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California bishop responds to Welby’s comments on sexuality

ENS Headlines - Monday, April 7, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of California] The Archbishop of Canterbury has made public statements that reveal at best a lamentable naiveté and at worst both homophobia and colonial thinking. Archbishop Justin Welby has claimed that the Church of England, if it marries gay and lesbian people there is responsible for the deaths of homosexuals in Africa.

The archbishop was shown the mass grave of Christians from a village in Africa, killed, he was told because their neighbors did not want to become gay by association with people whose religion supported rights for LGBT people. It is clear that the archbishop was shocked by the brutality behind this mass murder, and the very scale of the killing. I too am overwhelmed by it. In the face of tragedies larger than a human can take in, I think we often go to answers and solutions that we know, that are familiar. Here, I think the archbishop fell back on a solution that was already unjust, but familiar to him: retrench around marriage as only between a woman and a man. Don’t inflame violent people further.

Welby’s argument is parallel to saying that the segregation laws in the United States that obtained until the mid-60s and the disenfranchisement of women in the United States until the 20th Century should have both been continued if someone claimed that blacks and women in other countries would be endangered by moves towards greater justice here.

In a very simple world, with very few variables perhaps we could credit Archbishop Welby’s reasoning. If the only factor in the safety of African LGBT people was the maintenance of unjust laws in England and the United States, I hope we would all pause to absorb this and see what could be done about it. But our world is an exceedingly complex place and this simplistic logic of the Archbishop’s only privileges the colonial power position Great Britain once held with respect to her now-vanished empire – the Africans pay close attention to everything the center of the empire thinks and does.

Instead, Africa is a continent of countries, each with its own history apart from and intertwined with former European empire masters. Surely there are at least as many factors at work within Africa itself influencing the safety of LGBT people (and Christians in general, as Welby argues) that counterbalance whatever focus Africans may have on England.

The Archbishop could be helpfully involved in Africa on behalf of the safety of vulnerable LGBT people if he wished to be, in ways that did not continue the oppression of LGBT people in the United Kingdom. He could support the ministry of the retired bishop, Christopher Senyonjo in Uganda, a courageous and nearly lone voice in the religious leadership of that country. Archbishop Welby could speak clearly to the Churches in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria among others about their open support of legislation that criminalizes even the very being of LGBT people.

If I am right and empire thinking underlies the archbishop’s remarks, his proposed way forward – continue to oppress LGBT people in the UK – will fail to keep African’s safe for this reason: if Africa is watching the UK as closely as the Archbishop would have us all believe then they will not miss that the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion is on the side of continued second-class citizenship for LGBT people.

Twice in the hour-long phone-in program in which the archbishop made his remarks, Archbishop Welby used the modifier, incredibly to describe how the Church must attend to the witness of the LGBT community – listen incredibly carefully and be incredibly conscious. To remember a great line from The Princess Bride, I’m not sure the archbishop knows what incredible attentiveness means.

We should remember that the archbishop has made his views on same-gender marriage clear. In an address to the House of Lords he reiterated, as he did in the radio interview most recently that marriage is a sacred institution reserved for heterosexuals. In fact, in this most recent interview the Guardian wrote that the archbishop did not want LGBT people to be treated with any greater severity than adulterous heterosexuals are treated. The core idea here if anyone cares to look closely is that same-gender relationships are sinful.

Today, local media in the diocese I serve showed one of my priests, a partnered, gay man being led away by law enforcement officers for an act of civil disobedience on behalf of immigrants in danger of deportation. Such acts on the side of justice are, I’m happy to say, commonplace in this diocese, done all the time by gay and straight folks. Faithful, rather than sinful seems a better word to describe this priest and the many like him here.

Archbishop Welby asserts that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, and says that scripture supports his position. I would hope for a better reader of scripture in the spiritual head of our Church. Let me point to this coming Sunday’s Gospel, the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead, in the Gospel of John as a good place to look for guidance on the issue of the safety of Christians, both straight and LGBT in Africa and elsewhere.

Jesus is so deeply moved – by the death of his friend, by the oppression of his people, by the suffering of the world – that he risks everything to go to the cave where Lazarus is buried to raise him back to life – Thomas says, “Let us go with him and die.” In order to raise Lazarus from the dead Jesus has to go right into the turbulent political waters in and around Jerusalem, where his life is danger, and where he will shortly be betrayed, tortured and killed.

This courage and compassion should be my guide, and I suggest our guide as we identify with Christ, as Christians. There are other scripture passages that might point us to how to view the question of same-gender marriage; the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead gives us guidance on how we should act when we confront injustice, evil and sin.

Presiding Bishop delivers greeting to Moravian Southern Province

ENS Headlines - Monday, April 7, 2014

Moravian Southern Province
Greeting
4 April 2014

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

I greet you on behalf of The Episcopal Church in 17 nations, where we overlap with this Moravian province and others in the Unitas Fratrum.  Like you, we are part of a global fellowship of provinces, the Anglican Communion.  Episcopalians and Moravians are still only beginning to explore what it means to be in full communion with one another.  We celebrate the fact that there is now one partnership in North Carolina, and one beginning in central Pennsylvania, in the Northern Province.  I hope and pray that these will continue to grow and expand.

Who are we as a Church?  We’re a product of the English Reformation, with significant influence by the Continental reformers and your own forebears.  Anglicanism grew out of the early Christian witness in Britain, probably present as early as the 2nd century, having come with Roman soldiers.  It took root and indigenized, and when Augustine of Canterbury was sent by Gregory the Great, he was reminded to bless the good he found there and work with the rest.

That’s probably a helpful frame for a gift I believe Anglicans and Moravians share – a comfort with diversity and a willingness to look for the presence of God at work in a wide range of theological positions, liturgical practices, and contexts.  We claim catholic, reformed, and liberal strands within Anglicanism, and at our best believe that each has important gifts to offer the larger tradition.  We prize unity over uniformity, even though working that out is frequently messy.  Your own willingness to affirm the confessional documents of a range of Christian bodies, finding truth in each, is a constructive parallel.

We take worship and the practice of holiness with deep seriousness as well as an eagerness to find beauty and truth in all we do.  We are increasingly remembering that our part in God’s mission requires us to turn outward into God’s larger creation, human and otherwise, to seek and produce beauty and truth in incarnate social form – as justice and peace.

We also govern ourselves synodically, with lay persons, priests and deacons, and bishops helping to discern the movement of the Spirit as we make decisions on behalf of the whole Church.

As we seek to grow into the one body of Christ, we are discovering new gifts and possibilities for God’s mission in our full communion partners – the Moravian Church (Southern and Northern Provinces), the ELCA, the IFI, Mar Thoma, and the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht.

We give thanks for your partnership and your willingness to teach us about the truth you know, and we promise you the same.  I ask your prayers for us.

May God continue to richly bless the Moravian Church, your ministry, and the world and work we share.

Welby says sexuality decisions can mean African Christians suffer

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that Christians in parts of Africa face abuse, violence and even death because of decisions on sexual equality made by Anglican Churches in the West.

Welby, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, made the comments in an hour-long phone-in program on LBC radio today.

In particular he was was responding to a question from Kes, a Church of England priest who had called in to ask why English clergy were not allowed to decide for themselves whether to marry gay couples.

“Why we can’t do it now is because the impact of that on Christians in countries far from here like South Sudan, like Pakistan, like Nigeria, would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here,” he said.

“At the same time we have to listen incredibly carefully to the LGBT communities here and listen to what they’re saying and we have to look at the tradition of the Church, the teaching of the Church, and of Scripture which is definitive in the end, before we come to a conclusion [on the issue of same sex marriage].”

When challenged by the LBC presenter James O’Brien about the Church of England’s decision not to perform same sex weddings, Archbishop Welby stressed that it had nothing to do with avoiding upset to African Anglicans. Rather it was about not putting them in danger.

“It [the issue of same sex marriage] is something I wrestle with every day, and often in the middle of the night. I’m incredibly conscious of the position of gay people in this country, how badly they’ve been treated over the years, how badly the church has behaved. And, at the same time I’m incredibly conscious of what I saw in January in  South Sudan, in the DRC, and other places. You know, it’s not a simple issue,” he continued.

“Personally…I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teachings of the Church, I listen to Christians around the world and I have real hesitations about [same sex marriage]. I’m incredibly uncomfortable saying that because I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other. But you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can’t just make sudden changes.”

One reason why not, explained the Archbishop, was because doing so could put Christians in danger elsewhere. He explained that he had seen first hand, at a mass grave in South Sudan, the lethal fallout from a decision on sexual equality taken by Christians in another country.

He said he had been told that the excuse given for the murder of hundreds of South Sudanese Christians had been: “If we leave a Christian community in this area, we will all be made to become homosexual, and so we’re going to kill the Christians.”

Welby concluded, “The mass grave had 369 bodies in it and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

Young adults form faith through service in the Philippines

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

As part of her work with the Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s in the Diocese of Santiago, YASCer Ashley Cameron visits with market shop owners who receive small business loans from the church foundation. Photo: Emily Cherry

[Episcopal News Service] Almost everywhere you travel in the Philippines, you see rice: steamed and served in heaping bowls on every table; unhusked and drying in the sun alongside roads; bagged and ready to be milled; packed into trucks along the highway; and growing in fields and towering terraces across the landscape of 7,000-plus islands.

