[Episcopal News Service] The season of Lent may rapidly be coming to a close but some creative Lenten spiritual practices seem sure to linger on.
After the traditional Fat Tuesday pancake suppers “we figured everyone was going to need a skinny Tuesday,” joked the Rev. Grey Maggiano, assistant priest and a serious runner. “People enjoy it, it’s a neat way to have a diverse group of people gather.”
Altogether, about 50 people have joined in the runs at one time or another during Lent, with about a dozen participating regularly. “We meet on the cathedral steps at 6:15 p.m., stretch for 15 minutes, talk and catch up, pray and then we take off,” said Maggiano.
Participants are aged from 7 to 70; some do a two-mile walk, others a three-mile run along the Venetian Causeway from Miami to Miami Beach and back again. “We run along the water the whole way.”
The physical exertion helps clear out the clutter of the day, Maggiano added. “The rhythm and pacing of running has always given me something else to focus on so I can distract my mind … and that little corner opens up where I connect directly to God and pray as I’m running and life becomes simple. You focus on two things, God and the road and nothing else matters for that two-hour stretch,” he said.
It also has been a helpful spiritual practice because “Miami, like most cities, is so built up, we can forget how close we are to nature.
“Watching fish jump out of the water, and running by palm trees and reminding yourself that this once all was nature that we’ve taken over, is an important reflection for our call as Christians in this community,” he said. “To remember, that not only are we serving God and each other but we’re also serving this creation that surrounds us.”
The group has even attracted some runners who aren’t members.
“The thing that’s exciting for me as a priest is the people showing up and the conversations being had on the margins with folks about their lives and their kids and their spiritual lives and everything else.
“Now, one young runner wants to become an acolyte and to get more involved at the cathedral,” added Maggiano, 33. “Last week he brought a friend, so he and the friend raced while their moms walked and talked together. It’s exciting to see new people becoming familiar with the cathedral and the Episcopal Church through something as simple as running.”
Hiking in Los Angeles
Similarly, nature lovers from St. Luke’s Church in Monrovia, and Transfiguration Church in Arcadia, California who joined a Lenten “Wilderness Wondering/Wandering” Saturday morning meditation and hiking group want to extend it beyond Easter.
“Hiking is such a wonderful time to meditate, as well as focusing on health,” according to the Rev. Neil Tadken, St. Luke’s priest-in-charge, who is considering establishing hiking as a regular weekly time with parishioners.
The hikers meet at the church and carpool to the hike location; the weekly treks are moderately paced, “and we’re learning what works and what doesn’t,” Tadken said. He selects the hiking paths in consultation with others and by checking hikespeak.com, a guide to California hiking trails.
Their first outing, a 5-mile jaunt along the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain in the San Gabriel Mountains, offered both physical and spiritual connections with that week’s gospel, “the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness where he is shown all the kingdoms of the world,” he said.
“We could see as far as from Camarillo to Palm Springs to Catalina Island” a sweeping panoramic 150-plus mile view of the Southern California landscape, according to Andy Dagis, an avid hiker and church member.
Wearing hiking boots, shorts and an Illinois sweatshirt, Dagis, a statistician for City of Hope and former Sierra Club member, also was along April 5 on a 3.5-mile hike to the 40-foot Eaton Canyon waterfall in the San Gabriel Mountains.
“Is the high road easier?” he mused as the group brushed past wild rosemary bushes, California pine and oak trees, navigating slippery rocks while crossing small flowing streams, up hill and down, alongside a winding creek, in semi-rugged terrain.
Much of the journey was single file, solitary, except for periodic stops to reflect on the next day’s Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones, prompting hikers to review the past and reflect on the future.
“When in your life have you felt all dried up?” Tadken asked hikers, in response to the Scripture. “What helped you renew your faith? If we say the future is nothing more than what the past has always been, then we can’t call something new into being.”
Yoga Nidra in Seattle: becoming still, still, still
For yoga instructors Wendy Townsend and Brenna Kramer, teaching ‘Yoga Nidra’ at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, was to offer stillness and centering as a response to the way “our society is so driven to go, go, go, do, do, do and it leads you into a very deep place.”
Citing a Thomas Merton definition of Lent as “seeing our own true self in Christ, in the desert, in meditation” Townsend added that: “I think our own true self is sometimes hard to connect with because we’re so outer-focused.”
Participants have gathered in the dimly lit cathedral for the five-week series and during the hour-long class focused on “a starry night, a mountaintop, images that help you let go of your shopping list and what you have to do tomorrow, and go to your center,” she said.
“I like to talk about my favorite Bible quote, 1 Cor. 3:16, do you not know your body is a temple and that God dwells within you,” she said.
The cathedral backdrop aids “the sense of being in a holy place. It’s a wonderful place to practice yoga,” added Townsend, 71, a 14-year instructor.
Yoga “is not a competitive sport. It’s an individual experience. We invite people to close their eyes and go inside and find this being that they are. It brings you into a reflective awareness and I think people long for that,” she said.
Similarly, “coming out from a deep sense of reflection enables you to better live your life because you are coming from a deeper place,” she added. “We get very superficial and we’re getting it all done but I don’t know that we come from the deeper place of being connected.”
North Carolina: passing the Lent Baton
Passing the Lent baton has been a fun – and virtual way – to observe the season at Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina, according to the Rev. Stephanie Allen, rector.
“It’s an idea of using Instagram and sharing the pictures of our lives and where we see God at work in our everyday normal lives outside of Sunday mornings,” Allen told ENS recently.
Imagine spending an entire day snapping camera phone selfies – Lent- and faith-focused ones – and then sharing six to eight of them, said Allen who took the first slot on Ash Wednesday and included bread as one of her images.
“Somebody brought me some bread as a little thank you gift and so I took a photo of it with my phone. You know, bread, bread of life, it took me to all kinds of places.”
Others have taken photos of their journals, daily Lenten readings, plants, candles, and people interactions.
For Allen, it’s become a spiritual discipline in that it helps remind us “that God is there, if we pay attention and if we take the time to really open our eyes … and you realize that’s really what we ought to be doing all the time.”
She admits to being an Instagram newbie until the Lent baton happened, “but there is a lot of potential for sharing … your image of the world and how you see it,” she said. “Everybody is an artist with their camera phone” and the wider community has also joined in.
Parishioner Mike Belmares, who facilitated the Lent baton, got the idea after seeing the popularity of the RDU Baton where “people in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, were signing up to take the baton to show parts of their lives, where they hang out, go jogging, eat. It has a two- to three-month wait list so he decided to adapt it to the church.
With a signup genius phone app, all participants have to do is “see it, snap it, share it,” he said. Nativity lends its account user name and password for a day, to participants.
“Lent is kind of this forgotten season, yet so pivotal to our faith,” he added. “It isn’t just about weeping and gnashing your teeth, or about your sins. It is a procession up to Easter. The idea was to kind of give life to a somewhat forgotten season, and to find fun ways to do it.”
He aims to continue the practice. “It is a matter of taking the message outside the brick and mortar of our congregations,” he said. “It’s about sharing faith. And I love the Episcopal Church and I think it has a lot to offer.”
The enthusiasm has caught on and “we’ve had other folks in our diocese jump on board. That was really neat to see. Folks we’ve never known have gotten involved from other congregations and it’s become a way for people to share their faith.”
“We just wanted to engage people and to share, that’s all. There is more power in all our hands than some of our hands.”
Seattle and the Ministry of ‘Worsted Wool’
While it’s true that Jonie Pritchard and Barbara Erickson are serial knitters, this year they invited others to enrich their faith during Lent by knitting baby blankets for a local pediatric clinic for the underserved.
It has also functioned as a kind of virtual ministry, in that the participants corresponded via the Internet, exchanging patterns – called ‘Jonie’s pattern’ – and e-mails, but worked in the solitude of their homes.
For Pritchard, performing the knit one, purl one, simple basket weave stitch is in itself a spiritual exercise, which she augmented “by praying as we’re knitting,” she told ENS recently. “We are bringing a new child into the world and this is a special thank you God for the ability to knit or crochet.”
Soft pastel worsted wool yarn is used and “we should have a big basket full of baby blankets to be blessed the Sunday after Easter.”
Along with six other members of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, they participated in the ministry, dubbed the Ministry of Worsted Wool by Erickson.
