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2014 matching gift challenge exceeds $750,000 anniversary goal

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] A generous pledge from a group of committed donors in honor of Episcopal Relief & Development’s 75th Anniversary generated tremendous response during the agency’s annual Matching Gift Challenge. The $750,000 matching amount attracted an astounding $1,013,513 in donations, as Episcopal Relief & Development supporters sought to make their gift go twice as far toward healing a hurting world.

“What an incredible outpouring of support in celebration of our 75th Anniversary, and a wonderful way to invest in our thriving future,” said Joy Shigaki, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Director of Advancement. “This was the largest match amount in the history of the Matching Gift Challenge, and I am continually amazed and inspired by the generosity of our friends and supporters.”

Donations to all funds – including Gifts for Life purchases – were eligible for matching, with the $750,000 match applying to the 75th Anniversary Fund. The overall fundraising goal of the 75-week celebration is to secure $7.5 million to support programs that touch the lives of more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries. To date, over $5.5 million has been raised, amounting to 74% of the total goal.

Partnering with local Church bodies and affiliated agencies in nearly 40 countries, Episcopal Relief & Development energizes and expands community-based programs that address poverty, hunger and disease. Donations to the 75th Anniversary Fund enable the organization to respond to urgent needs and continue these vital programs across the globe.

For 75 years, Episcopal Relief & Development’s diverse, faithful community has responded compassionately to human suffering worldwide. In partnership with Episcopalians and friends, it has grown from its founding in 1940 as a granting agency into a respected international development organization.

Celebrating this legacy and looking toward a thriving future, supporters are invited to join the 75th Anniversary Celebration by:
•    subscribing to 75 stories over 75 weeks and sharing personal reflections
•    making a special 75th Anniversary contribution or starting a grassroots campaign in dioceses, congregations or schools
•    visiting the traveling photo exhibit online
•    exploring the organization’s rich history and life-saving work worldwide
•    engaging on critical issues through online communities

Helpful information, compelling stories and free campaign resources are available at www.episcopalrelief.org/75.

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

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.   

Episcopal missionaries nurture global partnerships, deepen Communion

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] As The Episcopal Church prepares to observe World Mission Sunday on February 15, the following article looks at some of the treasures of its missionary program. The purpose of World Mission Sunday is to focus on the global impact of the Baptismal Covenant’s call to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305), and to raise awareness of the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world. The recently released Report to the Church details the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in coordinating and supporting Episcopal Church missionaries serving throughout the world.

Natalie Finstad, an Episcopal Church missionary who served in Kenya, helps to plant seedlings at a young adult leadership event with one of Tatua Kenya’s partner organizations, the Nyumba ya Tumaini Children’s Home in Nairobi. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Several years of serving as an Episcopal Church missionary taught Natalie Finstad that healing and change only really happen in the context of community and that “we cannot begin to recognize who we are in God without the presence of community.”

Relationships with one another “invite us into a deeper understanding of who we are,” she told ENS shortly after she’d returned to the U.S. after four years living in Kenya, where she established the Tatua Kenya program to develop leaders and community organizers in East Africa to become agents of change.

And for Finstad, 30, being a missionary is all about deepening partnerships, “being in right relationships … building up the Kingdom of God.”

Finstad is one of thousands of Episcopal missionaries who over several decades have chosen to embrace a life-changing experience of walking alongside a community often far removed – both geographically and culturally – from their own.

Although she has left Kenya, her missionary work lives on through Tatua Kenya, which is now managed locally by community leaders who are committed to a sustainable future.

Crossing cultural boundaries, building partnerships, and engaging God’s mission locally and globally are at the very heart of The Episcopal Church’s missionary program, which “offers individuals an opportunity to be agents of Jesus in the world. Then through our telling of the stories, it offers other people an opportunity to see how they can be engaged,” Finstad said.

“We need opportunities to get involved. The program opened avenues for me to tell the story … and to build beautiful relationships,” she added. “I can’t even say who I am without this experience in Kenya. I could not even begin to separate myself from what I’ve learned there. The rest of my life will be a display of gratitude for that experience – I am confident of that.”

The Rev. David Copley, mission personnel officer for The Episcopal Church, says it is difficult “to quantify the success of our missionaries because the basic premise is always to strengthen relationships with our partners.” But, he added, some of the greatest success stories can be found “in the programs that continue when the missionary presence ends.”

Episcopal Church missionary Natalie Finstad attends the launch of a campaign to get kids back to school in Kenya. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Through Tatua Kenya, for example, Finstad seized the opportunity to build effective and sustainable solutions to poverty in Kenya by developing local leadership and encouraging community participation, rather than simply turning to overseas sources of funding. The project now offers a two-year fellowship for local leaders to learn community organizing skills and use those skills to launch locally run initiatives that improve livelihoods and reduce dependency within their communities.

“We rarely see missionaries as being in a long-term placement for their whole career,” Copley said, acknowledging the importance of programs that empower the local community. “This can be seen also with the ministry of the Rev. Zach Drennen, who began with a program to have scholarships for high school students in Kenya with funding mostly from the U.S. His program now receives 50 percent of its funds from local sources and he is looking to hire a new local director for the program and to transition out of his role there.”

The Episcopal Church’s missionary program, which is administered by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, currently sponsors and supports 47 adult missionaries who serve in various roles, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, computer technicians, administrators, theologians, and communicators.

Missionaries are lay and ordained, young and old, and serve as “representatives of our community who cross cultural boundaries to participate in the mission of God that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Anglican Communion feel called to respond to,” says Copley.

Over the past two years, the church’s Young Adult Service Corps program has taken on a new lease of life, with 45 missionaries aged 21-30 serving in a broad diversity of roles and contexts.

The 2013-2015 budget passed by General Convention allotted $1 million to make “a missionary experience available to all Episcopal young people through such programs as the Young Adult Service Corps program for a gap year experience between high school and college or work.”

That allocation is part of the way in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is responding to the third Mark of Mission, which calls on members of the Anglican Communion to respond to human need in loving service.

The recently released Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium, including the Mark Three work on pages 44-55.

Convention structured the current triennial budget around the Communion’s Five Marks of Mission and provided significant unallocated sums for new work targeted around each Mark of Mission. The intention was that the resulting work would be done in new, collaborative partnerships with dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal organizations. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has provided seed money and/or matching grants as well as staff support and expertise for the new work.

The 2013 group of 28 missionaries was the largest number of YASC volunteers ever, including three returnees and two representing the church’s Province IX (dioceses in the Caribbean, Central and South America) for the first time in the program.

For the upcoming year, a record-breaking 42 young adults representing 25 dioceses, one quarter of whom are people of color, have filed applications to serve in the program.

Will Bryant, Young Adult Service Corps missionary from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, poses for a photo with a seafarer and friend during his year in service with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong.

“When I first signed up to do YASC, I had no idea how much it would change my life,” said Will Bryant from the Diocese of Western North Carolina, who spent his first year as a YASC missionary working with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong, and is currently serving a second year at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Centre in Rome.

“In my two years with the program I have grown spiritually and mentally in ways that I would have never imagined,” he told ENS.

Bryant said that his experiences with the YASC program have helped him to realize that “whether you are an Afghani refugee, a Filipino seafarer or an American missionary, we are all seeking the same thing: a safe, comfortable place to call home, employment to provide for our families and community, and a deeper connection with our creator. … Now, after living in two completely different countries and continents, I can safely say that I have become more confident in my faith and in my abilities as a human being. I don’t exactly know what the future holds after my time in YASC, but I do know that whatever that may be, I will be well-prepared because of the lessons I have learned as a missionary.”

Through the missionary program, several relationships with other Anglican provinces have continued to deepen and flourish.

The partnership between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, for example, goes back several decades. Long-term adult missionary Jenny McConnachie has devoted her life to the poorest of the poor. She and her late husband Chris moved from North Carolina to South Africa’s Eastern Cape in the early 1980s. Together, they set up African Medical Mission, strengthening the most vulnerable communities through their commitment and compassionate service.

Over the past decade that partnership has seen several YASCers heading to South Africa to serve in educational, healthcare, community development and administrative roles.

Copley received a letter from Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba saying how much the YASC program benefits the Anglican Church of Southern Africa “and how he sees the young adults growing in their ministry, highlighting the mutuality of mission.”

Makgoba, speaking with Episcopal News Service, said that the young adult missionaries are “all characterized by one key value: they are selfless in their giving of their energy and expertise. They show the critical value of Ubuntu,” a Zulu/Xhosa word that describes human identity as being formed through community and encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

“My prayer is that this partnership should grow from strength to strength,” Makgoba added. “I hope that those who come to South Africa are so touched by South Africa that they take a part of our humanity. This is an invaluable program as part and parcel of our mission and ministry in Southern Africa. As Christians we need to strive to be anchored in the love of Christ and committed to His mission and ministry and transform societies so that they reflect the love of Christ and they too can be empowered to make Christ known in their own contexts.”

Copley said that the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, which began receiving YASCers in 2012, has also acknowledged the benefits of their presence and has expressed its commitment to continuing the partnership.

Carlin van Schaik of the Diocese of Northwest Texas is currently in her second year in YASC serving with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. Her 2013-14 YASC year was spent in Seoul with the Anglican Church’s Towards Peace in Korea program, which focuses on humanitarian aid and peace education.

Episcopal Church missionary Natalie Finstad sits and talks with some boys who live at the Nyumba ya Tumaini Children’s Home, one of Tatua Kenya’s partner organizations, in Nairobi. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Speaking with ENS just a few months after arriving in South Korea, van Schaik said that the experience had already “widened her world view. I had no idea how American I was until I arrived. I listen a lot more than I used to, and I have a much better sense of the interconnectedness of people. … That’s made a really big difference on how I view the world and consider my own actions now. I want to be able to live much more globally and much less locally than I have before.”

The YASC program is “a chance for you to learn more about yourself, do good work, meet new people, and you don’t have to pay your student loans for a year,” she added. “You keep changing your whole life so the YASC program is a good place to start practicing that. It’s been really educational.”

Copley highlighted a new initiative currently being offered by the mission personnel office to support shorter-term missionaries who can provide specific skills.

For instance, Jim and Mary Higbee and Sue Dauer visited Kenya for just one month in 2014 to provide hands-on teacher training which they will continue to follow up with in the coming years.

Copley’s office also continues to work with Episcopal Church dioceses to strengthen their companion relationships and to support medium-term mission placements of older adults as well as for YASCers.

“I see mission service as providing technical expertise to empower others and also an avenue to strengthen companion relationships through the ministry of presence,” he said.

Jenny Korwan, who served as a YASC missionary from 2012-13 working with Finstad at Tatua Kenya, says she will always consider herself an Episcopal Church missionary. “Society and culture tell you what missionary is, but the mission of the church is really based on relationship and sharing the love of Christ and the love of God through what we do and how we act. Uniting churches and uniting the faith community across cultures is a huge part of what being a missionary is all about.”

For Finstad, who is currently in the discernment process in the Diocese of Massachusetts, her personal faith has always motivated her work, which she said is primarily about building relationships and working towards reconciliation.

But her ministry in Kenya has changed the way she views mission.

“I used to think of mission as something we do or accomplish, but now I am much more concerned with mission being about healing” and relationships.

“It is not our responsibility to heal the world – that is the work of God,” she added. “However, it is our mandate to honor God’s presence in all of creation and to cultivate a mature understanding of what it means to be a child of God. We must invite all our brothers and sisters to join us … in envisioning how we could work towards the Kingdom of God together.”

For further information about the missionary program, contact the Rev. David Copley, director for mission personnel, at dcopley@episcopalchurch.org. For further information about the YASC program, contact Elizabeth Boe, officer for global networking, at eboe@episcopalchurch.org.

ENS video stories highlighting the ministry of YASC missionaries are available below.

One young adult…and a Roman refugee center

One young adult…and a South African clinic

One young adult…and a provincial archives

One young adult…and a mission for migrant workers

One young adult…and a mission to seafarers

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Georgia activists ask for end to executions of intellectually disabled

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Death penalty opponents this week asked lawmakers to bring Georgia into line with all other states for how the state determines whether death row inmates are intellectually disabled.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities Georgia was first to establish new rules. But, Georgia is now the only state to require the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, meaning that there be no doubt that an inmate is intellectually disabled. Of the states still executing prisoners, 24 require a preponderance of evidence and four use the clear and convincing standard, both less stringent levels of proof.

The Rev. Joseph Shippen of Christ Church, Macon, who is also a death row chaplain, represents Bishop Robert C. Wright at a press conference following meetings with legislators. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

The Rev. Joseph Shippen of Christ Church, Macon, who represented Bishop Robert C. Wright at a press conference following the meetings with legislators, said that The Episcopal Church has since 1954 been on record opposing the death penalty.

“We cannot stand by and support our State treating human beings, God’s beloved children, as disposable objects,” Shippen said. Of particular concern, he said, is the increasing pace of executions.

“In 2015 alone, two men have already been executed, and as I speak Kelly Gissendaner is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 25,” he said.

Gissendaner, convicted in 1998 of having her boyfriend kill her husband, would be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945 when Lena Baker was electrocuted for killing her employer. Baker received a full pardon in 2005, when the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles agreed with her family’s argument that Baker acted in self-defense and should have been charged with manslaughter.

The first man put to death in 2015, Andrew Brannon, was a decorated Vietnam veteran who committed his crime as a result of his PTSD that he acquired in wartime, Shippen said. “What does it say about the way we treat veterans in our state when we execute those who struggle with the disabilities acquired as a result of heroic service on our behalf?”

The second man put to death in Georgia this year, Warren Hill, had an IQ of 70. “He was clearly intellectually disabled, and that should have disqualified him from the death penalty,” Shippen said. “He was unable to prove his intellectual disability, though, because Georgia is alone in our country in requiring that a condemned person must prove his intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard that is almost impossible to meet.”

Sara Totonchi, who heads the Southern Center for Human Rights, told an audience of about 30 gathered in the Capitol Rotunda,that despite the quickening pace of executions in Georgia there is reason for hope that the death penalty is nearing an end in the United States.