Photo: Emily Cherry

It’s an industry that the nation – and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines – takes seriously. The church is one of the biggest proponents of Systems Rice Intensification, a simple but effective method of planting the fields to produce a higher yield.

Because the SRI crops are planted far apart, the first 15 days of the growing season finds fields looking remarkably sparse – even barren – compared to neighboring fields farmed with traditional practices. In those initial days, before the results start to show, farmers trying the new technique live in uncertainty, hoping and praying it will bear fruit. With rice farming, one could say, it’s important to have a little faith.

That’s a lesson that young Episcopalians from the United States are learning during their assignments in the Philippines through the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), an Episcopal Church program that sends young adults across the Anglican Communion to grow in service through ministry with local communities. This year, Ashley Cameron from the Diocese of Virginia, Margaret Clinch from the Diocese of Southern Ohio and Andrew Joyce from the Diocese of Kentucky are learning what it means to grow in faith through service in the Philippines.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines approaches its ministries holistically, said Floyd Lalwet, provincial secretary. “The church will not just take care of the spiritual lives of the people,” he said, but of the body and mind as well.

YASCer Margaret Clinch, pictured here with fellow YASCer Ashley Cameron and Buck Blanchard of the Diocese of Virginia, tours the grounds of Easter College in Baguio, where she’s spending the year teaching. Photo Emily Cherry

Clinch’s YASC assignment exemplifies that third category. She had requested a placement in the Philippines because of the likelihood of being assigned to a teaching position. Her background teaching through AmeriCorps made her a natural fit for a position teaching at Easter College in the city of Baguio in the Diocese of the North Central Philippines, where she instructs high school students in spoken English and Christian education.

One of the most fulfilling parts of the experience was something of a surprise, she said. The Diocese of the North Central Philippines recently launched its first Lay Theological Institute. When the bishop learned that Clinch majored in biology and religion at college, he asked her to teach a course on the intersection of faith and science. It’s a seminar-style class that emphasizes discussion, using storytelling as a frame for conversation about science and religion.

Storytelling has been a central focus for Clinch’s months in the Philippines, throughout all her ministries. “We understand everything within the context of the stories we tell,” she said.

Clinch tells her own stories on her blog, Service and Stories in the Philippines. All 26 YASC participants stationed across the globe maintain blogs to chronicle and share their journeys, and they also connect frequently via social media. It’s that community of corps members that cinched the deal for Clinch. After attending a discernment weekend with other potential candidates, “I fell in love with the program,” she said. “It is a really great community, and that’s what drew me there.”

Unlike many corps members, Clinch didn’t apply out of a love for foreign travel. Her flight to Manila was her first trip overseas. Arriving, she wondered: Where would her meals come from? How would she overcome the language barrier?

In August, Clinch will transition to an Episcopal Service Corps program in Baltimore, another step out of her comfort zone. But she’ll take some lessons from her YASC experience with her. “I’ll come into the Episcopal Service Corps … knowing how to be in a community that is not my own,” she said.

YASCer Andrew Joyce works in the greenhouse at the Tadian Organic and Demonstration Farm, where he works on sustainable agriculture projects. Photo: Ashley Cameron

Building and sustaining
For Joyce, the “foreignness” of the YASC experience has been part of the challenge.

“The biggest challenge I have encountered is learning to deal with, and accept, being a minority,” he said. “It’s an eye-opening, enlightening and terrifying experience to walk into a room and have people instantly judge you by the color of your skin.”

Joyce is serving his second year as a YASC missionary, stationed at the Tadian Organic Farm Demonstration and Learning Center in the Diocese of Northern Philippines.

The farm’s goals include expanding the production of organic vegetables and free-range chickens. The grounds house a small laboratory where Joyce and the other farm workers create and test organic feeds, fertilizers and insecticide. Nearby are several stalls for pigs, a large chicken coop and a greenhouse, where the staff test different products. Joyce works with local farmers to show them the benefits – both from a financial and environmental standpoint – to using the farm’s techniques and fertilizers.

“It is intensely satisfying and rewarding to see people applying methods that you taught them, and that they are being successful at it,” said Joyce. “Their smiles and words of thanks are invaluable to me.”

Sustainability is a recurring theme in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. When it was recognized as an autonomous province in 1990, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines still received 60 percent of its income from the Episcopal Church. In 1992, in conjunction with the Joint Committee on the Philippine Covenant, the church made a 15-year plan to reach financial independence. It reached that goal of self-sustainability by 2007.

A core tenet of the church is its “receivers to Givers” policy. That means focusing on transforming communities with a history of receiving blessings into communities that give back to others. So the church supports Asset-Based Community Development, partnering with communities to analyze their assets and determine projects to generate income and promote sustainability.

Many of those development projects are part of E-CARE, Enhancing Community Assets through Agricultural Productivity and Rural Enterprise. Most dioceses in the Philippines have an office devoted to E-CARE and development projects, which all focus on providing financial support and social change to local church communities.

YASCer Ashley Cameron focuses on micro-finance in her work with the Diocese of Santiago. Photo: Emily Cherry

The Diocese of Santiago’s Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s is another piece of the puzzle, and this is where YASC missionary Cameron fits in.

Cameron said she always knew she wanted to be involved in international mission work. With her love for foreign travel and helping others, she thought the Peace Corps was a natural match. But a priest at her home parish in Leesburg, Virginia, convinced her otherwise by introducing her to YASC.

“I already had the passion for mission and service internationally, so adding the Episcopal Church aspect to the work was the cherry on top,” she said.

Cameron majored in Spanish during her studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, so an assignment in the Philippines might not seem like a logical match. But her studies in economics and her experience working with micro-finance projects in Honduras during college made her a fit for the St. Mark’s foundation, a micro-lending institution that offers loans of roughly $100 to $1,000 to more than 1,000 clients in the Santiago city area. Santiago Bishop Alexander Wandag calls the foundation the diocese’s “centerpiece for self-reliance.” In 2013, it provided about $50,000 to support the diocese.

Cameron’s work includes processing loan applications, meeting with applicants and visiting market owners and farmers who receive loans. Recently, a young single mother named Lea came to the foundation. She lived with her parents and had just failed her nursing exams. She needed a loan for her small store to put her life back on track, but she was deemed a potential flight risk, with no collateral.

Cameron worked with the staff to give Lea a small character-based loan of about $100. After two months, Lea had paid back the loan in full, grown her business and qualified for a second, larger loan.

“It was exciting to watch her progress,” said Cameron. “I personally fought for this client.”

Cameron will leave her post in August and plans to move to the Washington, D.C., area to pursue a job in social enterprise or micro-finance. But she will take her YASC lessons with her: the ability to adapt and be flexible; the need for self-awareness and for collaboration.

“Before coming to YASC … I enjoyed doing everything on my own,” said Cameron. “But it’s really taught me that you can’t do it all by yourself, and you’re not supposed to. You can learn a lot by asking others for help.”

And the YASC members have provided help.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has a vision: “By the year 2018, we envision a dynamic and vibrant church of caring, witnessing and mission-oriented parishes.” Part of that vision is the church’s heavy focus on key social ministries.

“Social ministry has always been a part of the vision of the church,” said Lalwet. “One of the few remaining institutions where people can find sanctuary from social injustice is the church.”

For the three YASC missionaries in the Philippines, links between faith and community, religion and society, have been a crucial part of their formation.

“We have the opportunity to contribute to the work of a church that is looking outside its four walls to assist local communities regardless if they fill the pews on Sunday,” said Cameron. “It’s truly inspiring work.”

– Emily Cherry is the communications director for the Diocese of Virginia.

Follow the YASCers online:

Ashley Cameron, An Endlessly Changing Horizon: ashleyecameron.blogspot.com

Margaret Clinch, Service and Stories in the Philippines: serviceandstories.blogspot.com

Andrew Joyce, andrewwjoyce.wordpress.com

Wilfrido Ramos Orench installed as provisional bishop of Puerto Rico

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

The Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos Orench was installed as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on March 28. Photo: Diocese of Puerto Rico

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos Orench was installed as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on March 28 at the Universidad Polytécnica de Puerto Rico in Hato Rey.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presided at the three-hour installation service; Bishop José Antonio Ramos Orench, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church of Costa Rica and the provisional bishop’s brother, preached.

Province IX bishops in attendance included Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque; Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen; Venezuela Bishop Orlando Guerrero; Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguin; Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, assisting bishop in the Dominican Republic; and Bishop Victor Scantlebury, the provisional bishop of Central Ecuador. Pastor Angel Luis Rivera of the Puerto Rican Council of Churches, Pastor Enrique Mercado of the Caribbean Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Rev. Fray Luis Orench of the Roman Catholic Church and the Order of Friars Minor also attended.

Ramos replaces Bishop David Alvarez, who served as the diocesan bishop in the Diocese of Puerto Rico since 1989.

During the installation, Ramos Orench received a pectoral cross from Yadira Torres, president of the diocese’s Standing Committee. The cross, used by Bishop James Van Buren in 1901, has been handed to all diocesan bishops, Torres said.

“I want to thank everyone for your support and your prayers. Let us together write a new page in the history of our diocese,” said Ramos Orench during the installation.

