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Anglican school in Sri Lanka welcomes British royal visitors

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Sri Lankan Anglican school founded in 1872 by a priest working for the Church Missionary Society was this week visited by the Earl and Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. Trinity College in Kandy was founded as the Kandy Collegiate School by the Rev. Richard Collins in what was then British Ceylon. Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, is visiting Sri Lanka with his wife on behalf of the queen as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Read the full article here.

Martyred Ugandan archbishop honored in church’s new finance building

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new 16-story commercial office suite in the heart of Uganda’s financial district will carry the name of martyred Archbishop Janani Luwum.

The building, to be known as Janani Luwum Church House, was first envisioned by Archbishop Luwum before he was murdered on the orders of Idi Amin in February 1977. The building, which is being constructed by the Church of Uganda with the support of the Kenyan-based Equity Bank, will provide an income stream to support the ministry of the province.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop tours Houston-area congregations, offers support in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 5:45pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks with the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in west Houston, a church that sustained major damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] During Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Texas on Jan. 30 and 31, clergy and church members shared stories of Hurricane Harvey’s epic flooding and aftermath.

In some places, Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain in four days last August, and its impact was felt across 41 counties and a half million homes, with damages estimated at more than $190 billion.

The storm that caused such historic flooding seemed hard to imagine this week in Houston as clear skies and mild temperatures greeted the presiding bishop and his team. Curry was joined by Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator; Episcopal Relief & Development Senior Vice President for Programs Abigail Nelson, and Geoffrey Smith, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church.

Once the debris is hauled away, things can seem pretty normal, until one walks into the nave of a church, looks through the studs to classrooms, offices and the parish hall beyond and has to be careful to avoid tripping over large bolts in the bare concrete floor that once secured the altar railing. Five months after Harvey, in many churches and thousands of homes there remains the odor of floodwaters, and mold still seeks a foothold.

Episcopal Health Foundation made an early decision to deploy its resources into research, President and CEO Elena Marks told Curry at an early morning briefing on Jan. 30. The Health Foundation partnered with the Kaiser Foundation to survey the area affected by Harvey and mapped the storm’s impact to show where damage was concentrated and who was most affected.

“It’s not just research and maps,’’ Marks emphasized. “We wanted to engage communities and are making presentations to groups doing relief work with the hope that they will use data to set their priorities.” The resulting maps and research already have been accessed more than 30,000 times.

The research reveals some things that deserve a closer look. Shao-Chee Sim, vice president of applied research at the Episcopal Health Foundation, said of the 900,000 relief applications filed with Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, the approval rate for homeowners was 45 percent, while it was 36 percent for renters.  In the upscale Memorial area of west Houston, 66 percent of the 2000 applications filed had been approved.

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle said the data will help Episcopalians and others provide a different kind of disaster response. “We want to leverage the research to help the most vulnerable, to have a long-term effect within these communities,” he said.

East of Houston, the area of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur—known as the Golden Triangle—received more than 60 inches of rain during Harvey.

Curry heard from the Rev. Keith Giblin, a federal judge and bi-vocational Episcopal priest, who serves St. Paul’s in Orange, where 86 percent of the homes were affected. Cut off from his congregation during the storm, Giblin navigated drainage ditches in Beaumont to rescue people in his aluminum fishing boat. He was among thousands of citizens who joined first responders to spend days and nights searching for people trapped in sometimes neck-deep water.

“We had to drag the boats in places because the water could be 13 inches deep, sometimes four feet deep,” Giblin said. Submerged cars, floating clumps of fire ants, downed power lines and water moccasins plagued those who used boats, kayaks and pool floats to rescue victims.

After the “utter chaos” of the flooding, Giblin said, St. Paul’s, which had water in the church, parish hall and offices, held services out in the yard for more than a month. “Serving together [through this disaster] has brought us all closer,” he said. “That’s what we do, we help each other.”

Other Episcopal churches in Beaumont became distribution centers for water and cleaning supplies. The Rev. Tony Clark, rector of St. Mark’s, said after checking on the congregation and providing immediate relief to those in need, his vestry put the church gymnasium to good use for the community. “We were a warehouse, a hotel and a parking lot,” he said. “The thrift shop provided care packages. We warehoused supplies and hosted 75 Red Cross volunteers for several weeks in lieu of being a public shelter.”

St. Stephen’s rector, the Rev. Stephen Balke, thanked Curry for the video he recorded after the storm to offer prayers and support. “We gathered to worship and put your video up. I can’t tell you how much that rallied our spirits,” he said.

The congregation helped the more than two dozen parishioners whose homes were flooded and cooked for the entire community for weeks.

“We stopped counting at 4,000 people served,” Balke said. “Every time our supplies ran low, another truck would pull up. It was a great blessing to say, ‘Yes,’ when people needed help.”

The Rev. Lacy Largent, in charge of spiritual care teams, emphasized that support from elsewhere was critical. She gave the example of Kate Hello, a teacher in Lamay, Missouri, who sent letters from her students.

“I gave a letter to a man to read and he broke down in tears,” Largent said. “I apologized for upsetting him, but he said, ‘No! You helped me cry. I’m going to get my wife so you can help her cry.’”

While trauma in the immediate aftermath of the flood ran deep, for many it has become more profound months later. “No one had flood insurance,” Giblin said. “This has never happened before and now we have senior citizens who can’t come back financially. They are using their Social Security checks to buy drywall.”

The Rev. Pat Richie, deacon at St. Stephens, said she is seeing more family trauma today. People—children especially—are experiencing some post-traumatic shock. “When it rains now, kids want to know if Harvey is coming back. It’s a wound that is still there.”

The process of rebuilding was compared to a marathon rather than a sprint, and Curry affirmed Episcopal Church’s long-term support. “We are long distance runners,” he said.

During a stop at Trinity, Baytown, the presiding bishop heard from Senior Warden Robert Jordan and one couple he rescued.

“I was in the water for five days doing search and rescue,” Jordan told Curry. He happened to be near church members Duane and Lois Luallin’s home of 40 years, when he learned the elderly couple needed help.

Duane had fallen and was unable to get up, and 911 responders were overwhelmed. Jordan arrived in five minutes and ferried the Luallins to safety. He had them dry out and eat at his home, where they stayed for nearly a month before moving to an apartment.

“You think the Lord left us? No, he was right there with us,” Lois Luallin said. “People brought boxes, packed things, took our wash and dry cleaning. We could not have done all that by ourselves.”

Lois Luallin, left, tells Curry how she and her husband, Duane, were rescued by Trinity Episcopal Church’s senior warden, Robert Jordan, in Baytown as flood waters from Harvey rose in their home of 40 years. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Trinity also fed first responders breakfast and provided food at all hours for anyone who was hungry.

“Bishop Curry, you can be encouraged that the Jesus Movement is alive at Trinity,” said the Rev. Micki Rios, Trinity’s deacon.

During his visit to Texas, Curry and his team also met with Hispanic clergy from the Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in southwest Houston.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez, rector of San Mateo, had just begun his new job when Harvey took out four of the campus’ six buildings. The congregation of 300 to 400 worshipped in tents for two months and actually saw an increase in their numbers, Gutierrez said.

The Rev. Pedro Lopez, vicar of Iglesia San Pedro, in southeast Houston, described neighbors helping neighbors. “We became a food distributor for almost two months,” he said. “The church was central to helping people find what they needed. Thousands of people came.”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, right, looks on cellphones are used to snap photos of Bishop Curry posing with members of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Curry thanked church members who had prepared a large breakfast of papusas, plantains and homemade red beans on the second morning of his visit.

