing sense of stewardship will remain a key component in the diocese’s plan for further growth and development.

“It possible to reach self-sufficiency with the help of companion dioceses and the efforts that we put into local stewardship,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín.

For the church to continue in its mission, he continued, it needs the support of the local churches, schools and other institutions, as well as the support Episcopal Church women, companion diocese and local individuals who support the church in its mission.

The 2014 budget passed during the diocese’s Feb. 14-16 annual convention included provisions by which each of the diocese’s 55 missions would take on a larger share of their own operating costs and percentage of clergy salaries paid. The convention’s theme was taken from John 15:16, “We are called to bear lasting fruit.”

During his address to the convention, during which Holguín officially called for the election of a coadjutor, he said that the diocese had been working hard to ensure its financial self-sustainability. It has had support, he said, on several fronts:

  • Local congregations, most of which have limited resources, have begun to take responsibility for some of their own costs, stewardship, utilities, maintenance, clergy salaries, Christian education and social programs.
  • Congregations have started entrepreneurial programs.
  • The diocese’s schools, conference centers and institutions continue to grow in their own administrative capacities and the services they offer, increasing their income and contribution to the diocese and its mission in the country.
  • The Dominican Development Group and the Episcopal Church’s annual subsidy provide continued support.

The subsidy, however, will not continue forever and Episcopal Church’s Province IX dioceses spread across the Caribbean and Central and northern South America have begun to implement strategies for financial independence from the Episcopal Church’s historic block grant program, which in the current triennium allocates $2.9 million for Province IX.

Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín officially called for a bishop coadjutor during the Feb. 14-16 Diocesan Convention. Photo: Julius Ariail

Recently, on the recommendation of the Second Mark of Mission working group, a group convened by the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council during its Feb. 5-7 meeting in Maryland agreed to an 18-year plan for “self-sufficiency,” in support of sustainable mission and ministry in Province IX, which includes the Dominican Republic.

“This is coming out of a need for Province IX that the leaders of those dioceses came to themselves,” said Sam McDonald, deputy chief operating officer and director of mission for the Episcopal Church.

“We are trying to move into a spiritually healthier relationship built on mutuality and not dependency.”

Beginning with the three dioceses closest to achieving self-sufficiency – the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Colombia – the plan calls for each diocese to receive an infusion of funds based on a strategic plan for self-sustainability. As they become sustainable, they are to commit to working with the province’s other dioceses to help them achieve the same goal.

The other four Province IX dioceses are: Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The Diocese of Puerto Rico is self-sustainable. The triennial budget also included an additional $1 million for Province IX with the goal of “strengthening the province for sustainable mission.” This money will be made available to the dioceses to further their progress toward self-sustainability.

The next step is for the Dominican Republic and Honduras to submit proposals outlining how the money will be used to promote self-sustainability, said Martha Gardner, chair of Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on World Mission, in a Feb. 13 telephone interview with ENS.

Companion relationships, said Gardner, will play a major part in helping the dioceses reach self-sufficiency.

Strength in numbers

Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín ordained four deacons during the closing Eucharist of the 56 annual Diocese of the Dominican Republic Diocesan Convention. Photo: Julius Ariail.

The Dominican Republic is a case in point.  Over the past 20 years the number of companion relationships has grown from four to 15; over the past 15 years, the diocese has grown to include more than 11,000 Episcopalians, 55 churches and more than 30 schools and institutions. The diocese has a $1.1 million annual budget.

In 1998, the Dominican Development Group was formed with the primary goal of seeking the “human, material and financial resources that are required to maintain the diocese’s rate of growth and to provide the diocese with the ability to maintain ‘quality’ programs.”

In 15 years, the DDG has raised more than $10 million to finance the building of infrastructure, including churches, schools, day-care centers and medical clinics, in the Dominican Republic. It is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.

While “self-sustainability” means that the church in the Dominican Republic eventually will no longer be dependent on the block grant program, the DDG will plan an important role in helping it to sustain the growth underway already, said Bill Kunkle, the group’s executive director.

“The goal would be to continue the growth, we wouldn’t want to stagnate,” he said. “That’s where the teams come in in support of the growth, expanding the ministries and partnerships.”