The diocese’s Standing Committee postponed and later canceled an election to replace Alvarez, who reached retirement age on Sept. 7, 2013.

Charges were made against Alvarez in August and September of 2013.

An accord regarding certain alleged violations of the disciplinary canons was reached between the presiding bishop and Alvarez; as a result of the agreed-upon accord, he is suspended from all episcopal duties until Oct. 31, 2014, said Bishop Clay Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for pastoral development, in a statement issued by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs.

Alvarez resigned on the mandatory retirement date of Nov. 1, 2013.

The accord with Alvarez says “alleged” because there were three complaints, one of which could not be refuted. Alvarez failed to implement Title IV, the ecclesiastical disciplinary canon adopted in 2009, to be put in affect in 2011, said Matthews, in a telephone call with ENS.

Alvarez disputed the other two charges, but rather than extend the investigation process, the presiding bishop and Alvarez settled on an accord, which was not disputed, said Matthews, adding that the allegations are not public per the confidentiality requirements of Title IV.

“In effect he’s suspended from all Episcopal ministries from Nov. 1, 2013, to Oct. 31, 2014,” said Matthews, adding that the accord is not based on something that has to do with “immorality.”

In the meantime, the diocese in convention (and in consultation with the presiding bishop’s office) elected Ramos as the bishop provisional, “until such time as they are ready to have an election. And we’re assuming that may be three years from now,” said Matthews, adding that there is some disagreement in the diocese regarding whether an election should be held now, or whether the diocese should wait.

Ramos, who is from Yauco, a city in southwestern Puerto Rico, served as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut from 2000-06. Also, he previously served as a provisional bishop in the Diocese of Central Ecuador. He most recently served as the Episcopal Church’s global partnerships officer for Province IX.

Anglican women gather in prayer to weave bonds of affection

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

Participants join a workshop at the Anglican Women in Prayer conference.

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican women praying, weaving bonds of affection, participating in God’s life and love for the world, and reflecting on how such spiritual practice emerges in diverse cultural and socio-economic contexts was the focus of a March 14-16 conference at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, according to a press release.

Conference participant Chrissie Crosby from Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria said that “something wonderful happens when women gather to share in God’s many graces, almost as though a holy blanket wraps us tightly together. Whether we speak the same language in daily life, we speak the same language in prayer. We feel safe with each other.”

The Rev. Ellie Sanderson, keynote speaker, with Phoebe Griswold, chair of the Anglican Women at Prayer committee. Photo: Curtis Prather.

Such experiences of prayer were brought together under the theme of “Anglican Women at Prayer: Weaving our Bonds of Affection,” facilitated by keynote speaker the Rev. Ellie Sanderson, a priest and scholar in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia with experience and expertise in community theological reflection.

Throughout her ministry, Sanderson emphasizes nurturing Christian community as a deep family of Christ, being disciples and making disciples, and giving to the last, the lost, and the least.

In her keynote address, Sanderson said that the imagery of weaving is so inviting. “It holds within it such a wealth of beauty and a deep resonance for so many women around our communion,” she said. “Weaving speaks of diversity and unity, and it speaks of creativity and community.” She noted that the Maori wisdom speaks of a sacred thread, a “sacred interweaving between Christ and creation and the thread that never ends.”

The conference was a partnership between VTS’s Center for Anglican Communion Studies and the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a group of several hundred lay and ordained women dedicated to intercessory prayer.

Messages of support were received from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Welby said that he received news of the conference “with much joy,” underscoring that his first priority as archbishop is a commitment to the renewal of prayer and Religious Life.

“Thank you for helping fulfill this priority, one that I clearly cannot manage alone,” he said “I believe our task as the church, first and foremost, is to engage in lively dynamic, that is to say, to enjoy the intimacy between God as creator and ourselves each as beloved child. This is the gift of Christ, continually renewed through prayer – prayers of dependence, of honesty, of pleading, of trust. Thank you for giving yourselves to God and to one another these three days. You may not fully know the effect of your prayers: woven together, I believe they will help bring the renewal of the warp and woof that sustains our affection and witness and vision.”

Jefferts Schori described prayer as “above all an attitude of awareness toward God and what the Spirit is up to around, among, and within us … May your ministry be strengthened for transformative service in the world, in families and congregations, and all the broken places of our shared existence. And may you know yourselves beloved in the One who is the ground of our being, and closer than our fleshly clothing and the breath that sustains our lives.”

The challenge now, according to a seminary press release, is “how the voices of women and the voice of God heard in this conference become an enduring testimony and an enduring resource for the continued weaving of our lives together as sisters and brothers. For that, we need to commit ourselves to further listening, further reflection on the Scriptures, and further openness to the Spirit’s work inviting us to deeper participation in God’s mission through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Videos from the event are available here.

This article is based on an a piece written by the Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil., director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, which appears in the spring issue of the VTS’ News from the Hill.

Presiding Bishop speaks at Christ Church ministry center, New Bern

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

BEST
Stop Hunger Now food pack after afternoon Eucharist
Christ Church ministry center
3 April 2014

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

Monday afternoon I met with a group of students at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh.  It’s one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, founded by Episcopalians in 1867 to help educate people who had formerly been enslaved.  One of the students asked me what my position was on child hunger.  I said, “No.”  “It’s wrong.”  Any society that willingly permits children to go hungry needs to have its head and heart examined.  Hunger saps the spirit as well as the body, but it’s especially horrible for children, for it destroys and diminishes their growing bodies and brains.

Jesus and the prophets are particularly clear about God’s intention for creation – the whole garden in which we have been planted is meant to be shared so that all can thrive.  If one part of the body is hungry, we’re all going to be sick eventually.  Deuteronomy challenges us to live in ways that bless the whole body, and encourage its flourishing:  ‘open your fist, soften your heart, share what you have.  Do this and you will indeed know what it is to be blessed!’

Jesus is just as clear:  ‘if you want to be part of the reign of God, get with the program.  Feed the hungry, respond to the pain and misery around you, or you will indeed find yourselves in hell – and it is a hell of your own creation!’  It’s unfair to goats, however, to compare them to miserly human beings.  Goats have better instincts about taking responsibility for other members of their herd.

Did you hear the psalmist’s joyful image of what God has in mind?  ‘You make the earth plentiful, you soften the ground and bless its increase, you crown the year with goodness and we can see overflowing abundance in your wake.’  There is abundance, if it’s not hoarded or squandered.

And yet there is hunger here in New Bern, there is hunger in each of the communities we call home, there is crippling hunger in our inner cities and rural areas, and on Native American reservations.  Many of those places are food deserts, where there is little healthy food available within reach of the people who live there – only junk food.  There is growing evidence that the kind of calories people have access to – their nutritional state – affects general health, lifespan, and behavior, and increases the likelihood of all sorts of physical and mental illness:  depression, diabetes, aggression, reproductive health, and cognitive ability.  It is abundantly clear that hungry children do not learn well, or learn at all.[1]

Stop Hunger Now[2] is designed to feed hungry children (and others) with nutritionally dense foods that can be easily transported and stored for use in emergencies.  I would encourage you to think of it as a physical parallel to home communion – as sustenance for the body and soul in time of crisis.

There are plenty of other ways to draw the parallel between the heavenly banquet and the communion we celebrate at this table with how we pray and work for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.  Some congregations feed the hungry of their cities from the same table they use to celebrate the Lord’s supper.  Some turn their lawns into vegetable gardens.  Many open their doors to feed the hungry from their kitchens – and hand out bags of groceries.  And increasing numbers are learning about how advocacy work with city, state, and national governments can help to feed the hungry and change the realities that keep some people in a chronic state of food insecurity.

Almost a quarter of the children in the USA live in poverty – and hunger is a frequent companion.  Over 30% of the children in Washington, DC and New Mexico live in poverty, and over half in Puerto Rico. [3]  Worldwide, 1 billion children (45%) are poor and hungry.

Packing emergency rations is one way to help, but the world needs sustainable ways to ensure an adequate food supply for all – that is what the reign of God expects.  There are signs of hope and creative response.  St. Vincent’s School for handicapped children in Port-au-Prince is considering a hydroponic system that would produce 800 lbs of organic vegetables a week – enough to feed several hundred children and enough more to sell in the local community, as well as provide job training for blind, deaf, and physically challenged children.  Backpack programs in many school districts provide food for children to prevent hunger over the weekend.

What is your community dreaming up?  How will you help feed the hungry world outside your door and across the world?

That gospel continues as Jesus says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”[4]

[1] http://orthomolecular.org/library/articles/webach.shtml

[2] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stophungernow.org%2F&ei=TLg9U-OAH6nLsQTMwYHoDQ&usg=AFQjCNECNyOYVN-UnYqsU024PCPh5WGODA&bvm=bv.64125504,d.cWc

[3] http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/Line/43-children-in-poverty?loc=1&loct=1#1/any/false/868,867,133,38,35,18,17,16,15,14/asc/any/322

[4] Matthew 25:34-35, 40

Presiding Bishop addresses Bishops Executive Secretaries Together

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

Bishops Executive Secretaries Together
2 April 2014
New Bern, NC, dinner keynote

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

I need to begin by thanking you all for your ministry.  No bishop can long survive without the gifts you bring to an office or diocesan team.  The work you do, and the dedication and excellence you bring to the work, provide an essential kind of “brain” for the work of a larger body.  You are indeed the brains of the office – for you communicate, organize, moderate, pass on messages, receive data, and listen pastorally to demanding and upset people.  You remind forgetful leaders and prompt slow ones.  You challenge people to observe policies and procedures, turn in their expense reports, and communicate the results of parish elections and audits.  You maintain and publish calendars, manage travel schedules, and help get the word out by email, Facebook, twitter, and webpages – and voice mail.  To many people in your dioceses and other ministry settings, you are the public face of the office, and the way you respond to questions and complaints gives evidence that the person on the other end is beloved of God – or else next in line for a short trip to perdition!

