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Giving thanks by giving: Episcopal churches box, dish up holiday meals

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Youth group members at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, get ready to box up items for distribution to local working poor. Photo courtesy Tara Knox

[Episcopal News Service] Whether boxing up turkey with all the trimmings or serving delicious home-cooked meals restaurant-style, Episcopal churches across the country are giving thanks this holiday season by giving to the hungry, the homeless and the lonely.

A Florida priest who received a criminal citation for feeding the homeless in a public park earlier this month says he’ll be doing just that come Thanksgiving morning.

“I will be accompanying my adult parishioners and youth group members to one of the [Southeast Florida] diocese’s outreach centers, St. Laurence Chapel, to serve Thanksgiving dinner between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day,” according to the Rev. Canon Mark Sims, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Coral Gables.

“We will serve a traditional dinner of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, drink and dessert. We will also make sandwiches and to-go meals, to be delivered to individuals who are homeless on the streets of downtown Fort Lauderdale,” said Sims, who has challenged the constitutionality of the city ordinance.

And Norman Lee, 63, says he will consider himself an honored guest at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit where he plans to arrive bright and early for a Thanksgiving meal.

“It’s real nice, especially when you’re out on the street and no one invited you for the family dinner, and you have no money to spend for a nice meal,” added Lee, a self-described regular at the church’s five-day-a-week soup kitchen, a collaborative effort among several local congregations.

“They serve turkey dinner first thing in the morning, starting about 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m.,” Lee said. And not just turkey but “all the fixings, cranberry sauce, dressing. They bring it to your seat. They dress up the kitchen; they decorate it and put tablecloths on the table and decorations to set the mood.”

It reminds him of holidays past, “to be able to have a real, old-fashioned dinner,” he said.

Marianne Arbogast, who manages the church’s Manna Community Meal soup kitchen, said she expects to serve between 700 and 800 meals on Thanksgiving Day with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

In Southern California, one woman’s gift of love has multiplied by the thousands.

Kim McCurdy, a parishioner at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Claremont began sharing Thanksgiving meals with a few homeless people 21 years ago.

This year, with the help of volunteers, McCurdy and her catering business partner Gayle Jensen will help organize, cook and distribute meals for several thousand people at the church and four other locations in Southern California.

When she noticed homeless and hungry people “it reminded me of when I was growing up in Vietnam,” she said. “My mother had eight children and my father died young. We were hungry all the time.”

McCurdy approached her rector about wanting to help feed local people who are homeless. She and Jensen use the parish’s kitchen and their efforts have garnered thousands of donated turkeys and other food items. The women also have organized a weekly interfaith food program that feeds hundreds.

“There are so many working poor and people alone, seniors, and people are hungry year-round,” Jensen said.

In Ohio and Virginia: Boxing up holiday delights
Jill Burket Ragase’s 6-year-old twins, Pippa and Truman, and even her 18-month-old twins, Penelope and Quentin, are “Thanksgiving box experts now.”

And Ragase, volunteer coordinator for Cincinnati’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer’s Thanksgiving outreach program, says she thinks they may even understand a little bit about food scarcity because they’ve rubbed elbows with those experiencing it.

Sharing a family ministry while helping others is a reason she agreed to lead Redeemer’s program this year, said Ragase. She and other volunteers recently divvied up an estimated 940 sticks of butter, 2,820 extra large eggs and enough 5-pound bags of potatoes to fill 250 boxes with turkey and all the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal for local working poor residents.

“We are so blessed,” said Ragase. “A local grocery store offers the turkeys at 99 cents a pound and gives us 10 percent off the rest of the perishable items. So, I got to go and order those this week.”

According to Sharon Jenkins, Redeemer’s communications director, the parish has partnered for several years with the Madisonville Education and Assistance Center (MEAC) and negotiates with the grocery store “to get the turkeys at a reduced rate, and we include eggs, potatoes, and all the makings for a big meal.”

After donated bundles of corrugated boxes arrive, parishioners sign up in October to commit to fill at least one. “Some take as many as three boxes,” increasing this year’s total from the 225 filled in 2013, Ragase said.

Parishioners “include a $15 donation toward the cost of the turkeys” and the boxes come with a shopping list for nonperishable items such as macaroni shells, mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, pie filling and pie crust mixes. The boxes are filled and then “this week is the best part” because the turkeys arrive, Ragase said Nov. 21.

On Nov. 22, volunteers arrived in shifts, some to pick up turkeys and other perishables from the local grocery store, others to deliver the boxes to MEAC’s food pantry for a Nov. 23 distribution.

Similarly, members of Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, helped fill boxes with turkey and all the trimmings for 150 local families to make a complete Thanksgiving meal, according to development director Tara Knox.

“The families are Alexandrians who have requested assistance from the church’s Lazarus Outreach Ministry which serves local people in need,” according to Knox.

On Nov. 23, youth in grades six to 12 helped set up for the food distribution by converting part of the parish hall into a Thanksgiving food pantry, she said. They receive donated turkeys and canned goods.

When those who’ve requested assistance arrive, a personal shopper accompanies them through the pantry, Knox said.

“It’s a nice opportunity to have their family meal cooked in their own home,” she said. “And it’s really fun for us because everybody can get in on the act and the kids get to set up the food pantry. It’s kind of fancy, and the Sunday school kids put together treats and inspirational messages to go with the bags.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

California Bishop Marc Andrus’s statement on Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of California] The following is a statement from the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California. It is available online here.

I learned with disappointment and not a little surprise last night’s decision of the grand jury to not indict Office Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. I learned, with disappointment also, the protests planned at the Ferguson Police Department offices were broken up with teargas almost as soon as they started, and there were fires and looting later in the night – a scene repeated locally. The anger of a people who trusted a justice system to be their voice, felt justice was denied; theirs was a righteous anger, and their voices yearned to be heard. The violence and destruction is condemned, the purpose it serves perpetuates the narrative norm in our communities that violence begets violence.

I ask us to work to end the violence — this violence in our communities must end. The FBI released a report recently that 27 police officers died in the line of duty last year, but that report did not mention the number of persons killed by police officers in the same period. A Washington Post report from police departments estimated 400 ‘justified homicides’ by police departments in the same period, a number believed to greatly underestimate all police killings. [1] Each of these violent deaths — of police and of citizens — denied the humanity of the victim, denied their right and respected place as one of our brothers and sisters, lovingly created by God.

The shooting death of Michael Brown, who lay unattended in the street for four hours, was a violent and tragic death. This violence must stop. This lack of respect of the dead must stop. We are lovingly created by God to have a place in this world, equally loved; we all matter. All of us, we matter, and we should be respected.

In Clayton, near Ferguson, local clergy marched today singing the old Gospel hymn,

“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around,”

With new lyrics

“Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around, turn me around, turn me around,
Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around, gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, marching on to Freedom’s Land.” [2]

This Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, the lesson from Isaiah 64 reminds us how God’s people turned away, yet in troubled times continue to return to God:

From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64.4, 7-9)

We are all the work of God’s hand, and turn to God for the love and support, as are God responds to the people:

They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65.23-24)

I commend to you the tireless work of positive groups for change, such as Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere and the Diocese of California’s recently-formed Urban Peace Collaborative; groups such as these are where our energy and support are needed.

I ask your prayers for peace and the end of violence in Ferguson, in Oakland, in our communities. I ask your prayers, for the Brown family in Ferguson, for the Niehto family in San Francisco, and the family of Perla Avinin Oakland [3], for peace and justice for all families affected by violence.

I ask your prayers for justice and the end of violence, because we all matter, each one of our lives matter. I ask your prayers knowing that God does not hide God’s face from us, because we are God’s people. Because we will, with God’s help, turn this about this horrid course of pain and destruction and injustice in our communities.

As the hymn says
Ain’t gonna let injustice turn us around,
Gonna keep on a-walkin’
Keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ on to Freedom’s Land…

[1] Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Online retrieved 11/24/14, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/11/24/fbi-reports-27-cops-were-killed-last-year-but-how-many-civilians-were-killed-by-officers/

[2] Huffington Post, retrieved 11/24/14, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/25/clergy-sing-ferguson_n_6218422.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

[3] Malaika Frayley, Oakland Tribune, retrieved 11/25/14, http://www.insidebayarea.com/News/ci_26856978/Man-charged-in-womans-fatal-shooting-last-month

Presiding Bishop’s statement on the way forward from Ferguson

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on the way forward from Ferguson:

The Episcopal Church joins many others in deep lament over the tragic reality that continues to be revealed in Ferguson, Missouri. The racism in this nation is part of our foundation, and is not unique to one city or state or part of the country. All Americans live with the consequences of centuries of slavery, exploitation, and prejudice. That legacy continues to lead individuals to perceive threat from those who are seen as “other.” The color of one’s skin is often the most visible representation of what divides God’s children one from another.

Michael Brown’s death was and is a tragedy, and has become a powerful witness to those divisions between human beings in this nation. His death also carries the potential to become a sacramental offering – if it continues to challenge us to address our divisions and the injustices in this nation that are far more than skin deep.

This nation was founded with a vision for freedom, a vision that has required repeated challenges in order to move toward true liberty for all the people of this land. Christians understand the sacred vision of the Reign of God as a society of peace with justice for all. May the life and death of Michael Brown drive us toward reconciliation that will shake the foundations of this nation toward the justice for which we were all created. The Episcopal Church will continue to partner and push for racial reconciliation in Missouri and across this land. I ask you to stand with hands extended in love, to look for the image of God in every neighbor, and to offer yourself in vulnerability for the sake of reconciliation across this land. May we become instruments of God’s peace and healing, made evident in communities of justice for all.

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

Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith’s statement on Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Missouri] The prosecutor and grand jury in Saint Louis County have spoken in the matter of Michael Brown’s shooting death, but theirs is hardly the last word in this tragedy. These past hours have heard many expressions of broken trust in the system. Some expressions have been violent, to my anguish and disappointment. But many more have been peaceful and a sign of hope.

Our Church and our Diocese have responded throughout this crisis in many ways: with prayer, through providing material aid, in opening our doors to offer places of safety, and by finding various and courageous ways to stand in the gap. In the face of so much broken trust, the gospel demands for the ministry of reconciliation will require us to stay in that uncomfortable gap. That means that we can expect to become agents of Christ’s reconciliation. But it also means that, with our haunted pasts of racism and its current reality, we will ourselves need to be reconciled. That may prove the harder part.

In consultation with many others in our Diocese, I hope in the months ahead to marshal available resources, both for us to become better reconcilers — and also to be reconciled. All for the sake of Jesus Christ, who is our Peace and through whom we are being reconciled to God.

