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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.

Video: The Five Marks of Mission

Monday, February 17, 2014

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[Episcopal News Service] During the Diocese of the Dominican Republic’s 56th annual diocesan convention held Feb. 14-16 in Santo Domingo, the Rev. Tar Drazdowski and the Rev. Adolfo Moronta, recited the Five Marks of Mission in English and Spanish.

RIP: Lucy Brady Talbott, retired priest

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rev. Lucy Brady Talbott, retired rector of St. Paul’s in the Pines, Fayetteville, North Carolina, died on Oct. 26 at the Passages Hospice, New Orleans, Louisiana.

She served as an associate rector of the Church of St. Clement, Alexandria, Virginia, after her graduation from Virginia Theological School. Lucy was a fearless advocate for inclusive theology and St. Paul’s is known for its diversity. She was also an early activist for those with HIV/AIDS when fear and misinformation dominated public perception of the disease. Having lost a beloved brother from the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s, she opened the doors for others to see those living with the disease with compassion and acceptance.

The Women’s Center of Fayetteville presented Lucy with the Woman of the Year award in 1992. It is called the Giraffe medal given to those who stick their necks out for others.

Lucy is survived by her daughter, Amanda Talbott Bray of New Orleans and grandchildren Stella Frentress and Conor Bray and two sisters Ellen Finn and Sue Wankowivz and a brother Jeremish Brady.

Schedule for churchwide event to examine violence released

Monday, February 17, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presentations, workshops and panel discussions examining violence in all its forms in American society, with a hard look at what can be done, are the elements of  a special Episcopal Church gathering: Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence.

Bishops, clergy and laity from throughout the Episcopal Church are invited to gatherApril 9 – 11 at the Reed Center and Sheraton in Oklahoma City, OK (Diocese ofOklahoma).

“As Christians, as Americans, as leaders we need to recognize violence in our society, and renew our commitment to the Gospel,” noted Bishop Ed Konieczny, Diocese of Oklahoma.  “It’s our responsibility and our calling to make peace in a world of violence.”

The schedule
On Wednesday, the program begins with dinner and opening plenary presentations by Bishop Konieczny on Why Are We Here, and Bishop Eugene Sutton (Diocese of Maryland) on The Theology of Violence and Peace.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is expected to briefly greet the assembly on Thursday.

Thursday will be a full day of program with plenary sessions including a panel highlighting unique Episcopal responses to violence, intentional community conversations, workshops and an opportunity for participants to organize their own working-group/workshop sessions.

Among the 19 workshops:

Becoming Radical: How to Teach Non-Violence to the Church: the Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis, faith-based organizational consultant

Laws Save Lives: How the faith community can make them happen: Vincent DeMarco, National Coordinator, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Contemplative Life and Non-violence: Brother James Michael Dowd

Welcoming Communities: Preventative Medicine and Antidote to the Epidemic of Violence: Allison Duvall, Program Manager for Church Relations and Co- Sponsorship, Episcopal Migration Ministries

Liturgy after Christendom: the Rev. Paul Fromberg, St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, CA; Charles Rotramel, Chief Executive Officer of Houston revision; the Rev. Matthew Russell, Duke Divinity School

Orphans of Justice: The Generational Cycle of Crime and Incarceration: Lindsay Fry-Geier, MHR, Executive Director of New Hope and Judy Gann, Executive Director Emeritus of New Hope

Respecting the Dignity of Those Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence:  Robin Hammeal-Urban, Canon for Mission Integrity and Training, Diocese of Connecticut, and the Rev. Sarah Shofstall, St. Barnabas Church, Bay Village, OH, Diocese of Ohio.

Peace, Pentecost and the Pew:  the Rev. Karen Hunter, Grace Church, Nampa ID, Diocese of Idaho

Heeding God’s Call – Mobilizing the Faithful to End Gun Violence: Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call

How to Lobby Effectively for Legislative Change: the Rev. Allison Liles, Executive Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship and Shannon Berndt, Membership Services Coordinator, Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Talking Peace: Learning and Telling Biblical Stories of Peace: the Rev. Dina McMullin Ferguson, Los Angeles, CA

Building a Community for All: How can churches welcome the stranger?: Charles Rotramel, Chief Executive Officer of Houston revision; the Rev. Matthew Russell, Duke Divinity School

Inspiring Mission: Bronwyn Clark Skov, Missioner for Youth Ministries, and Wendy Johnson, partner in Inspiring Mission

The panel discussion, Episcopal Responses to Violence, will highlight the unique and varied ways that the Episcopal Church is responding to violence and working to change the culture of violence. Panelists include: Alex Baumgarten, Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations; Brother James Dowd; Matthew Ellis, National Episcopal Health Ministries; Kay Collier McLaughlin, author, Diocese of Lexington; Julia McMahaon, B-PEACE for Jorge from the Diocese of Massachusetts.

On Friday, the conference will feature worship, intentional community conversations, and workshop opportunities in the morning. In the afternoon, the Conference will visit the Oklahoma City Memorial. Dinner will be held at the cathedral of the Diocese of Oklahoma followed by Eucharist with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaching.

Important links
Registration is available here.

Event information here.

Participants need to make their own lodging reservations as they are not part of the conference registration. A special conference rate of $109 has been secured with the Sheraton here.  Group name for the convention rate is “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace.”