And most of the time you labor in a continual stream of interruptions.  Those interruptions can either be unwelcome disruptions or the possibility of in-breaking glimpses of the reign of God.  Your response is more about how the interruption is received than its content.  When the phone rings, do you expect a hostile caller, or somebody crying for help?  Who is this stranger walking into the office – is he a problem or is she the face of God?

I marvel at your ability to keep an entire circus of objects in the air at once, juggling priorities, emergencies, and routine duties.  Perhaps you should rename this organization Bevy of Excellent Systems Technicians!  Not only do you manage details precisely and competently, but you can help to reform systems that aren’t functioning well.  The details you deal with give you the ability to see what does and doesn’t work, and offer those observations to the wider system for reassessment and change.  That’s an essential part of your ministry, and I would encourage you to take the initiative to challenge procedures and policies that are outdated, unneeded, or broken – or ones that could simply be better and more effective.  Change is not an evil word.  It is essential to health and vitality.

You sit in a central place in your systems, and you have the ability to draw people and resources together beyond local communities.  One of the ancient understandings of a bishop’s ministry is as a bridge-builder (pontifex).  As part of a bishop’s team, you share in that work of connecting, healing divisions, and bringing separated parts together.

The work you do is ministry – it is a vocation of service that is of deep and lasting importance to the wider church and the communities it serves.  Our work becomes ministry when we understand that we are connected to a larger body, that none of us can do it all, and that together we more nearly resemble the God in whose image we are made.  Each one of us has particular gifts for that ministry, and we’re supposed to be grateful and appropriately proud of those gifts.  When we’re using those gifts well, we find joy in the work, at least most of the time!

When there is a deep well of joy in our work, it becomes possible to respond to the interruptions as the in-breaking kingdom of God – that creative work happening right now – even if we never see its final completion.  We can expect to discover another facet of the image of God in the person who calls or walks in to the office.  The crises that roll over us like waves can be opportunities to discover the spirit of God at work in the midst of chaos.  Remember that first story of creation in Genesis:  the breath or wind of God blows over the waters of chaos and creation begins.  Without some chaos there is no creativity.  Your presence is an important part of responding creatively to chaos and change, helping others to find creative potential within it – you show others the face of God.

Change is challenging – how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?  Thanks be to God, we’re changing all sorts of light bulbs, discovering new ways to light our buildings, and taking our light out from under old buckets out into the world to shed light to the nations.

Part of our changing nature as a church is our increasing diversity.  We are not a national church, we are not one kind of people or one nation’s church.  Today The Episcopal Church is present in 17 different nations – and that international character is part of our history and our identity.  Our formal name has been the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society for nearly 200 years.  Our component parts have shifted over the years, as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Liberia, Cuba, and the church in Central America have mostly become autonomous parts of the Anglican Communion.  Yet we are still connected – we maintain covenant relationships with each one.

We continue to grow in our interconnectedness, encouraging dioceses of this Church to build missional partnerships within and beyond The Episcopal Church.  Dioceses with companion relationships know how life-giving they can be for all partners.  Those links with Christians in other parts of the world teach us about other contexts, and help us all to learn to love our neighbors more effectively – both far away and closer to home.

As a Church we seek to strengthen the internal partnerships as well.  The churchwide staff and structures are here to serve – helping dioceses strengthen their own ministries and build partnerships everywhere.  Some of the staff and resources are deployed from the New York office, and increasingly, many are distributed across the landscape of our partnerships, from Panama to Scotland to San Diego, including several staff members in North Carolina.  Tom Brackett, who assists with church planting and redevelopment, is based in Asheville.  New Bern is home to the Office of Pastoral Development, with Bishop Clay Matthews, Lindy Emory, and Betsy Jutras.  The office is focused on pastoral issues relating to bishops, their election, training, and support.

Our churchwide resources are oversee on a day-to-day basis by Bishop Stacy Sauls, and he has recently initiated a diocesan partnership program (DPP).  We want to ensure that you know who your partner is on the churchwide staff.  That person is meant to be a link with your diocese or ministry, and s/he has probably already made contact with your bishop and office.  That partner’s task is to be your first link with wider resources – to be the person you can call when you have questions or need to find out where to turn for particular human or financial or informational resources.  If your partner doesn’t know the answer, s/he will find someone who does.  We all are here to serve – as you are serving your diocese and bishop.  We’re all in this together, and as we seek to build bridges between parts of the larger body we’re doing helping it function more effectively.

Service or ministry is the work we share, and it is really only possible to be wholehearted about it when we believe in what we’re doing.  The vision or dream of the Reign of God is our guide, for Jesus claimed this as his mission at the beginning of his public ministry, when he read from the prophet Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  It’s an image of a healed and reconciled world where all live together in peace because at long last there is justice.  The shorthand word for it is shalom, and it is ministry shared by the whole body.

We are indeed all in this work together, and I am honored to share it with you.  You are remarkable examples of connecting, reconciling, bridge-building ministry, and on behalf of The Episcopal Church, and the wider world, I give abundant thanks for you all.

Washington National Cathedral statement on the Fort Hood shooting

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

[Washington National Cathedral press release] Washington National Cathedral joins Americans across the country in mourning the tragic loss of four lives at Fort Hood on April 2. And we continue to pray for the families of those lost — including the shooter — and for healing for the 16 wounded by the gunfire.

Although the motives and mental health of yesterday’s shooter remain unclear, what does seem clear is that the combination of easy access to guns without background checks and the failures in our nation’s mental healthcare system are of utmost concern to those of us who are working to end the epidemic of gun violence in America.

We renew our call — issued at the national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath just two weeks ago — for national legislation requiring background checks, and we again urge Congress to take steps to ensure proper medical and psychological healthcare for our veterans and active military personnel.  Because we hold all life sacred, we mourn the loss of all to violence of any kind, including gun violence.  We will continue to ask our elected leaders to act to reduce the number of gun deaths in America, and we will continue to pray for all those touched by this needless and senseless epidemic of gun violence in our land.

Daily live, on-demand webcasts of Holy Week, Easter services

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] On a daily basis, the Episcopal Church Office of Communication will offer live webcasts and on-demand airings of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter services from churches throughout New York City (Diocese of New York).

All live webcasts will be available here and here. The services also will be available on demand.

“Holy Week, from a Palm Sunday procession through the streets of Manhattan to a glorious Easter Vigil with a bonfire, allows us to share a depth of worship experiences to the wider church,” noted Mike Collins, Manager of Multimedia Services. “It’s also a way for those who might be unable to attend in person to attend virtually and still feel a part of this sacred time of year.”

For more information contact Collins, mcollins@episcopalchurch.org.

Schedule
April 13 Palm Sunday
Saint Mary the Virgin: Procession from church through Times Square at 10:30 am Eastern (available on demand Monday)

Grace Church: Evensong at 4 pm Eastern

April 14 Holy Monday
Saint Thomas: audio feed of service at 5:30 pm Eastern

April 15 Holy Tuesday
Saint Thomas: audio feed of service at 5:30 pm Eastern

April 16 Holy Wednesday
Saint Thomas: Tenebrae Service Available on demand on April 17

April 17 Holy Thursday
Saint Ignatius of Antioch: Maundy Thursday Service with the washing of the feet at 7 pm Eastern

April 18 Good Friday
Grace Church: Seven Last Words of Christ at 1 pm Eastern

April 19 Holy Saturday
Saint Ignatius of Antioch: Easter Vigil at 8 pm Eastern

April 20 Easter
Grace Church: Festive Easter Services with choir at 9 am Eastern and 11 am Eastern

EPPN Lenten Series Pt. 5: Supporting peace in the land of the holy one

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 3, 2014

EPPN LENTEN SERIES PART FIVE
SUPPORTING PEACE IN THE LAND OF THE HOLY ONE

SPOTLIGHT ON REFUGEES
Alexander D. Baumgarten
Director of Justice and Advocacy Ministries for The Episcopal Church

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us…so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – Concluding Collect for Compline, Proposed Book of Common Prayer of 1928, Church of England

Dear Fellow Advocate,

The preceding collect, which appears in our present Prayer Book in a slightly different form, is one of the great treasures of the Anglican liturgical tradition. The older version, in particular, reminds us that everything about this life – indeed everything about the world in which we live – is fleeting, and that the changes and chances that define the world are deeply wearying to the human soul. The presence of God, and the various ways that God’s “eternal changelessness” breaks into our lives, are the only constants that redeem us from our weary hopelessness and press us to labor on in the work of reconciliation that is God’s defining work.