Wayne Smith
Tenth Bishop of Missouri

New Jersey Bishop Stokes’ statement on Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey] Many will debate the justice (or lack thereof) accomplished by the refusal to indict the officer who shot unarmed Michael Brown dead. What is indisputable are the disparities in the systems that so often lead to tragic consequences such as Ferguson–disparities which include hiring and promotion policies that have led to a predominantly white law enforcement with white senior officers policing communities of color; which include disparities in the practice of traffic stops where young men of color are stopped far more often for minor traffic offenses, and which include disparities in the rate of arrests and convictions for minor drug possessions.

What is indisputable is that all of us are living in a society with disparities and not how God intended us to live. And these disparities have tragic consequences.

Each time we gather to share an Undoing Racism two-and-a-half day training, we surround ourselves with a Wall of History. It begins with the European invasion of the 15th century that led to the annihilation of over 90% of the Native American population and continues to the present day.  Along the way, we come to the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which sanctioned the provision of “separate but equal” facilities and services for white people and persons of color. It brings a moment of pause and reflection. From today forward, the name “Ferguson” will stand alone.

We remember Trayvon Martin, who died unarmed from gunshot wounds 2 years ago. Those of us with longer memories recall Amadou Diallo, the young man immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s haunting “American Skin (41 Shots)”. But how many of us have ever heard of Patrick Dorismund, Orlando Barlow, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Aaron Campbell, James Brissette, Ronald Matison, Travares McGill, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Jerrod Miller, Victor Steen, Steven Eugene Washington, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Ramarley Graham, Ervin Jefferson, Kendree McDade or Kimani Gray? All were shot unarmed by police officers or security guards between 2000 and 2013. All were men of color, averaging just 23 years of age.

We do not condone the violence of some in reaction to this fateful decision. We understand and share the anger behind it. We pledge ourselves to channel our anger into action. The Wall of History is not merely a witness to the presence of racism from our country’s beginnings; it is a witness to the resistors who have fought the sin of racism in every generation, from Bartolome de las Casas to Sojourner Truth to William Wilberforce to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us stand together on their broad shoulders, decrying the sin of racism wherever it is found. Pray for Ferguson. Pray for justice. Pray for peace. Join us as we put our bodies where our mouths are, becoming a part of our prayer’s answer; striving together for justice and peace as anti-racists; for the love of the One in whose image we have all been created, through whose Son we have all been redeemed and by whose Spirit we have been empowered for the ministry of reconciliation.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend William H. (Chip) Stokes, D.D.

Long Island Bishop Provenzano’s statement on Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Long Island] As we awaken this morning to images of violence and the destruction of property in Ferguson and other cities, and confront our anger and disappointment at the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, I am struck by how much work is before us.

I am struck by how many words have been spoken and how little real change has occurred in understanding issues of race in our nation.

If, as it appears by the evidence presented, the law is on the side of an armed police officer shooting an unarmed suspect, then the law must be changed and evenly applied to all people; the police better trained to defuse confrontation with the public and above all a recognition of the issues of race and prejudice that inform the actions of all involved.

I must recommend to the people of our Diocese the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of the Church in 1994.  We must make it our work to go back and read and learn and then apply the wisdom of our tradition to this and every other situation that so affects God’s people.

Our prayers go out to the family of Michael Brown, the police and their families, and the people of Ferguson.

Our prayers go out for peace, calm and faithful indignation that will bring about change. Real and lasting change.

The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island
The Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk
The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island

 

‘Future is bright’ for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal News Service – Charleston, South Carolina] The three newest mission congregations of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina worship in two United Methodist churches and a former martial arts studio next to a barbecue joint and a bar.

On Nov. 15, the members of the Episcopal Church in Okatie, Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Myrtle Beach and East Cooper Episcopal Church became the sixth, seventh and eighth such congregations to have formed in the last two years. Their membership brings to 30 the number of congregations that form The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

The three newest missions’ worship arrangements are not unusual for such fledgling congregations in the Low Country of South Carolina. For instance, the Episcopal Church on Edisto began meeting in a barbecue restaurant and now shares space with New First Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American Baptist church that worships in a newer building next door.

Members of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina march up the aisle of Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston Nov. 15 to be welcomed as a mission congregation of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church in Florence meets in the Back Swamp Schoolhouse, a 1921 wood-frame building with neither heat nor air conditioning.

St. Francis Episcopal Church in Charleston meets in a funeral home chapel, J. Henry Stuhr’s West Ashley Chapel. In October, the mission congregation held an animal blessing service at the dog park down the street.

Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Summerville shares space with an African-American congregation, Wesley United Methodist Church, and holds Sunday school in the public library around the corner.

And St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Conway worships in the interdenominational Lackey Chapel of Coastal Carolina University.

“Unlikely groups have been the most welcoming of us,” South Carolina Bishop Provisional Charles vonRosenberg told ENS.

Beginning November 2012, and in some cases earlier, many Episcopalians felt forced to leave their parish homes in a dispute led by then-diocesan Bishop Mark Lawrence over policy decisions made by the wider Episcopal Church. Lawrence was deemed to have renounced his Episcopal orders.

Members of the East Cooper Episcopal Church in the Charleston area accept applause at Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston Nov. 15 after being officially welcomed as a mission congregation of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Those who wished to remain in The Episcopal Church are now part of what is known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The entity has been so named since Jan. 26, 2013 in order to comply with a temporary restraining order that prevented the group from using the diocesan seal and the names “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Diocese of South Carolina” and “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.”

“The Exodus event seems to relate to our experiences in various ways,” vonRosenberg said during his address to the church’s 224th annual convention Nov. 15. “For instance, I have heard from many of you about the sense and reality of oppression in this part of the church, in previous times. Then, a kind of separation and exodus took place. And now, people of God, we find ourselves traveling through the wilderness.”

Theirs is not a barren wilderness, however, vonRosenberg said during an ENS interview prior to the convention. In addition to numerical growth, there has been spiritual growth.

“There’s meaning here, which is deep and profound. It has to do with building community, knowing what is important, claiming that and wanting to go forward with that conviction,” he said. “We’re not looking back because the future is bright and what’s in the past is something that we don’t need or want to relive.”

Or as Andrea McKellar, St. Francis’ senior warden, put it: “It’s been very joyful. It’s a truly resurrection experience that we went from what seemed in the first days to be the worst situation in the world to now I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

These eight new worshiping communities are pilgrims, journeying towards a destination they may not yet see clearly but knowing they are committed to being Episcopalians, the bishop and others said.

“There’s a holy patience” among those pilgrims, said the Ven. Calhoun Walpole, who serves as archdeacon of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

“People know that they won’t see the fruits. There’s a deep sense that I see; a deep understanding that the harvest is not ours; that it can never be ours, it’s the Lord’s; that we are here laboring in these fields right now, laboring for future generations,” said Walpole, who is also vicar of Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. “You boil that all down and it’s the church being the church. It’s what the church has done in every time in every generation in every place. We just have the gift of experiencing a heightened sense of that reality.”

Those people who are experiencing that reality have made the sacrifice of leaving church buildings that held parts of their families’ histories and in some cases family and friends who also carried that history, vonRosenberg and Walpole said. And Walpole suggested that other sacrifices are being made as well, acknowledging that some Episcopalians have stayed in the parishes that have followed Lawrence’s lead.

“I think the story that is not told for obvious reasons is the story of those people who have made the decision to stay in their respective parishes that broke away,” Walpole explained. “I believe those numbers are large and I believe those people, while they may not even use the language of ‘call’ or even ‘sacrifice,’ knowingly or unknowingly are continuing to bear witness quietly to the presence of The Episcopal Church in those parishes.”

In the midst of The Episcopal Church’s reorganization in South Carolina, its members were called during the Nov. 14-15 convention to look outward, as well as inward. The convention’s theme was “Christ to the world we bring.” Its leaders wanted to start to change the church’s focus from survival to mission, while reestablishing a sense of Episcopal and Anglican identity and accountability. VonRosenberg said the leadership wants to encourage all of its congregations, and especially its start-ups, “to be recognized in the larger community for a purpose which involves the mission of Jesus.”

More than 300 people attended the convention, including 77 lay delegates and 36 clergy members. Information about the work of the convention, held at Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, is here. The Rev. Thomas Brackett, Episcopal Church missioner for new church starts and missional initiatives, conducted a series of workshops on Nov. 14 as part of that effort. The Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, domestic poverty missioner for The Episcopal Church, also spoke to the convention.

And former Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga, who chairs the Anglican Consultative Council, was the preacher during the opening Eucharist. Tengatenga’s presence was meant to show the church and the wider community that, in vonRosenberg’s words during his address, “The Episcopal Church is the only recognized member of the Anglican Communion in this country.”

During the business part of the convention, delegates unanimously rolled back constitutional and canonical changes made by Lawrence-led conventions to pull the church away from The Episcopal Church. Chancellor Thomas Tisdale told the convention that the Nov. 15 corrective actions had the effect of “making us a part of The Episcopal Church.”

Legal work remains to be done. There are court actions focused on which group should have legal control of the Diocese of South Carolina. And while vonRosenberg and other leaders do not want to focus the Episcopalians on the court actions, those legal cases do make a claim on the organization’s attention and finances. And the bishop says they represent important work for the Episcopalians’ reorganization and their future “in this part of South Carolina.” Details about the court actions are here.

Still, vonRosenberg told ENS, Episcopalians in South Carolina are telling him that “we’re not looking back because the future is bright and what’s in the past is something that we don’t need or want to relive.”

Eve Pinckey, a founding member of the Episcopal Church in Okatie who now serves on its vestry, describes it this way: “We’re going to grow, grow, grow and love, love, love one another, just as we always have. It’s going to be wonderful. I can’t wait.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Video: The pilgrims of the Episcopal Church in Okatie

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church in Okatie, which recently became an official mission of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, is on a journey of renewal which began on a dock.

Women’s conference gathers Episcopalians from Brazil, Uruguay

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the first day of the Nov. 8-9 conference each woman was given two small squares of paper, one with an open eye and the other a closed eye. On the closed eye they were asked to list things, people, situations, in their communities that were stopped, held back, asleep or dead. On the square with the open eye they were asked to list things, people, situations that have been held up or given life by the church. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Montevideo, Uruguay] Some of the women began saving money more than six months in advance and some traveled 12 hours by bus across the border to attend a bi-national conference, which has united for more than eight years Brazilian and Uruguayan women through stories of challenge, courage, strength and love.

Their world is changing, and a few women are moving into leadership roles. Yet much needs to be done to carry out the pioneering Convention of Belém, which required countries who signed it 20 years ago to educate their people about women’s rights, to fight machismo and pass laws to protect women from violence.

Earlier this month, 100 women and more than a dozen men representing the three southern most dioceses – Southwest, Southern, and Pelotas – of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil and the Anglican Diocese of Uruguay gathered at a spiritual retreat center 30 minutes outside the capital here for a two-day conference focused on the theme “church women committed to social change.”