For more information email gospelofpeace@epiok.org

La intensidad de Absalom Jones sigue presente en Santo Tomás, Filadelfia

Monday, February 17, 2014

La congregación de la iglesia episcopal de Santo Tomás, Filadelfia, durante la procesión del Domingo de Ramos en marzo de 2013.

[Episcopal News Service] El 13 de febrero puede ser el día en que el calendario de la Iglesia reconoce oficialmente la vida y ministerio del Rdo. Absalom Jones, pero para Mary Sewell Smith y otras personas en la iglesia episcopal africana de Santo Tomás [African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas], en Filadelfia, cada día es el día del fundador.

Jones —el primer sacerdote negro de la Iglesia Episcopal y de la nación— fundó Santo Tomás en 1792 como la primera iglesia negra de cualquier denominación en el país, y “ese espíritu que caló en aquella primera iglesia se ha transmitido a través de los años y se mantiene vivo y pujante”, dijo Smith.

“Una fuerza orientadora en nuestra iglesia es la vida y legado del Rdo. Jones. Es simplemente parte de mi vida”, dijo Smith, feligrés de toda la vida y miembro actual de la sociedad histórica de la iglesia. “Intentamos vivir a la altura de los principios que él abrazó: libertad, educación, adoración, servicio comunitario”.

Además de Santo Tomás, quedan hoy unas 90 iglesias episcopales históricamente afroamericanas, congregaciones creadas por negros que no eran bienvenidos en las iglesias episcopales establecidas en la época posterior a la esclavitud y durante la segregación racial en Estados Unidos, según el Rdo. Harold T. Lewis, ex funcionario para el ministerio de los negros del centro denominacional de la Iglesia Episcopal en Nueva York y autor de Yet With a Steady Beat: the African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal Church [La lucha de los afroamericanos por el reconocimiento en la Iglesia Episcopal] (Trinity Press International, 1996).

Santo Tomás, la más antigua de todas estas congregaciones, surgió de la Sociedad de Africanos Libres, una organización independiente de ayuda mutua creada por Absalom Jones y Richard Allen para responder a las necesidades económicas, educacionales, sociales y espirituales de la comunidad afroamericana. Esos empeños se mantuvieron en la iglesia.

“La mayoría de las congregaciones negras siempre han estado  a favor de la superación y la acción social, así como la labor con la comunidad y la preparación de la misma”, afirmó Lewis.

“Lo que resulta triste es que muchas personas en la Iglesia, negras y blancas, desconocen esa historia y no saben cuántas personas han luchado para hacernos llegar adonde nos encontramos hoy”, añadió, citando el desigual pasado de la Iglesia Episcopal con respecto a los afroamericanos y el racismo.

Imbuidos del espíritu de Absalom Jones

Uno de los primeros recuerdos de Smith es el de ver el icónico retrato de Jones pintado por Raphaelle Peale en 1810 que colgaba en el nártex de la iglesia mientras su padre le contaba la historia del fundador de Santo Tomás, que nació en la esclavitud, aprendió por sí solo a leer y compró su libertad en 1784. Seis años antes, él había comprado la libertad de Mary, su esposa.

Jones sirvió como ministro laico hasta que a él y a otros negros les pidieron que se fueran de la iglesia metodista episcopal de San Jorge [St. George’s] en Filadelfia. Ese éxodo llevó a Richard Allen y a Jones a crear la Sociedad de Africanos Libres y dio lugar a que Allen fundara la Iglesia Metodista Episcopal Africana y a la ordenación de Jones como diácono de la Iglesia Episcopal y, nueve años más tarde, como presbítero, cuando tenía 58 años.

Pero William White, a la sazón obispo de Pensilvania, convendría en ordenar a Jones y recibir a la iglesia de Santo Tomás en la diócesis con la condición de que la iglesia no enviaría ni clérigos ni diputados a la convención diocesana, privando así a los negros de voz y voto en el gobierno de la Iglesia, lo cual “caracterizaba la dualidad de las relaciones raciales dentro de la Iglesia durante gran parte de su historia”, según los documentos históricos de la iglesia.

Smith recuerda las visitas a la tumba de Jones, situada “en el mismo cementerio donde están las tumbas de nuestra familia. Y cuando íbamos a visitar a nuestra familia, siempre decíamos una oración junto a la lápida de Jones”. Los restos de Jones fueron luego exhumados e incinerados y colocados en una urna en una capilla conmemorativa dentro de la iglesia de estilo gótico, explicó ella.

Smith creció jugando en las gradas de la iglesia, junto con las amigas de su niñez Mercedes Sadler y las hermanas Lucille e Isabel Hamill. Las mujeres que ya están entre los setentitantos y ochentitantos años siguen compartiendo el amor a la iglesia y a la historia como miembros de la sociedad histórica. Dicen que la iglesia les inculcó un sentido de pertenencia. La historia de la iglesia era su propia historia, y también la historia de la nación.

La historia vive: ‘en gran medida como parte de la iglesia’

Una de las mayores alegrías para las hermanas y maestras jubiladas, Isabel y Lucille Hamill, de 87 y 83 años respectivamente, fue encontrar una mención de su tía, Bertha Jones, entre los nombres de las mujeres de la iglesia que apoyaron varios empeños bélicos.