He reminded them that Jesus always fed people before he would teach them.

“During trying times, when the church is open to offer support, that’s feeding folks,” he said. “When you are helping people get their cars fixed so they can get to work, that’s feeding folks. Thank you for what you have done. I want to offer the love, affection and prayers of your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. They stand ready to join you in the work of rebuilding.”

Curry also toured St. Thomas Episcopal Church in southwest Houston where the group was entertained briefly by several bagpipe students’ practice in the courtyard. The church and school of 600 students was hit hard by flood waters for the third time in two years. Much of the school will be rebuilt as a result.

The group concluded their tour of affected areas at Emmanuel Church, hosted by the rector, the Rev. Andy Parker. Emmanuel’s buildings are bare after the campus flooded when water from the reservoirs was released in the days after Harvey. Everything has been taken down to the studs, and the exterior will also be replaced.

Members of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s team, Diocese of Texas staff and members of Emmanuel and Temple Sinai gather to offer prayers at the conclusion of the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to areas affected by Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Emmanuel’s congregation continues to worship at nearby Temple Sinai where the sacredness of placing a temporary altar over the bema, from where to Torah is read, is not lost on anyone.

“It’s been a blessing every week,” Rabbi Annie Belford said, although she admits some of her congregation wondered at having a cross in their sanctuary. “The partnership of the heart is incredible. It’s what we do for our neighbors.’”

Rabbi Annie Belford of Temple Sinai, left, and the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Houston pose with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Curry’s visit to Emmanuel. Belford contacted Parker immediately after Emmanuel flooded during the release of water from Houston’s reservoirs last August to offer worship space at Temple Sinai. Photo: Carol Barnwell

That blessing goes both ways, Belford found. “In the course of all this, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and the women of Emmanuel handmade her a quilt so she is sleeping every night wrapped in the prayers of Emmanuel Church.”

The presiding bishop asked all of the people with whom he met what they wanted to tell fellow Episcopalians. To a person, everyone acknowledged that receiving prayers and support from others had kept them going.

Lance Ferguson, newly elected senior warden at Emmanuel, said, “We’ve had help from around the world. We didn’t do it alone, and that’s been an eye-opener for people here. You can get through anything if you know you have support,” he said.

Surveys done by Episcopal Relief & Development after Harvey showed that in just a few months, and with the financial support and supplies from Episcopalians throughout the country and the world, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas had served more than 90,000 people affected by the storm.

“We stand on your shoulders,” said Richie, the St. Stephen’s deacon. “It’s the strength of the wider church that allows work to be done here.”

Curry encouraged the group gathered to worship at Emmanuel. “You, we, are not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes,” Curry said. “We were made for God and each other, and even in midst of hell there can be glimpses of heaven when we are not alone,” he said, noting the many times neighbors have come to the aid of neighbors during and after the waters of Harvey.

Going forward, the church’s mission will pivot to restoration and rebuilding, and that will take much support, from Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Texas and beyond. The Rev. Stacy Stringer has been named director of hurricane recovery to oversee regional centers in the affected areas that will help coordinate rebuilding efforts that are estimated to take two to three years.

“We are so grateful for Bishop Curry’s pastoral visit and for the assurances of continued prayers and support from across the church that he brought,” Doyle said. “We, too, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have been affected by hurricanes, fires and mud slides. It is in times such as these, that our community of believers shines the brightest.”

– Carol Barnwell is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Vermont: Burlington’s urban cathedral meets massive change with bold imaginings

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 3:03pm

Members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group are pictured from left to right: John Rouleau, Jenny Sisk, Lisa Schnell, Jeanne Finan, Lee Williams, Paul Van de Graaf, and Josh Brown.

[The Episcopal Church in Vermont] Amid the bustle of construction in the heart of downtown Burlington, VT, there is no denying that the city is changing. To some, the latest architectural developments are outward expressions of cultural shifts that have been remaking the local landscape for some time. With this in mind, members of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul have been exploring the best ways to serve the community as it navigates these shifting internal and external dynamics.

The crux of their efforts has been the Urban Cathedral Study, a research project that has for the past 12 months challenged cathedral members to reimagine the meaning of church and its viability for people who may or may not have any religious leanings. The next phase of the Urban Cathedral project, which begins in February, will empower the congregation to move from imagining to planning.

As published in the January 2018 Urban Cathedral Report, when the members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group began their work a year ago, they decided that planning the future of the cathedral would, in fact, be excluded from their scope. Instead, their aim was “to spend an entire year learning what it means to be an urban cathedral in Burlington by reading, listening and asking questions.” They wanted “to avoid any tendencies toward the prescriptive by remaining open and interrogative” in their approach.

The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan, cathedral dean, explained, “With the Urban Cathedral Study, we wanted to look at what it means to be an urban cathedral in the 21st century, particularly in Burlington. We needed to know more about who we are, not only from our own inside view, but also by asking people in the community, everyone from the mayor to other religious leaders to city council members and so forth.”

In a recent communication to the cathedral, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote, “I appreciate participating in St. Paul’s examination about its future as an urban cathedral. I look forward to seeing how St. Paul’s will become part of the new Cherry Street.”

This positive sentiment has been echoed by Rabbi Amy Small of Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, as well as urbanites outside Burlington who have faced similar challenges and have recognized the wider implications of the Urban Cathedral Study as a best practice, including the Rev. Anne B. Bonnyman, rector of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Rev. Scott Gunn, director of Forward Movement based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Several members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group presented a creative summary of their progress during the cathedral’s Jan. 21 Annual Meeting. In a series of stories titled Bold Imaginings, the presenters described future possibilities inspired by their year-long practice of reading, listening and questioning.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, said, “We are so fortunate that the Urban Cathedral Study Group has worked so faithfully to bring this report and their Bold Imaginings to us.”

“The Urban Cathedral project is a powerful example of what it means to be a missional church in Vermont, where being missional is about changing, adapting, innovating and improvising to move more deeply into the neighborhoods and communities where we live and move and have our being.”

“The next step,” explains Finan, “will be a presentation to the congregation on February 11 where church members can reflect on the Bold Imaginings and the Urban Cathedral Study, ask additional questions of the Urban Cathedral Study Group, and — under the vestry’s guidance — begin planning for the future.”

The Episcopal Church in Vermont comprises 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State that share in the mission to pray the prayer of Christ, to learn the mind of Christ, and to do the deeds of Christ. The congregations live into this mission through ministries of Formation, Liberation, Communication, Connection, and Celebration. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is a member of the worldwide Anglican communion. Learn more at http://diovermont.org.

— Maurice L. Harris is communications minister for The Episcopal Church in Vermont.

Anglican Alliance launches global focus on anti-slavery initiatives in Freedom Year

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance, which helps to coordinates Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and justice, has launched a yearlong focus on anti-slavery initiatives across the Communion. Through its Freedom Year initiative, the Alliance is inviting people to learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, pray for change, and take action to end it.

Read the full article here.

NYC Episcopal churches call for increased mental health crisis training after parishioner’s shooting death by police

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] Deborah Danner didn’t have to die.

In October 2016, the Episcopalian had a psychotic episode at her Bronx, New York, apartment. It wasn’t the first time that police responded to a disturbance complaint about Danner, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago. In the past, 911 calls resulted in Danner taking a trip to the hospital, returning home stabilized.

This time, however, gunshots rang out. And Danner, 66, was gone.

