[The Tablet] The Church of England is trialling a new version of its baptism service, in which parents and godparents are no longer asked to “repent of sins” and “reject the Devil”.
The new wording – which is being piloted in more than 400 parishes until April – was devised in response to requests to couch the ceremony “in culturally appropriate and accessible language”.
Anglican baptisms are recognised by the Catholic Church, and vice versa.
In the current version of the CofE service, which dates back to 1998, the vicar asks: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?”. The candidate, or parents and godparents acting on his or her behalf, reply: “I reject them.”
Parents and godparents are then asked: “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?”, to which the reply is: “I repent of them.”
Instead of this formula, reference to the devil or sin is dropped and parents and godparents are instead asked to “reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises”.
The amended version currently has no formal status because it has not been formally approved by General Synod. The reforms are backed by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
But it has already attracted criticism. The former bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, and Bishop of Willesden Pete Broadbent accused the church of dumbing down.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Bishop Nazir-Ali said: “The need is not [for the Church of England] to eliminate crucial areas of teaching but to explain them”, warning that the CofE should “call a halt to this perhaps well-meant effort before it further reduces the fullness of the Church’s faith to easily swallowed soundbites.”
The Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, took issue with a raft of proposed text changes, concluding in a blog: “This is crass. It’s baptism lite. It will not do.”
But Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, a vicar in Durham who has been asked to use the new texts in baptism ceremonies until the end of April, said: “This is a first draft, for experimental use. It will doubtless get better as people write in with stories of what worked and what didn’t. But the aim, to have elements of the service that even those of low literacy can understand, is entirely laudable.”
[Anglican Journal] The heads of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have agreed to co-ordinate their responses to “events that transcend” their borders, such as natural disasters.
They could, for instance, issue a joint pastoral letter in response to a natural calamity and invite their members to contribute to relief and recovery efforts through one of their four relief agencies, said Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod’s coordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations. Myers served as staff support at the meeting.
Leaders of the four churches reached this agreement when they met for a day and a half of informal talks last December in Winnipeg. Since 2010, the heads of these four churches have met for informal talks, “becoming colloquially known as the ‘Four-Way,’ ” said Myers.
The Anglican Church of Canada’s primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, ELCIC Bishop Susan Johnson and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori were joined in the meeting by the new presiding bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton.
“Broadly speaking, these informal conversations are aimed at exploring ways to extend the implications of our Anglican-Lutheran full communion partnerships across the international boundary,” said Myers. “What more could we be doing as North American churches in full communion?” The Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC have been in full communion since 2011, as have the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.
The leaders also agreed to explore ways of addressing the Doctrine of Discovery
“as a step towards reconciliation with indigenous people in North America,” said Myers. The Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church have both repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.
The Anglican church, however, “has only begun to try to give tangible expression to that renunciation,” said Myers. When it renounced the Doctrine of Discovery at the 2010 General Synod, the church pledged a review of its policies and programs to expose the doctrine’s historical impact and end its continuing effects on indigenous peoples. The Doctrine of Discovery was a principle of charters and acts developed by colonizing Western societies more than 500 years ago.
[The Episcopal Church renounced the doctrine at its 2009 meeting of General Convention.]
At the meeting, Hiltz also informed the other bishops about his church’s recent decision to designate the seventh Sunday of Easter as Jerusalem Sunday. In response, the other three churches “pledged to explore the possibility of making it a common observance,” said Myers.
Each leader also agreed to prepare a devotional piece for different Sundays in Advent, to be made available for individual or congregational use in their churches during the 2014 Advent season.
They also agreed to look at what they might be able to say collectively in response to an ecumenical convergence text on ecclesiology called The Church: Towards a Common Vision. The document was issued March 2013 by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Described by Myers as “groundbreaking,” the text addresses what churches might say together in areas such as peace and justice in the world, and how they might grow in communion and overcome past and present divisions. Theologians “from the widest range of Christian traditions and cultures” produced the text for the WCC.
[Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church press release] Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has installed a new system that sends the sounds of its church services directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants.
The system, called an induction hearing loop, is widely used in Europe, and is becoming more popular in the United States. It consists of a flat copper wire that is installed under the carpet to surround the pews. The loop is connected to a special amplifier that gets its input from the church’s sound system. Sermons, music, readings, prayers, and announcements are all transmitted by the loop via a magnetic signal.
A hearing aid that that is equipped with a telecoil or “T-coil” device can receive the signal. The majority of hearing aids sold today have T-coils. By consulting with one’s audiologist, the user can have the T-coil enabled and optimized for loop listening, and learn how to activate it.
For hearing aid users, no headset is required in order to benefit from the hearing assistance system. For hearing impaired people without hearing aids, headsets are available.
“We realized that some of our church members were unable to clearly hear the service,” said the Rev. Harrison Heidel, rector at St. Barnabas. “The church leadership chose to make this investment not only for current members, but also for future members and other folks in the community who may want to use our facility.”
[Episcopal News Service] When drought conditions worried Oklahoma City environmental groups, Ferrella March and Bishop Steven Charleston organized a gathering to pray for rain.
There was a downpour.
In Detroit, St. John’s Episcopal Church held a worship service to pray for a winning season for the local baseball team, the Tigers.
The team came within reach of the playoffs.
In Los Angeles, an emotional Bishop Jon Bruno told a Dec. 7 diocesan convention gathering that, while battling leukemia, “doctors gave me a one percent chance of living and I was perfectly happy to go.”
Then came an outpouring of prayers for healing from family, friends and the diocesan and church-wide community. Now, a year later, doctors have declared him “metabolically clear” of cancer and he says he “felt all the prayers.”
All of which raises questions about how prayer works, or does it? How do we understand our relationship with God if it appears our prayers aren’t answered? How, when and why to pray, and whether any prayer too small or too large? To begin to start to answer some of these questions, a range of Episcopalians across the church shared their experiences and understanding of prayer with the Episcopal News Service.
Ultimately, they said, just pray, pray and trust God.
Oklahoma: ‘pray, teach, act’
March, a parishioner at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City, works for the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, a membership organization for statewide natural resource managers, and helped organize a series of days of prayer for rain when widespread drought caused water rationing, killed fish because of low reservoirs, affected crops, livestock and quality of life.
“At our May event, it thundered during the middle of the service, rained and then we had a beautiful sunset,” she recalled. “After that, at least in central Oklahoma, we had rainstorm after rainstorm, pretty severe weather, and at that point, people were saying, ‘you have to quit praying for rain now,’” she laughed.
Charleston, who along with March founded the Whole Creation Community, a Facebook environmental ministry of about 700 people living a rule of life, joked that even “our friends in north Texas wrote to me and said ‘thank you, your prayers are working here, too.’”
While grateful for the rain, neither is convinced it had anything to do with their prayers.
And that’s okay, according to March. “If it rained, great,” she said. “But, if it didn’t, it [the event] still promoted awareness. It was a win-win. That’s really Episcopalian.”
But she added that, prayer is what you do first, always. Next, you act.
“That’s the whole concept of Whole Creation Community. First we pray, then we teach and then action will come from our prayers and education. Prayer shouldn’t be the last resort; so often you hear people say, ‘all I could do was pray.’ It should be the first thing you do.”
