María Antonieta Collins, periodista de la Cadena Univisión, viajó a una pobre casa a 12 horas de Culiacán, México, para entrevistar a Doña Consuelo Loera, madre del famoso traficante de drogas Joaquín, “El Chapo” Guzmán. La periodista se encontró con una humilde señora de 86 años que vive en una pobre casa que la recibió con todo cariño. Sus primeras palabras fueron “siento lo que le está pasando a mi hijo pero tengo fe en un Dios que me ayuda y me fortalece”. Doña Consuelo es miembro de una iglesia evangélica pentecostal muy cerca de su casa.
La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba ha adoptado un plan de acción para los próximos tres años. La iglesia quiere ser una comunidad unida en la diversidad, que celebra, evangeliza, enseña, sirve y comparte el amor de Dios. A ese fin se propone: fortalecer el crecimiento de la vocación pastoral, el ministerio ordenado y el ministerio laico; aumentar la sostenibilidad financiera a través de la mayordomía, la administración de proyectos y la exploración de otras fuentes nacionales; aprovechar los espacios de reflexión y formación bíblica-teológica en lo local, arcedianal y diocesano; profundizar en temas de valores, éticos, históricos, espirituales y de familia; reforzar la visibilidad del quehacer de la iglesia dentro y fuera; fortalecer la capacidad de gestión y organización; fortalecer ministerios pastorales de servicio y acompañamiento a personas y grupos en condiciones de exclusión y vulnerabilidad. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, natural de Bolivia, es la obispa diocesana.
El papa Francisco recibió la semana pasada a un grupo inter-religioso de argentinos que visitaron la Tierra Santa llevando un mensaje de paz y convivencia entre los credos. El papa dijo que la Argentina “ha sido tierra de encuentro y armonía entre diversas comunidades y religiones”. Añadió que la armonía “nos une, nos hace mejores personas y hasta mejora la salud”. Informó que en su próximo viaje a la Tierra Santa irá acompañado de un musulmán y un judío.
El Parlamento Europeo pidió la semana pasada, por primera vez desde el estallido de la violencia en Venezuela, que el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro desarme y disuelva “inmediatamente” a los “grupos armados como los llamados Tupamaros”. El parlamento también pidió que se respeten los derechos humanos. Por otra parte, la prensa escrita dijo con motivo de aniversario número 25 del Caracazo que todo venezolano en edad debe recordar “el día que bajaron los cerros», cuando muchos habitantes de los barrios pobres que cubren las colinas aledañas a Caracas se abalanzaron sobre la ciudad en un frenesí de saqueo y rapiña que terminó con una ola de represión y muerte.
En su informe anual sobre los derechos humanos en el mundo el departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos señaló la represión de disidentes en Cuba y China, la concentración de poder en Venezuela y las restricciones a la libertad de expresión en Ecuador. Además, destacó la “impunidad” de los abusos cometidos por fuerzas de seguridad en Egipto, la “presión a la sociedad civil” en Ucrania y la persistencia de juicios “políticamente motivados” en Rusia. El informe también critica a Estados Unidos por “abusos de poder de sus fuerzas del orden”.
El Consejo Evangélico de Venezuela se ha pronunciado sobre la presente situación en el país diciendo “en esta hora de extraordinario dolor, en que el luto embarga una vez más los hogares venezolanos, el Consejo Evangélico de Venezuela manifiesta su solidaridad a todos y eleva oraciones y súplicas a Dios por la paz de nuestra nación y especialmente por las familias que han perdido a un ser querido durante las protestas realizadas. La Comisión de Justicia y Paz de la Conferencia Episcopal Venezolana, lamentó el asesinato de dos sacerdotes salesianos en la ciudad de Valencia, estado Carabobo.
Globovisión, el único canal de noticias en Venezuela ha dicho en un comunicado de prensa: “ante la violencia que se ha presentado en el país ratificamos nuestro compromiso con Venezuela y su democracia, con la paz y la tolerancia, con todos los venezolanos y muy especialmente con la verdad”.
ORACIÓN. Señor, hazme un instrumento de tu paz…
[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) has completed the initial relief phase of its response to Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – and will continue to assist impacted communities in rebuilding homes and rehabilitating livelihoods. Episcopal Relief & Development supplied funding and technical support for these activities, which have strengthened relationships among participating communities, built local resilience and created economic growth.
The ECP’s development program, recently named E-CARE (Episcopal Community Action for Renewal and Empowerment), is acting in partnership with local cooperatives and organizations specializing in post-disaster reconstruction. Guided by principles of asset-based community development, E-CARE programs seek to identify and expand on a community’s strengths to meet local and regional needs.
“From past experiences, disaster relief and rehabilitation work … oftentimes results in helplessness,” wrote Floyd Lalwet, ECP National Development Officer, in the proposal describing the Church’s planned disaster response. “Hence, in the implementation of this project, measures are deliberately and programmatically adopted to prevent such undesired effects and, instead, build up and/or enhance the sense of self-reliance of these communities.”
Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, causing widespread flood and wind damage. ECP immediately mobilized a response via its networks in impacted communities, sending locally-sourced relief supplies and medical teams to areas that had not been reached by larger humanitarian efforts. From November to February, ECP staff and volunteers distributed a total of 10,317 food and hygiene relief packs containing toiletry items and food such as vegetable noodles, camote (sweet potato) cookies and “energy mix” porridge. ECP purchased the food items from Church-based cooperatives in the northern part of the country, and volunteers packed the supplies in bags crafted from surplus donated clothing.
“The success of ECP’s disaster response so far, and of their programs in general, comes in part from their keen ability to see the big picture,” said Sara Delaney, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “It can be tempting to focus on disaster response as an isolated project, but ECP sees it as part of their larger work and looks at how the response can utilize programs they already have and strengthen communities to be more resilient to challenges.”
For the first round of long-term recovery work, Church staff identified four barangays (municipalities) on the island of Leyte that were actively participating in livelihood programs at the time of the typhoon. Severe winds destroyed homes and wiped out crops, but these barangays were not impacted by seawater – an advantage that will allow agriculture to recover more quickly. Local farmers are now starting over with all-natural, harvest-boosting fertilizers and techniques from the Church’s Tadian Demonstration Farm, and ECP is purchasing salvageable fruit crops to process into jam, which will be sold via the E-CARE store in Manila. Supplemental food assistance will continue during this time of rehabilitation, as farmers have been able to replant their fields but will not be able to harvest for several months.
Economic rehabilitation is essential for the long-term recovery of typhoon-affected areas, and ECP is working with the Philippine Center for Social Enterprise to restart existing businesses and develop new ones. According to ECP staff, communities that received relief packs were inspired to learn that the food items had been produced by farmer cooperatives in the northern part of the country, and resolved to expand their own activities along the same lines. For those supplier communities, participating in the typhoon response led to an increase in production capacity, which will position them to compete in the regional market and assist in future disasters. Additionally, many of the products are organic, strengthening their competitive advantage and responding to the growing demand in the Philippines for organic food.
With wind speeds peaking at 195 miles per hour, a majority of residents in the four selected barangays experienced severe or total damage to their homes during the storm. Although many have made provisional repairs using tarps and canvas, ECP aims to empower people to rebuild in a way that will reduce risks associated with future disasters. Utilizing Interlocking Compressed Earth Block (ICEB) technology pioneered by the locally based JF Ledesma Foundation, residents will be able to use local materials to produce low-cost, durable bricks for home reconstruction. Recovery plans include other proven risk reduction strategies such as planting trees and other vegetation to combat wind and erosion.
Looking ahead, ECP plans to explore the potential for long-term recovery partnerships in four additional barangays that were impacted by the storm. By applying a “receivers to givers” methodology, ECP enables program participants to eventually “give back” by contributing labor or a portion of income to help other groups start projects of their own.
This holistic approach of connecting participating communities in a cycle of giving fosters a sense of equality and solidarity, according to Lalwet. “It also gives the receiving communities a better sense of obligation to follow a similar course taken by marginalized communities seeking to economically empower themselves,” he wrote in the disaster response proposal.
Following their asset-based approach, ECP will accompany communities through the relief and rehabilitation phases of disaster recovery, laying a foundation for further community development beyond just rebuilding to pre-typhoon status. “The aim of the ECP disaster response is to help communities identify their own strengths and capitalize on them,” Delaney said, “so that after several years of growth, they are not only fully recovered, but stronger.”
Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] A pilot project that is being watched closely by utility companies around the country now has all 576 panels in place in downtown Austin. Today, the last few panels were mounted on the roof of St. David’s Episcopal Church’s nine-story garage. The system is sized to produce 200 MWh per year, which will provide electricity for a day school, coffee shop, homeless resource center, and off-site classes for AISD.
The idea for the project, which is the first of its size in downtown Austin, was first discussed by church leaders 10 years ago. “We had a window of opportunity that opened with a newly created pilot program by Austin Energy, federal rebates, low interest rates, and the advancement of technology. Everything came together so well with the help of Austin Energy and Meridian Solar, we were finally able to carry it out,” said St. David’s Parish Administrator Terry Nathan.
In the past, a project of this size was too risky. Downtown networks have been set up to only allow electricity to flow in, creating better protection for densely populated areas. An initial concern of the project was that on the days when more solar energy was generated than needed, the excess would try and pump back into the grid causing significant problems. With this project in mind, Meridian Solar helped create a sophisticated control system that permits the solar array to be connected to the utility’s electrical service, all while prohibiting the excess generation from back feeding into the downtown network.
“This achievement is the latest chapter in St. Davids’ long history of contributions of the Austin community,” said Austin City Council Member Chris Riley. “By helping resolve difficult issues related to our electric grid, St. David’s has moved us closer to our goals for local solar generation, and has demonstrated once again the value of its longtime partnership with the City.”
Beyond the obvious benefit of saving on energy costs (St. David’s also houses a day school, coffee shop, homeless resource center, and off-site classes for AISD), the solar panel project reflects St. David’s values on protecting the environment and conserving resources. St. David’s is a certified GreenFaith Sanctuary, houses and maintains a certified Wildlife Habitat in the middle of downtown, is a City of Austin Green Business Partner (Platinum level); and winner of the 2012 Keep Austin Beautiful Award in the category of Recycling and Waste Reduction.
St. David’s Rector, the Rev. David Boyd, shares his excitement about the project, “Through our solar energy project, we are fulfilling God’s call to be stewards of creation. In addition, as we save significant money on our utility costs, those resources enable us to fulfill other aspects of the Gospel as we care for those in the Austin community, including our homeless brothers and sisters and local service agencies.”
About St. David’s Episcopal Church: St. David’s, established in 1848, has approximately 2,400 members and offers seven services each Sunday and prayer services during the week. The church, which occupies an entire city block in downtown Austin, supports the Austin community by serving homeless neighbors, providing grants to local non-profits, and organizing volunteers to support local projects like Habitat for Humanity and Wildfire Relief efforts. Learn more at www.stdave.org
About Meridian Solar: Meridian Solar specializes in the development, engineering, construction, and financing of high quality solar electric projects. Blue-chip commercial clients, State and Federal entities, non-profit organizations, and utility providers repeatedly count on Meridian Solar when considering renewable energy for their facilities. With more than a decade of experience, comprised of hundreds of installationstotaling 39 MW of generating capacity, MeridianSolar is truly a seasoned veteran in the burgeoning solar industry. Learn more at www.meridiansolar.com.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The holy season of Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday and continues to the festive day of Easter. This season, consider sharing your experiences with the entire Episcopal Church by uploading photos and videos to appear on the stained glass on the main page of the Episcopal Church website www.episcopalchurch.org.
“Please share photos and videos by posting to local uploads on The Episcopal Church website,” explained Anne Rudig, Director of Communication. “The site was designed to be a container for the whole Church. We would love to see every congregation represented in the stained glass on the home page during Lent, Holy Week and Easter.”
Upload photos here.
Upload videos here.
For more information contact Barry Merer, Manager, Web & Social Media Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Office of Communication will offer a live webcast of a traditional Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of Ashes on March 5 at noon Eastern from Grace Church, New York City.
The webcast will be available here.
[Episcopal News Service] The Society of St. John the Evangelist is offering short, daily videos that delve deeply into the gospel that shapes their community life.
“John’s message of love can unlock our hearts and transform our lives,” the monastery’s website says.
The videos in the series “Love Livfe: Lent 2014” will be sent to participants via email and, thus, people wishing to receive them may subscribe here. A series of videos previewing the series can be found on that this page as well.
The brothers are also offering resources for use with the series here for group and church leaders and educators.
[Episcopal News Service] For nearly the eighth Ash Wednesday in a row, Episcopal Church clergy and laity will take to the streets on the day that marks the start of Lent to offer passersby the outward and visible symbol of penitence.
Begun in part in the Dioceses of Chicago and Missouri, the website Ashes to Go says that the practice went viral in 2012.
“Those who had no time to attend services or had forgotten about the tradition were delighted to receive ashes with prayer as they began their day,” said the Rev. Emily Mellott, who calls herself an Ashes to Go evangelist and manages the website. “Many responded with tears or smiles of gratitude that the church would come to them.”
The list of congregations that have told the planners that they will offer Ashes to Go this Ash Wednesday is here. Many diocesan websites also are compiling a list of participating congregations.
[Forward Movement] What do you get when you combine a love of sports with a love of saints? Lent Madness, of course. The world’s most popular Lenten devotion returns for its fifth year of teaching people about saints in its inimitable, occasionally irreverent, way.
Based loosely on the wildly popular NCAA basketball tournament, Lent Madness pits 32 saints against one another in a single-elimination bracket as they compete for the coveted Golden Halo. But it is more than that: Lent Madness is really an online devotional tool designed to help people learn about saints. The competition begins on Thursday, March 6 and takes place at www.lentmadness.org.
The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, says “Lent Madness is a fun way to get people to connect with and be inspired by a bunch of amazing people. Some are already household names and others are virtually unknown but we can all learn something from the unique ways they followed God. Plus, there’s no rule that says Lenten disciplines must be dreary.”
The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for twenty-four hours and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo. The surprise 2013 Lent Madness champion was Frances Perkins.
The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints.
Subsequent rounds explore quotes and quirks, legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.
Christians around the world mark the Season of Lent from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The 40-day period is a traditional time of penitence, self-denial, fasting, and preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter. It is modeled on the 40-day period of Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness recorded in Scripture in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Fun during Lent? The Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, which sponsors the competition, says “Lent is meant to be a ‘spring cleaning of the soul,’ a chance to think about how we can live as God hopes.” Gunn added, “Lent is not meant to be a season of misery, but a joyful and introspective season to prepare for our celebration of the Risen Christ at Easter.”
Lent Madness began in 2010 as the brainchild of Schenck, an Episcopal priest and rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints, Schenck came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints, Lent Madness was born on his blog “Clergy Family Confidential.”
Gunn’s involvement with Lent Madness began on his own blog, “Seven whole days,” as he advocated for the eventual Golden Halo winner that year, George Herbert. This campaign, which relied on trash talk of Herbert’s opponents, helped to set the tone of Lent Madness early on as “Christian discipleship meets cutthroat competition.”
Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, Kentucky; the Rev. Penny Nash of Williamsburg, Virginia; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, Minnesota; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, Missouri; Canon Heidi Shott of Newcastle, Maine; the Rev. David Hendrickson of Denver, Colorado; the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, California; the Rev. David Sibley of Brooklyn, New York; the Rev. Laura Darling of San Francisco, California; and the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, Texas. Information about each of the celebrity bloggers is available on the Lent Madness website.
This year’s heavyweights include Thomas Merton, Catherine of Siena, J.S. Bach, David of Wales, John Wesley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Joseph of Arimathaea.
New this year was the publication of the Saintly Scorecard — The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2014. Available through Forward Movement and popular ebook stores, it contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance.
Lent Madness has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, Boston Public Radio, and many other media outlets. More importantly, thousands of people have engaged in this fun and entertaining spiritual exercise.
Forward Movement has worked since 1935 to bring vitality and spiritual health to the church. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Forward Movement is widely known for Forward Day by Day. Lent Madness is one of many ways that Forward Movement hopes to encourage people to live faithfully throughout their lives. Forward Movement is a ministry of The Episcopal Church.
[World Council of Churches press release] “The World Council of Churches (WCC) is deeply concerned by the current dangerous developments in Ukraine,” the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC said on Monday, March 3.
“The situation puts many innocent lives in grave jeopardy. And like a bitter wind from the Cold War, it risks further undermining the international community’s capacity to act now or in the future on the many urgent issues that will require a collective and principled response,” he said.
“Out of concern for the lives and security of all people who are or might in the future be affected by the continuing failure to resolve this situation peacefully, I call urgently on all parties to refrain from violence, to commit to dialogue and diplomacy, and to avoid escalation by rash words or actions. The consequences of failing to do so will inevitably be much greater human suffering in Ukraine, and a deep rift in the social and political fabric of the region and in the wider international community,” Tveit said.
