Statement on the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI by the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
We should salute the courageous decision of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI de retire and leave the See of Peter to another man. As he was beginning to show signs of his age, many feared reliving the last years of his predecessor. Clearly, Benedict XVI felt the same way. His resignation is therefore a relief for us all, including himself. With this very modern gesture, he is giving his successors an example to follow.
Every time that I had the honor to meet Benedict, what struck me the most, besides the power of his intellect which has not weakened, is the humility and simplicity of this man, who never failed to be interested in those around him, great and small. I salute this courageous man, and I pray that the Lord will grant him a peaceful retirement, and perhaps the leisure to write more important books that will embellish an already imposing opus.
Déclaration au moment de la démission du Pape Benoît XVI, par Monseigneur Pierre Whalon, Évêque chargé des Églises Épiscopales en Europe
Nous devons saluer la décision courageuse de Sa Sainteté le Pape Benoît XVI de prendre sa retraite et laisser le siège de Pierre à un autre. Alors qu’il commençait à montrer des signes de son âge, beaucoup craignaient revivre les dernières années de son prédécesseur. Il est évident que Benoît XVI éprouvait aussi le même sentiment. Donc sa démission est un soulagement pour nous tous, et lui aussi. De ce geste bien moderne, il donne à ses successeurs l’exemple à suivre.
Chaque fois que j’ai eu l’honneur de le rencontrer, ce qui m’a frappé le plus, en outre de la puissance de son intellect qui n’a pas faibli, c’est l’humilité et la simplicité de cet homme, qui ne manquait jamais de s’intéresser aux autres, les petits autant que les grands. Je salue cet homme courageux, et je prie que le Seigneur lui accorde une retraite paisible, et peut-être le loisir d’écrire encore d’autres livres importants qui embelliront une œuvre déjà imposante.
[Church of England] The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) have called on the Church of England to support a new survey, launched this month, monitoring the decline of the British hedgehog.
Working with Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England’s national environmental campaign, the charities believe the CofE’s 10,000 churchyards could be natural homes for hedgehogs who will soon be coming out of hibernation.
The Hedgehog Hibernation survey aims to find out more about the creature’s patterns of behaviour, which in turn will help inform practical conservation action. Hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining by three to five per cent each year in towns and in the rural landscape, with the loss most apparent in the South West, South East and Eastern regions of England, according to the results of a ten-year trend analysis by the charity.
Judith Evans promoter of the Living Churchyard scheme for St Albans diocese said: “There certainly seem to be far fewer hedgehogs around than there used to be. Like all animals, hedgehogs need food and shelter, both of which are likely to be found in the increasing number of churchyards which are managed in a wildlife-friendly way. The Living Churchyard scheme encourages the creation of compost heaps and log piles which as well as acting as a larder, containing slugs and other invertebrates, provide shelter.
“It would be very encouraging to find evidence of hedgehogs in our churchyards, so I hope churches will take part in this survey,”
David Shreeve the CofE’s national environmental adviser said: “Supporting this survey underlines the Church’s commitment to caring for creation, as spelled out in the Fifth Mark of Mission*. Our 10,000 churchyards boast a wealth of wildlife and are hopefully home to a good number of hedgehogs.”
“Continuous monitoring each year is vital to help us build a more complete picture of the state of the UK’s wild mammal populations. Churches collecting data from their churchyards – and other appropriate land – could be very helpful for our research,” said PTES CEO Jill Nelson .
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori participated in the Fourth Annual Ash Wednesday Prayer Service at Liberty State Park, which focused on immigration discrimination and detainees.
“We share a dream of peace,” the Presiding Bishop said to the interreligious group of religious leaders, families of detainees, and immigrants. “O God, vindicate us, give us peace, save us from any who would destroy, diminish, or degrade any human being. We are all brothers and sisters in your sight, O Lord. Hold up your mirror to every face, let your face shine upon us all, and bring us peace.”
The following is Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s text:
Ash Wednesday Pilgrimage vs. Immigration Discrimination
“No More Silence! Awake to Justice!”
13 February 2013
Liberty State Park, NJ
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
As we stand here in view of these great symbols of the open arms of this country, we must reflect on the irony they represent. Some of our ancestors were welcomed by the first peoples of this continent. One of the great myths of this nation tells of Tisquantum helping the settlers in Plymouth to grow food, teaching them to fertilize their corn by burying a fish near the seeds. The settlers soon turned on the native inhabitants, egged on by theologies that said such heathens had no right to exist here – they were simply commodities to be displaced or enslaved. More than five centuries after that doctrine of discovery was promulgated, a growing number of faith communities are rejecting it as heretical.
The other irony is that those great symbols of welcome behind us have so qualified their invitation that they might as well be a billboard that says, “keep out.” I lived in Oregon in the 1970s when the governor posted a sign like that at the California border that said, “come and visit, but don’t stay.” He was serious, even if he did smile when he said it.
We’re here today to lament and protest the borders and fences and inhospitality of so many people and practices in this land. Those are the mild words for it. There are far more violent ones, like “illegal.” We stand here today because we believe that it is ultimately unfaithful to call any person by that name. It’s time to take that word and bury it. Put it in the ground to become fertilizer – like Tisquantum’s fish – let it rot and let its venom dissolve into the soil. And out of that act we trust that new life will ultimately spring forth.
Each and every human being is precious in the eyes of God. Our lament over injustices surrounding immigration is grounded in that belief. We all dream of a world in which each and every human being has access to the basic goods of life – food, shelter, care in time of sickness, meaningful employment, education – and therefore all are able to live in peace because there is justice. People migrate to find those fundamental blessings – to live in peace, to be able to feed their children and themselves, to live in dignity, with justice. We call that dream by varied names – shalom, salaam, the reign of God, the beloved community, even salvation and rescue.
We are here to echo the psalmist’s cry to say, “Wake up! Give your people justice, O Lord! Help us to counter the injustice that seeks to define some people as less deserving of that dream than others. Cry to the Lord, saying enough! Let families live together in peace. Help everyone find meaningful work, sufficient to undergird that dream of food, shelter, healing, education, and dignity.”
The psalmist cries out against his enemies, believing all the fault lies in them. Like most human beings, we are a more mixed bag. Almost anyone who lives in this country participates in the economic system that exploits migratory labor. It’s nearly impossible to avoid. A pastor in Arizona reminded a group about that fact when he pointed out that if you eat lettuce, live in a house that’s been built in the last 20 years, or enjoy eating relatively inexpensive fruits and vegetables, then know that those “blessings” have been provided at least in part by undocumented immigrant labor. Many of the people who labor on construction sites and in the fields and orchards and chicken processing plants are exploited as to their pay and working conditions, they are treated like commodities rather than human beings made in the image of God. It costs employers less trouble and expense to provide debased housing and forbid the presence of families. When the status of immigrants is questioned, our government frequently holds them essentially incommunicado and/or moves them far away from any family and local support they might have locally. Citizens of these United States share some responsibility for those undignified and unjust practices, and our prayer today must be that hearts and minds are opened to the need for justice.
I am particularly struck by the parallels between the experience of peoples in the ancient Middle East and people here on this continent. The experience of the Hebrews or apiruin Egypt was a lot like what many immigrants here experience – both treated as commodity labor, ill-fed and ill-housed, their children at significant risk and unable to join the larger society as equals. Out of that experience, and their liberation, came the urgent reminder to “care for the sojourner in your midst, for you were once slaves in Egypt.” The psalmist’s cry for justice and vindication is just as urgent here today as it was for those slaves in Egypt, for the exiles in Babylon, and for every displaced person throughout history.
We share a dream of peace. O God, vindicate us, give us peace, save us from any who would destroy, diminish, or degrade any human being. We are all brothers and sisters in your sight, O Lord. Hold up your mirror to every face, let your face shine upon us all, and bring us peace.
[Church of St. Luke in the Fields – Press Release] Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash has written a previously unreleased track entitled “Jim and George,” now available for download exclusively through the Church of St. Luke in the Fields here.
Cash discussed “Jim and George” at St. Luke’s 2nd annual “Feed Your Soul” benefit auction and Mardi Gras dinner Feb. 12.