Charleston agreed: “The prayers for rain had a statewide impact; we are partnered now with the state through conservation organizations to work annually now, to bring community building and awareness and to try to spiritually focus people on the environment. And we have a growing interreligious network now. Our plan is, water this year, next year, land, and then air.”
The retired dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Charleston teaches Native American religions at St. Paul’s School of Theology in Oklahoma City and is founder of Red Moon Publications. Prayer that doesn’t work is often the best answer “and we don’t always need to jump to the assessment that every prayer thought must be answered or that we failed, or our God has failed,” he said.
“God is not a gumball machine that we put in a quarter and out comes what we want,” he added. “The way we judge how prayer is being responded to requires a deep participation on our part of listening carefully.”
Playing ball, being neighborly and persistently praying in Detroit
The Rev. Steven Kelly’s deep love of baseball and extravagant sense of humor translated into organizing a public prayer service to pray for the hometown team, the Detroit Tigers, to have a winning season.
“We started this in 2001 and were laughed at roundly when in 2002 the Tigers were one game short of the worst record in major league baseball,” Kelly said in a telephone interview with ENS.
“People said, ‘well, gee, your prayers aren’t working’ and we’d respond that it took the Israelites 40 years to get through the wilderness; it may take the Tigers that long, too.”
Members of the 150-year-old St. John’s Church held their annual ‘Pray for the Tigers’ service at the start of 2013 baseball season and, when the team entered the playoffs, they held another one with special intention for a World Series win.
Ultimately, the Tigers lost to the Boston Red Sox, but Kelly took the defeat in stride, noting that the prayers were less about winning and more about love of neighbor since the team plays at Comerica Park, located about 200 yards from the church.
“Yes, we pray that, if it’s God’s will they will get lots of victories but primarily we also pray for the owner, the players, for health, for the fans, for the workers, the vendors” some of whom are parishioners at the church, he said.
“The importance about prayer is persistence,” he added. It’s also important to keep a prayer journal. “Sometimes, you can go back later and see how God answered those prayers,” he said. “Or, you realize that, ‘I can’t believe something was so important to worry about.”
‘Our approaches to prayer are legion’
For the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, 90, a Huffington Post columnist and author of the 1961 book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? “our approaches to prayer are legion. I feel virtually everybody prays at one time or another.”
He prayed all night in 1961 “the night before I had to make a decision about whether or not to participate in a Freedom Ride. I was scared. I didn’t have any idea what a ‘freedom ride’ was. Yet, I must answer the next morning.”
While the celebrated civil rights activist said: “I don’t think our prayers are ‘answered’ as if by a slot machine” he went on to become a Freedom Rider and to herald other causes, including full inclusion for the LGBT community.
Prayers, he said, “can be ‘answered’ mysteriously and in the future and seemingly out of sequence. How do we know if our prayers don’t get answered? You mean you didn’t get that job you wanted? Prayer isn’t like a prescription counter at a drugstore.”
He added that, “my prayer was at times difficult when I was arguing with God or simply felt unworthy to be praying at all. Birthdays have sometimes been hard, maybe especially my recent 90th one. Would it be my last? If so, what should I be praying about?”
The Rev. Martin Smith, recently retired from St. Columba’s, Washington, D.C., and the author of numerous books about prayer, said we pray “to expand our experience of communion with God, who is love, to be open to mercy and transformation by God’s grace, and to take part in his work of healing by offering to him our longing for his reign of love to be made real in the lives of all human beings.”
We are to understand our relationship with God when it appears our prayers are not answered, he said, because “the bond with God that grows in prayer deepens our sense of sheer mystery.
“We don’t know and can’t know more than a fraction of how our active loving plays a part in the coming of the reign of God on earth,” he added. “We learn to love without dependence on many immediate tangible results … I pray as a member of Christ’s Body, I am acting within the web of interconnecting lives called the communion of the Holy Spirit.
“I learn to live without being able to control much of anything, just making my capacity to love and desire a continual offering to God whose mystery lies beyond the grasp of my understanding.”
Why Pray; prayer how-to, does it matter?
Claire Littlefield, 17, a senior at Pittman High School and a parishioner at St. Francis Church in Turlock, California, in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, said she prays throughout her days, trying “to remember to always give thanks for all the blessings that I receive each and every day” and during stressful situations as well as before track meets.
“We always come together and pray before our races to ask that God will give us the strength to do our very best, and to remind ourselves that God is with us. Praying calms me and gives me focus. I am reassured of God’s presence with me always when I pray.”
Prayer comes as a response to God, for Ryan Macias, 17, a parishioner at St. George’s Church in Laguna Hills, California. “God is constantly making himself known to us in so many different ways, the sacraments, the beauty of the creation around us, his word and so many more.
“It is so important to consider the diverse forms of responding to God,” added Macias, who said he fell in love with the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer when he encountered it.
“Many times I need structure, I need help focusing. I find myself at a loss for words. I pray about the little things as well as the big things, the blessings and the burdens. Nothing is too big, and nothing too small to lay before God. He hears our petitions. He hears out thanksgivings and praises, this I am convinced of.”
Noted writer and lecturer Phyllis Tickle uses a writing metaphor to help describe non-petitionary prayer.
“What I really do is push through some kind of keyhole or door somewhere inside my non-objective world and come out on the other side into some kind of marketplace [for lack of a better word] where there is activity and where ideas and phrases and insights are on display as if in a grand mall,” Tickle wrote in a Dec. 12 e-mail to ENS. “And I go shopping, taking what I need or want or am drawn to, but the ‘shopper’ is not me, for ‘me’ is still on the other side of the keyhole, waiting.
“The shopper, rather, is a guided being of whom I am only a part … or of whom my self-consciousness is only a part. I/we gather what I am nudged toward [for inevitably, I shall need it on the other side], or what delights me, though I don’t know why, or what simply charms and is sufficient unto itself for that reason. Then, the I who carries it all back through the keyhole or door and makes from it the stuff of art and life, for that is the end result for which it is intended.”
She added that “fixed-hour prayer, like ritual prayer, is the soul’s home … the places [for prayer is a place always] where we are tutored and schooled and sculpted by an agenda other than our own.”
‘Prayer itself is a miracle’
A car accident several years ago raised questions about prayers for the Rev. Ernesto Medina, rector of St. Martha’s Church in Papillion, Nebraska.
He recovered from serious injuries and “people were saying things like, God must have a purpose for you on earth. Like someone who dies doesn’t have a purpose on earth?”
The whole idea of God answering prayer “bothers me,” Medina added. “It’s like, if the prayers are answered, you’re in; if they’re not, you’re out.
“On the other hand, there’s the assumption that you do something so your prayers can be answered. If you don’t study the day before a test, and pray that God gives you the wisdom to put the right answers down anyway, you’re probably not going to do very well on the test.”
But prayer itself is a miracle, he said. “The miracle contained within prayer is that prayer is helpful when it helps you understand that you’re turning it over to God, that you let go, that you understand that you yourself don’t have power over it. So that action, whether you know it or not, that you’re turning it over to God, a higher power, is the miracle.”
Even more so, “there’s something about when you’re praying for someone else you somehow are linked in an incarnational way with the communion of saints, so if I’m praying with you I’m linked to you and that’s the miracle.