The annual gathering offers the space, said the women, for the storytelling and relationship-building that empowers them in their lives and their community ministries; one of the ways women are committed to social change in their communities is through building awareness about gender-based violence prevention and intervention.

Violence against women and children is prevalent and often commonplace throughout Latin America, where often “women are not even aware of the violence they are in, or they believe that they are the only ones being abused,” said Christina Takatsu Winnischofer, president of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil’s Women’s Union.

Throughout the Nov. 8-9 meeting, women and men shared stories of church and community ministries and social programs that were working well and those that faced challenges, ranging from having the resources to address the community’s needs to the red tape and restrictions that apply when churches work with government agencies to provide social services.

The focus on violence against women and children, the majority of that being domestic violence, was a theme that carried over from the previous year’s conference held in the Diocese of Southern Brazil.

The U.S.-based Episcopal Church, which shares a covenant agreement with the church in Brazil (which became an autonomous province in 1965), also had a presence at the two-day conference, with the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Rev. David Copley, officer for mission personnel, both of whom work in the church’s office of global partnerships; Episcopal Church-appointed missionaries Monica Vega and Heidi Schmidt, who are serving the province of Brazil, and Young Adult Service Corps missionaries Nina Boe of the Diocese of Olympia and Kirsten Lowell of the Diocese of Maine, who serve in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro and the Diocese of Uruguay, respectively.

From left, the Rev. David Copley, the Episcopal Church’s officer for mission personnel, Episcopal Church-appointed missionary Monica Vega, Young Adult Service Corps missionary Kirsten Lowell, Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of the Province of Brazil, Young Adult Service Corps missionary Nina Boe, and Episcopal Church-appointed missionary Heidi Schmidt. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

“There is this movement toward addressing women’s issues in our churches today, which is critical,” said Vega, who in addition to serving the church’s provincial office, also works with a nonprofit organization that works to empower women street vendors.

To work on women’s issues is not something to do because it is trendy, she added, “but because it’s a sign of the Kingdom. Giving back dignity to women is a sign of the Kingdom, that’s what Jesus did.”

Uruguay, one of the smallest countries in terms of both land area and population in South America, shares borders with two of the largest, Argentina to the west and the much larger Brazil to its north and east. There are 200 million people in Brazil compared with 3.5 million in Uruguay, with 9 percent and 11.5 percent of the population living in poverty, respectively, according to data from the World Bank.

Still, when it comes to violence against women, size, income and other development data don’t tell the story of what the United Nations calls a “pandemic in diverse forms.” An average of 68 domestic violence cases were reported daily in Uruguay in 2013; Amnesty International has criticized the government for its inability to respond adequately to cases of violence against women. Between 2001 and 2011 more than 50,000 women were murdered mainly as a result of domestic violence, according to the Brazilian Institute for Applied Research. Brazil is the seventh most dangerous country in the world as measured by rates of violence toward women.

During the Nov. 9 Eucharist service, women in pairs acted out an exercise that demonstrated what it’s like when women are treated as things, or objects – the point being that when women are treated as things, they don’t matter.

When the church first started talking about violence against women it walked into uncharted territory because “violence against women isn’t something you talk about in the church,” said Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, Brazil’s primate since 2013, and bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Brazil.

Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, Brazil’s primate and bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Brazil, Bishop Michele Pollesel of the Anglican Diocese of Uruguay, and Bishop Humberto Maiztegue, of the Diocese of Southern Brazil. Bishop Renato Da Cruz Raatz of the Diocese of Pelotas also attended the conference. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

It was something, however, that the church needed to do despite the “taboo,” da Silva said when he addressed the conference on its second day. When the church began talking about violence against women, it couldn’t deny that it exists in the church as well, and that unfortunately men don’t see it as an important topic.

“It’s something that is presented by women, for women,” he said, and that’s one of the biggest obstacles to addressing the violence against women and children. “It’s something that men need to bring to the table.”

Taking the lead on women’s rights
Coordinated by Anglican Service of Diakonia and Development (SADD), which coordinates social services and projects at all levels of the church, the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil embarked on a two–year study of human rights, which through grassroots feedback led to a focus on domestic violence, explained Sandra Andrade, the director of SADD.

In August 2013, SADD, in partnership with Christian Aid, released its first booklet aimed at the prevention and intervention of gender-based violence against women. The booklet, which included 10 workshops aimed at both men and women, was later translated from Portuguese into Spanish and English with the help of Episcopal Relief & Development; it since has been shared in Latin America as well as Africa.

A second version of the booklet updated with an additional workshop on HIV prevention strategies was released earlier this year and distributed at the conference.

“Domestic Violence Against Women is a consequence of a culture constructed by a society that promotes inequalities based on the differences considered to be natural (biological) between the sexes, which determine how each person should behave because they are of one gender or another,” it reads.

“Just as in all social spaces, the religious communities are not exempt from this reality and, often, contribute to the perpetration of this violence through their declarations and practices. Therefore, if as religious communities we are capable of practicing gender-related violence against women, we can also admit that we are capable of overcoming and beating this reality and of building a culture of peace based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Isolation
Amazonia, which covers more than 2 million square miles of Northern Brazil, can feel particularly isolated since it often is disconnected from government services. A bishop and two priests cover nine distinct communities where domestic violence is prevalent. “Women are literally dying from violence,” said Maria Elizabeth Santos Teixeira, a policewoman from the Diocese of Amazonia who serves as vice president of the Women’s Union.

“It’s one thing to say that there are difficulties, it’s another to be able to sit with others and tell your stories,” said Santos Teixeira.

The isolation Santos Teixeira sometimes feels in Amazonia can be felt in Uruguay as well. The Diocese of Uruguay was thwarted in its attempt in 2012 to become part of the province of Brazil.

The Uruguayan women’s participation in the conference began out of a companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Southwest Brazil, but the relationship extends beyond that. The church in Uruguay is more connected to the church in Brazil than to its own province.

“It was the work with southern Brazil that really brought the church in Uruguay back to life; they really worked with getting a grassroots church going,” said the Rt. Rev. Michele Pollesel, who became the bishop of Uruguay in 2013 after first being rejected by the bishops of the Anglican Church of South America, formerly called the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

One of the things the church in Uruguay has long fought for, said Pollesel, is women’s ordination, which he said he believes will come in the next 12 months as the province is in the process of approving new provincial canons.

In Brazil, a long history of women’s involvement
The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil has existed for 150 years in what is considered a mostly Roman Catholic country. In contrast, the Diocese of Uruguay celebrated 25 years in 2014 in a largely secular country that is considered the most liberal in Latin America.

Despite Uruguay’s liberal reputation, women aren’t typically seen in decision-making roles in society; the same goes for the church.

Church women in Uruguay tend to take a more traditional role, providing support at the parish level, said Gabriela Nuñez, a lay leader and psychologist who is married to a priest.

On the other hand, the Episcopal Anglican Women’s Union has existed in Brazil under different names for more than 100 years, and adopted its existing name in the 1980s “to reflect the need for women to be united,” said Winnischofer, the union’s president and general secretary of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil from 2003 to 2006.

The name change also symbolized a shift in focus from what had been a traditional auxiliary role in support of the church, the elderly and the poor, to one that included women’s needs; and it happened at a time when church women came together in support of women’s ordination, which also raised the issue of the status of women in the church, said Winnischofer.

The Rev. Carmen Gomes, the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, presided at the Nov. 9 Eucharist. Photo: David Copley

In 1985, the Rev. Carmen Gomes became the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, which today has 30 women priests serving throughout its nine dioceses. Additionally, women have served in leadership roles at all levels of the church.

Through meetings, sharing stories and offering support for one another, the Women’s Union still works to raise the status of women in the church and society, a task that’s ever more difficult when women have full-time work and family demands, said Winnischofer.

“Women are more visible in society,” she said, but they are still underrepresented in leadership roles despite the advances. She said the persistent attitude has been that “on the one hand we are visible and have a presence, that we don’t need to come to the table because we are already in the room.”

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

Persecution may be ‘tip of the iceberg,’ say Peshawar Christians

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Christians in Pakistan worry that the persecution they have experienced to date may be “just the tip of the iceberg.”

In the latest newsletter from the Diocese of Peshawar, a list of 22 incidents of violence against Christians in the country since 2013 accompanied a warning that “things are likely to get worse” because of the possibility of the presence of an extremist group called “Daish” (ISIS) in Pakistan.

Along with the 2013 twin suicide bombing of All Saints’ Church, Peshawar – that killed 119 people and injured many more – the writer compiled other attacks on Christians in Pakistan from information provided by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

These included an assassination attempt on a Christian lawyer in Lahore; a 58-year-old man killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam; shops belonging to Christians in Islamabad being burned down; several people being killed for converting to Christianity; and Christian girls raped and, in some instances, forced to convert to Islam.

The most recent incident was the burning of a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama Bibi, in a brick kiln following trumped up blasphemy charges. [Read a report about it here].

November’s special edition of the Frontier News newsletter, with the headline The Diocese Condemns!, contained a report of the protest march earlier in the month led by the diocese. It started at St. John’s Cathedral and ended at the Peshawar Press Club where church leaders held a press conference to condemn the murders.

The newsletter author wrote, “According to the sources, Shahzad and his wife Shama Bibi came to Chak-59 for their livelihood. The owner of the kiln Yousaf Gujar, over a dispute about a non-payment of advance money, locked the couple in a room and called upon the villagers. He blamed the couple for blasphemy. After severely beating them, the infuriated mob threw them in the brick kiln and set them afire.

“Once again, the personal vendetta against poor Christians is changed into the allegation of Blasphemy Law of Pakistan. This section of the law is always used, rather misused against the Christians for their persecution and extra judicial killings in Pakistan.”

Speaking at the press conference, Bishop Munawar Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Peshawar, said the incident was “a national disgrace” and called the government to bring the killers to book.

He added, “The Christians of Pakistan are law abiding citizens, and they respect other people’s beliefs. Christians believe in peaceful co-existence of different religions and always play a proactive and positive role for interfaith harmony in the region.”

The diocese’s newsletter concluded: “Nowadays, talking against the blasphemy law in any manner has itself become an act of blasphemy. This is just the tip of the iceberg, things are likely to get worse as there are rumours of the presence of an extremist group called “Daish” (ISIS) in Pakistan.”

Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe’s statement on Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] Diocese of Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe wrote the following letter to his diocese in response to recent developments in Ferguson, Missouri.

Dear Friends,

Like many of you, I waited with some trepidation for the grand jury to announce its decision on whether or not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer. As I’ve said previously, Ferguson is not so far from Kansas City or Topeka or Wichita, and the racial tensions ignited by this incident are present in our own diocese.