“Había notas sobre las mujeres que ayudaron envolver vendajes para la guerra Hispano-Americana”, dijo Lucille Hamill. “Y las mujeres atendían cantinas durante las dos guerras mundiales, donde los jóvenes podían venir y comer y ser tratados maternalmente por las mujeres mayores de la iglesia, y se acostumbraron a venir”.

Para las Hamills resulta difícil encontrar palabras para todo lo que la iglesia ha significado para ellas. “Te hacía sentir incluido, en una ciudad donde aún existía una segregación feroz cuando éramos jóvenes”, dijo Lucille Hamill. “Te hacía sentir parte de algo más grande que tú misma, y eso era importante”.

Para preservar la historia de la congregación, la iglesia ha creado un archivo en un edificio anexo, pero se encontró con problemas de clima y humedad que están en vías de resolverse, dijo Smith. Los archivos de la iglesia ofrecen una ventana a un pasado lleno de activismo social y de trabajo comunitario y un atisbo incluso de posibilidades futuras.

“Creo que, por saber un poquito de lo que ha sido la iglesia a través de los años, ella nos guía y nos llena el presente”, agregó Smith.

En los archivos se encuentran los registros bautismales de Jones de fines del siglo XVIII, así como partidas de nacimientos y defunciones, sermones y discursos, listas de miembros y actas de las reuniones de la junta parroquial.

Algunos documentos, en proceso de ser restaurados, anteceden a la iglesia. “En efecto, tenemos un libro de la contabilidad de la Sociedad Africana Libre”, apuntó Smith. “En todo lo que yo había leído decía que ningún registro de esta organización había sobrevivido, pero revisando nuestros viejos registros, encontramos este volumen, de 1790 a 1792, cuando la sociedad se disolvió y se convirtió en la iglesia.

“Cada miembro tenía una página, y muestra que pagaban un par de chelines, y este dinero se usaba para servir a los pobres y a los discapacitados. Uno puede ver cómo las personas pagaban sus cuotas y cómo se saltaban un par de meses y luego se ponían al día”.

Mirando retrospectivamente, el punto focal “siempre estaba en el servicio a la comunidad”, subrayó ella. “La Asociación de Santa María [St. Mary’s Guild] en el siglo XIX hizo ropa para los niños que no podían costearla para asistir a la escuela. Los Hijos de Santo Tomas [Sons of St. Thomas] tenemos las actas de estas organizaciones —hechas al estilo de la Sociedad Africana Libre y que funcionaron de manera muy semejante”.

La Sociedad Dorcas [Dorcas Society] estaba compuesta por mujeres “y su función fundamental parece haber sido ocuparse de pagar por los entierros de mujeres de la iglesia o la comunidad”, señaló.

Las listas de miembros de la iglesia se pueden leer como un registro biográfico de personajes de la sociedad afroamericana, dijo Mercedes Sadler, de 77 años, episcopal de sexta generación y miembro del coro del presbiterio, uno de los cinco coros de la iglesia.

[Estas listas] incluyen a James Forten, nacido en1766 de padres negros libres, que combatió en la guerra de Independencia y aprovechó un aprendizaje en una compañía fabricante de velas de barcos para convertirla en una empresa próspera. Él empleó la mitad de su riqueza en comprar la libertad de esclavos, ayudar a financiar el periódico abolicionista The Liberator, de William Lloyd Garrison, a dirigir en su casa una estación de fuga [de esclavos que escapaban del sur] y a fundar una escuela para niños negros.

Octavius Valentine Catto fue “un hombre del Renacimiento y miembro de la junta parroquial en esos tiempos”, apuntó Sadler. “Lo mataron a tiros mientras intentaba conseguir que la gente saliera a votar”.

Catto tenía unos 5 años cuando su familia se mudó de Filadelfia a Carolina del Sur en 1850. Además de activista social, fue también un consumado torpedero [shortstop], entrenador de béisbol y líder del Pythian Baseball Club. Republicano y partidario de Abraham Lincoln, luchó por la aprobación de la 15ª. Enmienda, que le daba a los negros el derecho al voto, pero lo mataron el 10 de octubre de 1871, día de las elecciones. Uno de sus bates de béisbol se cuenta entre los objetos memorables del archivo.

El clero y los feligreses de Santo Tomás desempeñaron importantes papeles en los movimientos abolicionistas y antiesclavistas que propiciaron la fuga de esclavos en el siglo XIX, según la página web [de la iglesia]. “En los últimos 50 años, Santo Tomás ha figurado de manera prominente en el movimiento de los derechos civiles, la Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de las Personas de Color (NAACP, por su sigla en inglés), la Unión de Episcopales Negros, el Centro de Oportunidades en la Industrialización, la Acción Interreligiosa de Filadelfia y las Mujeres Episcopales”.

Para Smith, los recuerdos son personales y valiosos. Ella recordaba haber visto a su hermano practicar en casa sus deberes de acólito y el arte de encender las velas. Aunque a las niñas no se les permitía servir de acólitos entonces, ella descubrió otras maneras de servir, tal como hizo su madre.

“Mi madre era lo que una llamaría una madre acólita”, dijo Smith. “En esos tiempos, nunca se sabía qué acólitos se iban a presentar. De manera que si se presentaba uno que fuera bajito, ella tenía que ajustarle la sotana con alfileres. Yo solía acompañarla en la sacristía antes del oficio, ayudándoles a prepararse [a los acólitos]. En esos tiempos no había niñas acólitas, pero siempre encontraba cosas que hacer”.