“It dawned on me that the blankets we make are out of worsted wool yarn. So I decided to call it the ministry of worsted wool, and then I found a little lamb on Google and that’s become our little symbol,” Erickson said.
“It just felt like it was the right thing to do for the season,” she told ENS recently.
“We just knit, and I give away a lot of my knitted products. So, whenever I knit something it’s done with that spiritual intention.”
Knitting, for Erickson, “has a spiritual aspect. It’s a calming thing … To me, no matter what’s going on in the world if I just go and sit and knit I’m at peace.”
Added Pritchard, 76: “It’s a labor of love. I do this all year long but this time I have blocked out the other blankets I have requests for and am just doing this during Lent specifically with the idea in mind that St. Mark’s Cathedral will be knitting a bunch of blankets for the clinic.
“And I picture these little babies be there, and I pray it [the blanket] will comfort the new baby, and be of comfort to the mother, that the baby will be blessed by God and will turn to God. It’s all done with love and to the glory of God.”
– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.
[Episcopal News Service – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma] An Episcopal Church effort to have “a dialogue that our society has not been able to accomplish” about violence in general and gun violence in particular began April 9 here.
Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence being held April 9-11 at the Reed Center and the nearby Sheraton Midwest City is meant to help Episcopalians renew their commitment to the Gospel call to make peace in a world of violence and “reclaim their role in society as workers for nonviolence and peace,” according to a press release from the church’s Office of Public Affairs.
The gathering of 220 people, including 34 bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is centered around four pillars: advocacy, education, liturgy and pastoral care as “key avenues to address the culture of violence within and outside of the church,” the release said.
Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton asked the participants to create a “condemnation-free zone” for the three-day conference that he said was a gathering of Episcopalians from “across the spectrum of geographical, political and theological differences to learn from each other, to pray with each other and to discern what the spirit might be saying to us as church leaders.”
Sutton invited people to “challenge the mythology of violence” in the United States that says violence will protect us from an unsafe and unpredictable world. Sutton said there is a “widely held myth that violence works and that non-violence is a pipe dream.”
“We have become intoxicated with violence as the only effective means to achieve our personal goals or national aspirations,” he said. “We have worshipped for far too long at the altar of the gun to solve our problems.”
Sutton said we have known for a long time that there is another way.
“The Christian gospel has proclaimed for thousands of years that there is a cure but we have lost confidence in our day that that ancient solution will work,” he said.
The gospel cure for violence is love, Sutton said, reminding people of Jesus’s commandment to love one’s enemies, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you.
Non-violent movements broke British colonial rule in India, ended apartheid in South Africa and drove the civil rights movement in the United States, he said, citing examples.
The text of his remarks is here.
Diocese of Oklahoma Bishop Edward Konieczny told the gathering that he wasn’t expected to be invited into this conversation, much less be asked to host it. Konieczny, a former Southern California police officer who supports the constitutional right to bear arms, told the gathering that he has a concealed carry weapon permit.
“On occasion I have been accused of being a gun-toting bishop,” he said, adding that he sometimes carries a gun while traveling in Oklahoma.
Konieczny shared stories about his life as a police officer, including the time he switched shifts with a fellow officer who was killed by a man wielding a semi-automatic handgun on that shift.
Another time, he said, he responded to a call and a mentally ill man pointed a rifle at his head and pulled the trigger. The weapon misfired.
“But for the grace of God, I would not be standing here,” Konieczny said in an emotion-filled voice.
Rather than become more hardened by those experiences, the bishop said, “I refuse to feel powerless that I can’t make a difference or have an influence.”
Konieczny said he has seen many youths and adults be “renewed, reconciled and restored” by people who practiced the vows of what Episcopalians know as the baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of all people and strive for justice and peace.
“We don’t have to figure out what to do; we just have to do that which we have already promised,” he said, adding that “it is going to take generations” to reverse a cultural reliance on violence that has been built over generations.
“My hope is that this conference will be a model and an example to others of how different voices with often very opposite passions can come together with honesty, charity and grace for a common purpose,” he said.
Konieczny urged participants as they meet over the next days to keep in mind all victims of violence, especially the 20 students and a security guard who were stabbed by a 16-year-old high school student at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh, early during the day on April 9.
The text of his remarks is here.
The rest of the conference
Following morning worship on April 10, Welby will address the gathering, followed by a press conference with Jefferts Schori. Concurrent workshops round out the morning. That afternoon the Rev. Chuck Jackson, associate pastor of South Grand Lake Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation in Vinita, Oklahoma, will present an interactive discussion titled “Let It Begin with Me.” His presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on Episcopal responses to violence. The day concludes with workshop sessions in the afternoon and evening.
The April 10 sessions with Welby, Jackson’s presentation and the panel on Episcopal responses to violence are all due to be live streamed. The link is available here.
On April 11, the conference continues with a morning of worship, conversation and workshops. In the afternoon, participants will visit the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum. The memorial and museum memorialize the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, an act of domestic terrorism that killed 168 people and injured 600 others. Some survivors of the bombing are due to make a presentation to conference participants.
The gathering concludes with Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, less than two blocks from the site of the Murrah bombing. The cathedral was damaged by the 1995 blast. Jefferts Schori will preach. Dinner, featuring a concluding speech by Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, follows at the cathedral.
A schedule and list of workshop topics and presenters are here.
ENS and others are tweeting from the conference using #peaceokc.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Four plenary sessions from Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence will be live streamed at no cost.
Violence in all its forms in American society and what can be done will be examined at the special Episcopal Church gathering April 9 – 11 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Diocese of Oklahoma).
Live streaming is available here and click on Watch Live Broadcast.
Available for live viewing are:
6:30 pm Central (7:30 pm Eastern; 5:30 pm Mountain; 4:30 pm Pacific)
Bishop Ed Konieczny, Diocese of Oklahoma on “Why Are We Here”
Bishop Eugene Sutton, Diocese of Maryland on “The Theology of Violence and Peace.”
9 am Central (10 am Eastern; 8 am Mountain; 7 am Pacific)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
1:15 pm Central (2:15 pm Eastern; 12:15 pm Mountain; 11:15 am Pacific)
Dr Chuck Jackson – Let it Begin With Me
2:30 pm Central (3:30 pm Eastern; 1:30 pm Mountain; 12:30 pm Pacific)
Panel discussion: Episcopal Responses to Violence
Complete event information here.
The panel participants and the list of workshops are located here.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
[Magdalene St. Louis] Magdalene St. Louis is pleased to announce the hiring of Christine McDonald as Director of Outreach and Advocacy effective immediately. McDonald has previously served on the Board of Directors for the organization and is well known for her role in shaping policy affecting victims of human trafficking.
Magdalene St. Louis is a St. Louis, Missouri-based nonprofit start-up that offers women who have survived lives of abuse, prostitution and addiction a safe place: two years of housing, support and education at no cost. We invite women coming out of correctional facilities or off the streets into a compassionate and disciplined community where they can recover and rebuild their lives.
McDonald’s role will include developing awareness programs in the community, advocating on behalf of the organization at the state and local levels, and serving as a survivor voice for programming needs.
“Christine brings a wealth of life experiences to the table,” said Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton. “Her ability to be a strong voice for victims, her knowledge of the legislative process, nationwide trends and the needs of the women we will serve all combine to make her an important addition to the Magdalene St. Louis staff.”
McDonald survived nearly two decades of homelessness, street-corner prostitution, crack addiction and many stints in prison. She is the author of Cry Purple, which details her life on the street, what led her there and where she is today. Christine was featured in this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch for her work trying to eliminate the lifetime food stamp ban for drug felons.
“I am so humbled to be in a position that my life’s journey has given me the knowledge and experience to be a voice and advocate for St. Louis’s most vulnerable and under-served population,” said McDonald. “I am honored to work with this amazing organization.”
Magdalene St. Louis purchased its first home last week and plans to welcome its’ first five residents in the fall.
7 April 2014
Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly in a 21st Century World
Lake Logan Episcopal Center
Western North Carolina
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
We’re celebrating the feast of Tikhon today. I doubt that he’s a household word, unless you come from the Russian Orthodox Church. He was a bishop in Alaska and North America a century ago, and he’s a model of what we’re here to talk about – a happy accident of the calendar!