“Let us pray for wisdom, peace and justice to prevail.”
[Episcopal News Service – Habana, Cuba] La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba tiene una clara visión en movimiento hacía su próximo trienio: ser una iglesia que unida en la diversidad, celebra, evangeliza, enseña, sirve y comparte el amor de Dios.
Llegar a esa visión ha sido “una experiencia muy enriquecedora”, pero a veces “algo difícil”, dijo la obispa Griselda Delgado de Carpio, durante una entrevista posterior al Sínodo General con la Episcopal News Service el 23 de febrero.
Para su plan estratégico del 2014 al 2016, la iglesia encuentra inspiración de la carta de Pablo a los Efesios, en concreto el capítulo 4, versículos 15-16: “sino que, siguiendo la verdad con amor, crezcamos en todo hacia aquel que es la cabeza: Cristo. De parte de él todo el cuerpo, bien concertado y entrelazado por la cohesión que aportan todas las coyunturas, recibe su crecimiento de acuerdo con la actividad proporcionada a cada uno de los miembros, para ir edificándose en amor”. Al final de los últimos tres años, el primer trienio completo de Delgado sirviendo como obispo, una visión más clara de la iglesia comenzó a desarrollarse tomando la evangelización como centro de escenario en la misión de la iglesia, ella dijo.
“A partir de ahí pudimos visualizar un plan concreto desde el cual tenemos que trabajar,” agregó.
Los objetivos del plan de tres años son los siguientes:
- fortalecer el crecimiento de la vocación pastoral, el Ministerio Ordenado y el Ministerio Laico;
- aumentar la sostenibilidad financiera a través de la mayordomía, la administración de proyectos y la exploración de otras fuentes nacionales;
- aprovechar los espacios de reflexión y formación bíblica-teológica en lo local, arcedianal y diocesano, en temas de valores, ética, historia de la iglesia, espiritualidad y familia, utilizando nuestro liderazgo capacitado.
- reforzar la visibilidad del quehacer de la iglesia dentro y fuera;
- fortalecer la capacidad de gestión y organización (incluye la plantificación, control, evaluación y sistematización;
- promover acciones pastorales de servicio y acompañamiento a personas y grupos en condiciones de exclusión y vulnerabilidad, los ancianos, los que sufren de adicciones o son VIH positivas, y
- obtener una mejor comunicación en toda la iglesia.
“Gracias a Dios que estamos obteniendo la participación de los jóvenes en la iglesia”, dijo. “Creemos que ellos no son sólo el futuro, sino el presente”.
Es por esa razón, agregó, que el plan se centra en la formación de los jóvenes, los niños y adolescentes y también aquellos en el camino hacia el sacerdocio que heredarán grandes responsabilidades.
“Sigo sorprendida por la tenacidad y el corazón misionero de la iglesia episcopal en Cuba”, dijo la Obispa Presidente Katharine Jefferts Schori en un e-mail a ENS.
“Ellos son un gran ejemplo para las congregaciones de la iglesia episcopal de lo que es el valor del desarrollo de recursos basado en la comunidad – valorando todos los dones que Dios ha provisto en este lugar, escuchar las necesidades de la comunidad en general, y colaborar para la misión y el ministerio. La obispa Griselda está dirigiendo un ministerio transformador en Cuba – Les insto a ir a ver si les es posible, desarrollar una asociación diocesana o parroquial, y aprender más. ”
Al Sínodo General anual de la iglesia episcopal de Cuba, realizado del 21 al 23de febrero en la Catedral de la Trinidad en La Habana, asistieron los episcopales y anglicanos de Estados Unidos y Canadá, incluyendo el arzobispo Fred Hiltz, primado de la Iglesia Anglicana de Canadá.
Durante su introducción a la convención, Hiltz describió a Delgado como “un gran embajador de Cuba, poniendo a la iglesia en Cuba en el mapa de la Comunión Anglicana de manera muy importante”.
Delgado fue instalado en noviembre del 2010, en sustitución al obispo Miguel Tamayo de la Iglesia Anglicana del Uruguay que sirvió a la Iglesia como obispo interino por seis años, y dividiendo su tiempo entre Montevideo y La Habana.
Después de la elección de Delgado, el obispo Julio César Holguín de la República Dominicana se convirtió en su mentor durante tres años, una relación que continúa de manera informal en la actualidad. Holguín encabezó una pequeña delegación, a Cuba del 18 al 25 febrero, para asistir a Sínodo General incluyendo a miembros de las diócesis compañeras.
La Diócesis de la República Dominicana tiene relaciones con unas15 diócesis compañeras con sede en los Estados Unidos, y en sí sirve como un complemento de la iglesia en Cuba, aunque de una manera más informal, “sentimental”, y como una expresión de solidaridad, dijo Holguín.
Pero la relación también ha adquirido un carácter práctico, por ejemplo, en la Convención General del 2009 la Iglesia Episcopal inició recortes en el presupuesto de $23 requeridos por la disminución de ingresos, lo que significó una disminución en las subvenciones a las diócesis de la Provincia IX y a los socios del pacto de la iglesia, incluyendo a Cuba.
Tras esa acción, el clero de la Diócesis de la República Dominicana se comprometió a dar el 1 por ciento de sus salarios, lo que equivale a alrededor de $3,000 Total, para ser compartido por el clero en Cuba, dijo Holguín, quien agregó que el salario mensual para el clero podría ser $7 o $8.
“Estábamos en una mejor posición que nadie para apoyar a la Iglesia en Cuba”, dijo. El presupuesto trienal de la iglesia episcopal asigna 106.000 dólares a la iglesia en Cuba.
Al igual que la iglesia episcopal en los Estados Unidos, la iglesia anglicana de Canadá ha tenido una larga relación con la iglesia episcopal de Cuba, dijo Hiltz
La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba es una diócesis autónoma de la Comunión Anglicana, bajo la autoridad del Consejo Metropolitano de Cuba. El Consejo está presidido por Hiltz e incluye a Jefferts Schori y Arzobispo John Holder de West Indies. El concejal ha supervisado la iglesia en Cuba desde que se separó de la iglesia episcopal en los Estados Unidos en 1967.
En seis años y un medio que Hiltz ha servido en el consejo, dijo, a pesar de la dificultad continua, él ha visto mucha esperanza en la iglesia, así como un impulso hacia el desarrollo del liderazgo. Tener un obispo a tiempo completo ha ayudado, añadió.
“La iglesia aquí en Cuba no es una institución, sino un movimiento, un movimiento del evangelio”, dijo Hiltz.
El domingo antes de la convención, el 16 de febrero, Hiltz y otros visitantes de la iglesia anglicana de Canadá visitaron una iglesia en casa en Luyanó, un área pobre de La Habana, donde la congregación que estaba muy llena celebró el Día de San Valentín, intercambiando regalos prácticos de jabón y pasta de dientes, dos necesidades que pueden ser difíciles de encontrar en Cuba.
Después de la Eucaristía, la congregación llevó al grupo a la obra de su iglesia, que después la cual fue destruido hace 30 años por un huracán y se está preparando para una consagración del Domingo de Pascua.
En lugar de simplemente construir un lugar de culto, dijo Hiltz, el templo incluye clínicas médicas y cuidado de los ancianos y un centro comunitario.
“Uno tiene la sensación de que la iglesia está realmente en la comunidad, allí por el bien de la comunidad”, dijo Hiltz. “Al verlo en terreno enriquece mi entendimiento y ayuda en la manera en que los mantenemos en oración”.
En el ofrecimiento de la oración, el contexto hace la diferencia, añadió
En la iglesia anglicana de la diócesis de Niagara de Canadá, las 91 parroquias rezan semanalmente para las iglesias en Cuba, dijo el Obispo Michael Bird, cuando fue presentado en el sínodo.
La iglesia de Canadá proporciona apoyo a la Iglesia cubana apoyando los programas, el clero y los estipendios de la facultad del seminario y por medio de relaciones de compañerismo diocesano.
La Diócesis de Niagara, por ejemplo, recientemente renovó su relación de compañerismo de una década con la iglesia en Cuba por otros cinco años.
“Cuba es una especie de diócesis especial en la Comunión Anglicana, y nuestra asociación es una forma de expresar solidaridad y amistad, una expresión popular de eso”, dijo el Rdo. Bill Mous, director de la diócesis de la justicia, la comunidad y los ministerios globales.