“It’s about whether we trust God or not. If we’re trying to manipulate the prayer we’re not trusting. But if we’re really living into thy will be done, it probably is really the only prayer.’
Dolores Conyer of Pomona, California, knows something about miracles. Her son Timothy Gaines was born severely mentally and physically disabled, with bilateral club feet, requiring numerous corrective surgeries. “I didn’t realize how much I relied on prayer until later,” Conyer recalled during a telephone interview with ENS.
“He was having all these surgeries and during them, he suffered cardiac arrest, the cause unknown. I felt that prayer and faith were the reason he survived. He used to say ‘the lady in white’ came to him. I think the lady in white was prayer, was faith, and all that was good.”
But Timothy was murdered at age 35 in 2001; his murder remains unsolved and Conyer, 72, recently was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. But her faith remains unshaken and although she will always have questions about the whys of her son’s murder and her own health challenges, “there’s no need to do anything other than to maintain my faith, and just keep on praying,” she said.
“I think about all the pain and suffering Tim went through and why he had to die the way he did, alone, and a voice said to me, ‘No, he wasn’t. He was not alone’. So, here comes that lady in white.”
For the mean time, “I’m thinking in terms of when Tim was little,” Conyer said. “They told me he wouldn’t live past five years old. So, if he woke up, I made a plan for the day. We lived each day at a time.
“I’ve always been an adventurous person,” she added. “I’ve never been afraid to venture and try new things. This is another journey that I’m on and, hopefully, however it ends, it will have been a good ride. Faith and prayer play a role in that. If I didn’t have faith and prayer I wouldn’t be able to do anything, I would be lost.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.
[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development is working with its partners in South Sudan as they respond to the humanitarian needs of people displaced by the current crisis. The Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan (ECSSS) has established nine relief centers in Awerial to provide supplies and pastoral care to people who have fled violence in the nearby town of Bor. The Church’s relief and development arm, SUDRA (the Sudanese Development and Relief Agency), reports that nearly 76,000 people from Bor are currently sheltering at churches, schools and under trees in Awerial. Many of the displaced arrived on boats via the Nile River, which separates Jonglei State from Lakes State.
The most recent outbreak of civil unrest in South Sudan erupted on December 15, 2013, in the country’s capital, Juba. Conflict between two armed elements within the South Sudan Presidential Guard – one loyal to President Salva Kiir and one to former Vice President Riek Machar – spread from Juba through seven out of the country’s ten states. Clashes between the two groups over control of key towns such as Bor and Malakal has led to the displacement of around 194,000 people. Some have crossed into neighboring countries, and approximately 54,000 are seeking refuge at UN bases inside South Sudan, but thousands are sheltering out in the open with little security and scant supplies.
“The scale of the displacement, combined with limited local resources and infrastructure for absorbing large populations at short notice, presents numerous challenges,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “People look to the Church for care and leadership in times of crisis, and ECSSS has responded wholeheartedly, opening doors and mobilizing available resources to help those in need.”
In Awerial, the church compound alone is housing nearly 16,000 people, with many more in adjacent open areas. Scarcity of food is a major concern both in the displacement camps and in the town, due to the sudden large influx of people from Bor, and children are particularly at risk of malnutrition. SUDRA aims to address this by providing cooked food rations for 2,000 children through the Church’s nine relief centers. Episcopal Relief & Development support will enable SUDRA to purchase milk, rice and sugar for the feeding program, as well as charcoal and utensils for cooking and serving.
The Church in Awerial is also providing logistical and pastoral support for displaced people, with youth volunteers helping to assess needs and organize services in the camps. In addition to food, there is acute need for shelter materials, cooking utensils, medical care and adequate water and sanitation. Other agencies are addressing health issues such as malaria, waterborne disease and measles.
“Accessing contested and rebel-held areas has not been possible due to the security situation, so assessment of humanitarian needs by outside actors has been extremely limited,” said Nesiah. “However, because the Church has long-term presence and deep relationships in these communities, it has been able to gather and relay information that is extremely valuable in planning a coordinated, large-scale response.”
Episcopal Relief & Development anticipates a broader proposal from ECSSS and SUDRA to address food, shelter and healthcare needs for internally displaced people across the conflict region. SUDRA will concentrate on identifying and filling gaps in services provided by the UN and other emergency response organizations. Relief activities are planned within the context of the Church’s long-term development programs, which aim to empower vulnerable and marginalized people to make sustainable improvements in their lives and communities.
“Episcopal Relief & Development has been partnering with the Church and SUDRA since before the independence referendum to ensure that people returning to South Sudan would have spiritual and technical support to build thriving communities,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs. “We have been accompanying the Church as it builds its own capacity and networks to respond to emergencies like this, and SUDRA’s community-based development work has increased stability and resilience at the grassroots level. We will continue to stand with our partners at this time of crisis and through their long-term work.”
Magdalene St. Louis helps women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, abuse, addiction and life on the streets by providing a community where they can recover and rebuild their lives. The program offers two years of housing, support and education at no cost. Based on the highly successful Magdalene/Thistle Farms program in Nashville, Magdalene St. Louis is scheduled to open its first house later this year.
This is the first year Trinity is offering Wildcard Grants, which are designed to be “resources for innovative leaders.” According to the grant description, “these grants seek to reward beyond-the-bell-curve work that inspires positive transformation of people and, by extension, societies. The one-time award will be offered to organizations whose leaders have a ‘wow’ idea that lacks only money to help get it off the ground.”
In making the grant award, the Rev. James H. Cooper, rector of Trinity Wall Street said the grant is “to support general start-up costs of the program, such as buying or leasing the residential house.
“We are delighted to be able to support this program,” Cooper said, “and we look forward to hearing of its progress.
“In the midst of acquiring our first residential home and planning its rehab, this generous grant could not have come at a better time”, said Magdalene St. Louis Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton. “Our circle of support now includes Trinity Wall Street.”
Magdalene St. Louis Board President the Very Rev. Mike Kinman will be at Trinity Wall Street this Sunday evening as a guest panelist on human trafficking following a performance of Angel’s Bone, a musical drama “about two fallen angels whose nostalgia for earthly delights finds them far from heaven—and victims of human trafficking.”
“Trinity is an inspiring example of a church consistently using its resources to support transformative ministries,” Kinman said. “We are honored they have entrusted us with this grant and share our belief that in addition to this being about the women who will be in our first community, this is about changing a culture where women are bought and sold.”
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Applications are now accepted for the 2014-2015 United Thank Offering grants. The application forms are available here.
The focus for the 2014-2015 United Thank Offering grants is The Gospel of Love proclaimed by Jesus Christ.
Guidelines for applying for the grants are here.
The United Thank Offering will accept:
• one grant application per diocese within The Episcopal Church;
• one additional application for a companion diocese grant from a diocese of The Episcopal Church may be submitted. This relationship may be formed with a diocese from The Episcopal Church or The Anglican Communion. The sponsoring diocese will be responsible for the accounting of the grant.
The United Thank Offering will not fund:
• project site/programs two consecutive years;
• capital campaigns or debt reductions;
• deferred maintenance (repairs or upgrades to the physical plant or facility must be tied to the specific ministry or project of the current application);
• operational budgets (meaning the proposed budget and program is the same as the year before)
• debts obligated or incurred before the date of the grant award;
• purchase of consumable items (e.g., food, medicine, paper goods, toiletries, fuel, etc.);
• scholarships, tuition, camp fees, and attendance incentives;
• emergency response.
