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New Community gathers ‘Together, Advancing the Sacred Dream’

ENS Headlines - Monday, March 17, 2014

About 200 clergy and laity from across the Episcopal Church gathered for the New Community gathering to “advance the sacred dream.” Photo: Lynn A. Collins

[Episcopal News Service] About 200 clergy and laity from across the Episcopal Church gathered to “set the vision quest” during the March 12-15 New Community Clergy and Lay Conference at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Themed “Together, Advancing the Sacred Dream,” the second such gathering of ethnic ministries throughout the church was intended to move participants deeper into collaborative mission, partnership and relationship, according to Sarah Eagle Heart, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries.

“It was really important to us that we continue what we started during the first New Community gathering [in 2012 in San Diego],” Eagle Heart said while welcoming participants. “The Ogala Lakota talk about dreams in terms of vision quest … and we wanted to take all the dreams of our ancestors and of every ethnic group here and bring them together in one place.”

Participants honored the Rev. Terry Star, who died suddenly on March 4. Photo: Lynn A. Collins

Eagle Heart and others invoked the spirit of the Rev. Terry Star, 40, who was to participate in the gathering, but died suddenly March 4 at Nashotah House Theological Seminary where he was a seminarian. He was described as a spirit of compassion, love and inclusion.

Citing the Lakota concept of mitakuye oyasin, or “we are all related,” during the opening Eucharist sermon, Isaiah Brokenleg called upon participants to “be good relatives to one another” and to relate to one another out of a mutual willingness to be vulnerable, honest and transparent.

Once we ask, “who are my relatives and what kind of relative do I want to be … we can work to be the change we want to see in our community,” he said.

Plenary and workshop presentations included: multiethnic church planting; asset-based community development; effective strategies for parish renewal; human trafficking; environmental and other forms of racism; and a session designed to elicit feedback for the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church.

Sarah Eagle Heart and Isaiah Brokenleg dance during an evening of cultural entertainment. Photo: Lynn A. Collins

‘Building the world we dream about’
Building the sacred dream and dismantling racism involves listening to “the stories we don’t know and learning the history we were not taught, even when it threatens the way we’ve always done things and our secret belief that assimilation is the goal,” according to the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, during a March 13 panel discussion addressing issues of “white privilege, internationalized oppression, racial justice and reconciliation, and capacity building.”

It also involves broadening church responses to gender bias, homophobism, multiethnic people, interethnic discrimination and the complexities of culture, according to a consensus at the gathering.

Jennings acknowledged both benefiting from white privilege and “seeing the way my son is denied it.” Jennings adopted her son Sam from Colombia, and when he needed life-saving surgery at 4 months old, she recalled, “a church staff member said, ‘why don’t you just take him back and get a healthy white baby?’”

She said she hopes that both experiences have prompted her “to work for change from within the institutional church.”

For example, as deputies’ president, 30 percent of her appointments to churchwide committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs) have been to people 40 or younger; 28 percent have been to people of color … “so we begin to change the face of those participating in churchwide bodies.”

Listening to and honoring each other’s stories to overcome “corporate amnesia” will not be easy, according to the Hon. Byron Rushing, a Massachusetts state representative and vice president of the House of Deputies, also a panelist.

He called instead for a corporate “anamnesis,” or remembering to remove the myth of slavery as an incidental occurrence in the early days of the European occupation of the Americas, to the truth of slavery as part of the origin of the nation and the Americas and the economic success of the United States.

“It means you’re asking people to change their understanding of what their relationship to other people can be, and their understanding of their right to the power they have,” he said. “There is no easy way to do it except to stand up and talk about it.”

Poet, visual artist and playwright Enedina Casarez Vasquez describes during a plenary session her search for Mexican cultural expressions and identity within the Episcopal Church. Photo: Lynn A. Collins

Visual artist, playwright, teacher and poet Enedina Casarez Vasquez shared experiences of growing up in Texas, a fifth generation Mexican-American who did not speak Spanish because “we were told it was a bad language and would keep us from becoming a success in life,” she said.

Feeling rejected by the Roman Catholic Church she joined the Episcopal Church, only to be disillusioned there, as well. “I want to see myself in the Episcopal Church,” she told the gathering. “I want to see priests and deacons that look like me, dark, brown, black, joyful. I want to see Mexican women as priests, to know they exist. Why do I not see them in my hometown? I know they exist somewhere outside of Texas [because] the United States is teeming with Latinos in the Episcopal Church.”

Still, she believes that the Episcopal Church is the answer, although “we need to look at the ugly stuff, and define reconciliation through dialogue,” she said.

The Rev. Jim Kodera, a Wellesley College professor of religion and rector of St. Luke’s Church in Hudson, Massachusetts, said he came to the United States as an international student and later became a naturalized citizen. He offered three “pernicious roots of racial prejudice,” including the belief that people on the receiving end of racism are homogenous, anonymous and strangers and foreigners.”

Kodera evoked laughter when he said the senior warden at his church had once said “I don’t think of you as Asian. I told her, I am. Please make the effort. In her mind she had already converted me into an Irish-American.”

But he added, “It’s easy to engage in anti-racism work as long as we think of racists to be out there. We do the same thing as we blame others … We have to stop that. It is much harder to acknowledge racism within ourselves and I would like to go as far as to suggest each one of us without exception is a racist in that we are all products of racist history and society.”

He added that, “in order to become a real Christian, you don’t have to become white. In order to become real Episcopalians, you don’t have to speak English. To become true disciples of Christ, all we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Christ in the context in which we belong.”

Seeds of the new community
The New Community gatherings grew out of frustration at the lack of diversity in worship and in the church’s CCABs, according to the Rev. Canon Anthony Guillen, who joined the Kanuga gathering via video link.

“It is something new developing … the new face of the church, diverse and multicultural and multilingual and rich and beautiful,” he said.

Advocacy, congregational development and bridgebuilding are at the heart of missioners’ work, according to the Rev. Fred Vergara, missioner for Asiamerica ministries, whose efforts are focused, among other things, on education and training and building a virtual classroom. The virtual classroom is designed for use in a theological exchange connecting the Episcopal Church with Asia and throughout the world, he said.

The Rev. Angela Ifill, missioner for black ministries, said people of African descent from the United States, Latin and South America, the Caribbean and the African continent, make up about 121,000, or 6.4 percent, of the Episcopal Church’s population.

Her New Visions Initiative partners congregations that have plateaued with stronger ones for mutual ministry and has sparked “changes from the bottom up rather than the top down,” she said. “We are all missionaries, we are all called into ministry and not just the ordained person, the people in the pews are also missioners and ministers of the church,” she said.

Opportunities for young people include the SOUL conference and the Rising Stars Initiative, which attempts to interrupt “the school to prison pipeline that pushes young children out of the classroom and into the prison system,” she said.

Indigenous Ministries Missioner Eagle Heart said she recognized immediately when she took the position five years ago that the need for healing “was so immense” among indigenous communities.

Her efforts include helping to offer opportunities for alternative theological and lay leadership, support for seminarians and providing discernment opportunities for young people of color. She described the Kanuga gathering as “an opportunity to work on the sacred dream” and to support one another.

Race and Poverty
The Rev. Jemonde Taylor described a 62-block area in Dallas that once “looked like a war zone.” For him, that area eventually became church, a spiritual community.

“There was nothing there except residents just barely hanging on. It was an opportunity to partner with others and to go into a community that was ready to be transformed.” It became known as Jubilee Park, a jubilee ministry, partnering with St. Michael and all Angels Church in Dallas in 1996.

Since the partnership began 15 years ago, crime has dropped by 65 percent, offers a variety of social services to about 5,000 weekly, and the local school – once considered among the worst – is now the highest performing elementary school in the Dallas Independent School District, Taylor told the gathering. “In my mind it is resurrection. A place that was dead is now living.”

Similarly, Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and pastor of All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis, described “the legacy of manifest destiny” in terms of the staggering 70 percent high school dropout and 85 to 95 percent unemployment rates at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The concept of manifest destiny – that belief that white settlers were superior to indigenous people – set in motion a domino effect that is still unfolding, Helgemo said.

Other grim statistics included 35 percent of homes having no electricity, more than 90 percent of the population living below U.S. federal poverty guidelines, and equally horrific health statistics, with cervical cancer rates five times the national level, more than half the population over 40 suffering from diabetes, and a life expectancy for men of 46 “roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia.”

“The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say ‘my God what are these people doing to each other? They’re killing each other and themselves as we watch,” she said. “As removed as the dominant society may feel from a massacre in 1890 or a series of broken treaties 150 years ago, you have to ask the question how should you feel about the statistics of today, what is the connection between these images of suffering?”

“I’m from Pine Ridge,” Eagle Heart told the gathering. “These are my people … and knowing my own people and my own tribe and where I’m from, I’m struck sometimes by the hopelessness there. Jemonde [Taylor] shared that it’s really important to be there and with the people in prayer.”

Responding with loving service
The Rev. Ruben Duran, ELCA director for evangelizing congregations, said about 62 percent of his new congregational start-ups are among people of color whose language is not English and who are poor.

With 342 new congregations under development, he trains about 60 mission developers yearly, he said. “We would like the new community to grow, to be evangelical in their orientation to work for peace and justice as part of their DNA, a community that is always making new disciples, and looking for other opportunities to be able to grow the extension of God’s reign.”

Bishop Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer, addresses the gathering about the importance of being a missionary. Photo: Lynn A. Collins

Bishop Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer, also a panelist, said the church is attempting “to create a movement among young people in the Episcopal Church so that within a generation missionary service will be normative in the Episcopal Church.”

Paraphrasing Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, Sauls said that “we are all missionaries or we are nothing because that’s what it means to be a Christian, to be sent and to serve. There was a time in church when we forgot what that meant. We are determined to reclaim it.”

Now, being a missionary means “sending people to build relationships,” he added. “They are not the giver and somebody else the receiver, but the relationships are mutual in which Jesus is encountered. The strategy is to engage young people in the Episcopal Church, doubling the size of the Young Adult Service Corps.”

Environmental Racism
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, during a panel discussion, said that environmental racism “is about domination both of human beings and the rest of creation, about human beings using others – both human others and nonhuman others – as objects. It is about a willingness to dump, seeing the rest of creation as a dumping ground or a resource to export.”

She added: “Our response has to be a move from confronting consumption as a way of being in this world, to conscious use of the rest of creation.” She cited as examples converting church land for food production and cultivating a consciousness about energy and water use and reducing, reusing, recycling.

The Rev. Canon Sandye Wilson, rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange, New Jersey, said the state has 108 toxic waste centers – closest to the poorest cities – “breathing in horror, breathing out death.”

She said that African-American children are five times more likely to suffer from lead poisoning than their white counterparts “and so you become passionate about the reality of racism that is a part of how people live and how poor people have no idea when they move into community they’re setting themselves up for the possibility of death in the long run,” she said. “It’s incumbent upon us as the church to develop a passion for the interconnectedness of all of life; it is our responsibility to one another.”

Through a translator, the Rev. Luis Alberto Tuaza said he has worked for 30 years with indigenous people in the Diocese of Central Ecuador and, at the moment, “we’re fighting to avoid mining, preserve the forest, and to preserve the vegetation.” In addition to trying to protect the land, he also is trying to rescue the historical memory of the people, he said.

Sarah Augustine is co-director of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, an international charity, and professor of sociology and director of student spirituality at Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington. She said that as institutions of faith, dioceses and congregations have the power to effect change by divesting financial holdings in large corporations “who are for destruction” and want to remove indigenous communities so they can mine for gold and other resources.

“We have to stop thinking of ourselves as consumers, and begin regarding ourselves as investors” and demand that companies abide by their own policies, she said. “This is our moment, this is happening here and now, we are the ones coming to save us; it’s us.”

Carrying the sacred dream
The sacred dream is “the ancient prophetic dream about what shalom looks like, what the reign of God looks like,” said the presiding bishop. “It is making it real in this day and our places, the kingdom of God on earth.”

“It is a dream of a world where love and justice reign,” added Vergara, missioner for Asiamerica ministries. “A dream of a church that carries forward missio Dei, the mission of God to reconcile all creation to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

For Guillen, “we hold the dream that someday indeed we will all be treated equally, that we will all have the same access. We won’t have the stereotypes and discrimination and all those other things. In the meantime, we celebrate the successes we’ve made, the strides we’ve made … There are still issues and there are still feelings and there’s still work to be done. So, we make strides, we work together, sometimes we have to be a little bit more vocal and proactive, but ultimately the dream is becoming a reality. But, it’s still a dream.”

Ifill, missioner for black ministries, agreed that “we are all fully integrated, fully involved, we have equal voice … and having equal voice, the vision of each person being considered, is the total dream of God. We’ve got a long, long, long way to go but we have hope and that’s what keeps us going.”

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

Visual arts forge connections among artists, churches and communities

ENS Headlines - Monday, March 17, 2014

Metalworker and jewelry designer Elizabeth Stingl is one of two artists-in-residence this year at Christ Church Cathedral in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Photo/Steve Kinderman

[Episcopal News Service] When ceramic artist Linda Vonderschmidt LaStella joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Metuchen, New Jersey, she was encouraged to join The Arts at St. Luke’s. But when she attended meetings, “the only things spoken about were performance and music,” she recalled. “At the end of each meeting, I’d go, ‘Where are the ‘visuals’?”

She doesn’t need to ask that anymore. In September 2012, after two years of planning, St. Luke’s opened Nails in the Wall, a permanent art gallery that has featured work by artists from across the nation and beyond.

St. Luke’s is among a growing number of Episcopal churches finding ways to connect their congregations and communities through the visual arts. Besides providing exhibit space, churches are incorporating visual arts into worship services, hosting workshops and providing space for artists-in-residence.

St. Luke’s renovated parts of old classrooms, installing new walls, carpeting and studio lighting to create a “gorgeous space” for exhibiting art, said LaStella, director of Nails in the Wall.

“The whole parish was involved,” she said. “After Sunday liturgy, we’d be there, initially throwing things out the window into the big dumpster.” The next week, they’d bring in wall paneling. Then followed the painting.

“Everyone in the parish takes such ownership of it,” she said. The final result “is a genuine, sacred space that is beautiful and presents the art in the most wonderful way. It takes my breath away. When I take people over … and we walk in, there’s always a gasp.”

“We’ve spent a lot of money getting this gallery ready, but we see this as long-term outreach,” LaStella said.

The exhibits focus on spiritual but not exclusively Christian subjects or artists. “It’s dealing with the spiritual and the human person,” she said. For the opening exhibit, “we invited artists of every spiritual persuasion to show work that spoke about their connection with God. We had work from all over the country. We had artists fly in from [Los Angeles].”

Another exhibit explored the spirituality of the mandala – round images – and included works from Germany, Italy and England. The exhibit coincided with the Hindu festival of Diwali, and one artist created a large rangoli in the center of the gallery floor. These images traditionally are constructed of flower petals and sand, LaStella said. They used just flower petals, provided by a local florist who plucked the petals off flowers and separated them by color.

The gallery also offers community programming. During the mandala exhibit, more than 100 people attended a workshop led by a female Sufi whirling dervish. During an icon exhibit, the church hosted a roundtable discussion with the artists – including one attending via Skype from Rochester, New York.