As executive director, Kunkle serves as the diocese’s U.S.-based companion-relationship liaison. Along with Karen Carroll, an Episcopal Church missionary who has served in the Dominican Republic for nine years, he helps to coordinate from 50 to 70 mission teams that travel to the Dominican Republic to help build and maintain church properties, run vacation Bible schools and conduct medical and other missions.

Mission teams often visit the Dominican Republic annually; what can begin as a “colonial” type relationship in which North Americans want to direct projects and initiatives, over time gives way to solid partnerships in which each party benefits.

The Rev. Adolfo Moronta describes the construction progress in San Isidro to Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley and Bill Kunkle, the executive director of the Dominican Development Group. Photo: Julius Ariail.

It was the notion of partnership, rather than just sending money to support projects, attracted and has sustained the companion relationship between the Dominican Republic and the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.

“We’ve been in ‘colonial relationships’ and this is something different,” said Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, who attended the diocesan convention.

It’s also clear, said Northwest Texas Bishop Scott Mayer, whose diocese also has a companion relationship with the Dominican Republic, that the Episcopal Church’s domestic dioceses could learn a lot from how the diocese plants its missions.

“They plant missions where they see a need, we plant churches where we see a growth track,” he said.

Diocesan Convention attendees broke into groups for round-table discussions on the Five Marks of Mission. Photo: Julius Ariail.

Self sustainability plans take shape

During a July 2013 meeting of lay and ordained leaders of Province IX and church center staff, the consensus was that “the current relationship between the dioceses of Province IX and the rest of the Episcopal Church is influenced by the nature of the historical block grants that establish a relationship of dependency. This is not spiritually healthy, either for the ‘dependent’ or the ‘depended upon,’” according to a document that was released following the meeting.

The document created by the Mark 2 Mission group was born of a longer conversation that began in earnest in March 2011 with a conference in Tela, Honduras.

In March 2012, during a Provincial Synod meeting in the Dominican Republic, the dioceses officially adopted sustainability as a focus. In May 2013, the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference held in Bogotá, Colombia, also focused on self-sustainability.

Each diocese is at a different stage in the process. Even though dioceses of Province IX share a common language, some are well established, some new. The province’s newest diocese, Venezuela, for example, has only officially been a diocese of the Episcopal Church since 2006. The Dominican Republic celebrated 100 years as part of the Episcopal Church, and 116 years of existence, in 2013. Colombia celebrates 50 years this year.

Bishop Victor Scantlebury has served for two-and-a-half years as the provisional bishop in the Diocese of Central Ecuador, which looks very different from the Dominican Republic.

“My job is to rebuild the diocese, and at the same time help them begin building a plan for self-sustainability,” said Scantlebury, adding that his three main areas of focus include helping the church find its identity, retain members and teach stewardship.

The 18-year-plan, he said, takes the diocese to 2030.

“It would seem like we have a long time, but not for me,” Scantlebury. “I’m working vigorously to make clergy and laity aware of the fact that we are in this process, and that soon the Episcopal Church [block grants] will not be there anymore.”

Part of that challenge is, he said, that in Latin America, where the Roman Catholic culture continues to dominate, parishioners typically give an offering to the church during services, but people don’t think of themselves as “stewards,” he said.

In the Dominican Republic, the diocese has already begun to take on the role of stewardship, which also leads to a healthier dynamic within the diocese and encourages priests to develop their own strategies for self-sustainability.

“We have to be creative and think of what we can do,” said the Rev. Vicente Peña, who, for instance, worked with the government to allow the diocese to use the cultural center free of charge for its Sunday worship service to close convention because the cathedral wasn’t large enough to accommodate the more than 1,500 people in attendance.

In its conversations about self-sustainability and the healthier dynamic it would create between the Province IX dioceses and the Episcopal Church, the Mark 2 team acknowledged “the pragmatic reality that there is a potential future of diminishing revenue at a churchwide level to sustain the historical block grants.”

And it said, “It may be that this is a providential convergence of the desire and recognition of the spiritual importance of being free of dependency and the very likely reality that current models are not indefinitely sustainable.”