La iglesia episcopal de Cuba remonta sus orígenes a una presencia anglicana a partir de 1901. Hoy en día hay unas 46 congregaciones y misiones al servicio de 10,000 miembros y de las comunidades en general. Durante la década de 1960, el gobierno de Fidel Castro comenzó a tomar medidas enérgicas contra la religión, encarcelando a los líderes religiosos y a los creyentes, y no fue sino hasta la visita del Papa Juan Pablo II a Cuba en 1998, la primera visita de un Papa católico romano a la isla, que el gobierno comenzó un movimiento de regresión hacia la tolerancia de la religión.
La Revolución cubana, encabezada por Castro, comenzó en 1953 y duró hasta que el presidente Fulgencio Batista fue expulsado del poder en 1959. El gobierno anticomunista, autoritario de Batista, fue sustituido por un estado socialista, que en 1965 se alineó con el partido comunista. En 2008 Raúl Castro reemplazó en la presidencia a su convaleciente hermano.
Lo que sorprendió más al obispo Todd Ousley de la Diócesis del este de Michigan era la forma única de Cuba de ser anglicano.
“Lo que fue más sorprendente para mí fue el sentido de como estratégicamente contextualizaron la iglesia honrando con mucho cuidado su cultura cubana y fusionar eso con el anglicanismo,” dijo, y agregó que es claro en el plan estratégico que no sólo el liderazgo del obispo es importante, pero también la de los clérigos y los laicos.
También estaba impresionado, dijo, con el enfoque de la iglesia en temas de justicia y ayudar a los “más pequeños de estos”.
La experiencia de la Iglesia cubana con el socialismo y su entendimiento de que todos deben trabajar juntos en solidaridad sirve como un buen modelo para la iglesia en Norteamérica y América Latina, dijo Ousley
La superposición con el inicio del Sínodo General de la Iglesia, un grupo diverso de la misión Anglicana Episcopal – incluyendo personas de los Estados Unidos, México, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador – visitaron la iglesia de San Francisco de Asís, en Cárdenas, provincia de Matanzas, localizada, en auto, a unas dos horas del este La Habana. El grupo fue dirigido por el Rdo. Canónigo Juan Andrés Quevedo, el rector de la iglesia del Redentor [Church of the Redeemer] en Astoria, Queens, y un arcediano en la Diócesis de Long Island.
Fue la primera vez en 13 años que Quevedo, quien nació en la ciudad de Matanzas y que asistió al seminario evangélico local antes de estudiar en el Trinity College, en Toronto, Canadá, ha estado de vuelta en Cuba.
En el pasto junto a San Francisco de Asís hay bloques de cemento que se disponen ordenadamente en filas, casi como lápidas en un cementerio, sólo estaban allí para evitar que las bancas recién lijadas y manchadas de la iglesia tocaran la hierba.
El grupo de la misión necesitaba un proyecto de servicio que esté terminado dentro de una semana para que, junto con el Rdo. Aurelio de la Paz Cot, ellos decidieran que lo mejor sería repintar las bancas, mientras que para los transeúntes, los bloques de cemento bien ordenados y las bancas secas se veían muy curiosas.
“Para nosotros fue un evento de evangelización”, dijo de la Paz, quien fue un compañero de seminario de Quevedo en Matanza, y agregó que las personas cercanas, curiosas por el trabajo y trabajadores, pasaban por aquí y preguntaban: “¿Quiénes son estas personas? ”
Y más que eso, para de la Paz, fue una “experiencia maravillosa” y que significó mucho para él y su congregación que la gente utilice su tiempo de vacaciones y sus recursos personales para venir a Cuba, y conocer su cultura, su gente y compartir algo de sí mismos, con otra gente que están un poco aislados.
Para los que viajaron a la isla, la experiencia fue tanto de alegría y como de dolor, dijo Quevedo, con muchos de ellos comparando la experiencia de su propio país con los regímenes totalitarios y los altos niveles de pobreza.
“Han visto un lado de la pobreza que no está familiarizado con ellos”, dijo, durante una visita a una granja orgánica cerca de Cárdenas dirigido por el Centro Cristiano de Reflexión y Diálogo. “Nuestros pobres son educados y eso los hace estar auto-conscientes de cómo vivir mejor, mientras que en sus países los pobres han sido golpeados hacia la desesperación”.
Esa conciencia de sí mismo también se puede ver en la forma en que la iglesia opera en Cuba.
“Es una iglesia muy cultural enraizada en la historia de Cuba”, dijo Carlos Austin, un seminarista de segundo año de la iglesia episcopal de Panamá.
La iglesia tiene un fuerte liderazgo, dijo, pero una de sus características más definitorias es la presencia de la juventud.
“Los jóvenes realmente participan”, dijo Austin. “No es como en nuestros países, a lo mejor no son tan organizadas pero tienen la mano de obra”.
Como seminarista en el Seminario Evangélico de Teología de Matanzas, Austin pasa sus fines de semana sirviendo Cuatro Esquinas, una iglesia en Los Arabos, una comunidad a unos 65 kilómetros de distancia.
“Ellos son un ejemplo de lo que una iglesia debe hacer en una comunidad sabia,” dijo Austin, quien agregó que la iglesia sirve como un centro comunitario y dispensa medicinas y agua purificada. “El sacerdote y el liderazgo son vistos como ayuda; de donde yo vengo, nosotros [la iglesia] tenemos que aprender más acerca de la comunidad.
“Muchas veces parece que nos centramos en la evangelización hacia el interior, aquí no se centran en la evangelización, se centran en la misión y luego sigue la evangelización”.
Fue el Reverendísimo Julio Murray, obispo de Panamá, quien decidió que Austin asistiría al seminario en Cuba, en vez de Brasil, otra alternativa de Austin. Él es uno de los 17 seminaristas residentes, la escuela cuenta con 500 estudiantes de educación a distancia a través de Cuba.
El obispo quería que Austin estudiara teología en el contexto latinoamericano, y para Austin, al menos en un principio, le fue difícil porque la vida cotidiana en Cuba requiere fortaleza.
El transporte público en Cuba es limitado y puede tomar horas para recorrer distancias cortas, los bienes básicos como papel higiénico, jabón y pasta de dientes pueden ser difíciles de conseguir, independientemente de si se tiene o no el dinero para comprarlos, los salarios son bajos, con médicos que ganan menos de $20 al mes.
Si no fuera por la bondad de los miembros de la iglesia, dijo Austin, él ya se habría ido.
“Eso es lo que hizo la diferencia para mí aquí, la iglesia y la gente me acogieron”, dijo.
– Lynette Wilson es una editora/reportera para Episcopal News Service. Ella estuvo en Cuba del 18 al 25 de febrero con una delegación dirigida por el bispo Julio César Holgún de la República Dominicana.
[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has announced one additional candidate to stand for election as bishop suffragan.
The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, 56, who was nominated via a petition process, is the rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill in Baltimore, where she has served for 14 years. Macgill previously served communities in South Africa and Richmond, Virginia.
Macgill joins three other candidates who were announced in early February. They are:
- the Rev. Canon Heather Cook, 57, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Easton;
- the Rev. Nancy Gossling, 61, who is currently on a discernment sabbatical after having completed a ministry experience at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland and a Spanish immersion course in Barcelona, Spain; and
- the Rev. Canon Victoria Sirota, 64, canon pastor and vicar of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.
The nominees will visit the diocese and meet with clergy and laity April 2-5, with locations to be announced. The election will take place during Diocesan Convention May 2-3 at Turf Valley Resort, Ellicott City.
The Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett served the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland as its assistant bishop since April 1, 2011, following the retirement of the Rt. Rev. John L. Rabb, bishop suffragan. Burnett had planned to end his tenure as assistant bishop with the consecration of the new bishop suffragan in the fall of 2014; however, his final day in the Maryland diocese was Dec. 31, 2013. Burnett became interim rector of St. Columba’s Church, Washington, D.C., on Jan. 1, 2014.
For videos and photographs, and detailed biographies, resumes and letters of introduction from the nominees, visit http://bishopsearchmd.org.
[Sydney Anglicans] The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney in April, as part of their Australian tour.
The royal couple, along with Prince George, will fly to Australia via New Zealand, landing on April 16th.
Buckingham Palace has now released the itinerary showing Prince William and the Duchess will attend the Easter Day service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney and sign the First Fleet Bible.
Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, who will preach at the service, said he will be “delighted to welcome the royal couple to the celebration of Easter at the Cathedral church of St. Andrew.”
The couple will also visit Brisbane, Uluru and Canberra.