A current immigration-related exhibit provides an opportunity for people to share their immigration stories to be archived in the gallery. During worship services while this exhibit is displayed, the congregation is including prayers about current immigration issues. “The prayers have really been beautiful and powerful, and they link us liturgically to what’s hanging there [in the gallery],” LaStella said.

At Christ Church Cathedral in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the visual arts have been incorporated into jazz vesper services featuring local musicians during Lent. In 2012, the cathedral launched an artist-in-residence program, offering free studio space for a year to two artists. The artists have the opportunity to exhibit their work at the cathedral, and they lead an arts presentation for the cathedral community and one for the larger community plus create a work of art to be donated to the cathedral.

Visual artist Hope Greene, helped launch the artist-in-residence program after joining the cathedral, where her husband, Michael, is dean.

“I try to set up opportunities for other artists to have a place to show or to have space to work,” she said. The cathedral is “much richer in space than they are in money, so they tend to try to use the space that they have as a gift of service to the community.”

“They had a huge basement space that they weren’t using,” she said. “I saw it and I said, ‘Oh, that would be such a great place for artists.’”

The cathedral now is hosting its second pair of resident artists: a metalsmith and jewelry designer, and a sculptor.

“What we look for are people who are very dedicated to what they’re doing, people who are very honest in their artistic practice, meaning they don’t just make things that look pretty. They don’t just make things that will sell. They’re making things that are trying to answer questions,” said Greene, a photographer and head of the vestry’s artist-in-residence subcommittee.

As at St. Luke’s, no particular religious doctrine is required.

“We would be much more likely to select someone who was actively and doggedly pursuing truth in their work rather than someone who was specifically a Christian artist because that makes for much more interesting conversations,” she said.

“When they make their presentations to the cathedral, they talk about the impetus behind making their work,” Greene said. “And if it’s a religious artist, then they might … talk about the Christian themes in their work, they might talk about how they find themselves inspired and how they lose themselves in work. And it’s in the sort of conversation back and forth during those presentations … where the people from the cathedral have talked about different ways that art impacts them in their worship.”

The program is building ties between the congregation and wider community, she said. “A lot more of the artists in the town know about the place and are more comfortable coming … and it’s taking the cathedral people out to art venues as well.”

At Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, visitors often enter to see the artwork hung inside.

Stations of the cross created by Philadelphia artist Virginia Maksymowicz are displayed this Lent at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral as part of its visual arts program. The stations were commissioned by St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and completed in the spring of 2005.

“We try to have a different exhibit up for each liturgical season of the year,” said the Rev. Robert Tate, priest associate and director of the cathedral visual arts program. “It’s right there in the nave, so it becomes part of the worship space.

“Then we’ve got a permanent collection that we rotate pieces in and out of the cathedral,” he said. Some of the pieces were donated, others bought by the cathedral. The cathedral also has hosted artists-in-residence who donated works, including a sculpture over the font and a painting and tryptic over the west door.

“We had a wonderful sculpture exhibit at the cathedral of an artist who has done about 30 studies of Jacob wrestling with the angel in all sorts of media: in metal, in porcelain, in wood,” Tate recalled. Joseph Brenman’s “pièce de résistance” was a six-foot-tall wooden frieze of the angel holding Jacob over his head. “At the end of the show, I timidly asked him if he would be willing to loan it to us.” The artist replied that “he would so much rather show it to people in his cathedral than in his basement. It’s been there [in the cathedral] for almost three years, and people love it.”

Still, like other churches with visual arts programs, the cathedral doesn’t limit exhibited artwork to Christian themes.

“It need not be explicitly religious, and it certainly need not be representational,” Tate said. “We’ve had many shows of abstract art.”

The visual arts program draws people into the cathedral, he said. “When we have an art show go up and put the word out, we get all sorts of people coming in and through the cathedral who wouldn’t set foot in the cathedral otherwise. … It’s one of the most important forms of outreach of the cathedral to the community and a place where we engage with the community and the community engages with us.”

The Episcopal Church also engages the wider community through Episcopal Church and Visual Arts, which started in 2000 “to encourage artists and organizations to engage the visual arts in the spiritual life of the church,” according to its website.

A “virtual organization,” ECVA maintains an online resource center that includes curated art exhibits and an artists registry.

On March 14, ECVA launched a Women at Prayer online exhibit in conjunction with a conference called Anglican Women at Prayer: Weaving our Bonds of Affection. The images also were scheduled to be displayed on a screen at the three-day conference, co-sponsored by the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross and the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, said Tate, ECVA board president. Previously, slideshows of ECVA artwork also have been displayed at General Conventions during worship.

“The life of the organization right now is split between the art blog on Episcopal Café … and the virtual exhibits on the website,” Tate said. He himself is a photographer; one of his images was included in ECVA’s first all-photography show during Advent.

“We’ve got hundreds of artists, not all Episcopalians, over the country and increasingly beyond the United States who will submit digital images to the website when the call goes out around a specific theme or by a specific curator,” he said.

Back in Wisconsin, Greene exhibited some of her photography during one of the vespers services.

“Whether they look like it or not, most of the pieces I make are very much about my response to God in the world,” she commented. “The best is when I stand back from a piece that I’ve made and finished, and I look at it and suddenly it becomes clear what it’s actually about. It’s like a gift, that I was led down an idea to a place where there was truth waiting for me. And it’s kind of a new thing to me to be able to now take this gift that was given to me of this insight, this beautiful thing, and to bring it to the Christian community that I’m part of and to be able to see their responses.

“Because art is a communication. … I show work a lot, and people say, ‘Oh, that’s quite beautiful.’ But to be able to take it to the congregation and to have them say, ‘Oh, my goodness, that makes the gospel of today entirely new to me,’” – that, she said, brings “a whole new dimension.”

– Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.

Interfaith group opposes Georgia bill allowing guns in houses of worship

ENS Headlines - Friday, March 14, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] After weeks of intensive effort by hundreds of faith leaders from throughout Georgia, a bill that would have vastly expanded the places guns could be legally carried was amended March 12 to allow churches to ban guns.

In a compromise to satisfy proponents of unrestricted gun carry, senators in a committee which sent House Bill 875 to the full Senate for a vote, included provisions allowing individual churches to “opt out” of the restrictions and admit gun carriers.

The vote followed testimony March 11 during a lengthy hearing before the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee by some 45 proponents and opponents of HB875.

A letter from Episcopal Bishops Rob Wright of Atlanta and Scott Benhase of Georgia was read opposing the unrestricted gun carry bill. In the statement the bishops said the argument by the bill’s proponents that “good guys” with guns are the only defense against “bad guys” with guns is flawed.

“Our Christian faith has a more complex understanding of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ Our biblical understanding of human sin informs us of this universal truth.

“People who had no criminal record and had a legal right to their weapons have perpetrated almost all of the recent tragic shootings in houses of worship and schools. They were ‘good guys’ until they weren’t.”

See the bishops’ full statement here.

Before committee members voted 4-3 late March 12 to send the amended bill to the full Senate, the group Faith Voices Against Violence rallied at Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the state capitol.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, one of several faith leaders who spoke, said opposition to a bill created a true interfaith coalition.

“You’ve got Baptists, and Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, and Catholics, and Jews, and we all agree. That’s a miracle,” Warnock said.

The coalition included more than 200 clergy from Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups from around Georgia. Earlier this month they placed a full-page ad in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in opposition to the measure.

This was the second attempt in two years to legislate vast expansion of the places where persons holding a concealed-gun carry permit may legally be armed. Last year’s bill died for lack of a vote in the Senate after intense opposition from college presidents to its provision decriminalizing carrying guns on campuses. This year proponents amended the bill to allow college leaders to decide whether guns may be brought on their campuses.

Here is the amended bill sent to the full Senate.

The Senate has until March 20 when this year’s legislative session ends to vote on the bill.

– Don Plummer is communications consultant to the Diocese of Atlanta and attends St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth.

Presiding Bishop to visit Nashotah House

ENS Headlines - Thursday, March 13, 2014

[Nashotah House Theological Seminary press release] The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will visit Nashotah House Theological Seminary on May 1. The invitation was made by the Dean/President the Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon Jr. at the request of several Episcopal seminarians studying at the House in order that she might become better acquainted with the life, character, and programs of the seminary and its community.

Given the untimely and tragic death of one of those students, the Rev. Deacon Terry Star, a second year student from the Diocese of North Dakota who suffered a fatal heart attack on March 4, she has been invited to offer the encomium homily honoring Deacon Star following Evensong.

Deacon Star had served with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Her visit and homily will give the community unique insights into his promising life of ministry cut short by this tragedy.

Accompanying the Presiding Bishop on her visit will be the [Episcopal Church’s] Domestic Poverty Missioner, the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson (NH class of 2000). They are scheduled throughout the day to meet in various events and venues with Bishop Salmon, members of the faculty and administration, including an academic colloquy.

In addition they will make a visit to neighboring St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy (SJNMA), which had also invited her and where the late Deacon Star was doing his supervised practice of ministry. Members of the Cadet Corps from SJNMA, including brass players and bagpipers, will join in the Evensong in Adams Hall. The time in Adams Hall will close with the singing of the Seminary Hymn.

Video: One young adult…and a South African clinic

ENS Headlines - Thursday, March 13, 2014
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[Episcopal News Service] Keri Geiger from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has decided to do something bold and daring. She’s left behind her steady job on a labor ward in Richmond to bring her nursing skills to a poverty-stricken community in South Africa.

Geiger is spending one year as a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer, working with the Overstrand Care Centre in Hawston. Her placement is a partnership between the Episcopal Church and HOPE Africa, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa‘s social development arm.

Additional videos in this ENS series highlighting the ministry of YASC missionaries follow.

One young adult…and a provincial archives

One young adult…and a mission for migrant workers

One young adult…and a mission to seafarers

Women need integrated services for empowerment, panel says

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lucille Pilling opens a March 12 panel related to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women session at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. Panelists included (l-r) Ann Starrs, Ariella Rojhani, Ayra Inderyas and Granny Seape. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] When Granny Seape worked in the credit departments of two different banks in post-apartheid South Africa, she grew tired of managers who refused to see that “if you invest in a woman, you are investing in the whole nation.”

Seape, an Anglican Consultative Council delegate to the March 10-21 session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, came to those banks after working with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle people back into South Africa after the end of apartheid and then working in the Southern Africa division of the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

When she returned to South Africa, Seape worked in the low-cost housing mortgage divisions of first one and then a second national bank. At both banks, she realized that managers were systematically refusing to give small mortgages to low-wage earners, especially black women who had been domestic workers during the apartheid years, she told a March 12 gathering at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

Eventually, Seape decided to start a construction company in 1998 to build good houses for low-income people. Since its beginning, Ahanang Hardware & Construction has built more than 15,000 homes, she said.

Ahanang means “let’s build together” and Seape explained that the company’s first project established the empowerment model it still uses. The project in an underserved area recruited local women to learn basic construction skills and related trades such as making concrete blocks and window frames. Seape said the company and the local women built 2,000 homes and some of those women also built small businesses out of the trades they had learned.

“Every area that we went into, we would train the women first and ensure that they get part of the development as their own project,” Seape explained. “Everywhere we go we make sure that we empower women.”

Financial empowerment, she told the gathering, is a way to empower women to overcome abuse, illiteracy and other issues.

That interrelated nature of women’s empowerment was the broad topic of the March 12 panel discussion at the church center. The panel had a more specific emphasis on the integration of access to women’s medical services as a path to empowerment, not just for women but for their families and their communities.

“Women are the lynchpins across so many sectors,” is how panelist Ann Starrs, president of Family Care International, explained the connections.

But, she said, too often services such as medical care for low-income women are “siloed” in terms of delivery and in terms of evaluation so that women and their children may have to go to multiple clinics to obtain all the services they need. This happens in poorer countries, she said, because donors tend to provide money for specific issues or to specific segments of the population.

Advocates need to convince governments and non-governmental organizations to pay for and favor better-integrated delivery systems, she said.

“You need to look at this from the woman’s perspective,” Starrs said. “Every time she walks into a clinic with her children, her newborn, maybe her husband, are all members of that family getting the services they need in that clinic on that day? We really need to push for this women-centered approach.”

Ariella Rojhani, senior advocacy manager for the NCD Alliance, said the way the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals divide some women’s health issues into distinct categories has aided in the silo effect Starrs named.

“The MDGs set this framework and the funding followed accordingly,” Rojhani said, so that governments and other organizations funding programs centered on one disease or one hoped-for outcome.

“We think it is nothing short of malpractice for somebody to go to a clinic for their anti-retroviral therapy and they don’t get their blood pressure checked,” she said.

In addition, Rojhani said, the health-related MDGs “have been tremendously successful in improving health outcomes around the world, but one of the critical oversights of this MDG framework was the exclusion of non-communicable diseases.”

The alliance, which focuses on global impact of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart and chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, wants global health and development policymakers to consider the health-related results of tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and physical inactivity.

Ayra Inderyas, secretary of the women’s desk in the Church of Pakistan’s Diocese of Lahore, used the term “simultaneous intervention” as another way to describe the needs to empower women in a multidisciplinary way. The diocese uses small community-based groups to empower women with a range of education and services from hand water pumps to Bible studies about gender justice.

She said the diocese’s work takes place in a country where Christians are a distinct minority and that Christian women are thus in double jeopardy. “And if they are poor, then they are facing triple jeopardy,” she added.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori March 12 greeted Anglican and Episcopal participants in the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. “The advocacy work that you are doing here and the empowerment work you are doing in your own contexts makes an incredible difference,” she said. “I wish you well. I pray for your work these two weeks. I pray that you may continue to be effective agents of change and transformation in this world. That’s what we are about in seeking the kingdom of God.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Panel moderator Lucille Pilling, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the current UNCSW session, said at the end of the session that the “takeaway” for her was the importance of working together “to create that groundswell – that demand.

“Then things will happen, then we will have the empowerment of women, then we will have the united voice that will demand the policies that will meet the demands of women through the continuum of their life cycle,” she said.

The theme of the current UNCSW session is “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.”

Anglicans and Episcopalians were selected by their primates to attend on behalf of their province and will be monitoring plenary sessions and attending parallel events (panels and meetings) on topics that all speak to that theme.

The women attending on behalf of the Anglican Communion are from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Central Africa, Congo, England, Hong Kong, Indian Ocean, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Rwanda, Scotland, South Africa and the United States.

A summary of the rest of the Anglican/Episcopal-related UNCSW activities is here.

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

Corte Suprema de EE.UU. se niega a escuchar el caso de la Iglesia Anglicana Falls

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] Más de siete años después de que la mayoría de los clérigos y miembros de varias congregaciones de la diócesis de Virginia declararon que habían salido de la Iglesia Episcopal y la cuestión de que la posesión de la propiedad afectada comenzara a ser objeto de litigio, la Corte Suprema de EE.UU. rechazó el 10 de marzo escuchar la apelación de la congregación que sigue en desacuerdo con la Iglesia Episcopal y la diócesis.