With the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer, tensions are running high, and even though the parents of Michael Brown have begged their community to be peaceful in responding to this decision, it appears some have used the situation as a rationale for damaging property and instigating further violence.

In the wake of these incidents, I invite the members of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas to pray for peace and justice in Ferguson and throughout our nation.

I ask you to pray for peace and justice for people of every race and economic condition.

I ask you to pray for the safety of everyone involved in this situation, including the members of the law enforcement community who risk their lives daily to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens.

I ask you to remember Michael Brown’s family who mourns the death of their son, and for Officer Darren Wilson and his family who have lost something precious and irreplaceable as well. No one ever gets over losing a son to violence, and no one ever gets over taking the life of another human being.

Every single day young men and women die in the streets of this great nation, and we must pray and work much, much harder to eliminate the conditions that contribute to this costly violence.

I am glad the people of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Ferguson, continue to be hard at work serving their community, and I pray their witness will continue to be a bold and faithful one. May the parishes of our diocese be equally committed to serving our communities in the name of Christ, and may we always remember the words of our Lord who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

In Christ,

+Dean

The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe
Ninth Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

Advent resources compiled by Episcopal Church Foundation

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices] Links to free Advent resources, calendars and devotions, reflections, St. Nicholas Day, and preparing for Christmas visitors at your church.

Calendars and Devotions
2014 Advent Devotional Calendar – A beautiful, simple, and low tech calendar for Advent. Download, print, and share.

Celebrate Advent Using Your Camera Phones – Join Episcopal and Anglican churches around the world in celebrating Advent through prayer, meditation, and by contributing to a global Advent calendar on Instagram.

Advent Words – This Advent, the SSJE Brothers invite you to join them in looking clearly and honestly at our lives and taking action. Subscribe to their calendar and every day a new gift will arrive, offering you a moment of solace and reflection on the true meaning of Advent and the coming Christmas season.

Episcopal Relief & Development Advent Toolkit provides tools and inspiration to help plan and carry out an Advent program centered around Gifts for Life.

Advent Meditations – Daily meditations from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland beginning November 30. Available in text and audio versions.

Who Will You Invite to the Manger? When Jesus was born, he was surrounded by parents, shepherds, and later the wise men. This reflection invites you to consider who do we welcome at the manger? How do we extend the invitation so that all feel welcome?

CREDO Advent Series – A collection of short, daily audio reflections presented by Barbara Crafton, this series is will also be available as a podcast. (From 2013)

Episcopal Intercultural Network – Each day during Advent, they are offering a daily devotion on their Facebook page. (From 2013)

Messiah: Joy is Foretold – Listen to musical selections while reading short reflections, this devotional book from St. John the Divine in Houston, Texas can be read and listened to online or downloaded to your computer. (From 2013)

From ECF Vital Practices
Advent: Taking it to the Streets – Our church brings ashes to the street on Ash Wednesday; how might we bring Advent to the streets during this hectic season?

Decorations – There is no war on Christmas, and if there is it’s not one the Episcopal church needs to fight.

Secrets of the Advent Artichoke – Feeling pressure to have everything done already? “Secrets of the Advent artichoke” for a season in which we prepare and anticipate

What Fresh Hell is This? – The wait demanded of us in Advent is a more difficult one with no tangible outcome accessible to us. A reflection to think about Advent through Joseph’s eyes as he travels to Bethlehem with Mary.

Preparing for Visitors
Advent Parish Checklist – Use this handy checklist for getting your church ready for visitors during Advent and Christmas.

Amp Up Your Hospitality – We all know that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but first impressions DO matter and we use them.

Christmas Messages – Short, simple, and powerful. Create a video message or ad for Christmas that’s easy to produce.

Hospitality Matters: Seeing Our Buildings Anew – What people see – or don’t see – when entering your church can make a lasting impression.

Prepare the Way for Visitors – In Advent we prepare the way for the birth of Jesus, but are visitors going to be able to find their way to your congregation at Christmas?

What ARE You Saying? – What we try to say – or forget to say – can make it difficult for visitors to feel welcome.

More From Mustard Seed Associates
A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel For Advent to Lent – Who will we invite to the manger? An Advent/Christmas devotional from Mustard Seed Associates.

Advent Activities for Families and Kids – From making the better known Advent wreath to Advent spirals and Advent gardens and more…

Getting Ready for Advent/Christmas: Worship Resources for the Season – a collection of resources from around the world.

Helping Kids Give Back this Christmas

Scripture Reading for Advent and Beyond

Some Thoughts on Christmas Music

What About Simplifying This Christmas? Prayers and resources to help individuals and families simplify Christmas.

St. Nicholas Day
Celebrating St. Nichoals – Activities, articles, recipes, and more from the St. Nicholas Center.

St. Nicholas Connecting the Past and the Present – Richelle Thompson shares what happened when St. Nicholas visited her congregation.

St. Nicholas Day Resources – Jim Rosenthal shares tools for offering an in-depth look at Santa.

Resources from Around the Web
Advent in 2 Minutes – Not quite sure how to explain what exactly Advent is? This video by Busted Halo can help.

Children’s Sermons for Advent – These sermons are appropriate for churches of any size and with any number of children, ranging in age from young children to youth.

Reflection on Advent Video – Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury shares an Advent Reflection.

The Advent Wreath at Home – Ideas for making an Advent wreath at home and reflection questions for discussion.

Episcopal schools celebrate 50 years of education as mission

ENS Headlines - Monday, November 24, 2014

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori addresses the 50th anniversary gathering of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

[Episcopal News Service] The charisms of Episcopal schools – a “generous comprehensiveness, patience with ambiguity, and a search for wisdom grounded in a deep and abiding belief in the goodness and creativity of the world” – make them particularly suited to forming leaders for an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told a gathering Nov. 21 in Anaheim, California.

Some 570 teachers, heads of schools, bishops, parish rectors, administrators, chaplains and others from across the world gathered Nov. 20-22 to celebrate Episcopal education and the 50th anniversary of the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES).

“Episcopal education is about the big picture … overseeing, climbing up the hill in a strategic sense to see the whole landscape, and not only the immediate and very local context,” the presiding bishop said.

“It is about comprehension and inclusiveness; it’s an orientation toward the whole body rather than only one part. That fundamental given is why you gather students from so many different faith traditions and none, why you look for students from varied social locations, why Episcopal schools so often draw international students, why they increasingly seek to be more diverse than the communities in which they’re set.”

She challenged the group to consider a name that reflects its global character. School representatives from Haiti, Australia, and Canada were also in attendance.

Notable examples of education as mission include, she said, Cuttington University in Liberia, Rikkyo University in Japan, historic St. John’s in Shanghai, and Trinity University in Manila.

NAES encompasses more than 1,000 schools in the United States and other countries, according to the Rev. Dan Heischman, executive director.

“This is one of the most important and valued mission fields of the church, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s about planting seeds. In terms of potential, the church frets a great deal about what it can do to reach the unchurched or people out there who might be interested in the Episcopal Church. Only about 20 percent of students who go to Episcopal schools are Episcopalian, so we have a tremendous opportunity of reaching people … of having a real impact in their lives in a variety of ways.”

Schools range in size from very small, such as the seven-student St. Timothy’s School in Compton, California, to the largest, Iolani, with more than 2,000 students in Honolulu, he said. Most tend to focus on preschool and early childhood development.

In addition to gathering educators for collaboration and networking, the conference “is casting a vision for the next 50 years,” Heischman said. “It’s an opportunity for Episcopal schools throughout the church to gather, to celebrate the wonderful things schools do and the impact they have. Many of our schools are isolated from one another.”

Retired Los Angeles Laker basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson addresses the NAES gathering. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Retired Los Angeles Laker basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. addressed the gathering as a parent whose two children attended Campbell Hall, an Episcopal school in the Los Angeles area.

Johnson, who now is part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, the Los Angeles Sparks women’s national basketball team, and the Los Angeles Football Club, a professional soccer team, described the importance of sending his children – and now a grandchild – to an Episcopal school.

“A lot of times, you’ve got a thankless job because young people don’t understand what you’ve done for them. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my children going to Campbell Hall. I’m so proud of my kids going to Campbell Hall that I couldn’t see them at any other school,” he said.

“I love chapel on Fridays, but also each and every day they’re getting a quality education that didn’t change who they are as E.J. and Elisa. It allowed them to be themselves and have a little cool factor to them … because that’s important.”

He also described the importance of education in preparing young people to be leaders, including his own humble beginnings in urban Lansing, Michigan, where he and nine siblings lived in a three-room house.

A teacher asked him for help during a period of racial tension, and Johnson, 55, told the gathering, “that day God made me a leader,” a tradition he has since continued.

Workshop themes and conversations also focused on some of the challenges schools face, including maintaining an identity as an Episcopal school in the midst of changing demographics, technology, and an increasingly secular culture.

Keynote speaker psychologist Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (HarperCollins, 2008), addressed how narrow definitions of success unnecessarily stress and marginalize creative students.

As a practicing psychologist her clients include kids who’ve “hit a wall because they’ve been so totally protected from failure, challenge, disappointment.”

Citing a parent who told her she couldn’t stand to see her child unhappy, Levine said, “If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you’re in the wrong business … because it’s a reality of life. How does a child go from having a favorite toy broken at five to having their heart broken by a first love at 15, to being fired at a first job at 25, to losing their own parents at 55… that’s just life and preparation for life includes not just college acceptances but a capacity to deal with challenge in ways that are healthy.”

She said one in four graduating high school seniors in affluent communities has a diagnosable mental illness. “In terms of the loss of potential children, it’s enormous. In terms of workers, it’s enormous. In terms of a vibrant democracy, it’s enormous. And if it was anything but mental illness there’d be a huge campaign, but mental health is a huge stepchild.”

She said a high school affiliated with Stanford University, California, where she works, “just had its seventh suicide in two years.” Contributing factors include a lack of support, a lack of meaning and a lack of wise adults mentoring them, she said.

The conference also featured more than 60 sessions on such wide-ranging topics as equity and justice; leadership and governance; the ministry of teaching; school life, culture and management; the study of religion; service and service-learning; and a self-study of Episcopal identity led by Heischman.

Daily worship and chapel featured young voices, including Mitra Alikhani, 17, a student at St. Margaret Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, who preached about hope for the future and the Old Testament story of Jonah (Jonah 1:17).

“Often in our lives we find ourselves fleeing our purpose – whether we mean to or not. Thank goodness that the moment we goofs realize we’ve got it wrong, the moment it hits us that we’re really in trouble, God sends us a big old fish to swallow us whole,” she told the gathering.