This week’s news has brought a new measure of change, chance, and uncertainty to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.In some ways, the fresh modicum of uncertainty is deeply wearying. It might seem to us that we’ve seen this sequence of events before: last-minute complications that throw the foundations of an emerging progress into confusion and doubt. Perhaps this is true.

But, in these moments, the eternally changeless God directs us gently but firmly to keep our gaze trained squarely on the end result to which he calls us; to remember that no one ever said that this would be easy (if it were it would have been solved seven decades ago); to remember that peace is not transacted among friends but among enemies; and to remind us again – as we discussed last week – that the nature of peacemaking through negotiation is that it always looks like it will yield failure until finally it doesn’t.

At this moment, let us draw hope from the fact that, by the end of the day yesterday, Israeli, Palestinian, and American representatives were back at the table in spite of new tensions. That table is the only place peace can happen. This week gave us some change and chance, and all remains fleeting. Indeed, there likely will be many more weeks like this one, and this is indeed wearying. But let our ultimate hope and commitment to the process come from remembering that peace is of God, and that God is eternal changelessness.

In that spirit, today we continue our process begun several weeks ago of examining the various facets of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are normally considered the major pressing issues for final-status negotiations between the parties. Next week, as is appropriate for the penultimate installment in a Lenten series, we will move to Jerusalem and consider some of the difficult issues related to the Holy City where Jesus’s earthly ministry found its climax. First, however, we look this week at the equally complex issue of Palestinian Refugees. Traditionally, this has been one of the issues most vexing to the parties as they have sought to negotiate with one another.

REFUGEESWhat is the central issue and why is it important?

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War that followed the creation of the State of Israel upended numerous historic Palestinian communities and left more than 600,000 displaced Palestinians. Today, these Palestinians (there are estimated to be about 50,000 living) and their descendants live all over the world, from 58 refugee camps in the region (including in the West Bank and Gaza) that have existed for decades, to other countries in the region, to communities in the United States and Europe. Many lack citizenship with any state. International law holds that all people have the right to return to their country of origin after a conflict, should conditions in that country allow for their peaceful return, but global opinion varies on how international law applies to the unique case of the Palestinians and the modern state of Israel. Nevertheless, nearly all parties acknowledge that a negotiated two-state solution must deal in a mutually agreeable way with the issue of Palestinian refugees.

What is the history?

Here again, the two narratives of two people present different stories. The basic history, unadorned by viewpoint, is this: At the end of the British Mandate for Palestine, the UN adopted a plan for the partition of the land into two states, one for Jews and one for Palestinians. Arab nations rejected this UN resolution and, when the new State of Israel declared independence more-or-less along the partition lines adopted by the UN, the Arab States declared war. The 1948 conflict that ensued was extraordinarily bloody and uprooted hundreds of thousands of persons from their homes. At the conclusion, Israel held far more land than it would have under the original partition plan and Declaration of Independence. Additionally, the Palestinian people did not gain sovereignty over their own state, as the Kingdom of Transjordan (now Jordan) occupied and annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Egypt occupied and annexed the Gaza Strip.

During the fighting, at least 600,000 Palestinians left their land and in many cases abandoned property that had been in their families for generations. Israelis and Palestinians today disagree as to why these people were displaced, and historians continue to debate the matter. Palestinians traditionally have contended that Israeli soldiers, following an orchestrated plan from Israeli leaders, forced Palestinian families from their homes. Israelis traditionally have pointed to Arab leaders as a cause of the exodus, urging Palestinians to leave their homes until such time as Arab armies overtook the Israelis. Modern scholarship continues to evolve, but increasingly sees multiple causes (perhaps up to a dozen) for the exodus and recognizes some validity, as well as some critique, in both of the traditional absolutist views.

What is the Palestinian position on how to move forward?

Palestinians contend that, as Israelis are responsible for the refugee problem, Palestinian refugees and their descendants today (approximately seven million people around the world) have the right to return to their ancestral homes in the present-day state of Israel. In spite of this baseline position, Palestinians in past negotiations have been willing to entertain significant adaptations to this “right of return,” including financial compensation for the vast majority of present-day refugees and descendants of refugees as opposed to actual resettlement in the State of Israel. A 2003 poll of Palestinian public opinion conducted by a respected Palestinian public-opinion firm whose director is himself a refugee found that “the overwhelming majority [of Palestinian refugees] wanted to live in a Palestinian state; only a small minority [ten percent] wanted to live in the state of Israel….but, even in those ten percent, only ten percent wanted to have Israeli citizenship or passports; ninety percent of those who wanted to have Israel as a permanent place of residence said that they would rather have a Palestinian citizenship and a Palestinian passport.” The same survey found that 54% would accept financial compensation in lieu of the right of return.

What is the Israeli position on how to move forward?

Israelis deny responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem and thus reject the notion of a right of return. They see the wholesale return of Palestinian refugees and their descendent as a de-facto one-state solution since Palestinians would then outnumber Israeli Jews. Moreover, Israelis point out that the State of Israel, at the time of its inception and following, already absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees in the form of Holocaust survivors and Jews fleeing persecution from Arab states and other countries around the world. As complement to this, Israelis expect a future Palestinian state to take the same responsibility for absorbing the seven million Palestinian refugees worldwide. Nevertheless, Israelis in past negotiations have been willing to entertain offers of significant financial compensation for refugees and their descendants who may choose not to live in a future Palestinian state, as well as the resettlement of a limited number of refugees in the present State of Israel.

What is The Episcopal Church’s position on this issue?

The Episcopal Church has spoken about this issue and its various facets several times over the past three decades. It has said that Palestinian refugees have a right of return. It has also acknowledged the possibility of financial compensation for those who lost (or whose ancestors lost) their homes and property during the 1948 War. The Church also has said that the present-day state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people (and, in saying so, specifically has pointed out that the Jewish people are, themselves, a displaced people), and has urged that the resolution of this issue be handled by negotiation between the parties. Moreover, it has said clearly that current “facts on the ground” like the presence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should not prejudice the result that negotiations must bring about.

What might a possible solution look like?

First, it must be stressed that only the parties themselves can determine what a negotiated solution will entail for this or any other issue in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. That is why Secretary Kerry is working so hard for a negotiations framework that will support the two parties in trying to come to agreement.

Nevertheless, if past negotiations – such as those in 2000 and 2006-8 – tell us anything, it’s that the following components might be considered as parts of a negotiated solution:

  • The acceptance of a limited number of Palestinian refugees into the present State of Israel. (In the 2006-8 negotiations, for example, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly offered to accept 5,000 refugees, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly pressed for as many as 60,000).
  • The acceptance of any Palestinian refugee or descendent into a future state of Palestine.
  • Monetary compensation for those who choose not to return to a Palestinian state, possibly to be financed both by Israelis and Americans, as well as other international sponsors.
  • An international effort to resettle into permanent homes – in a variety of countries – all Palestinians still living in refugee camps.

Once again, it is vital to emphasize that – while it seems clear that some level of creative compromise will be necessary for the parties to agree on a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue – it is the parties themselves that must ultimately determine how that looks. Our role must be to support the efforts of Secretary Kerry and others who are working to support negotiations on this and other critical issues.

Bishop of Texas responds to Ft. Hood shooting

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 3, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, issued the following response to the shooting at Ft. Hood.

“To serve and protect our country is a sacrifice and an honor. The women and men who offer themselves to this high calling should be safe at home at least. The shootings at Fort Hood are a tragic reminder that we must redouble our efforts to tend to our wounded in body, mind and spirit. There is a clear need for mental health support for our troops and it is our responsibility to help provide this care as people who benefit from their service,” said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Episcopal Bishop of Texas. “Our Episcopal congregations in Copperas Cove and Killeen stand ready to help their community respond to this recent tragedy. The souls of the dead, the healing of the wounded and all their families are in the prayers of Episcopalians in Texas and across the country, as are all those who serve.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas represents 30,000 families in 150 churches in 57 counties across Texas, including the area surrounding Fort Hood.

Texas: Houston church uses pottery to engage spirituality

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 3, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] At a Lenten Pottery and Spirituality Workshop, the Rev. Eric Hungerford encouraged participants to be “co-creators with God.” The event at St. Mark’s Between the Bayous, Houston, on March 29 was an opportunity for community members to learn pottery and engage on a deeper level of understanding of the creative process.

“God is the great creator, and we are also made to be creators.” Hungerford told participants before reading a prayer for artists. “There is the great image from Isaiah that God is the potter, and we are the clay. Over time, we are made into the masterpiece that God wants us to be. I think that this is a really cool way for us to get creative and explore our inner selves.”

More images are available here.

Community member and potter, Sally Kirk, led the workshop. Kirk, a middle school orchestra teacher, has been working with pottery and sculpture for about three years. Her pottery studio is located across the street from the middle school, and often times she will leave work and immediately begin work on her pottery. She says that working with the potter’s wheel is an especially spiritual process.

“I think there is something about the wheel spinning that is really hypnotic, and it just takes me away from reality,” she said. “It is like meditation; I just go away.”

During the workshop, participants were encouraged to strike the “gong,” a Tibetan singing bowl, for a moment of silence. Then, they could read a one of several prayers about art or creation that were provided on slips of paper.