El tribunal no dio razones de la decisión de no revisar una resolución del 2013 emitida por la Corte Suprema de Virginia reafirmando un fallo anterior de un Circuito Judicial que devolviera la propiedad de la Iglesia Falls a fieles episcopales para ser utilizada para la misión de la Diócesis de Virginia y de la Iglesia Episcopal. La decisión del tribunal se incluyó en su lista de orden del 10 de marzo y fue una de las 121 pedidos de revisión que se negó.

Todo lo que queda en el caso es que la Diócesis de Virginia solicite una orden de un Circuito Judicial Fairfax para que deje a la diócesis más de $ 2.6 millones de dólares que estaba en las cuentas bancarias de la iglesia Falls en el momento de la división y que el tribunal ha estado llevando a cabo en depósito durante la progresión del caso.

“Estamos más satisfechos por el fallo de la Corte Suprema”, dijo el Obispo de la Diócesis de Virginia Shannon S. Johnston en un comunicado de prensa. “Esperamos con interés las posibilidades que los próximos meses traerán, y seguir manteniendo en nuestras oraciones a los afectados por el litigio”.

En una carta de acompañamiento a la diócesis, Johnston llama al 10 de marzo “un día importante para nuestra diócesis” por el fallo.

Finalmente podemos decir, con gran agradecimiento, que la Diócesis de Virginia ya no está involucrada en litigios de propiedad… [y]… La iglesia Episcopal Falls es libre para seguir adorando y crecer en sus edificios de la iglesia”.

“A pesar de que hoy se marca un final oficial y anticipado para el litigio, también se marca un comienzo”, dijo el obispo. “Ahora podremos concentrar plenamente nuestra atención en los muchos ministerios verdaderamente emocionantes de todo nuestra diócesis. Mi oración es que las [Convocación de Anglicanos en Norte América] congregaciones se unan a nosotros en la transformación de esta nueva página”.

El Rdo. John Ohmer, rector de la iglesia Episcopal  Falls, dijo en el comunicado de la diócesis que “aunque me rompe el corazón pensar en donde todo ese dinero y energía podrían haber ido, la noticia de hoy es edificante para nuestra congregación”.

“Mi esperanza y oración es que todas las partes involucradas ahora pueden continuar creciendo sus comunidades de culto, los ministerios y la divulgación en nuestras casas de la iglesia”, dijo.

La congregación de la Iglesia Anglicana Falls el 9 de octubre de 2013 solicitó al máximo tribunal del país revisar la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de Virginia. Una cronología de los documentos de la corte, incluidos los de otras partes interesadas, las cuales habían seguido desde esa solicitud se encuentra aquí.

La iglesia Falls fue una de las 11 congregaciones de la diócesis en la que una mayoría de los miembros votaron para desafiliarse de la diócesis y de la Iglesia Episcopal. A través de los años, todos menos la Iglesia Anglicana Falls habían asentado sus conflictos de propiedad con la diócesis y la iglesia después de las decisiones judiciales en favor de la diócesis y de la Iglesia.

Después de que un Circuito Judicial Fairfax del condado ordenó a la iglesia Anglicana Falls en marzo de 2012 devolver la propiedad de la parroquia a la diócesis, los anglicanos sólo accedieron permitir a los episcopales a volver al edifico parroquial para celebrar la Pascua (8 de abril de 2012). Sin embargo, la congregación anglicana poco después apeló a la Corte Suprema del estado y al mismo tiempo solicitó al Circuito Judicial evitar que los episcopales regresen de nuevo hasta que el tribunal supremo dictó el falló. El Circuito Judicial se negó y los episcopales de la iglesia Falls regresaron a su propiedad el 15 de mayo de 2012.

La Corte Suprema de Virginia el 18 de abril 2013 confirmó la decisión del Circuito Judicial de regresar la propiedad de la iglesia Falls a los episcopales. La iglesia Anglicana Falls solicitó a la Corte Suprema del estado reconsiderar el caso, a pesar de los comentarios anteriores realizados por el Rdo. John Yates, rector de la iglesia Anglicana Falls, el 28 de abril que la Corte Suprema de que el “abrumador rechazo de nuestros argumentos … reduce drásticamente nuestras opciones legales”.

Luego, en junio de 2013, Corte Suprema del estado se negó a reconsiderar su decisión y la iglesia anglicana Falls Church más tarde decidió pedir a la Corte Suprema de EE.UU. para revisar las acciones del tribunal estatal.

Los líderes de la congregación anglicana aún no han hecho comentarios sobre la decisión del tribunal supremo, pero en una actualización del 24 de febrero a los miembros, novice alcaidesa  Kristen Short reconocido que la solicitud de revisión fue “en contra de las probabilidades”. La decisión de ir a la Corte Suprema de los EE.UU., dijo, era parte de lo que ella llama el ministerio de la congregación de “hablar con valentía en favor de individuos creyentes y congregaciones fieles de todo el país que están bajo ataque”.

“Hemos tratado de discernir la voluntad de Dios en cada momento y creemos que estamos actuando en obediencia a Él,” ella escribió. “Si bien no es posible disfrutar de la ‘batalla’ en que estamos, no sentimos que el Señor nos estaba dando permiso para retirarnos”.

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

EPPN Lenten Series Pt. 2: Supporting peace in the land of the holy one

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” – Matthew 4

Dear Fellow Advocates,

Last week, as we began our Lenten journey together, we looked at the notion of reconciliation. In a practical sense, reconciliation means an openness to submit to a reality wider than our own, to consider the narratives and viewpoints of another and to find a future in a new reality – a new shared narrative – that is created together. Just as the devil tempts Jesus with the notion of a certain kind of worldly dominance over the kingdoms of the world in the Gospel given to us for the First Sunday in Lent, so too is it easy for us to be tempted by what seems obviously right to us in the ways of the world.

Finding a breakthrough, finding reconciliation, involves doing as Jesus does and placing our whole and complete trust in the God who is reconciliation and who continually calls us to a different, less obvious road.

As we examined on Ash Wednesday, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rife with conflicting narratives and realities. The Episcopal Church, like the Churches of the Holy Land themselves, has long supported not just a two-state solution, but a negotiated two state solution. That is, a solution in which Israelis and Palestinians themselves bear the responsibility together for creating a shared future of peace. Our Church has said repeatedly what we believe a just and lasting peace might entail – “a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both ” – but we have been equally clear that it is up to Israelis and Palestinians themselves to determine how to get there.

Israelis and Palestinians, with the backing of the United States government and particularly the personal investment of Secretary of State John Kerry, are working to walk that path of reconciliation. Secretary Kerry is working urgently to publish a framework for negotiations that will support the two sides in coming to a concrete, expeditious, lasting, and just peace.

Secretary Kerry, like those working alongside him on each side, recognizes that time is the enemy. There are countless dynamics working against negotiations: regional instability and global actors invested in a course other than peace, power differentials between the two sides, ongoing violence and disproportionate responses by each against the other, the creation by each side of “facts on the ground” that make the path to peace seem more complicated as each day passes. Then, there are the thorny issues at the center of negotiations, including borders, security, refugees, the status of Jerusalem, Gaza, and more.(We will look at these in coming weeks.)

Moreover, all parties know that there has been a long history, over many decades, of Middle East peace negotiations that have failed to produce a final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

One thing seems certain, and that is that if negotiations are to succeed, Americans will need to support the U.S. government in pressing boldly for peace and walking alongside Israelis and Palestinians as they seek to make peace. As we noted last week, a group of high-level interfaith leaders, including our Presiding Bishop, recently crafted a message in support of the current negotiation efforts. How can you help? Right now, there is an urgent need for Americans to urge their members of Congress – whose support for Secretary Kerry’s efforts will be essential – to stand with the Administration in this important work. Click HERE to send a message to your lawmakers and share with them the text of the recent interfaith letter our Presiding Bishop signed.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

La situación de Venezuela aumenta en intensidad. Los estudiantes siguen protestando y ganando terreno según los videos que llegan fuera del país. La celebración del primer aniversario del fallecimiento de Hugo Chávez, “El Eterno Presidente”, como algunos lo llaman, fue celebrado con calladamente y los visitantes de otros tiempos “brillaron por su ausencia”. Cuando se esperaba el arribo de Raúl Castro por casualidad o intencionalmente, nadie en realidad sabe, la bandera cubana cayó al suelo. Ya los supersticiosos dicen que esa caída es “simbólica” de grandes cambios. Durante toda una semana el abastecimiento de insumos se vio disminuido debido al “tiempo de asueto” decretado por Nicolás Maduro. Algunos observadores optimistas piensan que “las cosas están mejorando poco a poco” aunque se sabe que la cifras de muertos asciende a 24.

Otra noticia de estos días ha sido el abrupto discurso de Maduro rompiendo relaciones de todo tipo con Panamá por el crimen de “pedir que se realizara una reunión de la OEA”. Maduro no desperdició la oportunidad para insultar a su colega presidente. En Miami la radio se ha hecho eco del incidente y la gente se pregunta quién le ha dado clases de buenos modales al inquilino de Miraflores. En Panamá circulan versiones de que la razón por la ruptura de relaciones es una excusa para no pagar la deuda que Venezuela debe a Panamá y que asciende a mil cien millones de dólares. Panamá ha dicho que pudiera suspender “el secreto bancario” y revelar las cuentas de los funcionarios chavistas en bancos panameños. Esto ha enfurecido a Maduro y otros de su gobierno.

El comité coordinador de la Iglesia Luterana de Costa Rica ha emitido una carta pastoral que enumera los males del país que pudiera servir de agenda para el nuevo gobierno. Entre éstos se encuentran  la corrupción, el narcotráfico, el clientelismo político, las promesas incumplidas, la xenofobia, el crecimiento cuantitativo de la miseria y de la pobreza, el deterioro de instituciones del estado costarricense, como la Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social, el abuso y mal uso de recursos públicos en concesiones, trochas y platinas”. La carta añade, sin embargo,  que hay personas que  han ejercido el poder del estado con “integridad, justicia social y solidaridad”.

La Sociedad Bíblica Americana (ABS) ha anunciado que por primera vez en más de 90 años, 70 millones de cristianos chinos tendrán acceso a una traducción bíblica moderna. La nueva versión se caracteriza por su sencillez, dice una nota de la ABS. Ésta versión tomará el lugar de la que está en uso actualmente hecha en 1919.

La Iglesia Episcopal de Costa Rica se ha unido a una campaña de derechos humanos llamada “Ante Dios todos somos familia” que entre otros objetivos busca el apoyo a la comunidad gay (LGBT) oprimida por años. La Iglesia Episcopal de El Salvador es la única iglesia episcopal de la región que tiene un ministerio oficial para personas LGBT, que se inició en el 2009. El obispo episcopal de Costa Rica es Héctor Monterroso, natural de Guatemala.

Las 16 monjas greco-ortodoxas que fueron secuestradas hace cuatro meses en Siria, han sido puestas en libertad con la condición de que las mujeres sirias simpatizantes de Bashar Assad reciban igual trato.

El parlamento  de Bélgica ha aprobado una ley que permite practicar la eutanasia a niños y jóvenes “cuando padezcan un sufrimiento físico insoportable y su muerte a corto plazo sea inevitable”. La eutanasia, es el acto deliberado de poner fin a la vida de un paciente, aunque sea por voluntad propia o a petición de sus familiares. En muchos países el procedimiento es considerado contrario a la ética médica. Ello no impide al médico respetar el deseo del paciente de dejar que el proceso natural de la muerte siga su curso en la fase terminal de su enfermedad. En Holanda la eutanasia es también legal.

Machu Picchu una de las joyas arqueológicas más importantes de América Latina producto de genio artístico de la cultura inca, ha estado en la prensa internacional por un hecho insólito: la presencia de turistas que van a este parque en la entrañas de los andes peruanos, se quitan la ropa y corren desnudos por sus antiguas calles empedradas como si nada. La policía ha puesto vigilancia y ya han sido arrestados dos turistas europeos. Aunque para la policía el hecho no tiene nada de gracia, otros turistas lo encuentran jocoso y hasta aplauden la “hazaña”. Machu Picchu fue construido en el siglo XV pero no fue descubierto hasta 1911 por el explorador, Hiram Bingham, profesor de la Universidad de Yale, está situado a una altura de 2,430 metros.

PENSAMIENTO. Amor es compartir la sombrilla y si no hay sombrilla, entonces compartir la lluvia.

Esfuerzos de reconstrucción para la Iglesia Episcopal de Haití obtienen gran impulso

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Incluso antes del terremoto de 2010, los estudiantes del Centro San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados de la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití en Port-au-Prince, Haití, con poco espacio disponible en la escuela. Los planes de reconstrucción requieren más aulas. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg / Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Un episcopal de Nueva York ha tomado el liderazgo en el esfuerzo de reconstrucción de la escuela San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados  de la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití en in Port-au-Prince, que fue destruido por el terremoto de 2010.

La donación de María White se celebró 10 de marzo, durante una recepción en la residencia de la Obispa Presidente en el Centro Episcopal de Nueva York. La cantidad específica de la donación no fue anunciada en la recepción, pero la Obispa Presidente Katharine Jefferts Schori agradeció a White por su “voluntad y generosidad al ofrecer un regalo de ventaja para la reconstrucción de las nuevas instalaciones de San Vicente”.

“Es una declaración notable – un testimonio increíble – de lo que es posible”, dijo, también al agradecer a White “por retarnos y ayudar a todos a ser más generosas y para ayudar a sanar el mundo.”White es miembro de la iglesia episcopal de San Santiago [St. James Episcopal Church] en Manhattan y una doctora.

Ella dijo durante la reunión que se siente “bastante segura de que la Iglesia Episcopal, de brazo a brazo con la iglesia de Haití, puede reconstruir Haití de una manera que va a apoyar los esfuerzos sociales, culturales, educativos y médicos en todo el país, no sólo en el puerto -au-Prince, y no sólo con el Centro de San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados”.

White dijo que se inspiró para hacer su donación por todo lo que ha escuchado de los líderes de la Iglesia Episcopal sobre “los progresos que se han hecho [en Haití], y los progresos que se pueden hacer  y la diligencia con que se está haciendo”.

Su regalo, ella dijo específicamente al director de San Vicente Pere Sadoni Leon y al obispo de Haití Jean Zaché Duracin, tiene la intención de mostrar que la iglesia tiene “mucha confianza” en el trabajo que están haciendo.

“El terremoto del 2010 destruyó no sólo las instalaciones de San Vicente, sino también la esperanza de los niños de San Vicente de un futuro mejor”, dijo en la reunión Sadoni.

Sabiendo que San Vicente se reconstruirá no sólo es una gran noticia para sus hijos “, sino también para el sector de discapacitados en Haití”, dijo.

Lo que Leon llama “una donación fabulosa” reconstruirá la infraestructura destruida del centro y ayudará a mejorar y ampliar su programa para servir a más gente de lo que fue se ayudó antes del terremoto, dijo.

“Si pudieras ver mi corazón y el corazón de los niños, usted entendería a qué nivel tenemos en cuenta esta donación”.