“Twenty years ago, the notion that the United States might abandon capital punishment was inconceivable,” Totonchi said. “In the past 10 years, however, we have witnessed a seismic shift in the opposite direction” with six states abandoning executing prisoners in the past six year.

She said that despite Georgia’s “thirst for vengeance and our politicians’ tough-on-crime mantras, the tide is turning here as well.” Last year, Totonchi said, there were 35 executions in just seven states, the fewest number is 20 years.

Shippen and Totonchi were joined at the press conference by representatives of the anti-death penalty group Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty GFADP), the Georgia Council for Developmental Disabilities and longtime death penalty opponent Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta.

GFADP Chair Kathryn Hamoudah said, “Georgia’s legal system is once more bringing shame and embarrassment to our state by failing to protect those who are most vulnerable.

“We continue to set the bar for the most inhumane and unjust practices,” Hamoudah said. “Without intervention by the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia will undoubtedly continue to execute people with intellectual disabilities.”

Currently, no bills have been filed addressing the level of proof for establishing intellectual disability for death row inmates.

An article on the lobby day by death-penalty opponents appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of the Athens Banner-Herald

– Don Plummer is communications coordinator for community and media relations for the Diocese of Atlanta.

Pennsylvania Episcopal bishops urge passage of non-discrimination bill

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Pennsylvania Episcopal dioceses press release] Bishops of the five Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Feb. 11 called on the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and other public accommodations.

The text of the letter follows.

“As bishops of the Episcopal Church and citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we urge the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act (HB/SB 300).

“The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as hotel lodgings or restaurant service. It would also preserve existing protections that insure faith communities have sole discretion in determining whom to hire and whom to include in their religious rituals.

“Our support for the Non-Discrimination Act is rooted in our faith. Sacred scripture teaches us that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore must be treated with dignity and respect.  As Christians, we follow a savior who spent much of his earthly ministry among the cast off and the cast out, and we are called to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalized. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and he listed no exceptions.

“Were we not Christians, however, we would still support the Non-Discrimination Act. One does not have to profess a particular faith to understand that there is no justifiable reason to fire, evict or deny services to a citizen of our commonwealth based on considerations such as sex, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. It is simply unfair.

“The Episcopal Church has struggled faithfully for more than three decades to reform its own discriminatory policies and practices toward LGBT people. In that struggle we have come to understand what was already obvious to some of our fellow citizens all along: that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are gifts to our families, our friends and our communities. We are richer for their presence, and it is past time for us to acknowledge that we share a common humanity and therefore must be equal in the eyes of the law.”

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III, Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Robert R. Gepert, Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Episcopal Church proposed budget available for review

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The proposed budget for The Episcopal Church in the 2016-2018 triennium is available for viewing here.

The document was approved by The Episcopal Church Executive Council at its January meeting.

The proposed budget is now submitted to the General Convention through the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance, which will meet to consider the proposed budget February 23 – 25.  That committee will conduct hearings at General Convention and present a Budget to a joint meeting of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies on July 1.

The Episcopal Church 78th General Convention will be held June 25 – July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Episcopal Diocese of Utah).

Prior to its January meeting, Executive Council received input on the proposed budget from a wide range of church members and leaders, including Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards; Executive Council committees; members of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance; the officers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society; bishops and deputies; and the church at large.

“The Finances for Mission Committee is very grateful to the many people who have given us input and feedback to help us develop this proposed budget for the coming triennium,” noted Executive Council member the Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Diocese of Arizona, and chair of Executive Council’s budget committee. “We are especially grateful to the members of Program, Budget, and Finance for their presence and input with us throughout this budget development process. We believe that this proposal represents a balanced and visionary way to carry the church into the next few years, which we pray will be a time of transition and growth for the church.”

Proposed budget details
Of significance in the proposed budget:
•    The proposed budget lowers the diocesan assessment from 19% in the current triennium to 18% in 2016, 16.5% in 2017, and 15% in 2018. It also increases the exemption for each diocese from $120,000 to $175,000 per year.
•    The proposed budget includes grant money for the important Marks of Mission initiatives:
–    In Mark 1, it raises the amount of money available for grants for church planting and new initiatives from $2 million to $3 million.
–    In Mark 2, the program of Province IX Sustainability that was begun in the 2013-15 trienniums continues; the amount of Campus Ministry Grants increases to $400,000; youth and young adult ministries, including the Episcopal Youth Event, receive full funding; and $100,000 is provided for the ministry of Forma.
–    In Mark 3, funding continues for the Young Adult Service Corps, and funding is provided for matching grants for diocesan and parish World Mission work, meeting the 0.7% spending target for the Millennium Development Goals.
–    In Mark 4, it provides funding for Domestic Poverty and Jubilee ministries
–    In Mark 5, it provides $500,000 in grants for environmental initiatives.
•    In the area of Supporting Mission through Local Efforts in The Episcopal Church, it provides $1.5 million of funding for long-term development grants for domestic dioceses, and $400,000 of grants for higher education, particularly in Historically Black Episcopal Colleges and Universities
•    Funding for the Anglican Communion is restored to earlier levels, at $1.2 million for the triennium. Funding of $300,000 is also provided to help Anglican Communion covenant partners with long-term sustainability.

Archbishop’s address to Synod: Share Jesus with ‘joy and delight’

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Lambeth Palace] In his presidential address to the General Synod on Feb. 10, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged the Church of England to approach evangelism and witness with “joy and delight.”

Listen to the address here

Read the full text:

Joy and delight in the love of God is at the heart of Christian witness, but the experience of many of us – I dare say most of us – is that, instead of joy and delight, evangelism and witness bring nervousness, uncertainty and guilt.

The strategic response to this is clearly for a long-term, iterative and interactive, metric-based, evidence generated development of competencies across the widest possible range of stakeholders in order to achieve maximum acceleration of disciple input with the highest possible return on effort and capital employed. [Laughter].

That last paragraph is, of course, complete rubbish. To be honest, I just put it in in order to reassure you, as it is well known that I am in fact a businessman who put on the wrong clothes this morning. [Laughter].

Back to the subject. Witness and evangelism are expressions of the overflow of the love and joy of the grace of God into our lives, and the life of His whole church and His whole world. They are inescapably tied up with the kingdom of God, with lives lived incarnationally full of the hospitality and generosity of Christ. They are as much a part of the life of the church as worship, as the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, commented to me about a year ago, and should be about as guilt-inducing as breathing.

Evangelism and witness are not strategies, let alone strategies for church survival. A church that looks for strategies to survive has lost the plot. We need strategies so that we may be more clearly those who are able to take up our cross and follow Christ, as we heard earlier from the Archbishop [of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil, Iraq], willing to die for Him so that all may live through Him.

As Paul says when speaking to the church in Corinth, the most dysfunctional of the churches he planted: “for the love of Christ urges us on …” (2 Corinthians 5:14) or, in the King James version, “the love of Christ constrains me”.

Yet when we look back at the Church of England, we do not see in general an overwhelming sense everywhere – I’m being quite tentative here – that the love of Christ urges us on in evangelism and witness, although it clearly does in many places and throughout the church in many other areas of  ministry. This is nothing new. If we go back to the Bishop of Rochester’s report in 1944, set up by Archbishop Temple, ‘Towards the Conversion of England’, we find there a constant theme that unless the whole church, lay and ordained, become in a new sense witnesses, then there can be no progress in spreading the good news of Jesus.

People have today, and in other places and other times over the last few months, rightly expressed concern and comment about task groups, and certain task groups. Listening today, it’s something on which we clearly need to reflect further. But task groups are not the end: they are a means to the end. The subjects they’re looking at are absolutely essential and are crucial to our future, and we owe those who work on them much thanks as well as many comments. No doubt the output of the task groups will change as time goes by. That is among the proper and right roles of a Synod: to ask questions, to push and review, to look afresh and to ensure we’re thinking carefully through the implications of what is being done. And, Synod, you don’t hesitate to do that, in my limited experience.

But they are means to an end. Training, issues of management, the allocation of resources: however good they are – and they must be very good – are not the final aim of the church. We are finally called to be those who worship and adore God in Christ, overflowing with the good news that we’ve received, making Christ known to all so that the good news is proclaimed effectively throughout the church.

And it is good news. It is the most compelling of announcements. It comes as a gift to us, not of our own creation. It is news because it tells us of what we do not already know. We have not deduced it ourselves or worked it out by our own power of reason: the good news is the power of God.

And what a power! We know through Christ that God Himself is turned towards His world: He has chosen to be for and with us. That is the message which urges us on. We are not rejected, but accepted; we are not condemned but saved; we are not lost, but found; we are not dead, but alive – all because of the work of  Jesus Christ.

In our good news we speak of Him who really does not sweep our human needs, concerns, cares, desires and problems under the carpet, but takes them up and makes them His own.

And if we allow ourselves to be gripped by this gospel, this good news of Jesus Christ, it will overwhelm us, for it seems too good to be true. As Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium: “the Gospel constantly invites us to rejoice”.

More than that, evangelism and witness are of the very nature of God who goes out and sows in order that the good news may, in some cases, bring out a harvest of righteousness and joy and hope, transforming the world in which we live, transforming the sorrow and brokenness of which we have heard this afternoon, and bringing hope and renewal.

For these reasons, because the good news is of the nature of God who is for us and with us, the good news of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world – the hope, and yet too often we forget that. About a year ago, I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with my wife. We went to an IDP camp, and saw scenes of the utmost suffering and terrible deprivation, extreme even by the standard of such places. A Christian NGO, with UK government funding, linked to Tearfund, was doing extraordinary work. Towards the end of the visit a crowd had gathered, and the local bishop said: “Say something to encourage them”. I could think of nothing, and playing for time, with immense lack of faith, said, in French (it was a French-speaking area): “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”. I was drawing breath for some banal statements about actions I could take to support them, pompously and ignorantly, when, as it was translated into real French [laughter], they began to cheer. They knew Jesus Christ was the same yesterday, today and forever, and being reminded of it brought hope and light. I felt deeply, deeply ashamed of my lack of confidence in the gospel. The gospel is good news for all people at all times everywhere.

We share the good news with humility, even shame at times at our own failure to be those whose lives or whose church or whose history reveals the good news as it truly is. We must share the good news without manipulation, technique that is intended to be other than they really are, or any other unethical or underhand method. We must bring the good news with hospitality, and without a trace of coercion, with love and grace making a defence for the hope that is within us. But we must bear witness and bring the good news of Jesus Christ.

The sharing is by action, by word, by campaign, by culture, by attitude. To defend those attacked by anti-Semitism, to share food in a food bank, to support a credit union because of the solidarity with which the Holy Spirit calls us to be with those on the edge; all this is one side of a coin, the other side of which is to proclaim, announce and declare the good news.

And wwe share the good news together; it is the calling of the whole church. The bishop of Worcester, Bishop John Inge, wrote to me recently, and I’ll quote at length from what he wrote. He said:

“Evangelism is, of course, about making new disciples, introducing people to a living and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. However, it must be about a great deal more than this, since God’s mission is much bigger than making individual disciples. It is to reconcile the whole creation to himself in Christ and, in so doing, inaugurate his Kingdom. When that mission is accomplished every knee shall bow to God’s rule, whether in heaven or in earth or under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Church is his chosen instrument for that mission in the world, and the effective sign of the inauguration of his Kingdom here on earth, that Kingdom for whose coming we pray in the words that Jesus taught us. Through evangelism God makes disciples who then play their part in God’s great plan. That part must be played together as members of the Body of Christ, not as individuals. . . As Alison Morgan has put it in the title of a book which will shortly be published: The Plural of Disciple is Church.”

Yet in so many places, the reality is different. To quote Pope Francis again, “no-one should ever think that this invitation is not meant for him or her”. We lose confidence in the good news when it stops being good news for us. And that is such a danger when we’re enmeshed in so many of the arguments and divisions with which we struggle. They may be necessary, but their danger is we lose sight of good news for us. When it has become stale news or old news, when it has become bad news or sad news, then every day I must open myself to the love of Christ, so this love is continually making me new. That too is collective. Our guided conversations, our praying and thinking together, our discussions of task groups, must also open afresh together, all of us, to the love of Christ, so that the good news is ours, not just mine.

To return to Archbishop William Temple, we find a vision that is as yet unfulfilled. It is that, for the effective and fruitful proclamation of the good news to be made in this country, every person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ plays an essential role as a witness of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing better than bearing witness to Christ so that others themselves may become His witnesses. But my fear is that many of us have lost all confidence in the Gospel. We have thought that you need to be an expert or a professional to be a witness. But we do not. We simply need to be able to tell of the love that has grasped hold of us and the difference it has made in our own lives.

The Evangelism Task Group is one report we have not yet seen. I hope that, if the Business Committee thinks it appropriate, they may be able to allow it to report in July or later, responding to a motion that this Synod passed some time ago. The Evangelism Task Group seeks to support the church to be an effective signpost of the Gospel at every point, in Cathedrals, in local churches, in chaplaincies at universities, schools, hospitals, prisons, the armed services and so many other points, in all of which so much of the really tough work is done.  At the moment that effective signpost is not always and everywhere inescapably visible, if I may be so un-tentative.

It is essential that we give time and effort into shaping church structures which enable and reflect witness to the compelling love of Christ. That change will not just happen, we can’t just hope for something magical to occur.

But the biggest hill to climb is that at every point in the church we might be so urged on by the love of Christ, the good news of salvation, that we break the historic pattern, which in many parts of our church goes back centuries, and become those who with all our faults, all our failings, all our divisions and sins and misunderstanding – because, let us be clear, if we wait until we’re fit to witness, we will wait forever – we become those who, with all those drawbacks, are nevertheless humble, gentle, transparent, hospitable witnesses to Jesus Christ, so that the world may know.

That is a challenge which takes us straight back to the life of the local church or chaplaincy, to the cathedral, to every point at which there is a Christian, because at every point at which there is a Christian there is a witness. And it takes us back here to be those who serve and love the witnesses, so that they are liberated to a joyful ministry of witness. All that we are doing here must be held in that context of the worship of God and the sharing of the good news.