He was born in 1865 to a Russian Orthodox priest and his wife, and went to seminary (more like a religious school) at the age of 13. He graduated 10 years later and began to teach moral theology. At the age of 26 he became a monk, and three years after that was ordained a priest. In 1897 he became the Bishop of Lublin, in Poland, before he turned 33. He was much loved by the people he served, and a year later, when he was sent to Alaska, his archdeacon wrote, “Even the Jews were amazed they would take such a good bishop away.”
He continued to build bridges with other faith communities when he came to North America. He was sent to serve as Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, but his territory included the entire northern part of the continent. In 1900 he reorganized, as the Diocese of Aleutians and North America. He founded churches, started and blessed cathedrals, including two named St. Nicholas in New York – one for the Russian Orthodox and one for the Syrian Orthodox. Today we’d call him a church planter and evangelist, as well as a pastor and parson – someone who served the whole community. He had a strong ecumenical bent, and built solid relationships with The Episcopal Church. He attended the consecration of the bishop coadjutor in Fond du Lac in 1900, and would have joined in laying on hands if he hadn’t been expressly forbidden by our House of Bishops. The diocesan bishop, however, seated him in his own chair. He had particularly strong relationships with the dioceses of California (think of the long Russian presence in northern California) and in New York. He was so well-loved here that the United States gave him honorary citizenship.
In 1907 he was called back to Russia, and in 1917 elected primate – Patriarch of Moscow – in the midst of the Russian Revolution. He publicly condemned the revolutionaries for executing the Tsar’s family and for attacking the church. At the same time he urged his clergy to avoid political statements, in hopes of avoiding retribution against their people. In 1921 a massive famine in the Volga region prompted Tikhon to sell some of the church’s art and treasures to buy food for the hungry. The government noticed, and stepped in to confiscate the church’s assets, and people began to protest what they saw as sacrilege. More than 10,000 members of the church were tried and executed for their temerity. Tikhon himself was imprisoned for more than a year. He was released in 1923, his health broken, and he died in March of 1925. He was canonized by the Russian Church in 1989.
Tikhon is a saint of the wider church, a witness to walking humbly in search of justice and mercy – as light of the world and salt of the earth.
What is essential about Tikhon’s witness? He loved the people around him, whether they were Polish Jews or Orthodox Christians, Arabs in New York, Aleuts, Eskimos, or Russians of all sorts. He cared for people in their vulnerability – hungry, freezing, homeless, imprisoned, yearning for peace. He had the courage to stand up and confront injustice, and little reluctance to use all the resources at hand to answer the need.
So what are we here for?
I spent the last couple of days with the Moravians at their synod – the equivalent of General Convention, which they hold once every four years. The southern province, based in Winston-Salem, has some 56 congregations in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida., and companion relationships in Honduras and Nicaragua. They were wrestling with a lot of the same issues The Episcopal Church is – restructuring, how to fund mission and ministry, how to engage the unchurched population around us in new and effective ways, and always, how to deepen our relationship with Christ.
One of the resolutions they passed was titled “Spiritual Solidarity with Sisters and Brothers in Honduras.” It asks the Moravian Church in North America to speak out, advocate, pray, and act in response to the growing levels of violence in Honduras. That violence is largely the result of drug trafficking, most of it to supply markets in the US. Our own bishop in Honduras spoke to me last week about a lawyer the diocese had retained to respond to lawlessness in a housing project the diocese helped to build. That lawyer was assassinated recently. The bishop also spoke about the threats to his own life, and his need to change his travel patterns and visitation schedule as a result. His own sister was murdered not long ago.
If we are to be salt of the earth and light of the world, what does this mean for us? We might start by addressing addiction in our own neighborhoods. Addiction is a substitute for love, it’s a cry of hunger for relationship, and it ensnares many. We can look at our own addictions to consuming and status and other substitutes for living relationship. We can address the violence in our language and polarization of issues, the violence in our culture and our politics, and the lack of true justice. We still lock up addicts when what they need is healing, and we fail to lock up the real predators – or seek their healing as well.
How do we turn that lament and mourning into joy, or diminishment and deprivation into abundant life? Peter’s letter gets at the essentials: God has given us everything we need, particularly in response to what he calls lust – the hunger to accumulate and consume and possess what will never satisfy. He didn’t have the word addiction in his vocabulary, but that’s what he’s talking about. He does have a prescription, however – the kingdom of just and restored relationship is provided to those who seek support in communities of mutual affection and love. The mission we’re here to talk about and be equipped for is about building communities like that in Asheville, Cullowhee and Durgapur, in Haiti and Hickory and Hendersonville.
That mission is fueled by passion – the reactive, transformative salt of the stories you’ve heard here. That passion burns in transformed hearts, and it can be costly – Tikhon’s imprisonment, the death of so many of his people, the danger to those who work for justice and peace in Honduras. When that passion becomes evident to the world, it can and often does generate resistance. Arrests in Raleigh on Moral Mondays are a local consequence. The passion of Holy Week is our cosmic example of costly transformation. Life becomes more precious the more we taste of deep passion, and it leads to resurrection. The light of the world is lit by passion.
Edna St. Vincent Millay put it this way: My candle burns at both ends, it cannot last the night, but ah my foes and oh my friends, it gives a lovely light. I protest – the light of the world does outlast the night, which is why our light must continue to burn. Let yours burn at both ends, with all the passion within you, planted there by the one who calls you beloved. Burn!
Western North Carolina, Evening Prayer
6 April 2014
Exodus 3:16-4:12; Psalm 51; John 8:46-59
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
My grandfather died almost 50 years ago, but one of his sayings continues to be part of the family lore. It may be apocryphal, but my mother insisted that when she or her siblings had done something wrong, he would confront them by saying, “we’re going to have words, and you’re not going to get to use any of yours.”
We’ve just heard two remarkable examples of using words in that sense – as means to an end, to punish or rebuke. The interchange between Moses and God, as well as the one between Jesus and his religious opponents, is about using words as a shield, to avoid the deeper meaning of the message. Moses keeps complaining that he can’t possibly carry out this mission – he doesn’t think Pharaoh will believe him, he can’t speak well enough to confront this mighty tyrant. He’s afraid to say that he feels incompetent and afraid. But Yahweh keeps responding creatively – and reminding Moses that he won’t be alone. Moses remains anxious; he finds it hard to believe the word he’s hearing.
We only heard part of a long passage where Jesus talks over and over about “word” and God’s word. It begins with Jesus saying “if you continue in my word, you really are my disciples, and you’ll discover truth in that word, and it will set you free – free from being slaves to sin.” And then he confronts the ones who are trying to kill him by saying that they’re not acting like children of Abraham or of God, so they must be illegitimate – their father is the devil because they believe only lies. It’s strong stuff. And then the part we heard begins with Jesus saying, “and you call me sinful?!”
It would be funny if it weren’t deadly serious. At first blush it sounds like little kids on the playground throwing words at each other, calling names: you’re sinful; no I’m not; yes you are! Yet the conversation continues to push deeper. Jesus tells them whoever is in relationship with God hears the words of God, and those who keep the word will never taste death. But his debate partners literalize everything and miss the point. They divert the conversation from its deeper truth – here is the living, creative Word of God in front of them, challenging them to live like the one in whose image they were created, and telling them that if they do they will taste the eternal in the here and now. The last interchange is the choicest – Jesus says, “before Abraham was, I am.” He’s not talking about when he was born, but about God’s eternal nature. And they try to stone him.
The psalmist plays with literal and deeper meanings as well, when he points to the nature of sacrifice. He’s talking about correct worship – in the way that we might talk about whether a service followed all the rubrics. The psalmist reminds his hearers that godly worship is about a humble attitude and not the rules.
What is the power of words? How do we use them? Language, and our ability to be creative with it, is probably the most distinctive gift of human beings – it’s what makes us different from other creatures. Words are always shorthand ways of trying to convey deeper meaning. They’re symbols that convey a constellation of meaning, even though we try to turn them into simple black and white signs. Particularly when it comes to language about God, the challenge is always to look deeper, for the word itself can only point toward the reality it tries to represent. If we try to fix each word with one and only one identity we make an idol out of it, rather than an icon. We have always done this and probably always will, because we need fairly predictable sets of meaning around words or we wouldn’t be able to communicate. Yet if we believe that God creates out of chaos, and that creation is not finished – in other words, that creation and resurrection are current realities, not just events that happened at a fixed time in the past, and that God is a living reality, then we have to sit humbly in the presence of language. The word of God, and effective communication, live in sustained relationship.