“In other words, God gives us a chance to think, all the while actively carrying us toward our second chance. If we’re like the people of Nineveh, we allow that second chance to transform us. We take the hint of hope, the whisper of salvation, in any bad fix we’re in, and latch onto it. We can take God’s clue and make it the center of our lives.

“As a Christian and as an overly dramatic, hormonal teenager, this hope is the most important thing to me, the greatest comfort in my life,” she said.

“I look into the eyes of my parents, I look to the stories I’ve been told since I was a toddler, I look up into the starry night sky, and I feel God telling me that this hope is unbreakable. I strive to carry this knowledge into my daily life. It’s a challenge, something I think is a lifelong journey. The point is, the hope we find in God is just a small clue, and it doesn’t narrow anything down. Yet it means everything. My prayer is that I keep this clue before me as I go through my days, and that I value it for the miracle it is.”

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

TENS ministry grows thanks to support and generosity of the DFMS

ENS Headlines - Monday, November 24, 2014

[Episcopal Network on Stewardship press release] Our recent naming of Rick Felton as executive director is a direct product of the grant awarded by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, funding an executive director position of TENS for 2013 through 2015.

The board of TENS is grateful to DFMS for its continued support of this work, particularly the office of the chief operating officer, the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, and the deputy COO and director of mission, Sam McDonald.

Since January of 2013, when TENS first entered into this partnership with DFMS and our previous executive director Laurel Johnson began, TENS has grown in membership and in impact. We have launched the Stewardship Narrative Series, a set of resources created each year to assist and further congregation’s own stewardship formation efforts. We have held and webcast spectacular conferences. We have partnered with the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices program to offer webinars in annual stewardship programming, and we have reached out to the seminaries of the Episcopal Church to find new ways to help bring the stewardship conversation to those in the ordination process.

As Rick begins his ministry next month, we look forward to continuing in our growing partnership with DFMS, working together to serve the mission of the Church in proclaiming the Reign of God come near.

Felton has more than 30 years experience in stewardship, fundraising, and marketing. A life-long Episcopalian, he grew up at Church of the Ascension in Sierra Madre, California. As an adult he joined All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena with his wife and children. He served as junior and senior warden and co-chaired the committee that guided the renovation of the church’s sanctuary.

For nine years, Felton was the vice president for institutional advancement at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California. In that role, he guided the beginning of a successful capital campaign that raised in excess of $15 million for building renovation and endowment.

As a consultant, Felton has worked with churches and organizations throughout the United States and Canada. He has helped inspire people to give multi-millions of dollars to organizations as wide ranging as World Vision, The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Smile, UCLA, and Middlesex Community College, as well as a myriad of Episcopal Churches.

“We are thrilled that Rick as accepted invitation to work with us in the important ministry of Stewardship,” TENS board president J. R. Lander said. “His experience in helping congregations expand their ministries through life changing stewardship and transformational capital campaigns is extensive.  I look forward to the growth in our ministry that will happen under Rick’s leadership.”

TENS is an association of church leaders who understand, practice, and proclaim God’s call to generosity.  The organization’s vision is to provide training and resources for stewardship leaders across The Episcopal Church and beyond, around the following core competencies:

  • Training clergy and lay leaders in the spirituality of money, and the skills required to address questions of money in the congregation;
  • Providing targeted stewardship leadership training for clergy and seminarians, at seminaries and at the diocesan level, including both the theology and the practice of stewardship;
  • Mentoring a new generation of stewardship leaders, with special attention to youth, young adults, Generation Xers, and newly ordained clergy;
  • Developing and utilizing methods of providing resources using web-based and other electronic techniques.

To learn more about TENS, please go to www.TENS.org.

To join our network, please follow this link www.tens.org/about-tens/become-a-member

San Joaquín honra a un pionero del sacerdocio filipino

ENS Headlines - Saturday, November 22, 2014

El Rdo. Justo Andrés y los que asistieron a la celebración en su honor en la iglesia de San Juan, Stockton. Foto de Lewis Gale.

[Episcopal News Service] El espíritu misionero innovador del Rdo. Justo Andrés puede ayudar a iniciar un resurgimiento del ministerio filipino en la iglesia episcopal de San Juan Evangelista [Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist ] en Stockton, California, según dijera el Rdo. Fred Vergara, misionero del Ministerio Asioamericano de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Hace unos 30 años, Andrés fundó la Misión Filipina de la Santa Cruz en San Juan, en la Diócesis Episcopal de San Joaquín, y el 16 de noviembre la comunidad diocesana se reunió para celebrar ese legado y su 85º. cumpleaños, así como las posibilidades de un nuevo ministerio.

David Rice, obispo de San Joaquín, ofició en la eucaristía en honor de Andrés y dijo que el oficio conmemoraba el llamado de Andrés en 1983 a la comunidad de Stockton y “el ministerio que él había brindado, el importante lugar que él ostenta en la vida de la Diócesis de San Joaquín y en la comunidad filipina y la forma en que él ha vivido tan fielmente su sacerdocio en medio nuestro.

“Esta es una respuesta a nuestro contexto tal como lo hemos visto, experimentado y hemos sido partícipes de él en la zona de Stockton”, añadió Rice. “Creemos que responder a esa parte de nuestro panorama, de nuestra población y de nuestra comunidad, es lo que debe hacerse”.

Andrés con frecuencia presidió oficios para obreros migrantes en los campos o para los marinos a bordo de buques transoceánicos que anclaban en el puerto de Stockton. La Misión de la Santa Cruz [Holy Cross Mission] sirvió como una agencia satélite del antiguo Servicio de Inmigración y Naturalización de EE.UU., ayudando a muchos a obtener la ciudadanía norteamericana.

Él también sirvió como traductor dentro del sistema judicial de Stockton y fue miembro del comité asesor de la policía.

En una entrevista telefónica con Episcopal News Service, Madeline Ruíz, cuñada de Andrés y hablando en su nombre, ya que él padece de sordera debido a la edad, dijo que él se sentía entusiasmado “pero sorprendido por la celebración.

“Me preguntó por qué lo honraban”, dijo Ruíz. “Le dije, porque empezaste el ministerio filipino en San Juan y ahora que han recuperado la iglesia quieren hacerte este reconocimiento”.

Bajo el liderazgo de Andrés, la congregación de la Santa Cruz floreció e incluyó a filipinos, latinos, personas del sudeste asiático y angloparlantes entre sus miembros. La congregación se dispersó cuando las diferencias teológicas dividieron la diócesis en 2008. La propiedad de San Juan la retuvo un grupo disidente, pero fue devuelta a la Iglesia Episcopal a principios de este año.

Rice dijo que la diócesis está contemplando revitalizar su ministerio entre la comunidad filipina. “Estamos apreciando, orando, contemplando, ponderando y reflexionando cómo podemos seguir organizando y desarrollando ese ministerio”.

La Rda. Kate Cullinane, canóniga del Ordinario y sacerdote a cargo de San Juan, dijo que alrededor de 200 simpatizantes [de Andrés] habían asistido a la reunión y a una jubilosa recepción que le siguió.

La recepción incluyó comida y bailes filipinos tradicionales, así como piezas coreográficas, contó ella. Hubo también serenatas para Andrés, en la que cada uno de los participantes le presentó una flor.

“Me encanta que vinieran tantas personas de las vecinas congregaciones filipinas y de las otras congregaciones cercanas del deanato” en apoyo de Andrés y de este oficio, dijo Cullinane en un correo electrónico a ENS.

Revivir el ministerio será un esfuerzo de colaboración dentro de la diócesis, agregó. “No vemos esto como un proyecto de San Juan, sino como un proyecto del deanato del norte”.

Andrés nació en Bacarra, en la provincia de Ilocos, del Norte de Filipinas, siendo el más pequeño de siete hijos. Se educó en el Seminario Teológico de San Andrés [St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary] y en la Universidad del Extremo Oriente en Manila, y fue ordenado al sacerdocio en 1955 por el Rvdmo. Isabelo Delos Reyes Jr., obispo máximo de la Iglesia Independiente Filipina.

Su primera asignación parroquial fue en la ciudad de Ozamiz, en la sureña región filipina de Mindanao, antes de aceptar un llamado a Maui. Él se encontró entre un trío de sacerdotes que fueron parte de la primera oleada de sacerdotes filipinos llamados a la Iglesia Episcopal.

Otros dos sacerdotes, el Rdo. Timoteo Quintero y el Rdo. Jacinto Tabili, también aceptaron llamados a servir en Hawái. Quintero fundó la iglesia de San Pablo en Honolulú y Tabili prestó servicios en Hilo, la isla mayor de Hawái, pero luego regreso para convertirse en obispo en las Filipinas, según explicó Vergara. A principio de los años sesenta, a Andrés lo llamaron a servir en la iglesia del Buen Pastor [Good Shepherd Church] en Wailuku, en la isla de Maui.

En 1983, Andrés aceptó un llamado a servir en San Juan, Stockton. Él es el único superviviente de la primera oleada de pastores filipinos que trabajaron con la Iglesia Episcopal, dijo Vergara. Raquel Nancy Andrés, su esposa y compañera en el ministerio, falleció en 2009.

Vergara, que predicó en la eucaristía del 16 de noviembre, resaltó que San Juan fue organizada al año siguiente de que se fundara Sockton y desempeñó un papel fundamental en el desarrollo de ese municipio californiano, agregó.

Los asiáticos y provenientes de las islas del Pacifico componen el 22 por ciento de los 300.000 residentes de Stockton, según datos del Censo de EE.UU. de 2013.

“Nos reunimos aquí hoy en nombre de Cristo para atestiguar la obra de creación y recreación de Dios”, dijo Vergara a los asistentes al oficio bilingüe en San Juan.

“En esta hermosa ciudad de Stockton, Dios comenzará su obra con ustedes y conmigo. Juntos, seremos el instrumento de Dios para empezar el resurgimiento, la renovación y la re-creación de San Juan.

“Este es el reto para nosotros, redescubrir el tesoro que hay en San Juan e invertir nuestros talentos en orar por el resurgimiento del destino de Stockton”, afirmo.

“Así como su historia está vinculada a la de Stockton, así el resurgimiento de Stockton está vinculado al resurgimiento de San Juan —y el destino de Stockton está vinculado al de San Juan. Al resurgimiento espiritual de San Juan, le seguirá el resurgimiento de Stockton en paz, progreso y prosperidad”.

–La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

A foundation for financial health and wellness

ENS Headlines - Friday, November 21, 2014

[Seminary of the Southwest] Stephanie Knott will testify that staying debt-free while attending a private graduate school is almost as challenging as the coursework.

During her first year at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, Knott commuted from her home in San Marcos to Austin for classes, then to New Braunfels for her day job and back again to Austin for her overnight job. Sometimes she would be awake for 24 hours straight.