Amen.

Equipo de trabajo recomienda un lenguaje neutro en el canon que regula el matrimonio

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] El Grupo de Trabajo A050 para el Estudio del Matrimonio recomienda que la Convención General de 2015 autorice al clero de la Iglesia Episcopal a oficiar matrimonios entre personas del mismo sexo.

El equipo de trabajo propone el cambio en su informe del Libro Azul que acaba de darse a conocer mediante una resolución (la número A036) que revisaría el Canon I.18 titulado “De la solemnización del Santo Matrimonio” (la página 58 de los Cánones de la Iglesia Episcopal puede verse aquí).

La revisión altera, entre muchas correcciones, el lenguaje del I.18.2(b) que requiere que las parejas “entiendan que el Sagrado Matrimonio es la unión física y espiritual de un hombre y una mujer”. Eliminar eso y otra forma específica de lenguaje de género del canon, dice el informe, responde al mandato de la resolución que faculta al grupo a “abordar la necesidad pastoral de los sacerdotes de oficiar en un matrimonio civil de una pareja del mismo sexo en estados que lo autoricen”.

La sección 3 del Canon 18 sería reescrita para, en parte, eliminar el requisito de que la pareja firme una declaración en la que declare “solemnemente que consideramos que el matrimonio es una unión de por vida de esposo y esposa tal según se dispone en el Libro de Oración Común”.

La revisión reestructuraría el requisito en la primera sección del canon de que el clérigo se rija tanto por “las leyes del Estado” como por “las leyes de esta Iglesia” respecto al matrimonio. La porción reescrita de esa sección requeriría que el clérigo se atuviera a “las leyes del Estado que rigen la creación del estado civil del matrimonio y también a estos cánones concernientes a la solemnización del matrimonio”.

El Canon I.18 contiene la mayoría de las reglas de los Cánones de la Iglesia acerca del clero que oficia en un matrimonio. El Canon I.19 rige la “preservación y disolución del matrimonio, y las segundas nupcias”, y como tal se refiere a “esposo” y “esposa” en su tercera sección. El Libro de Oración Común, que autoriza el Artículo X de la Constitución de la Iglesia, se refiere al matrimonio cristiano en la página 344 como “un pacto solemne y público entre un hombre y una mujer en la presencia de Dios” y utiliza un lenguaje específico de género a través de los ritos para la “Celebración y Bendición de un Matrimonio”, la “Bendición de un Matrimonio Civil” y el “Orden para un Matrimonio”, así como en su sección de “Rúbricas Adicionales”.

El grupo de trabajo dice en su informe que su revisión del Canon I.18 hace que el canon “se concentre en los votos en sí que se hacen en el rito matrimonial del Libro de Oración Común, más que en los fines del matrimonio en general”, los cuales añade que se pronuncian “literalmente en forma de credo”.

Se preserva la discreción del clérigo para rehusar la solemnización de cualquier matrimonio y se extiende para incluir su elección de rehusar ofrecerle la bendición a un matrimonio, dijo el grupo de trabajo.

El informe de 122 páginas, la mayoría de las cuales incluye recursos que el grupo de trabajo creó para el estudio del matrimonio y ensayos sobre varios temas concernientes al matrimonio, se encuentra en inglés aquí y en español aquí.

El grupo de trabajo se creó en respuesta a un llamado de la 77ª. Convención General (a través de la Resolución A050) en julio de 2012, para que un grupo de “teólogos, liturgistas, pastores y educadores identificaran y exploraran las dimensiones bíblicas, teológicas, históricas, litúrgicas y canónicas del matrimonio”.

Esa misma reunión de la Convención autorizó el uso provisional de un rito para bendecir relaciones de personas del mismo sexo. El uso de ese rito, Recursos Litúrgicos I: Te bendeciré y serás una bendición, debe ser revisado por la Convención General en 2015.

Haciendo notar el cambiante panorama social y legal del matrimonio, el Grupo de Trabajo para el Estudio del Matrimonio dice en su informe que “este momento de grandes cambios merece discernimiento y atención continuos de parte de nuestra Iglesia”.

Por consiguiente, el grupo le pedirá a la Convención que tome en consideración la Resolución A037 para que el grupo de trabajo prosiga su tarea en el trienio 2016-2018 como un modo de “explorar aún más esas tendencias y normas contemporáneas” que el grupo actual ha identificado.

Esas tendencias y normas, según dice el informe del grupo, incluyen “a los que eligen permanecer solteros; a personas no casadas que viven relaciones íntimas; a parejas que cohabitan ya sea en preparación para el matrimonio o como una alternativa a éste; a parejas que desean una bendición de la Iglesia, pero no un matrimonio; la paternidad de personas solteras o de parejas no casadas; diferentes formas de familia y hogares, tales como las que incluyen la paternidad [compartida] por parejas del mismo sexo, la adopción y la diversidad racial; y las diferencias de patrones matrimoniales entre grupos étnicos y raciales y entre provincias dentro y fuera de Estados Unidos”.

Mientras realizaba su labor este trienio, “el Grupo de Trabajo llegó a cobrar una aguda conciencia de una creciente realidad contemporánea en la sociedad y en la Iglesia que está redefiniendo lo que muchos entienden por “familia’ u ‘hogar’”, dice el grupo en su informe, añadiendo que “esta cambiante realidad repercute en nuestras congregaciones”.

El matrimonio “como una forma normativa de vida” está siendo cuestionado, sin embargo el grupo dice que no dispuso “del tiempo ni de los recursos para abordar totalmente esta realidad”.

“Más ampliamente, nuestra Iglesia ha hecho muy poco para responder a ella”, dice el grupo de trabajo.

Las dos resoluciones del grupo de trabajo, así como otras resoluciones sobre el matrimonio cuya proposición se espera, quedarán al cuidado de un comité legislativo especial sobre el matrimonio cuando la Convención General se reúna del 25 de junio al 3 de julio en Salt Lake City.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori y la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, dijeron en julio que nombrarían el comité “para garantizar que a la labor del Grupo de Trabajo para el Estudio del Matrimonio y a las resoluciones relacionadas con los contextos rápidamente cambiantes del matrimonio civil en Estados Unidos y en varias otras partes del mundo pueda prestárseles la adecuada consideración”.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

La Obispa Presidente Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori Mensaje de Cuaresma 2015

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

La Cuaresma es “un viaje que trata de la iluminación
si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera”

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “Esa cruz que hacemos en la frente el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de la cruz que se hizo en el bautismo”, dijo Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori en su mensaje de Cuaresma 2015.

El vídeo del mensaje de la Obispa Presidente está aquí.

La Cuaresma es un tiempo para la reflexión cristiana que comienza el Miércoles de Ceniza (18 de febrero) y concluye en Pascua (5 de abril).

La Obispa Presidente también señaló que la Cuaresma es “un viaje que trata de la iluminación si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera”.

Lo que sigue es el mensaje de Cuaresma 2015 de la Obispa Presidente

La Cuaresma está a punto de comenzar. Esa palabra inglesa proviene de otra del inglés antiguo que significa “alargar”, y es un recordatorio de que los días son cada vez más largos a medida que avanzamos de la oscuridad del invierno hacia el verano.

Pero en otras lenguas, sobre todo en español y francés, la palabra para “Lent” refleja “cuarenta días” “cuaresma”. Cuarenta días de vagar por el desierto, cuarenta días de Jesús en el desierto.

Se trata también de un viaje. Y es un viaje que trata de la iluminación, si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera.

La Cuaresma es una antigua tradición de solidaridad y preparación para los que se preparan para el bautismo en la Vigilia de Pascua. Siempre ha sido un tiempo dedicado a la oración y al estudio, al ayuno, a la abnegación y a la limosna, compartiendo lo que tenemos con los que no tienen. La oración es una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre el que camina con nosotros en el desierto, que trae luz al mundo. El estudio es una oportunidad de hacer las mismas cosas indagando en la historia de nuestra tradición, donde seres humanos han encontrado luz y dirección en su viaje por este mundo. El ayuno y la abnegación son una reflexión interior sobre qué es lo que nos mantiene en la oscuridad, o qué es lo que nos mantiene sin dirección, o qué nos mantiene demasiado centrados en nosotros mismos. Y se convierte en una invitación a orientarnos hacia afuera y compartir lo que tenemos con los que no tienen. Para construir solidaridad entre el pueblo de Dios y el resto de la tierra.

Uno de los Miércoles de Ceniza más memorables que he pasado fue en San José, Costa Rica, en una escuela de niños. Me pidieron que colocara las cenizas en la frente de los niños pequeños. Fue una experiencia provocadora en el sentido más profundo, recordar a los niños muy pequeños que son mortales.

Esa cruz que hacemos en la frente el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de la cruz que se hizo en el bautismo. Queda sellado por el Espíritu Santo en el bautismo y marcado como propiedad de Cristo para siempre. La cruz que hacemos el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de que eres polvo y al polvo volveremos, que compartimos ese polvo con cualquier otro ser humano que haya caminado jamás por este planeta, que compartimos ese polvo con las estrellas y los planetas, que compartimos ese polvo con todo lo que se ha creado. Estamos hechos para la relación con el creador y la creación.

Cuaresma es un viaje para caminar hacia esa luz. Que éste sea un año bendito.

La Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
Iglesia Episcopal

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Lent Message 2015

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lent is “a journey that is about enlightenment if we’re willing to think about it that way.”

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “That cross that comes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the cross that’s put there at Baptism,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her Lent Message 2015.

The video of the Presiding Bishop’s message is here.

Lent is a season of Christian reflection that begins on Ash Wednesday (February 18) and concludes on Easter (April 5).

The Presiding Bishop also noted Lent is “a journey that is about enlightenment
if we’re willing to think about it that way.”

The following is the Presiding Bishop’s Lent Message 2015

Lent is about to begin. That word in English comes from an Old English word that means “to lengthen,” and it’s a reminder of the days getting longer as we move toward summer out of the dark of winter.

But in a number of other languages, particularly Spanish and French, the word for “Lent” reflects “forty days,” “cuaresma.” Forty days of wandering in the desert, forty days of Jesus out in the desert.

It’s also about a journey.  And it’s a journey that is about enlightenment if we’re willing to think about it that way.

Lent is an ancient tradition of solidarity and preparation for those who look forward to Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  It has always been a time for prayer and study, fasting, self-denial, and alms-giving, sharing what we have with those who do not have.  Prayer is an opportunity to reflect on who walks with us in the desert, who brings light into the world. Study is an opportunity to do the same kinds of things looking at the history of our tradition, where have human beings found light and direction in their journey through this world.  Fasting and self-denial are an inward-reflection on what it is that keeps us in the dark, or what it is that keeps us directionless, or that keeps us overly self-focused.  And it becomes an invitation to turn outward and share what we have with those who have not.  To build solidarity among God’s people and the rest of the earth.

One of the most memorable Ash Wednesdays I ever spent was in San Jose, Costa Rica, in a school for children. I was asked to place ashes on the foreheads of toddlers.  It was a provocative experience in the deepest sense, reminding very small children that they are mortal.

That cross that comes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the cross that’s put there at Baptism.  You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.  The cross that comes at Ash Wednesday is a reminder that you are dust and to dust we shall return, that we share that dust with every other human being who has ever walked this planet, that we share that dust with the stars and the planets, that we share that dust with all that has been created.  We are made for relationship with creator and creation.

Lent and cuaresma is a journey to walk toward that light.  May it be a blessed one this year.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Coal Country Hangout connects youth, community

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Coal Country preschoolers take part in a field trip led by Beth Garner, an education specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources, to Prince Gallitzin State Park. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania] Against the low-hanging, late-October morning sky the stone building with the red metal roof housing the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center casts a stark profile at the corner of Maple Avenue and Cottonwood Street in this rural community an hour and 40 minutes’ drive northeast of Pittsburgh in the Allegheny Mountains.

On the inside, however, bright-colored murals hang on paneled walls and the sound of babies and toddlers busy playing and learning fill the space, in what is the only day care center and one of two preschools serving Northern Cambria, a rural bedroom community, and Altoona, Johnstown and Indiana, each town a 40- to-50-minutes away.

“Fifty percent of the children in day care have parents that work in these three communities; Northern Cambria is the hub,” said the Rev. Ann Staples, an Episcopal deacon who co-founded and has served as Coal Country’s executive director since 1996.

In addition to operating the day care in a county where 14.9 percent of the population lives in poverty and providing early childhood education in one of Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts, Coal Country operates a program for teens and young adults on Friday and Saturday nights in a converted sanctuary, with a basketball court, billiards and table tennis on the main level, and a small computer laboratory in the balcony.

“There are no facilities for kids anywhere in this area,” said Staples. “It is rural, it is isolated, it’s a good 35-40 minute drive to anything resembling recreational facilities, and that’s why we founded Coal Country – so they’d have a place to get off the streets, have a good time under supervision.”

Portraits of miners painted by students hang on the walls of the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

A safe, drug-free environment where youth can be with their peers is important, said Rebecca Pupo, the principal of Northern Cambria High School, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in her office, adding that drug-sniffing dogs recently swept the school for marijuana and heroin, local drugs of choice.

“(Coal Country) definitely serves these kids and they need the positive social connections,” she said. “Some go home to an empty house … the closest shopping mall is a 40-minute drive. Unless a student is involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, there’s nowhere to go.

“Not everyone is a football-Friday person.”

An independent nonprofit organization and supported ministry of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the center’s name is a homage to the coal industry’s longstanding, historical importance to the region’s economy and its identity. Its mission is to support families by providing access to affordable childcare, to promote healthy family behaviors, and to help prevent youth delinquency.

Operating in an economically depressed, geographically isolated region where ethnic bonds date back to the late 19th century, its programs take a holistic educational and cultural approach to address the spiritual and emotional trauma caused by the coal industry’s collapse.