New York Police Department Sgt. Hugh Barry was charged with murder and manslaughter because prosecutors say he didn’t have a reasonable threat to his life and wasn’t following police protocol. His trial began Jan. 30, more than a year later. After a one-day break, the trial is expected to resume Feb. 1.

Deborah Danner

Episcopal church members plan to be in the courtroom every day in a show of support, said the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. He knew Danner for the last 10 years.

On that first day in the courtroom, about 35 parishioners from Manhattan churches, including Church of the Heavenly Rest, Trinity Church Wall Street, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, marched to the Bronx courthouse. She attended all those churches at one time or another.

“It’s hard because the trial is about tragedy, both the tragedy of her killing and the tragedy of mental illness being unaddressed,” Heyd told Episcopal News Service. “And it’s hopeful, because the church is organizing, both to recognize the dignity of her life and to respond and give meaning to her struggle and to support others who are struggling with mental illness also.”

Parishioners and clergy were also there to bring home the point that law enforcement officers, in New York and nationwide, need much more training in handling mental health crises. New York officers can take Crisis Intervention Team training, but fewer than a quarter of the force has. It’s not required.

In 2016, NYPD received approximately 157,000 calls involving people in mental crisis, according to the city inspector general’s January report reviewing how the NYPD handles interactions with people in mental crisis.

That’s about 430 mental crisis calls a day.

“How many times a day is an officer at a door and doesn’t know what’s going on inside and how to handle it?” Heyd asked. “However the trial turns out, the need for more skill and support in this is abundantly clear.”

Nationwide, police officers in 2015 shot and killed 251 people who had exhibited signs of mental illness — a quarter of all the people shot and killed by police that year, the report stated. Alternatively, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that 1,710 law enforcement officers nationwide were assaulted while handling people with mental illness, and two officers were killed while doing so.

“We share your conviction that Deborah’s death was a tragedy that should have been prevented,” the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of the Diocese of New York, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio. “And we believe that Crisis Intervention [Team] training for this officer and for his fellow officers could have saved Deborah’s life.”

Diocesan representatives are calling to meet with the mayor, as well as police, to discuss this mental health crisis issue.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest and director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, also attended Barry’s criminal trial Jan. 30. Churches across the United States regularly minister to people who have mental illness, and often come upon people in a state of crisis who need professionals to help de-escalate the situation, she said.

“Until we have a better health system in New York, our police are our front line for mental health emergencies; if people are trained correctly, we can solve this,” Varghese told ENS. “These folks aren’t committing a crime; they’re sick. It puts police officers in a horrible position, and it puts people who are ill in a horrible position. It makes everyone vulnerable.”

“This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about how do we change this situation,” she said.

Varghese and Heyd said the church can’t handle the problem alone. Increased police training makes the most sense. It’s a cause they’re fighting for so that they don’t lose more parishioners this way.

Heyd knew Danner pretty well while she attended both Heavenly Rest and Trinity.

“She knit baby blankets for both my children,” Heyd said. “She was really smart and kind, and she struggled. All of that was evident to people who knew her.”


Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

‘We want a local bishop’ say Ethiopian Anglicans

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:39am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in the Gambella district of Ethiopia have expressed a desire that their next bishop be local. Within the Anglican Communion, Ethiopia is part of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop launches TV commercial in support of exiled South Sudanese school students

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:34am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The assistant bishop of Melbourne has produced a TV commercial urging people to give South Sudanese exiles a “safe start” to the school year.

Read the entire article here.

State of the Union invitation highlights Florida Episcopalians’ work with displaced Puerto Ricans

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 3:46pm

Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario and Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez pose with their son and daughter in front of the National Museum of Natural History during their visit to Washington, D.C., so Ortiz-Nazario can attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Photo: Jose Rodríguez

[Episcopal News Service] When President Donald Trump addresses Congress at 9 p.m. ET Jan. 30 in the U.S. Capitol, Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario will be in the chamber listening.

The State of the Union is a president’s chance to frame the political narrative for the coming year, but if the president were to pause and listen to Ortiz-Nazario, he would find that this 30-year-old from Puerto Rico has a compelling story to share.

It began Sept. 20, when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, laying waste to the island and upending life for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million residents. Ortiz-Nazario’s story continues in Florida, where he and his family relocated in November, joining the many Puerto Ricans who have fled the devastation at home to seek new opportunities on the mainland.

In Orlando, Ortiz-Nazario’s story intersects with the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, which has helped welcome him and other Puerto Ricans by providing them with food, clothes, housing assistance and the spiritual support of an active faith community. It was through the diocese that Ortiz-Nazario was offered this opportunity to visit the nation’s capital and represent fellow Puerto Ricans at the president’s speech.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ortiz-Nazario told Episcopal News Service by cellphone from a car. He and his family were on their way to the Capitol to meet Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Florida Democrat who invited Ortiz-Nazario to be her guest at the State of the Union speech.

His wife, Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez, 29, and their 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter will watch the speech on a TV in Murphy’s office. The family arrived Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C., accompanied by the Rev. José Rodríguez of Jesus of Nazareth Episcopal Church in Orlando, and they have spent the past few days sightseeing, including stops at the National Air and Space Museum and outside the White House.

“It’s been amazing being here with my family,” Ortiz-Nazario said.

Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario takes a selfie with his family during a visit to Univision studios in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jose Rodríguez

Murphy reached out to the Diocese of Central Florida earlier this month seeking help in selecting as her guest one of the Puerto Ricans who have migrated to the Orlando area. Rodríguez suggested Ortiz-Nazario.

“They’ve become part of the community,” Rodríguez said. Ortiz-Nazario and Torres-Rodríguez not only benefited from the diocese’s ministry to relocated Puerto Ricans, he said. They have become active volunteers in that effort. “They came to the church for assistance, and then became part of our offering assistance.”

Their story isn’t the only example from Hurricane Maria’s aftermath to be showcased in the lineup of congressional guests for Trump’s speech. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was invited by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York. Rep. Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, will bring a Puerto Rican college student who is now studying in Orlando. And Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, also a Democrat, chose a woman who has helped lead a task force providing relief supplies to Puerto Rico.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s office released this family portrait of Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario and Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez and their children.

Murphy, in announcing Ortiz-Nazario would be her guest, said she wanted to bring attention to the challenges facing citizens in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as those who left the islands for central Florida.

“Displaced Americans like Emmanuel and his family have confronted adversity with tremendous courage, and it’s important to listen to their stories and understand their struggles,” Murphy said in a written statement. “In tough times, Americans are there for each other, which is why Congress and the president must act with the urgency this situation demands.”

Hurricane Maria’s profound impact on Puerto Rico is still being felt long after the storm. It initially knocked out power and telephone service across the island, caused mudslides, destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and was responsible for the death of dozens of people, possibly hundreds. But by the time Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry made a pastoral visit to Puerto Rico on Jan. 2, power had been restored for barely half of the residents, and shortages of food and drinking water persisted.

The Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico has been active in relief efforts, partnering with other denominations and with local organizations to address needs not being met by the federal or territorial government. Episcopal Relief & Development has provided logistical support for those efforts, as well as money for supplies there.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, based in Washington, D.C., also has been engaged on the issues of disaster relief and serving populations displaced by disasters.

“The scale of need is simply far too large for churches and nonprofits to address alone,” according to an Office of Government Relations statement released in advance of the State of the Union address.