Mirar atrás y andar hacia adelante

Además de la participación comunitaria, Santo Tomás ha seguido comprometida “a mantener la información y el valor de la presencia negra en la Iglesia Episcopal”, según dice su página web. La iglesia presenta una exposición del Mes de la Historia Negra, ofrece visitas dirigidas y continúa preservando su tesoro de registros y desarrollando sus archivos.

“Es una extraordinaria bendición que tengamos esos magníficos archivos”, dijo Smith. “De algún modo, han reconocido, a través de los años, que esos registros eran valiosos. Uno llega realmente a tener una idea de cómo era la vida, de la gente, de quiénes eran los activistas y los líderes. Me han conectado y ha expandido mi conocimiento de la historia negra, así como mi conexión con la comunidad negra de un modo que yo no tenía”.

Aunque la iglesia se ha mudado cuatro veces desde que Absalom Jones la fundó, sigue creciendo y recibiendo a otros “con algo para todo el mundo”, dice Sadler. Sus miembros representan todo el espectro de la diáspora africana así como “un buen número” de blancos.

En 2000, se instalaron vidrieras emplomadas en la iglesia para rendir homenaje no sólo a Jones, sino también a varios gigantes negros de la fe: el arzobispo Desmond Tuto; Barbara Harris, obispa sufragánea jubilada de Massachusetts, la primera obispa electa en la Iglesia Episcopal; y el obispo sufragáneo Franklin Turner, que legó su báculo a los archivos.

Turner, que se jubiló en 2000, falleció el 31 de diciembre de 2013, y en su memoria se celebró un réquiem el 11 de enero.

En un oficio en 1992 en Santo Tomás para volver a sepultar los restos de Absalom Jones, Franklin había dicho refiriéndose a los episcopales negros: “en verdad, hemos llegado hasta aquí por fe”.

“Podemos justamente enorgullecernos de nuestra permanencia en la Iglesia Episcopal, aunque ha sido una lucha cuesta arriba”, afirmó.

Animar, facultar, acoger

En el espíritu del empeño de Absalom Jones en pro de la educación, la iglesia está en el proceso de lanzar un programa extraescolar, dijo el Rdo. Angelo Wildgoose, rector adjunto.

“El programa extraescolar está orientado hacia las escuelas de nuestra zona y se propone básicamente ayudar con las tareas escolares, la tecnología, las ciencias de la computación y con consejos para el examen de admisión [SAT]; y la iglesia participa en toda una variedad de campañas comunitarias”, le dijo él a ENS.

Entre otros programas de la iglesia, los cinco coros ofrecen una amplia gama de obras musicales: clásicas, espirituales, góspel y jazz.

El 16 de febrero comienza una nueva clase de escuela intermedia y superior, Souldiers for Christ [“Almas Marciales por Cristo”], dijo Wildgoose, que presta servicios en la iglesia desde diciembre. Otro programa, destinado a conectar a los estudiantes con iglesias episcopales de la localidad durante sus años universitarios, recomenzó en diciembre con unos 15 estudiantes, dijo él.

“La idea es brindarles ese hogar lejos del hogar donde podrán seguir asistiendo al culto en una iglesia episcopal y, al mismo tiempo, contar con algunos entornos familiares”, afirmó. “Tratamos de cerciorarnos de que mantenemos a nuestros jóvenes comprometidos, desde los niños hasta los que asisten a la universidad. Hacemos mucho énfasis en la participación de los padres”.

La asistencia promedio del domingo es de unas 400 personas en un oficio, con unos 50 niños en la escuela dominical. “Hay algo para todos aquí”, dijo Sadler.

Para Smith, sus amigos de toda la vida y muchos otros, Santo Tomás ha sido un hogar espiritual y real, “un asidero, en torno al cual organizar de algún modo la vida, y con personas de intereses semejantes”, afirmó Smith. “Somos dichosos de que nuestra congregación es multigeneracional, con una magnífica clase religiosa, un estupendo grupo de adolescentes y todos los Souldiers for Christ  y que cada grupo de distinta edad puede sentir que la iglesia les pertenece y llegar a ser una parte activa en la vida de la iglesia.

“En verdad se ha incorporado a mi vida, y creo que es lo que encuentran las personas cuando vienen aquí, y es por eso que cada domingo tenemos personas que se suman a la iglesia”.

– La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.


Episcopales de EE.UU rechazan sentencia 168 y enviarán delegación al país

Monday, February 17, 2014

[accento.com.co] Dispone, que se invite a todos los episcopales a orar por los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana y por todas las personas apátridas en el mundo, para que puedan encontrar casas donde sean acogidos y se les proporcione un estatus legítimo de residencia, educación y trabajo para ellos y sus hijos.

NUEVA YORK, Estados Unidos.-El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal, establecido en 1821 e incorporado en 1846, como representación de los episcopales en los Estados Unidos, declaró mediante resolución su solidaridad con los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana que han sido afectados por la sentencia 168-13 del Tribunal Constitucional de la República Dominicana.