Obispa Presidente Katharine Jefferts Schori el 10 de marzo ofreció una recepción para agradecer a Mary White, en el centro, por su “donación ventajosa” para reconstruir el Centro de San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados de la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití en Port-au-Prince, Haití. El director del centro, Pere Sadoni León, a la izquierda, más tarde dijo que la donación de White también reconstruirá la esperanza de los niños en la escuela. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg / Episcopal News Service

Jefferts Schori, señalando que tanto León y White mencionan la esperanza en sus declaraciones, dijo que la esperanza de que San Vicente represente a Haití, así como a la Iglesia Episcopal y al mundo, se trata de “la realidad de que hay un lugar para todos los hijos de Dios en el mundo “.
La donación de White y la obra de San Vicente “da a los niños que serían desechados en otros lugares, a que participen efectivamente en la reconstrucción de la nación. Ellos no sólo son los receptores de la atención, ellos se conviertan en participantes y los socios en ayudar a sanar a la nación “, dijo la Obispa Presidente. “Eso es una cosa extraordinaria de hacer posible”.

Instó a los que están en la recepción, todos los cuales apoyan a la misión y ministerio en Haití, a “seguir contando la historia de lo que es posible, la historia de la sanación que fluye de los corazones generosos de todo el mundo.”

El viaje de White en su decisión de donar
White dijo en una entrevista con ENS, antes de la recepción, que su decisión de tomar la iniciativa en la reconstrucción de San Vicente fue el resultado inesperado de una exploración que comenzó hace cerca de 14 años cuando su parroquia realizaba una campaña de capital que recaudó aproximadamente $ 50,000 específicamente para proyectos misioneros. Ella primero se dio cuenta de las necesidades en Haití cuando viajó allí como presidente de un comité parroquial para elegir esos proyectos.

Mientras que la mayoría de ese dinero de alcance misionero pasó otros proyectos, algunos miembros de la parroquia hicieron viajes de misión a Haití y White continuó trabajando en el país, incluyendo con la participación con un centro de maternidad llamada Maison de Naissance cerca de Les Cayes. Ella conoció a San Vicente Director de León cuando era rectora de la congregación episcopal en Torbeck cerca de Maison de Naissance. De personas relacionadas con La Misión Medica para los Niños de Haití u otros, White dijo que había oído hablar de San Vicente de hace muchos años.

White, un médico de medicina interna que se especializó en enfermedades infecciosas, también fue a Haití dos meses después del terremoto del 2010 y trabajó en un hospital de campaña cerca de la frontera con la República Dominicana en los terrenos de un orfanato.

El sismo del 2010 destruyó San Vicente, así como las escuelas primarias de la Santísima Trinidad, las escuelas secundarias, musicales y comerciales, el Convento de las Hermanas de Santa Margarita y la Catedral de la Santísima Trinidad (toda la parte del complejo de la catedral) y la Universidad Episcopal de Haití, colegio San Pedro (una escuela secundaria) y las propiedades de alquiler de generadores de renta de la diócesis.

Mary White, y el obispo Jean Zaché Duracin comparten una risa el 10 de marzo, durante una recepción en la residencia de la obispa presidente en la oficina central de la Iglesia Episcopal de Nueva York para honrar la importante donación de White al Centro de San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados en Port-au-Prince, Haití. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg / Episcopal News Service

Después del terremoto, White dijo, que se enteró de los planes de reconstrucción de la catedral. “Yo escuché y escuché y sé lo importante que es la catedral para la gente – no sólo los episcopales, sino también a las personas en Port-au-Prince – como lugar de reunión central. Pero no me pude conectar como persona a querer contribuir a ello “, dijo.
En San Vicente “las necesidades son más de acuerdo con lo que soy. Estos son niños, muchos de los cuales han sido abandonados por sus padres. Soy una mamá adoptiva, yo soy una doctora y es un lugar donde se da una gran cantidad de atención médica”.

White dijo que también pensaba que San Vicente sería un “gran lugar para los feligreses de San Santiago para poder contribuir” en términos de su tiempo y talento, así como un tesoro, compartiendo sus conocimientos con estudiantes y profesores, y tal vez otras cosas en la comunidad. Indicando que ella no quería “forzarlo en” miembros de San Santiago [St. James], dijo White “me pareció que conseguir que las instalaciones sean construidas permitiría a mucha más gente ayudar”.

‘Dios quiso que fuera así’
Así que invitó a Elizabeth Lowell, directora de la Oficina de Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal, para hablar con los compañeros de San Santiago en grupo de misión sobre ser voluntariado en Haití ante la advertencia aparentemente del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. sobre los viajes a Haití.

Mientras hablaba, Lowell, White dijo que ella comenzó a ver más y más formas en las que tener nuevas instalaciones en San Vicente podrían dar lugar a que más personas se conecten con los ministerios de la escuela. “Luego nos fuimos a esa reunión y le dije: ‘Quiero reconstruir San Vicente ‘”, recuerda White.

Su regalo es, una de las mayores donaciones que White ha hecho. “Para mí, como persona nunca había hecho nada como esto, ni siquiera cerca”. Dijo White.

White dice que su decisión de donar a San Vicente fue una epifanía llena de emoción.

“Cuando le decía a Elizabeth mientras salíamos de San Santiago, me puse a llorar”, dijo White. “Se sintió como un alivio”, porque ahora ella sabe cómo quería gastar parte del dinero que había recibido en un acuerdo de divorcio.

“Me sentía eufórica después”, dijo. “Yo después sentí que Dios quiso que esto fuese así”.

El pasado y futuro de San Vicente
Cuando fue fundada en 1945, San Vicente fue la primera escuela para niños con discapacidad en Haití y sigue siendo el único lugar de enseñanza en braille para los ciegos en el país. Alrededor de la mitad de sus actuales 250 estudiantes son ciegos; los otros tienen múltiples discapacidades físicas. Se les enseña en 12 aulas y más de estos espacios es parte del plan de recuperación.

La escuela es una parte de muchos años de lo que el obispo Duracin llama un “evangelio de la totalidad” de que la Iglesia Episcopal de Haití, conocido localmente como L’Eglise Episcopal de Haití, ha predicado y practicado desde su fundación en 1861. Es un evangelio, Duracin había dicho, que ” puede servir a la gente en su cuerpo, su mente y espíritu”.

“El plan para reconstruir San Vicente hace un llamado para un aumento de la matrícula de 525 alumnos (165 de ellos residenciales). Se necesita nuevos dormitorios compartidos para dar cabida a este último grupo.

También hay planes para una clínica médica con la atención ortopédica y pediátrica, así como para la vista, los oídos y la atención quirúrgica. La clínica servirá a la comunidad que la rodea más allá de la escuela.

Una casa de huéspedes planificada en el centro ofrecerá un lugar para las personas en viajes de misión para quedarse en los jardines, y proporcionará un ingreso para las operaciones. Están previstos en la azotea jardines donde los estudiantes y profesores pueden cultivar alimentos para complementar dos comidas diarias de los estudiantes y así también proporcionarles habilidades. Se espera que los jardines también puedan producir suficientes alimentos que podrían ser vendidos para obtener ingresos.

La escuela ya ha instalado un sistema de purificación de agua que elimina la necesidad de comprar agua embotellada y eventualmente podría convertirse en otra fuente de ingresos.

El taller de prótesis de la escuela ha sido reconstruido, con la ayuda de las Misiones Médicas Católicas Junta, Médicos por la Paz y Hanger Orthopedic Group. Algunos de los niños sordos de más edad están aprendiendo un oficio allí. San Vicente es también hogar del único coro de campana de mano de Haití – cuyos miembros son ciegos. In Léogâne, la diócesis de Faculté des Sciences Infirmières, su escuela de enfermería, no sufrió daños por el terremoto de 2010 y tiene previsto ampliar sus programas y hacer una conexión con el de San Vicente. Un programa de entrenamiento de terapia física y ocupacional aprobado por la Universidad Episcopal de cuatro años se encuentra cerca de la escuela de enfermería. Los estudiantes se internaran en San Vicente.

Un estudiante del Centro de San Vicente para Niños Discapacitados de la Diócesis Episcopal en Port-au-Prince, Haití, estudia braille en noviembre de 2008. El centro sigue siendo el único lugar de enseñanza en braille para los ciegos en el país. Foto: Mary Frances Schjonberg / Episcopal News Service.

Con la promesa de reconstruir San Vicente, White ve la oportunidad de profundizar en la relación entre la Iglesia Episcopal y la escuela, y el país en su conjunto. Ella dijo que espera ser capaz de ser voluntaria en la escuela de forma rutinaria.

Hacer conexiones profundas con las personas necesitadas es importante par White. Ella es miembro de la junta asesora del Instituto para la Justicia y la Democracia en Haití, con sede en Boston  que aboga por los derechos legales de los haitianos y últimamente ha participado en una demanda contra las Naciones Unidas para indemnizar a las víctimas de una epidemia de cólera generalizada en el país.
White también ha pasado los últimos ocho años como voluntaria para el proyecto de derechos humanos de la Escuela de Medicina de Icahn en el hospital Mt. Sinai en Manhattan donde se llevan a cabo exámenes físicos para las personas que buscan asilo en los Estados Unidos. La donación de White no es el final para recaudar fondos para San Vicente. “Todas las necesidades de San Vicente no están siendo satisfechas por este regalo,” dijo ella. “Hay muchas más oportunidades para que las personas donen en  grandes y pequeños niveles”.
Para ello la Oficina de Desarrollo de la Iglesia tiene como objetivo recaudar un adicional de $ 5 millones para la escuela con US $ 1 millón cada uno dirigido a obtener equipo médico y el dormitorio y el mobiliario del aula, y $ 3 millones para fondos para proveer ingresos de operación. Un video sobre la escuela y esas necesidades se encuentra aquí.

White quiere que los episcopales y otros recuerden que todo el trabajo de la iglesia en Haití necesita su apoyo.

“Para la misión de la Iglesia Episcopal en su conjunto, Haití no ha terminado. Todavía tenemos la catedral, todavía hay varias otras entidades que necesitan ser reconstruidas”,  ella dijo.

Por último, dijo: “Quiero animar a la gente a cambiar su forma de pensar acerca de Haití, a tener confianza en el futuro de Haití”.

“Los edificios se están construyendo para el más alto nivel de estándares de terremotos y de estándares arquitectónicos resistentes a los huracanes; se está haciendo de manera deliberada y cuidadosamente, y en muchos aspectos teniendo en cuenta el medio ambiente y espero que este regalo no sólo vaya a conducir a otros regalos grandes y pequeños, pero a un mayor sentido de confianza en el futuro de Haití “.

“Todo el mundo piensa igual que Haití está condenado y que nunca va a salir de su agujero. Espero que esto [la donación] sea una de esas cosas que se van a mostrar que la gente tiene confianza en Haití y en su futuro… Haití no es un caso perdido”.

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

Bert Medley, broadcast journalist, digital innovator, succumbs to cancer

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bertram Albert Medley, Jr., age 69, passed away peacefully at Calvary Hospital in N.Y. Tuesday night (March 11) after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Born on July 21, 1944 in Philadelphia to a family of devout Seventh-day Adventists, he attended an integrated public high school where he discovered two traits in himself that would shape his life both personally and professionally.

Firstly, he learned that he was able instinctively to seek out the human commonalities he shared with others, beyond any racial or religious differences. While this would later inform his journalistic talent for getting to the true “heart” of a news story; more importantly and poignantly, his life-long open minded/big-hearted inclusiveness allowed him to be surrounded in his final months by cherished pastors who were Episcopal priests and Jewish rabbis, by beloved African-American family members and Swedish American “nephews,” and a support team of devoted “framily,” who rivaled any U.N. gathering in their diversity. Skypes from Israel and South Africa were as common to his hospital bed as were the stream of visitors from around the country that brought such comfort to him and amazement to hospital staff. His hospice physician at Calvary, Dr. Carrington commented that “in my entire career, I have rarely seen such an outpouring of love and support for a patient.”

His second discovery at Olney High School, Philadelphia, was the fascination of evolving broadcast technology. This would lead to Bert’s illustrious 33-year career with NBC, first as a network news producer and later as a pioneering visionary who helped lay the groundwork for the digital media age at MSNBC.

Bert caught the broadcast bug after a white, fellow Adventist and classmate invited him to his suburban home to show him the low power radio station he’d set up in his basement. Bert was hooked and the rest was history. From there, he honed his skills working at the college radio station at his alma mater, Temple University. In 1968, he got his first professional television post with NBC News in Atlanta. He later worked in bureaus in Cleveland, Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv, Israel (where he served as Deputy Bureau Chief from 1985-88), before finally landing at network headquarters in New York City.

His innate compassion and keen story telling skills came to the fore when he teamed up with correspondent Bob Dotson to produce pieces were for a Today Show segment called “…in Pursuit of the American Dream,” which ran from 1975 to 1984. Dotson recalls the story that had the biggest impact on Bert “was the one we did on a Philadelphia beat cop, Bill Sample, who granted wishes to sick kids. In a nutshell the cop’s neighborhood effort paved the way for ‘Make a Wish’ and all the other big time charities that followed.  Bert found the story in his hometown and the piece was nominated for an Emmy.”

Bert Medley was also a futurist. He invested in a computer long before it was a household staple, realizing that this device sitting on top of a desk could engage the “viewer” with words, pictures and sound and that this rich multi-media experience – controlled and guided by the user – could have a much greater impact on presenting news content than the passivity of the television screen.

In 1995 he jumped at the chance to be an integral part of the first teams at NBC News working to bring original news content to the internet. Even before MSNBC.com, there was “NBC Supernet” and it was Bert’s vision that helped lead a small band of digital news pioneers to this new age of journalism.

“Bert was instrumental in bringing his television broadcast colleagues to this new frontier,” said Allison Davis, former NBC News colleague. “Few understood this digital realm but Bert led them by the hand, teaching them to ‘think differently.’”

In 1995 there was no book or script. There was no model to follow.  NBC was the first broadcaster to go online and arguably the first news organization to produce original journalism on the internet.

“We made it up as we went along,” Davis said. “Bert created content and sweet talked his way into using the servers of the parent company, General Electric, that provided the hosting, storage and distribution of our original NBC News content.”

Every Friday, Bert worked late to build an online page that chronicled the week’s news. There was even a news quiz with a T-shirt prize for the user who was first to answer the questions correctly. It wasn’t long before NBC Supernet was absorbed by the partnership between NBC News and Microsoft. Bert was tapped to help direct news coverage at MSNBC.com; his last position at NBC News but certainly not his last job in the digital world.

His work at NBC was recognized with awards from The Associated Press, Women in Communications, the Catholic Academy and the Epilepsy Foundation of America. During his broadcast and cable career he had been active in several professional organizations including NATPE- National Association of Television Program Executives,

SIIA – Software & Information Industry Association, NABJ – National Association of Black Journalists, and BAFTA – British Academy of Film and Television Arts New York.

In early 2001, he took early retirement from NBC but his communications career was far from over. Having converted to the Episcopal Church years before, he deepened his connection to the Church when he accepted the post of Director of Television and New Media for Trinity Wall Street in lower Manhattan.

“I realized my entire professional experience prepared me for my work at Trinity,” he said from his bed at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx on his last Christmas Eve. “I thought I was guided to Trinity.”