The statement noted that a bill awaiting Senate approval would provide $81 billion for areas affected by the several 2017 hurricanes to strike the United States, including almost $3 billion aimed at providing education for children of the displaced. The office also issued a policy alert on the issue hours before Trump was scheduled to speak.

“Federal grants, state budgets, and school districts did not plan for hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, including an estimated 10,000 children, to be displaced into Florida schools,” the Office of Government Relations statement said. “The Episcopal Church has a strong commitment to equity in education opportunity and the Office of Government Relations is privileged to evangelize and advocate for our Church’s values to be represented in federal policy.”

Concern for their children was a driving factor in the decision by Ortiz-Nazario and Torres-Rodríguez to leave Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and move to Florida. Schools in Puerto Rico were closed after Hurricane Maria, and crime was on the rise, Ortiz-Nazario said. Their home wasn’t badly damaged, he said, but there was no longer any demand for his airbrush painting services, forcing him to close the business.

“We need to have a better place for my kids,” he said. “Things are going bad back there.”

Estimates vary when tallying how many Puerto Ricans have relocated to the mainland. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office has released a series of updates on relief efforts that cite a figure based on the number of people traveling from Puerto Rico to Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale since the hurricane. On Jan. 25, that count stood at 344,000, which would represent 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane population.

The state’s calculations, however, have been criticized for including all categories of travelers, not just Puerto Ricans displaced by disaster.

University of Florida economists estimate about 50,000 people have moved to Florida from Puerto Rico and, to a lesser extent, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, which also was hit hard by the hurricane. Those numbers are based on requests for state aid and the more than 11,000 school enrollments for displaced children.

Puerto Ricans have been moving to the mainland U.S. in waves for generations, a diaspora that often coincides with the territory’s economic struggles. Census figures show that the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans is found in New York, followed by Florida. Significant but smaller numbers of Puerto Ricans live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Rodríguez, the Orlando priest, was part of an earlier wave of Puerto Rican migration. His family moved to Connecticut in the 1980s when he was 2 years old. He still remembers the red doors of the Episcopal Church in Hartford that helped his family adjust to their new community, and he and his family brought their newfound faith with them when they later moved to Orlando.

Rodríguez said he feels called to minister to Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.

“I lived this experience,” he said, and his experiences are informing his work in launching the diocese’s Episcopal Office of Latino Assistance to coordinate assistance to Puerto Ricans who have moved to central Florida.

A primary focus of the ministry at Rodríguez’s church is its food pantry, which has served dozens of new Orlando residents from Puerto Rico. The diocese also has received crisis grants and donations to provide these families with new clothes and shoes and to cover application fees for apartments.

“As soon as the money comes in, it’s effectively spent. The need is so great,” Rodríguez said.

Central Florida Bishop Gregory Brewer has been a prominent supporter of these efforts, even helping to unload a truck filled with relief supplies just after Christmas.

Brewer also met with and blessed Ortiz-Nazario and his family before they left on their trip to Washington, D.C.

“They haven’t called this attention on themselves,” Rodríguez said. “They’ve come here trying to do what’s best for their family.” In the process, they have been welcomed into the family of Episcopalians in Orlando.

Ortiz-Nazario called it an honor to be able to attend the president’s speech. He knows it’s unlikely he will get to tell his story directly to Trump, but if he could, he would emphasize the need for unity over partisanship when addressing the needs of Americans affected by disasters like the one his family lived through.

“When people work together, people do better,” he said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Compass Rose Society opens new chapter in Hong Kong

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 1:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Compass Rose Society, the charitable foundation that provides substantial support for the work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the international ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has opened a new chapter in Hong Kong. The chapter was formally installed by the primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – Archbishop Paul Kwong, during a service of Evensong at St. John’s Cathedral on Hong Kong Island.

The vice president of the Compass Rose Society, the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, a former secretary general of the Anglican Communion, preached during the service and spoke about the work and development of the society at the celebratory dinner held immediately after the chapter’s installation.

Read the entire article here.

Hymnathons: Episcopal choirs perform marathon-style training events to raise funds

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 5:27pm

Children, as well as adults, participated in a hymnathon fundraiser at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. The singers covered all 720 hymns in the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982. They stayed seated, had water by their sides and took two snack breaks to help them get through it. Photo: Liz Bartenstein

[Episcopal News Service] Fiona Campbell prepared for last weekend’s test of endurance by eating a good breakfast, hydrating and keeping a big water bottle by her side.

The Jan. 27 event wasn’t a 26.2-mile race, a running marathon. It was a hymnathon — a test of singing stamina like no other.

“It’s going to be a looooooong time,” said Campbell, 20, the week before the fundraising event. Campbell’s been a chorister at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, since she was 10. To raise money for the Evensong Choir to sing at historical cathedrals in England this summer, choir members sang the first verses of 720 hymns for almost nine hours straight. They had a 15-minute morning break, a one-hour lunch break and a 15-minute afternoon break.

Working through the Hymnal 1982, they started with hymn No. 1 at 8 a.m. They also devoted two hours to singing all the verses of the special dedication hymns chosen by donors who gave an extra amount for the honor. To fit it all in, they had two timekeepers to help singers average about 30 seconds a hymn, with the goal to cross the finish line by 6 p.m.

Michael Kleinschmidt, the cathedral’s canon musician, was shocked they finished ahead of schedule, by 5:20 p.m.

“It was all rather breathless,” Kleinschmidt told Episcopal News Service after the event. “At one point, we all discovered we were breathing rather shallowly. We just weren’t taking deep clean breaths. After an hour or two, we stopped, stood up and took a deep, clean breath, and some of us said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m dizzy.’”

Michael Kleinschmidt, canon musician at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, was one of the participants who played the music accompanying the 720 hymns during the Jan. 27 hymnathon. Photo: Kevin Johnson

Kleinschmidt’s hymnathon idea stemmed from his experience more than a decade ago, when he worked with music director and organist Richard Webster at Trinity Church in Boston. Webster organized hymnathons in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, before carrying the idea to Boston in 2005.

“Richard is a marathon runner, so he has a special kind of enthusiasm for this kind of thing. He’s done the Boston Marathon a few times. Oh, yeah, he’s hard core,” Kleinschmidt said.

In the same way that hardly anyone, even experienced singers, tries to sing for nine hours straight, few people, even runners, go the full marathon distance.

The marathon was inspired by the legend of a Greek messenger who raced 40 kilometers, or about 25 miles, from the site of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. with the news of an important victory over an invading army of Persians. The exhausted messenger collapsed and died after making his announcement, according to The History Channel. By the 1921 Olympics, the standard marathon distance was 26.2 miles.

While running a marathon typically takes three to six hours to complete, this hymnathon far outlasted the time that even the slowest marathoner spends on the race course. And no one died completing this endurance feat.

“I was amazed how well everyone’s energy held up through the thing,” Kleinschmidt said.

They looked at it as practice run for the hectic singing schedule they’ll have during the British trip.

Choir pilgrimages to England are a tradition during the summer, when U.S. choirs can fill in for British cathedral choirs, which typically take breaks during the busy tourist months of July and August, Kleinschmidt said. At St. Mark’s, choral director Rebekah Gilmore’s Evensong Choir is comprised of about 35 selected singers, from 12-year-old children to adults up to their 60s, Kleinschmidt said. They’re required to sight-read and sing advanced music.

“Being able to dip our feet into this ancient river of sung prayer is a transformative experience for these young children. It’s really life changing,” Kleinschmidt said.

Hymnathons are fundraising endurance test of the vocal cords that Episcopal choirs are taking from coast to coast.