We’re here for the next couple of days for a retreat – now, is it a retreat from the enemy, what’s dead and limited, or the letter of the law? Is it a retreat for rest and refreshment to discover what God is still creating? We’re here to consider how to Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly in a 21st Century World. Every part of that theme begs us to explore God’s ongoing creativity – “do justice” is about discovering more just ways to live in the world, not simply the lex talionis, eye for an eye limit to violence, instead of retribution. We’re looking for the deepest possible sense of justice as restoring right relationship.
“Love mercy.” Mercy is evidence of growth in human capacity to provide that kind of healing justice. I recently heard a powerful story of a drug bust that gathered up an entire band of wrong-doers – the folks who brought drugs in small boats from Central America and brought them ashore on this coast, those who sold them, the cops who were paid to look the other way. Most of them took plea bargains. One person pled guilty – the fellow who had the least heinous part in the whole scheme. He was an airport manager who happened to provide info to the smugglers about when they could expect air surveillance. He said, I’m guilty and I’ll take my punishment. All the others got off without jail time. When time came for sentencing, the judge tore up the docket and told him he was free to go – otherwise, he said, there would be no justice whatsoever. That is mercy, for the reconciliation had already been accomplished.
Walking humbly remembers that we’re creatures of the earth, made of the same stuff as every other part of creation (humble and humus have the same origin). When Moses remembered that, as when he encountered the burning bush, he found confidence, and the ability to be effective, to let the creative word work through him.
This 21st century world is still being created, still unfolding, not fully defined or capable of being fully understood, and we’re going to wrestle with what it means to give evidence of the living word of God. Are we becoming signs of bread and drink and light for the world?
We’re going to have words here, and I encourage you to use yours and discover how others use theirs, for in the midst of it, where two or three or a hundred are gathered, we will discover the very Word of God – and we’ll find evidence of the love and mercy and justice of God at work.
 John 8:31-34
 Told by the Bishop of Florida
This article and video is the last in a four-part series on the ministry of cathedrals, featuring interviews with their deans. The first article, “Video: Inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, with Dean David Ison” is available here; the second, “Education always a part of Ashton Brooks’ vocation,” is available here; the third, “Los Angeles cathedral(s): ‘One ministry in two places,’” is available here. In 2013, ENS also published a series on cathedral deans, available here.[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]
[Episcopal News Service] The American Cathedral in Paris, officially the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, was built in the 1880s to serve an expanding community of ex-pats and English-speakers abroad. It has since grown in its diversity and outwards in its ministry to the local community.
The Very Rev. Lucinda Laird, who has just completed her first year as dean and rector, speaks with ENS about the American Cathedral being a place of transformation and its commitment to social outreach and serving those on the fringes of Parisian society and beyond.
Located at 23 Avenue George V, the American Cathedral is a pro-cathedral, meaning it remains a parish church. It is the seat of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, presided over by Bishop Pierre Whalon.
Today, the cathedral congregation is composed of about 400 permanent parishioners and includes Americans, Britons and French as well as many other Europeans, Asians, Africans and Latin Americans.
Laird says: “If you’re an Episcopalian, the American Cathedral in Paris is your cathedral in Europe.”
Laird previously served as rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and as rector at St. Mark’s Church in Teaneck, New Jersey. Before that she was an assistant for college ministries at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and curate of the parish of Christ the Redeemer in Pelham, New York.
A native of New Orleans, Laird is a graduate of Barnard College and the General Theological Seminary. She also studied acting at Temple University.
Within the Episcopal Church she has served on the faculty of the Preaching Excellence Program (Episcopal Preaching Foundation); as a member of the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations; on the Advisory Board of the Church Pension Fund; on the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary; and has been president of Associate Alumni/ae of the General Seminary.
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.
[Anglican Church of Canada] The national office of the Anglican Church of Canada in Toronto was abuzz with excitement as staff welcomed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his wife, Caroline, for a brief stop in a tightly scheduled visit to Canada from April 7 to 9.
Following a morning worship service and a meeting with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, then a private luncheon in support of Canterbury Cathedral, the Welbys came to “Church House” in downtown Toronto, where there was a brief meeting with General Synod directors and management and reception with the staff.
Sharing her impressions from the meeting with management, Monica Patten, interim director of the Resources for Mission department, said, “There’s a sense of humility about him and clarity about what he sees and what his vision is and the areas of priority that I think he intends to work on.” She added that she was struck by the impression that “in a relatively short time he so deeply understands the Anglican Communion — both the opportunity and the potential as well as the challenges and he doesn’t actually seem to shy away from either of those.”
Henriette Thompson, director of public witness for social and ecological justice, who was also in the meeting, said, “One of the things that I am taking away from this archbishop’s visit is the wonderful degree of commitment he has to the Anglican church as a church of reconciliation and bridge-building. From his visits around the Communion, he described how the church is building bridges in so many different contexts.”
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, who had met Welby previously in South Korea during the World Council of Churches meeting, said he appreciates Welby’s focus on reconciliation, particularly looking at the effects of colonization. “It was really gratifying to see his enthusiasm and excitement about what’s happening in the Anglican Church of Canada. I think he’s really aiming in the right direction. I think he’s going to have a big impact.”
Following the meeting, the primate introduced the Welbys to staff at a small reception in the lobby of the national office, and they gamely dove into the crowd to meet as many of the staff as possible in the brief time before they were due at an ecumenical vespers service at the Cathedral Church of St. James.
“I think it’s really admirable of him to spend a year traveling around the Communion meeting all the primates,” said Simon Chambers, communications coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). “The travel must be exhausting and grueling, but he’s been very gracious.”
Many staff commented on the archbishop’s friendly and humble manner.
PWRDF public engagement coordinator Suzanne Rumsey said she and her late father, who was an Anglican priest, used to discuss brushes with fame. “He’d be very pleased about this one,” she said after meeting both the archbishop and his wife.
“We’re really grateful that he chose to come,” said Evelyn Hinchcliffe, after she and her pension office colleagues Kathy Edgar and Sonia Bernard chatted with the archbishop.
[Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey press release] The American Red Cross today awarded a $600,000 grant to the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey for Superstorm Sandy recovery work in Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland and Camden Counties. The Diocese is entrusted to use these funds to aid residents of these counties who still have unmet needs as a direct result of the storm.
The Greater Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey will work closely with the Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) in these counties to provide direct financial assistance to families and individuals for basic household goods and appliances, furniture, temporary housing and home repairs. The Red Cross grant will be distributed among the four counties as follows: $200,000 for Salem County, $150,000 for Gloucester County, $150,000 for Cumberland County, and $100,000 for Camden County.
“We are grateful to the Red Cross for providing assistance to these communities who are still struggling with their recovery and have not had the access to state and federal funding resources that has been allocated to other counties,” said the Rt. Rev. William H. Stokes, Bishop Diocesan of New Jersey. “This Red Cross grant will allow the Recovery Groups of Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland and Camden Counties to create a sense of hope and enable residents to finally reach resolution.”
“We hold in high regard the trust the Red Cross has placed in us in distribution of these much-needed funds,” said Keith Adams, Disaster Recovery Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey. “Since autumn 2012, the Diocese of New Jersey has taken part in efforts to ease the pain, shock and heartache in the wake of Sandy, and to restore vibrancy and normalcy to New Jersey residents hit the hardest. The work of recovery and restoration remains long and difficult, and we remain committed to seeing these efforts through.”
“As the Red Cross Sandy recovery work in New Jersey progresses, we are able to identify the evolving needs of our residents and communities,” said Nancy Orlando, regional CEO, American Red Cross South Jersey Region. “Although the magnitude of Sandy affected residents in these counties is less than the numbers we’ve seen in the nine most impacted, we understand that individual households have nonetheless also experienced catastrophic losses that this partnership with the Episcopal Diocese will begin to address.”