Her determination to leave seminary without debt is palpable. At one point, she was working four jobs to keep afloat while pursuing a master’s degree in counseling.

“It has been a roller coaster,” she said. “But I’m investing in myself and my future, so I don’t regret it.”

Southwest never wants students to buckle under the financial stress of paying for an education, said Jennielle Strother, vice president of Enrollment Management. So the seminary has created a plan to help alleviate the monetary burden of following God’s call and to prepare students for a healthy financial future.

Profound peace of mind

Since its founding in 1952, Southwest hasn’t accepted federal financial aid; instead, it has offered scholarships to encourage students to remain debt-free. Last year, more than half of Southwest’s students received tuition scholarships averaging $7,500 towards the $13,150 annual tuition cost, and students also raised an average of $1,400 from their dioceses, families and parishes.

But some students find there’s still a wide gap between the sticker price and available funding; therefore, the seminary will make federal loans available for the first time in its history.

To uphold a commitment to students’ financial health, Southwest has established two new programs to help seminarians maintain fiscal stability: One program will provide financial literacy resources throughout a student’s entire lifecycle – from prospect to alum. The other will provide a guide for all facets of a pastor’s or lay minister’s lifelong wellbeing.

The Enrollment Management Office plans to create an array of tools to prepare seminarians to manage their finances wisely, starting as early as the prospective student stage. Resources such as webinars, personal phone calls and even one-on-one counseling sessions will help them understand the true cost of student loans. With the help of a Lilly Endowment grant, Southwest will make those resources available, said Strother. The Lilly Endowment has long supported projects that strengthen congregations and the ministers that serve them, and it offered Southwest a $250,000 grant over three years to offset the cost of this robust initiative.

“I want anyone who is discerning a call to ministry to have access to resources in order to plan financially to attend seminary,” Strother said. “Being saddled with debt will only impede their ability to do God’s work.”

Lending students a hand

When Pam Hallmark felt her call to attend seminary, she knew the journey would be difficult and slow going. First, she needed to complete her bachelor’s degree. So she quit her job to attend the University of Washington and earned a degree in comparative world religion. Financially, life was a struggle. She and her family lived on food stamps while she worked toward her Bachelor of Arts.

“You would think it would be scary, but it was one of the most certain things I’ve ever known in my life,” Hallmark said of quitting her job to return to school. “This was something that I had to do. I can’t not do this.”

She’s now a senior at Southwest and expects to graduate in May with a master’s in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care with plans to become a hospice chaplain. Although she felt sure of the direction she was headed, she wasn’t sure how she would get there. She felt a huge burden lifted when she received a 50 percent tuition scholarship from Southwest. Still, coming up with the remaining sum strained her family’s budget.

“I started paying as much as we could afford on a weekly basis,” she said.

Some students struggle so much that they are forced to leave the seminary, a painful option both for the student and Southwest. To prevent that unwelcome choice, federal loans can now assist Hallmark and her peers.

“We felt like not offering federal aid was closing doors to students who wanted to come here but financially couldn’t make it work,” Strother said. “Offering federal loans makes the seminary an option for people who want a degree with a theological foundation rather than a purely clinical degree from a state school.”

The availability of federal loans couldn’t have come at a better time. Hallmark’s husband lost his job, and her temporary part-time job recently ended. She feels relieved that she’s now able to apply for federal aid, which will help her complete her final year.

A rewarding investment

Like Hallmark, Knott had no doubts when she decided to attend seminary. As a prospective student, she searched for a counseling program with a spiritual foundation, which she hadn’t been able to find at state schools. A faculty member at the University of Texas recommended Southwest.

“I visited the campus and there was an overwhelming sense of peace that came over me,” she said.

Knott also received a scholarship that covered 50 percent of her tuition. The rest she committed to paying out of pocket, and she’s not the only student to take on that challenging endeavor.

“Full time residential seminary requires a substantial commitment from our students,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president of Southwest. “But in this intensive formation, they become bearers of the Christian tradition and its creative adapters in the contemporary world.”

Like Knott, first-year student J.P. Arrossa will use federal aid only as a last resort. Before coming to Southwest, Arrossa worked as a financial expert, managing other people’s money for a living. When he sat down to calculate the price he’d pay to follow God’s calling, he fully realized what he would be getting himself into while he pursued a Master of Divinity degree.

But Arrossa has felt called to the priesthood since he was 12 years old, so he and his partner created a budget and saved money to pay for his tuition. He also approached his parish to request funding, something Strother’s office will teach students how to do as part of the seminary’s resources for financial literacy. Asking for money can be an uncomfortable topic, so the enrollment office will provide workshops on how to craft a message to make the request.

“We will talk to students about how to raise money to get through seminary,” Strother said. “We encourage them that it’s common to reach out to their parish, their community, their family and friends.”

A lifetime of well-being

Southwest students may be leading these parishes one day, and Kittredge wants alumni to be healthy enough to do the job well. “Sometimes a temptation for Christian leaders is to overlook their own health and wellness,” Kittredge said. “We want to instill this awareness as part of the education here.”

The seminary’s goal of promoting financial, spiritual, physical and vocational wellness developed into an extensive new program called Comprehensive Wellness for Ministry, now required for all incoming students.

“If you aren’t physically well enough to do your job properly, you’re going to run into financial issues, as well as vocational and spiritual issues,” said Micah Jackson, dean of Community Life. “They are strongly interdependent, so we wanted to address all of these areas at once.”

Students helped design the mandatory program, providing insight on what seminarians could realistically handle with the rest of their workload. They didn’t have time for busywork. They wanted a practical plan for lifelong wellbeing. The idea that emerged – the Rule of Life – provided a blueprint of wellness.

The Rule of Life is a decision-making guide for students to write while at seminary and later amend as their financial, spiritual, physical and vocational situations change. A student might, for example, include a financial aspect to the rule that limits the amount of debt he will carry. The rule reduces the temptation of a dazzling opportunity because the student has already determined the limit in a clearheaded moment.

As an incoming student, Arrossa already has ideas for his Rule of Life.

“It’s natural to worry about those we serve and forget the importance of our own wellbeing,” said Arrossa, one of the first students to learn about the new program. “One aspect of my rule will be creating some sacred space and boundaries around that space. Personal time will allow me to rest and recharge.”

The Rule of Life will change as a person advances through the stages of life. Age, health, financial position and career changes will affect the evolution of a rule as students move from seminary to workplace to retirement.

“I hope this shows students that we care about their whole person,” Jackson said. “We’re not just dispensing factual information. We understand that they are undergoing transformation based on a call from God, and we want to be part of that process. It’s a promise to help them live well.”

– Ashley Festa is a higher education freelance writer.

Presiding Bishop’s sermon at Episcopal schools gathering

ENS Headlines - Friday, November 21, 2014

National Association of Episcopal Schools 50th Anniversary

20 November 2014

Marriott, Anaheim, CA

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

In 1998 I was living and working in Oregon, and I vividly recall Bishop Ladehoff coming back from the Lambeth Conference[1] and talking to everybody about jubilee and world debt. I was astounded, for he insisted that if all the nations of the world contributed a tiny percentage of their annual income (0.7%), we could solve the worst of the world’s poverty.

This was in the lead-up to the move for major third world debt relief in the year 2000. That debt forgiveness, and the responses to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, have brought major strides toward eliminating the world’s worst poverty.[2]

That movement grew out of the tradition we heard in Leviticus. I’m very glad we read it today, for it doesn’t appear anywhere in our lectionaries – not in the three-year Sunday cycle or in the daily office readings. Yet it’s absolutely foundational to our understanding of justice and a world of peace. There is plenty of scholarly debate about whether and to what extent Jubilee was fully practiced in ancient Israel, but the theological foundations are rock-solid. If Israel worshiped the God who created all that is, and understood that God was fundamentally the Lord or “owner” of creation, then human beings could not claim ultimate ownership of anything; their responsibility had to be as stewards and servants of God and God’s creation. That reality continues to vex all the children of Abraham.

The jubilee year’s plan for major debt relief, the manumission of debt slaves, and the charge to leave the land fallow, all reflect the command to rest on the seventh day of the week. All creation is meant to emulate its creator, and enjoy rest. No part of creation – human beings, animals, or the land itself – should be worked to death. Sabbath rest is a necessary corollary to the creative process. In many ways, the destructive nature of abject poverty is the inability to rest, reflect, and find creative and re-creative responses. That kind of poverty is abetted by those who purport to own the labor, land, and resources of this world – and a relentless push to continue expanding work and production. Sabbath rest also applies to the owning class, for rest and reflection is meant to elicit gratitude and responses of justice to the inequity around us and among us. The meaning of life is not found in getting and doing, but in loving – loving God, loving self, and loving neighbor.

Perhaps you heard about the young couple in Pakistan who were tortured and murdered last week.[3] The first news out said it was in response to blasphemy, for burning pages of the Quran. The deeper story eventually named the vindictiveness of a brick-factory owner who held a debt this couple owed. It was the kind of debt that gets frequently renewed – by small farmers, small business operators, and the working poor everywhere, who can never seem to get ahead and out of debt. When this couple said they weren’t able to pay, thugs beat and tortured them and threw them bodily into the brick kiln. The initial news reports were closer to the truth than anyone wants to admit. It is indeed blasphemy to treat human beings as chattel, for the image of God can never be owned. The Jubilee system was designed to fix limits on debt slavery, putting the entire nation on notice that after 7 years, everyone who had committed his or her labor in payment of a debt had to be set free and allowed to go home. Land couldn’t be permanently alienated, either. Its use could be controlled, but come the seventh year all bets and commitments were off.

When Jesus goes home to Nazareth and reads Isaiah in the synagogue, that same message is being proclaimed. ‘I’ve come to set the prisoners free,’ he says, ‘and today you’ve seen the start of a new Jubilee year!’ We’re still wrestling with it. Bankruptcy courts in the US may have discharged debts of individuals caught in the cycle of ever-increasing loan renewal, but a number of banks are still reporting those supposedly forgiven debts to credit raters, which keeps former debtors in thrall.[4] It parallels the situation of freedmen during the era of fugitive slave laws – the law might say you were free, but woe betide you if somebody caught you and took you across the border. In the world’s political systems, forgiveness or freedom may be a nice concept, but it isn’t always real. Jubilee, however, means what it says – the Origin of All That Is intends freedom for all, freedom that includes rest and creativity that serve to increase life, rather than slavery and indebtedness that diminish it.