In Episcopal dioceses within the United States, the United Thank Offering will not fund:
• a vehicle with a 12 or 15 passenger chassis (due to stability and insurance matters);
• previously funded requests;
• programs regarded to be diocesan operating budgets.
In 2014, the United Thank Offering will not fund grants (even if they are within criteria) to dioceses or provinces that have past grants still open (with the exception of 2013 awarded grants and grants currently operating under an extension).
For more information about these guidelines contact the Rev. Heather Melton, United Thank Offering coordinator, email@example.com
[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans and Episcopalians around the Communion are responding to first-hand accounts of conflict and the growing humanitarian crisis in Africa’s newest country, South Sudan.
Since hostilities broke out on 15 December different factions of the South Sudanese army have been fighting each other and killing civilians, says the UN. The UN believes that thousands have been killed and as many as 180,000 displaced in the violence.
Eye witness accounts of the conflict shared by clergy from the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSSS) over the past few weeks have fueled calls for prayers and support for the beleaguered country.
‘It’s a war zone’
The most disturbing reports came from the Bishop of Bor Ruben Akurdit Ngong, now in Juba, who spoke to several media outlets about the situation in the town.
In a recent BBC interview he described it as “really terrible, it’s horrible. You cannot even describe it.
“Two days, we came out of the UNMISS compound and it seemed to be alright. But suddenly things turned around and we heard gunshots and the rebels running towards Bor town. So everyone started fleeing in different directions. They ran into the bush. Some came into the town. Some went to the River Nile, others towards Lakes State and Juba.
“It’s a war zone. You find dead bodies everywhere. When you are in Bor town, you move around closing your nose because of the smell. Bor is in anarchy because the government is not in control. The rebels are not in control. What they are doing is fighting each other. There is no system, no way that help can come to the civilian population. There is no way even to get medicines to the vulnerable. It is just a really terrible situation.”
On New Year’s Eve, the Rev. Daniel Kon Malual, Secretary in the Office of the Bishop of Bor reported that, “Most of the Diocese of Bor Congregation is displaced and all villages of the archdeaconry of Baidit, Tong, Mathiang are all burned down by the Lau Nuer Youth. [The] Majority of the people are under trees in Awinrial County of Lake State. Other population flew to swarm area West of Baidit Payam and are under threat of attack from Lau Nuer Youth.”
Making their escape
Four days earlier South Sudan priest the Rev. John Daau had written to supporters to explain that he, like so many others, had made the difficult decision to flee South Sudan–his overriding concern was the safety of his heavily pregnant wife who was only two weeks away from giving birth.
Daau laid out the challenges facing the tens of thousands trying to leave the country and his guilt at making the decision to escape to family in Kenya in a relative’s vehicle.
“Those [who could] preferred to leave the country for fear of what may happen next despite the assurance from the government that all will be alright soon. I saw thousands of South Sudanese and foreigners (mainly Kenyans and Ugandan) crowded at the [Ugandan] border…Perhaps, over 2000 private vehicles were parked by the time I was at the border, all going through clearance on both side of Ugandan-South Sudan border as drivers scrambled in the long queues to clear and receive visas.”
People are dying
On January 3, the Primate of ECSSS, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, wrote in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the situation was increasingly desperate.
“I myself and the head of SUDRA (our Church’s local Relief and Rehabilitation Agency) visited the area and [saw] over 75 thousand people (and more are still coming) mainly women and children, some occupying churches, schools and other living under trees.
“The situation is more desperate as there is no clean water to drink, little food to eat, no good sanitation and lack of health facilities.”
Archbishop Deng Bul explained that, as a response to the crisis, he has formed an Emergency Crisis committee with the Bishop of Bor as its chairman. The committee is working with SUDRA to consolidate a proposal for the humanitarian response in the affected dioceses.
The Archbishop called on relief agencies and the wider Communion to help the Province in its work to alleviate the suffering of people affected by the conflict: “Some of them are now dying of hunger and diseases, particularly the children … as the humanitarian crisis has reached a breaking point.”
One response by Archbishop Justin Welby has been to write to all Primates of the Anglican Communion sharing with them ECSSS’s request for prayer and support.
Collaborating on aid
Over the Christmas and New Year period, Anglican/Episcopal agencies including Episcopal Relief & Development, the Anglican Alliance and the Anglican Board of Mission met on conference calls. Together, with members of ECSSS, they have been working on developing a coordinated humanitarian response through the local churches.
According to Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of ECSSS’s Kadugli Diocese, whatever relief goods are required, he believes there will also be a need to train pastors for reconciliation and peacebuilding.
The consolidated proposal is expected in a few days and will be posted on the Anglican Alliance’s website.
Prayers for peace
Elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, South Sudanese living in Melbourne, Australia turned an annual service of thanksgiving for the past year into a national day of mourning and anxiety on New Year’s Day.
More than 200 adults and 70 children gathered at the Anglican Church of the Apostles, Sunshine, for a regular thanksgiving service. But because most of those present come from the vicinity of Bor, the prayers reflected the anxiety and concern about relatives back home.
Prayers for ‘peace in South Sudan and wellbeing of all civilians’ were led by the Rev. Abraham Angau. Prayers for the future were led by the Rev. Daniel Gai Aleu.
The Anglican Church in Melbourne has 17 congregations worshiping in the Dinka language, scattered from Sunshine to Dandenong.
In Uganda, the Primate Archbishop Stanley Ntagali also used part of his Christmas message to call for a dialogue to end the conflict in South Sudan.
Que los estadounidenses tengan una mala opinión sobre el trabajo de sus congresistas en Washington no es noticia nueva, lo que sí es novedoso es que la mayoría califique al Congreso 2013 que acaba de terminar sus sesiones como el peor que les ha tocado vivir…o lo que para muchos es “el peor de la historia de Estados Unidos”. Así lo revela una encuesta de CNN/ORC International que demostró que el 73% de los encuestados cree que “los congresistas hicieron un pésimo trabajo”. Las luchas partidistas y la poca cooperación entre los partidos, son las causas principales según la encuesta.
En una conferencia sobre racismo en los países europeos y Estados Unidos, se mencionaron los siguientes hechos históricos: Las estrellas amarillas y los triángulos rosados del régimen nazi, la prohibición a las mujeres musulmanas del uso de su velo religioso en Francia, la encarcelación de ciudadanos japoneses en Estados Unidos durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, la ley de exclusión de ciudadanos chinos para inmigrar a Estados Unidos en 1882, las diferentes categorías del régimen de apartheid en Sudáfrica, la violación de los derechos humanos en Cuba, la exclusión de la ciudadanía de descendientes haitianos en la República Dominicana, la remoción de niños indígenas de sus lugares de origen para enseñarles a “ser blancos”, la remoción de negros de las leyes de inmigración, la esclavitud y sus consecuencias.
Eggoni Pushpalalitha, presbítera de la Iglesia del Sur de la India ha sido designada primera obispa días después que Patricia Storey de la Iglesia Anglicana de Irlanda electa obispa para servir en la diócesis de Meath y Kildare. Su esposo es Earl Storey, clérigo irlandés. La pareja tiene dos hijos mayores.