On Anzac Day, Prince William will lay a wreath during a Commemorative Service at the Australian War Memorial and plant a Lone Pine tree, the seed of which came from Gallipoli in the Memorial Garden.
The diocese comprises 14 counties in northeastern Pennsylvania and includes the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Hazleton, Reading, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s a great day in the kingdom,” said Rowe after his election. “I am humbled and count it a privilege to stand before you today as your bishop. I am excited about this opportunity to serve you.”
Rowe has been bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania for seven years, and will continue in that role. His position in the diocese of Bethlehem will continue for three years.
“My style is a collaborative one in which we will work together — bishop, clergy and lay leaders,” said Rowe in an address to the convention following his election. “I hope you will find yourself welcome to a table large enough to hear your voice. Collaboration requires relationships of substance, and I want to spent time getting to know you, hear your stories, and learn to care about those ministries for which you have great passion and excitement.”
All of 64 of the clergy present and 99 of the 100 laypeople voted in favor of Rowe’s election, which required a two-thirds vote.
“The Standing Committee chose Bishop Sean as our nominee for provisional bishop because of his stable, forward-thinking leadership in Northwestern Pennsylvania,” said the Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, president of the Standing Committee in Bethlehem and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Easton. “He has a strong track record of building relationships with clergy and lay leaders and proven skill at resolving conflict directly and effectively. We’re delighted at his election and grateful that the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has so readily agreed to undertake this innovative arrangement with us.”
“Today you did not elect the smartest or the most spiritual bishop ever. The fact is, there are people here who have been praying twice as long as I’ve been alive,” said Rowe, who is 39. “What you’ll get is one who is faithful to God, at least most of the time, and one who stands firmly on the promises of Jesus Christ. I am your servant.”
The Diocese of Bethlehem’s previous bishop, the Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, retired on Dec. 31 after a terminal sabbatical. On Jan. 1, the Standing Committee announced its plan to call a provisional bishop for a three-year term.
Rowe will take up his new duties immediately and by August 2014 spend half of his time in each diocese. He, his wife, Carly, and their one-year-old daughter, Lauren, will have a home in both suburban Erie and in Bethlehem.
Rowe was ordained bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, which comprises 33 congregations in 13 counties, in 2007. He is known for developing transformational leadership and is a Ph.D. candidate in organizational learning and leadership at Gannon University. He is a 2000 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and a 1997 graduate of Grove City College. He serves as parliamentarian for the House of Bishops, chair of the Episcopal Church Building Fund, and member of the General Board of Examining Chaplains, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church, and the Council of Advice to the President of the House of Deputies.
The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem comprises 63 congregations in the 14 counties of northeastern Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit www.diobeth.org. The Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania comprises 33 congregations in the 13 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit www.dionwpa.org.
[Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Mississippi announced its slate of nominees for election as bishop coadjutor to become the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Mississippi. The announcement was made on Saturday, March 1.
The nominees are:
- the Very Rev. Michael J. Battle, vicar, St. Titus Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina;
- the Rev. Marian Dulaney Fortner, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi;
- the Rev. Dr. R. Stan Runnels, rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Day School, Kansas City, Missouri;
- the Very Rev. Brian R. Seage, rector, St. Columb’s Episcopal Church, Ridgeland, Mississippi; and
- the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, rector, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Denver, Colorado.
A petition process for submitting additional names opens on March 3 and will close on March 7, 5 p.m. CST. Complete information about the petition process and the petition form are available on the diocesan website.
The slate is the result of a 10-month discernment process conducted by the Nominating Committee, made up of lay and clergy members representing all convocations of the diocese. The Nominating Committee was established and charged by the Standing Committee. With the announcement of the slate, a Transition Committee, also reporting to the Standing Committee and comprising lay and clergy members from across the diocese, implements the next stages of the election process.
The nominees will be in Mississippi, April 7-11 and will be introduced at three open question-and-answer sessions. The sessions will be held at Coast Episcopal School, Long Beach on April 8; St. Andrew’s School, Ridgeland on April 9; and All Saints Church, Grenada on April 10. While in Mississippi, the nominees will visit the John M. Allin Diocesan House, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Duncan M. Gray Camp and Conference Center and various ministries of the diocese.
The election will take place on Saturday, May 3 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson. All canonically resident clergy of the diocese and lay delegates vote separately as “orders”; a majority of votes on the same ballot from both the clergy and lay orders is required for election.
Pending consent from a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan bishops and a majority of dioceses (via their Standing Committees), the consecration and ordination of the bishop-elect is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Sept. 27 at the Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presiding.
It’s that time of year when we will be treated to enthusiastic media reports and Facebook posts about fellow clergy “taking to the streets” on Ash Wednesday. Perhaps you are planning to do just that. You might be thinking, “What an innovative, relevant, outward-focused, accessible, hospitable, humble ministry to undertake.”
Before you put on your gear and head out with the Lenten swat team, can we be real for a moment? I know you are chomping at the bit to “meet people where they are” at your local commuter hub, but please pause with me in the sacristy for just a second.
I was so nervous about offending you that I almost decided not to put this out there, which says plenty about the fragility of my own clerical ego. But I need to be honest with you about how weird this “Ashes to Go” thing is. It’s really quite macabre to impose a sign of mortality and repentance without the freeing experience of ritual repentance or the pronouncement of God’s absolving grace by a priest of the church. I know you prepared a nice post card with Psalm 51 and a forgiveness prayer – but that doesn’t get the job done. Also, I’m wondering if you will be at the same corner on Easter Day to proclaim the Resurrection…but let’s stick with Wednesday for now. It’s hard to make a right beginning of Lent while on your way to Target after work. If one wishes to repent, they might prefer to speak with you privately or offer a prayer of the church in a less hurried manner. Those who can’t make it to scheduled Ash Wednesday liturgies often drop by a local church between services to receive ashes from the parish priest. I have never seen someone turned away.
Do we have the practice of standing on street corners offering last rites to anonymous ambulances as they pass by? Better to go to the hospital and spend a little time, no? I understand that God’s grace works in mysterious ways. The saints of God are doing their thing in schools, or in shops or at tea and all that – but why are we stalking people with ashes as they go about their business? Why are we turning Ash Wednesday into freaky Friday? Every morning is still Easter morning, right? Or did I lose the plot at some point?
I am totally with you on taking church to the streets. Let’s do it! Our common life as Episcopalians is grounded in the Eucharist and rooted in resurrection. Why don’t we begin by offering the body and blood of Christ outside the sanctuary? How about washing and massaging the feet of weary commuters waiting for the bus? Let’s offer anointing with holy oil for healing on the sidewalks. Why don’t we venerate the feet of the homeless and outcast on Good Friday at a local shelter? How many baptisms have we conducted in a public park lately? Why don’t we set up hours to hear confessions in local bars and offer God’s forgiveness?
Why start with ashes? Ashes rather than water, or bread, or wine, or oil is a strange place to begin from the perspective of ritology. Religious signs and symbols operate differently outside their ritual contexts. Are we not worried about re-defining ourselves as “people of the ash?” Just to put my money where my mouth is…I presided at a Eucharist in the Hyatt parking lot while I was chaplain to Integrity at General Convention in 2012. During the Eucharist, a young adult was baptized in the hotel fountain while cars and pedestrians and pigeons passed by. It seemed to work. I’m serious about these “hit the streets” ideas and many of my colleagues and I have tried them. The streets are a great place for the rites of the church. Preaching in the streets has transformed my understanding of preaching dramatically as a preacher and a teacher of preaching- so I’m not just a spokesman, I’m a client.
My concern is this: I fear that Ashes to Go is a way for cloistered clergy and baby boomer bishops to check the box of relevance while presiding over an institution that is not “meeting people where they are” in ways that really matter. Ashes to Go risks nothing, it costs us nothing, and it bears witness to a wimpy church. Please prove me wrong on this point.
I intend to check this out with my therapist and spiritual director, but I have a hunch that most of us who vest in alb and stole and stand for a few hours on the sidewalk with a dirty thumb are desperate to feel that we (and by extension the church) have something real to offer. We do have something to offer and its Jesus Christ. Living out our vocations as priests is often grueling and thankless, even in the midst of many blessings. Let’s be honest about that and help each other to really walk in the ways of Jesus Christ, rather than participating in empty ritualism. If you have a robust street ministry, then by all means – ashes should be a part of it. But too many of us in the ashes only category will congratulate ourselves on having participated in a radically welcoming street ministry this Ash Wednesday. What will we really have accomplished in Christ’s name? Who will really have been served?