“It’s Appalachia, they are very tight-knit and very wary of outsiders – they know instantly, probably before you open your mouth, that you are not from around there,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell, in an interview with ENS in his suburban Pittsburgh office. “So in that sense Ann’s been a missionary, because she’s been able to insert herself in that community and over time, she’s gained the affection and trust, I think, of everyone in that region.”

Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Staples studied music with an emphasis in piano performance in the early 1950s at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, spent a year traveling in Europe, and pursued a doctorate in musicology at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. A mother of six, grandmother to 13, she taught college in New York and then for 17 years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 40 minutes west of Northern Cambria.

In Indiana, Staples was a member of Christ Episcopal Church, when in 1984 the Diocese of Pittsburgh ordained her a deacon. She has served parishes throughout Pennsylvania, including Verona, Murrysville, Indiana, Patton and Northern Cambria, where she continues to serve St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Staples models her ministry after that of the Rev. Curtis Junker, her college chaplain at SMU, where she left Methodism and joined the Canterbury Club.

Junker moved comfortably between Dallas society and people on the street, and he encouraged students to tag along while he carried out his ministry. “That experience made all the difference in the world to me,” said Staples. “For me it was a model of ministry, the way it ought to be. Sitting in the church holed up – it doesn’t work.”

Staples has lived out Junker’s example by being a visible presence in the community, by getting to know elected officials, businessmen, community developers, teachers and school administrators, and people on the street. Around town, everyone calls her “Deacon Ann.”

“Whenever Ann walks into a room or an office … people get up from their chairs to greet her,” said McConnell. “She just has enormous respect; the reason is the people of Northern Cambria are not a project to her – they are human beings, made by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

“She has spent the time that she has been up there cultivating relationships across the board. That has been strategic, to a certain degree, but the fact is also she’s just committed to strengthening the human bonds in those communities in any way that she can do, and of course those communities are deeply relational.”

The Rev. Ann Staples, an Episcopal deacon, describes on a map the area of rural Pennsylvania served by the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The borough of Northern Cambria, population 5,000, was incorporated in 2000 when the towns of Spangler and Barnesboro merged. It was a move intended to qualify the town for federal aid but did not. In fact, the borough is so small the U.S. Census Bureau includes it in the statistics for Johnstown, population 20,000.

Staples arrived in Northern Cambria to serve St. Thomas Episcopal Church in September 1993, the same time as Coal Country co-founder Pastor Marty Cartmell arrived at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. During the summer of 1994, as both women were still getting to know the community, each witnessed teenagers’ boredom-fueled antics.

“We did a lot of running around and seeing what the place was like and we discovered on summer nights that kids were just all over the town, just all over, everywhere,” said Staples over a stromboli at Hubcaps Grill, a pizzeria across from Cambria Heights High School just outside Patton, one of four high schools she assists in implementing Coal Country’s experiential learning program.

The teens had “invented a lovely game at the main intersection in town at the light,” Staples said. “Highway 219 comes up a slope, makes a total left-hand turn and proceeds out of town. The kids all got together and sat down on the highway and made a wall across the highway just at the point where the trucks coming up 219 had to rev their motors … to get around that curve. And here’s a wall of kids – they’d blow their truck horns, the kids would jump up screaming,” she continued, somewhat amused.

“Marty and I both saw this, and said, ‘My God, these kids have got to have something to do,’ and that’s where it started right there.” She stressed that the kids were never really in danger. But the human wall was more indicative of the “mindless, generalized vandalism” evidenced in town.

Coal Country began with the teen program in 1996. In 2000 the organization bought the building, a decommissioned Roman Catholic church – one of 13 closed that year by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown – for $1.

“We started with a teen program before we got the building we’re in now, for the first four years ,… then created the day care, preschool, and then established the experiential education component,” said Staples.

Experiential education

Regional high school graduation rates are high, but the percentage people who go to college drops dramatically. Mining jobs pay in the $60,000 range; the median household income is $41,730. The area is home to a large percentage of elderly people looking for a lower cost of living, and low-income people who rely on social services.

The experiential education program provides for creative projects and fieldwork, and students who participate in Coal Country’s experiential education program tend to score higher on standardized tests, and 100 percent go on to college.

“We looked at graduation rates four all four school districts, 94-97 percent, post-secondary drops 30 to 35 percent in all four school district, said Staples. “It goes to prove a point: you cannot simply do it while sitting in a classroom with a textbook, without this kind of experience in the field.

“We’re proud of that; we think it’s an interesting statistic.”

Experiential education includes, arts, local history, environmental education and contemporary issues, which together bring awareness, not just to the students who participate, but the community, of a sense of place, not only of the region’s coal production and role in building American cities, but its significance in American history.

“The things that I cherish most about growing up in Texas wouldn’t have happened anywhere else,” said Staples, who maintains a Texas lilt complete with the cuss words she grew up with. “Any place where you are is important, it pinpoints all these things you grow up to be.”

A stone and ceramic monument made by students participating in Coal Country’s experiential education program marks Kittanning Path, an old trail that crosses northern Cambria County. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Long before the industrial revolution, Native Americans and European settlers occupied the region. Through arts grants, students have erected stone and ceramic monuments highlighting battles, trade and settlers’ routes. For instance, the monument at Kittanning Path marks a Native American trail that cut east and west through western Pennsylvania used by Europeans to settle the region and beyond.

“This was the major highway for settlers in the century prior to the U.S. becoming a country, and we think history is important,” said Staples, while driving the winding rural Allegheny Mountain roads in her red 2003 Saturn, odometer reading more than 200,000 miles, the radio tuned to classical music.

In American history students learn about what happened on the Eastern Seaboard, “where all the action was. Kids grow up without knowing what happened here or that it had any value,” she added.

Deacon Ann Staples, artist Michael Allison and teacher Kady Manifest, discuss a student art project during a meeting at Cambria Heights High School. Lynette Wilson/ENS

Northern Cambria High School social studies teacher Karen Bowman has led students in four local history projects, including a documentary film project “We Never Got the Welcome Home: Vietnam Vets of Western PA Remembered,” the latter completed with the help of a $10,000 grant from the History Channel.

Produced by 14 students, the film features more than two dozen area Vietnam vets, who reflect on their return home from the war nearly 30 years earlier, and how their lives and the region had changed. Cambria County, population 140,000, has a high rate of military service and is home to more than 13,000 veterans.

In teacher Ron Yuhas’ biology class an environmental grant from Coal Country allowed students to go out into the field to measure water quality in the West Branch Susquehanna to assess the damage from acid mine drainage.

“The kids are outdoorsmen and sportsmen and concerned with water quality,” said Yuhas, adding that a new grant will allow for continued monitoring.

The school district is focused on getting students prepared for vocational education and college, and there’s not always funding or time for electives, said Pupo, the school’s principal.

“Really we need to ensure that they are going to be productive members of society. Some have big dreams of moving to other places,” said Pupo. “The challenge is, as they walk out of here, they compete for jobs in the real world.”

Pennsylvania’s ‘energy county’

Energy news dominates the headlines in Pittsburgh and the local papers: the shale boom, for instance, and events such as an October conference sponsored by the local American Middle East Institute where Oman’s minister of oil and gas praised fracking. Cambria County’s government website bills it as Pennsylvania’s Energy County.” The Obama administration’s so-called “war on coal,” doesn’t make him popular in the region.


Wind turbines are churning out energy across central Pennsylvania. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Signs that coal’s slipping in importance: the giant wind turbines, churning out electricity throughout the region.

Gamesa Energy developed the entire ridge across the central part of the state for wind energy purposes,” said Staples. “That caused major concern for people trying to maintain the coal mines … a new form of energy with nothing to do with coal.”

At the start of the 20th century, in 1901, there were 130 significant coal mines in Cambria County; the mines were at their most productive in ‘10s and ‘20s, supplying energy at a time when the U.S. steel industry increased its output by more than 150 percent, becoming the world’s largest steel producer.

In the 1970s, as the United States moved from being the world’s largest exporter to the world’s largest importer of steel, the ripple effects were felt throughout Appalachia. In the 1990s, the remaining union mines closed and miner salaries plunged.

Ethnic bonds

In the late 19th century Europeans emigrated in large numbers to work in the mines.

“When they started coming and they would emigrate in huge batches. Italy, Poland, Wales … this town was totally founded by immigrants,” said Staples. “And they weren’t the kind of people who were people of position back home, so they came here because they could get a job in mining and they formed little cliques based on ethnicity. So much so that in every town in northern Cambria there was a little Catholic Church: one that was Italian, one that was Polish, one that was English, one that was Welsh.”

“Fourteen (in all), because every immigrant group that came had a church,” she said, adding that at one point, 94 percent of the community was Roman Catholic.

In 2000, the same year Barnesboro and Spangler merged, the Roman Catholic diocese closed all but one of its 14 ethnic parishes, another blow to the region’s cultural identity. Staples said the closings were painful, but “In the end it was very pragmatic, (the bishop) picked the parish that was in the best physical condition, and made it very clear that that was why.”

The Young Men’s Polish Legion, the Slovak Club, the Sons of Italy, and other men’s clubs remain open.

Quiet streets

Aside from the occasional sound of heavy trucks roaring up Crawford Avenue to where it intersects Highway 219, or Philadelphia Avenue as it’s called in town, the streets are quiet.

Mom-and-pop shops – a tiny grocery that specializes in lottery tickets, Italian restaurants and pizzerias, a liquor store, a shoe store, a public library, a home appliance store – occupy retail space on Crawford and Philadelphia avenues, the core of the borough’s downtown.

On Oct. 30, Coal Country board members gathered at the center to talk about its importance to the community in a conversation that eventually turned nostalgic and led to talk about creating jobs and opportunities for young people.

That same day Cambria County had been dealt another blow – the loss of more than 400 jobs – when it was announced that a Virginia-based coal mining company would sell off “a large chunk” of its Pennsylvania assets to a Kittanning-based company.

Later, young people arrived at Coal Country to decorate for the following night’s Halloween dance. Phillip “Flip” Schlereth, who’s been coming for six years, was there, as was his friend Anthony Reid, who moved to Northern Cambria from Texas a year or so ago and started coming to Coal Country at Flip’s invitation.

They come to hang out with friends and meet new people, Reid said.

Julia DeLoatch, 20, was there along with her 16-year-old sister and 17-year-old brother. DeLoatch, who works at Dairy Queen with a goal to get out of town, came to help set up for the dance, but also to encourage her sister and brother to stay out of trouble, she said.

When Staples and Cartmell, who later parted ways with the organization, first opened the doors, no one came; it took time to build trust among the community and the youth. The fact that 40 to 50 youth now come on weekend nights is a sign that the people are comforted and healed, said McConnell, the bishop of Pittsburgh. “Missional communities are always relational communities … that the public gospel, which is to say that what is taking place in that youth hangout center, is definitely growing out of a heart that people have come to trust.

“The fact is you don’t have to prove yourself that you are a certain way to get into that youth center, you just walk in. …,There are certain expectations because I think that Ann is really interested in seeing kids grow up into the people that God wants them to become.”

In a community where the majority of the signs indicate it’s a place that has been beaten down, there exists a kind of “cultural accommodation of despair” and the future seems like a big challenge, said McConnell.

“But then you walk into that place and you see what’s going on in there and it gives everybody a reason to hope. I think that’s one of the reasons she’s precious in that community – you don’t to have have a kid in that program in order to be proud of it,” said McConnell.They can point at her and say, ‘We’re not dead yet. See there is some life here.’ ”

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

Presiding Bishop further restricts ministry of Heather Cook

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Feb. 10 issued a formal canonical Restriction on Ordained Ministry directed to the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland.

This Restriction was issued as part of the Episcopal Church’s Title IV disciplinary process.  The Restriction provides:

Pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4) and IV.17(2) of this church, I hereby place the following restrictions on your ordained ministry:

You shall not exercise or engage in the ordained ministry of this Church in any respect, shall not participate in any functions of the House of Bishops, and shall not hold yourself out as an ordained person of this Church in good standing, until such time as all matters relating to you that are pending before a panel of the Disciplinary Board of Bishops shall have been finally resolved.

In her notice, the Presiding Bishop indicates, “This restriction is being placed upon your ordained ministry because information has been received by the Intake Officer that indicates that you may have committed one or more offenses under Canon IV.4 as a result of your alleged criminal conduct in connection with an automobile accident on December 27, 2014 and misrepresentations you allegedly made to persons in the Diocese of Easton and in connection to your candidacy for the episcopate in the Diocese of Maryland regarding your experience with alcohol.

The Restriction takes effect immediately.

Naughton awarded House of Deputies medal

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

[Canticle Communications] On January 31, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings awarded the House of Deputies medal to Jim Naughton, founder and long-time editor of Episcopal Café, a blog of news, meditations, commentary and art. Jennings made the presentation at the Diocese of Washington’s annual convention in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

Naughton, who founded Episcopal Café in 2007, retired as its editor in November 2014.

“Over the years, one of the things that I and a lot of other faithful Episcopalians learned from Jim and Episcopal Café is that the Episcopal Church needs an independent news source,” Jennings told the convention. “Our denominational news service and other publications sponsored by various dioceses, foundations and other entities are important to our common life, but we also need a news source that isn’t beholden to the official structures of the church. Elected and appointed leaders, like me, shouldn’t be able to control the news and opinions about our beloved church that Episcopalians read and hear, and deputies, bishops and faithful Episcopalians of all callings should have a forum to debate, ask questions, and to hold our leaders and each other accountable. Independent news makes all of our leaders, all of our governing structures, and all of our ministries stronger, more accountable, and more faithful.”

In accepting the award, Naughton thanked Jennings, whom he said had asked him to come to Washington’s convention without telling him why. He thanked the Café’s staff, and praised the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, former bishop of Washington and Paul Cooney, the diocese’s canon to the ordinary. “John and Paul understood that if you want a free flow of information and an open discussion of the issues facing the church, you had to grant the people providing that information both editorial freedom and job security,” he said. “I am not sure that all of the leaders in our church understand that.”