All proceeds of the music sales and auction will benefit the outreach programs at St. Luke’s: The People Living with AIDS project, which provides a weekly meal, spiritual counsel (optional), and fellowship for clients living with HIV/AIDS, and “The Church”: Art, Acceptance and a Place to Be Yourself for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/ Questioning Youth and their Allies, which provides a safe haven for LGBTQA street youth under the age of 21.
In describing her inspiration for “Jim and George,” Cash said: “as a longtime supporter and member of the St. Luke’s community, I am so happy and humbled to offer this track to help benefit the outreach programs at St. Luke’s. I wrote this song about an elderly gay couple in Chelsea who were very dear to me, and it was an exercise in compassion and awareness to see myself through their eyes, and them through my eyes. Love is love, and love doesn’t contain itself within arbitrary borders of gender, orientation, race, nationality, creed or age. Love is love, and I send as much as I can to the outreach programs and the entire St. Luke’s community.”
About the outreach programs at St. Luke in the Fields:
The People Living with AIDS Project (PLWA) was founded in 1987 in response to the AIDS epidemic, and currently offers a five course sit-down meal each Saturday evening to 60-70 guests afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus. Many participants attend the dinners not only to fuel their bodies, but also to discuss distressing issues and improve the quality of their lives. St. Luke’s has also recently established a visiting program at the historic Bailey-Holt House, where volunteers seek to break isolation and provide friendship for residents living with HIV and AIDS. The PLWA Project is one of New York City’s most recognized and historic help/humanitarian organizations with many prominent New Yorkers in support.
“The Church” provides a safe haven for LGBTQA street youth under the age of 21. The young homeless flock to “The Church” since they see it as an opportunity to participate in arts programs, and receive a warm meal in an accepting environment. While the arts program gets participants in the door, the effects reach much farther. Many teens that come to “The Church” have been kicked out of their homes by their families, or have been subjected to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. “The Church” not only provides compassion and a supportive environment, but it helps refer teens to hospitals or other mental health programs that they might not have walked into alone without a helping hand, and other resources including job training and resume writing. St. Luke’s sees this harm-reduction program as HIV prevention in and of itself, and it also offers HIV testing and counseling by Callen-Lorde, Harlem United, Roosevelt Hospital and other partners.
More information and a brief film about the outreach programs at St. Luke’s can be found here.
[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined people from New Jersey and New York representing faith-based, community and immigrant rights groups on Ash Wednesday morning to begin a whole day of actions aimed at repenting the sin of immigration detention.
“When the status of immigrants is questioned, our government frequently holds them essentially incommunicado and/or moves them far away from any family and local support they might have locally,” the presiding bishop said during the vigil. “Citizens of these United States share some responsibility for those undignified and unjust practices, and our prayer today must be that hearts and minds are opened to the need for justice.
Also on Ash Wednesday, representatives of the Episcopal Church submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, for a Feb. 13 hearing on immigration reform.
“The fundamental principles of legal due process should be granted to all persons and all immigration enforcement policies should be proportional and humane, which is why the Episcopal Church has called for the immediate termination of destructive enforcement programs like Secure Communities … and the implementation of community alternatives to the costly prison-like immigration detention system,” Office of Government Relations Director Alexander Baumgarten and Katie Conway, immigration and refugee policy analyst, said in their testimony.
“Our immigration system must be transformed into a just and humane system that discerns between those who enter illegally to do us harm and those who enter because our system cannot provide them with a clear and timely path to family reunification or legal employment,” they added.
For the fourth year in a row, the morning interfaith vigil took place in Liberty State Park in Jersey City in front of the bridge to Ellis Island and in sight of the Statue of Liberty. It included members from IRATE & First Friends, Pax Christi NJ, Wind of the Spirit, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program-Newark and NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees as well as recently released detainees and friends and family members of current detainees, according to a press release.
The day’s actions were a series of vigils titled “No More Silence! Awake to Justice!” meant to repent the sin of immigration detention “and the silence from the community that allows the deaths of people in detention to go unrecognized and makes it acceptable to profit from the separation of families and the exploitation of the thousands of immigrants in detention in conditions that place them at risk of psychological and physical harm,” the release said.
Jefferts Schori was joined by Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Donato as well as Jewish and Muslim clergy.
The other New Jersey vigils were in Hackensack on the town green outside the Bergen County Court House, in Newark at the Hall of Records and later at Delaney Hall in the Essex County Jail complex, South Kearney on the street outside the Hudson County Correctional Center and at the detention center in Elizabeth.
The day was due to culminate with the annual vigil at the Elizabeth Detention Center, the for-profit facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) where the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency first started incarcerating immigrants almost two decades ago, the release said. This will be the 17th year that a vigil has been held in Elizabeth.
“We come to lament the injustice done to our brothers and sisters who are being harshly punished and to cry out to God,” Gene Squeo, a member of the board of Pax Christi NJ, said in the release, explaining why it was appropriate and important to gather on Ash Wednesday. “We know that God hears the cry of the poor, but we also know that detainees in New Jersey continue to cry out and our county governments profit from their pain but our community has yet to hear them.”
Local governments often earn income by housing federal detainees in their facilities.
Lorna Henkel, president of the IRATE & First Friends board of trustees said, “even though politicians in Washington seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform we see no signs that the federal government will reduce its reliance on a ballooning, financially wasteful and inhumane system, and there is no incentive for local governments in New Jersey to put the well being of immigrants in detention and their families above the revenues that it generates.”
Organizers said it the release that the history of immigration detention in New Jersey which includes “shocking deaths, a culture of secrecy there are no enforceable standards of care and no real oversight.”
“Families are separated, people are abused and sometimes they even die in detention,” said Diana Mejia, co-founder of Wind of the Spirit. “We feel morally obligated to speak out and if we cannot abolish mass immigration detention we must establish a way for members of the community to monitor conditions and end the silence and the secrecy.”
Other co-sponsors of the vigils were Casa Esperanza, Felician Sisters of North America; Office of Peace, Justice and Ecological Integrity for the Sisters of Charity of New Jersey; St. Joseph’s Social Service Center; Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, CEUS; NJ DREAM Act Coalition; Anakbayan-USA; St. Peter’s University Social Justice Program; Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast; Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill and Monmouth County Coalition of Immigrant Rights.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations Director Alexander Baumgarten and Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst, have submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, for a February 13 hearing on Immigration Reform
“Our immigration system must be transformed into a just and humane system that discerns between those who enter illegally to do us harm and those who enter because our system cannot provide them with a clear and timely path to family reunification or legal employment,” they maintain in their statement.
The following is their testimony in full:
TESTIMONY OF ALEXANDER D. BAUMGARTEN AND KATIE CONWAY ON BEHALF OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
FEBRUARY 13, 2013
We thank Senator Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ranking Member Grassley for the opportunity to submit this testimony. We welcome this hearing on the need for comprehensive immigration reform because we believe that our immigration system is broken, and that we as a nation deserve an immigration system that reflects our values and our history. Our nation and our faith find foundation in the belief that all people are created in the likeness of God and should therefore be treated with dignity, equality, and fairness under our laws.
The Episcopal Church’s support for comprehensive and humane reform of our immigration laws stems from our decades-long commitment to immigrants and refugees, rooted in our biblical mandate to welcome the stranger and serve the “least of these,” among us. For over 60 years, the Episcopal Church has resettled refugees fleeing persecution and has served as a forceful advocate for the needs of refugees, immigrants and other at-risk migrants for whom stronger protection is needed under our laws. This commitment to protection has led our highest governing body, the General Convention, to pass multiple resolutions in support of an immigration system that allows undocumented immigrants with established roots in the United States access to a pathway to citizenship. This includes a commitment the rights of all families, including the families of same-sex partners and spouses, to reunify without undue delay; labor protections under the law for both U.S. and migrant workers; and common-sense enforcement policies that respect the dignity and worth of every human being.
Each day, in congregations, diocese and communities across the country, the “strangers” among us enrich our lives and contribute to the multiethnic tradition of the American Dream. Immigrants of all skill levels, from those who pick the food that nourishes us to those who care for our children and elders to those whose technological innovations fix our computers, contribute economically, socially and spiritually to our communities. That is why we believe that any immigration reform must reform the entire system and avoid pitting different causes of migration and groups of immigrants against one another. Workers of all skill levels should be allowed to offer their needed contributions to our economy and they should be allowed to keep their families intact. Our system must not deny the socio-economic necessity of family, and the employment and family-immigration systems should be viewed as complimentary rather than competitive. Family members help one another integrate, pursue job opportunities, start their own businesses, and provide the foundations of healthy communities.