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Bert Medley was at Trinity Television studios, located in a church building just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. He was preparing to videotape a theological program led by the Right Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, soon to become the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. As the attacks unfolded before their eyes the archbishop led a prayer and Bert went into news producer mode.

“The journalist in me just kicked in,” Bert recalled. In fact, one of the freelance videographers Bert hired that day recorded the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center tower.

The experiences of the archbishop as he and the clergy and countless employees at Trinity then scrambled to save their own lives and the lives of the nursery school children at Trinity Day Care, would inform his book of theological reflections on 9/11, Writing in the Dust: After September 11.

Archbishop Rowan never forgot Bert. Few people who ever met him could. Upon learning of his declining health, he sent a personal note to him with Bishop Herbert Donovan, one of Bert’s close friends and pastor.

In the months following 9/11, Mr. Medley’s team at Trinity Television would go on to document the extraordinary 9-month volunteer ministry that was housed at St. Paul’s Chapel, a Trinity-owned church directly across from the Twin Towers. St. Paul’s miraculously survived the collapse of the towers unscathed and became a respite center for first responders. In 2003, it opened one of the first memorial exhibitions in the area.

During his five years at Trinity Wall Street, Bert also worked on video projects bringing together renowned international theologians of many faiths to explore the roots of fundamentalist violence and extend the call for non-violent reactions to conflict. Through these projects he came to work both with Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Southern Africa and also his successor, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, with whom he developed a close personal friendship.

Bert also became a respected lay leader in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, serving on the vestries of both his own parish, St. Bartholomew’s on Park Avenue, and later at Trinity Wall Street. He also served on the Advisory Board of Episcopal Charities. This did not mean that he forgot his love and respect for the church of his birth. He shared his torn loyalties and recalls being much assuaged by the Rev. Dan Matthews, then rector of Trinity, who reminded Bert that the first client for the Trinity Television production studios he helped revamp was the Seventh-day Adventist program, “Faith for Today.”

Bert’s final professional project fulfilled a life-long personal dream.  After leaving Trinity in 2007, he helped a vibrant new start-up channel “K24” in Nairobi, Kenya to develop into a 24-hr. news station. In a rare moment of racial commentary, his friend Alessandra Pena recalls his sharing how unexpectedly overwhelming it was for him to see an entire news station full of young black journalists after an early career being one of a handful of African Americans in any given U.S. newsroom.

“I joked that he was having his ‘Roots’ moment,” says Ms. Pena, “and he let out that deep wonderful belly laugh of his and said, ‘Absolutely, and I got to see the dream come true at least once, somewhere!’ ”

In October of 2007, while in Kenya, Bert was diagnosed with a recurrence of the spinal astrocytoma he had first battled in 1997. He finally succumbed on March 11 shortly after 11 p.m. surrounded by family and friends, the “framily” who had supported him throughout his final journey.

He is survived by his sister Diane and brother-in-law Larry Smith; brother Carlos and sister-in-law Denise Medley; and nieces Bethany Medley Smith, April Jeanene Medley and Deidre Medley Coutsoumpos.

A funeral service will be held in April at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Park Avenue and 51st Street.  In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations to be made in the name of Bert Medley to “Episcopal Charities of New York” 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY  10025 Attn: Rev. Mary Beth Sasso.

Love, and laundry: Ministries offer hospitality to homeless guests

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A volunteer helps a client load her washing machine at the Venice Beach Laundry Love on the last Monday in January.

[Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles] There’s an exciting ministry washing over the Episcopal church in the Diocese of Los Angeles; it’s called Laundry Love and it brings together congregations and homeless guests over hospitality and laundry.

The line begins to form about 5 p.m. outside the Beach Coin Laundry in Huntington Beach, on the second Wednesday of each month.

And it keeps growing — with homeless men and women, the working poor, those on fixed incomes, or just plain down on their luck, single moms and their children — guests who welcome Laundry Love Huntington Beach as much for the community as the clean clothes.

Giovana, a single mother, accompanied by two of her four children, said her January visit was the first time she had participated in Laundry Love. She drove around the block several times before working up the nerve to park and approach the line.

About 7 p.m., before the laundry actually begins, she and other guests are invited inside, first come, first served, where they receive several bags of groceries, and her children — Kayla, 6, and José, 3 — receive crayons and coloring books.

“A friend of mine told me about this last month, but I just couldn’t believe it was for real,” Giovana says. “Even tonight, I didn’t bring all my dirty clothes; I started not to stop, started not to come in at all, but then I just decided to take a chance.”

Offering a chance for clean clothing is just one aspect of Laundry Love’s mission; the rest is community, health and wellness, according to Steve Bruce, who is married to Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce.

He, along with Christian and Shannon Kassoff, and another couple, Matt and Connie Martin, organized the ministry two years ago. It began as an outreach of thom’s, an emerging ministry that grew from St. Wilfrid of York, Huntington Beach and St. John’s, Rancho Santa Margarita and is dedicated to service.

“When we first started forming thom’s, we said for sure we wanted to have some sort of community presence, community outreach … and this just seemed the right fit,” Bruce said. He serves as a kind of “hospitality ambassador” inviting all sorts of groups — church and otherwise — to support the ministry through volunteering and donation.

“I tell them that this is what Jesus was inviting us to do, to get out of our churches and into the community and to get to know the community and help your neighborhood,” he said. “For me it’s a personal transformation to sit down and listen to the stories of the homeless and the working poor, those who are disabled. For me, the Holy Spirit always shows up and it just feels like a great thing for me to do.”

Healthier eating, healthier living
This particular evening, Jan. 8, begins and ends with food — groceries purchased by Laundry Love from the Second Harvest Food Bank are distributed to guests before the laundry starts — and a hot meal is offered once the washers and dryers are spinning.

Groceries are sorted by category — canned goods, boxed pastas, pancake flour and syrup and other items for guests with access to stoves and refrigerators, who can prepare their own meals — and ready-to-eat food for those living in vehicles or on the streets.

Volunteers from local churches and faith institutions bag and distribute the groceries at Shannon Kassoff’s invitation. “I’ll bring people in one at a time,” she tells volunteers.

“Sometimes they have large families and I’ll tell you how many bags to give them. If they are a family of seven, they’re welcome to have seven bags. OK, I’m going to start bringing people in.”

Next up is the laundry orientation for volunteers, like Tracy Heffelman, also a first-timer. She was attending a Surf City Rotary meeting earlier that day where the Kassoffs made a presentation about a separate heartfelt endeavor — completion of a seven-classroom, 320-student school they helped build in the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

“They were talking about an upcoming trip to Tanzania and then at the end, they mentioned Laundry Love,” Heffelman said. “I said, ‘this is awesome’. I live nearby, I want to help out, so here I am.”

Others, like Salim Majeed and several members of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, are here to observe the operation and replicate it in their own neighborhood.

“This is a good cause and we want to give back to the community,” Majeed said. “We feel obligated to be part of what’s going on,” he said.

‘Clean clothes and conversation’
One of Damian Kassoff’s responsibilities tonight is to be “the quarter person.”

“I make the change on the change machine,” explains Kassoff, 13. “I make the change, put it in the bag. When my mother assigns positions I give quarters to the people who wait for someone to do their load, depending on how many quarters there are.

“My job is doing this and talking to people and putting music on.” It is David Bowie’s birthday, he adds, and also Elvis Presley’s. In tribute, throughout the evening the sounds of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Presley’s “All Shook Up” and “Burning Love” fill in the gaps around the conversations.

Everyone is expected to talk with the guests, Shannon Kassoff tells the volunteers who include members of the outreach ministry from St. George’s, Laguna Hills, and the youth group from the Church of the Messiah, Santa Ana and elsewhere.

“This month marks Laundry Love’s second year,” she begins, amid applause. “We cannot do it without your help. Laundry Love is an opportunity for people to come and get some clean clothes but more than that, to just be in community. A lot of people who come have been coming here for two years so we know them well.

“It’s not the task, it’s about hanging out and talking to them. Cool, let’s get started.”

The Kassoffs live near the laundromat, according to Christian, 44, a full-time information technology manager, who supervises 14 employees in a family-owned business. When they aren’t engaged in outreach work, Shannon serves as a yoga instructor, he says. He also is the diocesan representative for Episcopal Relief & Development and a member of the diocesan Program Group on Global Partnerships.

They will also be leading, along with the Rev. Julie Bryant of Transfiguration, Arcadia, an educational/information trip to El Salvador from Aug. 1-8 this year, he said.

Christian serves as the “outside guy” keeping track of the line while Shannon supervises volunteers inside. The Martins have typically cooked and served up the hot meals.

Inside, Shannon assigns tasks based on availability: those who need to leave earlier, help with the wash. Those who are available until about 10 p.m. are on dryer duty.

While passing out quarters, post-it notes, dryer fabric softener sheets and laundry soap, she offers further instructions and a few reminders borne of experience: “Make sure the door is locked and latched, otherwise it’ll all come spilling out.”

The sticky notes are to keep track of who’s using which machine. “When I bring people in, I will introduce you by name, you’ll have a sticky note, put their name on it and put it on their machine.”

And, always ask first.

“Ask them if they want us to use our soap,” she continues. “Sometimes they have their own, because they may have allergies or sensitivities. Hang onto quarters; you’re putting the quarters in for them and keeping track of them.”

Says Christian: “For the dryers you’re going to start with two quarters and ask them if they want a dryer sheet. Once it stops, have them check the load and if we need to put more quarters in, we will. Talk to Shannon for anything extra. Let her know before you run out of quarters.”

Steve Bruce offers an opening prayer, and other words of respectful wisdom. “Ask,” he says, “always ask people if they want help to take their clothes out.”

Shannon agrees. “Yes, we are helping them, but they are essentially doing their own laundry and some people are particular about their things being touched. Ask, ‘can I help you fold these items or take them out?’ Most of the time, they want help.”

Volunteers wear name tags; T-shirts are available for sale. There is a Facebook page, and Laundry Love Huntington Beach has already helped launch a similar venture in Venice Beach and is consulting on additional ones, in Silver Lake and Garden Grove and elsewhere.

Volunteers Angelo of thad’s, left, and Christian Kassoff of thom’s chat with a guest at the Venice Beach Laundry Love as volunteer Steve Bruce, center, stands ready to supply other clients with detergent.

A ‘slightly chaotic’ movement, in Venice Beach
Scott Claassen calls Laundry Love Venice Beach, a ministry of thad’s, “slightly chaotic … but it allows folks to get to know one another and to share the experience of ‘I’m doing something I’m not in complete control of and I’m really putting myself out there’.”

thad’s grew out of the Rev. Jimmy Bartz’s ministry at All Saints, Beverly Hills in 2006 and has occupied numerous locations, before settling on the current one, the Writer’s Boot Camp at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica.

After a volunteer night at Laundry Love Huntington Beach last summer, Claassen, a thad’s lay associate pastor said: “our community fell in love with it and we said, ‘look, why aren’t we doing this?’”

There were a few bumps along the way — the first Laundromat that agreed to work with them “decided they did not want to bring the greater homeless population there,” Claassen said. But they found another location “and we end up packing the Laundromat on a night they wouldn’t have much business. It works out well.”

They average around 30 volunteers and 70 guests when they gather on the last Monday evenings of the month, he said. The evening begins at 7 p.m. and ends about 10 p.m. They provide a simple meal but no groceries, at least not yet, he said.

Laundry Love began about 10 years ago in Ventura County and has since expanded across the nation, to more than 100 such ministries, according to the Kassoffs. While the ministry has a very practical side, of helping people get clean clothes, it also “opens people up to an experience of God’s love in our lives,” Claassen said.

“The majority of the folks are homeless or living in shelters and most of them are on the streets but, definitely, we have some folks that have jobs. In fact, we ordered pizza and the pizza deliveryman was somebody who had been a guest the prior time.

“He was so excited. He came in and was serving the pizza up with everyone, he was very grateful.”

He added that: “We are doing laundry for people and it’s helping them alleviate their economic pressures. We’re also providing an area where people from our community and from thad’s community and the greater Venice population can interact in a safe and engaging environment. To me, that’s where the real gold is—the emphasis is on love, not laundry.”

He added: “I want to emphasize what a privilege it is to do this every month and how much it has meant for the thad’s community. We’ve really grown from being able to step out and talk with folks and engage the community in that way. We’ve had folks from Laundry Love show up at thad’s. It has enriched our community to put ourselves out there and to be willing to change.”

Jesse, 43, a blues singer and electric guitar player who lives in his van, says his music mirrors his life: “It’s about destruction, chaos.”

The pony-tailed former concrete and metal trades worker hums and plays recorded renditions of his music while waiting for his wash to finish. He has never fully recovered from on-the-job injuries and now “I’m completely broke,” he says.

Laundry Love is a bright spot in what has been, for him, a whole lot of darkness. “I have severe allergies. If my clothes get dusty, I break out in painful rashes. This helps me. I have medical problems, problems people don’t understand. I experience chronic pain; I only sleep about two to three hours a night, because of muscle spasms. It makes your blues become deeper. I feel ready to die at 43.”

For Kat, who lives in the neighborhood and is on a fixed income, Laundry Love makes the difference when she runs short before the end of the month. It helps with prescription medication, and those little extras, like buying her dad a birthday gift this month.

“It is so uplifting for me to be here,” she said. “It’s so encouraging. I feel less strife in my life.”

LuzAna Figueroa said it was important for the Church of the Messiah’s @youth group to participate in Laundry Love.

“We wanted to show them that they can be the change in the community we’d all like to see,” she said. “If you don’t teach kids, if you don’t expose the to compassion, then those core values get lost in the mix.”

One of the students, Jesus agreed. “I enjoy helping people out,” he said. “This is not half-hearted. It’s hands on. You get to interact with everyone. You get a sense of how this is helping someone. It’s an awesome program.”

Meanwhile, Troy, 49, goes to the barbershop next door for a much-needed haircut. The barber cuts children’s hair for free; Laundry Love pays $8 for adult haircuts. “It helps me out a lot,” he said of Laundry Love. “I really like it.”

Shannon Kassoff said it takes about $500 to pull off one Laundry Love event; about 15 volunteers are needed for an average of about 70 guests, she said. The ministry survives through T-shirt sales, and donations, of money, laundry products, and the hot meals, usually cooked by Matthew Martin.

Tonight, dinner is chicken, rolls and salad and Shannon offers volunteers another word of wisdom: “We’re going to have dinner as soon as we get all the washing machines full. So, if you didn’t get a particular job, it would be helpful if you could go out and help serve dinner.

“The other thing, if you don’t have a job you can go outside and hang out with the guests. That’s what it’s all about. That’s where it’s happening.”

‘Go and do likewise’: Congregations embrace homeless communities

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] Polly Morelli stocks her car with a dozen or so “Blessings in a Bag” and “usually by the end of the month I’ve given them all out,” she says.

At a cost of about a dollar per bag, she and other Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Diego wrapped up their Feb. 21-22 annual convention, packing the sack lunches with Vienna sausage, applesauce, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, water and nonperishable foods, utensils, hand sanitizer, prayers and local 211 resource information.