St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, conducted a hymnathon to raise money for the Evensong Choir to sing in England this summer. Participants sang all 720 hymns in the hymnal during the nine-hour event. Photo: Liz Bartenstein

Kleinschmidt organized his first hymnathon in Portland, Oregon, which raised more than $22,000. His goal for the St. Mark’s choir is $35,000. Fundraising isn’t over.

In September, a hymnathon at Christ’s Church in Rye, New York, raised $7,798 for the choir’s pilgrimage to sing in England in August.

Fundraising can take all sorts of creative forms, but a hymnathon is quite a lofty goal in itself, money aside, said Deanne Falzone, mother of Josette, 12, a member of the senior choristers at St. Mark’s and one of the youngest members of the Evensong Choir. The Evensong Choir is a hand-picked, professional-grade choir of older children and adults.

“It seems like a pretty big feat to do,” Josette’s mother said. “There’s been just so much energy from so many people in the choirs.”

Most recently revised in 1982, the Hymnal of the Episcopal Church offers 720 service hymns plus liturgical music. Some hymns harken to centuries-old monastic chants. Others hail from more modern times.

The Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries is also in the final stages of compiling a cancionero, or songbook, as an affordable, accessible Spanish-language songbook for use throughout the Episcopal Church.

The Hymnal 1982 is the latest version of hymnals for the Episcopal Church and has 720 songs to be used for services. Photo: Kevin Johnson

A seventh-grade homeschool student, Josette soaks in the social aspects of choir activities, as well as the music, and last week she said she was looking forward to the hymnathon.

“I think it’s probably going to be the most awesome singing experience I’ve ever had,” she told ENS by phone.

Throughout this daylong choral challenge, Kleinschmidt and the choir members uncovered some hymn gems and others that were, shall we say, less appealing.

“I think everyone found some new favorite hymns, and some new ones that we hope never to sing again,” Campbell said with a laugh. “Some of the worst culprits were ‘adapted’ gospel songs, as we had suspected.”

While some of them would look at each other and laugh during the hymns that they’d have preferred stayed buried, several singers jotted down some of their favorites to remember for later, Kleinschmidt said.

“I’ve used this hymnal since 1990, and I’m still finding new treasures in it,” he said, recalling hymns 383 and 384, the first a well-known version of “Fairest Lord Jesus,” the other, a lesser-known rendition with a beautiful melody. “The melody climbs higher and higher and is a beautiful pairing with the words. That’s a little gem I discovered.”

A dog was one of the supportive elements that helped singers get through the nine hours of singing during the hymnathon fundraiser on Jan. 27. Photo: Kevin Johnson

So, how did the singers feel about crossing their “race” finish line?

“We had compared this to running,” Campbell said. “And there was a similar sort of effect where you expect it to be grueling and difficult, but in reality, the adrenaline gets you through and honestly feels great.

“Overall, I frankly could not be more pleased.”

Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

Bishop begins bid to change law on marriage registration in England and Wales

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A change in the law to allow the names of couples’ mothers to be included in the official registers of marriages in England and Wales is a step closer after a Church of England bishop successfully steered a bill through its second reading in the House of Lords – the upper house of the British Parliament. At present, marriage registers include only the name of the couple’s fathers. The bishop of St. Albans, Alan Smith, described this as “a clear and historic injustice” and “an archaic practice and unchanged since Victorian times, when children were seen as a father’s property and little consideration was given to a mother’s role in raising them.”

Read the entire article here.

Former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Canon Colin Craston, has died

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Canon Colin Craston, a World War II naval hero who went on to become one of England’s leading evangelical priests and a past-chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, has died. Craston died peacefully as his home Thursday, Saint Paul’s Day. He was 94. He had served his entire ordained ministry, after his curacy, at St Paul’s Church in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Read the entire article here.

Four catalysts for spiritual growth identified in detailed study released by Forward Movement

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 12:03pm

[Episcopal News Service] How can the Episcopal Church feed Episcopalians’ hunger for spiritual growth in the 21st century? Forward Movement surveyed 12,000 people from more than 200 Episcopal congregations for answers, producing a report released this week that provides a snapshot of the spiritual life of the church.

The extensive research was conducted through Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks ministry, and the report’s findings include analysis of the varying degrees of spiritual vitality and cultures of discipleship found in Episcopal congregations.

“We have learned that there is great spiritual hunger among Episcopalians,” the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, director of RenewalWorks, said in a press release. “And we are discovering catalysts that can address that hunger. Basic spiritual practices such as daily prayer, scripture study, worship attendance, and serving the poor will lead to transformation.”

The research found that 55 percent of Episcopalians can be considered in the “growing” stage of their faith, on a spectrum from “exploring” to “Christ-centered.” Those in the “growing” stage have committed to their faith but may not yet feel that their life bears significant marks of their faith.

The report also emphasizes what churches can do to support Episcopalians’ spiritual journey from one stage to the next. Four key catalysts are

  • engagement with scripture,
  • the transforming power of the eucharist,
  • a deeper prayer life
  • and the heart of the congregation’s leader.

“If we want our congregations to be places where spiritual growth is happening, we need to teach and to nurture spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, study, and service,” the Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, said in the press release.

You can read the full press release here.

An infographic showing some of the key findings can be found here, and the full 17-page report can be accessed here.

Forward Movement is a publications and media ministry of the Episcopal Church known for its flagship devotional “Forward Day by Day.”

Disasters can teach the church lessons about how to respond in the future

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:14am

Rob Radtke, Episcopal Relief & Development president, listens to Diocese Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales, left, and Jesus Cruz Correa, Episcopal Hospital San Lucas medical director, explain their approach to helping islanders after Hurricane Maria. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] How can Episcopalians help their communities respond to natural and even human-caused disasters?

“Preparedness, preparedness, preparedness, preparedness; it actually matters,” said Rob Radtke, Episcopal Relief & Development’s president. “I think we all know in the abstract that it matters, and it naturally falls to the bottom of everybody’s priorities because the urgent always trumps the important” but, preparedness makes a huge difference in the ability of any church organization to respond to human need around them.

What counts as preparedness can take many forms but it begins in discernment.

Radtke, in an interview with Episcopal News Service about what his organization has learned over the years, pointed out that the Episcopal Church is not the Red Cross; it has a different mission. The specifics of the mission need to be locally discerned long before a disaster makes headlines. “What is our ministry going to be when the tornado strikes, when the earthquake comes, when the fires come?” he asked. “What are our assets? That’s a very local question.”

Those questions might include: Does your church have a kitchen? Does it have experience feeding people? Can people shelter in the building? Are you known for your parish nursing program? Does your church have a relationship with vulnerable members of the community such as immigrant populations, homebound elderly or people in recovery?

“I used to think that what is traditionally thought of as ‘disaster preparedness’ was most important – things like formal written plans – and now I realize that the focus should be on building resilient systems, which includes some of those preparedness activities and so much more,” Katie Mears, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, told ENS.

Some traditional disaster planning needs to happen but, Mears said, Episcopal Relief & Development is also encouraging dioceses and congregations to think more broadly before disaster strikes. For instance: What is their posture in their communities? How well connected they are to the vulnerable – and to each other?

Katie Mears, left, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, speaks with Episcopalians during a post-Hurricane Maria visit to the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Diocesan Bishop Peter Eaton stands behind her. Photo: Episcopal Relief & Development

It involves clergy and lay leaders having about “what-if” conversations on a regular basis to start thinking about how they would respond. Often during those conversations, obvious gaps pop up, such the need to set up a text thread that includes all the vestry members, rather than having to do it in a midst of a crisis.