Our immigration system should be reformed so that immigrants who wish to reunify with their families or seek employment in the United States do not have to make impossible choices between our immigration laws and the people they love. Our Church recognizes the importance of adhering to our nation’s laws, but we believe we must work change the laws if they do not respect the dignity of human beings or respond to the needs of communities. This call to right relationship within human communities is a cornerstone of the Judeo-Christian scriptural and ethical tradition, and finds expression for Episcopalians in the promise each makes at baptism to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Our immigration system must be transformed into a just and humane system that discerns between those who enter illegally to do us harm and those who enter because our system cannot provide them with a clear and timely path to family reunification or legal employment. The fundamental principles of legal due process should be granted to all persons and all immigration enforcement policies should be proportional and humane, which is why the Episcopal Church has called for the immediate termination of destructive enforcement programs like Secure Communities, 287-g, and the implementation of community alternatives to the costly prison-like immigration detention system.
We hope that this hearing provides us with the first step towards the justice and peace that we seek. Thank you for carrying the costly burden of public service, and for the opportunity to submit these views to the Committee.
Alexander D. Baumgarten and Katie Conway
[Episcopal News Service] Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney Robert Gillies visited Grace Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 10 for its “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan” service.
Gillies presented South Carolina Provisional Bishop Charles vonRosenberg with a crozier carved by John Jaffries from oak from Balmoral Castle. Jaffries, before his retirement, was gillie (fishing and hunting guide) to Her Majesty the Queen at Balmoral.
The Scottish bishop spoke in his sermon of the deep bonds of history and affection between the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church.
Gillies called the “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan” an “experience to end all experiences” in an official report about his trip. He noted that 500 people attended the 9 a.m. service and another 650 worshiped at 11 a.m.
The pipe band from the nearby Citadel military college of South Carolina led the procession into Grace for the annual service. More photos from the day are here.
“I have come away from a truly awesome experience in Charleston with appreciation for having met some truly remarkable people doing some remarkable things,” Gillies said in his report. “I have also come away having encountered at first hand the awfulness of a modern day schism in the church. Nothing in what I saw and heard of in the decision taken by the Diocese of South Carolina to split from the Episcopal Church … convinced me that the will of God was being heard or listened to.”
Grace Church was recently the site of a reorganizing meeting of Episcopalians in South Carolina, needed after some, but not all Episcopalians followed Bishop Mark Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church.
Gillies was also present Feb. 2 at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York for the installation of Bishop Andrew Dietsche as the 16th bishop of the Diocese of New York.
[Anglican Church of Canada] Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of General Synod’s new video series, God among us: Lenten videos on the Stations of the Cross. Produced by the Rev. Scott McLeod, the videos weave together art, music, and powerful narratives that show how we can seek the face of God in other people.
The videos are designed to be simple meditations, especially for those who chose to reflect at their computers or smartphones. They will be released approximately twice a week over the season of Lent.
God among us: Lenten videos on the Stations of the Cross continues General Synod’s tradition of producing seasonal series to support personal or corporate devotional practices. Most recently, an Advent podcast series featured meditations by the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers, professor and author.
Each video in this Lenten series is unique. Some are slideshows and stories about finding God on overseas trips. Others include music and video footage, often of street scenes. All feature a central piece of art—a painting or collage—that depicts a Station of the Cross.
“I have shared a number of my experiences in these videos—ones that stay with me,” said Mr. McLeod, who serves as coordinator of online ministries for the Diocese of British Columbia.
“[These experiences] challenge me to live out the Gospel, to continue to seek the face of God in other people, to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in trying to live out the Gospel, and participate in the building up of the kingdom of God.”
Born and raised in Victoria, B.C., Mr. McLeod was ordained Anglican priest in 2005 and has served several parish communities. He has degrees from the University of Toronto and the Vancouver School of Theology, and has a particular passion for jazz and motorcycles.
Mr. McLeod hopes this series will deepen the season for all who watch:
“I hope that in this season of Lent, it helps give you the opportunity to think about the ways in which God is being revealed in your own life, through the common and everyday experiences that you might overlook.
“I hope that in sharing the challenges, that you see the challenges in your own life as opportunities to learn and grow in your faith and love. I pray all the blessings of contemplation in Lent for you.”
[National Council of Churches] In a move aimed at streamlining operations to “free up the Council to be about the priorities that the churches set together,” the National Council of Churches will consolidate its operations in Washington, D.C.
The NCC will remain in New York through “satellite offices” for three senior program staff: Dr. Joseph Crockett, associate general secretary, Education and Leadership Ministries; Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations; and the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, program director, NCC Women’s Ministries.
Discussions are currently underway with NCC partners to secure office space, with the express hope that the Council will be able to maintain its historic presence at The Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive.
One of the satellite offices will be in Union Seminary, across the street from The Interchurch Center.
NCC Transitional General Secretary Peg Birk will join Cassandra Carmichael, head of the NCC’s Washington Office, and Shantha Ready Alonso, director of the NCC’s poverty initiative, in the Council’s offices at 110 Maryland Avenue, an ecumenical center owned by the United Methodist Church.
Six administrative positions have been eliminated by the Council as a result of its ongoing restructuring and a streamlining of its accounting system. Outside vendors will likely provide human resource, IT, strategic accounting, and communications support, according to Birk.
The decision to consolidate operations in Washington followed a feasibility study by staff to determine “where the NCC can best achieve its work, providing the flexibility required by the new structure” Birk said.
The study followed a report last year by an NCC Governing Board Task Force on Revisioning and Restructuring the NCC. “The decision to consolidate operations in Washington provides flexibility for future possibilities concerning the location – or locations – of the Council,” said NCC President Kathryn Lohre.
“The critical NCC policy work can be coordinated from any location but to be the prophetic ‘voice of the faithful’ on the ground in the places of power, it is best served by establishing our operations in Washington,” Birk said.
The long-run savings of the consolidation in Washington are projected at between $400,000 and $500,000, according to Birk.
In the 1960s, the National Council of Churches occupied three floors of The Interchurch Center in New York, in addition to its offices at 110 Maryland Avenue in Washington.
The NCC was the impetus in the planning of The Interchurch Center, which opened in 1960. The Interchurch Center was conceived as the “Protestant Vatican on the Hudson” when President Dwight D. Eisenhower laid the cornerstone in 1958.
Over the years, however, many church denominations moved their headquarters outside New York, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ.
“It is important that we honor this moment with reverence and respect for the Council’s history as an iconic presence in the beloved ‘God Box,’” said Lohre.
“It is equally important that we look with hope upon this new chapter in the Council’s life,” Lohre said.
“This consolidation will free us from the infrastructure of a bygone era, enabling us to witness more boldly to our visible unity in Christ, and work for justice and peace in today’s rapidly changing ecclesial, ecumenical and inter-religious world.”
[Episcopal News Service] Shannon Knapp of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, is Zumba dancing her way to Jerusalem as part of her 2013 Lenten spiritual practice.
At least 83 others in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem are rowing, weightlifting, cycling, walking and even chair-exercising from nursing homes in the spirit of giving up unhealthy lifestyles as they count calories burned as miles traveled and aim to “arrive in Jerusalem” in time for Holy Week.
Many Episcopalians are offering inviting creative opportunities for the traditional Lenten practices of giving up bad habits or luxuries and of adding disciplines in an effort to draw closer to God.
Invitations to give things up include calls for carbon fasts throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, for plastic-bag fasts, for food fasts and reductions, and for foregoing unhealthy words and lifestyles and focusing on living simply.
Besides the corporate walk to Jerusalem in the Diocese of Bethlehem, add-on possibilities include: a daily photo log of God’s presence in unexpected places; Lent Madness; the Bible Challenge; and even a mustache and goatee-growing contest.
Lent: pray, fast, act in solidarity
In her Lenten message, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called on Episcopalians “to pray, to fast, to act in solidarity with those who go without. Learn more, give alms, share what you have. Be conscious about what you eat.”