What does this have to do with Episcopal schools? Certainly it’s about the vocation to teach the underlying biblical concepts of justice. It must also mean teaching critical thinking skills and an understanding that none of us can be truly independent of others and the larger creation. We are all the keepers and caretakers of our brothers and sisters, as we also are the charge of our siblings. None of us has life in himself, and none of us becomes her own master when she dies.[5] If one suffers, ultimately we all do, and if one rejoices in jubilee, we are all a little freer as a result. And perhaps at an even deeper level, this means schools should be forming a habit of life that understands the creative blessing of rest. That may be particularly pertinent in places of striving after academic excellence. For as Isaiah also said, “it is in returning and rest we shall be saved.”[6]

Creativity is the most profound way in which human beings reflect the image of God. We can say something similar about the other parts of creation – they, too, reflects the image of the Creator when living as they were created to do – and it is not possible without rest. Giving glory to God is sharing in the gift that has been given in creation. Human beings have the capacity to create more of life – not just by reproduction, but by making life more abundant, more free to respond in ways that reflect its origin. Rest is essential to that capacity – letting go, getting out of 24/7 production mode, delighting in the glory of the world around us, setting ourselves and others free.

How do teachers, administrators, chaplains and students together build a community that understands the need for that kind of rest and freedom? It isn’t about abandoning structure and deadlines. It is about finding a balance. I had a junior high algebra teacher who used to say, “vacations are for doing what you don’t normally do.” In his case, it meant that if you normally “shined on” your algebra homework, then get it done before you come back from vacation.

Those times of going aside, or up the mountain to pray like Jesus did, of stepping out of the normal routine, of being playful, and delighting in life and the world around – those shape and feed and give lively energy to the rest of life. They honor the need for diversity in how we spend our time and focus our attention.

So perhaps the challenge of this jubilee year is to find ways to set the debts aside, to let the land be free and the classrooms as well. Maybe you could dig up the lawn and plant vegetables instead of holding gym class. Or take a classroom to the beach to discover the physics of waves and sand. Maybe it looks like going across town to write poetry with nursing home residents, or playing with the children in a domestic violence shelter. It might mean looking carefully for the drudgery in your school, and finding ways of ending it.

Where will you celebrate jubilee this year? How will you become an outward and visible sign of holy rest and creative freedom?

[1] A gathering of all the bishops in the Anglican Communion, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that has been held about every 10 years since 1867

[2] http://www.cgdev.org/page/mdg-progress-index-gauging-country-level-achievements http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/world/asia/pakistani-christian-couple-accused-of-blasphemy-is-killed-by-angry-mob.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22%7D

[4] http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/debts-canceled-by-bankruptcy-still-mar-consumer-credit-scores/?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A6%22%7D

[5] “Burial of the Dead,” Book of Common Prayer p 491

[6] Isaiah 30:15

Presiding Bishop’s keynote address to Episcopal schools group

ENS Headlines - Friday, November 21, 2014

National Association of Episcopal Schools 50th Anniversary Celebration

Who are we, whence, whither, and why?

21 November 2014

Santa Ana, California

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Happy anniversary! How does it feel to be middle-aged? You haven’t yet made it to proto-geezerhood, which I’m told begins at 55. There is a real gift in being purveyors of education for the young. It’s an eternal and persistent encouragement not to take ourselves too seriously, or as my husband puts it, not to be too “adultish.” If this organization continues to be what it proclaims, those who are served by Episcopal schools will help all your members to keep returning to the growing and learning and renewing phases of the life cycle.

At the same time, the tradition and ethos that is “Episcopal” lends wisdom and gravitas to this endeavor. That should keep this organization and its members steady in the winds of change, faithful to a course set long ago, and still willing to explore contexts where it hasn’t been before. There is a tension between those two, and that very tension is essential to this work.

I’m going to try to explore some of that course we’re on, the vector or trajectory of this work of Episcopal education, its originating genius, what it’s becoming in this age, and where it might be going in the future.

I used the word wisdom as one of the guiding characteristics of this particular educational mission. Wisdom, in the deep sense of “what it means to live a good life,” underlies this Episcopal education enterprise. Schools of wisdom have their roots in the mists of time, as parents and elders sought to equip the young of their tribes for a life that was hard and short, yet also shot through with the grace and beauty that can be seen in the cave paintings of Lascaux or the elaborate and tender burials of Egypt or the Andes. Wisdom transcends a single life, and wisdom partakes of what transcends us all – which is why it (or she) is so often personified as divine – as Sofia, Athena, Hokmah, or Saraswati.

Schools of wisdom describe some of the early responses to the desire of religious communities to teach new generations right ways of living, fruit discovered and harvested over generations. Some looked like campfire story-telling (think of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness), some like monasteries, and some like what have become yeshivas and madrassas, or the etymologically linked midrash of rabbinic Judaism.

Episcopal schools have their roots in the same tensor field of teaching and getting wisdom, particularly in ways that encourage all members of the community to live beyond themselves, to live larger, for the sake of others. This ethos is about expanding life and its possibilities beyond self-centeredness, beyond ‘live hard and die young,’ or a beautiful corpse, or “he who dies with the most toys wins.” In recent times this endeavor has been a transcendent response to educational programs (more accurately called “training”) that seek primarily to shape worker bees for a larger social system. The caricature of Brave New World[1] comes readily to mind, but we frequently hear the lament of political and business interests about schools who don’t equip students to “work in the real world.”[2] The wisdom teacher will grant that as a minimalist starting point, but will not cease until there is a far deeper and broader perspective of the value and place of each human life, and the responsibility to see oneself as part of a larger and interconnected whole.

Church schools have existed from very early days, but primarily as academies for monastics and those seeking to serve the church, which often meant political service as well as parish ministry. Latin grammar schools, intended to train scribes and lawyers as well as ecclesiastics and government functionaries, date from the Middle Ages, and with the European Renaissance began to expand their educational scope to the humanities.

The Reformation laid the foundation for universal literacy, by expecting that the faithful should be able to worship in a language they understood. Scripture was translated into local languages, and available for personal inspection. Especially in England, the Book of Common Prayer made access to worship materials fully available to all who could read.

That was revolutionary in a society and time when only the upper classes were generally sufficiently educated to read and write, and it began a slow expansion in popular access to education. King Edward VI established a network of free grammar schools in the mid 16th century, but relatively few attended, because especially for the poor, physical labor was more immediate to survival than book learning.

It was not until the late 18th century that a push for universal education began, and it came from members of the established church. In 1780 the Sunday School movement began to offer basic education on the one day when children were free from factory labor, and within 50 years those schools were educating a quarter of the population.[3] In 1811 the National Society was founded to push for public schools with curricula grounded in religious education. [4] Within 40 years there were more than 17,000 Church of England schools. A compulsory national system didn’t come into existence until 1870, yet it continued to permit and encourage cooperation between church and state.

Episcopal schools in this country, and more broadly around the world, have similar roots in contemporary religious initiatives to educate the poor, provide opportunities for expanded life possibilities, and engender a more enlightened and democratic social environment. Thomas Bray arrived in the American colonies in 1700 to assess the state of the church, and returned to England focused on improving Christian education here. The SPCK[5] which he helped found went on to foster educational efforts across the world.

Church grammar and secondary schools were founded here during the colonial period included, including the Academy of Philadelphia (1751), which eventually became the University of Pennsylvania. In 1693 William and Mary was the first Anglican institution of higher education established in America; King’s College, New York, followed in 1754, later taking the name of Columbia University. Both were broadly based, seeking to educate men without regard to their religious affiliation. Notably, no Anglican divinity schools were founded in the colonies, as those who aspired to the ministry had to travel to England to be ordained. The first one wasn’t established until 1817, as the General Seminary in NYC.

The Sunday school movement began in the United States soon after the Revolution, and grew in scope along with the nation. Here, too, it eventually helped produce universal national education, also beginning in the 1870s. The Chautauqua Institution was an outgrowth, designed to broaden the education of Sunday School teachers themselves. There has been a frequent pattern of lower schools leading to higher levels of education. Once people discover the joy of learning, they rarely want to stop!

Episcopal schools also have roots in the vast missionary work of the Anglican Communion that began in earnest in the 19th century. Missions were established in far-flung parts of the globe, by the SPCK and other mission societies,[6] and almost universally their service focused on education and health care. Both were understood as ways of evangelism, though in the Anglican tradition, not always or even usually with the intent of conversion. A number of those schools have become major educational centers, contributing an outsize portion of a nation’s leadership – in the same way that colonial religious foundations in this country (Yale, Harvard, Penn, Princeton) have done. There are several notable examples: Cuttington University in Liberia, the first in West Africa; Rikkyo University in Japan; St. John’s in Shanghai, which moved to Taiwan; and Trinity University in Manila.

That is a quick and broad swipe at a history of education as mission in the Anglican tradition, but it represents the diverse body of roots that undergird this particular form of wisdom education. This pattern of education has sought to expand the horizons for students of all ages, out of a deep conviction that each human being is particularly gifted, of transcendent value, and a potential contributor to God’s dream for a just and peaceful world.

There is another network of roots that bears further exploration because it continues to shape the generous ethos of Episcopal education.

Christianity likely came to the British Isles with Roman soldiers in the second century CE. When the Romans left around 410, this religious tradition remained, to develop and grow in ways that diverged from the stream that continued from a center in Rome. Celtic Christianity flourished in conversation with an indigenous spirituality that revered the natural world and saw marks of the divine in every part of life. That extended to a primary perception of human beings as created good, rather than inherently evil. It is grounded in the first creation story of Genesis, yet understands the truth of the second. It is certainly a tension, but this strand of Christian thought occupies a place toward one end of the spectrum, and has something to do with the generous and comprehensive ethos of its Anglican offspring.

Celtic spirituality discerns blessing and wards off evil by invoking the presence of the good and holy. Over the centuries, Celtic Christianity developed diverse contextual habits – of practice, liturgy, and theology – without an urgent need to tidy them into one fixed system. What was good and creative in a community and its traditions was blessed, and seen as part of the local creative potential for larger blessing. The monastic tradition of the islands held a strong educational charism, with each monastic house largely governing its own affairs. Some of those monastic foundations were led by men, some by women, and sometimes they existed together. Women’s leadership was recognized and affirmed. There is a perduring local character to Anglicanism as it has developed globally, with each “house” or provincial church governing its own affairs while taking periodic counsel with others. It is something of a bottom-up kind of management, rather than top-down hierarchy, even though strands have always yearned for central control. That diversity makes governing and change messy, yet in an organic sense it’s a great deal more like the way all creatures and communities grow and develop.

That diversity has something to do with the claim of Anglicanism to be a broad and generous tradition, a middle way between Roman Catholicism and more reformed Protestant traditions. The Elizabethan settlement that gave rise to the modern shape of the Church of England affirmed an institutional will to tolerate variety. That ideal has never been uniformly or perfectly upheld, but it remains a core aspiration.