“[The bags contain] things you can eat without having to heat up or prepare in any way. We keep them in our cars so if you’re at the corner where there’s someone with a sign (asking for help), you can give them a bag and a smile,” Morelli told the Episcopal News Service (ENS). “It’s such an easy thing to do. And it’s a solution for people who are uncomfortable wondering, do we give money, do we not give money?”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she witnessed the ministry in action when Morelli handed over a sack to someone asking for assistance. Jefferts Schori was attending the 40th annual San Diego diocesan convention, themed “Build the Serving Church: Christ for the World.”

“It was gratefully received,” the presiding bishop said. “The delegates to the diocesan convention were given bags as they left – to go and do likewise.”

An estimated 600,000 people are homeless on any given night across the nation, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development survey conducted by homeless shelters on a single night in January 2013. Nearly one-fourth of all homeless are under the age of 18, according to the study; 2014 results are not yet available.

But congregations across the Episcopal Church are creatively responding by embracing homeless people in their local communities, through art and music, worship, food and shelter.

Homeless Jesus; ‘A Change is Gonna Come’
The life-size bronze statue of the “homeless Jesus” curled up on a park bench in front of St. Alban’s Church in Davidson, North Carolina, is so realistic that “if you walked up on it at dusk you think there’s really a homeless person lying there,” according to the Rev. David Buck, rector.

He hopes the statue, a memorial, “conveys to our own church that we understand our faith is expressed through working with and for the marginalized of society, which the homeless Jesus represents well. For those who walk by, the statue serves to remind them that they live in an affluent community but not everyone lives that way, and people of faith have this challenge before them.” [A separate ENS story about Homeless Jesus is available here.]

The crucifixion marks in the sculpture’s feet are one of the only identifying features on the Homeless Jesus. Photo: Susan McCoy

In University City, Missouri, the Rev. Rebecca Ragland admits to a few misses while trying to start a morning chapel service at a local hospitality center for the homeless community.

“There were about 150 to 200 people in a big room sitting at long tables,” said Ragland, interim priest at Church of the Holy Communion. “They announced we would be available in the chapel to do Eucharist. Nobody came. “The second time we went, three people showed up.”

Eventually, she got a hit. “We ended up going back to the big room and said ‘we’re just going to do music with you’.” Soon the whole room was rocking to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Lean on Me”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “A Change Is Gonna Come,” she said.

She developed a 30-song repertoire for the ministry, PIECE, so-named for “a puzzle piece. We’re each a part of each other,” she said. “And then when you say ‘piece’ you think of the peace of Christ, so there’s a duality of meaning.”

It has led to other involvement – hand-knitted scarves from church groups as well as volunteer crooners. Everyone takes turn leading songs, and “once in a while, I give a story,” said Ragland, 45 “Sometimes we dance. Sometimes we cry. Often, we laugh at each other and always we sing. It is pure joy.”

Similarly, “Creative Expressions” at Christ Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, uses collage, crocheting, knitting and other weekly artistic projects to reach out to women who face challenges of many kinds, including homelessness, according to project founder Linda Garner.

“The projects we finish we donate to a local women’s shelter and they use them as fundraising or give them to guests at the shelter,” Garner told ENS recently. “It’s like a pay-it-forward thing.”

All participants need do is show up, she added. “There’s no pressure to create anything a certain way … you don’t even have to give your name,” Garner said. During the creative process, “emotions come out in a variety of ways,” she added. “There’s a lot of talking that takes place during the hour and a half we’re here. It’s pretty free-flowing.”

Childcare and snacks provide incentive for moms to return. “We’ve discovered that the moms come back because the kids like it,” added Garner.

“It’s a good partnership between church and community,” she said. “There are so many churches that sit idle during the week and they have this wonderful space. We’re not evangelizing or doing anything but the hospitality piece of it, and opening the church doors and welcoming women. For some of them it may be the first time they’ve even been in a church.”

‘I’d rather have Jesus’ – church community on the streets
At first Eddie Holmes attended the Church of the Common Ground’s outdoor worship strictly for “the goodie bags.

“But, after while it wasn’t about the lunch, it was about the service,” Holmes told ENS.

A former cement construction worker, he “took a wrong turn” with crack cocaine and ended up on the streets, eventually spending three years in prison where his life turned around, said Holmes, 65.

Now he leads prayer in downtown Atlanta “because Rev. Mary [Wetzel] delegates some of her responsibilities to keep us sharp,” he said laughingly. He sings old-time gospel, songs like “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold,” and writes poetry and daily devotionals to try to keep the people inspired and encouraged “because I know what the church did for me,” he said.

Common Ground is “a church community on the streets of Atlanta” which offers weekday and Sunday worship, prayer, spiritual support, bible study, community, snacks and even a nonmedical foot clinic, according to Wetzel.

“That ministry is called Common Soles. We wash and massage feet,” Wetzel said. “We give away socks; a reflexologist comes, and so do volunteers from other churches.”

Volunteers bring sack lunches for after-Sunday worship; some of them, along with some parishioners, join Wetzel some weekdays on the streets: “I just keep walking and asking God to direct me to those who might need a conversation or a blessing,” she said.

A church van houses a portable altar, about 20 chairs, canopies (“for when it’s raining”), worship supplies, socks, toiletry kits, eyeglasses, and other items. “Sometimes, if we’re going on a retreat or to the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum or something, the van becomes a storage place where they can store their bags.”

Average Sunday attendance is about 75 and “we’re just trying to get across the message that we are all God’s beloved right now and that we have gifts and we need to use them, no matter where we are in our life,” Wetzel said. “We want them to know that someone’s praying for them as person to person and not so that they’ll be fixed or changed, and that God is shining a light on their path for them.”

“I want to be a living example for Christ,” agreed Holmes, who now has an apartment, furnished with church donations. “I let them know that they are needed; that just because they don’t have money or the material stuff or a place to stay God has not turned his back on them. I let them know that everyone is needed in the church.”

Similarly, the Rev. Beth Tjoflat also walked Jacksonville streets, before founding the Church Without Walls in the Diocese of Florida. The church will celebrate its first anniversary for outdoor worship on Easter, she said.

Average attendance is about 70 and Tjoflat, 53, estimated the ministry serves about 500 cups of coffee along with worship; local volunteers prepare give-away sack lunches. Both women say they were inspired by the work of the Rev. Deborah Little Wyman, who founded Ecclesia Ministries and common cathedral, an outdoor ministry on Boston Commons in 1996.

The key to beginning the ministry, she said, is to be “willing to be vulnerable and take risks and make a mistake and be a fool for Christ.” It may seem a huge undertaking, but “something always enables us to take that step and begin to do.”

‘God’s love, shown in the kitchen’
From a sit-down four-course meal including cheese course at the American Cathedral in Paris to St. David’s Church’s buffet-style service under a bridge in San Antonio, Texas, Episcopalians around the church are feeding the hungry.

In Paris, four churches and a synagogue take turns cooking and serving restaurant-style lunches to about 64 people each Friday, according to cathedral lay leader Judy Nicault.

While each church shops for food and provides chefs to cook, “we all share the volunteers who come and cook and chop and set and clean up” and serve the meal restaurant-style, she added.

The meals cost about 150 Euros or roughly $193; guests range from retired French citizens struggling to make ends meet to those living on the streets. “These are people who have had jobs, good jobs in the past and have gotten to a place where they run out of money,” Nicault said.

No one is required to show documentation, only to sign up for the Friday lunch at the beginning of the week. “We want to make sure everybody gets fed,” Nicault explained. “They get a main course always with a vegetable and a starch and a salad and cheese course –because we’re in France –and dessert. Most is all freshly made.”

The program is 20 years old; still, “every week for me is like a miracle sometimes,” Nicault said. “We want the experience to be dignified and to give them a place to relax and be waited on for the hour or so they eat their lunch,” she said. “We’re doing this out of our faith, but not like an imposition of what we believe, this is God’s love, shown in the kitchen.”

In San Antonio, volunteers from ages 8 to 80 get in on the action every third Sunday when St. David’s Church cooks and serves up buffet-style baked ziti and meat sauce, salad, veggies, breads and pastries under a downtown freeway bridge.

“It’s just an amazing opportunity for young and old; it’s an intergenerational event,” according to youth and family minister Sarah Kates. “So many lives have been touched.”

Volunteers bake the pasta Saturday, add finishing touches on Sunday, and the church sends them off with a blessing, she said. Along with the meal, they bring donated jackets, blankets, hygiene kits and other items.

Jackie Bucci, 61, a 10-year volunteer, spends as much time as possible walking the line, visiting with more than 150 guests who typically show up. “They smile, they laugh with us, tell us jokes,” she said.

‘Meeting people where they’re at’ with hope
“Organic” is how the Rev. Kevin Stewart describes the Hospitality Center’s evolution; it started four years ago after none of the local agencies had a response to the question “what are we doing for homeless people?” he said.

Located at St. Luke’s Church in Racine, Wisconsin, it has morphed into an emergency shelter, community service agency feeding about 165 people daily and offering transitional and permanent housing, mental health services, clothing, and access to showers, and computers.

Brad Meinholz, 48, a former machinist and mechanic, said that he would have frozen to death on the streets, had it not been for a two-month stay at the center’s emergency shelter.  “This winter has been brutal. It was like sitting in a freezer with a cold wind blowing on you; nobody would have lived if they were outside,” he said.

“We gather together,” he told ENS of the hundred or so people at the center on March 10. “There’s a free lunch, coffee – they’ve helped me so much, with clothes and bus fare to try to get to jobs.”

Stewart said: “Who we are is what we do. We share good news in, by and through relationship, believing that God meets us where we’re at when we meet people where they’re at.”

Similarly, the Rev. Susan Allison Hatch, said her congregation of about 40 people meets Sundays at Albuquerque’s St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a day shelter founded in the 1980s by the Episcopal Church.

“One of the people who attends builds $2 million-plus homes but he’s there because he believes it’s real,” Hatch said. “That’s where he chooses to worship. There are also people who sleep on the streets no matter how cold it is because that’s where they’re most comfortable.”

As missioner to the homeless for the Diocese of the Rio Grande, she provides pastoral care to the homeless population in Albuquerque and supports similar ministries throughout the diocese.

Congregations don’t have to be large to reach out, she said, citing a small mission congregation 45 minutes south of Albuquerque that nonetheless provides weekly meals and has developed a ministry of providing work boots to people “because those are way too expensive to buy and really necessary for many of the kinds of jobs people in New Mexico have,” she said. “They are such a small congregation but they give generously and do heroic work with people who are homeless.”

The Harford Family House in Aberdeen, Maryland, was started 25 years ago after a homeless mother and her children asked for help at a local Episcopal church. Last year the center, which has about a $1 million annual operating budget and 30 properties for emergency, transitional, and low-income housing and housing for those with disabilities, served 144 people, 90 of them children. They also had to turn away 700 requests for service because of lack of housing options, according to director Joyce Duffy.

“From that seed, this organization has grown to the largest transitional housing program in Harford County and the only one that I know of that serves intact families [that include both parents],” she said.

About 30 Episcopal and other congregations “adopt” one- and two-bedroom apartments, and volunteers like Linda Eilman, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Churchville, “walk alongside our clients, helping them feel loved and connected to the community and, when appropriate, sharing their faith. Our program can be technical and we love people the best we can, but that mentoring piece is very critical to what we do,” Duffy said.

“I usually try to get to the apartment before the family moves in to leave a fruit basket to welcome them,” said Eilman, 69, a retired nurse. Apartments are furnished through donations, and families receive life skills and job search education and support.

“I’ve taken the mother in my current family out several times, to look for jobs and help her put applications in. It’s a wonderful program to give somebody a chance at life again.”

Duffy said many program residents never expected to be homeless. “We had a person in the shelter with a Ph.D., a single mom in the medical field, who couldn’t work for a while and became homeless. We have had people who used to have 401Ks and who had an injury in their family that bankrupted them,” she said.

Participants in the Interfaith Hospitality Network Mainline (IHNM) also receive tangible and spiritual support from about a dozen churches and synagogues in Southeastern Pennsylvania, who take turns hosting families who are homeless.

It was the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer’s turn to host March 2-8 and parish coordinator Mary Hopkins was sleepy from checking nightly on the Bryn Mawr church’s guests but bubbling with enthusiasm.

“It’s more than a housing program,” Hopkins told ENS. “It’s really trying to get people up on their feet in a sustainable, self-supporting way.”

IHNM director Sue White-Herchek said program participants are low-income or no-income, mostly families with children or single women with low skill levels; the average length of stay is about four months and the program is typically able to successfully assist about 70 percent, she said. Churches can usually accommodate up to three families at a time in church classrooms converted nightly into bedrooms.

During the day, families receive case management, life skills classes and job coaching, medical attention and help with job searches. The IHNM van takes them to the host church at night where they receive a meal and company. Each congregation has a coordinator like Hopkins who organizes activities during the families’ stay.

Through the program, Susan Ayres, INHM board chair and former Redeemer parish coordinator, said she has gained tremendous respect and appreciation for the mostly single mothers and “the effort that they are willing to make and have made to change their lives for the benefit of their families … because I’m not sure I could do that myself.”

At the same time, the program “has given this community … an understanding of what homelessness looks like,” Ayres said. “It’s not just the mentally ill or addiction-related. They are families who just through some bad luck or something have found themselves in a very challenging situation.

“It has helped people to realize that they can make a difference by doing some very simple things, like just providing dinner for somebody for one night,” she said. “It is a hands-on mission outreach effort that can involve their entire family.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

‘Homeless Jesus’ finds a home in North Carolina

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The “Homeless Jesus” sculpture is designed to be interactive and has drawn the attention of adults and children alike. Photo: Alleen Barber

[Episcopal News Service] Downtown Davidson, North Carolina, has all of the idyllic, small-town Southern charm a weekend visitor could want: old-fashioned brick sidewalks, quaint shops and lots of leafy trees. Residents of the town, known primarily for its prestigious liberal arts college, are proud of their postcard-ready community, but the recent installation of a sculpture outside of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church has reminded locals that not all members of the affluent community can afford to live in the town’s beautiful homes – or in permanent housing of any type.

A new arrival in the neighborhood
The sculpture, “Homeless Jesus” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, is a life-size bronze that depicts Jesus as a homeless man huddled in a blanket and sleeping on a park bench. The blanket’s folds hide the man’s face, and the only clues to his identity are the crucifixion marks through his feet and a nearby plaque revealing the piece’s name. From a distance, it is easy to mistake the sculpture for a living person. Situated in front of St. Alban’s at the entrance to the upscale St. Alban’s Square neighborhood, the artwork rests in stark contrast to its surroundings.

From a distance and especially in low light, the sculpture looks like a living person. Photo: Susan McCoy

The sculpture is a memorial to late St. Alban’s parishioner Kate MacIntyre. Her husband, former St. Alban’s senior warden Peter Macon, and family friend Martin McCoy, who donated the funds for a piece of public art in MacIntyre’s honor, spent years searching for the right memorial.

“It struck us that we wanted to challenge the parish,” Macon said. “This sculpture offers a very clear message of discipleship. Once we found [the sculpture], it took us about 18 seconds to decide this is what we wanted to do.”