Carlos M. de Céspedes, vicario general de la arquidiócesis de La Habana, afirmó en una conferencia que los “actuales cambios” de Raúl Castro parecen conducir a “un socialismo más participativo y democrático”, dijo en la revista Espacio Laical. Añadió que en Cuba “muchos experimentan la imposibilidad transitoria de construir una sociedad de acuerdo con su visión de la misma” y “se sienten incómodos en la sociedad cubana contemporánea, socialista en movimiento”. Apuntando a disidentes y exiliados, sin mencionarlos explícitamente, dijo que “esto los lleva a una apatía social o al distanciamiento geográfico”.
El asesino mandatarios de Corea del Norte, Kim Jong-Un, ha amenazado con “desastre nuclear” en la península coreana si hay una nueva guerra, y advirtió a Estados Unidos que en caso de conflicto no saldrá indemne. “Si estalla de nuevo una guerra en esta tierra, traerá consigo un desastre nuclear masivo, y Estados Unidos nunca estará seguro”. Kim ejecutó a su tío recientemente.
Los expertos analistas económicos de América Latina dijeron en varias ocasiones el año pasado que “el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro no llegará al nuevo año”. Parece que se equivocaron aunque el nivel de inflación es de 50.6 hace pensar que la economía no anda muy bien.
Al marcar el año 55 de la llegada al poder de los Castros, el jefe mayor ha alertado a la ciudadanía a que “graves peligros” se acercan y que “poderosas fuerzas subversivas dentro y fuera de la lista” están al asecho de destruir lo que se ha creado con tanto esfuerzo por el pueblo cubano. Ese cuento se ha escuchad muchas veces. ¿De qué isla hablará el líder que prometió libertad, justicia y educación para todos? Nada, que no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere oír.
El papa Francisco ha recibido una visita oficial de una delegación de la Federación Luterana Mundial y los miembros de la Comisión Luterana-Católica para la Unidad. “El ecumenismo espiritual constituye el alma de nuestro camino en dirección a la plena comunión, y nos permite probar, incluso ahora cualquier fruto, aunque sea imperfecto”, dijo el pontífice.
La terapista familiar Virginia Satir, dice en una de sus conferencias: los hispanos somos conocidos porque no podemos hablar ni saludar sin tocar al otro. Si hay confianza, lo nuestro es abrazar y besar. Si no la hay, se nos zafa la palmadita, poner la mano en el hombro o dar el apretón de manos. A los hijos, sobrinos y nietos, desde bebés, los abrazamos y los apretamos. ¿Seremos expertos en repartir salud? Añade que los abrazos “producen seguridad, confianza, sentido de protección y comunicación honesta” y sanan los sentimientos de ira, soledad y aislamiento”. El abrazo se ha hecho una forma generalizada de saludarse durante la paz en la Iglesia Episcopal.
FELICITACIÓN: Feliz 2014.
Johnson, 75, who was the 10th bishop of the diocese died early on Jan. 3.
He served the diocese as bishop from 1994 to 2000. He came to the episcopate having served in the diocese for 30 years as a deacon and a priest, including 19 years as the rector of St. Luke’s, Durham, where he developed a reputation as a preacher and a pastor, according to a biography on the diocesan website.
Born on July 18, 1938 in Georgia, he was raised a Southern Baptist and ordained at an early age.
While at Yale Divinity School in the early 1960s, he came to seek Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church and was ordained by then-North Carolina Bishop Thomas Augustus Fraser in 1965.
“As Bishop, Johnson encouraged the Diocese to engage in healthy and hospitable practices and to honor the ministries of all the baptized, including gay and lesbian members,” his diocesan biography says. “He spoke out strongly against capital punishment and racist behavior and on behalf of weak and marginalized members of society.”
In response to growing controversies in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, the diocese said, Johnson appealed to the unity of the church and mutual forbearance.
Johns held what his biography calls “the solemn but painful duty” of serving on the House of Bishops’ Ecclesiastical Court which heard, and then dismissed, charges against a fellow bishop, Walter Righter. (Episcopal News Service coverage of that decision is here.
Pained by what he saw as signs of a lack of charity at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the biography says, he subsequently announced his retirement and called for the election of his successor in 2000.
Turner, 80, died on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia.
Turner, a former staff officer for black ministries at the Episcopal Church Center in New York from 1972-1983, was assistant to then Bishop of Pennsylvania Allen Bartlett in 1988 when he was elected suffragan bishop for that diocese.
Out of some 900 men who had up to that point in time been elected bishop in the Episcopal Church, Turner was approximately the 27th black priest elected. He was also the first black bishop of the then-205-year-old diocese. A total of nine candidates were in the running, including the Rev. Nancy Van Dyke Platt of Maine who, if elected, would have been the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion (that distinction fell in early 1989 to the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris).
Speaking in Nov. 6, 1992, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia during a service to rebury the remains of Absalom Jones — the first African-American ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church — nearly 200 years after his death, Turner said that “we have indeed come this far by faith.”
“We can be justly proud of our sojourn in the Episcopal Church, although it has been an uphill struggle,” he said.
Turner officially retired as suffragan in 2000 and also served the diocese as an assisting bishop.
Turner was born in Norwood, North Carolina, on July 19, 1933. He earned his A.B. degree from Livingstone College and his S.T.B. degree from Berkeley Divinity School (from which he also held a D.D. degree); he pursued further graduate study at General Theological Seminary. He was ordained deacon, and later priest, in 1965. Turner was vicar of the Church of the Epiphany in Dallas (1965-1966) and rector of St. George’s Church in Washington, D.C. (1966-1972).
While in Washington, D.C., he founded the Washington Episcopal Clergy Association. He was also on the board of directors for the Kanuga Conference Center, and was a trustee of Berkeley Divinity School. Turner founded the Organization of Black Episcopal Seminarians. He was also the editor of the hymnal Lift Every Voice and Sing I. He served on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council.
At the Jan. 11 requiem, Bartlett will preside and be assisted by Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel III. The Rev. Harold T. Lewis, rector of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, who succeeded Turner at the Church Center, will preach.
Turner is survived by his wife, Barbara, and their children.
Charles, 87, died Dec. 26 at Coming Home Hospice in San Francisco. He had moved to the hospice in early December.
Charles ashes will be interred at a later date in the Diocese of Utah’s Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Salt Lake City.
The eighth bishop of Utah, Charles was the diocese’s first bishop after it transitioned from being a Missionary District in 1971. He served until 1986.
“With few resources, he led the diocese through a period of growth in southern Utah, the calling of priests from congregations, and the church’s opposition to the Vietnam War,” the diocese said in announcing Charles’ death.
Charles also served the church during a time of change, the diocese noted, citing the ordination of women and the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer. Charles championed of the new prayer book, having served on the Standing Liturgical Commission, which authored it, the diocese said.
Current Utah Bishop Schott Hayashi called Charles a “friend, companion, guide and mentor.”
“He carried the diocese forward during a time of great challenge and few resources, Hayahsi said. “Where others might see scarcity, Bishop Charles saw an abundance of spiritual resources from God and in the hearts and wills of the people of the Diocese of Utah. Bishop Charles demonstrated fidelity to the vows of Baptism. He steadfastly modeled, proclaimed by word and example, and strove always ‘for justice and peace among all people,’ and he ‘respected the dignity of every human being.’”