Naughton is now a partner in Canticle Communications, an independent firm that is contracted by Jennings to assist with House of Deputies communications. In retiring from the Café, Naughton cited his desire to pursue a new writing project.

Cornelia Eaton ordained priest in Navajoland

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 9, 2015

The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton and Navajoland Bishop David Bailey pose Feb. 7 after her ordination to the priesthood. Photo: Dick Snyder

[Episcopal News Service] In a liturgy that combined Anglican and Navajo traditions, the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton was ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.

She serves as canon to the ordinary for Navajoland Bishop David Bailey, who ordained her.

The service took place Feb. 7 at All Saints Church in Farmington, New Mexico, where her late father, the Rev. Yazzie Mason, had served as deacon. Among the participants in the liturgy was her mother, Alice Mason, who served as lay pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, for 30 years. She was one of the presenters.

The liturgy included readings and hymns in English and Navajo, and smudging by Eaton and the Rev. Catherine Plummer, widow of the late Navajoland Bishop Steven Plummer.

Bailey noted that Eaton has “been on a journey that has led to her being a priest,” and that she had long served the Episcopal Church in Navajoland as a youth minister, lay leader and assistant to the bishop.

The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton is presented to Navajoland Bishop David Bailey for ordination to the priesthood Feb. 7 at All Saints Church in Farmington, New Mexico. Among the presenters is Eaton’s mother, Alice Mason (center), who served as lay pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, for 30 years. Photo: Dick Snyder

The bishop had ordained Eaton as deacon in the same church on Dec. 21, 2013.

She also served as a chaplain for the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church, offering daily meditations and prayers for the House of Deputies. Eaton will be a Navajoland clergy deputy to the June 25-July 3 meeting of General Convention in Salt Lake City.

With Eaton’s ordination as priest, Bailey has ordained three Navajo, or Diné, as priests and three more as transitional deacons. There are another three Diné in the ordination process. Eaton is the fourth female Diné following Plummer, the Rev. Rosella Jim and the Rev. Inez Velarde.

Eaton has completed courses at Vancouver School of Theology in Vancouver, British Columbia, and training offered through the Bishops’ Collaborative of the Episcopal Church. This fall, she will enter Virginia Theological Seminary.

She celebrated her first Eucharist as priest on Feb. 8, with Bailey assisting.

– The Rev. Dick Snyder is missioner for special projects in Navajoland and is employed as a prison chaplain in Nevada.

Compañeros en la mayordomía medioambiental fomentan un ministerio basado en la creación

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 9, 2015

Cuando los niños se ven expuestos al mundo natural desarrollan un sentido de asombro y reverencia, y es más probable que presten atención a los temas del medioambiente según maduran, dice Dyndy Coe, uno de una de dos colegas de mayordomía ambiental. Aquí Erynn Smith, directora de educación para el cultivo de la tierra de La Mesa Abundante, enseña a algunos niños a buscar parásitos en el campo. Foto de La Mesa Abundante.

[Episcopal News Service] La Iglesia episcopal está respondiendo de diversas manera al llamado de la quinta Marca de la Misión a salvaguardar la integridad de la creación y sostener y a renovar la vida en la tierra, a través incluso del apoyo de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) a la obra de dos mujeres que quieren llevar a los episcopales de todas las edades a tener un contacto más íntimo con la tierra.

In Tennessee, el empeño de Cindy Coe es “llevar los niños afuera” para fomentar un interés de por vida por la creación y, en California, el de Sarah Nolan es el de ayudar a la Iglesia a ver “las buenas prácticas agrícolas y los alimentos sanos como un asunto de justicia”.

Cada una de ellas lleva seis meses en una fraternidad de mayordomía ambiental de $48.000 subvencionada por la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) para brindar liderazgo en problemas fundamentales del medioambiente en comunidades de EE.UU.

“El programa de la fraternidad medioambiental representa una nueva forma en que la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera participa y apoya la misión en un ámbito local”, dijo Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de actividad pública y comunicación de la misión de la Iglesia Episcopal.

“Concebida y subvencionada mediante un proceso de consulta que incluyó a miembros del Consejo Ejecutivo, obispos y otros líderes, y de importantes partes interesadas en el ministerio medioambiental, las fraternidades permiten que la DFMS no sólo apoye la innovación y la creatividad en la esfera local, sino que garantice que se convierta en un don para toda la Iglesia”, dijo Baumgarten.

El personal de la DFMS consulta regularmente con los miembros de estas fraternidades para discernir, más allá de la financiación del programa, los medios de apoyar su labor. (La DFMS es el nombre canónico y legal con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona y lleva a cabo la misión).

“Las fraternidades de Justicia y Promoción Social de la Marca 5 [de la Misión] son fundamentales para el futuro de nuestra Iglesia en la medida en que buscamos reconectarnos con nuestras fuentes de alimentos, resaltar los puntos en que confluyen la pobreza y los problemas medioambientales, y llegar a entender lo que podemos hacer como individuos y comunidades religiosas para mitigar nuestro cambio climático y adaptarnos a él”, dijo Jayce Hafner, analista de política nacional de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la DFMS.

Jeannette Ban, pasante del Cuerpo Episcopal de Servicio en La Mesa Abundante, cosecha verduras de ensaladas. El origen de La Mesa Abundante se origina en el Cuerpo Episcopal de Servicio, asociado con la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera. Foto de La Mesa Abundante.

Nolan, según dijo ella, “desarrollará redes de comunidades que luchan por el consumo consciente (por ejemplo, el procurar elementos de culto de los plantadores locales) y se dedican a aprender más acerca de cómo se producen nuestros alimentos”.

La fraternidad de Coe conlleva lo que Hafner llamó “la nueva generación de líderes” que son “un contingente esencial de nuestra Iglesia”.

“Mediante la instrucción de los más jóvenes en el campamento de verano, un ambiente donde la autoconciencia y la expresión creativa se estimulan, ella capacitará a futuros líderes a hacer valer sus dones a favor del bienestar ecológico de nuestra Iglesia y de nuestro mundo”, afirmó.

“Espero ver los frutos de los empeños de estos asociados, y estoy muy impresionada por lo mucho que han logrado hasta ahora”, dijo Hafner.

El interés de Coe en la mayordomía medioambiental parte del Proyecto del Huerto de la Vida Abundante de la Agencia Episcopal para Ayuda y Desarrollo con Brian Sellers Petersen, que es actualmente asesor principal del presidente de la Agencia Episcopal para Ayuda y Desarrollo. El proyecto consiste en un programa interactivo basado en la Escritura que invita a alumnos de escuela primaria a explorar la labor de la organización a través de los temas del agua, las semillas, los animales y la cosecha.

El currículo para las diócesis, congregaciones y otras instituciones episcopales que Coe concibe durante la existencia de su fraternidad es una consecuencia de ese proyecto y conllevará una sana dosis de excursiones infantiles, “en que se dedique tiempo a estar en la naturaleza y a experimentar el medioambiente”, afirmó.

“Me gustaría incluir el cuidado de la creación como parte de la formación cristiana de niños y jóvenes en nuestra Iglesia”, añadió.

Diciendo que “había hecho realmente una profunda inmersión” en [el terreno] de la investigación secular sobre de la educación medioambiental, Coe cree que tal formación está relacionada con el bienestar, el desarrollo de la espiritualidad y la adquisición de conciencia de los problemas de justicia social conectados al cuidado de la creación.

El hacer que los niños se relacionen con la naturaleza significa “que llegarán a estar en sintonía con los problemas medioambientales y se apegarán a ellos de por vida”, dijo Coe.

Su investigación también ha incluido el preguntarle a Jack, su hijo de 10 años, sobre lo que le gusta y no le gusta en los distintos campamentos de verano. “Él siempre ha sido un recurso inapreciable”, dijo ella riéndose. “Él me ha aportado alguna información realmente valiosa acerca de lo que funciona, lo que resultaba efectivo, lo que era divertido y lo que era aburrido”.

“Mientras enseñemos acerca de la naturaleza”, tenemos que sacar a pasear a los niños”, insistió, añadiendo que la investigación arroja que a los niños les gusta encontrar un lugar especial afuera, donde puedan realizar labores por su cuenta. Parte del currículo incipiente alentará a los niños a “salir, e encontrar un sitio en particular, a construir un fuerte y a divertirse con ello”.

Al hacer este tipo de cosas, los niños adquieren un sentido de lugar, explicó Coe, y “aprenden a apreciar la creación de Dios”.

“Uno adquiere un sentimiento de asombro y reverencia y eso te vincula a la espiritualidad”, dice ella. San Francisco de Asís y otros santos entendieron y respetaron la relación entre la naturaleza y la espiritualidad, agregó Coe, “pero eso es algo que o bien hemos perdido o hemos descuidado en nuestra historia cristiana posterior”.

Sin embargo, “los niños logran esto. Los niños pueden guardar silencio ante la naturaleza mejor que el resto de nosotros”, apunta ella.

Coe ha estado pidiendo reacciones de sus colegas de la Iglesia sobre las partes del currículo que ella ha terminado. Y se proponía discutirlo en las reuniones de finales de enero de la organización Campamentos y Centros de Conferencias Episcopales y de FORMA, un grupo de ministerios de formación de la Iglesia Episcopal.

El currículo, que puede usarse en su totalidad o en parte, puede estar disponible para probarse sobre el terreno en el verano de 2015. Ella luego modificará los materiales a partir de las reacciones que reciba. Las secciones del currículo que están disponibles actualmente pueden encontrarse aquí. Esa página también incluye un método para hacerle un comentario a Coe.

El próximo paso es encontrar un medio, o medios, de publicar el currículo antes del verano de 2016.

Conectar a los episcopales con la tierra es también una razón fundamental de la labor de Nolan, como es la de relacionar entre sí a los episcopales que participan en el ministerio de la alimentación. Esos ministerios a través de la Iglesia “son innovadores y vivificadores” y, sin embargo, están fragmentados, apuntó ella.

Nolan es la directora de programas y de asociaciones comunitarias de La Mesa Abundante [The Abundant Table], una granja ecológica del Condado de Ventura, California, que ofrece “oportunidades de aprendizaje experimental entre granjas y escuelas de carácter religioso y basadas en la tierra para niños de edad escolar, jóvenes y jóvenes adultos”, según explica su página web. La organización también ofrece acceso a alimentos cultivados en un medio ecológico para residentes de ese condado del sur de California.

Sus raíces se remontan a mediados de la pasada década cuando Nolan era capellana de la Universidad del Estado de California, en Channel Islands. La capellanía decidió comenzar un programa a través del Cuerpo Episcopal de Servicios, una agencia asociada de la DFMS, en un ambiente rural y llevó el ministerio universitario y a toda la comunidad a esa labor. Según crecía la granja, se ponían en contacto con el ministerio jóvenes adultos que se mostraban inclinados a relacionar su interés en la justicia alimentaria con su vida de fe. Su interés sobrepasó el número de plazas disponible de la granja, dijo Nolan.

Miembros del equipo de La Mesa Abundante celebran su lodosa cosecha de la zanahoria. Las zanahorias de la granja ecológica se destinarán al Distrito Escolar Unificado de Ventura en California. Foto de La Mesa Abundante.

Ella comenzó a buscar otros lugares donde esos jóvenes adultos pudieran trabajar. Esa exploración condujo en 2012 a una fraternidad de la Fundación de la Iglesia Episcopal para empezar a desarrollar una red de personas dedicadas a un ministerio basado en la tierra y a identificar recursos para esos ministerios. No tardó en ponerse en contacto con varias personas, entre ellas Brian Sellers Peterson, con quien Coe había trabajado en el proyecto Huerto de Vida Abundante. Sellers Peterson había estado atento a los ministerios alimentarios en toda la Iglesia y la conectó con el Centro Beeken, parte de la Escuela de Teología de la Universidad del Sur. Ella, Sellers Peterson y el centro comenzaron a desarrollar una red informal de ministerios. Esa labor condujo a su solicitud de la fraternidad de mayordomía medioambiental, contó ella.

El fortalecimiento de la existente red informal entre los ministerios de cultivo de alimentos con aquellos dedicados a compartirlos podría tener un doble impacto, tanto en la Iglesia como en las comunidades en las cuales están presentes, explicó Nolan.

Uno conlleva el poner en contacto las despensas de la Iglesia con los huertos y granjas que la Iglesia sostiene, al tiempo que mira también al potencial de edificios y terrenos de la Iglesia para ver cómo podrían “usarse y coordinarse de tal modo que tengan un impacto [positivo] en las comunidades locales y en el sistema alimentario” de esas comunidades.

En segundo lugar, Nolan apunta que hay “muchísimo trabajo en marcha tocante a la teología, la liturgia y la espiritualidad que en verdad se basa en la tierra, en la mayordomía medioambiental y en el cuidado de la creación”. Ella ve una oportunidad de ayudar a las personas a compartir esos recursos a fin de “conectar a la gente con una creciente espiritualidad que tenga un impacto en la vida espiritual de la Iglesia [mediante] la vigorización y renovación de la vida teológica y espiritual de la Iglesia”.

“La expresión que está empezando a circular es la de mirar al suelo como un sacramento”, añadió Nolan.

Al finalizar su tiempo en la fraternidad, afirmó Nolan, ella espera haber creado una página web o alguna otra plataforma, moldeada en los criterios de Story Corps, donde los episcopales que participen en ministerios alimentarios puedan compartir sus experiencias como “estímulo y también como inspiración” para la Iglesia. El otro resultado que ella espera es la formación de una red de funcionamiento nacional que puede celebrar reuniones y apoyar empeños regionales y nacionales.

Y este quehacer, afirmó Nolan, no es sólo para personas que ya participan de ese ministerio.

“Es importante para la Iglesia el ver como cultivar y compartir alimentos es una puerta abierta para entender la sustentabilidad y la mayordomía medioambientales”, agregó.