Responses from across the country have poured in since the sculpture’s installation on Feb. 21. Interest from media outlets have ranged from Charlotte’s local NPR affiliate to the CNN Belief blog to the digital version of London’s Daily Mail. The Davidson Police Department reports receiving calls from neighborhood residents who believed the sculpture was a real person. One caller even expressed concern about the sculpture’s bare feet and thin blanket and volunteered to take the man chili and water. Staff members at St. Alban’s say visitors continue to snap photos, leave flowers and sit on the exposed section of the sculpture’s bench.

“People we do not know have been walking into the church cold just to tell us how much they appreciate the statue,” said the Rev. Greg McIntyre, associate rector at St. Alban’s and Episcopal campus minister at Davidson College. “We’ve been getting e-mails from as far away in Oregon to support this.”

While the clergy at St. Alban’s say responses to the piece have been overwhelmingly positive, the sculpture also created some controversy in the community, driven largely by strong backlash to critical comments two residents made through local news sources. The author of one letter to the editor published on the local news site DavidsonNews.net shortly after the sculpture’s installation wrote, in part, “I have stepped over actual homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk in New York City and not been as creeped out as I am walking past this sculpture.” Another resident of the St. Alban’s Square neighborhood told the local NBC affiliate she called the police out of concern for the neighborhood’s safety when she saw the sculpture for the first time.

The internet response to these comments was swift and sometimes vitriolic. While the responses largely supported St. Alban’s and “Homeless Jesus,” the intensity of the backlash left many community members feeling as though the responders, like the original commenters, missed the artwork’s message.

“I hate to see that we’re getting a lot of the attention we are because it has given people a chance to take shots at the woman interviewed on television and the man who wrote the letter to the editor,” McIntyre said. “Jesus tells us to love our enemies. In this day and age, our ‘enemies’ are normally those who think differently. It raises the question of how we reach out to them without seeming patronizing.”

Tough conversations, no easy answers
That question of how to engage in conversations about housing issues is an important one to a growing number of community members.

According to St. Alban’s deacon, the Rev. Rebecca Yarbrough, camps of homeless individuals are visible from the off ramps along Interstate Highway 77 throughout the northern Charlotte suburbs. The nearby Mooresville Soup Kitchen, at which members of St. Alban’s volunteer, serves up to 200 people per day in an area that locals consider to be reasonably affluent.

Though the anecdotal evidence abounds, concrete information regarding the scope of homelessness and housing insecurity outside of the Charlotte metro area is difficult to locate. That is something Yarbrough hopes to change through a newly forming coalition of community organizations.

At St. Alban’s February 2013 outreach retreat, members of the church identified homelessness and housing insecurity as two primary areas on which to focus in the coming year. At the time, the parish supported the work of Room in the Inn, a program of the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte that transports individuals in need of shelter from the metro area to churches and colleges located up to 30 miles away. There they receive a warm, safe place to sleep and a few hot meals before returning to Charlotte the next day.

Some members of St. Alban’s, however, felt the call to address the shelter needs of those in their own community. The conversation around homelessness and housing insecurity continued throughout the next year, but the lack of specific information about community needs slowed progress.

Then “Homeless Jesus” arrived.

“The Holy Spirit moved,” Yarbrough explained. “The sculpture’s presence has started to accelerate the conversation.”

Partly inspired by the sculpture, local community groups working with homelessness and housing insecurity will gather for the first time in the coming weeks to begin defining the scope of local needs before developing a plan to meet those needs.

Housing questions extend beyond homelessness
While the coalition begins to form around the area’s most difficult housing challenges, the Town of Davidson also struggles to address growing concerns over shrinking socioeconomic diversity.

According to Marcia Webster, executive director of the Davidson Housing Coalition, finding housing in town is a challenge for many professionals working in Davidson. With a current median asking price of just over $400,000, homes in Davidson are out of reach for many who work there, including many teachers, local government employees and members of Davidson’s service industry.

“These are people who deserve to live in a safe, clean and affordable home,” Webster said. “Many people who grew up in the area and have family in the area cannot afford to live in the town where they’ve lived their whole lives.”

To address the issue of narrowing socioeconomic diversity, in 2001 the Davidson Town Board passed an ordinance requiring 12.5 percent of all new home construction to be affordable housing units. This includes three of the Davidson Housing Coalition’s affordable housing townhomes located in the St. Alban’s Square neighborhood, within sight of the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture.

The clergy and parishioners of St. Alban’s hope the sculpture continues to provoke reactions and start conversations that lead to a broader recognition of Davidson’s socioeconomic diversity and increased community support for homeless ministries.

“Our church has always believed that art is intrinsically related to spirituality, and we have always been committed to social justice work,” the Rev. David Buck, rector of St. Alban’s, said. “This combines the two, and it’s incredible. It reminds us that our work among the poor and the marginalized is what gives our faith authenticity.”

– Summerlee Walter is the communications coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

EPPN: Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Our Communities

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[Episcopal Public Policy Network alert] Violence in America has reached epidemic proportions. In 2010 alone, 16,000 persons died through homicide, and 38,000 committed suicide. During the first decade of the 21st century, 335,609 Americans were shot and killed, a total that exceeds the population of St. Louis, MO, Pittsburgh, PA, or Orlando, FL. Each year, an average 237,868 persons in the U.S. are victims of rape or sexual violence, while over 3.2 million young people suffer from bullying . The statistics are both disturbing and overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know how to address such a monumental problem.

“Breaking the cycle of violence” is a commonly used phrase, but what does it really mean? This phrase might bring to mind peace talks in the Middle East, nuclear nonproliferation, or universal background checks on firearms. While these are the better known examples, the definition of violence expands beyond these causes to also include bullying, sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, suicide, and many other types of violence.

These forms of violence that can become a vicious cycle often begin within our communities and our homes. While policy is a useful tool in breaking the cycle of violence, we must also consider personal responses that we can undertake this very moment to supplement and reinforce official legislation.

The first place to begin is at home. What movies, television shows, or video games are accessible in your household? Do these media lift up peaceful values or do they glorify a culture of violence? We can’t protect our children from all forms of violent media, yet it’s important to have an honest conversation with them about the violence that they witness onscreen or in everyday life. Even if you do not have children, you can cultivate a peaceful household by using nonviolent communication with your partner, parents, or roommates.

Beyond the household, there are many ways you can address the culture of violence at the community level. Getting to know your neighbors, hosting community forums on violence prevention, and cooperating with local law enforcement to educate and include young people in preventing crime are all excellent ways to become involved. Engage your congregation in a service for nonviolence, attend Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal National Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence on April 9th -11th, 2014, or join faith leaders in a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend on March 13th -16th, 2014. The more you work together with your neighbors to raise awareness and promote open dialogue on violence prevention, the stronger your effort will be.

Episcopal tradition calls us to oppose violence at every level of common life, and to build just and nonviolent relationships throughout the world. Next time you hear the phrase “breaking the cycle of violence,” remember that you have the agency to break the cycle right now through monitoring media, building relationships, raising awareness, and communicating carefully. Only then can the “cycle of violence” be countered by a “spiral of peace.” This spiral begins in your home and moves outward, circling family, neighbors, and your world community in compassion, education, and awareness, so that one day “violence shall no more be heard in thy land.”

Deadline extended for nominations for positions, committees, boards

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The deadline to submit nominations for various Episcopal Church positions, committees or boards to be elected during the next General Convention has been extended to April 1.

The Episcopal Church Joint Standing Committee on Nominations of the General Convention announced the extension for the following committees/boards:

Member, Disciplinary Board for Bishops
Member, Executive Council
Member, General Board of Examining Chaplains
Trustee, The Church Pension Fund
Trustee, The General Theological Seminary

Elections will take place at the 78th General Convention, to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, June 25 to Friday, July 3, 2015.

The nomination form is available in English, Spanish, French and Chinese. More information, duties of each position, instructions and nomination forms are available here.

For more information contact gcoffice@episcopalchurch.org.

Se amplía el plazo para presentar nominaciones para posiciones, comités y juntas  de la Iglesia Episcopal

[11 de marzo de 2014] La fecha límite para presentar nominaciones para posiciones, comités, juntas de la iglesia Episcopal, a ser elegidos en la próxima Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se ha extendido hasta el 1 de abril.

El Comité Permanente Conjunto de la Iglesia Episcopal para la Convención General anunció la extensión para los siguientes comités/juntas.

Se aceptan nominaciones para los siguientes comités/juntas:
Miembro, Junta de Disciplina para Obispos
Miembro, Consejo Ejecutivo
Miembro, Junta General de Capellanes Examinadores
Miembro del consejo de administración,  Church Pension Fund [Fondo de Pensiones de   la Iglesia]
Miembro del consejo de administración, Seminario General de Teología

Las elecciones se llevarán a cabo en la 78 ª Convención General, que tendrá lugar en Salt Lake City, Utah, desde el jueves 25 de junio al viernes 3 de julio de 2015.

El formulario de nominaciones está disponible en inglés, español, francés y chino. Más información sobre funciones de cada puesto, las instrucciones y los formularios de nominaciones está disponible aquí.

Para obtener más información comuníquese con gcoffice@episcopalchurch.org.

Date limite repoussée à
soumettre des candidatures
pour les postes, comités et conseils
de l’Église épiscopale

 

[le 11 mars 2014]  La date limite à soumettre des candidatures pour des divers postes, comités et conseils de l’Église épiscopale a été repoussée au 1er avril.

Le Comité conjoint permanent pour les candidatures de la Convention générale de l’Église épiscopale a annoncé la prolongation pour les comités/conseils suivants:

On accepte les nominations pour les comités/conseils suivants:

Membre du Conseil de discipline pour les évêques Membre du Conseil exécutif Membre du Burea général des aumôniers examinateurs
Administrateur du Fonds de pension de l’Église Administrateur du Séminaire générale de théologie

Les élections se dérouleront lors de la Convention générale 2015, qui se tiendra à Salt Lake City dans l’Utah, jeudi le 25 juin jusqu’à vendredi, le 3 juillet 2015.
On peut trouver des formulaires de candidature en anglais, espagnol, français et chinois. On peut trouver davantage d’information, les obligations de chaque poste, les instructions et les formulaires de candidature ici:

http://www.generalconvention.org/gc/gc2015-nominations

Pour davantage d’information veuillez vous adresser à gcoffice@episcopalchurch.org.

Episcopal Church’s Haiti rebuilding effort gets major boost

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Even prior to the 2010 earthquake, students at the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, stretched the space available at the school. Rebuilding plans call for more classrooms. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] A New York Episcopalian has taken the lead in the effort to rebuild the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s St. Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.

Mary White’s gift was celebrated March 10 during a reception at the presiding bishop’s residence in the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The specific amount of the donation was not announced at the reception but Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori thanked White for her “willingness and generosity in offering a lead gift for the reconstruction of St. Vincent’s new facilities.”

“It is a remarkable statement – a remarkable witness – to what is possible,” she said, also thanking White “for challenging us and helping all of us to be more generous and to help heal the world.”

White is a member of St. James Episcopal Church in Manhattan and a physician.

She said during the gathering that she feels “quite confident that the Episcopal Church, arm in arm with the Haitian church, can rebuild Haiti in a way that will be supporting social, cultural, educational and medical efforts throughout the country; not just in Port-au-Prince, not just with St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children.”

White said she was inspired to make her donation by all she has heard from Episcopal Church leaders about “what progress has been made [in Haiti], what progress can be made and the conscientiousness with which it is being done.”

Her gift, she said specifically to St. Vincent’s Director Pere Sadoni Leon and Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, is meant to show that the church has “great confidence” in the work they are doing.

“The earthquake of 2010 destroyed not only St. Vincent’s facilities, but also St. Vincent’s children’s hope in a better future,” Sadoni told the gathering.

Knowing that St. Vincent’s will be rebuilt is not only great news for its children “but also for the handicapped sector in Haiti,” he said.

What Leon called “this fabulous donation” will rebuild the destroyed infrastructure of the center and will help to improve and extend its program to serve more people than before the quake, he said.

“If you could see my heart and the hearts of the children, you would understand at which level we consider this donation.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori March 10 hosted a reception to thank Mary White, center, for her “lead gift” to rebuild the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The center’s director, Pere Sadoni Leon, left, later said White’s gift will also rebuild the hope of the children at the school. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Jefferts Schori, noting that both Leon and White mentioned hope in their remarks, said the hope that St. Vincent’s represents to Haiti, as well as to the Episcopal Church and the world, is about “the reality that there’s a place for all God’s children in the world.”

White’s donation and the work of St. Vincent’s “gives children who would be discarded in other places a real role in the rebuilding of the nation. They are not only the recipients of care, they become participants and the partners in helping to heal the nation,” the presiding bishop said. “That is a remarkable thing to make possible.”

She urged those at the reception, all of whom support mission and ministry in Haiti, to “keep telling the story of possibility, the story of healing that flows out from generous hearts across the world.”

White’s journey to her donation decision
White said in an ENS interview prior to the reception that her decision to take the lead on the St. Vincent’s rebuilding was the unexpected outcome of an exploration she began close to 14 years ago when her parish mounted a capital campaign that raised approximately $50,000 specifically for mission projects. She first became aware of the needs in Haiti when she traveled there as chair of a parish committee to choose those projects.

While the majority of that mission outreach money went other projects, some parish members did take mission trips to Haiti and White continued to work in the country, including being involved with a birth center called Maison de Naissance near Les Cayes. She first met St. Vincent’s Director Leon when he was rector of the Episcopal congregation in Torbeck near Maison de Naissance. From people connected with Children’s Medical Mission to Haiti and others, White said she’d heard about St. Vincent’s for many years.

White, a doctor of internal medicine who specialized in infectious disease, also went to Haiti two months after the 2010 earthquake and worked in a field hospital near the border with the Dominican Republic on the grounds of an orphanage.

The 2010 quake destroyed St. Vincent’s as well as the Holy Trinity primary, secondary, music and trade schools, the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Margaret and Holy Trinity Cathedral (all part of the cathedral complex), and the Episcopal University of Haiti, College Saint Pierre (a secondary school) and the diocese’s income-producing rental properties.

Mary White and Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin share a laugh March 10 during a reception at the presiding bishop’s residence in the Episcopal Church Center in New York to honor White’s major donation to St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

After the quake, White said, she heard about the plans to rebuild the cathedral. “I listened and I listened and I know how important the cathedral was to the people – not just Episcopalians but also the people in Port-au-Prince – as a central meeting place. But I couldn’t connect as a person to wanting to contribute towards it,” she said.

At St. Vincent’s “the needs there are more in sync with who I am. These are children, many of whom have been abandoned by their parents. I’m an adoptive mom; I’m a physician and it’s a place where a lot of medical care is given.”

White said she also thought St. Vincent’s would be a “great place for St. James parishioners to be able to contribute” in terms of their time and talent as well as treasure, sharing their skills with students and faculty, and perhaps others in the community. Noting that she didn’t want to “force it on” St. James’ members, White said “it just seemed like getting that facility built would allow for a lot more people to help.”

‘God meant this to be’
So she invited Elizabeth Lowell, director of the Episcopal Church’s Development Office, to speak to St. James’ Partners in Mission group about volunteering in Haiti in the face of the U.S. State Department’s seemingly standing warning about travel in Haiti.