Episcopalians could, for example, consider eating about $4 worth of food a day, the equivalent of a Food Stamp budget, as an “act of solidarity with those who do go without every day and every week,” she said.
Similarly, San Diego Episcopalians were invited to become “Hungry for Lent” by skipping a meal a week and donating the cost of that meal to the Episcopal Community Services for programs that assist the homeless and mentally ill. That way, it’s both a giving up and an adding on, said Deann Ayer, ECS volunteer coordinator.
“It would be fun for families to do it and for kids, too, and then to talk about what it means,” she said during a recent telephone interview from her office.
Giving up and adding on … words
The Society of St. John the Evangelist in West Newbury, Massachusetts, has established a meditation site to “give up a word a week” that your life would be better without, according to Jamie Coats, director of the Friends of SSJE.
“‘I’ was my word for this week,” wrote Laura on the meditation website during last year’s Lenten observance. “Wanted to try to emphasize the other person instead of me. I did not do so well in giving it up, but trying was a lesson in and of itself. I had no idea how much I talk about myself! I would be in the middle of a sentence and freeze as I was reminded to make the conversation about someone else! I would switch gears and try to solicit conversation from them and about them. I’ve decided to do this word for two weeks since I didn’t do as well as I wished I would have.”
At least 40 people responded to last year’s challenge, Coats said in an e-mail to the Episcopal News Service.
The website explains the practice: “We all try, at one time or another, to give up those habits, foods or behaviors that do us harm — what about words? … What word would your life be better without? Here is our challenge to you: For one week, stop using a word that is destructive to you, your life, the world or your relationship with others.”
Meanwhile, parishioners at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, are adding words —their own daily reflections to be distributed online as a Tumblr blog, said the Rev. Catherine D. Kerr, assistant rector.
“Rather than focusing our community on something that’s produced ‘out there’ somewhere, these reflections are written by members of our own parish and will be shared to the world,” she said.
Adding on … weightlifting and chair-exercising to Jerusalem
It’s about 5,675 miles from Carbon County, Pennsylvania, to Jerusalem, and the Rev. John Wagner, rector-elect of St. Mark’s and St. John’s Church in the city of Jim Thorpe, is making the calories-to-miles conversions for a host of exercises. That way, participants will metaphorically and collectively arrive in Jerusalem “in time to join Jesus on the Via Dolorosa and walk that trail of tears with him.”
“We’ll be able to trek that Via Dolorosa a few pounds lighter and in a bit better shape,” said Wagner, who thus far has about 83 Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and Methodists signed on for the journey.
“My prayer is we don’t wind up about five miles short and get wet in the Mediterranean,” he joked during a recent telephone interview with ENS.
Wagner adapted an Episcopal Health Ministries program to include everyone from Shannon Knapp’s zumba dancing to nursing home residents exercising in chairs, he said.
For Knapp, a parishioner at All Saints Church in Lehighton, it’s “a great opportunity to fit exercise into a positive mission for the church. I can’t wait to get started.”
Wagner, 66, who meditates while he walks, said the program also included weekly meditations on Scripture and health tips. “And, as the Lenten season progresses, hopefully we arrive at Easter far better physically and spiritually, and my cardiologist does approve of that.”
Participants will e-mail Wagner their activity totals each week; he will convert them to miles and keep them posted on individual and collective tallies as Holy Week draws near.
When some nursing home participants worried that they could only pledge a mile or two a week, he compared their contributions to “the lesson from the widow’s mite offering from St. Luke, where her two mites were judged more valuable than rich men who gave from their plenty. So they can join right in with the program, and if I have to pick them up on Holy Saturday and bring them out to meet the rest of the group, that’s fine.”
Wagner said he planned to bring as many participants as possible together during Holy Week to complete the last mile collectively. He is still accepting participants, including “independents,” via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Lent is a time of repentance and fasting, of turning away from all that is counter to God’s will and purposes for his world and all who live in it,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, ACEN chair and primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, which includes some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Floods recently hit two of the church’s dioceses, Lebombo and Niassa in Mozambique, leaving more than 150,000 people homeless.
“This year, I invite Anglicans to focus their Lenten ‘acts of love and sacrifice’ on our contribution to climate change and on those most impacted by it,” Makgoba said in a statement.
The carbon fast resource suggests a specific action for each of the 40 days of Lent, raising awareness of environmental issues and guiding participants on how to have a positive effect on creation.
Building on traditional Lenten practices where Christians give something up, such as chocolate or alcohol, the carbon fast asks participants to focus on lifestyle changes to reduce their “carbon footprint,” their contribution to environmentally damaging greenhouse-gas emissions, usually measured in carbon dioxide equivalent. Participants can record experiences on a blog at http://www.carbonfast2013.wordpress.com from Ash Wednesday through Easter.
In another environmental initiative, in the Diocese of Maryland the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (formerly Chesapeake Covenant Community) invites congregations to refrain from using plastic bags during Lent and opt for reusable cloth bags instead, according to Sharon Tillman, director of communications for the diocese.
Episcopalians also can join a 40-Days of Simply Living in a Time of Fire & Rain interfaith challenge for individuals and congregations, according to Chuck Morello, co-chair of the Minnesota Episcopal Environmental Stewardship Commission. It is accessible on Facebook and includes a challenge calendar for participants.
Adding on … images of God
Kim Ellsworth, an intern with the Episcopal Urban Intern Program at St. Stephen’s Church in Hollywood, California, hopes to engage others in “taking on a discipline that impacts our faith, our relationships and our relationship with God.
“I am going to take a picture every day of what I think represents God’s presence in a city that usually does not show it openly,” according to Ellsworth. “When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was astounded by the uncleanliness of the environment and the pain of the people despite the bright and warm weather. I wanted to help but, I admit, I fell into a gloom thinking that nothing I did would change it. I have emerged from that place, but I want to take this time of reflection to document and explore how God shows up in places we would normally not think to look.”
By using the church’s Facebook page and website, she has invited the community along on her photo journey.
In a sports-inspired Lenten activity, the well-known Lent Madness created by the Rev. Tim Schenck in 2010 and now run in partnership with Forward Movement, racked up 50,000 visits to the website last year.
The format for the engaging way to learn about the men and women in the church’s Calendar of Saints is straightforward: “32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch,” according to the Lent Madness website.
For the biblically minded, several churches and even dioceses are undertaking the Bible Challenge, which offers various options for reading portions of or all of the Bible during Lenten programs and throughout the year.
Finally, St. James Church in Cincinnati is hosting a mustache and goatee-growing contest. Contestants begin on Shrove Tuesday “by anteing up a $10 entry fee,” according to the contest website. “They will also announce the charity of their choice that they are sponsoring with their facial hair.”
– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
[National Council of Churches Press Release] The President of the National Council of Churches USA commended Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday for a “wise and graceful exit that shows enormous courage and a deep commitment to the ongoing effectiveness of his ministry.”
NCC President Kathryn Lohre expressed gratitude for the Pope’s long ministry as pontiff, cardinal, university professor, and priest.
Lohre noted the pope’s decision to step down February 28 after eight years as head of the world’s largest Christian church had “stunned the world, certainly including the 40 million persons who relate to the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches.”
No pope has voluntarily abdicated his office since 1415, and that was in the midst of a bitter conflict involving three competing pontiffs.
“Pope Benedict’s retirement is virtually unprecedented,” Lohre said. “This is an historic moment that alters expectations for sacrificial leadership in all communions. He is bravely facing up to the realities we all confront: the fragility of the human body and the inevitability of the time when we can no longer shoulder the burdens placed upon us.”
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, praised Benedict as scholar, writer, and teacher. “He communicates the essential teachings of the Catholic Church with clarity and precision,” Kireopoulos said. “There are no precedents for the role of an ex-pope. Perhaps his unexpected retirement will give him a chance to write more, or teach.”
The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of either the National Council of Churches USA or the World Council of Churches, Kireopoulos noted. “Catholics serve on commissions and committees in both councils, and their participation has been invaluable,” Kireopoulos said.
Before he became Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger served on the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission, Kireopoulos recalled.
“As Pope, he was very open to ongoing dialogue with other Christian communions and faith groups,” Kireopoulos said.