Con frecuencia las conversaciones medioambientales se centran en el cambio climático y en la conservación de espacios naturales, cuya importancia Nolan reconoció, pero dijo que la alimentación, así como las labores agrícolas y de huerto pueden constituir una vía para personas que podrían no sentirse inclinadas hacia esas conversaciones. Al participar en estas tareas pueden descubrir los vínculos entre los intereses medioambientales y ver “las buenas prácticas agrícolas y los alimentos sanos como un asunto de justica”.

El presupuesto 2013-2015 aprobado por la Convención General está estructurado en torno a las Cinco Marcas de la Misión de la Comunión Anglicana y proporcionó sumas significativas no asignadas para nuevas obras que tengan por objetivo cada una de las Marcas de la Misión. La intención era que el trabajo resultante se hiciera en asociaciones de colaboración con diócesis y congregaciones. La DFMS ha proporcionado el capital inicial y las subvenciones compartidas, o ambas cosas, así como el apoyo y la pericia de su personal para la nueva obra.

Las fraternidades de Coe y Nolan se sostiene con asignaciones extrapresupuestarias para la Marca Cinco: luchar por salvaguardar la integridad de la creación y por el sostenimiento y la renovación de la vida en la tierra.

El Informe a la Iglesia, publicado recientemente, detalla la labor de la DFMS, respaldada por el presupuesto, hasta la fecha, en el actual trienio.

— La Rda Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Las asociaciones traerán una paz duradera a Tierra Santa, dicen líderes religiosos

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 9, 2015

Miembros de la peregrinación interreligiosa visitan el Duomo de la Roca y la mezquita de Al-Aqsa, el tercer sitio más sagrado del islam. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] La asociación y la inversión económica, especialmente en apoyo de obras de base de carácter religioso, son la clave de una paz duradera en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos, escuchó decir en repetidas ocasiones una delegación interconfesional de Estados Unidos a líderes religiosos con los que se reunió durante una peregrinación a Tierra Santa entre el 18 y el 26 de enero.

La delegación de 15 miembros, integrada por judíos, cristianos y musulmanes de EE.UU., encontró que este era el mensaje constante en todas sus conversaciones, ya fuera con rabinos, con cadíes (jueces islámicos), con sacerdote y con obispos.

El cadí Iyad Zahalka, presidente de los tribunales de Sharía en Jerusalén, le dijo a la delegación que era a través de estas asociaciones “que lograremos un entendimiento entre todas las comunidades. Este tipo de actuación para juntar a judíos, cristianos y musulmanes está motivando a la gente aquí a participar más en esta clase de diálogo”.

Zahalka dijo que los políticos firman acuerdos diplomáticos, “no así los religiosos. Pero nuestra labor es preparar a las personas para ese momento, para aceptar el proceso de paz, para participar en el proceso de paz, para alentar a nuestros líderes. Luchamos por crear la dinámica de la paz, que es mucho más importante que firmar acuerdos”.

Kadi Iyad Zahalka (izquierda), que preside los tribunales de Sharía en Jerusalén, con el obispo Prince Singh de la Diócesis episcopal de Rochester. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Pero él reconoció el extremismo de ambas partes, tales como el reciente apuñalamiento de 11 personas por un palestino en un autobús en el centro de Tel Aviv y el incendio de una escuela árabe-judía por radicales judíos.

“Estos desafíos deben alentarnos a hacer más a favor del diálogo y la coexistencia a fin de prevenir el sufrimiento”, dijo Zahalka al grupo interreligioso hacia el fin de su semana de peregrinación. “Es muy importante para nosotros hacer eso y es muy importante que otros nos apoyen en el proceso del diálogo”.

El rabino Ron Kronish, director del Consejo de Coordinación Interreligiosa de Israel, trabaja estrechamente con Zahalka en promover el diálogo y la paz, especialmente entre las religiones.

Kronish habló acerca de las complejidades de identidad que existen a través de Israel y la Cisjordania que con frecuencia causa confusión cuando se abordan los problemas de la paz.

Hay palestinos que viven en Cisjordania, y judíos que viven en Israel; pero también hay árabes israelíes, es decir árabes palestinos con ciudadanía israelí”, apuntó el. “Su objetivo no es luchar contra la ocupación cada minuto, su objetivo es la integración en la sociedad israelí aunque tengan varias relaciones con los palestinos en Jerusalén Oriental, Cisjordania y Gaza”.

La peregrinación interreligiosa se creó en respuesta a la Resolución B019 de la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal, aprobada en 2012, que pedía inversión y participación positivas en la región y recomendaba que la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori creara una peregrinación interreligiosa modelo que experimentara múltiples narrativas.

Comprometido a profundizar su propia asociación, los miembros del grupo interconfesional compartieron mutuamente sus tradiciones religiosas, incluidos los oficios en la catedral anglicana en Jerusalén Oriental, en una sinagoga judía en Jerusalén Occidental y, cosa rara, una visita privada al Duomo de la Roca y a la mezquita de Al-Aqsa, el tercer sitio más santo del islam, que normalmente está estrictamente vedado a los no musulmanes.

Miembros de la peregrinación interreligiosa visitan el Duomo de la Roca y la mezquita de Al-Aqsa. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

El grupo —dirigido por Jefferts Schori; el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas; y Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte— fue recibido, en el oficio del domingo por la mañana en la catedral anglicana de San Jorge [St. George’s Anglican Cathedral] en Jerusalén Oriental, por su deán, el Muy Rdo. Hosam Naoum, y por el arzobispo Suheil Dawani de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén. Jefferts Schori predicó durante el oficio.

Peregrinos interreligiosos participan del oficio, en la mañana del domingo, en el oficio de la catedral anglicana de San Jorge en Jerusalén. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Las diócesis y los individuos de la Iglesia Episcopal en EE.UU. han mantenido una larga asociación con la diócesis de Jerusalén y continúan apoyando el ministerio de sus más de 30 instituciones de servicio social a través de Israel, Jordania, Líbano, Siria y los Territorios Palestinos. Las instituciones incluyen escuelas, hospitales, clínicas y centros para personas con discapacidades y sirven a los necesitados, independientemente de su filiación religiosa.

La diócesis y las instituciones también reciben ayuda de los Amigos Americanos de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén, una organización sin fines de lucro fundada en 1985.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori y el arzobispo Suheil Dawani, de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén, conversan a la entrada de la catedral de San Jorge, Jerusalén, luego del oficio en árabe del 25 de enero. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Dawani le dijo al grupo interconfesional, después del oficio, que la religión debe ser parte de la solución y no parte del problema. “Tenemos una responsabilidad como líderes, y tenemos el deber de facilitar y propiciar la coexistencia entre todas las comunidades”, afirmó. “Como centro de las tres religiones abrahámicas, oramos porque Jerusalén sea un modelo para la paz futura de todo el mundo”.

Una fuente de mayor preocupación para la Diócesis de Jerusalén son los muchos cristianos, tanto palestinos como judíos, que se están yendo de Tierra Santa en busca de mejores oportunidades en el extranjero.

Dawani ha dicho que “la inversión es algo que todos necesitamos aquí en las privaciones y la difícil situación económica. La inversión realmente alentará a la gente no sólo a quedarse, sino a sentir que pueden ocuparse de sus familias y del futuro de sus hijos.

En respuesta a tales llamados de los asociados de la Iglesia Episcopal en Tierra Santa, así como a la Resolución B019, la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera [DFMS] invirtió $500.000 en el Banco de Palestina en 2013 al objeto de propiciar el desarrollo económico en los Territorios Palestinos. El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal respaldó recientemente la expansión de esa inversión y encomendó el asunto al comité de préstamos de justicia económica para su estudio.

El arzobispo Suheil Dawani de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén, y la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori se reúnen con Su Beatitud Teófilo III, patriarca de Jerusalén y de Toda Palestina. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Luego del oficio, Dawani acompañó al grupo a una visita a Su Beatitud Teófilo III, patriarca de Jerusalén y de Toda Palestina, quien dijo que la presencia [del grupo] en Tierra Santa aporta “gran aliento y apoyo a su pueblo”. El Patriarca es el máximo líder de los cristianos grecoortodoxos en Tierra Santa, y representa la más larga presencia histórica de cualquier institución religiosa en la Jerusalén actual.

“No es una tarea fácil contar con una voz unificada como judíos, musulmanes y cristianos”, dijo él. “Reunir a la gente y trabajar por la reconciliación, esto es lo que intentamos hacer. La gente aquí usa la palara ‘tolerancia’, que es totalmente inaceptable. Debemos hablar de inclusión”.

El Patriarca habló sobre la tierra que está relacionada con las historias sagradas de las tres religiones abrahámicas y del conflicto y los malentendidos que ha causado. “¿Cómo podemos convencer a nuestra gente —judíos, cristianos y musulmanes— que tenemos un enfoque diferente de la historia sagrada?, preguntó. “La letra mata, pero el espíritu de la letra, vivifica. ¿Cómo podemos transmitir este mensaje a los políticos, a los diplomáticos?… No entienden lo que significa la historia sagrada”.

“El problema es que la gente aquí entiende la tierra en términos escatológicos”, añadió, “[pero] servimos a una naturaleza humana común y a un destino común… Esto es lo que tenemos que tener en mente si queremos creer que somos realmente pueblo de Dios… Esta tierra es totalmente santa, y nosotros compartimos esta tierra, todos nosotros”.

Syeed le respondió al patriarca diciéndole que sus palabras eran “reconfortantes, inspiradoras y consoladoras… Esta es la tierra del manná y del salwá”, la palabra hebrea y árabe para llamar al alimento que Dios le proporcionó a los israelitas durante su travesía por el desierto.

Su Beatitud Teófilo III, patriarca de Jerusalén y de Toda Palestina, pasa para una foto con la delegación interreligiosa y los líderes anglicanos en Tierra Santa. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Dos días antes, el grupo asistió al culto de la sinagoga en la noche del viernes en Kol Haneshamah, un centro del judaísmo progresista en Jerusalén Occidental. Después del culto, los invitaron a participar en la cena del sabat en casa del rabino Levi Weiman-Kelman, rabino de 10 generaciones, cuya congregación está comprometida con la justicia social y que a menudo dirige manifestaciones pacíficas contra la violencia, incluso en el caso de un ataque contra una mezquita, una sinagoga o una iglesia.

El rabino Levi Weiman-Kelman (de pie) les da la bienvenida a su casa a los peregrinos interreligiosos que van a participar de la cena del sabat. De izquierda a derecha, el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas; Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte; y la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Weiman-Kelman compartió una interpretación de la Midrash judía del Génesis que ilustra como la formación del nombre Jerusalén se logró a través de un acuerdo y de consideración hacia el otro.

Debido a sus propios encuentros con Dios, Abraham llamó al lugar Yireh, y Sem lo llamó Shalem. Según la escritura hebrea, “el Bendito dijo: Si la llamo Yireh como la llamó Abraham, Sem, que es un hombre justo, se enojará. Si la llamo Shalem como Sem la llamó, Abraham, un hombre justo, se enojará. Por tanto, llamo a este lugar como ellos dos lo llamaron Yireh-Shalem, Yeru-shalayim, Jerusalén”.

Luego de la reflexión de Kelman, Jefferts Schori dijo que ella se sentía estimulada por los puentes que se habían tendido durante la semana de peregrinación y que eso le recordaba la historia de la creación, la relación entre la luz y las tinieblas, entre la tierra y el cielo. “Al principio todo parece división”, dijo ella, “pero es una buena lección de la importancia de la interconexión”.

A principios de la semana, el rabino David Rosen, director internacional de asuntos interreligiosos del Comité Judío Americano, con sede en Jerusalén, habló sobre una nueva era de relaciones interreligiosas en tierra Santa, la cual encuentra a los líderes religiosos comprometidos en asociaciones más profundas y más efectivas, particularmente a través del Consejo de las Instituciones Religiosas de Tierra Santa.

Establecido en 2005, el Consejo la continua participación del liderazgo y la representación de las instituciones religiosas oficiales de las comunidades de fe judías, cristianas y musulmanas en Tierra Santa.

Al presentar a Rosen, Gutow dijo que el ex rabino de Irlanda ha sido una fuerza motriz en el diálogo interreligioso y “en verdad ejemplifica las relaciones interreligiosas en esta región”.

Pero Rosen reconoció la necesidad de mayores esfuerzos para incluir las voces religiosas en las esferas políticas.

“Hay una actitud entre los políticos de no arriesgarse a hacer algo con líderes religiosos. Si los partidos incorporaran voces religiosas tendrían un efecto inmensamente poderoso. Pero prefieren la inercia al riesgo”.

El rabino David Rosen (a la derecha), director de asuntos interreligiosos del Comité Judío Americano, con sede en Jerusalén, habla al grupo interreligioso durante un almuerzo en Tel Aviv. De izquierda a derecha están Mohamed Elsanousi, dirección de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid; Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte; y la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

Hacia el final de la peregrinación, Kronish, del Consejo de Coordinación Interreligioso en Israel, se hizo eco de mucho de lo que Rosen había dicho. “La década del 90 fue un período de grandes esperanzas de paz, pero desde 2000 la situación se ha ido deteriorando”, dijo, haciendo notar que el último acuerdo de paz significativo entre Israel y los líderes palestinos fue el Memorándum de Wye River en 1998.

“Así hemos tenido 16 años, y en realidad ningún resultado. La pregunta es cuánto más podemos descender. El mayor obstáculo para la paz es la desesperación política. Nadie percibe que haya una resolución a la vista”, afirmó. “Ahora mismo no tenemos esperanza en nuestros líderes políticos de ambas partes. No parecen dispuestos a hacer las dolorosas concesiones que se necesitan” para llegar a un acuerdo de paz.

“Donde hemos encontrado esperanza es en el trabajo con los jóvenes, los jóvenes adultos, las mujeres, con líderes religiosos en la base, con educadores, con las personas que están llevando a cabo una ardua labor educativa y espiritual en las trincheras y no en la arena política”.

Jefferts Schori describió la pacificación como “la labor de tender puentes de relación entre los seres humanos… Eso exige asumir riesgos personales, vulnerabilidad, y la capacidad de ver y oír los profundos anhelos humanos del otro”.