‘Communicate, communicate, communicate’
The other lesson, Radtke said, that Episcopal Relief & Development has learned over the years is “communicate, communicate, communicate,” especially with church leaders. When disasters cause power outages and disrupt telecommunications, often the ability to text returns before more widespread communications does, he says. The organization offered AlertMedia, a cloud-based disaster communications tool that sends and receives messages to large groups of people via SMS, email and voice calls to congregational leaders relaying information and asking for a status report, to dioceses in 2016 as a pilot project. Its roots in Episcopal Relief & Development’s use of it date to conversations between the U.S. Disaster Program team members its diocesan disaster coordinators in California about post-disaster assessments when voice calls might not work. After these conversations, a disaster coordinator in the Diocese of El Camino Real found and tested the platform in his diocese in 2015.

In early 2016, Episcopal Relief & Development started a pilot project for its staff and diocesan partners in San Diego and Louisiana. The system was particularly effective after major flooding in Louisiana that year. As a result, others dioceses became interested so the pilot has scaled up to nine dioceses.

The dioceses of Louisiana and Texas both used the system during Hurricane Harvey. Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Central Gulf Coast, Georgia and South Carolina deployed it during Hurricane Irma.

One particularly important piece of information that AlertMedia has conveyed over and over is details about when diocesan clergy and lay leaders are having conference calls with their bishop to discuss disaster needs and responses. AlertMedia’s success has taught Mears a lesson about how a mix of high tech and low tech “is more realistic to our church culture.” The automated polling-type texts that AlertMedia sends are great but it also “really matters to have that phone call with your bishop; it’s really great to know that at a particular time every day [after a disaster] you’ll be able to meet up with your clergy colleagues and your bishop,” she said.

Mears cautioned that not all dioceses need the bells and whistles of AlertMedia, but it can be helpful after large-scale or major events or when emergencies impact a significant number of churches in a diocese. There are also other communications platforms to accomplish the main goals of checking in with leaders, having regular conversations pre- and post-disaster and making sure that updated information is shared with everyone. “Our team is eager to speak with diocesan leaders around the U.S. church about their emergency communications needs,” continued Mears.

Episcopal Relief & Development has done its part in sharing information. As Hurricane Harvey was barreling towards Texas last September, church leaders were sheltering in place but most still had had internet access. Mears said she and her colleagues realized that they could do some rapid web-based training.

More than 70 leaders from the Dioceses of Texas and West Texas participated in the webinar sessions that Episcopal Relief & Development offered in the first few days of the storm. The sessions covered what she called “disaster basics,” such as things to do immediately. The webinars were also a source of connection among the clergy and between them and Episcopal Relief & Development

In the past, the organization focused on equipping diocesan-appointed disaster leadership but “the beauty of online platforms is it makes it easier to expand people’s ability to connect directly with some of those training opportunities,” Mears said.

A historic change in approach
The work that Episcopal Relief & Development staff members did before, during and after the multiple disasters of 2017 has its roots in a catastrophe more than a decade ago. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and a swath of the Gulf Coast in August 2005, was a high-water mark in the organization’s approach to disaster relief. Radtke, who began as the organization’s president just six weeks before Katrina struck, said the pre-Katrina response was to send grants to disaster-hit dioceses and other Episcopal institutions after the fact.

“It was well-meant but it was not strategic,” he said.

Radtke said that his experience of Katrina and its aftermath taught him that the Episcopal Church was not clear about how to respond to the storm. Baptists had mobile kitchens; the Mennonites are known for their willingness to rebuild homes. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was the Episcopal Church’s response going to be,” he said, rather than doing that same sort of work before the storm hit.

Even being behind the eight-ball in terms of ministry discernment and dealing with diocese that suffered big infrastructure losses, the church “did very well” serving its New Orleans and Gulf Coast neighbors, Radtke said.

“The lesson I learned after Katrina is that we had huge potential as a church in the lives of people,” he said. “And, we’re seeing that play out across all of the impacted regions.” For example, Episcopal Relief & Development helped the Diocese of Puerto Rico get organized after Hurricane Irma’s glancing blow to get ready for the predicted direct hit from Hurricane Maria.

The help that Puerto Rico needed was both typical and unique. Episcopal Relief & Development worked with the diocese in what is now a typical discernment process “to identify the key strengths and assets of the diocese, and we (tried) to leverage those to develop ministries that will support, in this instance, hurricane response,” Radtke said during a recent visit to the island. The Diocese of Puerto Rico has very strong health-care ministries, so he said it seemed natural that diocese would make that work a major part of its long-term recovery effort.

Disaster relief in Puerto Rico was different than helping a mainland U.S. diocese, Radtke pointed out. As an island, it was logistically more complicated to get aid there. “The hurricane hits on mainland United States, you put things on trucks and you drive it. That obviously wasn’t going to be an option in this case,” he said. “So that created particular challenges at the front end.”

That was also true in the Virgin Islands. “The logistics here are a challenge, because you’re dealing with five islands and two countries,” Radtke said during the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to the islands.

Episcopal Relief & Development partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands and Convoy of Hope, a faith-based humanitarian organization based in Missouri, to provide emergency supplies to the British Virgin Islands following the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The supplies included food, two portable kitchens, two refrigeration containers, 350,000 gallons of drinking water, 9,900 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, tarps, plywood and nails as well as hygiene and infant care kits. Photo: Convoy of Hope

The status of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as territories and not states “created bureaucratic complexity, particularly in terms of coordinating with federal agencies” that is rarely the case in U.S. states, he said.

Discernment of assets and gifts in on-going
Radtke and Mears insist that each person or community can be a channel for God’s work in the world. How that work manifest itself will be different in different places and among different people. “Every congregation has different resources and assets, and disasters happen locally,” Radtke said.

Mears has visited Episcopalians in many of the impacted dioceses, and in many places she saw a change in approach to the church’s posture in their communities. “There is so much outreach and impressive ministry happening around the church beyond the church’s usual suspects,” she said. “We’ve heard of really impressive disaster–related ministry from all these impacted dioceses. There are so much more amazing ministries with incredibly vulnerable communities than you would think.”

Congregations all over the church are “making an amazing amount of difference for a relatively small footprint,” she added.

“There are churches in all these places where these disasters have happened where the church very much understands it is not just an organ-playing club,” she said. “They understand that their ministry and role in the community does not only happen between 10 and noon on Sunday mornings.”

“In some places that is a very intentional, strategic objective of the diocese,” Mears said, and in other places “it’s just the way that the church is moving.”

And yet, if there is what Radtke would call a “unifying charism” across the church, it is Episcopalians’ desire to provide pastoral support for disaster survivors and care for the caregivers.

“I think the Episcopal Church cares deeply about people in all of their dimensions. We want to clothe them, we want to feed them, we want to take care of their immediate medical needs,” he said. “But, we’re also interested in their human spiritual life.”

That care happens regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof, and is “a huge need that isn’t being met that we have some unique capacities to meet,” he added.

For example, after Harvey, the Diocese of Texas was looking for more trained pastoral care volunteers. Leaders used Episcopal Relief & Development’s Asset Map to find congregations that listed pastoral care as one of their assets.

“If we’re able to have this living, grassroots-populated map with the information about the kinds of community ministries that all of our churches and other institutions are up to, that becomes enormously helpful in terms of both leveraging those gifts and telling the story of how those gifts are being leveraged.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. ENS Reporter/Editor David Paulsen and ENS Special Correspondent Amy Sowder contributed to this story.