Kireopoulos, an Orthodox Christian, said Benedict has developed a close relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and has helped to foster closer Orthodox-Catholic relations.
Kireopoulos recalled a commentary he wrote after he was named to his NCC Faith and Order post, on the second encyclical of Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope). Benedict addressed important truths that are affirmed by Christians in and outside the Roman Catholic Church, Kireopoulos wrote.
In April 2008, Benedict accepted an elegantly hand-lettered edition of the New Revised Standard Version St. John’s Bible. The New Revised Standard Version was translated under the auspices of the National Council of Churches USA, which owns the copyright.
Persons who observed the presentation noted the pontiff’s obvious pleasure at seeing the volume.
“The pope’s eyes lit up with joy and enthusiasm as he turned the pages,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., told the Associated Press.
“That enthusiasm,” said Kireopoulos, “was a sign of Benedict’s deep appreciation for the common ministries shared by all the Christian communions.”
The St. John’s Bible, a $4 million project funded by private donations, was commissioned by St. John’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minn. The calligrapher is British artist Donald Jackson.
The Pope received a copy of the Wisdom Books. The 1,150 page, 7 volume edition of the entire Bible, measuring 3 feet wide when opened, is nearing completion.
The NRSV was chosen as the translation because it is widely regarded as theologically sound and is used by most major Christian churches.
[Church in Wales] Three Welsh bishops are taking up a tough Lent challenge which will see them give 40 talks over five weeks at eight different venues.
The Archbishop of Wales, the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff and the Bishop of Monmouth will be out and about in churches across South Wales almost every weekday night in the weeks leading up to Easter giving talks about the Bible. And they’re inviting people to make it their Lent resolution to join them for discussion.
The Bishops hope to build on the success of similar talks last year which attracted more than 1,000 people a week.
This year, Lent starts today, Ash Wednesday. Lent lasts 40 days, counting from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day (not including Sundays) calling to mind the 40 days Jesus withdrew to the Judean Wilderness to prepare himself for his ministry and reflect on his priorities.
Christians similarly use Lent to home in on the things that really matter in their faith and lives, freeing themselves from clutter and distractions. They aim to make Lent a time of abstinence, and money saved is often donated to good causes.
The Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, and the Assistant Bishop, David Wilbourne, will be focusing on five books from the Bible – one a week – at three different venues. The books, which were nominated and voted as the top favourites by parishioners, are: Ruth, John, Job, Isaiah and Luke.
The venues are St David’s Church, Neath (Tuesdays), Llandaff Cathedral (Wednesdays) and St Catherine’s Church, Pontypridd (Thursdays).
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Monmouth, Dominic Walker, will be out every weekday night in Lent, to talk about St Paul’s letters to young churches and what we can learn from them today.
He will be at St Cadoc’s Church, Raglan on Mondays, St Peter’s Church, Blaina, on Tuesdays, Newport Cathedral on Wednesdays, Pontprennau Community Church on Thursdays and St Mary’s Church hall, Magor, on Fridays. He will give 25 talks in total.
Bishop Dominic is also launching a Lent Appeal to raise money for the Raven House Trust, a local charity providing food and furniture for people in need, and the Jeel al Amal School for Orphans in Bethany which gives a home and education to young Palestinian boys who would otherwise be destitute. Last year, the Bishop’s Lent appeal exceeded £20,000.
The Archbishop said the evenings in the Llandaff Diocese would be a mixture of worship, fellowship, talk and discussion. He said, “We will look at the messages of the five very different books and see what relevance they have to people living in the 21st Century. I hope people will come along and join in the discussion.”
Bishop Dominic said, “The New Testament contains a number of letters that St Paul wrote to the early Christian communities explaining the Christian faith. We shall be looking at these letters to see how they relate to Christian life today.
“There will be five different talks over five weeks – but those who cannot manage the same weekday each week can always come to another venue.”
All the talks begin from February 18 and start at 7.30pm and everyone is welcome to attend.
Her sgyrsiau Grawys yr Esgobion
Bydd gan dri o esgobion Cymru her anodd yn ystod y Grawys pan fyddant yn rhoi 40 sgwrs dros bum wythnos mewn wyth lleoliad gwahanol.
Bydd Archesgob Cymru, Esgob Cynorthwyol Llandaf ac Esgob Mynwy yn mynd o amgylch eglwysi ledled De Cymru bron bob noswaith o’r wythnos yn y cyfnod cyn y Pasg yn rhoi sgyrsiau ar y Beibl. Maent hefyd yn gwahodd pobl i wneud adduned Grawys i ymuno â hwy am drafodaeth.
Mae’r Esgobion yn gobeithio adeiladu ar lwyddiant sgyrsiau tebyg y llynedd a ddenodd fwy na 1,000 o bobl yr wythnos.
Mae’r Grawys yn parhau am 40 diwrnod, yn cyfrif o Ddydd Mercher Lludw i Ddydd Sul y Pasg (heb gynnwys dyddiau Sul) gan alw i gof y 40 diwrnod y bu Iesu yn yr anialwch yn Jwdea yn paratoi ei hunan am ei weinidogaeth ac yn myfyrio ar ei flaenoriaethau.
Mae Cristnogion yn defnyddio’r Grawys yn yr un modd i ganolbwyntio ar y pethau sy’n wirioneddol bwysig yn eu ffydd a’u bywydau, gan ryddhau eu hunain rhag pethau diangen ac ymyriadau. Anelant wneud y Grawys yn gyfnod o ymwrthod a chaiff arian a arbedir yn aml ei gyfrannu at achosion da.
Bydd yr Archesgob, Dr Barry Morgan, a’r Esgob Cynorthwyol, David Wilbourne, yn canolbwyntio ar bum llyfr o’r Beibl – un yr wythnos – mewn tri lleoliad gwahanol. Y llyfrau, a gafodd eu henwebu ac a ddewiswyd fel y ffefrynnau gan blwyfolion yw: Ruth, Ioan, Job, Eseia a Luc. Y lleoliadau yw Eglwys Dewi Sant, Castell Nedd (dyddiau Mawrth), Cadeirlan Llandaf (dyddiau Mercher) ac Eglwys y Santes Catherine, Pontypridd (dyddiau Iau).
Bydd Dominic Walker, Esgob Mynwy, allan bob noson o’r wythnos yn ystod y Grawys yn siarad am lythyrau Paul at eglwysi ifanc a’r hyn y gallwn ddysgu ganddynt heddiw.
Bydd yn Eglwys Sant Cadog, Rhaglan ar ddyddiau Llun, Eglwys Sant Pedr, Blaenau, ar ddyddiau Mawrth, Cadeirlan Casnewydd ar ddyddiau Mercher, Eglwys Gymunedol Pontprennau ar ddyddiau Iau a Neuadd Eglwys Santes Fair, Magwyr, ar ddyddiau Gwener. Bydd yn rhoi cyfanswm o 25 sgwrs.
Mae’r Esgob Dominic hefyd yn lansio Apêl Grawys i godi arian ar gyfer Ymddiriedolaeth Raven House, elusen leol sy’n darparu bwyd a chelfi ar gyfer pobl mewn angen, ac Ysgol Jeel al Amal i Blant Amddifad ym Methania, sy’n rhoi cartref ac addysg i fechgyn ifanc Palestinaidd a fyddai fel arall yn ddiymgeledd. Cododd apêl Grawys yr Esgob fwy na £20,000 y llynedd.
Dywedodd yr Archesgob y byddai’r nosweithiau yn Esgobaeth Llandaf yn gyfuniad o addoli, cyfeillach, sgwrs a thrafodaeth. Dywedodd, “Byddwn yn edrych ar negeseuon y pum llyfr gwahanol iawn a gweld eu perthnasedd sydd ganddynt i bobl yn byw yn y 21ain Ganrif. Gobeithiaf y daw pobl draw ac yn ymuno yn y drafodaeth.”
Dywedodd yr Esgob Dominic, “Mae’r Testament Newydd yn cynnwys nifer o lythyrau a ysgrifennodd Sant Paul at y cymunedau Cristnogol cynnar yn esbonio’r ffydd Gristnogol. Byddwn yn edrych ar y llythyrau hyn i weld sut maent yn berthnasol i fywyd Cristnogol heddiw.