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

Church tries to help reservation chilled by propane crisis

Monday, February 17, 2014

Debbie Dogskin, 61, was found dead Feb. 4 in this mobile home with an empty propane tank in Fort Yates, North Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation. A nationwide propane shortage has hit the Sioux reservation that straddles the Dakotas’ border particularly hard. A more than doubling of the fuel’s cost has crippled efforts to stay warm — and alive — through the harsh winter where most people rely on propane to heat their often-ramshackle homes. Photo: Tom Stromme, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press

[Episcopal News Service] Sometimes a person in need encounters the Episcopal Church’s ministry at the gas station.

The Rev. Canon John Floberg, canon missioner for the Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, was paying his bill on Feb. 12 at a gas station on the reservation when a young woman told him about having to replace her frozen, broken hot water heater. She said she had heard that the Episcopal churches might be able to help folks like her.

Floberg took her $370 receipt and found the money to reimburse her. The woman, he suspected, was working at a minimum-wage job so such an expense would have taken about a week of wages.

Winters are always hard in the Dakotas but this year’s brutal temperatures have been made worse by regional propane shortages and skyrocketing prices.

The two counties that Standing Rock encompasses, Sioux County in North Dakota and Corson County in South Dakota, have the seventh and ninth highest poverty rates, respectively, in the country, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics reported here. Most reservation residents are Sioux Indians. Between 80 and 90 percent of the people on the reservation depend on propane. That’s about 5,000 homes whose residents are at some level of risk, according to Floberg.

Many reservation residents live in houses with ill-fitting doors, single-pane windows or boards where glass used to be and roof that leak heat. Keeping such homes warm is especially expensive. Inside of some homes “you can find frost in the corners of the room up on the ceiling,” he said.

On Standing Rock, two people have died in what Floberg said “I can pretty well say that are connected” to the propane crisis. Both deaths occurred in Fort Yates, North Dakota, the seat of the tribal government.

On Jan. 5, Gordon Tree Top Sr., 66, a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where his sister is a vestry member, died when fire destroyed his house. Floberg said Tree Top was using a space heater to keep warm and it appears to have ignited the couch on which the man was found.

Then on Feb. 4 Debbie Dogskin, 61, was found dead in a mobile home with an empty propane tank. Preliminary autopsy results released Feb. 9 did not identify a cause of death, but Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said he believes Dogskin froze to death because it was as cold inside the home as out that morning — 1 degree below zero, ABC News reported.

In such conditions, a 500-gallon tank of propane lasts perhaps a month. It takes 400 gallons to fill such a tank, leaving room for the gas to expand. When propane costs $5 a gallon, as it recently did, a 400-gallon fill cost $2,000. This past summer, when propane was selling for $1.58 a gallon on the reservation, the same fill would have cost $632, according to Floberg.

Propane, a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, is used mostly by people who live in rural areas that do not have natural gas service. It is used for cooking, heating homes and water, and powering clothes driers and fireplaces.

Looking for ways to help
The Episcopal Church’s involvement with the Sioux in what is now North Dakota and South Dakota began in the mid- to late-1800s after the 1862 Dakota uprising in neighboring Minnesota that resulted in the U.S. government deporting them to reservations in South Dakota. Just after the Civil War, the federal government offered land to various Christian denominations in exchange for their complicity in its effort to force Indians to assimilate into the white settlers’ culture through the federal government’s reservations system.

The Episcopal Church helped to carry out that plan mainly east of the Missouri River. The 1871 General Convention created the Niobrara Missionary District, which included parts or all of what are now North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Today the church is present through a network of very small mission churches that are spread over vast expanses of land. It is uncommon for those missions to have electricity, water and indoor toilets, a situation that is also not uncommon for members’ homes.

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Dakota dioceses and their network of churches on Standing Rock to help them minister this winter in a number of ways, according to Floberg and Katie Mears, director of the organization’s U.S. Disaster Preparedness and Response program.

Floberg and the Rev. Robert Schwarz of St. James Episcopal Church in Mobridge, South Dakota in that diocese’s section of Standing Rock collaborated on the plan presented to the tribe, the dioceses and Episcopal Relief & Development.

First, the church will work with the tribal government to assist tribal members who can’t afford propane. Second, it will be able to help some of the “most vulnerable” reservation residents who are ineligible for tribal assistance, Mears said, and those who, like the woman at the gas station, have the added burden of cold weather-related property damage.

Because the impact of this crisis ripples out to other parts of people’s lives, the church will also work with food banks in both states to get shipments of food to distribute in local communities through the local congregations “because people have been making choices: food or propane,” Floberg said.