In addition to the grant announced today, the Red Cross has partnered with numerous organizations to support the recovery of New Jersey families and communities affected by Sandy. The Sandy recovery efforts include housing assistance, case management, mental health services, volunteer coordination and construction services. The Red Cross has received $311.5 million in donations for its Sandy emergency relief and recovery efforts, and has spent or committed $291 million—over 93 percent of the donated funds – as of February 28.
More information on the Red Cross Sandy relief and recovery efforts, including other New Jersey grants, can be found at www.redcross.org/sandy-response.
About the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey:
Founded in 1785, the Diocese of New Jersey, a diocese of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, ranks sixth in size out of 100 domestic dioceses in the United States, with 150 congregations within its borders. Currently four retired bishops, 281 priests, and 73 deacons serve in the Diocese, along with 47 clergy licensed to act. The Right Reverend William H. (Chip) Stokes, the current diocesan bishop and twelfth bishop of the Diocese, was elected in May 2013 and consecrated in November 2013. Through Episcopal Relief & Development, an international relief and development agency and compassionate response to human suffering, the Diocese of New Jersey continues to work diligently to heal survivors of Sandy by rebuilding lives and homes. For more information, please visit DioceseofNJ.org and EpiscopalRelief.org.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or on Twitter at @RedCross.
[Anglican Communion News Service] A bishop in Sudan has bemoaned the worsening war situation in his country. He said the continuing air bombardment on civilians and lack of humanitarian aid has increased the immigration of people from his diocese to neighboring countries.
Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Diocese of Kadugli said this in a report to highlight activities of “pastoral, administrative work and participation in peace talks between the Government of Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in North.”
More than 200,000 Nuba people had sought refuge in the Republic of South Sudan only to find themselves in another war-torn area. “Many got confused and traumatized and some ran back to the war zone areas in the Nuba Mountains preferring to die in their home land,” said Elnail.
The bishop and his team decided to follow their displaced flock into neighboring countries including Uganda, the Republic of South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.
“Pastoring and visiting all my people in these countries alone is very hard,” said the bishop. “I was however encouraged by the provincial decision late last year approving an assistant bishop to the diocese of Kadugli to help me in pastoring, visiting and encouraging the flock wherever they are.”
The worsening situation in Sudan and South Sudan has caught the attention of the Anglican Communion. The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is just one of several Anglican agencies tat have been raising funds for the situation there.
Simon Chambers from PWRDF reports that the organization recently contributed an additional $35,000 through the ACT Alliance for continuing relief work in Darfur. “The ACT program will help over 586,000 people to have access to food, clean water, sanitation, improved health, education for children, and jobs for adults,” he said.
He added: “PWRDF has also contributed US$20,000 to ACT’s program that will provide food and basic goods (cooking tools, bedding, clothes, etc.) to 3000 households who have fled the violence.”
This is in addition to the US$20,000 that PWRDF sourced early this year to provide relief to newly arrived refugees at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
Despite the challenges that come with living in a foreign country, Sudan Christians are flourishing in diaspora. In Uganda for instance, the church is growing under the leadership of the Rev. Jaleela Ayoub.
“They used to have fellowship from home to home every Saturday and Sunday evening, but membership has now grown to over a one hundred, especially in school holidays when children are back from boarding schools,” said Elnail.
“It was decided that the fellowship leaders should approach Church of Uganda to assist in finding a space for worship. The church is united, children are very active, creative in worship and many of them can lead and share their testimonies.”
Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya was another place visited by the bishop as he made his rounds in the neighboring countries. It’s reported that the number of refugees has grown significantly since the war erupted in South Sudan.
“The number of Episcopalians from Diocese of Kadugli increased to 1,389, many of them are youth,” said the bishop. “The number of the churches increased to three congregations and the many talents and spiritual growth especially among the youth is what I admired most.”
Many were confirmed at a service attended by many people from different denominations and Episcopalians from South Sudan.
Elnail was invited by the African Union in Ethiopia to participate in peace talks between the Government of Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in North (SPLM/N) and led an expert team consisting of four advisers.
He said, “As the experts we advised the two parties to consider the suffering nation and that this was the right time for reaching agreement to bring peace to the region and stop the bloodshed.”
“We suggested ways that can help bring in humanitarian aid to the affected people even though the two parties failed to agree and the meeting got adjourned by the chairman. We need prayers for the two parties and all mediators to bring peace to Sudan,” said Elnail.
“It’s saddening to meet hundreds of brilliant youth in the countries I have visited who, despite having finished secondary schools, cannot be admitted into universities due to financial constraints and other effects of war.”
The bishop encouraged the International community to “increase it’s efforts in understanding the complex problems and root causes of wars which have taken more than five decades in Sudan.”
[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the leadership of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. On April 3, heavy rains caused the Mataniko River to breach its banks, resulting in severe flash floods and the destruction of homes and key infrastructure. At least 23 people died and approximately 9,000 are homeless, with more than 5,500 staying in schools and community centers and many more with relatives. Local sources are calling this the “worst disaster in the country’s history,” with nearly 10% of the country’s 550,000 people affected.
The disaster flooded the airport and washed away the bridge connecting it to Honiara, causing operations to be suspended for several days before being partially restored on April 7. Honiara is the country’s sole commercial and business center, so the damage to businesses and ports will further impede the country’s recovery. Water infrastructure around Honiara was badly impacted, leading to concerns about waterborne disease. According to an ACOM report, government authorities and aid agencies are working together to provide relief and address the most immediate needs for repair and reconstruction.
The ACOM Disaster Committee is leading the response effort, with the Diocese of Central Melanesia and the Diocese of Guadalcanal currently conducting surveys of impacted parishes and communities. Three vulnerable communities along the Mataniko River – Koa Valley, Vara Creek and Tuvaruhu – were very badly hit and many people lost their homes. Some buildings, including St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Koa Valley, survived despite being completely flooded and can be rehabilitated. Both dioceses have taken a leading role in emergency supply distribution with assistance from the Mother’s Union, parishes, youth groups and individuals, and ACOM has appealed to church members around Honiara for their support. The Church anticipates the need for trauma counseling and psychosocial care during later stages of the disaster response.
Please continue to pray for those impacted by the flooding in the Solomon Islands, especially the family and friends of those who died or who are still missing, and for our Church partners who are caring for those in need.
[Episcopal Public Policy Network] Across the United States, minimum wage employees labor 40 hours a week yet often cannot make ends meet. Despite a steady income and a full-time job, many of these workers are forced to rely on federal anti-poverty programs to feed their families and to heat their homes. These workers must make difficult decisions such as whether to have an apartment or to have a bed; whether to pay for phone service or to fund an extracurricular activity for their child. It’s been four years since Congress raised the federal minimum wage, and twenty-one years since Congress raised the federal tipped minimum wage. For over two decades, the minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation and the rise of the average worker’s paycheck. Now is the time to change a policy that dramatically affects the lives of low wage workers and their families.
Fortunately, two members of Congress have proposed a policy that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller are working to pass The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, a bill that would index the wage to inflation and raise it in three installed increments. The bill (S. 460/ H.R. 1010) would also raise the tipped wage to $3.00, an amount that would increase over time to ensure that it remains no less than 70% of the minimum wage.
The Episcopal Church supports a living wage (the hourly equivalent of an annual wage at the current federal poverty line for a family of four) as the standard compensation for all U.S. workers. A living wage allows workers and their families to afford basic amenities without having to choose between them, and The Fair Minimum Wage Act brings U.S. workers one step closer to this reality. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that this bill would raise 900,000 people out of poverty.
The Episcopal Church is not alone in its support for The Fair Minimum Wage Act, and the majority of U.S. citizens support raising the minimum wage.
As the Senate is likely to vote on S. 460 this month, now is the time to raise your voice in support of low-wage workers and their families!Urge your Senator to vote for The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 HERE
[Episcopal News Service] Just over a week after the bishop of the newest diocese in the Philippines was consecrated on Nov. 23, 2012, Super Typhoon Bopha hit, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying homes and land. Almost 12 months later, in November 2013, came Super Typhoon Haiyan, killing as many as 10,000 people, making it one of the deadliest storms in the Philippines to date. As the Rt. Rev. Jonathan L. Casimina, bishop, put it, “We began our diocese with a typhoon, and we ended our first year with a typhoon.”