Episcopal Church in Minnesota finds new home in North Minneapolis

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:42am

Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior speaks at an open house to celebrate the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s new offices in North Minneapolis. Photo: Episcopal Church in Minnesota

[Episcopal Church in Minnesota] The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior and the trustees of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN) have known for a while that the offices located on Loring Park in Minneapolis were not a fit for ministry.

Only one room could accommodate more than 10 people and the building lacked accessibility and an elevator, meaning meetings often needed to be scheduled elsewhere. Over time, the list of ways that the space did not work grew longer.

With a relocation inevitable, Prior and the trustees were determined that the move must follow the call of God rather than simply finding a building with the right space and dimensions. “We wanted to make sure that we were locating ourselves in a community,” said Prior. “We knew that we needed to learn and grow through relationship, that we needed to be connected to our neighbors, and be working to steward the gifts and resources that God has given us to be useful and usable in that space.”

It was a relationship that brought ECMN to its new community on the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Emerson Avenue, in the heart of North Minneapolis.

Sammy Mcdowell owns Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, home to what many locals consider the best sandwiches and sweet potato pie in North Minneapolis. Sammy’s had provided food for ECMN events, and through this a relationship began to form. So, when one of the tours of countless office spaces brought the bishop and the trustees to the address of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, and they toured the office space right above the café, they began to sense the call of God to this new space.

North Minneapolis has faced its share of challenges over the years. With a lack of investment by businesses, schools and industry, the community has been economically depressed. And yet there are churches and organizations that have been doing good work there for decades.

As the bishop and trustees discerned their call to a new space and they sense that God was moving and calling ECMN to this new building in this new neighborhood, the purchase was made, and the process began of shaping the space for the needs of ECMN. As they considered designs, Prior said, “We took into consideration the widest possible definition of our community – we’ve asked ourselves questions like: how will this space be useful in 20, 40, 60 years?  How can this be a usable asset for every faith community in the state? How could this space serve our neighbors?”

The purchase and construction of the new offices was funded by the the sale of the previous office building. The new offices are set over three floors and include four conference rooms, one large meeting space, and many other areas to gather, collaborate and network. There are offices that will be used by community partners, both those with Episcopal roots and others, to act as an incubating space for innovative work that benefits Minnesotans.

Meanwhile, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery is co-located in the space, further deepening and strengthening the existing partnership, and continuing to act as a hub of meeting for North Minneapolis residents, offering a place to meet and eat and build relationships with others in the community.

During a recent open house hosted in the new offices, Episcopalians from across the state crowded into the newly renovated Gathering Space – intended for 100 people, but on this below zero Saturday afternoon nearly 200 crammed in shoulder to shoulder. They gathered to hear the words of Bishop Richard D. Howell, leader of Shiloh Temple International Ministries, a highly revered church of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. His words of blessing rang out as those in the room nodded their heads in agreement, “that there will be love and peace and your witness oh God, that as we lift up your name all men and women shall be drawn unto you. Bless this work, bless this congregation, bless this community of believers today, that every person passing up and down that street will truly say ‘surely, the Lord is in that place.’”

— Kelsey Schuster is missioner for communications with the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.

South Carolina bishops join ecumenical letter to lawmakers urging action on education equity

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 5:00pm

[Episcopal News Service] The bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in South Carolina have joined four of their counterparts with other Christian churches in signing a letter to the state’s General Assembly urging lawmakers to join with the educators, advocates and the faith community in working to improve public education.

“Inequity in education delivery in our state cannot be remedied by the Legislature alone,” the bishops say in their letter, released this week. “The Courts cannot correct this injustice alone. Only together can we make a difference for the children of South Carolina.”

Diocese of Upper South Carolina Bishop Andrew Waldo, left, speaks Jan. 17 about an education initiative involving several Christian denominations in the state. Waldo was part of a panel discussion during the All Our Children conference held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and Bishop Skip Adams of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina have been working on the issue of education equity with other Christian churches in the state since 2014, when they formed the Bishops’ Public Education Initiative. The initiative aimed to encourage church-school partnerships while providing a collective voice in speaking out for public policy changes to benefit all children, regardless of race or economic status.

Waldo and Adams were joined in signing the recent letter to the General Assembly by bishops from the state’s Lutheran, Roman Catholic, United Methodist and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.

The letter references the bishops’ initial 2014 “Statement on Public Education” and it comes two months after the South Carolina Supreme Court said it was up to lawmakers, not the courts, to set education funding levels, despite evidence that the state had failed to ensure students in 30 or more poor school districts were receiving “minimally adequate education.”

The court’s November ruling essentially reversed its own 2014 ruling that ordered the General Assembly to develop a plan for fulfilling the state’s obligation to all its students.

The bishops’ new statement on the issue comes a week after the Episcopal Church helped convene a conference in South Carolina on education equity through the All Our Children network. The conference, held Jan. 16 to 18 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, drew more than 100 educators, advocates and church leaders from multiple denominations. Some of them cited the court decision as a call to action, as did the bishops in their letter this week.

“In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to end oversight of progress made, especially in rural schools, we renew our call to people of faith to join us in support of flourishing education for all children,” the bishops’ letter reads. “It is now time for us to act where progress is on hold or stalled.”

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to South Carolina’s children, including through tutoring and mentoring programs, and they pledged to support efforts to bring more qualified teachers to the states’ classroom, including through better pay. The letter also emphasizes the need to address the “uneven” availability of technology from district to district.

“We commend those who work across district lines to collaborate and consolidate resources,” the letter concludes. “We stand ready to encourage these efforts in any way possible. We know this work will require all of us. We are here to work with you. We are calling on you to give this issue your greatest attention. We invite you to call on us.”

Read the full letter here.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

California congregation uprooted by deadly mudslides finds solace in faith, fellowship

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 3:46pm

The Rev. Aimee Eyer-Delevett, second from right, rector of All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito, California, chats with parishioners Jan. 14 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, where members of both congregations worshiped while All Saints was under an evacuation order due to the recent mudslides. Photo: Sheri Benninghoven

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Aimee Eyer-Delevett and her congregation got the word Jan. 24 that they could return to their church for the first time in two weeks, but they have no expectations of an immediate return to normal life or business as usual at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito, California.

Fire and flood have changed everything for this community sandwiched between mountain and ocean on the east side of Santa Barbara.

All Saints and its neighbors have suffered weeks of disaster, from the massive wildfire that threatened in December to the Jan. 9 mudslides that have killed at least 21, with two people still missing. The church and its parish school have been closed since authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation from the neighborhoods in the path of the mudslides. The church wasn’t damaged, but the sprawling debris field left Highway 101 impassable and split the congregation in two, with parishioners on the Santa Barbara side isolated from those in the region to the east and south.

“It’s been a very difficult time,” Eyer-Delevett told Episcopal News Service by cellphone. “The community has suffered a collective trauma, the entire community of Montecito.”

Her uprooted congregation has found solace in faith and fellowship. Until they can worship in their own church again, All Saints parishioners are attending services at Episcopal churches in Santa Barbara and Ventura and at home churches outside the evacuation zone. After Highway 101 reopened Jan. 21, all are invited to a “Service of Healing and Hope” on Jan. 26 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara.