The church also plans teach reservation residents about alternative-fuel heating as well as teach winterization and energy conservation skills at four, free church suppers across the reservation. The tribe will give the meat for those meals, said Floberg, and the entire community will be invited.

Along these same lines, Floberg hopes to give $5,000 to a new effort called “Heating the Rez.” Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney who grew up on Standing Rock, is trying to organize 20 home pilot projects to receive multi-fuel stoves to reduce dependency on propane. According to Iron Eyes’ website, the effort has raised just more than $40,000 of the $50,000 needed. He is partnering with a number of organizations and plans to work with a Mandan, North Dakota, company that sells the stoves.

“The point of the fundraising wasn’t to buy more ridiculously priced propane,” Iron Eyes told the Bismarck Tribune.

Floberg said the church is eager to see the project begin as a way to demonstrate the need for more multi-fuel stoves, which he said will not totally replace propane-fueled furnaces but certainly reduce a home’s overall heating costs.

Arenson Oil and Propane delivery driver Don Bedford fills up an empty propane tank in Sandwich, Illinois January 29. Midwest propane inventories had rebounded somewhat but were still below the five-year average, a government report said Feb. 12. While propane prices have declined, consumers are still struggling to pay for their tank fills. Photo: Reuters/Jeff Haynes

Other help is coming to the reservation. The federal Department of Health and Human Services released $439 million nationwide for low-income heating assistance. North Dakota will get $3.4 million in the latest allocation and South Dakota $2.8 million. Of that amount, $1.3 million is earmarked for tribes in the two states.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said Feb. 10 that he had directed the state’s Department of Human Services to assist Standing Rock in assessing their potential need for additional Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program money.

Tribal chair Dave Archambault told the Associated Press at the time that the money will be welcome but likely won’t be enough to bring Standing Rock’s program up to normal funding. The tribe’s LIHEAP program has only $1.5 million available this winter, down from $2.5 million last winter because of federal budget cuts.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe is giving Standing Rock and two other Northern Plains tribes a total of $870,000 to help them purchase propane for tribal members. Standing Rock will receive $500,000 from the Minnesota tribe that operates several businesses, including two casinos and a golf course.

Floberg said the amount of money the church can commit to this work sometimes feels small compared to those efforts and “doesn’t feel like you are carrying the day,” but he knows making a difference in a few more families’ lives is better than not doing that. And, he said, the church wants to administer what it can give in the most efficient way possible “where we are working in partnership with the tribe who already has the infrastructure in place to be helping them out.”

And then there are the churches themselves where decisions based on heat bills also have to be made. For instance, at Church of the Cross in Selfridge, North Dakota, “we said we didn’t have enough money to keep that place heated for worship so we went to a house church format for the winter,” he said.

The St. Luke’s fellowship hall at Fort Yates is heated by a high-efficiency propane furnace but it has proved too expensive to keep going, so the congregation closed off the hall, keeping the temperature at 40 degrees. But, if the church needs to host a funeral and reception, it would take 18 “hard running hours” to heat it up, Floberg said.

The rest of the church building is heated with dual-heat furnaces that can run on either propane or electricity. That choice was made when propane cost 58 cents a gallon, he said, and electricity was more expensive. They chose the dual option “just in case” and now “that just in case has really come into play.”

Other than Wednesdays and Sunday, those furnaces are keeping the space heated to 50 degrees, according to Floberg. Raising the temperature to between 65 and 70 for three hours on Wednesdays for the soup kitchen has made that program “a lot more expensive to run,” he said.

By contrast, the newly built St. James in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, has geothermal heat and its combined monthly electricity and heating bill is $200 a month, perhaps $125 more a month outside of the heating season. The building is kept at 70 degrees day and night.

“I have never had the experience at any of our churches in all of the 20-plus years I have been out here of walking into a building and feeling immediately comfortable and warm,” Floberg said with a happy laugh.

The church has offered St. James as an emergency shelter if needed “but we haven’t had to employ in that way,” he said.

How did this crisis happen?
Current high prices, distribution bottlenecks and, in some cases, outright shortages are being blamed on a vortex of circumstances that began circling the country last fall.