Hayashi reported that Charles was “especially joyful” when a federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage just before Christmas.
“As a bishop, I have been privileged to be with Otis as a fellow bishop, colleague and friend,” Hayashi said. “My prayers are being offered for Otis and all his family and friends who, like me, will always be grateful for his life and witness, and who will miss him terribly.”
Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1926, Charles was ordained a priest in 1951 and served churches in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York prior to being called to Utah.
While serving in Utah, Charles helped organize opposition to the MX missile, cost-effective health care, the first Utah hospice, housing for elderly and handicapped citizens, and advocacy for minorities, women, the handicapped poor and unemployed.
Charles and his then-wife, Elvira, raised five children during his episcopate. He also served for two years as the bishop in charge of the Navajoland Area Mission during its inception.
“Otis’s 60 years of pastoral leadership — at EDS, in the Diocese of Utah, and at Oasis California — leave an indelible legacy. In every community he worked, in every life that he touched, Otis embodied this seminary’s ideal of working to advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation,” said the Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, EDS’s current president and dean.
Just after he retired from EDS, Charles sent a letter to his colleagues in the House of Bishops telling them that he was gay. The bishops discussed his disclosure during their meeting in Panama in September 1993. He was the first Christian bishop of any denomination to come out as gay.
He married Felipe Sanchez-Paris in 2008 (who died in August 2013) and continued living in San Francisco, where he had moved in mid-1993. Charles remained in active parish ministry. He also continued regular attendance at the House of Bishops until this year.
Charles is survived by his former wife, Elvira Nelson of Salt Lake City, five children, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
La oficina de Inmigración y Extranjería de Cuba ha anunciado que durante el año 2013 más de 257,518 cubanos han viajado fuera de la isla, muchos viajaron en más de un ocasión. Dada la situación precaria de la economía cubana los viajes fueron subvencionados por familiares o amigos residentes de Estados Unidos. Cerca de la mitad de los viajeros regresaron a la isla, dijo la información oficial.
El balneario de Varadero, en la provincia de Matanzas, Cuba, considerado primer polo turístico de sol y playas en la isla caribeña. Ha perdido entre 70 centímetros y un metro de línea costera en el último año debido a la erosión provocada por la elevación del nivel del mar, informaron medios oficiales. La playa de Varadero es considerada una de las playas más lindas del mundo.
En una reciente encuesta realizada por la organización Gallup el clero de Estados Unidos goza de mayor respeto de los conservadores que entre los demócratas. Observadores piensan que el clero, la policía y los oficiales del ejército gozan de esa preferencia porque muchas de esas personas trabajan en instituciones tradicionales de la sociedad Norteamericana que normalmente se inclinan por una ideología conservadora. Los entrevistados recibieron un 63 por ciento mientras que los demócratas 40 por ciento.
José Mujica, presidente de Uruguay se ha ganado la admiración internacional por su modesto modo de vida, su falta de protocolos presidenciales y su apoyo a políticas liberales como la reciente legalización de la marihuana, el aborto y el matrimonio gay entre otras. Mujica nació en 1935, hijo de un padre campesino y una madre hija de inmigrantes italianos, en la década de los 60 formó parte de la guerrilla llamada Los Tupamaros de inspiración castrista y el Frente Amplio. Fue electo por un período de cinco años en el 2010. Goza de amplia popularidad entre los uruguayos.
Frank Schaefer, el pastor metodista que casó a su hijo con otro hombre ha sido depuesto de su dignidad como pastor. Tras la ceremonia dijo que “la iglesia comete un gran injusticia” al no permitir bodas del mismo sexo.
El sacerdote jesuita español Jesús Herrero Gómez falleció, a causa de un infarto, el pasado 10 de diciembre a los 71 años de edad en Lima. Fue coordinador general de la red de colegios Fe y Alegría en Perú de 1988 a 1998, y en el momento de su muerte era el presidente del Consejo Nacional de Educación.
El inventor del famoso fusil de asalto soviético AK-47, Mijail Kalashnikov, ha fallecido a los 94 años en Udmurtia en los Montes Urales, Rusia. El fusil fue inventado en 1919 y siempre su inventor se sintió orgulloso de su obra destinada a “defender nuestra patria” aunque también lamentó “ver a todo tipo de criminales disparar con mis armas”. Se calcula que más de 100 millones de unidades se vendieron legalmente aunque muchas más fueron vendidas en forma clandestina.
La prensa internacional informa que los bombardeos de la aviación siria han dejado por lo menos 300 muertos en los últimos días en Alepo, la principal ciudad de Siria. Se estima que en los ataques murieron 87 niños, 30 mujeres y 30 rebeldes.
Todos estamos de acuerdo en que gran número de instituciones sociales necesitan la ayuda de la población para subsistir y cubrir la necesidades básicas de sus miembros. Todos sabemos que es “mejor dar que recibir” y que la ayuda es nuestra ofrenda por nuestra vida y nuestras posesiones. Pero la proliferación de agencias pidiendo dinero nos confunde y empaña nuestras mejores intenciones al desconocer el destino de nuestra ofrenda. Desde esta columna sugerimos a las autoridades que regulen esas campañas para que haya transparencia económica y se castigue a los desalmados que comercian con la generosidad y la buena voluntad de los ciudadanos.
La Iglesia de Inglaterra (anglicana) se mantiene firmemente y sin ambages en la posición católica sostenida por la iglesia a través de los siglos: “La Sagrada Escritura contiene todas las cosas necesarias para la salvación, de suerte que cuanto no esté contenido en ella, ni pueda probarse por ella, no debe obligarse a hombre alguno a creerlo como artículo de fe, ni debe creerse como requisito o necesario para la salvación” (Stephen Neill, El Anglicanismo)
DESEO. Que este año que comenzamos sea uno de paz, libertad, alegría, trabajo fecundo y amistad entre todos los habitantes de la tierra. AMÉN.
[Lambeth Palace] Starting somewhere new is always a bizarre experience. There’s so much to get used to, and things come at you at such a pace. It’s been a huge year of contrasts. It’s had some incredible high points. One of them being the baptism of Prince George, and to be honest I had to pinch myself to think I was actually there.
And another one was my installation at Canterbury Cathedral, a wonderful service in a packed cathedral, very exciting, and a weight of history coming down on one’s shoulders.
And then there’s been other real high points, and one of them is today, coming here to this Church Urban Fund-supported center, the Ace of Clubs [where he recorded his New Year message for broadcast in the United Kingdom].
They care for people on the very edge. They enable people to find their way back into the mainstream of life when they want to. And that’s one of the greatest excitements of this job – being part of an organization that is in many places that’s holding the whole of society together.
Whenever Christians speak out on issues of poverty or social issues of all kinds, we always get letters saying “Why don’t you just talk about God and stop getting muddled up in other subjects?”
When I go to my Bible and think, okay, what’s God saying and how do I talk more about God and get closer to God, and encourage other people to get closer to God, the thing I find is that God says: Love me, and show you love me by loving your neighbor. And if you love your neighbor you’re going to be deeply concerned in the things that trouble them, whether it’s about heating bills, whether it’s about insecurity in families and the need for good community life.