Why don’t we take our ministry to the streets for real?! Let’s spend more time at the county jail. Let’s join local protests against inhumane corporate practices. Let’s deal with greedy landlords. Let’s go to city council meetings and hold the feet of elected officials to the fire. You know, Jesus stuff. Amos said something about God taking no delight in our solemn assemblies. Let’s be real about the ongoing need for the institutional church to publicly repent of its apathy, survivalism and indifference to human suffering.
Let’s agree that if Ashes to Go is the only liturgical street performance we do, it falls a bit short of the Great Commission. Under scrutiny, it appears to be a disconnected feel-good give-away ministry in which we clergy self-importantly smudge our neighbors and go home satisfied. Hey, we reminded each other of our common mortality. News Flash: People are well aware of their mortality. They are suffering. It would be better for us to go out and glitter bomb people while shouting, “God loves you!” Then we could dance embarrassingly down the road to the next missional endeavor. I ask you, my colleagues, why not give the people a garland instead of ashes? Why not give people reason to believe that the church is a very present help in time of trouble? Not notionally. Really and truly. We do that by hitting the streets genuinely, not gesticulating oddly with a crystal jar of ashes on the light rail.
When the Christian people of God are moved by the Holy Spirit to remember that they are dust and begin again, they will find their way to a local church. Let’s not get our ashy hands all up in their business and tell ourselves it’s an act of evangelistic kindness. We’re Episcopalians. Let’s live as if we are a resurrected people. Lets serve our neighbors faithfully, selflessly and humbly every day. Then folks will know by our actions that, “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
Ash Wednesday services in my parish are at 7am, noon and 7pm. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, come join us. You’ll be very welcome.
Your brother on the road,
The Rev. Michael Sniffen
Rector of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, Brooklyn
Benitez graduated from West Point in 1949 and was commissioned in the U. S. Air Force, when he met and married Joanne Dossett. In 1950 the couple was stationed at Williams Air Force Base, Chandler, Arizona, where Benitez flew jet fighters, later serving with the 527th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Germany during the tense days of the Cold War.
In 1955, he entered seminary at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, and was ordained in 1958. He served at St James’ Episcopal Church, Lake City, Florida, and at St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida, before being called as rector of Grace Church, Ocala, Florida. His years at Grace were marked by tensions of the civil rights movement. Benitez received threats and hate messages as he stood against segregation, integrating his parish school even before the public school system did the same. He was held in such wide respect that when the public system’s teachers later went on strike, he was asked by both sides to act as mediator.
He was called as rector of Christ Church in San Antonio in 1968 where his reputation and energy for evangelism continued to grow. Benitez came to St. John the Divine, Houston, as rector in 1974, where he implemented popular forms of Christian renewal and evangelism.
During his 15-year tenure as bishop (1980-1995), the diocese continued to present more people of all ages for confirmation than any other diocese in the Episcopal Church. Benitez was widely regarded as a friend of the popular renewal movement in the church and early in his episcopacy, he conducted a Venture in Mission campaign to support domestic and world mission. Benitez provided strong leadership in the nascent years of the Episcopal Foundation and founded Episcopal High School in Houston, raising more than $40 million over a 12-year period for land and construction. The school’s chapel is named in honor of Bishop and Mrs. Benitez.
Benitez served as chair of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and provided leadership during a period of growth for the hospital and the Texas Heart Institute. While he was bishop, the Diocese’s Quin Foundation more than doubled its value and Camp Allen added a third campsite, a lake and a chapel to respond to growing needs of youth from the diocese’s 150 congregations.
Benitez also brought a focus on the changing demographics in Texas. While he coped with challenges to the church brought by the recession in the late 1980s, the collapse of the oil business and the resulting banking crisis, he laid the foundations for a vibrant Spanish-speaking ministry in the diocese, opening the first Hispanic missions, recruiting Spanish-speaking clergy and appointing the first Hispanic missioner for the Province. He responded to the increasing Hispanic populations’ needs with the establishment of El Buen Samaritano, the diocesan social service agency in Austin.
Benitez served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, and for 12 years on the board of the Church Pension Fund as well as chair of Seminary of the Southwest in Austin.
Benitez was predeceased by his beloved wife of 63 years, Joanne, and is survived by their three daughters Jennifer Benitez Shand, Leslie Anne Benitez and Deborah Benitez Smith; grandsons Ben Shand, Peter Shand, Isaac Young, Evan Young, Taylor Smith and Charlie Smith; and by his sons-in-law, the Rev. William M. Shand, III and Dr. James L. Smith, Jr.
Services for Benitez will be held at St. Luke’s on the Lake, 5600 Ranch Road 620 N. in Austin on Monday, March 3 at 3 p.m., and at St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Blvd. in Houston on Thursday, March 6 at 12 noon. Memorials are suggested to the Episcopal High School, Camp Allen Conference & Retreat Center, or to one’s home parish.
Obituary and memorial guestbook available online here.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Zambia has launched its early childhood development (ECD) program in Eastern Zambia to “provide integrated services that address the child holistically in terms of health, nutrition, protection and education.”
The launch was held in one of Zambia’s rural constituencies called Msanzala in the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Zambia. In attendance were government officials and all bishops from Zambia, including the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, the Most Rev. Albert Chama. Others attendees included the local area traditional chief and representatives from UNICEF.
“The Anglican Church does not just end by preaching the good news at the pulpit,” Chama told the more than 1000 people at the event. “We’re here also to touch the people’s lives and hence our desire to collaborate with the state and other partners to improve the people’s lives.”
The archbishop was hopeful that the program would not only be limited to one area but spread to other parts of the country. He also expressed his wish for an education that will not only make children excel in academia alone, but also make them responsive members of our communities.
The government of the Republic of Zambia was represented by Dr. John Phiri, the minister of education, science, vocational training and early education. He was accompanied by his Deputy Minister Patrick Ngoma as well as the area Member of Parliament Col. Joseph Lungu who is also Deputy Minister of Defense.
“I thank the Zambia Anglican Council for inviting me to launch this program because it is an opportunity for me to see the germination and growth of early childhood education especially in the rural areas of this country,” said the education minister.
He added: “Early childhood education is part of our mandate as a government but a lot of collaboration is needed in order for us to effectively implement the program.”
Grace Mazala Phiri is the national programmes director for the Zambia Anglican Council. She explained that the main purpose of the programs is to help the children reach all the developmental milestones as well as to support their parents or caregivers.
“We’re focusing on children who are 0-6 years so that their health is good and minds stimulated to learn. Most African parents have little or no time to play with their children,” she said.
She added: “We have decided to scale up this program because of the progress that we made in similar programs in the past. We have been able to partner with many other organizations such as UNICEF and have been able to increase the early childhood centers to 53 in this area.”
A typical early childhood education center would have a sizable play park with swings and slides for children and would often offer food supplements to the children who usually come from impoverished and disadvantaged homes.
One of the UNICEF-Zambia representatives Given Daka said that children who have had early childhood education usually have a head start in primary education. “Investment in ECD is in essence an investment in Zambia’s future,” she said.
“ECD is a priority for UNICEF world over and well as in Zambia and we have been providing financial and technical support to the Ministry of Education in Zambia.”
Despite overwhelming evidence that early childhood education is a critical requirement for the later social and intellectual growth of the child, only 2 per cent of Zambian children have access to early childhood education.
The Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC) in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development in the USA established this community-based, volunteer-driven Early Childhood Development Program which started in three provinces of copperbelt, central and north western.
The program, involving more than 8,000 children under five years and their caregivers, tries to address the multiple deprivations in terms of health, nutrition, protection, and early stimulation, which combine to effect their cognitive, language, social-emotional and physical development during the critical formative period.
[National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East press release] In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry thirty-three leaders of Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations advocated that “public support by leaders and members of our three religious communities, both here and on the ground in the region, will be essential to encourage success in negotiating a final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.” The leaders believe, “a negotiated two-state peace agreement (is) the only realistic resolution of the conflict.”
The leaders requested a meeting with Secretary Kerry at an appropriate time “to discuss how we can help” and they urged Kerry “to meet personally with religious leaders on the ground in Jerusalem, most importantly including leaders of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL).”
While acknowledging “that some in our communities will oppose any compromises,” these leaders affirmed their support for “benchmark principles and practical ideas developed in earlier official and informal negotiations that provide possible elements for necessary compromises on key issues that could be acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians.”
The full text of the letter follows.