The National Propane Gas Association has said the shortages began in part when abundant grain crops were harvested throughout the Upper Midwest almost simultaneously last fall. Ordinarily, the harvest progresses in stages through the region but in late 2013, the harvest happened at the same time over a wide area. What the association called “massive amounts” of propane were used to dry the large, wet crop prior to storage. That demand reduced propane inventories throughout the area.

At the same time, the Cochin pipeline, which provided 40% of the product used by Minnesota suppliers, was shut down for repairs. The shutdown forced those suppliers to go to other states for propane, pinching the market.

Just as the harvest demand settled out, massive snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures began to hit most of the county and demand for heating fuel soared. The average number of heating degree days (a calculation of the deviation in temperature from an average day from 65 degrees) this winter have been more than 10 percent higher than last season, according to the propane association. The group said the U.S. Department of Energy reported that cold weather led to record-high natural gas and propane storage withdrawals. These were the largest drawdowns in the 20-year history of the survey and the second time so far in 2014 the record has been broken.

Add to that the fact that in 2013 more than 20 percent of U.S. propane was exported, up from 5 percent in 2008, according to the association. Thus, while Jeff Petrash, the general counsel for the propane industry group, said propane production increased to an estimated 17.8 billion gallons in 2013, from 15.2 billion gallons in 2008, he acknowledged that an estimated 4.3 billion gallons of propane were exported last year, compared to 800 million gallons in 2008.

The Energy Information Administration said Feb. 5 that U.S. propane stocks totaled 30.8 million barrels, nearly 45 percent lower than a year ago, USA Today reported). And the EIA, the U.D. Department of Energy’s statistical arm, said Feb. 12 that Midwest propane inventories had rebounded somewhat but were still below the five-year average.

The propane industry group also blamed adequate propane storage locations in the Northeast, saying that had propane been stored there, it could have been moved to the areas of the country facing a crisis. However, it said, the industry had faced opposition in some areas to adding storage capacity, which is generally underground.

Yet, storing enough propane to weather all of these factors combined is not efficient. “You don’t design church for Easter Sunday,” Clifton Linton, a natural gas liquids specialist at the Oil Price Information Service told the New York Times. “Well, guess what happened this year? In the Midwest, it was a double Easter Sunday.”

Finally, the propane distribution system relies heavily on trains and trucks to get emergency supplies from pipeline terminals to states across the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. However, the propane association said, rail cars and trucks that used to be in the distribution chain have been diverted to take away the huge amount of crude oil being on the Bakken shale formation. The Bakken boom has also caused what the association called “a dramatic change in energy flows across North American” to which the natural gas and petroleum products pipeline network has not yet adapted.

Ironically, the rush to pull oil out of the Bakken, 300 miles northwest of Fort Yates, means North Dakota has a glut of natural gas. The gas is released at the wellhead but lax gas-capture regulations now lead to 30 percent of the gas being burned off as waste.

In an effort to move propane to areas where it is needed, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued emergency orders suspending the limits on the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road for 10 Midwestern states and 12 Northeastern states. In many cases those orders mirrored actions taken by state governors.

On Feb. 12 Midwest retail residential prices for propane ranged from $2.99 a gallon (excluding tax) in Nebraska to $4.04 in Indiana. The price was $3.28 in North Dakota and $3.41 in South Dakota. That is down from this year’s high thus far of $4.57 in North Dakota and $4.12 in South Dakota on Jan. 27. In early February 2013, the per-gallon price for propane in the Midwest was $2.306, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Although North Dakota’s total energy consumption is among the lowest in the nation due to its small population, according to the Energy Information Administration,  the state’s high heating demand in winter means it ranks fourth in the country in per-capita consumption (measured in BTUs). South Dakota ranks eighth.

The Energy Information Administration data shows that North Dakotans use almost twice as much propane (867 gallons each year) as the U.S. national average (464 gallons per year). And, while propane in North Dakota cost less than the national average during the 2012-2013 winter, North Dakotan households $1,280 that years on propane for heating compared with $957 per U.S. households overall.

And Floberg has a warning.

“No matter what the groundhog says, there’s more than six weeks of winter left in the Dakotas,” he said. “We’re not out of this brutal heating season until at least the middle of March; so another month of sub-zero weather … and we’re not out of the snow until the middle of April in terms of the likelihood of snowstorms. We’ve still got a long run ahead of us.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

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