Great news: #Hwy101 is now OPEN thru #Montecito @SBCounty! Thanks to our crews & contractors who made it happen. Off-ramps in area remain closed so watch for truck traffic & use extra caution. Safe travels, everyone. pic.twitter.com/thC429v6kM

— Caltrans District 5 (@CaltransD5) January 21, 2018

All Saints clergy and lay leaders, meanwhile, are focused on providing pastoral care to their now scattered members, including to the newest member – a baby boy, born last week to Montecito residents who have been staying with a fellow parishioner in Santa Barbara. Such generosity has been replicated in countless ways across the region since early December, when the Thomas Fire began threatening.

The wildfire grew to become the largest in California’s history, and though Montecito and the Santa Barbara area were largely spared by the fire, the smoke and ash still upended daily life for weeks.

It also forced All Saints to cancel Sunday services on Dec. 10 and 17. Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Santa Barbara invited the All Saints congregation to join Trinity for worship on Dec. 17, but then Trinity had to cancel its service, too, when the downtown church became part of the evacuation zone.

All Saints leaders were able to return to their church Dec. 19, just in time to prepare a full complement of Christmas Eve and Christmas services. They turned their focus to clearing ash from church grounds, including facilities used by the Friendship Center, an elder-care day center that operates on All Saints grounds.

Then, heavy rain began to fall.

The wildfire had created conditions in the higher elevations that were ripe for disaster, and the deluge early Jan. 9 turned those fears into reality. The water cascaded down the hillside, picking up mud and debris and smashing through anything in its path. Homes were damaged or destroyed. Cars were washed away. Some residents were trapped until emergency crews reached them. Others failed to make it out alive.

Most of the damage was centered on Montecito, an unincorporated community of about 9,000 people. Power and phone service was lost. Water from taps was ruled unfit for drinking without boiling. All Saints closed its parish school but opened the church grounds for use as a medical triage site. The church also was used by the California National Guard as an evacuation gathering point. By the end of the day Jan. 11, the church grounds were mostly deserted.

A day later, on Jan. 12, the Thomas Fire finally was declared 100 percent contained.

Communicating with the congregation was difficult, but Kathleen Bright, the parish’s director of administration, worked with parishioner Sheri Benninghoven to begin compiling a list of parishioners who were confirmed safe. Benninghoven posted updates on social media and sent emails to the congregation asking people to add to the list of names. The emails also sought to identify families in need, as well as families able to provide help. Another parishioner checked parish and school directories against a website that showing damaged or destroyed homes.

From those information sources, All Saints produced an Excel spreadsheet that church leaders used to match needs with offers of help, such as temporary housing, meals and clothes.

Those in need included a couple from the parish who were days from the birth of their second child and suddenly homeless. Another parishioner in Santa Barbara had some extra space where the couple and their school-age daughter could stay. Friends from the parish and school community also provided a crib and other baby supplies, so when the boy was born Jan. 16 at the hospital in Santa Barbara, a comfortable home awaited him.

“It’s been astounding to see the way the community has come together around this,” Eyer-Delevett said. “They were able to benefit from the generosity and hospitality of the parish and the parish school. … It’s been humbling and encouraging to see the way that people who have not experienced this trauma directly, but indirectly, have been able to pour out such assistance.”

No one from All Saints, either parish members or school families, was killed in the mudslides, though many parishioners know people who died or who lost everything in the disaster. Some also have harrowing stories to tell about surviving the overnight floods.

“There won’t be ‘going back to normal’ after this,” said the Rev. Melissa McCarthy, the Diocese of Los Angeles canon to the ordinary. “The emotional trauma of being asleep in your bed and hearing a big bang and all of a sudden being swept away by mud pouring through your bedroom, that’s the stuff of nightmares.”

Members of All Saints gather to worship Jan. 14 in a house church in Carpinteria after their church was evacuated in the aftermath of mudslides in Montecito. Photo: Diana Andonian

Members of the congregation who live east and south of Montecito or fled south down Highway 101 have worshiped at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ventura or at services held in a house in Carpinteria. The majority, though, either lives west and north of the mudslides or fled that direction when the evacuation was ordered. Those parishioners were invited to worship at Trinity in Santa Barbara.

“What we’ve done is basically welcome them into our services and let them use our building for any meetings and programs during the week,” Hall, the priest at Trinity, said. “They’ve got a lot of work do, and we want to support them any way we can.”

Days run together, Eyer-Delevett said, while she keeps most of her focus on providing pastoral care to those in need. She and her wife are staying in Santa Barbara, and when she attends worship at Trinity, she sits in the pews with the other parishioners, leaving it to the Trinity team to lead the service.

“It’s been wonderful to be welcomed with such gracious hospitality,” she said.

Nancy Doane Babbott, left, and Sylvia Weller from All Saints enjoy slices of pizza and post-worship conversation Jan. 14 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara. Photo: Sheri Benninghoven

On Jan. 14, after the first joint worship service, the Trinity congregation ordered 46 pizzas – “pizza is the universal comfort food,” Hall explained – and served 300 people in the parish hall, a blending of All Saints parishioners and their host congregation. The conversation lasted hours as some people lingered there well into the afternoon.

“Every moment that we get to spend together is cherished,” Eyer-Delevett said.

As for the parish school, it was offered a temporary location by St. Mark United Methodist Church, which operates a preschool in Santa Barbara. All Saints’ classes resumed Jan. 22 in makeshift classrooms set up in St. Mark meeting rooms. School administrators were able to return to All Saints, escorted by emergency personnel, to retrieve items necessary to teach in the new location. Eyer-Delevett isn’t sure when the parish school will return to its permanent location because the water there still isn’t safe to drink.

The diocese, meanwhile, has helped raise $40,000 from parishioners’ donations and grants from Episcopal Relief & Development to support those across the region affected by the fires and mudslides, McCarthy said. Diocesan leaders also have checked in with Eyer-Delevett and other priests and deacons in the affected area to see if they need anything, and sometimes just to talk.

McCarthy will be joined by Los Angeles Bishops John Taylor, coadjutor, and Diane Jardine Bruce, suffragan, and others from the diocese at the evening worship service Jan. 26 in Santa Barbara, “to be a witness to what they’ve experienced.” The diocese also has scheduled a gathering for clergy and lay leaders in late February, described as day of reflection and healing in the aftermath of the disasters.

With authorities beginning to allow repopulation of the neighborhood around All Saints this week, Eyer-Delevett hopes to be ready to resume Sunday services in the church on Feb. 4. The church is still decorated for Christmas, with poinsettia petals and Christmas tree needles “mingled with the mud on the rugs of the sanctuary floor.”

“Time has stood still in many ways, and yet life goes on around us,” she said.

Plenty of work remains, from cleaning up the facilities to catching up on business that has been delayed by disaster: vestry nominations, financial documentation, budget approvals, all in addition to serving a community still reeling from the events of the past several weeks.

“The landscape has been redrawn and we’re going to have to figure out how we recover as a community, not only as a community of faith, but the whole village of Montecito,” she said. “But this tragedy has already strengthened the bonds within our community, and we will find our way together, one step, one breath, one act of human kindness at a time.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Church of Ireland archbishops join ecumenical delegation to Irish government

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 1:26pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican leaders have taken part in an ecumenical meeting with Irish government ministers to discuss a number of “pressing social and ethical matters.” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar invited senior clergy and lay representatives from the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland to the meeting in Dublin.

Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, the primate of Ireland, led the Anglican delegation, which also included Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and two secretaries of the General Synod: Gillian Wharton and Ken Gibson.

Read the full article here.