Kirk believes that the act of working with clay parallels the human experience. “Clay is a model of us being molded,” she explained. Much like clay and pottery, “we have bumps and bruises and none of us are perfect. When something doesn’t work out, you can just smash it up and start over again with the same clay. It’s limitless.”

Sitting around the potter’s wheel or slowly working on a sculpture gives us a glimpse into God, said Kirk. “I get the snapshot of God working on our hearts and continually growing us and shaping us. We get to take part in that in some earthly way: growing something from a piece of mud. It is a really holy experience.”

Kirk joined St. Mark’s Between the Bayous community less than a year ago, but has already taken an active role. As a satellite campus of St. Mark’s in Bellaire, the church describes itself as a “sustainable, organic, and local Episcopal community” located just outside of downtown Houston between White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou. Services are offered on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Sometimes the group meets in their church building, which doubles as a comedy club (Station Theater), and other times they meet at a local bar.

At the center of the church’s mission is the idea that everyone is welcome and all perspectives respected. Art, music, and open discussion play particularly important roles in the community.

Kirk’s husband, John, is an organist currently working for Holy Trinity, Dickinson, but before their marriage she had little experience with the Episcopal Church. As a native Houstonian of Egyptian heritage, Kirk spent much of her formative years in the youth group of the Arabic Church of Houston, a non-denominational Christian church serving a variety of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries and beyond. Kirk said she loved the emotional and artistic aspects of that church, but was drawn to the liturgical worship of the Episcopal Church. Still, she had trouble finding an Episcopal Church that met all of her needs.

When she heard about Between the Bayous, she sought out Hungerford to find out more. “It was a hard balance to find this place that had it all, but it was all here,” she said. “The first time I came, I was very impressed that Eric would do a sermon and then open it up for discussion. It is a very welcoming community. Afterwards, we will have a beer and talk, and it’s just like hanging out with your best buds.”

About 15 people attended the pottery workshop, but the demographic representation could not have been more diverse. Many of Kirk’s friends from the Arabic Church participated in addition to regular members of Between the Bayous. English, French, Spanish, and at least two different Arabic dialects were heard at some point during the event.

The novice artists created a variety of pieces including several cups and bowls in addition to more inventive items like sculptured pizza slices and a plate in the shape of a leaf. As part of a larger project, everyone was invited to help build a sculpture of St. Francis that would be placed in the church’s garden. In the true independent spirit of the community, St. Francis was given a thick Mohawk.

As the artists debated whether to risk placing the sculpture in a kiln, where the piece may have cracked or even exploded, one participant suggested letting St. Francis dry naturally. They could place the sculpture in the garden, where it would slowly fade with the rain. “Ashes to ashes,” he said. “We can create a new one next year.”

Learn more about Between the Bayous here.

‘Campaign responsibly,’ Malawi Anglican Church tells political parties

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Malawi has called on all political parties in that country to campaign responsibly and avoid violence before, during and after the election time.

This follows the violence that erupted at a recent rally held by the Republican President Joyce Banda in Malawi’s Thyolo district where it was reported that two people died and many others were injured.

In a recent media statement, Bishop Brighton Vita Malasa, chairman of the Anglican Church in Malawi, condemned the violence saying it was “very unacceptable and uncalled for.”

“The incident remains traumatic to the families of the deceased and those who witnessed it,” he said. “It is very inhuman to have someone brutally killed with an axe…and by a gun. Death by whichever means is not acceptable as no one is mandated to take somebody’s life.”

Malasa also called on the government and all the relevant authorities to make sure that the perpetrators of the violence are held accountable and “brought to book making sure that no one is shielded.”

“Let the law take its course on all those found to have supported and perpetrated the political violence as this should not happen again in our country,” he said. “Violence will just bring fear among citizens and they will shun the campaign rallies and we will end up having people voting without being well informed.”

He added: “Now that the official campaign period has started, we are calling on all political parties to conduct their campaign in responsible manner. Political parties should advise their members to refrain from violence before, during and after the campaign and election time.”

The bishop reminded all political parties that supporters of all parties in Malawi are Malawians who are entitled to the democratic freedom of association. He told political parties to refrain from growing “party zealots and over-zealous irresponsible groups in their respective political parties.”

“Malawians should be free to attend any political campaign rally without fear of being killed or assaulted,” he said. “We urge all political party leaders to avoid derogatory and provocative language and remarks during the campaign rallies.”

“We are calling on all political leaders to concentrate on issue-based campaigns and not on insults and belittling of others. Respecting each other should be the order of the day. It is the points in manifestos that will help and guide Malawians to decide who they want to vote for and not the insults against others,” he said.

Malasa further said that Malawians want to hear of the strategies that have been put in place to develop their country, which has remained in “dire poverty even after 50 years of independence.”

The Bishop called upon all stakeholders including the Malawi Electoral Commission, chiefs, faith leaders, the state police, political parties, civil society and voters to create a conducive environment and peaceful campaign atmosphere.

“The police should tighten the security for all political parties during campaign regardless of whether they are ruling or in opposition,” said the Bishop. “The District Commissioners and chiefs who are responsible for political rally venues are called upon to perform their duties fairly and without favor for a particular political party.”

“We are calling upon all political parties not to treat some areas within Malawi as their bedrooms and no go zones,” he said. “Malawi as a country is for all Malawians and surely all political parties should have the freedom to conduct their campaign rallies anywhere and everywhere within the boundaries of Malawi.”

He also urged political parties to use the right bodies for security like the police which “we believe do exist for all Malawians regardless of their political affiliation.” Malasa also discouraged the abuse of the youth before and during election times.

“They are supposed to be the productive citizens of our country and not for disorder in the country. What we are sowing today is what we shall reap tomorrow–we want a violence-free and orderly Malawi,” he said. “We need a peaceful co-existence among the general populace.”

“Before we are members of different political parties, we are Malawians first and that must always be remembered and upheld,” said the bishop. “Political violence is retrogression and a threat to our democracy which we all chose through a referendum in 1993.”

The bishop also reminded Malawians that “we have only one Malawi which is our home and hence the need to keep Malawi a land of peace.” He added, “Peace is easy to destroy and yet it can take years to build back. We have seen countries like Libya and Egypt destroying peace within a short period of time. See how they are struggling to bring it back!”

Archbishop of Canterbury meets Noah actor Russell Crowe

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby met with actor Russell Crowe to discuss faith and spirituality.

The short private meeting was held at Lambeth Palace on April 1. Crowe, who plays Noah in the forthcoming film based on the biblical story, was in London promoting the motion picture.

A news article from the BBC is available here.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Observadores de la situación de Venezuela afirman que la escasez de alimentos, ropa y calzado amenazan radicalizar las protestas. En muchos artículos los precios han aumentado un 200 por ciento. Las protestas comenzaron hace mes y medio. El número de muertos ya llega a 41. La posibilidad de diálogo, aunque difícil, a ratos parece posible. Ambas partes están de acuerdo en pedir la mediación del Vaticano. Nicolás Maduro hace las cosas más difíciles. Ha afirmado que para iría al diálogo pero sin condición alguna. Las fuerzas militares como los estudiantes están experimentando agotamiento físico y emocional. “El que se cansa pierde” se ha convertido en un popular dicho en las filas opositoras. Los esfuerzos para liberar a los presos políticos han fracasado hasta el momento. María Corina Machado no fue permitida entrar en el recinto de la Asamblea Nacional. Iba acompañada de miles de seguidores. Diosdado Cabello, presidente de la Asamblea la expulsó del cuerpo legislativo pero ella insiste que sólo el pueblo puede tomar esa decisión después de un proceso constitucional.

La Corte de Apelaciones del Circuito Judicial Penal de Caracas, declaró sin lugar el recurso de apelación interpuesto por los abogados de Leopoldo López, líder de la oposición quien se entregó a la policía como símbolo de paz. Se le acusa de delitos de incendio intencional, instigación pública, daños y asociación para delinquir durante las demostraciones.

Kim Jong-Un, dictador comunista de Corea del Norte, ha decretado que todos los hombres del país tendrán que tener un corte de pelo similar al que él usa. Los 18 diferentes cortes de pelo que se usan actualmente tendrán que ser reducidos a uno. “El corte de pelo obligatorio no es de buen gusto”, dijo un peluquero que no quiso dar su nombre.  Añadió que el “corte de tasa” como se le conoce el nuevo estilo tendrá que usarse por toda la población masculina “les guste o no”. ¡Que viva la libertad!

El joven obispo alemán Franz-Peter Teharts-van Elst de la diócesis de Limburgo ha abandonado su casa después que el papa Francisco le pidió su dimisión por “derrochar millones de euros en la construcción de su sede episcopal”. Para contrarrestar su estilo de vida millonaria llegó a Roma en un asiento económico de un vuelo comercial. “Usted ha traicionado al hombre que predicó la pobreza y el sacrificio”, dijo en un editorial de un periódico local.

A pesar que al principio del triunfo de la revolución cubana se anunció “con bombo y platillo” el fin de la discriminación racial, hoy 56 años más tarde la situación de la comunidad negra o mestiza sigue siendo deplorable. Informes oficiales revelan que en Cuba el 60 por ciento de la población total es negra o mestiza. Sin embargo, sólo el 5 por ciento de los negros trabajan en el turismo, los demás hacen labores de limpieza o trabajos que pagan salarios ínfimos. Hablando a un grupo de policías hace 11 años, Fidel Castro les recordó que el 80 por ciento de la población carcelaria de la isla es negra o mulata. “La situación de hoy en día es igual o peor”, dice un oficial del ejército en voz baja.  Añade que en la cúpula de los cuadros oficiales del gobierno  “los negros se pueden contar con los dedos de una mano”.