Gutow, reflexionando sobre la peregrinación dijo: “Debemos estar con los que pueden entender y hablar con integridad sobre las diferentes narrativas de la gente normal que hace sus hogares aquí. Debemos proporcionarles las plataformas y el apoyo económico y la validación que necesitan para tener éxito.

“La tarea de nuestra peregrinación es servir como testigos interreligiosos de las verdades de ambas partes y de ayudar a la gente buena y noble que vive allí a encontrar la paz y la integridad y la calma que desean y que merecen”.

Miembros de la peregrinación

Episcopales

  • Obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori
  • Rvdmo. Prince Singh, de la Diócesis Episcopal de Rochester.
  •  Rdo. John E. Kitagawa, rector de la iglesia de San Felipe de las Colinas [St. Philip’s in-the-Hills] en Tucson, Arizona
  •  Rdo. Charles K. Robertson, canónigo de la Obispa Primada.
  •  Rda. Margaret Rose, subdirectora de relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas.
  •  Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de Actividad Pública y de Comunicación de la Misión.
  •  Sharon Jones, asistente ejecutiva de la Obispa Primada.

Judíos

  • Rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Rabino Leonard Gordon, presidente de relaciones interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Ethan Felson, vicepresidente y consejero general del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Rabino Batya Steinlauf, director justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío de Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington.

Musulmanes

  • Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte.
  •  Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director del Centro Hickey para estudios y diálogos interreligiosos en Nazareth College, Rochester, Nueva York.
  •  Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte.
  •  Mohamed Elsanousi, director de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid

Un artículo de ENS que incluye reflexiones de la delegación interreligiosa puede encontrarse aquí. Un artículo acerca de la reunión del grupo con líderes políticos puede encontrarse aquí.

– Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Líderes religiosos de EE.UU. dejan Tierra Santa con mayor conciencia de posibilidades

ENS Headlines - Friday, February 6, 2015

La delegación interreligiosa posa para una foto en el exterior del Centro Peres para la Paz en Jafa, Israel, luego de una reunión con el ex primer ministro Israelí Shimon Peres. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] Un tapiz de palabras tales como “vulnerabilidad” y “fragilidad”, “valor” y “dignidad” se tejieron en una trama común mientras líderes judíos, cristianos y musulmanes de Estados Unidos convenían en que habían sido transformados por una peregrinación de una semana a Tierra Santa. La experiencia, dijeron, aumentaría su responsabilidad a asociados en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos y le daría cuerpo al tejido de su futura labor de pacificación, tanto en la región como de vuelta a casa.

El grupo interreligioso de 15 miembros fue codirigido por Katharine Jefferts Schori, obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal; el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas (JCPA) y Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte (ISNA).

La obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori y el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas, comparten un momento de reflexión silenciosa durante una visita al Yad Vashem, el museo judío en memoria del Holocausto. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

El  grupo sostuvo reuniones con israelíes y palestinos, con personas al frente de grandes responsabilidades y políticos de alto nivel, así como con líderes religiosos y cívicos, y compartieron mutuamente las tradiciones religiosas de los demás  mientras viajaron durante nueve días por Israel, la Cisjordania y Jerusalén. Entre las escalas se incluyeron Tel Aviv, Nazaret, Safed, Tiberias, Ramala y el asentamiento cisjordano de Gush Etzión y sus áreas circundantes, así como los sectores oriental y occidental de Jerusalén.

Si bien unas reuniones prolongadas con funcionarios del gobierno palestino impusieron la cancelación de un viaje del grupo a Belén, algunos peregrinos visitaron la ciudad cisjordana en el ínterin de otras reuniones. El grupo en pleno recorrió la barrera de separación en su ruta en torno a Belén y sus inmediaciones en Cisjordania. La visita de un grupo a Hebrón se canceló por alteraciones de última hora en el calendario mientras una tormenta invernal se acercaba a EE.UU. lo cual obligó a algunos participantes a cambiar su planes de regreso.

(Un artículo de ENS acerca de la reunión del grupo con líderes políticos puede encontrarse aquí).

Mientras el grupo reflexionaba sobre lo vivido durante la semana, en una conversación sostenida en un hotel administrado por palestinos, a intramuros de la Vieja Jerusalén, donde se hospedaron, Gutow describió el viaje como “una peregrinación de relaciones.

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, takes a photo of members of the Muslim delegation (from left) Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for La rabina Batya Steinlauf, directora de justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío de Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington, le toma una foto a los miembros de la delegación musulmana (de izquierda a derecha) Mohamed Elsanousi, director de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid; Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte (ISNA) y Azhar Azeez, presidente de ISNA. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Hemos adquirido densidad mientras recorríamos el suelo santo de la más santa de las tierras. Vimos la belleza del lugar y vimos su dolor. Se acentuó nuestra comprensión”, dijo él. “No es la visión elemental con la cual llegamos a esta tierra, sino más bien la complejidad, el matiz, las historias (buenas y malas), las dificultades lo que ahora definen nuestra visión de lo que hay allí. La santidad conlleva su esfuerzo”.

Jefferts Schori dijo que “la voluntad de los peregrinos de profundizar en el diálogo y de aprender tanto como enseñar en los intercambios seguirá repercutiendo. Siento como si hubiéramos tenido una muestra de la realidad eterna que buscan nuestras tradiciones”.

Ella también advirtió que, como una coalición interreligiosa, “tenemos una voz que puede hablar a los líderes políticos, a otros líderes cívicos. Existe la posibilidad de prender algunos fuegos, en el mejor sentido de la expresión, en Estados Unidos, de esperanza y de posibilidades, si hablamos juntos… Que seamos vasijas e instrumentos de la paz del Bendito”.

El Corán, dijo Syeed, “nos dice que hemos investido a los seres humanos con nobleza y dignidad, pero que a fin de mantener esa dignidad tenemos una cierta responsabilidad. Resulta muy difícil para nosotros regresar y perder de vista ese proceso de dignificación en que Dios nos ha puesto: mirarnos mutuamente a los ojos, ver que hay una imagen de Dios, y creer que no podemos permitirnos la degeneración, y no permitiremos que otros se degeneren. Es nuestro deber colectivo salvarnos los unos a los otros”.

Miembros de la delegación interreligiosa recorren la barrera de separación en su ruta en torno a Belén. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

La visita se planeó en respuesta Resolución B019, aprobada por la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal en 2012, que requería la inversión y la participación positivas en la región y que recomendaba que la Obispa Primada llevara a cabo una peregrinación interreligiosa modelo que tuviera la experiencia de múltiples testimonios. Esa resolución reiteraba el compromiso de la Iglesia Episcopal, de larga data, con una solución negociada de dos estados “en la cual un estado de Israel seguro y universalmente reconocido viva al lado de un estado viable y seguro para el pueblo palestino”.

El conflicto entre israelíes y palestinos ha durado más de 60 años. Las negociaciones de paz entre líderes israelíes y palestinos auspiciadas por EE.UU. se interrumpieron en mayo de 2014, cuando ambas partes culparon a la otra de no hacer las concesiones adecuadas en temas tales como las fronteras, el estatus de los refugiados, la compartición de Jerusalén y la construcción de asentamientos israelíes en territorio palestino.

Alexander D. Baumgarten, director actividad pública y de comunicación de la misión de la Iglesia Episcopal y uno de los organizadores de la peregrinación, dijo: “me sorprende que la narrativa sea realmente una cosa complicada, porque la narrativa nace de nuestros propios niveles de confianza con las comunidades y las personas y las realidades con las cuales nos identificamos, para nosotros así como para los israelíes y los palestinos. Eso es algo maravilloso en muchos aspectos, pero también esta preñado de peligro porque aferrándonos a nuestras propias narrativas… podríamos dejar de ver la auténtica verdad en la narrativa del otro”.

El obispo Prince Singh de la Iglesia Episcopal de Rochester. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

El obispo Prince Singh, de la Diócesis Episcopal de Rochester y miembro de la delegación episcopal, se mostró de acuerdo. “No sólo hemos celebrado nuestras diferencias; hemos interiorizado más las verdades con que cada uno de nosotros ha crecido y que ha considerado santas, pero para poder reconocerlas en otra verdad”, dijo. “Los varios espejos que se han presentado han sido muchísimo más claros debido a este tipo de transparencia en la comunidad”.

A través de la peregrinación, Singh dijo que se había encontrado “descendiendo a lugares profundos, lo cual no puedo hacer si no soy vulnerable. Cuando miramos a los problemas de la justicia, las opiniones pueden diferir debido a las lentes que usemos. Pero si, de manera experiencial, esto es lo que puede llegar a ser una querida comunidad, ello me da muchísima esperanza”.

Los peregrinos dijeron que la experiencia de viajar juntos como una comunidad interreligiosa también daría sus frutos cuando tuvieran que enfrentarse a problemas apremiantes en sus propios contextos.

“Siento como si Dios hubiera lanzado el guijarro al agua y las ondas apenas comenzaran”, agregó Singh. “Ese guijarro es para mí este modelo que puede aplicarse a la paz en tantísimos niveles… Una de las cosas que me llevo de aquí es la de invitar a las personas a [integrarse en] asociaciones, y particularmente con el gobierno, para ver si podemos proponer juntos algunas soluciones, y si las comunidades religiosas pueden ser útiles en el proceso… de manera que podamos abordar algunos grandes problemas como la pobreza y la violencia en nuestras comunidades”.

Jefferts Schori apuntó: “Sé que habrá sobradas oportunidades para nosotros de colaborar, en procurar la reconciliación en la Tierra del Bendito, y en la nación que compartimos en otro hemisferio. El edificar la paz en un lugar impacta las situaciones problemáticas y violentas en todas partes”.

Algunos miembros del grupo en peregrinación han convenido en seguir reuniéndose ahora que están de regreso en Estados Unidos, con el propósito de compartir reflexiones del viaje y recomendaciones con funcionarios electos y de dirigir a sus propias comunidades a través de una extensa trayectoria de promoción social, instrucción y diálogo compartido relacionados con el fin del conflicto israelí-palestino. Según Baumgarten, los episcopales pueden esperar oír más acerca de esto en los meses que median de ahora al comienzo de la 78ª. Convención General en Salt Lake City en junio.

Compartir unos con otros las tradiciones religiosas y aprender acerca de Jerusalén, como una santa ciudad compartida, a través de los ojos de los líderes de otras fes trajo una nueva dimensión a la comprensión que el grupo tiene de las historias judía, cristiana y musulmana y del contexto actual de Tierra Santa.

La obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori y el rabino Leonard Gordon, que preside las relaciones interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas, miran a Jerusalén desde el Monte de los Olivos. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Sabíamos que cada una de nuestras tradiciones vio el rostro de Dios en esas colinas y esos valles; ahora sabemos que todas nuestras tradiciones ven el rostro de Dios allí”, dijo Gutow. “Según madurábamos juntos, podíamos sentir la presencia de Dios en cada uno de nuestros corazones, no sólo en el nuestro. Ese es el don. Entendimos aún más de lo que hicimos, y ver el rostro de Dios en cada uno de los demás sólo profundiza nuestra responsabilidad con la tierra, los unos con los otros y, francamente, con Dios”.

El grupo interreligioso recorre las excavaciones arqueológicas de la Vieja Jerusalén. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Mohamed Elsanousi, director de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid en EE.UU. y miembro de la delegación musulmana, dijo que la hermandad entre las fes “fortaleciendo nuestras relaciones y edificando la confianza entre nosotros” ha sido una parte fundamental del viaje, especialmente al profundizar su comprensión de [esa] tierra y de su significado como “los lugares sagrados de todos los hijos de Abraham”.

Dijo que la experiencia también crearía espacio para más oportunidades con el propósito de extender el diálogo y profundizar la comprensión entre las religiones en EE.UU.. “esta visita nos ha impuesto una responsabilidad… porque nos ha dado esta oportunidad de entender” y de actuar, añadió.

Syeed se refirió a varias iniciativas y publicaciones basadas en EE.UU. —facilitadas por la ISNA y sus asociados interreligiosos— para combatir la ignorancia, las incomprensiones y cambiar las nociones preconcebidas de las personas acerca de las religiones abrahámicas.

“Hablamos de una fraternidad que está determinada a cambiar la situación —una fraternidad transformadora— de manera que tiene que asentarse en suelo firme”, dijo Syeed, con referencia específica a dos guías para el diálogo interreligioso: Compartiendo el pozo [Sharing the Well] e Hijos de Abraham [Children of Abraham].

Los peregrinos también reconocieron que compartir este viaje con tan diverso grupo de líderes religiosos presenta ciertos retos y saca a las personas del ámbito donde se sienten cómodas.

El rabino Leonard Gordon, presidente de relaciones interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas, dijo que la peregrinación había conllevado “una cierta cantidad de contracción, en nuestros hábitos regulares de oración, nuestros hábitos de comidas, nuestros hábitos regulares de expresar nuestro pensamiento. Hemos sido deferentes los unos con los otros”.

Gordon reconoció que ha habido momentos de tensiones y de incomodidad, pero reconoció que “es difícil estar juntos y estar en este mundo de conflicto del que muchos de nosotros hablamos todo el tiempo, y hemos tenido que estar en este lugar de escuchas, pero creo que lo hemos hecho maravillosamente”.

Miembros del grupo reflexionan sobre la peregrinación de una semana de duración antes de regresar a EE.UU. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Sharon Jones, asistente ejecutiva de la obispa primada Jefferts Schori, visitaba Tierra Santa por primera vez. Dijo que la experiencia ha sido abrumadora, pero que regresa a Estados Unidos con un nuevo propósito y con un compromiso de encontrar vías a las que ella pueda responder.

Sus preocupaciones iniciales respecto a pasar una semana con un nuevo grupo de líderes religiosos y lo que ella pudiera contribuir a la peregrinación se deshicieron después de conocer a todo el mundo la primera noche. “Tuve una gran sensación de comunidad y percibí muchísima confianza, y hemos compartido mucho”.