The church is involved in those because we want to demonstrate that we have freely received the love of God and we want to share that with others. It’s not about politics, it’s about love.
I know it’s the New Year, and I don’t want to sound like Scrooge, but I never make New Year resolutions, I’m just hopeless at them. It’s not that they aren’t a very good thing, it’s just that I know I’m not going to keep them, and I have this vague sense that there’s no point in doing them.
Except there’s one I want to think about this year. I want to suggest this year that each of us makes a resolution to try and change the world a bit where we are.
Nelson Mandela said that dealing with poverty is not an act of charity, it’s an act of justice. He said every generation has the chance to be a great generation, and we can be that great generation.
I look around and I see many signs of hope, but also there are many communities, many families, many individuals struggling.
Perhaps our New Year’s resolution is therefore not just to do something slightly differently, but to set our eyes on changing the world around us. That would really change our country in the most amazing way.
[Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil] The Most Rev. Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate, in the wake of torrential rains in southeastern Brazil that have left more than 40 people dead and some 70,000 homeless issued a statement Dec. 30 expressing the church’s solidarity with flood victims.
Message from PrimateSolidarity with flooding victims
in Minas Gerais & Espirito Santo
Santa Maria, 30 of December, 2013
“Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters!” (Ps. 69:14)
The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) expresses its solidarity, care and commitment to flooding victims, especially in the states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais. That “the Spirit of God be with you” is our wish and prayer. Solidarity is a human need, but it is also an ethical and spiritual requirement for us Christians to be stirred to action and help people affected by this disaster. “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me , sick and you visited me , imprisoned and you visited me … every time you did it to one of these my brethren , you did for me ” (Matthew 25:35-36.40 ) . The Church must always be a spiritual home and space of care and hospitality especially for those who have no place at this time. We should meet the victims, lower ourselves, touch, welcome, collect and lead to a safe place and provide financial resources for life to be restored (Lk 10:29-37).
The IEAB also shows concern that these kinds of situations have become commonplace in Brazil. Floods and their results are not simply natural phenomena that affect the population and territory randomly. Human intervention, or more precisely the lack of it, is quite well-known (in Brazil)— in terms of prevention and environmental and public housing policies, besides the corruption in which we live—it is also important to consider the occurrence of urban flooding, and its role in causing diseases, displacement, and fatalities.
We raise our voice to ask for urgency in attending to the victims, for transparency in resource management, from both humanitarian and public giving. And we will continue in active hope that such situations may occur less and less frequently until it does not happen ever. We continue fighting and joining with the voices of angels and saints (social movements, churches, people of faith, governments and people of goodwill) that are present and active in the care and active insistence that justice be done and life always continue (Lk 18:1-8).
St. Benedict reminds us that “if we want peace, we must seek it,” we must move and leave our meeting places. That the God of life and tenderness be always with us all, and alight in our lives the insatiable desire to encounter him, especially in the victims of this tragedy who clamor for food, water, housing, justice, care, and permanent policies.
++ Francisco de Assis da Silva
Primate of Brazil & Diocesan bishop in Santa Maria
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[Episcopal News Service] Will Bryant from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina has decided to spend a year as a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer working with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong.
Every day Will visits the seafarers either in port or out at the anchorage, bringing them the latest news in their own language, phone cards so they can call home, and a welcome respite from their sometimes dangerous and often lonely lifestyle.
Many of the seafarers spend 8-10 months each year away from home to provide for their families. Hong Kong is just one of 260 ports throughout the world where Mission to Seafarers has a presence. Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest Anglican mission agencies, bringing much-needed support to those who work at sea.
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] Esta es la estación para alegrarse en la fiesta de Navidad de New Hope Oklahoma, el 21 de diciembre, a la que asistieron cientos de niños que tienen padres en la cárcel y que tuvo lugar en la iglesia episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity Episcopal Church] en Tulsa.
Michelle Young empezó a asistir a los programas extraescolares de la agencia —y también a sus fiestas de Navidad— en séptimo grado, cuando alguien le contó acerca de New Hope Oklahoma. La agencia fue fundada por la Diócesis Episcopal de Oklahoma hace unos 20 años para ayudar a niños que tienen al menos uno de sus padres en prisión.
“Muchísima gente me dijo que yo terminaría igual que mi papá, entrando y saliendo de la cárcel continuamente. Pero con New Hope, te dicen, te muestran, un camino diferente. Puedas permanecer en la escuela y educarte”, dijo Young, de 19 años, que es alumna de primer año de la Universidad del Estado de Oklahoma, y quien sirve de voluntaria en eventos como la próxima fiesta de Navidad.
“Es muy divertido. Hay diferentes actividades. Uno puede crear su propio reno y sus propios regalos. Hay juguetes y presentes y comida. Es bastante agitado, pero divertidísimo. A los niños les encanta”.
La directora ejecutiva, Lindsay Fry-Geier, dijo que New Hope se empeña en ser algo más que “una mera agencia. Vemos a nuestros niños todos los días de la semana. Queremos ser la coherencia de sus vidas cuando tanto en sus vidas es incoherente.
Oklahoma tiene la mayor tasa de mujeres encarceladas de la nación y el tercer lugar entre los hombres; New Hope Oklahoma se fundó en respuesta a la preocupación por los niños que se quedaban detrás, dijo Fry-Geier.
La agencia apareció recientemente en el programa Today Show de NBC, que se unió a Walmart para proporcionarles regalos de Navidad a cientos de niños, una oportunidad que Fry-Geier espera “le dará voz a… esos niños que han sido olvidados por tantos, especialmente en torno a estas fiestas en que les echan de menos a sus padres”.
New Hope no está sola; congregaciones y ministerios a través de la Iglesia Episcopal se han asociado con agencias tales como Angel Tree, y otras organizaciones para ofrecerles regalos a los presos y sus familias. Angel Tree estima que 2,75 millones de niños tienen uno de sus padres en prisión y espera ofrecer 425.000 regalos este año.
Llegar a los presos ‘pabellón por pabellón’
Para Beverly Duncan de la iglesia episcopal El Buen Pastor [Good Shepherd Episcopal Church] en Acton, Massachusetts, empacar bolsas de regalos de Navidad para los presos de los centros correccionales locales puede asemejarse bastante a una producción.
“Imagínese 1.700 barras de jabón Irish Spring y el espacio que ocupan, dice ella riendo durante una reciente entrevista telefónica con ENS. “A veces creo que no querría volver a oler otra barra de Irish Spring en mi vida”.
Además del jabón, las bolsas de regalo incluyen otros artículos de uso personal: pasta de dientes, champú, desodorante, calcetines, papel de cartas, sobres y una tarjeta de Navidad “firmada por alguien con una nota. Muchas de las tarjetas son hechas por los niños de las escuelas dominicales de la localidad”, agregó ella.
Todo comenzó cuando El Buen Pastor se asoció con Concord Prison Outreach, una coalición de comunidades religiosas de la localidad que, según Duncan, “quiere ayudar a los reclusos de hoy a convertirse en los buenos vecinos de mañana”.