As Lowell spoke, White said she began to see more and more ways in which having new facilities at St. Vincent’s could result in more people connecting with the school’s ministries.

“Then we left that meeting and I said to her: ‘I want to rebuild St. Vincent’s,’” White recalled.

Her gift is by far the largest donation White has ever made. “For me as an individual I have never done anything like this; not even close,” she said.

White says her decision to donate to St. Vincent’s was an emotion-filled epiphany.

“When I told Elizabeth as we walked out of St. James, I started to cry,” White said. “It felt like a relief” because she now knew how she wanted to spend some of the money she had received in a divorce settlement.

“I felt euphoric afterwards,” she said. “I did feel afterwards that God meant this to be.”

St. Vincent’s past and future
When it was founded in 1945, St. Vincent’s was the first school for disabled children in Haiti and is still the only place teaching braille to the blind in the country. About half of its current 250 students are blind; the others have multiple physical disabilities. They are taught in 12 classrooms and more such space is part of the rebuilding plan.

The school is a long-standing part of what Bishop Duracin calls a “gospel of wholeness” that the Episcopal Church of Haiti, known locally as L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti, has preached and practiced since its founding in 1861. It is a gospel, Duracin has said, which “can serve people in their body, their mind and their spirit.”

The plan to rebuild St. Vincent’s calls for an increased enrollment of 525 students (165 of them residential). New dormitory space is needed to accommodate that latter group.

There also are plans for a medical clinic with orthopedic and pediatric care as well as eye, ear, and surgical care. The clinic will serve the surrounding community beyond the school.

A planned guest house at the center will provide a place for people on mission trips to stay on the grounds, and it will provide some income for operations. Roof-top gardens are planned where students and faculty can raise food to supplement the students’ two daily meals while providing them with skills. It is expected that the gardens might also produce enough food that could be sold for income.

The school has already installed a water-purification system that eliminates the need to buy bottled water and could eventually become another source of income.

The school’s prosthetics workshop has been rebuilt, with the help of Catholic Medical Missions Board, Physicians for Peace and Hanger Orthopedic Group. Some of the older deaf children are learning a trade there. St. Vincent’s also is home to Haiti’s only hand bell choir – all of whose members are blind.

In Léogâne, the diocese’s Faculté des Sciences Infirmières, its nursing school, was undamaged by the 2010 temblor and plans to expand its programs and make a connection with St. Vincent’s. An Episcopal University-approved four-year occupational and physical therapy training program will be located near the nursing school. Those students will intern at St. Vincent’s.

A student at the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, studies braille in November 2008. The center is still the only place teaching braille to the blind in the country. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

With the pledge to rebuild St. Vincent’s, White sees the chance to deepen the connection between the Episcopal Church and the school, and the country as a whole. She said she hopes she will be able to volunteer routinely at the school.

Making deep connections with people in need is important to White. She serves on the advisory board of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which advocates for legal rights for Haitians and has lately been involved in a lawsuit against the United Nations to compensate victims of a widespread cholera epidemic in the country.

White also has spent the last eight years volunteering for the human rights project of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan where she conducts physical exams for people seeking asylum in the United States.

White’s donation is not the end of fundraising for St. Vincent’s. “All of the needs for St. Vincent’s are not being satisfied by this gift,” she said. “There are many more opportunities for people to give from a big to a small level.”

To that end the church’s development office aims to raise an additional $5 million for the school with $1 million each targeted for medical equipment and dormitory and classroom furnishings, and $3 million for an endowment to provide some operating income. A video about the school and those needs is here.

White wants Episcopalians and others to remember that all of the church’s work in Haiti needs their support.

“For the Episcopal Church’s mission as a whole, Haiti is not done. There is still the cathedral, there are still several other entities that need to be rebuilt,” she said.

Lastly, she said, “I want to encourage people to change their thinking about Haiti; to feel confident about Haiti’s future.”

“Buildings are being built to the highest standard of earthquake- and hurricane-resistant architectural standards; it’s being done deliberately and carefully, and in many ways environmentally soundly and I hope that this gift will not just lead to other gifts big and small but to a greater sense of confidence in Haiti’s future.”

“Everybody just thinks that Haiti is doomed and that it’s never going to climb out of its hole. I hope that this [donation] is one of those things that’s going to show that people have confidence in Haiti and its future … Haiti is not hopeless.”

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

Connecticut priest recovers after life-saving kidney donation

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kim Polhemus and the Rev. Greg Welin.

[Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut] The Rev. Greg Welin is home and resting comfortably these days. Admittedly this wouldn’t be newsworthy except for the fact that he donated a kidney last month.

A fatal genetic disorder
Here’s the backstory: In 2010, Greg was serving as the priest-in-charge of St. John’s in New Milford. There, he met and worked with Kim Polhemus who was serving as senior warden at that time. While outwardly healthy, internally Kim was battling a genetic disease known as Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD. The disease is eventually fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant. Kim has shared that PKD is rampant in her family. Other family members, including her father, have died from it — sometimes after languishing on dialysis for a few years before succumbing.

Kim had PKD, as did one of her sisters, Kathy. A third sister, Michelle, did not inherit it.

Back in 2010, tests coming back from the doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital showed the kidney function in both women was diminishing to the point that the sisters would either need a transplant, or dialysis, within a year. After watching what had happened to their father, Kim said that finding donors for both herself and Kathy was paramount. Sister Michelle volunteered to be a donor; she was tested and found to be a good match for either sister. The hospital wanted Michelle to declare which sister she would donate to, but with both in need of a kidney, Michelle refused to commit to either until a second donor was found.

Swallowing her pride, Kim wrote a letter that summer and sent it by e-mail to everyone in her contact list, hoping and praying it would help them find a second donor. Someone forwarded it to the local newspaper and a reporter interviewed her, generating more attention and broadcasting the need to an even wider audience. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 3,381 people died in the U.S. last year, waiting for a kidney donor.

Just before Thanksgiving, as Kim was on the way back from a long weekend away, her sister Kathy called her with the name of a possible donor who had quietly stepped forward and been tested.

It was Greg.

He’d heard about it after he returned from his summer vacation, put his name on the list, and was called in that fall for tests. Greg had had a thorough medical workup to check whether he was a match and to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery, and the answer to both was “yes.” Kim had Kathy repeat the name twice before she realized who it was. Both were overwhelmed with gratitude.

“When I received the call from the hospital I started crying with joy and kept saying ‘thank you’ over and over,” Kathy said. “I asked them to tell Greg thank you so much.” It brought tears to Kim as well. “I cried in the car. I never saw his name on the list, he never told me,” she said.

While Greg’s decision to offer his kidney was certainly a gift and blessing to Kim’s family, it was also a blessing to Greg for a different reason. Years ago his sister had died and he hadn’t been able to do anything to help: this time, it would be different. He could help.

Back at St. John’s, Greg had a practice of inviting people to stand up, after the congregation exchanges the peace during the Sunday service, and share something for which they’d like to give thanks. Kim and Greg stood up together and shared all the news with the congregation.

The surgeries begin
With a second donor now in place, doctors determined that Michelle’s kidney was a better match for Kim, so Greg would be donating a kidney to Kathy.

The next summer, as Kim’s kidney continued to fail, she had what the doctors at Yale-New Haven hospital called a “textbook transplant.” There was no infection or rejection, and Michelle was up and active again in a week.

Unexpectedly, Kathy’s kidney function stabilized for a while. Greg, Kim, and Kathy stayed in touch by e-mail occasionally, as they waited. It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that the doctors decided that it was time. Greg, who by then was the priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s, Woodbury, said that the end of the Epiphany season would be the best time for him. They all agreed on an early February date.

Because the original testing had been in 2010, Greg was thoroughly re-tested, passing them all.

Both donor, and recipient, along with Kim, Michelle, Kathy’s husband George, and Greg’s wife Amy, arrived about 6:30 a.m. at Yale-New Haven hospital on Feb. 6.

Greg was quickly admitted and got to say “hi” to Kathy as she waited.

Kathy needed some additional tests when she arrived so her surgery was delayed three hours. Surgery itself was three to four hours for each. Afterwards, each went to post-op care in Yale-New Haven’s Transplantation Center.

Greg stayed for two days, going home Feb. 8. While he was in the hospital he saw Kathy a few times, to say hello. Kathy’s recovery was longer as her body has to accept the donated kidney.

Kathy stayed until Feb. 11. Kim said that Kathy was home for a week but then was readmitted with a lot of pain. After two days she was released home again. “My sister is now on her way to a normal life with her new healthy kidney,” said Kim.

Greg’s recovery was more straightforward. “I moved around a bit gingerly at first,” he said, “and had some trouble bending to get in and out of chairs and the bed.” But other than the tiredness and modest post-surgery pain, he said that he didn’t feel any differently.

“I was relieved,” he said. “There were lots of unknowns: What would I feel like? What was the surgical process? How incapacitated would I be? I was relieved that it wasn’t as difficult as I was concerned it might have been. I always felt I was in good hands, though, and very supported. I didn’t feel alone.”

Concerns about how the parish would do in his absence were relieved, also, as people were eager to help out. “They’ve been supporting me in a positive way,” he said.

Amy, Greg’s wife, who is also the priest-in-charge of St. John’s in Waterbury, said she’s also relieved the surgery went so well and is now behind them. She supported his decision, yet it’s still major surgery so normal fears rose up along with those that she carried from having been widowed earlier in her life. “I’m very proud of Greg for being compassionate and generous,” she said. “And I knew the surgeon was good, but I was terrified. The night before the surgery I had to get out of bed for a while and have a cry.”

God must have been listening. An Episcopal chaplain walked in on them when Greg was in pre-op – actually, it was a priest whom Amy had mentored – and offered prayers. Then next day when Greg was in post-op, two other chaplains, both Episcopal clergy whom she knew, stopped by.

Greg continues to do well, in all ways. “I’m really happy I was able to do this,” he said. “In the back of my mind I was thinking of my sister, who died. I couldn’t do anything at that time. When the opportunity came up here, I thought I could help a fellow sister on the planet. It’s a great privilege to be able to help in this very tangible way.”

“And,” he said, “how often do we get a chance to do something like this?”

Kim also reflects on the journey. “It’s been a big circle,” she said. “It changes you on so many levels. First, my own survival, then my sister’s. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude through all this, for his humbleness and generosity and life-giving spirit.

“It’s hard to know how to thank someone sufficiently for saving your sister’s life.”

Nuevo Amanecer 2014: Community * Mission * Fiesta

ENS Headlines - Monday, March 10, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Nuevo Amanecer 2014, a favorite conference in the Episcopal Church, will focus on God’s mission and the celebration of culture, diversity and the unique sense of fiesta (joy) fostered in the Latino/Hispanic Community.

With the theme Community * Mission * Fiesta, Nuevo Amanecer 2014 will be held August 25-28 at Kanuga Conference Center, North Carolina.

Kanuga Conference Center and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries in partnership with the Latino Ministries Office of ELCA sponsor this biennial event that will offer practical tools and a network of support to better equip for ministry those working within the Latino/Hispanic community and those that want to be.

Clergy, lay leaders, diocesan Latino/Hispanic missioners, church planters, diocesan and congregational staff are invited to engage as a community to expand their knowledge by sharing best practices and exploring new methods of stewardship, church growth and evangelism.

Keynoting the event are the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, and the Rev. Pedro Suárez, Assistant to the Bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission in Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA.

For registration and further information here or here.

Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries on  Facebook

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Falls Church Anglican case

ENS Headlines - Monday, March 10, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] More than seven years after a majority of clergy and members of several Diocese of Virginia congregations declared they had left the Episcopal Church and the question of ownership of the property involved began to be litigated, the U.S. Supreme Court refused on March 10 to hear the appeal of the last congregation still at odds with the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

The court gave no reason for deciding not to review a 2013 ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirming an earlier circuit court ruling that returned The Falls Church property to loyal Episcopalians to use for the mission of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The court’s decision was included in its March 10 order list and was one of 121 requests for review that it refused.

All that remains in the case is for the Diocese of Virginia to request an order from the Fairfax Circuit Court releasing to the diocese more than $2.6 million that was in the Falls Church’s bank accounts at the time of the split and that the court has been holding in escrow during the progression of the case.

“We are most gratified by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon S. Johnston in a press release. “We look forward to the possibilities that the months ahead will bring, and continue to keep those affected by the litigation in our prayers.”

In an accompanying letter to the diocese, Johnston called March 10 “an important day for our diocese” because of the ruling.

We finally can say, with great thankfulness, that the Diocese of Virginia no longer is involved in property litigation …[and] … The Falls Church Episcopal is free to continue to worship and grow in its home church buildings.”

“Although today marks an official and much anticipated end to the litigation, it also marks a beginning,” the bishop said. “We will now be able to focus fully our attentions on the many truly exciting ministries all over our diocese. I pray that those in the [Convocation of Anglicans in North American] congregations will join us in turning this fresh page.”

The Rev. John Ohmer, rector of The Falls Church Episcopal, said in the diocesan release that “although it breaks my heart to think of where all that money and energy could have gone, today’s news is uplifting for our congregation.”

“My hope and prayer is that all sides can now continue to grow their communities of worship, ministries and outreach in our church homes,” he said.

The Falls Church Anglican congregation on Oct. 9, 2013 asked the country’s highest court to review the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision. A chronology of the court filings, including those from other interested parties, which followed from that request is here.

The Falls Church was one of 11 congregations in the diocese in which a majority of members voted to disaffiliate from the diocese and the Episcopal Church. Over the years, all but The Falls Church Anglican had settled their property conflicts with the diocese and the church after judicial decisions in favor of the diocese and the church.

After a Fairfax County Circuit Court Jjudge ordered The Falls Church Anglican in March 2012 to return the parish property to the diocese, the Anglicans only agreed to allow the Episcopalians to return to the parish building to celebrate Easter (April 8, 2012). However, the Anglican congregation soon thereafter appealed to the state Supreme Court and in the meantime asked the Circuit Court to prevent the Episcopalians from returning again until the high court ruled. The Circuit Court refused and the Falls Church Episcopalians returned to their property on May 15, 2012.

The Virginia Supreme Court on April 18, 2013 affirmed the circuit court ruling returning the Falls Church property to the Episcopalians. The Falls Church Anglican asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider, despite earlier comments by the Rev. John Yates, The Falls Church Anglican’s rector, on April 28 that the Supreme Court’s “overwhelming rejection of our arguments … reduces our legal options drastically.”

Then in June 2013, the state’s high court refused to reconsider its ruling and Falls Church Anglican later decided to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state court’s actions.

The leaders of the Anglican congregation have not yet commented on the high court’s decision, but in a Feb. 24 update to the members Junior Warden Kristen Short acknowledged that the request for review was “against the odds.” The decision to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, she said, was part of what she called the congregation’s ministry of “speaking boldly on behalf of believing individuals and faithful congregations across the country who are under attack.”

“We have tried to discern God’s will at every juncture and believe we are acting out of obedience to Him,” she wrote. “While we may not relish the ‘battle’ we’re in, we did not sense that the Lord was giving us permission to withdraw.”

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

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