La Rda. Margaret Rose, subdirectora de relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas de la Iglesia Episcopal, dijo: “si somos peregrinos, seguiremos estando en este viaje… Ahora debemos determinar qué decisión debe tomarse, y que acción realmente deber exigir valor. Tengo aquí personas experimentadas que son increíblemente valerosas. Oro pues por el valor y la bravura para llevar a cabo algunas cosas que no hemos hecho antes”.

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, and Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte, y la rabina Batya Steinlauf, directora de justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington, conversan antes de las reuniones con los funcionarios del gobierno palestino. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

La rabina Batya Steinlauf, directora de justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington, dijo que en lugar de mirar todas las cosas con las cuales ella se siente cómoda y familiar, “miró hacia arriba y hacia fuera, y se sentía realmente diferente porque estoy con una nueva comunidad que ve desde todas esas distintas perspectivas. Eso me conmovió… Creo que gran parte de lo que estamos intentando hacer es ver el mundo desde la perspectiva de Dios, y creo que es uno de los mensajes fundamentales que hemos recibido: recordar que esto pertenece a Dios”.

Steinlauf advirtió que todas las personas con las que el grupo se reunió “dijeron que a la postre íbamos a tener esperanza y a ser optimistas… porque uno simplemente tiene que serlo, y hay un criterio de que, bien, allí podría ocurrir un milagro. Manifestar puntos de vista tan discrepantes y, sin embargo, oír que todos se aferran aún a la esperanza de un milagro, agrada saber que todos estamos empeñados en realizar uno y que, con perseverancia, podríamos llegar a obtenerlo”.

Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte, también habló de ver las cosas desde nuevas perspectivas, a través de los ojos de líderes religiosos, de políticos, de académicos, de autores y de activistas. “Esta tierra es en verdad una tierra bendita, pero al mismo tiempo encontramos algunos gigantescos desafíos… Es muy fácil para mí en Estados Unidos o a cualquier otra persona en una sociedad occidental, hablar sobre estos temas, pero la gente que vive aquí son los que enfrentan los verdaderos retos”.

Varios miembros del grupo dijeron haberse sentido conmovidos e inspirados por las reuniones con líderes de iniciativas de base —el Programa de Negociación Shades, EcoPaz [EcoPeace] y Raíces [Roots]— que reúnen a israelíes y palestinos para oír y aprender mutuamente de sus diferentes narrativas y para edificar una sociedad pacífica en la cual todo el mundo pueda prosperar.

“Estoy totalmente anonadado por el valor que significó para cada uno de ellos”, dijo Gutow. “Cuando vas contra la tradición, cualquiera que esta sea, cuando vas contra tu propio pueblo, cuando estás dispuesto a levantarte y decir ‘esta no es la manera correcta de hacerlo”, eso conlleva un cierto tipo de coraje”.

Ethan Felson, vicepresidente y asesor legar del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas, y la Rda. Margaret Rose, subdirectora de relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas de la Iglesia Episcopal, conversan durante una visita al sitio bautismal de Yardenit, en el río Jordán. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Ethan Felson, vicepresidente y asesor legal del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas dijo: “en una época cuando se dedica tanta energía a aplastar a un lado o al otro, resultó enriquecedor experimentar sobre el terreno la labor de genuinos pacificadores dedicados a destrozar sus propias zonas de seguridad y a viajar con otros pacificadores que hacen lo mismo”.

Las personas que llevan a cabo la labor más transformadora, dijo Felson, “no son los que se centran en un documento o en normativas ni en definiciones, sino más bien los que siguen estando donde están en su comunidad, en ese auténtico lugar y se reúnen con otros que de la misma manera siguen estando en ese lugar genuino, y que realmente abrazan un entendimiento diferente de lo que significa para dos pueblos con diferentes narrativas venir a vivir uno junto al otro”.

El Rdo. John E. Kitagawa, rector de la iglesia episcopal de San Felipe de las Colinas [St. Philip’s-in-the-Hills], en Tucson, Arizona, dijo: “Hemos escuchado estos increíbles testimonios de personas que están poniéndose al frente, escudriñándose atentamente, siendo capaces de emprender esos diálogos

de corazón. Me voy de un lugar más esperanzador de lo que yo creía que sería”.

Resumiendo la peregrinación, Baumgarten dijo: “Lo que me ha resultado alentador en este viaje fue ver que, especialmente al margen del foco de atención, los israelíes y los palestinos están realmente retando a sus comunidades a caminar por la senda del otro”.

Citando el poema de T.S. Eliot, El viaje de los magos, en el cual Eliot pone en boca de los tres sabios: “regresamos a nuestros lugares, estos reinos. Pero ya no nos sentimos cómodos aquí, en nuestra antigua dispensación”.

“Así es como me siento como resultado de este viaje”, dijo Baumgarten. “Creo que si todo el mundo pudiera venir aquí y recorrer la senda que hemos andado juntos, ninguno de nosotros se sentiría cómodo en nuestra antigua dispensación”.

– Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Partnerships will bring lasting peace to Holy Land, religious leaders say

ENS Headlines - Friday, February 6, 2015

Members of the interfaith pilgrimage visit the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] Partnerships and investment, especially in supporting faith-based grassroots work, hold the key to lasting peace in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, a United States interfaith delegation heard repeatedly from religious leaders with whom they met during a Jan. 18-26 pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

The 15-member delegation of Jews, Christians and Muslims from the U.S. found this prevailing message in all their conversations, whether with rabbis, kadis (Islamic judges), priests or bishops.

Kadi Iyad Zahalka, head of the Sharia courts in Jerusalem, told the delegation that it is through these kinds of partnerships “that we will achieve understanding among all of the communities. This kind of action in bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims is motivating to the people here to be more engaged in this kind of dialogue.”

Zahalka said that the politicians sign diplomatic agreements, “not the religious people. But our job is to prepare the people to be ready for that moment, to accept the peace process, to engage the peace process, to encourage our leaders. We strive to create the dynamic of peace, which is much more important than signing the contracts.”

But he acknowledged the concerns of extremism on both sides, such as the recent stabbing of 11 people by a Palestinian man on a bus in central Tel Aviv and the burning of an Arab-Jewish school by Jewish radicals.

Kadi Iyad Zahalka (left), head of the Sharia courts in Jerusalem, with Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“These challenges must encourage us to do more in dialogue and co-existence in order to prevent suffering,” Zahalka told the interfaith group towards the end of their weeklong interfaith pilgrimage. “It is very important for us to do that and it is very important for others to support us in the process of dialogue.”

Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, works closely with Zahalka in promoting dialogue and peace, especially among religions.

Kronish talked about the complexities of identity that exist throughout Israel and the West Bank that often cause confusion when addressing issues of peace.

There are Palestinians who live in the West Bank, Jews who live in Israel, but there are also Arab Israelis, “that is Arab Palestinians with Israeli citizenship,” he said. “Their goal is not fighting occupation every minute, their goal is integration in Israeli society even though they will have various relationships with Palestinians in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.”

The interfaith pilgrimage was formed in response to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention Resolution B019, passed in 2012, that called for positive investment and engagement in the region and recommended that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori develop an interfaith model pilgrimage that experiences multiple narratives.

Committed to deepening their own partnership, the interfaith group shared in one another’s faith traditions, including services at the Anglican cathedral in east Jerusalem, a Jewish synagogue in west Jerusalem, and a rare, private tour inside the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, which normally are strictly closed to non-Muslims.

Members of the interfaith pilgrimage visit the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The group – led by Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America – was welcomed for a Sunday morning service at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in east Jerusalem by its dean, the Very Rev. Hosam Naoum, and Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Jefferts Schori preached during the service.

Interfaith pilgrims join the Sunday morning service at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

U.S.-based Episcopal Church dioceses and individuals have long been in partnership with the Jerusalem diocese and continue to support the ministry of its more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. The institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities and serve those in need regardless of their religious affiliation.

The diocese and the institutions also are supported by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization established in 1985.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem talk outside St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, following the Arabic service on Jan. 25. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Dawani told the interfaith group following the service that religion needs to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. “We have a responsibility as leaders, and we have a duty to facilitate and bring co-existence among all the communities,” he said. “As the center of the three Abrahamic faiths, we pray that Jerusalem will be a model for future peace to the whole world.”

A source of major concern for the Jerusalem diocese is the many Palestinian and Israeli Christians who are leaving the Holy Land in search of better opportunities overseas.

Dawani has said that “investment is something we all need here in the hardships and difficult economic situation. Investment really will encourage people not only to stay here, but to feel that they can take care of their families and the future of their children.”

In response to such calls from the Episcopal Church’s partners in the Holy Land, as well as to Resolution B019, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society invested $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine in 2013 for the purpose of economic development in the Palestinian Territories. The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council recently endorsed expansion of that investment and commended the matter to the church’s economic-justice loan committee for study.

Following the service, Dawani accompanied the group for a visit to His Beatitude Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, who said that their presence in the Holy Land brings “great encouragement and support to its people.” The patriarch is the senior leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land, and represents the longest continuing historical presence of any single religious institution in Jerusalem today.

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori meet with His Beatitude Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“It’s not an easy task to have such a unified voice as Jews, Muslims and Christians,” he said. “Bringing people together and working for reconciliation, this is what we are trying to do. People here use the word ‘tolerance’ which is totally unacceptable. We need to be talking about inclusiveness.”

The patriarch talked about the land being connected with the sacred histories of the three Abrahamic faiths and the conflict and misunderstandings that has caused. “How can we convince our people – Jews, Christians and Muslims – to have a different approach to the sacred history?” he asked. “The letter is killing, but the mind, or the spirit of the letter, is vivifying. How can we communicate this message to politicians, to diplomats? … They don’t understand what the sacred history means.”

“The problem is that people here understand the land in eschatological terms,” he added, “[But] we serve common human nature and common destiny … This is what we have to bear in mind if we want to believe that we are really people of God … This land is totally holy, and we share this land, all of us.”

Syeed responded to the patriarch by saying that his words were “soothing, inspiring and comforting … This is the land of manna and salwa,” the Hebrew and Arabic words that describe the food that God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert.

His Beatitude Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, poses for a group photo with the interfaith delegation and Anglican leaders in the Holy Land. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Two days earlier, the group attended a Friday evening synagogue service at Kol Haneshamah, a center for Progressive Judaism in West Jerusalem. Following the service, they were welcomed for Shabbat dinner at the home of Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, a 10th generation rabbi whose congregation is committed to social justice and often leads peaceful demonstrations against violence, including whenever a mosque, synagogue or church is attacked.

Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman (standing) welcomes the interfaith pilgrims to his home for Shabbat dinner. From left are Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America; and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Weiman-Kelman shared a Jewish Midrash interpretation from Genesis that illustrates how the formation of the name Jerusalem was achieved through a compromise and consideration to the other.

Because of their own encounters of God, Abraham called the place Yireh, and Shem named it Shalem. According to Hebrew scripture, “The Holy Blessed One said: If I call it Yireh as Abraham called it, Shem a righteous man, will be upset. If I call it Shalem as Shem called it, Abraham, a righteous man, will be upset. Therefore I call this place as the two of them called it Yireh-Shalem, Yeru-shalayim, Jerusalem.”

Following Kelman’s reflection, Jefferts Schori said that she is invigorated by the bridges that have been built during the weeklong pilgrimage and that it reminds her of the creation story, the relationship between light and dark, earth and sky. “At first it looks like division,” she said, “but it’s a good lesson in the importance of interconnection.”

Earlier in the week, Rabbi David Rosen, Jerusalem-based international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, spoke about a new age of interfaith relations in the Holy Land, which finds religious leaders engaged in deeper, more effective partnerships, particularly through the Council of the Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

Established in 2005, the council facilitates the ongoing engagement of the leadership and representation of the official religious institutions of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities in the Holy Land.

In introducing Rosen, Gutow said that the former chief rabbi of Ireland has been a leading force in interreligious dialogue and “really exemplifies interfaith relations in this region.”

But Rosen acknowledged the need for greater efforts to include religious voices in political spheres.

“There is an attitude among politicians not to risk doing anything with religious leaders. If the parties brought in religious voices it would have an enormously powerful effect. But they prefer inertia over risk.”

Rabbi David Rosen (right), Jerusalem-based international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, speaks to the interfaith group during lunch in Tel Aviv. From left are Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America; and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Towards the end of the pilgrimage, Kronish of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel echoed much of what Rosen had said. “The 1990s was a period of high hopes for peace, but since 2000 the situation has been deteriorating,” he said, noting that the last significant peace agreement between Israeli and Palestinians leaders was the Wye River Memorandum in 1998.

“So we’ve had 16 years, a lot of talk, and really no product. The question is how much further down can we go? The greatest obstacles to peace are political despair. Nobody feels like there is a resolution in sight,” he said. “We don’t have right now hope in our political leaders on both sides. They don’t seem willing to make the painful compromises that are needed” to reach a peace agreement.

“Where we have found hope is working with youth, young adults, women, with religious leaders at the grassroots levels, with educators, with the people who are doing hard educational and spiritual work in the trenches and not in the political arena.”

Jefferts Schori described peacemaking as “the work of building bridges of relationship between human beings … That requires personal risk-taking, vulnerability, and the ability to see and hear the partner’s deep human desires.”

Gutow, reflecting on the pilgrimage said: “We must stand with those who can both understand and speak with integrity about the differing narratives of the regular people who make their homes there. We must provide them with the platforms and the financial support and the validation they need to succeed.

“The job of our pilgrimage is to serve as an interfaith witness to the truths of both sides and to help the good and kind people who dwell there find the peace and wholeness and calm they so desire and so deserve.”

Pilgrimage members

Episcopalian

•    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
•    Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
•    The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona
•    The Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop
•    The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations
•    Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication
•    Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop

Jewish

•    Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
•    Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
•    Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
•    Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington

Muslim

•    Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America
•    Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director of the Hickey Center for interfaith studies and dialogue at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York
•    Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America
•    Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid

An ENS article including reflections from the interfaith delegation is available here. An article about the group’s meeting with political leaders is available here.

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.