El Consejo Ejecutivo dispuso un llamado a todos los miembros de la Iglesia Episcopal en todo el mundo para orar por esas personas despojadas de la nacionalidad. “Dispone, que se invite a todos los episcopales a orar por los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana y por todas las personas apátridas en el mundo, para que puedan encontrar casas donde sean acogidos y se les proporcione un estatus legítimo de residencia, educación y trabajo para ellos y sus hijos”, dice la resolución.

Leer mas aquí.

Nigerian, Ugandan archbishops err in supporting anti-gay legislation

Friday, February 14, 2014

[Chicago Consultation press release] The steering committee of the Chicago Consultation — an organization of bishops, clergy, theologians and lay Anglicans in Africa and Episcopalians in the United States — has issued the following statement about punitive anti-gay legislation that is supported by the archbishops of the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda:

Christians who read and reason from the same Bible can arrive in good faith at differing conclusions about the moral legitimacy of same-sex relationships. We believe that these differences must be honored, even as we work to gain equal rights for all of God’s children, both in the church and in civil society. But we are grieved and appalled by the support of Anglican Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria and Stanley Ntagali of Uganda for harsh anti-gay legislation that has been passed in their countries.

In Nigeria, where this law is already in effect, gay men have been rounded up and tortured. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni must decide within the next few days, whether to sign harsh anti-gay legislation that has already been approved by the country’s Parliament.

In the wake of widespread expressions of support for this legislation from Christian leaders in Africa and the silence of their allies in the west, we believe that several points must be made clear:

  • There is no religiously rooted justification for perpetrating violence against innocent men and women who, whatever their sexual orientation or identity, are created in the image and likeness of God.
  • There is no legitimate Christian rationale for denying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the human rights bestowed upon all of God’s children.
  • Christian leaders who argue otherwise demonstrate a shocking hardheartedness and an unwillingness to examine the meanings of Holy Scripture in depth and in totality.
  • Whatever their political or theological opinions, faithful Christians are called to offer sanctuary to the persecuted, not encouragement to the persecutors.

We call on the archbishops to reconsider their support for these laws, and we call on the archbishops’ allies in the United States and the United Kingdom — organizations such as Anglican Mainstream, the Anglican Church in North America and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America — to dissociate themselves from the archbishops’ positions or explain why they will not do so.

RIP: New Jersey communicator Cynthia McFarland

Friday, February 14, 2014

Following an extended illness, Canon Cynthia McFarland, longtime communications director, historiographer and archivist of the Diocese of New Jersey, and active leader in the wider Episcopal Church, died Feb. 13 at Virtua Hospital in Mount Holly, New Jersey.

McFarland was editor for Anglicans Online and manager of the Episcopal Church’s Bishops and Deputies listserve. For many years she served as a member of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Communication and Information Technology.

A Choral Requiem Mass will be held at St. Mark’s Church, Locust Street, Philadelphia at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22. A graveside commital service and interment will be held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Burlington, New Jersey, at 3 p.m.

Into your hands. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Cynthia. Acknowledge we humbly beseech you a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.

May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen


Friday, February 14, 2014

La Asociación por los Derechos de la Mujer y el Desarrollo y Mama Cash han creado un sitio web en The Guardian, uno de los periódicos de mayor importancia en Inglaterra, dedicado a al “análisis especial sobre los derechos de las mujeres y la igualdad de género“. La sección busca compartir análisis sobre temas urgentes que afectan al género femenino alrededor del mundo. Su primera edición tuvo lugar el 4 de febrero.

La agencia informativa Associated Press  ha retirado de su archivo varias fotos de Fidel Castro charlando amigablemente con las damas presidentas de América Latina. ¿Razón? Se ha comprobado que las fotos fueron alteradas mediante técnicas especiales, algo que está terminante prohibido en el mundo de la información. Un corresponsal en La Habana dijo “Fidel está más viejo de lo que revelan las fotos”.

Los resultados de la encuesta titulada La Voz del Pueblo que la cadena Univisión encargó en 12 países y fue realizada por la firma de Bendixen & Amandi ha causado polémicas en varias partes del mundo. Una agencia noticiosa afirma que la encuesta “remeció los cimientos del Vaticano”, mientras que el jefe de Información del Vaticano rechazó su valor diciendo que “no ha tenido en cuenta el trabajo de la Comisión Vaticana y ha cedido a presiones externas”. En la encuesta participaron más de 12 mil católicos romanos. Los temas tratados en el sondeo son los grandes retos de la Iglesia Católica en el Siglo XXI y los resultados revelan qué piensan los fieles y qué tan cerca o lejos se encuentran de la dirección de la jerarquía eclesiástica.

Según la encuesta el 87% de los católicos respalda la labor realizada por el papa Francisco, y el 80% los africanos y 76% los filipinos apoyan la prohibición de que las mujeres se ordenen sacerdotes, una postura que sólo comparte el 30% de los católicos europeos y 36% de los estadounidenses.

El Comité Permanente de la Diócesis del Sureste de la Florida decidió en su más reciente reunión en diciembre de 2013 comenzar el proceso de elección para suceder al obispo Leopoldo Frade, a ese fin se nombró un comité de clérigos y laicos para comenzar el trabajo que durará varios meses. Según este plan la diócesis seleccionó a un comité de 18 clérigos y laicos para elegir al obispo coadjutor, auxiliar con derecho a sucesión. Todo el proceso tiene el permiso de la mayoría de los obispos con jurisdicción y las 110 diócesis que componen la Iglesia Episcopal. Frade se retira por haber llegado a la edad que señalan los cánones para su jubilación.