“Bydd pum sgwrs wahanol dros bum wythnos – ond gall y rhai na all ddod yr un diwrnod o’r wythnos bob wythnos bob amser ddod i leoliad arall.”
Bydd yr holl sgyrsiau’n dechrau o 18 Chwefror ac yn dechrau am 7.30pm gyda chroeso i bawb.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Episcopal Diocese of Texas announces the launch of the LOGOS Project, a video series presenting global faith leaders offering their expertise on theological, practical and spiritual topics.
The project was conceived in 2012 as the church’s version of TED Talks, the online video phenomenon at TED.com featuring “ideas worth spreading.” Like TED Talks, the LOGOS videos are free and available online for any person or congregation to use personally or for group teaching opportunities.
The first featured videos spotlight an array of influential Christian thinkers including: the bishop of Southern Malawi, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga; multicultural expert, the Rev. Eric Law; celebrated author and Benedictine, Sister Joan Chittister; acclaimed author Brian McLaren; pre-eminent Old Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Brueggeman; and celebrated speaker and author, the Rev. Paul Zahl.
The Diocese of Texas will continue to add videos from events around the country with the help of Episcopal and ecumenical partners. Soon, additional materials will be available including study questions for small groups.
Visit epicenter.org/logos to experience the Logos Project.
[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.] [Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church members, both clergy and lay, took to the streets on Ash Wednesday to offer the world the traditional symbol of the beginning of Lent. In this video produced on Ash Wednesday 2012, the Rev. Sandye A. Wilson offers imposition of ashes during a chilly morning at the New Jersey Transit train station in South Orange. During a break, she discusses the importance of bring the church to the streets. The Ashes to Go movement has grown annually. More information is available on the Ashes to Go website and here.
[Church Divinity School of the Pacific] Honorary degrees from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific will be awarded in May to retired House of Deputies President Dr. Bonnie Anderson; Sister Simone Campbell, SSS; and Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. of the Diocese of Ohio.
The three are being honored for distinguished service to the Church and ministries in the world.
Sister Simone, the executive director of NETWORK based in Washington D.C., will also deliver the commencement address at graduation exercises on May 24 at CDSP.
The three honorary degree recipients will participate in a public panel discussion on May 23 moderated by CDSP President and Dean Mark Richardson. The topic of the discussion is “The Church and the Moral and Spiritual Future of America.”
Sr. Campbell, who is a Catholic nun in the order of the Sisters of Social Service, is best known as the leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” that toured the country last year drawing attention to how proposed federal budget cuts would hurt the poor.
As the executive director of NETWORK, Sr. Simone was instrumental in garnering the support of Catholic leaders for passage of the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010. NETWORK is currently immersed in immigration reform issues.
Dr. Anderson served as president of General Convention’s House of Deputies from 2006 to 2012. Her advocacy for the environment and people directly affected by environmental degradation earned her a gubernatorial appointment in her home state to the Michigan Environmental Review Board.
Dr. Anderson has served as vice president of the House of Deputies; chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance; an Executive Council member; and an Executive Council elected representative to The Episcopal Church Investment Committee.
In her home Diocese of Michigan, she has held several positions including Canon to the Ordinary, President of the Standing Committee, and Chair of Constitution and Canons.
Bishop Hollingsworth is the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from CDSP in 1981.
In his ministry as a priest, he has served schools and churches in California, Kentucky and Massachusetts. He was elected bishop in Ohio in 2003.
Bp. Hollingsworth has served at many levels of The Episcopal Church, including in AIDS ministry and as a conference leader for CREDO.
In 2009, Bp. Hollingsworth joined seven other cyclists in bicycling across the country to raise funds for Episcopal Relief and Development’s NetsforLife campaign.
He also founded the innovative program, “Epiphany at Sea,” that takes inner city middle school students to sea on traditional fishing schooners. He has also served on the Board of Trustees for CDSP from 2002 to 2012.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Mockingbird is an innovative spiritual community of Christians mostly in their 20s and 30s that is online, virtual, and thriving.
“Mockingbird is showing how to meet people where they are in a non-threatening way,” explained Mike Collins, Episcopal Church Manager of Multimedia Services. “They allow people to explore their faith through pop culture.”
According to Episcopalian David Zahl, “Mockingbird was started in 2007 in NYC, by a bunch of friends and colleagues who were interested in reaching out to young adults who had been “burned by the church.” Many of us had grown up in mainline churches and had watched our friends drift away, or in some cases, get pushed away. We noticed that many of them ended up in New York, a place we love (my hometown). Anyway, it soon morphed into something else altogether, something much more exciting and larger in scope.”
Zahl added, ”Mockingbird is a non-profit organization devoted to connecting the message of God’s grace with the realities of everyday life in fresh and creative ways. We do this primarily, but not exclusively, via online resources, publications and conferences.”
The video notes that Mockingbird focuses on things “people are already thinking about,” whether its science, theology, social science pop culture. The five-year-old movement, according to its website, “seeks to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.”
Although the online community doesn’t have a home made of bricks and mortars, Zahl noted, “the majority of our board members and volunteers are members or clergy in the Episcopal Church. You could say we were born out of and sustained by the ministry of the Episcopal Church. We certainly have a lot of love for (and commitment to) our wonderful denomination!”
Mockingbird will be sponsoring a conference in April in New York City.
Other video offerings from the Office of Communication include the Transforming Churches, Changing the World series, which presents healthy churches with a focus on ministry and outreach. Available here, among them are: Thad’s in Santa Monica CA (Diocese of Los Angeles); St John’s Tower Church, St Lois, MO (Diocese of MO); Christ Church, Philadelphia, PA (Diocese of Pennsylvania); St Paul & the Redeemer, Chicago, IL (Diocese of Chicago); St. Jude Wantagh, NY (Diocese of Long Island); and St. Martin’s in the Desert, Pahrump, NV (Diocese of Nevada):
[Faith & Leadership] Church youth are often called upon to help others — they may go on mission trips, serve meals at a community kitchen or tutor other students.
But at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, such direct service has been augmented by a different kind of generosity: philanthropy.
Thirteen teens are learning to run a small foundation — the St. Mark’s Youth Philanthropy Guild — and in the process are living out the Christian mission of serving the poor. Their discussions about how to disburse the funds are not just practical, but also lead to deeper conversations about what it means to really follow Jesus — with their hearts and with their money — and about the role of the church in society
By setting up a real-world philanthropy and being led through the process of asset allocation, these high schoolers are asking questions about what it means to be a Christian, said businessman Gary B. Ward, one of the adult leaders of the group.
“One of the greatest kicks in business is watching people respond when you give them responsibility; they just flower,” Ward said. “Here, you’re watching the Lord’s work in action, and these young people are maturing in terms of judgment and becoming bigger people in many different ways. It’s my small mission for the church.”
The church has entrusted these high schoolers with $5,000 from a fundraiser and has asked them to grant the money to places where it will most help those in need. Over a period of months, they will craft a mission statement, devise a marketing plan, request proposals and then decide which to fund. The grants will be awarded in the spring.
The teens want to participate in the guild out of a sense of altruism, as well as a sense of responsibility.
“We have so much that we are given,” said Kristin Davis, a 10th-grade student at New Canaan High School and a member of the church.
“We just want to give back to the community and to God and follow his path for us and what he wants us to do as Christians. St. Mark’s is such a welcoming community, and the youth leaders make it a lot of fun. It’s informative and collaborative.”
On a recent Thursday evening, about half the members of the St. Mark’s Youth Philanthropy Guild sat down with Acting Director of Youth Ministries Cyra Borsy to brainstorm ideas for getting the word out to the community that they are accepting proposals for grants of up to $2,500.
Two members of the group rushed in from squash practice; another was fitting in the meeting around dance class.
As they ate pizza and the choir practiced in the background, the group kicked around a marketing plan: How should they get the word out through social media, newspapers, fliers, church announcements and the local television station?
The group has also been working on its mission statement and devising a way to vet organizations to be sure the donations will have an impact.
“We should ask the organizations to give financial statements,” suggested Christian Walsh, a senior at St. Luke’s, a private school in New Canaan. “What percentage goes toward their overhead? We should get recommendations; it confirms that they’re trustworthy.”