February 28, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We write to you on behalf of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) that involves present and past heads of twenty-five Jewish, Christian, and Muslim national religious organizations. Several leaders of NILI were privileged to attend your briefing in Georgetown on the current status of negotiations for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
We look forward to continuing progress in the negotiations. We agree with you that public support by leaders and members of our three religious communities, both here and on the ground in the region, will be essential to encourage success in negotiating a final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
In this context, we request a meeting with you at an appropriate time to discuss how we can help here at home. We also would urge you to meet personally with religious leaders on the ground in Jerusalem, most importantly including leaders of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL).
CRIHL includes the highest official local religious leaders who have consistently condemned incitement and hateful acts of vandalism against any holy sites. At its founding, these leaders declared that nothing in their three traditions justifies killing of innocents and in 2010 CRIHL wrote to Special Envoy George Mitchell supporting negotiations and reiterating “the importance of respecting the attachments of the three religions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – in the holy land and especially in Jerusalem.”
We believe the coming months are critical to achieving a negotiated two-state peace agreement, the only realistic resolution of the conflict. While we know that some in our communities will oppose any compromises, as leaders of NILI we support benchmark principles and practical ideas developed in earlier official and informal negotiations that provide possible elements for necessary compromises on key issues that could be acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians.
We look forward to meeting with you and to working with you for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
List of endorsers follows -
Bishop Richard E. Pates, Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Jim Winkler, President/General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
Bishop Neil I L. Irons, United Methodist Church
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
David Neff, former Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher, Christian Century
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
Rabbi Burt Visotzky
Rabbi Jason Klein, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, Rabbi Emeritus, The Temple, Atlanta Georgia
Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative
Imam Yahya Hendi, Founder and President, Clergy Beyond Borders
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
*Organizations for Identification Only
[Episcopal News Service] For more than a century, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) affiliated with the Episcopal Church have worked to provide high-quality education to students who often faced limited academic opportunities. Formed to educate African-Americans when schools were segregated, they continue to fill an important academic role and serve their host communities as well, say school and church leaders.
But economic challenges, including the tightening of federal loan standards that has reduced enrollments and thus cut revenues, are stressing such institutions nationwide. Of the three affiliated with the Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, closed in June, and St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently furloughed employees as part of an effort to combat financial troubles. Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, has seen enrollment drop and is planning a capital campaign to improve its financial situation, its president said.
“They’re all struggling financially, even state institutions,” said Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which provides school accreditations in the region. “[Of] the small, private institutions, of which most of the HBCUs are, a lot of the faith-based ones are struggling financially and trying to keep tuitions low.”
Seventy-five historically black colleges and universities are accredited by the association, which Wheelan said accounted for about three-quarters of such institutions nationwide.
“Devastating to just about all of the HBCUs this past year were the changes in the Parent PLUS Loan [program],” she said. The federal Department of Education tightened loan requirements, so many parents who had received approval for educational loans one semester then lost approval the next, and their children couldn’t afford to return to school, she explained.
Voorhees’ enrollment is some 550 students, down about 100 since last year, said Cleveland Sellers Jr., college president. The economic downturn and unemployment hit the college’s families hard, and interest on college loans rose last year, he said. Sequestration cuts also hurt. “The message is that college is not affordable, especially to lower-income families. That’s wrong. That’s just a sin. It’s the most important investment you can make.”
In the fall of 2013, the nation’s 100-plus HBCUs lost 17,000 students, cutting revenue by $150 million, he said. “We can’t stand any reduction in revenue. We’re already on the margin in many instances.”
Most of the schools have minimal endowments, he said. “We don’t have any kind of way to make up for our students who are not here.”
St. Paul’s announced in a June 4 press release that it was closing “temporarily to pursue other opportunities consistent with its purpose and mission” after the “unexpected termination of a proposed merger with another HBCU.”
Before the 125-year-old school ceased operations June 30, its enrollment had slipped below 100 students, according to a Diverse: Issues in Higher Education article. St. Augustine’s decided in May to nix a proposed merger, which would have meant the assumption of $4 million to $5 million in St. Paul’s debts by the North Carolina college, Diverse reported.
“St. Paul’s worked with surrounding schools to get their students transferred,” Wheelan said.
“The Episcopal Church was very much involved in the conversation with St. Paul’s and making every effort possible to avoid the closing of St. Paul’s College,” said the Rev. Canon Angela Ifill, missioner for black ministries and liaison to the three church-affiliated HBCUs. “It is very, very sad for us.”
Now, St. Augustine’s also is struggling financially, Wheelan said.
The Raleigh News and Observer reported Feb. 20 that declining enrollment in 2013 caused a $3 million drop in net tuition revenue; a contractor of the school’s football stadium sued for breach of contract, alleging the university owed it almost $675,000; and the university had eliminated 15 jobs, mostly through attrition and retirements.
Five days later, a university press release announced staff furloughs for March 9-16 as “part of a strategic plan to help the university maintain a strong financial footing.”
“Although not a complete solution, the institution is doing what is necessary to combat the impact of federal and state cuts, which has had a direct impact on our enrollment,” the release said.
“Although our situation is not unique, we are regretful that we have had to take this type of action,” President Dianne Boardley Suber said in the release. “We recognize the impact that this furlough will have on families, and we don’t take this decision lightly. As an institution, we are focused on moving forward and are confident that the tough decisions we are making now will be of great benefit to the institution in the long run.”
The four-year liberal arts institution, which achieved university status in 2012, was established in 1867. It enrolled 1,299 students in the fall 2013 semester, said Communications Director Pamela Tolson.
Suber was traveling and unavailable for an interview.
A powerful influence
“One of the things you have to know about HBCUs, we have been underfunded since our inception,” Sellers said. “We’ve always had to do more with less.”
The schools began soon after Reconstruction to educate newly freed slaves, he said. “They started out pretty much as secondary schools, high schools … and then they transformed themselves. One of the architects of the curriculum in those institutions was Booker T. Washington, who talked about industrial education. He thought that African-Americans needed to be able to develop industrial skills, entrepreneurial skills, and then they could be more productive in the economic arena and through that process work their way into a pluralistic society.”
Voorhees was launched in 1897 by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a protégé of Washington and a graduate of his Tuskeegee Institute. A New Jersey philanthropist, Ralph Voorhees, and his wife gave her the funds to buy the 450 acres where the school was built.
Sellers grew up in Denmark and attended elementary school through high school at the Voorhees School and Junior College. Voorhees became a four-year college in 1962.
Voorhees was the first HBCU accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and never has lost accreditation, said Lugenia Rochelle, chair of the division of general studies and interim executive vice president for academic affairs. The college also has special accreditations for its business and child-development and elementary-education programs, and it boasts a strong biology program, she said. “Many of our students go on to graduate school to pursue careers as doctors.”
While HBCUs constitute 3 percent of America’s colleges and universities, they award 20 percent of the baccalaureates earned by African-Americans, Sellers said. Sixty percent of African-American lawyers and half of African-American school teachers receive degrees from HBCUs, he said.
Located in a poor, rural area, Voorhees serves students who mostly are economically disadvantaged and often come from single-parent households and failing schools, Sellers said. Most students come from South Carolina, with 96 percent receiving financial aid and 42 percent representing the first generation in their family to attend college.
HBCUs like Voorhees are needed to continue to serve these populations of students, who “can make good citizens and can do things that transform our economy and this world,” Sellers said. “But somebody has to invest in them.”
The Episcopal Church has played a significant role at Voorhees. The school has received support from both South Carolina dioceses and had buildings constructed with funds from churches and dioceses as far away as the Diocese of Massachusetts.
Starting in the 1960s, the Episcopal Church began providing an allocation for the three schools – initially about $1 million per year – but more recently switched to awarding block grants, Sellers said. The current triennial budget awarded $2,025,000 for the schools.
(A fourth Episcopal-affiliated institution, Okolona College, was founded in Mississippi as Okolona Industrial School in 1902 “to provide normal and industrial education for African-American young people,” according to the College History Garden blog. It became a college in 1932. “In 1965, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi decided to withdraw support and the institution soon closed.”)
Voorhees has used its block grant funds for activities related to historic St. Phillip’s Chapel on campus, which operates as an independent Episcopal Church, said Sellers, himself an Episcopalian. Rochelle, who became an Episcopalian after attending St. Augustine’s, serves on the vestry and as a lay minister.
“The Episcopal tradition is well-kept here,” said the church’s vicar and campus chaplain, the Rev. James Yarsiah. On Feb. 11, the chapel hosted an Absalom Jones service, with bishops and other clergy and laity from the dioceses of South Carolina and Upper South Carolina participating.