En Venezuela ha habido disturbios estudiantiles contra el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro.  En lugares como Caracas, Táchira y Maracaibo el oficialismo ha sacado la policía a las calles teniendo como consecuencia tres muertos y un indeterminado número de heridos. Cada día el gobierno toma más dotes dictatoriales. Varios periódicos no han podido imprimirse por falta de divisas para comprar papel en el exterior, medida que se considera un intento de limitar la libertad de expresión. La declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, adoptada por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas el 10 de Diciembre de 1948 en París dice en su Artículo 19: “Todo individuo tiene derecho a la libertad de opinión y expresión; este derecho incluye el de no ser molestado a causa de sus opiniones, el de investigar y recibir informaciones y opiniones y el de difundirlas, sin limitación de fronteras, por cualquier medio de expresión”. Con el cierre de los periódicos en Venezuela más de 30 mil obreros y empleados quedarían sin trabajo. Una manifestante dijo que el gobierno “es cobarde porque persigue a estudiantes en lugar de delincuentes que andan libres por la calle”.

La Reforma Migratoria que admitiría a 12 millones de indocumentados en los Estados Unidos sigue sin aprobarse y las posibilidades se suceden como las olas del mar. En esta semana hubo un gran titular que decía que no se aprobaría en este año porque la Cámara de Representantes no confía en el presidente Barack Obama. Horas más tarde surgieron declaraciones de importantes políticos diciendo que “sí habían posibilidades” pese a comentarios contrarios. Decimos nosotros: “Con las vidas de tantas personas no se juega”.

EPITAFIO. “El socialismo es la filosofía del fracaso, el credo a la ignorancia, y la prédica a la envidia. Su defecto inherente es la distribución igualitaria de la miseria”. Winston Churchill, político y estadista inglés (1874-1965).

Episcopal churches put their hearts into Valentine’s Day

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tickie Shull, ECW president at Trinity Episcopal Church, Newark, Ohio (L) and Linda Dimon hold Valentine cookies to be taken to homebound parishioners. Bonnie John also participated in the effort as did Billie Richey who is holding Valentines cards by the Sunday School classes.
Photo: Carol Morello/Trinity Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] If Valentine’s is a day for love, then Episcopal churches are spreading it around.

Like the “Have a Heart” fundraising campaign in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, for the Church of the Redeemer’s African Children’s Mission (ACM) ministry to Malawi.

Or the cookie outreach launched by the Episcopal Church Women at Trinity Church in Newark, Ohio — home-baked cookies for homebound seniors.

Couples are planning to renew their wedding vows at many Episcopal churches, including St. Alban’s Church in St. Pete Beach, Florida and at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City.

Trinity Church in Fort Worth is offering a free Parents Night Out and St. Stephen’s Church in Santa Clarita, California, crafted cards and heartfelt messages for local seniors and singles.

So, who was St. Valentine?
Given that the Roman Catholic Church in 1996 demoted his saintly status and the Episcopal Church recognizes others on Feb. 14 (saints Cyril and Methodius), it isn’t all that clear who St. Valentine or Valentinius actually was or why a day devoted to romantic love, roses and chocolates became his namesake, according to the Rev. Sam A. Portaro.

“There was possibly more than one character named Valentine,” according to Portaro, who retired in 2004 after 22 years as Episcopal chaplain at the University of Chicago.

Portaro’s Feb. 14 meditation in his “The Brightest and the Best” (Cowley Publications, 1998) companion reader to Lesser Feasts and Fasts, the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints doesn’t mention Valentine, but concentrates on Cyril and Methodius instead.

“Some people trace the influence of Chaucer as helping to elevate the prominence of Valentine, and associating him with love,” Portaro added. “In that period he is associated with courtly love which, as we know, is a very romantic view of love that’s not grounded in reality.”

The Rev. Tim Schenck agreed. “It’s, frankly, a bit odd that love is celebrated on a day named for St. Valentinus,” said Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts.

“If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with authenticity, try dressing up for your romantic dinner as the martyred saint,” said Schenck who has been known to reflect about the holy ones in annual Lent Madness “saintly smackdown” he helps run, set to resume March 6, where viewers pick their most favorite saints.

“Or perhaps just stick with chocolate and roses and tell your beloved about Saints Cyril and Methodius – the 9th century missionaries to the Slavs whom the Episcopal Church actually commemorates on February 14th,” he added.

Some traditions identify Valentine as a priest; others, a bishop. “Most of them tend to center on a character who lived in the 3rd century and was around under the persecution of Emperor Claudius II and there are stories of his martyrdom and his life tends to have been centered largely around Rome,” Portaro said.

He compared ninth century Russian brothers Cyril and Methodius, missionaries in the area that became Czechoslovakia who invented the Cyrillic alphabet and made liturgy and worship available in the language of that region, to modern-day Canadian brothers Alexandre and Frederic Bilodeau.

Alexandre Bilodeau, who won the gold medal in freestyle skiing Feb.10 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia,

Saints Cyril and Methodious

dedicated the victory to his older brother Frederic who has cerebral palsy, Portaro said.