In between those environmentally catastrophic bookends came plenty of struggles for the Diocese of Davao in the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, which today is a year and a half old. While facing the usual start-up challenges of staffing, finances and vision-building, the diocese also had to look outward to its community, and quickly determine what role disaster response would play in its ministry. But it’s those struggles that have helped formed the new diocese, according to the bishop. “Even in crisis, there’s always an opportunity for mission,” said Casimina. “And that’s where our church is actually being defined.”
In March 2014, staff from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia visited the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, where Young Adult Service Corps volunteer Ashley Cameron of Virginia is stationed. “Our goal in making this trip to the Philippines was not only to visit with our YASCer Ashley Cameron, but also to learn how the Episcopal Church in the Philippines approaches its ministries,” said Buck Blanchard, the Diocese of Virginia’s director for mission and outreach. “The staff at the Episcopal Church Center had expressed interest in having more dioceses reach out and get to know the Episcopal Church in the Philippines,” he added. “It’s important for us to make those personal connections with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion to see what unites us.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Davao is located on the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines. When Haiyan – or Yolanda, as it is known locally – hit, it targeted victims a bit further north. As a group that had previous experience responding to natural disaster with Typhoon Bopha, the Diocese of Davao started to mobilize. Within one week, the diocesan youth and the Episcopal Church Women group had hosted a “Dinner for a Cause” to raise funds to support the typhoon victims. High-school students had gone door-to-door to collect more than $2,000 to donate to diocesan relief efforts.
And on the day Typhoon Haiyan struck, the Diocese of Davao released a Letter of Appeal: “As people of faith we are yet again reminded of the powerful symbols of wind and water being both as destructive, as in the case of storms such as this super typhoon, as well as nurturing and life giving, especially in relation to scriptural and sacramental reflection of our liturgical life. Let us not be overwhelmed nor disheartened by all this tragic destruction we see and hear on the news.”
The diocese identified in the tragedy an opportunity for ministry – an opportunity to claim an identity in the face of disaster. Casimina looked at the situation like this: “If we make ministry our priority, God will definitely provide for our needs.” So three weeks after the storm, the diocese organized a team of 30 people – including almost all of the diocesan staff members, some local clergy and a team of medical volunteers from the Diocese of Sebah in Malaysia – to take a disaster response trip to Bantayan Island.
Situated in the Visayan Sea, Bantayan is a small island where almost all of the homes were destroyed. Most of the area was completely flooded, groves of coconut trees destroyed and farms leveled. “People were holding onto anything just to survive,” said Casimina. But media and relief efforts seemed to focus primarily on the area surrounding the city of Tacloban on Leyte Island, where the devastation was severe. So the Diocese of Davao decided to focus its efforts on Bantayan instead. The group distributed relief packs full of food, soap and supplies. The medical team performed minor operations, and provided medicine and supplies.
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines does not have any congregations on Bantayan, where the population is mostly Roman Catholic. But, as Casimina explained, “It feels good to help your neighbor… but it feels better to help a stranger … It is incumbent on our part to really help, regardless of what their religion is. That is one of the strengths of the Episcopal Diocese of Davao.”
During their visit, the Virginia team toured several dioceses in the north to learn about their ministries and development projects, in addition to a trip to the Diocese of Davao in the south. “We specifically went to Davao because it is a brand new diocese that is looking for international friends,” said Blanchard. “We want to make sure that we are open and receptive to those sorts of opportunities to connect with people who are so eager to share their story.”
The Virginia team spent time with national and diocesan staff, learning about rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts. “The Episcopal Church of the Philippines’ approach to typhoon relief is community-based – and by no means limited to Episcopal communities,” said Blanchard. The Diocese of Santiago, for example, is home to a center that produces food to be shipped to the typhoon victims. And in the Diocese of Davao, Blanchard added, “I was impressed at their willingness to be fearless and to simply go where they felt called, without a lot of hand-wringing – and that’s something we can learn from.”
Now, five months after Haiyan struck, the Diocese of Davao continues its efforts on Bantayan island, moving from the development and relief phase of rebuilding structures to the economic rehabilitation phase. “Maybe we cannot provide all their needs, but at least we can do something to help their livelihoods,” said Gideon Bustamante, program coordinator in the Social Ministry Unit for the Diocese of Davao.
On a recent trip back to Bantayan, Bustamante reported that, while many homes had been repaired, as much as 40 percent of the population was living in shelter boxes and tents in some cities. As a large fishing community, many residents’ incomes are suffering as a result of destroyed boats and nets, and the diocese has plans to help rebuild and refurbish those. They continue to distribute food and relief supplies, as well. Bustamante is coordinating with the national church office to discuss future plans for economic rehabilitation. And the group from Malaysia is making plans to return, along with a youth group from Japan.
Typhoons are a constant for the 7,000+ islands that make up the Philippines, and likewise, typhoon response is a top priority for the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, which became an official missionary district of the Episcopal Church in 1901 and later was a diocese of the Episcopal Church. In 1990, it became an independent province of the Anglican Communion, and continues today in a covenant relationship with the Episcopal Church. Following Haiyan, the Episcopal Church issued a statement about its approach to disaster relief: “If there is any bright spot to the catastrophic landscape brought about by the destructive typhoons, it is the immediate response of the Filipino people, even those directly affected, wanting to help fellow Filipinos.”
The church’s response focuses on sustainability and community loan programs – and it’s a churchwide effort. Throughout the process, they’ve found, “Disasters usually bring out the best in communities,” said Floyd Lalwet, provincial secretary for the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. “Our people have become more open to giving to others,” said Lalwet. “There’s an openness to share not only money, but [products] of our own communities.”
A long-standing partner of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, the Church in the Philippines also has found support from the global community in its typhoon relief efforts, including from Episcopal Relief & Development. In the aftermath of Haiyan, the relief organization spearheaded fundraising efforts, in addition to providing rebuilding support. Sean McConnell and Sara Delaney of Episcopal Relief & Development recently returned from a trip to the Philippines. “When it comes to typhoon relief, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines exemplifies the best in asset-based methodology,” McConnell said. Individual communities analyze their resources and then determine how best they can use those assets to benefit others while sustaining themselves.
The Diocese of Davao, through its ministry to typhoon victims, is an example of a church that has grown in its openness to giving. The diocese is proud of its Episcopal identity, and dedicated to nurturing it. “The Episcopal Church is too good not to be shared with others,” said Casimina. That maxim held true in the mountains surrounding Davao city. Following the December 2012 Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Pablo, diocesan representatives traveled to outlying areas to offer relief and rebuilding services. In one area, after receiving aid from the Diocese of Davao, the local residents wanted to join and worship in the Episcopal Church. “They asked us not only to sustain their material needs, but to sustain their spiritual needs, as well,” said Casimina. And so the Chapel of the Transfiguration was created in the Diocese of Davao. By reaching out to help a community, the diocese actually grew and strengthened their church.
That mentality and outward-reaching focus has served the Diocese of Davao well in its inaugural year. They’ve created an ambitious agenda which features HIV/AIDs awareness, evangelism and communications, and environmental advocacy. Most recently, the diocese was awarded a United Thank Offering grant for the construction of a cathedral that also will host a sanctuary center for female and child victims of abuse.
It’s this commitment to community that has made their typhoon relief efforts all the more powerful. The Diocese of Davao’s letter of appeal following Typhoon Haiyan continues: “Let not the howling winds nor crashing waves deter us from listening to the still, small voice of God whispering in our hearts to remember and lift up all the typhoon victims in our prayers and, in the compassionate spirit of Christ, to become his hands in reaching out and bringing comfort and consolation to their suffering and grieving hearts in anyway and manner we can in extending our help to them whether in cash or in kind assisting them towards eventual healing and rebuilding of their shattered lives in further strengthening their fervent hope for a new and better life.”
Today, in the Diocese of Davao and the greater Episcopal Church in the Philippines, that commitment to heal, rebuild and strengthen continues.
Learn about Episcopal Relief & Development’s response to Typhoon Haiyan here.
– Emily Cherry is the communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
[Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina] The Diocese of North Carolina recently gathered to commemorate and be inspired by the legacy of the Rev. Lex Mathews, director of Christian social ministries for the diocese from 1975 until his untimely death in 1985.