Besides regular Sunday worship for the congregation, St. Phillip’s offers Tuesday chapel services for the school community. “That is part of our tradition,” Yarsiah said.
Tuesday services are “not strictly Episcopalian,” he said. “I do invite other pastors and ministers in the community to come and share.”
Perhaps 5 to 6 percent of Voorhees students are Episcopalians; about 85 percent are Baptists, he said. “This is the Baptist corridor. … We accept all faiths, all traditions.”
Because the school receives federal funds, it cannot require students to attend chapel, Rochelle said. But it does encourage participation, counting chapel attendance toward a required 72 hours of cultural enrichment, she said. “We do try to impress on them the importance and value of having an abiding faith in God, and we do require all of our students to take a course called Religion and Philosophy.”
The Episcopal Church supports the schools in multiple ways.
It provides the financial support approved by General Convention, “but it goes beyond the financials,” Ifill said. For example, she holds campus symposiums, taking clergy and laity to spend two-and-a-half days on campus interacting with students in classrooms and in one-on-one meetings. Every two years, the church invites the institutions’ students, presidents, faculty and staff to attend a recognition day. The most recent was held in Atlanta in 2013.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori “was present for the entire event, and that says a great deal about the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the colleges,” Ifill said. “Bishop Katharine’s attendance at the event gave the students a sense of how much they are valued, and the work of the colleges, which could be called a ministry because of their involvement beyond the college campus and into their local communities.”
“The students were just blown away by the fact that the leader of the Episcopal Church saw them as important enough to be there, talking heart to heart with them,” she said. “That’s what our students need. They need positive role models in their lives at every turn whose presence and interaction say to them: We care about you. We do care about what happens to you.”
One of the attractions of these schools for students, she noted, is that “the classes are smaller.
“There is an intimacy in the sense that the president of the college, faculty and staff know the students by name. And if a student does not show up to class, they might just find one of them at their dormitory door.”
In some cases, these schools also provide “an education for young people who otherwise could not get an education,” she said.
But the HBCUs provide more than an education for their students.
“The colleges function today in a much broader sense in that they have become pivotal in the communities in which they are located,” Ifill said. “Very much like some congregations, they’re the center of a community and what happens in that community.”
Voorhees, for example, is the largest employer in its community, she said. “Voorhees is instrumental in providing a health-care center. … Also, St. Augustine’s is very much plugged into the community.”
Located in a rural part of a state with high poverty levels, Voorhees is in a county that just lost a hospital. There is a high infant mortality rate but not one OB/GYN in a three-county area, Sellers said. “We have a lot of other issues that we have to address. So we do a lot of community-service work.”
A valued education
Those sort of values factored into Rochelle’s decision to attend St. Augustine’s for her college education. She chose the school because of its proximity to her home, about an hour and 45 minutes’ drive away; an offered scholarship; and its church affiliation, although she wasn’t then an Episcopalian.
“I thought I could get additional nurturing that I would need to mature into the kind of person that I wanted to be,” she said. She liked “the idea of being able to combine spiritual and religious values with educational or academic values.”
“Of course, then the rules were strict, but I was brought up in a very disciplined environment,” she said. “I think that that experience at St. Augustine’s College really did help me to become who I am today. The academic experience was great.”
Rochelle joined the drama club and helped serve as hostess at social functions for faculty at the college president’s house. “I learned a lot about the social graces,” she said. “I think St. Augustine’s expanded my mind … to become more of an inquiring person.”
That inquisitiveness also led her into the Episcopal Church. She grew up worshiping in Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist churches, “but I found I was looking for something else, and I wasn’t sure what it was before I graduated from high school. But when I went to St. Augustine’s, it was then that I determined what it was I was looking for. I decided as a freshman that I would be a free-thinking Christian.”
She formally joined the Episcopal Church after graduating and moving to Greensboro.
Looking back, she said, “I can’t tell you that I was a top student. But I was a good student, and I think I learned well, and it prepared me to go on to other levels of education, and that’s something that I’m trying to pass on to my students.”
– Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.
[Episcopal News Service – Cárdenas, Cuba] “Si no somos parte de la solución, somos parte del problema”, dice el cartel a la entrada del Centro de Reflexión y Diálogo aquí. Es un lema que resuena en el ministerio del centro, con programas de compromiso con la comunidad y dirigidos al desarrollo humano y comunitario.
El centro y su metodología “sirve como un buen modelo para las iglesias a través de América Latina”, dijo el obispo Julio César Holguín de República Dominicana, y agregó que a través de sus programas y programas de compromiso con la comunidad, el centro trabaja en la formación, tanto a nivel individual como comunitario. Holguín dirigió una pequeña delegación a Cuba del 18 de febrero hasta el 25 de febrero, para asistir al Sínodo General de la iglesia episcopal de Cuba en la Habana. La visita del 20 de febrero al centro, que fue fundada hace más de 20 años, fue una oportunidad para presenciar y aprender sobre el movimiento ecuménico de Cuba.
Desde un punto de vista cristiano inclusive, el centro tiene como objetivo contribuir al sentido de la existencia humana, promover una concepción holística de la vida y la salud, promover la dignidad humana, y desarrollar una cultura de paz y participación de la comunidad, con énfasis en los pobres, los débiles y las personas marginadas de la sociedad, de acuerdo con su misión.
“Yo estaba muy impresionado por la interacción, la conexión entre la reflexión y la práctica”, dijo el obispo Todd Ousley de la Diócesis de Michigan del este, y agregó que su enfoque a los programas y procesos se basa en la teología.
El propósito del centro es promover el diálogo interreligioso centrado en la integración social a nivel comunitario, con cuatro objetivos para ese fin:
- fomentar el reconocimiento de la dignidad humana, inspirado en las verdades del Evangelio;
- animar el procesos de reconciliación, paz y desarrollo de valores humano;
- estimular la participación de la comunidad y el desarrollo del individual; y
- promover servicios para las personas necesitadas, enfermas y sufridas.
Sobre este último, cuatro de los empleados del centro – dos mujeres y dos hombres – proporcionan comidas, higiene básica, lavandería y otros servicios de cinco días a la semana a 120 personas de edad avanzada, y cuidados a personas infectadas con el VIH.
“Es un ministerio difícil”, dijo Rita García Morris, subdirectora del centro. “La gente es muy pobre, y viven en una habitación sin un baño”.
Además del programa de cuidado de los ancianos, el centro cuenta con una biblioteca y centro de informática, ofrece talleres de manualidades para niños y ancianos, programas culturales para personas de todas las edades, grupos de debate sobre temas que van desde la teología y derechos humanos a la violencia doméstica, además de servir como un lugar de culto.
“[Es] muy impresionante – mente, cuerpo, espíritu, uno lo está haciendo todo”, dijo Ousley durante un recorrido por el centro.
En el futuro, el centro espera proporcionar un hogar de cuidado de ancianos, donde las personas a quienes sirven puedan vivir y recibir cuidados diarios, y también un refugio para las víctimas de la violencia doméstica, otra población al cual el centro sirve en su ministerio de alcance.
Se trata de “sueños”, dijo García Morris. “Los sueños son para la gente con fe”.
Ubicado en una antigua fábrica, el centro comenzó a funcionar a principios de 1990, pero no fue hasta 2011 que el gobierno cubano le concedió al centro licencia oficial.
Además de sus ministerios de alcance local, el centro acoge grupos nacionales e internacionales de jóvenes y adultos, con capacidad para entre 80 y 90 personas en sus 28 habitaciones. El personal solicita que las reservas se harán tres o cuatro meses con anticipación para coordinar las visas religiosas necesarias.
El centro también ofrece una amplia variedad de publicaciones. Holguín se desempeñó como obispo interino de la iglesia episcopal de Cuba desde el 2003 hasta el 2004, y al mismo tiempo sirvió en la República Dominicana. Además de Ousley, Holgún estuvo acompañado por el Rdo. Emilio Martin, quien es cubano, y sirvió en el consejo de la junta de directores cuando fue sacerdote de la iglesia episcopal de San Francisco de Asís en Cárdenas; Bill Kunkle, director ejecutivo del Grupo de Desarrollo Dominicano; y David Morrow, presidente de la junta directiva de la DDG.
La junta de directiva de DDG, en la que Ousley también se desempeña, se reunió la semana pasada en Santo Domingo, República Dominicana, para su reunión anual del consejo después de la convención diocesana anual.
– Lynette Wilson es una editora/reportera para Episcopal News Service. Ella viajo con la delegación a Cuba.