“They’re such an icon of genuine love, the kind of love that we really do want to lift up and celebrate, a kind of selfless love of one human being for another,” he said. He noted that “Alex clearly and openly identifies his older brother Frederic as his hero.”

He said that the two brothers “exhibit such a beautiful example of the kind of love we should have for all of our relationships but especially in marriage” and that the missionaries Cyril and Methodius’ selfless work “is far more representative of the kind of love we want to lift up within the Christian community than any of the mythologies associated with Valentine.”

Bryn Mawr: ‘Have a Heart’ campaign for AIDS orphans
Since Julie Williams has a heart for helping children orphaned by AIDS in the African nation of Malwai, she hopes others will, too.

This Valentine’s weekend, she helped to launch an appeal to raise money for the African Children’s Ministry (ACM) of the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

For example, a mere $10 will provide a year’s worth of school supplies for two children orphaned by AIDS. There are an estimated 550,000 orphans in Malawi, according to the fundraiser flyer.

Just $75 treats one hundred pregnant women for malaria at the Global AIDS International Alliance (GAIA) mobile health clinics. GAIA is a parent organization of the ACM.

And for the $160 investment of paying the room and board of a nursing scholar, the returns are amazing—increased healthcare capacity in the AIDS-challenged country.

“Our fundraiser just happened to crop up at about the right time and we thought it was a natural, an easy message to have a heart and give at this time,” Williams told ENS.

Throughout the year, the ACM committee also organizes trips to Malawi and other fundraisers, including for a “GOT GOAT” food empowerment project, said the Rev. Stephen Billings, who convenes the ministry.

The ACM involves an ongoing relationship with an exchange of people between the U.S. and Malawi, Billings said.

The ministry has been incorporated as Sunday school lessons “and demonstrating how assisting the needs of the children of Malawi and their families relates to the millennium development goals,” Billings said.

“What we’re talking about, when we talk about sending Valentines to Malawi, is medical packs, bike ambulances, children’s feeding programs and school scholarships, malaria nets and other related services for the well-being and the stability of families with a priority on children who are already orphans who are at risk,” he said.

“We’re talking about training nurses; there’s a dearth of nurses. GAIA has a program for scholarships and support for several generations of nurses trained primarily in Malawai, but several are trained in this country.”

Billings said he’s also known as “the goat man” because he gives a token plastic goat to donors as a reminder to people of gifts to Malawi.

Fort Worth: a ‘Valent-erific’ night out for parents and in for their children
Erin Martin said she and her husband Josh don’t get many nights out and so she was really excited when she learned that Trinity Church in Fort Worth was offering a free Parents Night Out for Valentine’s Day.

“My kids really like it there,” she said of the church. “They enjoy the programs and feel comfortable and we feel comfortable leaving them, so I was excited that we could all be part of it without anyone being mad. The kids were happy and we were happy,” said the stay-at-home mom with three children, aged 4, 8, and 10.

Kimberly Cooper, the church’s children’s ministry coordinator, said 30 children are signed up so that, while their parents get a night out on the town, they’ll have a fun night in of their own.

The idea for the event all came about “when we realized that Valentine’s Day was on a Friday. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to give parents the night out?” recalled Sarah Martinez, church communications coordinator.

The evening starts at 5:30 p.m. and will include games, a condensed Godly Play lesson about God’s love for all creation, and an opportunity to make heart-shaped bird feeders by mixing gelatin and birdseed, Cooper said. “They’ll be able to take them home and hang them outside to feed the birds,” she said.

The event, also an outreach to the church’s preschool families and promises to be “a Valentin-terific evening for all,” Martinez said.

As for Martin, “we’re going to try and go out to dinner,” she said. “We don’t get many nights out, not just for fun. We have people we can ask to watch our kids but we use that up on things that we have to do. This is more like something we get to do. We can go and spend time and enjoy ourselves and I don’t feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone.

“We really enjoy the program,” she said, adding “it’s a good service to the community.”

Cookies and Cards, oh my!
This year, Tickie Shull and other Episcopal Church Women members at Trinity Church in Newark, Ohio weren’t content with just baking dozens of sugary treats with lots of pink icing and tasty sprinkles; they made their annual Valentine’s Day outreach a multigenerational effort.

“Our Sunday school kids made cards that are as cute as can be,” Shull told ENS. “They have Valentine spelled out vertically and then it’s says John 3:16 horizontally. And they put a special message inside: ‘from the Trinity children. You are so loved. Happy Valentine’s Day.’”

The handmade cards go with the homemade heart-shaped cookies that go to housebound seniors who seldom, if ever, get to church, she said. “It’s just been something that’s been appreciated and it’s been fun to do.”

“And, it’s always a team effort,” Shull said. “It’s a joy. We like our ministries. We just want to spread the love. Valentine’s Day is all about love, right? Well, that is what we are trying to do, to just spread it around.”

Similarly, Kimberlee Bridgeford got together with a couple of other parishioners at St. Stephen’s Church in Santa Clarita, California to make about 130 Valentine cards “for shut-ins and single people and senior citizens and newcomers.

A scrapbooker, it was second nature for Bridgeford to amass ribbons and stickers and rubber stamps and three-dimensional lace, and all the accoutrements for fancy embossed cards and heart-felt messages. She worked with Rosa Holdredge and Wendy Rickman on decorative cards, bookmarks and envelopes.