The ability to see diversity as a blessing to be celebrated, rather than a curse to be expunged or denied, is central to the ethos of Episcopal education. It is one of the fundamental reasons why people of other religious traditions, and none, seek out Episcopal schools. That core value leads to some other concrete realities – a desire for shared leadership, and a willingness to affirm the gifts of all, without regard to gender, race, creed, or what appear to some to be physical or psychosocial handicaps. It is expressed in a theological tenet often referred to as ‘baptismal ministry,’ that encourages every member of the church, not just the ordained, to see their daily lives as acts of Christian service, for the healing of the world. In an Episcopal school, that translates into becoming a community of wisdom that prepares its members for effective and transformative lives of service in the world.

The developmental history of universal education in the Anglican and American environments is a testimony to the creative tension between a state or (quasi-)established church and its mission to see that all members of society can develop and use the gifts with which they’ve been created – for the betterment of society and the world.

The same ethos has led the worship centers of this tradition – cathedrals or major urban churches – to understand themselves as servants of the larger community, often proclaiming that they are to be a ‘house of prayer for all people.’ That phrase is actually a prophetic claim of Isaiah, speaking about the (Jewish) Temple in Jerusalem.[7] Indeed, the Washington National Cathedral,[8] an Episcopal institution, last week hosted a Muslim community for Friday prayers for the first time.[9] The cathedral in Boston does it regularly.

We’ve looked at Episcopal schools as teachers and tradents of wisdom, with roots that go back into prehistory, as well as in more recent religious forms – yeshiva, monastery, and madrassa, and particularly in western Anglican and Celtic mission in tribal, national, and international contexts. We’ve noted some of the peculiar characteristics of Episcopal education – its generous comprehensiveness, patience with ambiguity, and a search for wisdom, grounded in a deep and abiding belief in the goodness and creativity of the world.

These charisms are particularly suited to life in a globalizing and interconnected world. Episcopal schools that share these gifts and ethos are urgently needed to form thoughtful and compassionate leaders for this planet, all its inhabitants, and its future. Daily we meet a world of religious and political strife, where misunderstanding and a lack of curiosity about difference lend fuel to wars and violence. That narrow view is a crippling sort of poverty that smothers creativity. It’s the sort of stunted approach to the world’s challenges that led a recent NYT editorial writer to say about global hunger, “don’t ask how we’re going to feed 9 billion people, ask how we’re going to end poverty.”[10]

Episcopal education is about the big picture. That long, funny word, as Dan Heischman has it,[11] doesn’t just mean it’s about bishops. It means overseeing, climbing up the hill in a strategic sense to see the whole landscape, and not only the immediate and very local context. It is about comprehension and inclusiveness; it’s an orientation toward the whole body rather than only one part. That fundamental given is why you gather students from so many different faith traditions and none, why you look for students from varied social locations, why Episcopal schools so often draw international students, why they increasingly seek to be more diverse than the communities in which they’re set.

There’s an aspect of this that leads me to challenge you about the name – the National Association of Episcopal Schools. Your members or potential members are spread across the globe, part of that legacy of 19th and 20th century missionaries who went and started schools in China, Jordan, and Haiti, and even farther afield. The Diocese of Haiti today has 254 schools that educate some 80,000 students, from preschool to University. It is a large fraction of the whole nation’s educational apparatus. The schools in the Diocese of Jerusalem educate far more Muslim children than Christians, and all are brought up with a deep awareness of their common religious roots that call them to work for peace everywhere. Shalom, salaam, and Islam all stem from the same Semitic root for peace.

How might the NAES broaden its perspective beyond the borders of the United States, and increase the capacity of its schools to form global leaders? The Brent School in the Philippines[12] was the first coeducational boarding school in East Asia, and today it continues to form global leaders. Hogar Escuela in Costa Rica[13] teaches the children of mostly single, immigrant mothers in one of the poorest communities in San José. Their work is much like the schools represented in the USA in the Urban School Alliance, and I wonder what might result from some creative interchange. Most of the community ministry in the Diocese of Taiwan involves bilingual kindergartens, and like nearly all Episcopal schools, they serve a broad diversity of children and faith traditions. One of them has a remarkable mesh enclosure, which surrounds much of the building to contain a living butterfly garden, where children learn something about ecosystems and life cycles in the dense urban center of Taichung.[14]

Our world urgently needs that sort of ecosystem approach, writ large. The ability to see and value the interconnections between people in vastly different contexts, as well as with the whole of this planetary system (and beyond it), is intrinsic to building a world where all might live in peace with justice.

Episcopal schools will never be able to educate all children, but they fill an outsize leadership role that transforms students, communities, and nations. The shrinking public commitment to educational excellence across this nation is a travesty of justice, which is slowly being addressed in places like South Carolina[15] and on Native American reservations,[16] but the gap is enormous. The advocacy of those who know the difference a school like yours can make, for its students and their communities, is essential. You could be – and I think are – building partnerships with public schools that in small ways begin to bridge the chasm. How might you build larger and more public advocacy initiatives that could engender profound generational and societal change? Parents and alumni are perhaps the most obvious potential players. I would challenge you to think strategically about how to share the gifts you have more broadly. You could be a catalyst for transformative change in the whole educational system in this country and beyond.

Schools of wisdom are about transformation – from self-centeredness to acting on behalf of the whole community. Wisdom values the particular gifts and ultimate dignity of each person and context and at the same time understands the intrinsically creative gift of diversity. Wisdom does not believe in a zero-sum game. Wisdom moves beyond the truth of “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite,” to the truth of “we are all God’s favored, blessed offspring” and that all are meant to be co-creators of a world that lives that way of truth. Wisdom doesn’t believe in beautiful corpses or garages bursting with toys; it does believe in a life well and fully lived for others. Edna St. Vincent Millay put it this way, “My candle burns at both ends. It will not last the night, but ah my foes, and oh my friends, it gives a lovely light.”[17] The truth is that the candles of many wise ones, together, can and will drive back the night.

Keep on getting wisdom, and you will continue to light and bless this world!

[1] Aldous Huxley, 1931

[2] http://www.reviewjournal.com/life/technology/report-grow-tech-jobs-vegas-improve-advanced-education re failures in STEM education because it’s geared to 30-year old electronic platforms used by the gaming industry!

[3] Led by the Anglican Robert Raikes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Raikes

[4]National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church

http://www.elc-gel.org/learning-modules/governanceofachurchschoollearningreviewunit/section-1-background-information/a-brief-history-of-church-schools/

[5] The Society for the Propagation of the Christian Gospel began in 1698

[6] Especially the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the Society for Missions in Africa and the East (Church Mission Society, CMS), and the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA).

[7] Isaiah 56:7

[8] Properly called the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St Paul

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/11/national-cathedral-muslim-prayer_n_6136222.html

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/opinion/dont-ask-how-to-feed-the-9-billion.html

[11] What Schools Teach Us About Religious Life, Peter Lang, 2014.

[12] http://www.brentbaguio.edu.ph/v2/home/2013-06-08-12-15-51

[13] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/08/21/north-carolina-group-explores-partnership-in-costa-rica/

[14] http://www.episcopalpgh.org/bishopsblog/thursday-at-the-house-of-bishops-meeting-in-taiwan/

[15] http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/education/2014/11/12/sc-supreme-court-rules-rural-schools-favor/18911443/

[16] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/us/schools-for-native-americans-await-sorely-needed-overhaul.html?nlid=44355849&src=recpb&_r=0

[17] “First Fig.Poetry, June 1918

New Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society Department focuses on strengthening services

ENS Headlines - Friday, November 21, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] With a focus on strengthening and enhancing the services and resources to The Episcopal Church, Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, has announced the creation of a new Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication intended to enhance the role of communication in furthering the mission of The Episcopal Church.

“We are creating a new department intended to bring the work of mission and communication closer together to serve our common purpose, furthering mission at all levels of The Episcopal Church, which is the origin and reason for our existence as an organization,” Bishop Sauls explained in his November 21 announcement.

The new department, Public Engagement and Mission Communication, combines a section of the Mission Department together with the Communication Department.

“This will allow us to further engage God’s mission, proclaim good news, and especially, serve the poor and the oppressed through whom we have a particular opportunity to meet Jesus,” Bishop Sauls noted.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Sauls appointed Alex Baumgarten, Episcopal Church Director of Government Relations/Justice and Advocacy Ministries, to direct the new Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication.

The new department will include four teams: (1) Communication, led by Anne Rudig, Director of Communication; (2) Public Affairs, under the direction of Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox; (3) Justice and Advocacy Ministries, which will continue to be supervised by Baumgarten; and (4) Episcopal News Service, which will also report to Baumgarten.

“Our aim in creating a single Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication is to bring maximum cohesion and effectiveness to our efforts to facilitate a dialogue within the Church and between the Church and the world about how we strive together to build the Kingdom of God,” Bishop Sauls concluded.

The reconfiguration took effect immediately.

For more information contact Bishop Sauls, ssauls@episcopalchurch.org, or Baumgarten, abaumgarten@episcopalchurch.org.

La Obispa Presidente sobre el plan de inmigración del Presidente

ENS Headlines - Friday, November 21, 2014

[21 de noviembre de 2014] La Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal  Katharine Jefferts Schori ha emitido la siguiente declaración sobre las políticas de inmigración recientemente anunciadas por el presidente Obama:

Junto con las familias y las comunidades de Estados Unidos, doy gracias por el anuncio del presidente Obama de que casi cinco millones de inmigrantes indocumentados pronto serán elegibles para el alivio de la amenaza de la deportación. Demasiadas familias han vivido durante mucho tiempo continuamente preocupadas porque los padres son separados de los hijos, los asalariados y los cuidadores de los que dependen de ellos, e incapaces de participar plenamente en sus comunidades y en la economía de la nación. Una reforma permanente e integral de nuestro quebrado sistema de inmigración mediante la acción del Congreso es todavía una necesidad urgente, pero la acción del Presidente es un paso constructivo hacia un sistema que honra la dignidad y el valor intrínseco de cada ser humano. Fortalecerá inmediatamente a las comunidades de nuestra nación al permitir que las familias de inmigrantes participen mucho más plenamente en la vida cívica y económica de Estados Unidos.

La Iglesia Episcopal trabajará con los líderes del Congreso y de la Casa Blanca para presionar en favor de la aplicación del plan del presidente lo más rápida, justa e inclusivamente que sea posible. El plan del Presidente no es perfecto. Algunas personas y familias que lo merecen son excluidas, lo que significa que queda trabajo adicional por delante. Todas las personas merecen por igual la capacidad de perseguir sus sueños y contribuir en sus comunidades y familias con libertad y dignidad. Rezo para que la decisión del Presidente conduzca a nuestra nación hacia un futuro en el que esas sagradas posibilidades están abiertas a todos.