On April 5, people from across the Southeast came together at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, to share stories about the man who brought hospice care to North Carolina, inspired dozens of feeding ministries, established a scholarship for women entering the workforce, shepherded the founding of the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, and encouraged the creation of local outreach ministries that have since become the backbone of the diocese’s presence in local communities.
The oral history event, organized by diocesan historiographer the Rev. Brooks Graebner and diocesan archivist Lynn Hoke, included six members of the Mathews family and three bishops. The event was recorded to add to the diocese’s historical record.
The day began with Graebner contextualizing the historical significance of Mathews’ work, which encouraged congregations to engage in local outreach ministries and led to the formation of church-based outreach committees, a fairly novel idea in the 1970s. In opposition to an Episcopal Church initiative to address the social unrest of the 1960s by bypassing dioceses and local churches with national grants made directly to local community organizations, Mathews called on North Carolina’s 1976 annual convention to stop relying on supposed experts to dictate social ministries.
“Good Christian theology tells us that man’s need to love is greater than his need to be loved,” he told the convention. “Now, change that so it reads ‘to help rather than to be helped.’ When we ask the Atlantas, the Washingtons or whatever to be the helper, then we cut the light right out from under the would-be helpers in our own backyards.”
Mathews’ efforts to stem the alienation between the broader Episcopal Church and many of the diocese’s congregations — and between congregations and the work happening in their communities — led him in 1974 to propose a new position. He called his idea “Community Consultant and Instigator for Disoriented Young People,” a characteristically Mathews phrase, Graebner assured attendees. The position evolved into the director of the Committee for Christian Social Ministries, but Mathews’ original vision of “the community address[ing] itself to its own problem utilizing its own resources on a very low budget instead of wringing its hands, cursing young people and waiting on some sort of overnight magic cure in the form of a government grant” remained the defining characteristic of the group’s work.
Scott Evans Hughes, former president of the Episcopal Church Women in North Carolina, recalled a time Mathews encouraged her to address a local problem. In 1979 she was on her way to a meeting at the diocesan office when she drove by a development project and wondered who cared for the animals displaced by the construction.
“I realized I did,” she said.
With Mathews’ encouragement, Hughes educated herself about environmental issues and eventually brought her concerns before the 1982 Triennial Meeting of Episcopal Church Women. According to Hughes, it was one of the first times the Episcopal Church took up the environmental cause.
“Lex encouraged me, supported me and charmed me into doing more than I ever thought I could,” she explained.
Mathews’ active role in encouraging lay people, and especially women, to pursue causes about which they were passionate was a theme that ran throughout the day’s stories.
The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, bishop suffragan of North Carolina, recalled a 1982 meeting she had with the Rt. Rev. Robert Estill, former bishop of North Carolina, while she was still a community organizer working in rural Kentucky. When Fraser enthusiastically described to her the principles of community organizing that Mathews taught him, Hodges-Copple began to think there might be a place for her in the priesthood in North Carolina.
“Lex was a midwife in showing and leading women into their own ministries, especially lay ministries,” she said. “He believed in the capacity of each one of us to embody Jesus in an authentic way.”
Panelists also described the ways Mathews’ contributions continue to motivate change in North Carolina. The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry he helped to found in Dunn provides liturgical ministry, English as a Second Language classes, pesticide education, transportation to medical care and donations of food, clothing, and toiletry kits to 3,500 migrant workers each year. Good Shepherd’s Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen, one of approximately 45 local feeding ministries Mathews inspired, continues to serve hot lunches to 350 people each week day. The Lex Mathews Scholarship for Women has distributed $270,000 in scholarships to women entering college as non-traditional students, and the hospice network in North Carolina owes its existence to Mathews’ dedicated efforts in the late 1970s to recruit the right people to incorporate the program.
Mathews’ wife, Judy Wright Mathews, was thrilled by the outpouring of love and respect for her late husband and was glad to see that his work continues.
“This gives me a chance to see the work done for the marginalized people reinforced,” she said before advocating for the work yet to be done. “I think there’s more things we can do. The trends in the United States now make it more difficult for these marginalized people.”
For Hughes, it is clear that Mathews’ example will continue to inspire outreach ministries in North Carolina.
“When Bishop Curry asked us to ‘go do’ at this year’s convention, that was Lex.”
– Summerlee Walter is the communications coordinator for the Diocese of North Carolina.
[Berkeley Divinity School press release] Andrew McGowan has been appointed President and Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School and Associate Dean for Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School. McGowan is currently Warden of Trinity College at The University of Melbourne, and will join the Berkeley administration on August 1, 2014.
An Anglican priest and historian, McGowan studied Classics and Ancient History at the University of Western Australia, Theology at Trinity College, the University of Melbourne, and Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his Ph.D. He was a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia, and was Associate Professor of Early Christian History at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. In 2003 he became Director of Trinity College Theological School, where he is also Joan Munro Professor of Historical Theology. He has been Warden of Trinity since 2007, and is currently a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne.
“I am thrilled that Andrew will be joining us. He is a talented scholar, a capable and experienced administrator, and a dedicated priest,” said YDS Dean Gregory E. Sterling. “He and his wife Felicity will enrich our community and help to build bridges to the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Communion worldwide.”
McGowan’s scholarly work focuses on the social and intellectual life of early Christian communities. His most recent books include Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999) and God in Early Christian Thought (Leiden: Brill, 2009), as well as the forthcoming Ancient Christian Worship (Baker Academic, 2014).
Berkeley trustee Stephen Carlsen, who chaired the search committee, stated, “Andrew brings together first class scholarship, practice and service in the global setting of the Anglican Communion. In our interviews we found a personable, articulate leader to advance the vision of Berkeley Divinity School.”
The search committee began its work in September 2013 led by Carlsen, with close support of Dean Sterling. A draft vision statement of the BDS Board of Trustees, which prioritizes vibrant community, ecumenical learning, and innovative models for ministry, guided the committee.
David R. Wilson, the incoming chair of the Berkeley Board of Trustees, explained, “Andrew is a visionary with the skills and drive to take the vision of Berkeley Divinity School, refine it, and then turn it into action that can be transformative within Berkeley, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.”
McGowan will join the divinity school at a time of great challenge and opportunity for the global church, and theological institutions are called upon as leaders in navigating these changes.
“McGowan recognizes that the integration of Berkeley with YDS and Yale makes this place a remarkable resource for the institutional Church as it faces major change,” commented Carolyn Sharp, Professor of Hebrew Scriptures.
McGowan succeeds outgoing dean Joseph H. Britton, who served 11 years in that capacity.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Rev. Freda Marie Brown has been named as the new executive director of St. Vincent’s House, a social service agency of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Galveston. She begins her new work on May 1, 2014. SVH current director, Michael Jackson, has served in the position since 1999 and will retire June 15.
“We are more than fortunate to find someone who can so readily and faithfully build upon the legacy of hope that Michael Jackson and Alfreda Houston, who previously led the agency, have given to the people on Galveston Island,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher, board chair.
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Brown grew up during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. “This gave me a unique experience of the under-served and working poor and an abiding appreciation for their resilience,” Brown said.
Brown received a BS in medical technology from Xavier University in New Orleans and worked for more than two decades at St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas where she also served as chair of the St. Paul’s Credit Union. She earned a master’s of theological studies at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and embarked on a clinical residency program, training as a hospital chaplain. She served as a palliative care chaplain in hospice and hospital settings for seven years, prior to entering the ordination process in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. Brown attended Seminary of the Southwest and was ordained in 2010, serving at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in Lewisville, Texas until her appointment to St. Vincent’s House.
“The ongoing ministry of this place is phenomenal,” Brown said. “Here, we learn that hope is an action. As my predecessor, Michael Jackson, would say, ‘St. Vincent’s hopes (not helps) its friends on Galveston Island into new life.’ To me, HOPE means never giving up and never giving in. I am honored to walk with the ones who are under-served and usually ignored.”
“St. Vincent’s House has fostered health and education for all of God’s children who have come needing hope and a caring hand,” Bishop Fisher said, adding the new appointment promises “renewed hope” and “a new day dawning” for St. Vincent’s and the under-served population of Galveston.
SVH offers low-cost child care and pre-school programs, a free clinic, emergency assistance and referrals, a food pantry and many other community outreach programs for the working poor of Galveston.