“We did them all by hand and then we had another 70 that we embellished and put bookmarks in. We gave those to the Canterbury Village retirement home adjacent to the church property, for the residents,” she said.

Bridgeford said she began the practice after her own mother passed away two years ago. She missed receiving her mom’s card, Bridgeford recalled.

“One parishioner told me she hadn’t received a Valentine since she was in grade school and she’s 70 years old,” Bridgeford told ENS. “Everyone needs to feel loved and thought of. We want them to know we do care, that this is not just a Hallmark holiday. This is letting people know we care about them.”

Now, mission accomplished, all the cards done and in the process of being delivered, she reflects. “We had a wonderful time. And I can’t wait to find out what everybody felt when they got their cards.”

Each card is unique and “every one is made with love,” she added.

Vows renewed, deeper, stronger love
Ernie McKenzie, 72, says the idea of renewing their vows has always appealed to him and his wife Anna, 71. After 17 years of marriage they will join other couples at 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day at St. Alban’s Church in St. Pete Beach in southwest Florida for vows, snacks and champagne.

“It’s a way to not necessarily rekindle but to relive those same feelings and what they meant to us back then, and now, and hopefully will mean the same forever,” he said.

Similarly, in New York City, at least a dozen couples will gather at 6:30 p.m. at the Church of the Heavenly Rest for what the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector, is calling “a short service of thanksgiving and renewal of marriage vows” open to the community and followed by a champagne reception in the narthex.

“It’s a wonderful way that we observe the sacred part of people’s lives,” Heyd told ENS. “We hope it will be both meaningful and fun. We’re encouraging people to bring their children. Last year, people had their kids come and watched them renew their wedding vows.”

“It’s a way to lift up the blessing of the sacrament of marriage and to honor the time that people spent together. It’s a remarkable thing to look back on commitment they made whether it is one year or 50 years and to ponder how in joy and difficulty they’ve been together.”

A lot of their relationship was physical when they first married, McKenzie said of he and Anna, “but, as time progresses, it becomes a lot deeper. You gain a lot more respect for your partner. You get to the point where the physical doesn’t mean that much anymore, but the ability to be there for your partner means everything.”

And that’s exactly the sentiment the Rev. Georgene “Gigi” Conner, priest-in-charge at St. Alban’s is hoping to acknowledge on Valentine’s Day.

“We’re expressing a deeper commitment,” Conner said. “The hope is that when people stay together, love becomes deeper.  You get over romantic love and get into the deeper meaning of what love really is. We see it occasionally in couples where one person has become very ill and the other does not abandon them but is right by their side.

“Or, there’s a huge adjustment for people who’ve gone off to war and come back and they’re somewhat changed and how do you nurture that person back to wholeness and that can be done through love rather than just saying it’s not going to work. We live
in a society of quick fixes, where we think everything’s going to happen right now rather than staying in it for the long haul.”

Ernie McKenzie said the day promises to bring both tears and smiles.

“It’s just, there’s a closeness that we have that you never seem to be able to show,” he said. “Even though we talk about it, something like renewing our vows gives you something to be able to show that you really do care and that your mate really is number one.

“Renewing our vows to us is just saying that we’re willing to commit for another 17 years or however long. Our feelings are just as strong as they’ve ever been, even though they may be a little different.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.  

New York notified of successful canonical consent process

Thursday, February 13, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, press release] The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of New York that Bishop Suffragan-Elect Allen K. Shin has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process.

As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.

In Canon III.11.4 (b), Standing Committees, in consenting to the ordination and consecration, attest they are “fully sensible of how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Office. We do, moreover, jointly and severally declare that we believe the Reverend A.B. to have been duly and lawfully elected and to be of such sufficiency in learning, of such soundness in the Faith, and of such godly character as to be able to exercise the Office of a Bishop to the honor of God and the edifying of the Church, and to be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.”

The Rev. Allen K. Shin was elected on December 7, 2013.  His ordination and consecration service is slated for May 17; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.

While Bishop Suffragan-Elect Shin has received the necessary majority of consents, consents will continue to be accepted up to and including the April 19 deadline date.

A recap of the process
Upon election, the successful candidate is a bishop-elect.  Following some procedural matters including physical and psychological examinations, formal notices are then sent by the Presiding Bishop’s office to bishops with jurisdiction (diocesan bishops only) with separate notices from the electing diocese to the standing committees of each of the dioceses in The Episcopal Church. These notices require their own actions and signatures.

In order for a bishop-elect to become a bishop, Canon III.11.4 (a) of The Episcopal Church mandates that a majority of diocesan bishops AND a majority of diocesan standing committees must consent to the bishop-elect’s ordination and consecration as bishop. These actions – done separately – must be completed within 120 days from the day notice of the election was sent to the proper parties.

If the bishop-elect receives a majority of consents from the diocesan bishops as well as a majority from the standing committees, the bishop-elect is one step closer. Following a successful consent process, ordination and celebration are in order.


Podcast: Atlanta bishop celebrates Absalom Jones

Thursday, February 13, 2014

[Diocese of Atlanta] Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright preached Jan. 25 at the Cathedral of St. Philip in celebration of Absalom Jones, the Episcopal Church’s and the nation’s first black priest. Click here to listen to the sermon via podcast.

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