Jake Hamill, also a senior at St. Luke’s, said he liked the idea of visiting an organization before donating money. “I think it’s a good idea to go to the site and see how the organization is in person and on paper,” Hamill said.
Borsy challenged the kids to find some organizations that are so small they may not be known. For example, the Norwalk River Rowing Association mentors young, at-risk women by introducing them to the elite sport of crew, she said.
“It gives them purpose, exercise, self-esteem,” Borsy said. “But it’s a low-income program — they’re operating out of a trailer. They don’t know about St. Mark’s, but I know about them, so think about that for a second. Find some organizations and send an application to them.”
A meaningful challenge
The guild was the brainchild of Ward and the Rev. Joshua Hill, the former youth minister at St. Mark’s, now chaplain at the Episcopal School of Knoxville in Tennessee.
Hill reasoned that many of these kids would find themselves in leadership positions in the church in the future, so why not start grooming them now?
“A big part of my rationale for the youth philanthropy group was that older teenagers deserve more than pancake suppers and ‘Kumbaya’ from the church,” Hill said. “They need to be challenged to live meaningfully. They need to be told they are valued, their opinions matter and they can have an impact on the work of the church.
“Given the particular economic context of our parish, it was clear to me that formation for leadership in mission involved money as much as it involved hands.”
New Canaan is a wealthy community in Connecticut with tree-lined streets and stone walls typical of a small New England town. The median price of a home is $1.2 million, and many residents work on Wall Street or in the financial services industry.
Ward, a retired hedge fund manager, wanted to expose the teens to the real world, and to challenge them to think about how to put their values into action.
“The project is closely aligned with the Christian values of assistance to the needy,” Ward said. “It’s not heavy-handed but merely taking our youth and trying to make the love of Christ part of their daily life.”
Ward is the perfect mentor to the group, Hill said. He has a Wharton degree, love for the church and a connection with teenagers.
Hill recruited the first participants by telling them how great the experience would look on a college application.
“That was the sales pitch, but the truth is that most young people jump at the chance to be trusted with something that really matters,” Hill said. “They could sense a chance to be recognized as mature young adults, and they went for it.”
At the end of the process, last year’s group of teens considered seven applications and ultimately gave grants to five organizations focused on helping children and families.
They included Pura Vida, a local faith-based charity for children in need throughout the world, and Breakthrough Options for Families Inc., an agency in nearby Norwalk, Conn., serving single, low-income parents.
“It is very moving to have high school students help with and fund our mission,” said Sharon Knechtle, director of Pura Vida, which in 2012 sent 200,000 specially formulated packaged meals to children in Haiti.
The St. Mark’s group also funded a summer reading program at the New Canaan library — a decision that raised some questions for the youth.
While some in the group wanted to donate money to the library for new software to expand its children’s summer reading program, one of the members was against it because he believed the library was damaging local video stores. In the end, the students persuaded the teen that the library deserved the grant.
Grappling with big questions is part of the purpose of the project, Ward said. By deciding where to give money, the youth have to think about what it means to be generous and what it means to do philanthropy as Christians, for the sake of the gospel.
“Life is a series of trade-offs,” Ward said. “I encourage the kids to argue it out. I try to get the kids to expand their vision into ethics and morality when making grants.”
A model for youth philanthropy
Hill and Ward were initially inspired by the New Canaan Community Foundation’s Young Philanthropists Fund, a six-year-old program that will give away $12,000 this year.
Cynthia Gorey, the executive director of the New Canaan Community Foundation, said that youth philanthropy programs across the country have grown out of schools and churches. They tend to attract kids who understand the responsibility of giving back, whether because of their own families’ wealth or because they appreciate the unmet needs of people around them.
“This is a complement to the direct service that kids have been participating in all along,” Gorey said. “Families are seeing the value of giving financial support as well.”
When a 14- or 15-year-old first signs on, he or she may not know much about the role of the nonprofit sector of the economy, Gorey said. The first job is to understand that the economy is broken down into three segments: for-profit business; government, which provides assistance through programs like food stamps; and then the nonprofit segment, which picks up the slack.
“A nonprofit can be everything from Harvard down to a food pantry,” Gorey said. Then kids learn about the range of funders, from medically based groups to foundations that focus on issues such as education and hunger to corporate philanthropy.
Gorey said she enjoys teaching about the life cycle of a nonprofit — raising the money, identifying worthy causes and making good choices about whom to fund. At the end of the process, kids feel like they have made intelligent, informed choices and enjoy seeing people helped by their work.
Though the New Canaan Community Foundation program served as an inspiration, both Hill and Ward wanted to create their own program at St. Mark’s with an emphasis on Christian values — a model that could be replicated in other congregations.
For Davis, the 10th-grader, the philanthropy guild is a way to live out her faith.
“We want to help other people and do good for the world,” she said. “That’s what Christianity is all about.”
– Faith & Leadership is the online magazine of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, which designs educational services, develops intellectual resources, and facilitates networks of institutions.
Christians are invited every year to observe a holy Lent. ENS offers this collection of resources from around the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to help in that spiritual discipline.
[Interchange: Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio] Community building, relationship and stewardship epitomize the goals of a new ministry in Cincinnati. All Saints Episcopal Church, Pleasant Ridge, celebrated the grand opening of Beans and Grapes in mid-December.
A coffee house and wine bar, Beans and Grapes began as a Pleasant Ridge business with a focus on the community’s own vision of its future. It was conceived following several years of community conversations, an assessment of the needs of Pleasant Ridge and a desire to be of help in fulfilling a vision for a safe, collaborative, neutral space that was neighborhood-centered and community-driven.
Spearheaded by the Rev. Eileen O’Reilly and the congregation of All Saints, partnerships with people throughout the community and beyond grew through both individuals and corporations, private and public, who caught Pleasant Ridge’s vision for a different kind of community space.
When O’Reilly first arrived as rector of All Saints, she wanted to understand the local community and its needs. She spent nearly two years meeting with parishioners and people from the neighborhood. A distinct need soon became apparent: the need for a community meeting or gathering place.
“I kept hearing that there was no neutral location or space to meet, especially for evening meetings that extend beyond 8 p.m.,” said O’Reilly.
So, O’Reilly brainstormed ideas of how to provide a community space – as well as to find ways to pay for it. She looked at what the community already offered and what would suit it. The combination coffee house-wine bar seemed to be a great fit, especially after Pleasant Ridge was named an “entertainment district” by the city, O’Reilly said. That designation makes it easier for restaurants (as well as Beans and Grapes) to get liquor licenses.
Once the concept was in place, O’Reilly sought and received generous support from the Diocese of Southern Ohio, All Saints and the neighborhood.
The next step was to find the location.
“We went looking and looking for space,” she said. Ultimately they ended up at 6200 Montgomery Road, just a few blocks from the church.
After they completed the build-out on the property and ironed out all the other details, the business was ready to open.
Growing Beans and Grapes
Beans and Grapes is an informal, neighborhood place where people can gather for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. It also offers pastries and cupcakes. Patrons can relax on comfortable couches and chairs, and local groups can conduct meetings in one of two rooms designed especially for this purpose. The charge for using the meeting rooms is on a sliding scale.
Beans and Grapes supports the community by offering the meeting rooms, builds relationships among neighbors as a gathering place and acts as a good steward in every facet of the business. A paid staff person and a volunteer usually are on hand to serve customers and tend the business.
The manager, Deanna Martin, was a campus minister at Xavier University when a friend told her about the job at Beans and Grapes.
“I had always wanted a restaurant, so I was really excited about Beans and Grapes and its mission,” said Martin.
One way patrons and workers are reminded of Beans and Grapes’ mission is a quote from the Dutch priest and writer Henry Nouwen that is featured prominently in its décor, seen by everyone who walks in the door: “Hospitality is a space around us that we create for others in which they can come be themselves, and discover who they are.”
Another way the center seeks to build and strengthen the local community is by showcasing local artists and musicians.
Grounded in stewardship
Acting as good stewards is also an integral part of Beans and Grapes’ business model, said O’Reilly.
“The wood floor was made from reconstructed rubber tires. The coffee we serve supports 20 coffee growers in Guatemala. We serve fair-trade chocolate,” she said. “Everything we’ve done has been with the idea that we are stewards, and we’re supporting community sources.”