El general Rubén Darío Paulino de la República Dominicana informó que durante los dos primeros meses de este año el ejército interceptó a unos 8,500 haitianos que querían entrar en la República Dominicana sin la documentación necesaria. Añadió que en los últimos meses ha habido un aumento significativo de las personas que quieren emigrar de Haití. Hace dos años 20,000 haitianos trataron de ingresar en la República Dominicana. La cifra del año pasado fue de 52,000.

El tabloide National Weekly, producido en Miami para y por la comunidad antillana de la región, se lamenta de que aunque el Día International de la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial, instituido hace 15 años, estuviera ausente de las noticias nacionales. El día señalado fue el 21 de marzo.

El 5 de marzo la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal, Katharine Jefferts Schori  instaló como obispo provisional de Puerto Rico al obispo jubilado Wilfrido Ramos que anteriormente sirvió en las diócesis de Connecticut y Ecuador Central. La diócesis de Puerto Rico ha pospuesto tres veces la elección regular de su obispo, David Álvarez,  después que éste se jubilara por razones de edad. Por otra parte, se ha sabido que Álvarez se fracturó recientemente un hombro como consecuencia de una caída y ha necesitado cirugía.

Temblor y ras de mar en Chile.

ORACIÓN.  Señor, ten piedad de tu pueblo.

Stafford named as visiting professor of church history at CDSP

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific press release] The Rev. Dr. William Stafford will be visiting professor of church history at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) during the 2014-2015 academic year, CDSP’s Academic Dean Ruth Meyers announced on March 31.

Stafford, who taught a course in the English Reformation at CDSP during the fall of 2013, was a professor of church history at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) from 1976-2004, and also served as associate dean for academic affairs there from 1997-2004. He was dean of the School of Theology at University of the South (Sewanee) from 2004 until 2012.

“I am just thrilled to have a chance to be back in the classroom in a concentrated way,” said Stafford. “My first calling, my first vocation as a Christian and as a priest is to be a teacher and a learner. As I prepare new classes for students at CDSP, I’m getting a chance to learn and relearn a lot of things. I’ve missed that badly.”

During the fall semester, Stafford will teach a course on the history of the Western church from the second through the fifteenth centuries. In the spring semester, he will teach western church history from the Reformation through the 20th century and a course he developed at VTS and Sewanee called “Classics of the Christian Journey.” Students will read Christian spiritual classics by authors including Perpetua, Origen, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux and Julian of Norwich.

Ministerio único del banco de madera caliente aquellos que se quedaron en el frio de Montana

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, April 1, 2014
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[Episcopal News Service – Dillon, Montana] Cuando el invierno trajo frio y nieve a la división del continental en el suroeste de Montana en esta temporada, la llegada de los autoproclamados marmotas o marmotas pequeñas con una carga de leña del Banco de Madera de la Parroquia Tri fue la señal de bienvenida.

Mucha congregaciones administran los bancos de alimentos o programas de alimentación pero el banco de madera, un proyecto de la iglesia Episcopal de San Santiago [St. James’ Episcopal Church] en Dillon, la iglesia de San Pablo [St. Paul’s Episcopal Church] en la ciudad de Virginia y en Sheridan es solo un puñado de estos ministerios en la Iglesia Episcopal. El programa con sede en  San Santiago cumple 20 años este invierno.

“Estamos comisionados a servir y somos ordenados a amar y así lo hacemos”, la Rda. Sue Eades, rectora de San Santiago, dijo recientemente, mientras que los voluntarios utilizaban motosierras y dos cortadoras de troncos  que cortaron alguna de la madera que quedo en el lugar del ministerio de Dillon.

“Es una bendición para todos poder servir a los que de otro modo podrían no estar abrigados en el invierno – y no podrían permitirse el lujo de calendar sus hogares,” Eades dijo de la asociación de las tres parroquias. “Nos une a todos en el nombre de Cristo sin discutir sobre teología o la piedad o lo que sea”.

Para San Santiago en la ciudad de Virginia, la cual tiene la distinción de ser la primera congregación episcopal en el estado, el banco de madera es una prueba de que la iglesia pequeña puede tener un gran ministerio.

“Somos la única iglesia en la ciudad, y tenemos 18 personas que asisten – de 18 a 20 – durante el invierno, lo cual es genial porque hemos tenido de cuatro a seis personas por muchos años”, dijo Micki Benedict, un miembro de San Pablo y marmota pequeño. “Para nosotros es una manera de mostrar nuestra pequeña comunidad y que no estamos aquí solamente para tener la Eucaristía todos los domingos o para tener la hora del café, estamos aquí para ayudar a cualquiera que podemos ayudar”.

 

Las cifras del 2014 no están disponibles, pero el año pasado el Rdo. Harry Neeley, un sacerdote de 80 años de edad, que dirige el ministerio a pesar de llamarse así mismo jubilado, y 100 voluntarios trajeron 296 cuerdas de madera para 644 personas, así como 82 docenas de huevos y 200 sombreros y guantes. Los voluntarios entregan los suministros durante 196 viajes a personas en 16 ciudades. Además, tres familias en forma anónima donaron $3.000 para proporcionar a los clientes de los bancos de madera con las necesidades escolares, alimentos y regalos de navidad.

Durante enero y febrero de este año, dijo Neeley, el banco de madera estableció registros para las entregas en climas de tormentas de nieve, y temperaturas baja por largos periodos– y  en alzas en los precios del gas licuado en todo el oeste – lo cual hiso que la necesidad de madera sea más aguda. Los voluntarios han estado entregando a “gente que nunca habíamos visto antes,” dijo.

Alrededor de 10.000 personas se encuentras dispersas en unos  10,000 kilómetros cuadrados del territorio del banco de madera que va desde Wisdom en el oeste 100 millas al este de la ciudad de Virginia y desde  Monida en la frontera de Montana-Idaho 100 millas a Waterloo. A la gente de Montana le gusta decir que su estado es  “alto, ancho y guapo” y la cadena del banco de madera es hogar de enormes ranchos, de la pesca de trucha de primera categoría, y el legado ambiental de la época de la fiebre del oro. El viaje en auto de 20 millas de Sheridan a la ciudad de Virginia revela Colinas tras colina de relaves dejados por los mineros que trabajaron en la década del banco de madera que trabajaron en la década de 1860 y más allá a lo largo de Alder Creek.

Los clientes del banco de madera, 60por ciento de los cuales se calientan solamente con madera, se encuentran  principalmente en el rango más bajo del cinco por ciento de los ingresos de los hogares de la familia o dela zona. Sus edades son desde bebes hasta una mujer de 95 años de edad que cocina en una estufa de leña. Ella es una delos clientes que utiliza leña para cocinar.

Las personas son referidas al ministerio por las agencias de la zona de servicio sociales, además de ser referidos por lo que se denomina de boca a boca. En general, los clientes necesitan cumplir con los requisitos federales de elegibilidad de asistencia de alimentación, aunque  Neeley dice que “como organización cristiana hacemos concesiones”.

Voluntarios del banco de madera de la parroquia Tri utilizan cortadoras de troncos para cortar alguna de la leña dejada en la temporada del invierno 2013-2014 del ministerio. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

“En el nombre de Cristo, ayudamos a mantenerse abrigados a aquellos que viven a la sombra del sueño Americano “. Es la declaración de la misión del banco de madera.

“Y realmente hemos tratado de vivir de acuerdo a estos dos,” Neeley dijo mientras conducía en uno de los camiones del banco de madera entre Dillon y la otra del ministerio en Sheridan. Y los voluntarios no son solamente episcopales, añadió, enumerando “ateos, presbiterianos, bautistas y metodistas y católicos”.

 

Los 112 voluntarios del banco de madera que trabajaron en el 2013 pusieron 3.546 horas de trabajo, de acuerdo con el informe anual del ministerio. El banco de madera no tiene personal remunerado. Alguien, a menudo, Neeley, puede ser ubicado las 24 horas del día, los 365 días del año a través de un teléfono celular que gira entre los voluntarios.

 

Algunas de esas horas de trabajo han sido registradas por los jóvenes con los requisitos del tribunal de servicio comunitario y por participantes de Dillon basado en la  Academia de Retos de Jóvenes, un programa dirigido por la Guardia Nacional para escolares que han abandonado la escuela.

Muchos clientes de los bancos de madera también proporcionan apoyo práctico, ya sea recogiendo la leña o ayudando a descargarla en sus casas o en casas de otros clientes, de acuerdo al dirigente Woodchuck Neeley, que casi todos los días se le puede encontrar en el trabajo en su mameluco salpicado  con serin y grasa de motosierra.

A veces dice, Neeley, que los clientes donan pequeñas cantidades de dinero para el ministerio. Él lo llama la limosna de los pobres, porque  “yo sé de qué tipo de bolsillo viene”.