[Lambeth Palace press release] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his wife, Caroline, landed in Toronto last night for the start of a four-day visit to Anglican leaders in Canada and the USA.
The visits, which are primarily personal and pastoral, are part of Archbishop Justin’s plan to visit every Primate of the Anglican Communion by the end of 2014.
In Canada, the Archbishop and Mrs Welby are being hosted by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and his wife, Mrs Lynne Samways-Hiltz. During the visit, Archbishop Justin will meet with Archbishop Hiltz for private conversation and fellowship, and also meet senior staff at Anglican Church of Canada’s National Office.
Archbishop Justin will also meet ecumenical leaders following Ecumenical Vespers at St James Cathedral, Toronto.
On Wednesday, the Archbishop and Mrs Welby fly to Oklahoma City where Archbishop Justin will meet with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori.
While in Oklahoma City, Archbishop Justin will participate in a conference organised by the Diocese of Oklahoma, Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal National Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence.
The Archbishop will address the conference on Thursday, after which he will have lunch with Bishops of the Episcopal Church attending the conference. Archbishop Justin will also pay a brief visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
[Lambeth Palace press release] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has welcomed the publication today of the report and draft Bill by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Modern Slavery.
Archbishop Justin said: “I strongly welcome the report and draft Bill published today by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Modern Slavery, which has cross-party support. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Committee’s members for their efforts, and I would like to extend particular thanks to my colleague Alastair Redfern, the Bishop of Derby, for his participation in the Committee’s work.
“I very much hope that the Home Office, as it prepares to publish its own Bill on Modern Slavery, will take the Committee’s recommendations extremely seriously. These include putting the rights of victims at the heart of the Bill; including effective provisions to recognise the increased vulnerability of children; and a clause that would encourage quoted companies to do more to ensure that their supply chains are free from slave labour. The Home Office has been a leader in the field of tackling modern slavery, and the determination of their approach is notable.
“I also hope that the Government will bring forward a Bill as quickly as possible to ensure there is sufficient time to get it through Parliament. I, along with many others, will be closely following the Bill’s passage, and I look forward to contributing to its scrutiny in the House of Lords.
“This pioneering bill sets a high standard for Governments around the world, who will be watching to see how our Government handles the issue of modern slavery. It is vital that it seizes this opportunity to continue to set a gold standard that others can follow. The launch of the Global Freedom Network last month showed that people of faith are determined to contribute to combating modern slavery and human trafficking. It is vital that we all work together to tackle this modern day evil so that all people live in freedom and dignity.”
Read the report on the UK Parliament website
Women’s Empowerment: A Gospel issue
The priority theme for the 2014 session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW58) was “Challenges and Achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls”.
We are at a historic point in global development and understanding as we review the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), move toward the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 (Beijing+20), and negotiate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030. Despite hard-won gains, women currently account for about two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty. One in three women experience violence in their lifetime. Gender equality and women’s rights are the essential precursors to meeting global challenges, which have disproportionate and burdensome impacts on women and girls. These include:
- poverty and hunger
- access to healthcare, especially neonatal and post natal care and non-communicable diseases
- climate change and environmental degradation
- the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence
- the need for universal birth registration.
Achieving gender equality requires equal access by women and girls to education, employment and income generating activities, health care, land and resources, as well as equal contribution to decision-making and peace-building processes and post-disaster responses. Long hours were spent negotiating the language of the agreement and focusing on the importance of a stand-alone goal for women and girls’ equality. Without equality none of the MDGs or proposed SDGs will be accomplished.
The Anglican Communion delegation therefore is truly pleased that the Agreement reached by the UN Commission on the Status of Women confirmed the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the set of international targets. The Agreement also stated that gender equality must underpin all other goals and includes strong language against violence against women and girls. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, said the Commission’s agreement to call for a stand-alone goal on gender equality represented “a milestone toward a transformative global development agenda that puts the empowerment of women and girls at its centre”.
Cross-sector partnerships can speed up the pace of change. Faith-based organisations are increasingly perceived as key partners. The churches of the Anglican Communion have a vital part to play in exemplifying the transformation we long to see by transfiguring our communities and ending suffering. The gospel passage chosen by Anglicans leading morning worship in the UN Church Centre was from Luke 1 – Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and her great song of praise, empowerment and hope. Just as that was a time of enlightenment, so we trust that this Commission will lead to greater global understanding of women’s inequality and preparedness to speak out and for gender equity.
We thank the leadership of the Anglican Communion for the opportunity to join with 6000 women from around the globe and spend two weeks focused on the Status of Women. We are particularly grateful for the opportunity to meet and share with our Anglican sisters, as well as sisters from other Christian traditions, and other faiths. Uniting with women from very diverse contexts was an extraordinary learning experience that we will each take back to our communities.
We are sincerely grateful to Rachel Chardon for the support and assistance provided by the Anglican Communion Office at the UN; Beth Adamson whose generous facilitation ensured that we engaged fully with CSW and its opportunities for advocacy and learning; the staff of the Episcopal Church Center; the women of The Episcopal Church for their generous hospitality and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the her warm welcome.
We return to our communities with new vision and renewed passion. When God is with us, “there is nothing we can’t do to heal, to save, to advocate, to transform.”(Deborah Rosenbloom, Jewish Women International).
Sarah Jane Bachelard, Anglican Church of Australia
Sandra Andrade, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
Florence Sarkar, Church of Bangladesh
Caitlin Reilley Beck, Anglican Church of Canada
Faith Gandiya, Church of the Province of Central Africa
Mugisa Isingoma, Province de L’Eglise Anglicane du Congo
Rachel Aston, Church of England
Terese Wong, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
Marie Pierrette Bezara, The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
Keiko Murai, Akane Shinoda, Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japan)
Esther Lee, Anglican Church of Korea
Kaufo’ou Leveni, Ana Maria Lamositele, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia
Ayra Indiryas, Church of Pakistan
Immaculée Nyiransengimana, Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda
Elaine Cameron, Scottish Episcopal Church
Granny Seape, Louisa Mojela, Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Lucille Pilling, The Episcopal Church
[Church Mission Society press release] The Church Mission Society (CMS) has this week announced the appointment of Debbie James to the new position of director of church and community mission. Debbie will take the lead in sharing CMS’s mission experience with churches in the UK, as well as encouraging members of the CMS mission community.
Debbie says “CMS’s 215 years of mission experience is a great resource for the church in Britain today. We are committed to building relationships with churches, small missional communities and houses of mission, and to bringing our distinct contribution in pioneering, cross-cultural mission that is shaped by a global perspective.”
“We want to connect, fuel and resource people to live out a transforming faith in their communities and churches.”
Debbie, formerly a teacher in Moscow and the UK, joined CMS in 2001 as Encounter Teams coordinator, developing short-term mission team experiences and leading visits in Africa, Asia and Europe. Most recently she has been discipleship team leader, continuing to supervise short term teams as well as teaching on cross-cultural mission and developing discipleship materials such as CMS’s new course ‘The Possible World‘. Debbie has long been involved in pioneering youth work and is an active member of her local parish church, including ‘Messy Church’ on an estate.
‘The Possible World’ course is a mission-shaped discipleship resource for church small groups. It encourages mature Christian engagement with issues such as the environment, materialism and justice. Complete with DVD and comprehensive Bible notes, the seven-week course creatively demonstrates how a different world is possible through the stories of some ordinary people doing amazing things inspired by the life of Christ.
Debbie joins other recent appointments Jim Barker, who last week took up his post as director of fundraising for mission, and Jonny Baker, who began his new role as director of mission education in January.
Jim, formerly responsible for donor recruitment at Oxfam and direct marketing manager for Friends of the Earth, was one of the original trainees at Oxford Youth Works. For the last 10 years he has worked in organisational planning and development with Levelheaded and as a self-employed, independent consultant.
Philip Mounstephen, Executive Leader of CMS, said of these new appointments, “We’re delighted to be able to add such talent to our Senior Management Team. We are looking forward to them bringing new perspectives and ideas as CMS continues to develop high quality resources to equip the church for mission, as well as to grow and fuel our dispersed community as they share the love of Christ wherever they are in the world.”
Debbie, Jim and Jonny join existing directors Henry Scriven, Paul Thaxter and Adrian White, who together with Philip Mounstephen, make up CMS’s senior management team