The building has energy- and water-saving infrastructure, and all paper products in Beans and Grapes are 100 percent compostable/recyclable. Baked goods sold at Beans and Grapes are made by local bakers and include vegan and gluten-free products.
Beans and Grapes tapped into Deeper Roots Development, a nonprofit organization that works with the coffee growers in Guatemala. They buy the coffee beans from Deeper Roots, roast and then sell it.
So far, the business at Beans and Grapes is doing well, said Martin.
“The coffee business is growing every day, and we’ve already had a lot of groups using the meeting rooms.”
These groups include Bible studies, diocesan staff for a retreat and a group committed to a raw-food diet.
“It’s about right relationships with growers, baristas, the community,” said Martin. “I love coming in and welcoming people.”
Beans and Grapes, along with its community meeting spaces called Greet and Gather, are two of five business components under development. The nonprofit umbrella company for all five segments is called Sacred Grounds.
A call-a-thon was held to raise funds for Sacred Grounds on Jan. 26. An ongoing fundraiser allows people to purchase a brick and have a person or organization’s name placed on it for placement in a wall in Beans and Grapes.
In the future, Sacred Grounds plans to offer a school to teach people how to cater and cook (Learn and Create), a catering company whose initial purpose is to serve churches after funerals and for other social gatherings (Cook and Feed) and an incubator kitchen, where local artisans can make sufficient quantities of their food products for sale (Collaborate and Grow).
These segments are knit together by their commitment to service and community, said O’Reilly.
“The catering company will eventually supply food for the coffee shop,” she said. And these businesses will result in additional benefits for the community in the form of new jobs and educational opportunities for kids in the neighborhood.
It all comes back to community, building relationships, and stewardship, and all for the purpose of serving God, said O’Reilly. “Everything we’re trying to do, we’re doing for the glory of God.”
This article first appeared in the December 2012-January 2013 issue of Interchange, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has submitted written testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, for the hearing on “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment.”
“I urge lawmakers to press for comprehensive and universal background checks for firearm ownership, regardless of where and how a gun is purchased; for bans on the availability to civilians of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; and for policies designed to better regulate the manufacture of guns,” the Presiding Bishop states in her testimony. “The Episcopal Church also supports the highest level of accountability for violation of all existing laws pertaining to violence in our midst.”
The following is the full text of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s testimony.
THE MOST REVEREND KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI
PRESIDING BISHOP AND PRIMATE,
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
SENATE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE
ON THE CONSTITUTION, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMAN RIGHTS
“PROPOSALS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE: PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITIES WHILE RESPECTING THE SECOND AMENDMENT”
FEBRUARY 12, 2013
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
On behalf of The Episcopal Church, a multinational Christian religious denomination of two million persons headquartered in the United States, I am grateful for the opportunity to present this testimony on the urgent task of reducing gun violence in our communities.
The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown, CT horrified Americans and people around the world, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot. Each year, gun violence claims the lives of more than 3,000 children in the United States. The victims of each of these shootings are members of our families, religious congregations, and communities, and we continue to grieve for the living as well as the dead.
I commend the resolve of lawmakers who believe that the moment has arrived when our nation must come together to ask the difficult questions, and to discern what may be equally challenging answers, about how we can begin to break the cycles of violence that lead to massacres in suburban schools and routine death on the streets of our cities. It is abundantly clear to me, as I travel to communities across this country and engage in conversation with people from many walks of life, that Americans have begun to find the resolve to grapple with the complexities of violence in our culture.
This is no easy task. Just as the root causes of cyclical violence in our culture, and the ways in which that violence is expressed, are varied and complicated, so too are the solutions. We must resist the temptation to use the present moment of national angst as a pretext for pre-formed political agendas or simplistic responses that are better suited for sound bites than for meaningful, long-term change. We all share a responsibility to examine the many facets of cycles of violence in our society, and to discern equally comprehensive responses that will address the causes, means, and effects of violence.
I would suggest that we might start by examining three different levels of response.
First, we should fearlessly examine our underlying cultural attitudes toward violence, as well as the ways those attitudes are expressed, consciously and unconsciously, in our communities. There is a dangerous paradox in how our culture treats violence, glorifying it on the one hand while also trivializing it. Violence – whether physical, verbal, or mental – finds routine expression in our entertainment, recreation, politics, and our view of world affairs. Violence and aggression, the polar opposites of civility and righteousness, come to be associated with strength, heroism, and success. Once that connection is made, these attitudes insidiously reframe our views of family and community relationships. Violence almost always begets further violence.
Society at all levels must take responsibility for building a culture that refuses to tolerate any notion of violence devoid of consequence or moral clarity, or any sense that any human life is exploitable or expendable. Families, faith communities, schools, governments, the entertainment industry, and others all have responsibilities in this area. As Episcopalians, we are committed to examining our own cultural attitudes toward violence through efforts in our own congregations and communities, to repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence, and commit ourselves to another way.
I urge our nation’s leaders to encourage this same form of accountability in other aspects of our national life. Examine entertainment and recreation, yes. But also examine how civility is lived out in our national affairs, particularly the rhetoric that diminishes and demonizes those who hold competing opinions. Examine how tolerance and understanding are taught in our schools. Encourage each American to examine his or her own attitudes. Let us challenge ourselves, as our Church declared nearly two decades ago in response to this same conversation, to “create sanctuaries for our children, so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations.”
Second, let us think seriously together about psychological wellness in our culture. Many have noted that the Sandy Hook shooter, like so many others in recent similar tragedies, appears to have been mentally ill. We have become accustomed to hearing the acquaintances of a perpetrator express their lack of great surprise at his or her actions, given previous inappropriate behavior. In many such cases, documented failures to provide adequate mental healthcare to at-risk adolescents or adults have become a routine part of the story. In other settings, including many urban environments in which violence has become routine, access to mental healthcare is often essentially unavailable, or is so stigmatized or misunderstood as to be rendered meaningless for those at risk.
The Episcopal Church, like many other faith communities, has long called for a more serious approach to mental healthcare in America: wider availability; the elimination of stigma associated with its use; and better adaptation to a variety of cultural, economic, and educational settings. Social progress in this area has been slow. Where can we now identify points for change? How can we commit to welcoming the outcast and ensuring that all members of all communities have access to the full range of healthcare, including mental healthcare, needed for their full flourishing?
I challenge lawmakers to address this question as comprehensively and creatively as possible. One promising approach is reflected in a new bipartisan legislation introduced last week by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) known as the “Excellence in Mental Health Act.” That legislation seeks to create new community mental health centers and to upgrade existing ones, and to allow those centers to bill Medicaid and private insurance for treatment just as they do when providing physical-healthcare services. I urge lawmakers to consider this and other such responses, and to treat mental healthcare as a budgetary priority as well.
Finally, I believe – as The Episcopal Church has said continually over more than 40 years – that the role of guns in our society’s culture of violence cannot be ignored. The easy accessibility of guns to those prone to commit crimes, and the danger posed by the increasingly lethal character of both the weaponry and ammunition available, are constants running through much of the recent violence in our culture.
I want to be clear that The Episcopal Church supports the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. We recognize that law-abiding gun owners are not responsible for the crimes we are discussing today and should not be the focus of our responses to those crimes. Nevertheless, our Church is clear that federal, state, and local gun laws and enforcement activities should focus their efforts on keeping guns out of the hands of children and those who would use them to commit violent crimes. We also stand for tighter curbs on weaponry designed primarily to enable more effective killing of other human beings, such as what are commonly referred to as military-style assault rifles.
I urge lawmakers to press for comprehensive and universal background checks for firearm ownership, regardless of where and how a gun is purchased; for bans on the availability to civilians of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; and for policies designed to better regulate the manufacture of guns. The Episcopal Church also supports the highest level of accountability for violation of all existing laws pertaining to violence in our midst.
As Christians, we believe that all God’s people should be able to live in peace. As the prophet Zechariah dreams, “old men and women shall again sit in the streets…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.” The prophet reminds his hearers that even if this seems impossible, with God it is not (Zech 8:4-6).
Today, I urge our nation’s lawmakers, and indeed all Americans, to commit to the work of making peace possible in every street and each community of this nation.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony, and please be assured of my constant prayers for you and all who undertake the costly work of public service.