La recaudación de fondos y las compras prosigue el año entero para las bolsas de regalos y el Departamento de Centros Correccionales publica directrices [para informar] sobre los artículos que son aceptables, explicó ella. “Somos obsesivos con los detalles respecto a estas cosas e importunamos a las autoridades carcelarias con preguntas como [por ejemplo] ¿cuán grande o pequeño tiene que ser este tubo de pasta?, agregó.
Más enriquecedora es la oportunidad de distribuir las bolsas a los reclusos mismos.
“Entramos en la Institución Correccional de Massachusetts y los reclusos van bajando por pabellones”, explicó Duncan, de 79 años. “Los revisan a la entrada y salida del gimnasio y les entregamos… [las bolsas de regalo] a cada recluso, y les damos la mano. Él tiene que recorrer los seis o siete voluntarios. Queremos estrechar todas las manos.
Las reacciones son diversas: “Algunos no nos miran a los ojos; algunos bailan en la cola. Un hombre dijo que era el primer presente de Navidad que había recibido en su vida”.
Pero ella agregó que [los presos] son “enormemente agradecidos. Siguen llegando, pabellón por pabellón. Es algo espantoso. Se trata de una sola prisión en un solo estado y tenemos tanta energía y talento tras las rejas”, dijo Duncan.
“En parte responde a la necesidad, pero no en la medida que debiera, y el talento [que está encerrado] en esos edificios es increíble y la falta de educación también es increíble”.
Ella recibe unas 60 cartas de agradecimiento cada año de los presos. “Un hombre decía que cuando regresó a su celda, el desempacar sus regalos lo llevó a él y a su compañero de celda a hablar acerca del verdadero significado de la Navidad.
“Algunas de las cartas son prácticamente [de] analfabetos. Todas te dan las gracias por los artículos, pero la mayoría por ser recordados, por no convertirse en seres olvidados tan sólo por estar en prisión”.
Jermain Billinger ha sido uno de los destinatarios de esas bolsas de regalo.
A los 33 años, él ha pasado casi la mitad de su vida en lugares como Attica, Sing Sing y otras prisiones estatales de Nueva York.
“Me metí en problemas desde que tenía unos 13 años, esa fue la primera vez que me arrestaron”, dijo el hombre de voz suave y padre de dos hijos durante una reciente entrevista por teléfono con ENS. “Me arrestaron 15 veces entre los 13 y los 15 años”, añadió Billinger, que vino a conocer a su hijo de tres años hace unos pocos meses, después de salir de la prisión.
Si estar encarcelado ya resulta bastante difícil, están en prisión durante las fiestas de Navidad es peor. Su madre murió cuando él estaba preso; a su novia “le dieron un tiro en el pecho y yo no estaba allí. Te sientes tan impotente, tan débil. Yo no me di cuenta lo deprimentes que pueden ser estos días hasta después de que mi madre falleció.
“Cuando era más joven, era muy duro”, afirmó él. “Usted sabe, estaba lejos de mis seres queridos y resultaba doloroso. Me hice insensible. Bloquee ese sentimiento de alguna manera, lo puse bajo siete llaves.
“Uno se deprime allá dentro”, agregó. Uno se deprime tanto que ni siquiera sabe que está deprimido. Ya sea que te hayan encontrado culpable o que hayas llegado a un acuerdo [con la fiscalía], está toda esta ansiedad, intentas lidiar con la aceptación de lo que está pasando y, en tanto tratas de procesar eso, la ansiedad nunca te deja, o el vacío, o la soledad, por [la ausencia] de tus seres queridos”.
Recién liberado, ya está trabajando y ansioso de empezar de nuevo y de marcar un cambio.
“Me di cuenta de que basta ya”, dijo. “Los problemas que le he causado a mi familia… Veo el modo en que eso ha afectado a mis seres queridos. No quiero volver a hacerlo”.
Actualmente, se concentra en cambiar su vida, en ayudar a otros, especialmente a los que dejó atrás.
Junto con el Rdo. Petero Sabune y la iglesia episcopal de los Santos Juan, Pablo y Clemente [Episcopal Church of Saints John, Paul and Clement] en Mount Vernon, se ha hecho partícipe de los esfuerzos de Toys for Joys, una agencia sin fines de lucro que ayuda a proporcionarles regalos de Navidad a niños desfavorecidos.
“Primero, encontramos lo que los niños quieren, como una petición secreta a Santa Claus”, explicó Billinger. “Luego conseguimos los regalos y se los enviamos a los niños como si procedieran de sus padres”.
Él mira hacia el pasado con remordimiento, pero hacia delante con entusiasmo, disfrutando lo que él llama los verdaderos regalos y el significado de la estación: paz, gratitud, gozo, libertad, esperanza.
Al presente, acepta llamadas de presos con cobro revertido y les ofrece apoyo, y añade: “quiero retribuir tanto como pueda y llegar a aquellos que son menos afortunados”.
¿Y sus deseos de Navidad? “No te olvides de tu hermano que está encarcelado”, respondió. “Hay allí algunos hombres inocentes y algunas personas que cometieron errores cuando eran niños; ahora son adultos y siguen sufriendo. Nadie es malo del todo; las personas sí cambian. Querría que el mundo le diera una segunda oportunidad a alguien que al menos está intentando cambiar”.
En Tulsa, dijo Lindsay Fry-Geier, New Hope Oklahoma sirve, durante todo el año, a más de 400 niños a través de campamentos de verano, programas extraescolares, reuniones regulares de familias y otros eventos, tales como la fiesta de Navidad del 21 de diciembre.
“También hacemos retiros y tenemos un terapeuta en el equipo que se ocupa de las evaluaciones de casos para las familias. Tienen tantas necesidades. No podemos atender todas las necesidades de todas las familias, pero podemos colaborar activamente con ellas y conocer sus necesidades e intentar cubrir sus carencias”.
La agencia ofrece ayuda con clases particulares, grupos de apoyo y otros programas de carácter comunitario, brindándoles transporte a los niños de unas 20 escuelas de la zona hasta la iglesia de La Trinidad para sus programas extraescolares y auspiciando agrupaciones escolares en otros siete planteles.
“La Trinidad es una parroquia grande y bella y hemos llegado a llenar todas las salas, todas las aulas, los salones de conferencia. Funcionamos de 5 a 7 PM”, explicó ella. “Los niños vienen y trabajan unos con otros y luchan juntos; tenemos también un grupo de apoyo para los cuidadores. En verdad, nuestra esperanza es que esto forme una comunidad”.
“Todo nuestro personal del verano este año estuvo compuesto de estudiantes universitarios que estuvieron en el programa y que se habían graduado y que eran los primeros de sus familias en asistir a la universidad”, agregó. Es algo tan hermoso. Algunos de nuestros estudiantes de secundaria dirán que les encanta asistir al campamento y a los programas y se fijan en los chicos mayores y saben que ellos van a lograrlo. Es algo impactante para nuestros niños”.
Michelle Young estuvo de acuerdo. “New Hope ha significado muchísimo para mí”, afirmó. “Traen a montones de personas y uno espera que no sepan tu nombre, pero sí lo saben. Saben el nombre de todos y cada uno de los niños que asiste a su programa. No eres una cifra. Eres una persona real”.
–La Rda. Pat McCaughan es una corresponsal de Episcopal News Service radicada en Los Ángeles. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.