Mientras que el principal apoyo financiero del banco de madera proviene de las tres parroquias y de United Way del condado de Beaverhead, docenas de personas contribuyen con cantidades que van desde “las limosnas de los pobres” hasta $1.00. Una variedad de fundaciones con sede en Montana han contribuido también como lo hecho la  Diócesis de Montana.

La Ofrenda Unida de Acción de Gracia dono al banco de madera una subvención de $8.500 en el 2013 que pago los ascensores hidráulicos en ambos de los camiones de reparto del ministerio, casi poniendo fin a la descarga de mano (a veces la nieve en el camión significan que pocos troncos se congelan en la cama y necesitan atención). La subvención de UTO también cubrirá el costo de un transportador para mover la madera mecánicamente en los camiones de reparto o sobre pilotes en los dos lugares de almacenamiento de trabajo en el rancho Bump fuera de Dillon y por el lado de Mill Creek Road fuera de Sheridan.

El Rdo. Harry Neeley dice que los ascensores hidráulicos para dos camiones de la parroquia del banco de madera Tri hacen que las entregas sean mucho más fáciles. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

El apoyo del ministerio de las comunidades se extiende más allá de los organismos de financiación. Por ejemplo, justo antes del Martes de Carnaval a principios de este mes, el signo de bienvenida en Stockman Bank en Dillon recordó a los transeúntes que salen de San Santiago que las ganancias de cena de paqueque esa noche es para el banco de madera.

Y luego está la  misma madera. El Servicio Forestal de los EE.UU. da acceso al ministerio de árboles explotables a través proceso de permiso de leñas. Un aserradero en Argenta cerca de Dillon dona madera la cual la clasifica como  desperdicio y la Junta de Árboles de Dillon dona al banco de madera cualquier árbol que elimina de toda la ciudad.

Además,  “la gente no solamente nos da regalos de madera” dijo Neeley, incluyendo un ranchero que redujo algunos rodales de árboles en sus tierras y donó cuatro camiones cargados de tala de madera. En total, el ministerio estaba dotado de 244 cuerdas de madera en el 2013.

Las donaciones financieras y donaciones materiales se han incrementado en los últimos años dijo Neeley, ya que le banco de madera se ha vuelto “más conocido y digno de confianza.”

Y el banco de madera ha conseguido el reconocimiento secular por su ministerio. El honor más reciente se produjo a principios de febrero, cuando el banco de madera era uno de los ocho programas e individuos fueron honrados por Serve Montana, un esfuerzo voluntario de la oficina del gobernador del estado.

“Es gratificante. Yo sé que Cristo nos ha bendecido; hemos sido bendecidos de muchas maneras por las donaciones financieras y reconocimientos que no se buscaban pero fueron dadas,” dijo Neeley. “Eso es un poco de cómo puedo medir lo que hacemos; de como lo estamos haciendo con nuestra gente y de cómo somos vistos en la comunidad y el estado. Y ha sido bueno”.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es una editor/reportera para Episcopal News Service.

Share your Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Easter experiences, images

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church invites Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter photos and videos to appear in the stained glass on the home page and elsewhere of The Episcopal Church website.

Upload photos here.

Upload videos here.

Palm Sunday is April 13; Holy Thursday is April 17; Good Friday is April 18; Easter is April 20.

“We have received lots of Ash Wednesday and Lenten observance photos and videos on Episcopalchurch.org,” noted Anne Rudig, Director of Communication. “We look forward to photo and video submissions for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Episcopalchurch.org is a container for the whole church. We’d love to showcase what your church is doing.”

For more information contact Barry Merer, Manager, Web & Social Media Services, bmerer@episcopalchurch.org

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. Augustine’s University, Raleigh, NC

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

St. Augustine’s University Chapel
31 March 2014

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

A week ago I heard a remarkable story about two young women who heard a call.  They thought it was simply about becoming Episcopal priests, but along the way, they began to discover a passion for working in the “hood” on the north side of Troy, NY.[1]  They started simply walking the streets, praying, and trying to make friends in that gritty, rundown part of the city.  The unemployment rate there is sky-high, poverty abounds, and the role models for a lot of kids involve substance abuse, drug-dealing, gangs, and absentee parents.  A friend told me the story, and that lots of other people kept telling them it wasn’t safe for them to go there.[2]  But the two of them kept dreaming their dream.  They started walking the streets.  They began to get to know people, and listened to their questions, joys, and laments.  They hung out in a park, playing music, reading Bible stories, and offering snacks to any kid who showed up.  Two years ago they found an old diner for sale and turned it into a place of hospitality.  Today it’s a café that’s become a hangout for kids, teens, and people in recovery.  The whole community is changing.  It’s called Oaks of Righteousness,[3] from a part of Isaiah where the prophet sets out a vision of a healed community and says that those who live and work there will be called oaks of righteousness.[4]

I can tell you a similar story about a part of Dallas that was cut off from the rest of the city decades ago by freeway construction.  The city and most of its leaders had pretty much abandoned those 60 square blocks.  But a few saw possibilities and began to discover and encourage hope through listening to the residents.  Most of all, they said they needed a place and opportunity to build community, beginning with their kids and families.  A young priest, Jemonde Taylor, who is now the rector of St. Ambrose here in Raleigh, turned it into his parish.  Today the community is called Jubilee Park.[5]  There is a community center, gardens where people grow healthy food, cooking classes and health initiatives, improved education for children and adults, and vastly improved housing opportunities.  Jubilee Park has a vitally renewed sense of community, and its name reflects the biblical sense of jubilee as release from debt and setting all the captives free.

Faithful leaders in both those places had heard some of the same things we heard this morning – about being light to the nations and going to Galilee and being healers.  They listened deeply to what was broken in the community, and they kept looking for partners – beginning with the people who live there.

Those leaders might have been St. Augustine students, challenged to “transform, excel, and lead.”  That is why we’re all here – to help this world become a better place, to heal what’s broken, to reconcile what’s divided, to bring the kind of justice and peace that Jesus taught.  When we love our neighbors as ourselves, the kingdom of God can be found in our midst.  The journeys of discovery that begin and grow here at St. Augustine’s can and do help to make that kind of transformation possible in the world around us.

That vision is what Isaiah is challenging people about.  He’s talking to people who feel lost and abandoned, reminding them that God has something rather different in mind.  God’s intent is to save the people, to deliver prisoners and settle them on fertile land where there is enough to eat and drink and enough more for a feast – where people don’t live on the street, exposed to the elements, where people aren’t strangers to their neighbors, but where people have come home to settle again in peace and dignity.  Isaiah promises that the road to get there is going to be easier than the journey that took them into exile and slavery.

Henry Beard Delany started this chapel a hundred and twenty years ago to encourage people to learn and share that dream and begin to build toward it.  This community of support and encouragement exists to help us all become people of transformation, leaders who will teach and encourage others to live into that dream.  As Paul says, we’re all part of the same body, and we share the same promise that God’s dream of a healed world is not only possible but it’s already happening, if we’re willing to look and listen and join the action.

Paul says he’s already become a servant or minister of this good news, and that’s what the risen Jesus has just told his disciples – his students.  First he sends them to Galilee – and you ought to invite Bishop Curry to tell you something about his vision for going to Galilee.  First off, it’s foreign territory – it’s not where the Jews live, or the Romans.  It’s the strange land where there is precious little hope because nobody’s heard God’s dream.  It’s the part of town that’s been cut off and left to shrivel up and die.  Going to Galilee is about leaving home to love the neighbor you haven’t met yet.  Galilee is out there, beyond home and safety and certainty, but it is where you can be most alive, because living there is going to demand your strongest gifts, every bit of courage you can muster, and the ability to live with chaos, because there is no creativity without it.

Jesus says go to Galilee and when you get there, teach others about this dream, baptize them into it, and teach them what he taught so they can become agents of transformation.  That’s what “obey” really means – to listen and hear deeply enough to be transformed and joined to a different way of living.  And don’t worry so much about the details, he says, because I’ll be there walking along with you.

So, where is Galilee for you?  Where can you go into foreign territory and be most alive?   Henry Delany learned that dream while he was a student here.  He went on to become the first African-American bishop in The Episcopal Church.  St. Agnes’ hospital and nursing school was part of that dream of healing – and we pray that will one day be that again.  There’s a similar institution in Haiti, founded 10 years ago as the only four-year school for nurses in Haiti.  Most of the graduates become community healthcare providers.[6]  Hilda Alcindor, the woman who started it, shares that dream, and she’s joined with the Episcopal University of Haiti to make it possible.

Maybe your Galilee has something to do with the unique film production program here – to tell the story, spread the dream, and be a light to those who live with little hope.

Where is your Galilee?  Every single one of us has gifts for leadership, and leadership is about motivating transformation.  When we begin to be transformed ourselves, those gifts are set loose for transforming the world around us into God’s dream.

Dream that excellent dream, let yourself be transformed, and lead others toward that new community of justice and peace!

[1] http://oakstroy.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2011-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=7  beginning with entry for 11 Sept 2011.

[2] The Rt. Rev. Bill Love, Bishop of Albany

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oaks-of-Righteousness-Episcopal-Ministry/159700127383257?v=info

[4] Isaiah 61:1-3

[5] http://www.jubileecenter.org/

[6] http://haitinursing.org/fsilnursingschool.html

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