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Young people at the heart of new international Finland-Wales ecumenical partnership

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 3:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Finnish and Welsh young people will be at the heart of a new partnership between their country’s church leaders, officially sanctioned this week.

A group of young people from Wales will travel to Finland for a program this month, and in October, a group of their Finnish peers will be immersed in Welsh culture during a visit to North Wales. Plans are also in place for the Diocese of St. Asaph to run a Confirmation Camp for older teenagers in Finland next year.

Read the full article here.

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United Nations hears of Anglican Communion churches’ active role in tackling climate change

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 3:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The vital role of the church and faith communities in tackling climate change was highlighted during a televised discussion broadcast live June 6 from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Jillian Abballe, advocacy officer and head of New York office for the Anglican Communion, was one of six panelists taking part in the discussion of the role of faith communities in planting and nurturing the seed of climate responsibility. Abballe shared stories of how members of the Anglican Communion are having an impact through influence, and earth stewardship and in modeling responsibility towards the environment.

Read the full article here.

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Covenant for Christian unity to breathe new life into Canadian churches in Regina

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 12:32pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A renewed relationship between four different churches in Canada, including the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle, was celebrated at a covenant service at St. Athanasius Ukrainian Catholic Church in Regina last month.

Lutherans and Ukrainian Catholics joined the annual celebration of the Anglican and Roman Catholic ecumenical covenant, which began in 2011 between the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina.

Read the full article here.

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Priests give voice to victims stories eight years after Fukushima nuclear disaster

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Japanese parish priests shared stories of suffering from victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster at an International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World held in Sendai, Japan, last week. A joint statement from the forum, due out next month, is expected to strengthen the call for a worldwide ban on nuclear energy and encourage churches to join in the campaign.

The forum, organized by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai – the Anglican Communion in Japan – follows a General Synod resolution in 2012 calling for an end to nuclear power plants and activities to help the world go nuclear free. The disaster in 2011 followed a massive earthquake and tsunami which caused a number of explosions in the town’s coastal nuclear power station and led to widespread radioactive contamination and serious health and environmental effects.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican Communion Environmental Network encourages churches to tackle air pollution

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches were encouraged to support a call to action to tackle air pollution – the focus for World Environment Day on June 5.

Air pollution has been described as one of the greatest environmental challenges of modern times by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network. The campaign #BeatAirPollution encourages faith-based organizations to lead the fight for cleaner air and a better environment.

Read the full article here.

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Delaware church helps high school turn students’ college dreams into reality

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:19pm

Students at Seaford High School in Seaford, Delaware, meet with volunteers from St. Luke’s Church to work together on scholarship applications. Photo: Episcopal Church in Delaware

In 2016, when Terry Carson, then principal of Seaford High School, asked St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seaford, Delaware, for volunteers, no one could predict the profound results. From a lay-led parish with Sunday attendance averaging 35, six parishioners stepped up to help high school seniors with their scholarship applications and have been supporting students every year since.

With 750 students, Seaford High School is a Title 1 school, with 60% minority enrollment and more than 45% of students coming from low-income families. That the school now has so many graduates going on to higher education because of scholarships is a kind of miracle.

School counselors provide incoming seniors with an extensive folder of material: an overview of possible career and educational paths, a timeline for navigating senior year, a checklist, templates of resumes and letters and resources for SAT and ACT preparation. A vital component of the folder is a chronology of more than 250 scholarship opportunities open to Delaware students, ranging from $250 to $31,500.

Under the guidance of the school counselors, the St. Luke’s volunteers mentor the students twice weekly from mid-February through early April to meet the scholarships’ spring deadlines. The volunteers review the students’ scholarship cover letters, personal resumes, supporting essays and the applications themselves.

The diverse group of retiree volunteers includes a former engineer, English teacher, social worker with legal experience, two nurses and a lifelong hospital volunteer. In the first year of the program, the students called the St. Luke’s volunteers the Council of Elders. This name, a sign of respect, has stuck.

The “elders” believe in the students, share their own life experiences with them and commit to helping them succeed. The students believe in the elders, and many of them return for additional help that they may not be getting elsewhere. In spring 2018, the church volunteers met with 59 students. Each student met with them up to six times, with an average of eight seniors per session.

During one of their mentoring sessions this year, the volunteers prepared in a designated room for the influx of seniors. As they arrived, the students sat down and, each with a laptop, immediately began to work one-on-one with the volunteers. Conversations ranged from how best to answer a specific application question to the most effective way to phrase a resume statement; the requirements of a specific scholarship opportunity to the punctuation of an essay.

Volunteer Bonnie Getz said the punctuation of an essay is one of the major things they work on with students. The school has many students originally from Haiti and Central America for whom English is not their first language, and the church volunteers’ support is especially helpful for these students.

Getz explained that the volunteers really enjoy doing this. “When we found out just before Christmas that we were invited back again this year, it was like an early Christmas gift to me. We really look forward to it.” She went on to say, “we learn a lot from our students, just by listening to them. We don’t quiz them but we learn from them because they share a lot with us.” Of her personal experience, she stated, “it’s witnessing to these students that we believe in them.”

The students value and appreciate the elders. “I can’t thank them enough,” student Trevor Holmes said who received assistance from Bill Hubbard. “Mr. Hubbard helped me out on the first day, and I got six or seven scholarship applications done with him.”

Holmes said he was profoundly grateful for the assistance. “You guys are the reason all of us are going to college,” he said. “We’re the future, and you guys are helping prepare for the future.”

Working that day with volunteer Deb Spandikow, student Caden Dickerson said he’d received help ranging from developing essays to filling out applications. Parents and teachers may not have time to give extra assistance.

“It’s like a third party to step in and help, especially at this time of year,” Dickerson said. “It always lifts some pressure off our shoulders when we have someone there who listens, talks with us, and gives some advice.”

“It’s good for us, too,” Spandikow responded, “to get excited for you and say, ‘Wow, you’re doing great!’ We get to see the wonderful things that students are doing.”

Several of this year’s high school seniors have faced and overcome daunting challenges. One student is fighting cancer, while another is wheelchair-bound. Another, who arrived in this country from Haiti two years ago not fluent in English, is graduating as an honors student.

Clarence Giles, associate principal, appreciates the volunteers’ support of the students.

“This is an avenue for someone to come in that the students don’t see on a daily basis, to help them with their applications,” Giles said. “I think the elders get back more than they give. Obviously, our students are getting the assistance they need for college scholarships. It’s an unintended positive thing that they’re giving back to the Council of Elders.”

That reciprocity is key, Giles said. “This is an opportunity for school and community to meet, and that’s what the ultimate goal is — for school and community to have that connection. This is an excellent vehicle to make that happen.”

Each year since this effort started, there has been an increase in scholarship money awarded to graduating seniors. Giles said that in 2018, Seaford High School’s graduating class of 163 students received almost $4 million in scholarships. This has enabled more students to afford a post-secondary education. He thinks this can be attributed to the attention to detail encouraged by the volunteers from St. Luke’s.

At the end of the academic year, the volunteers were invited to attend the honors and awards ceremony for graduating seniors, family and friends. They joined the students at their senior breakfast and were recognized with gratitude at commencement.

Since its founding in 1835, St. Luke’s has had a rich history of vital parish ministry and mission. As this year draws to a close, with another group of students having successfully secured scholarships, St. Luke’s is grateful to the Seaford School District for the opportunity to be of service to its community and remains committed to this outreach.

Having no children or grandchildren, volunteer Hubbard initially felt unsure about working with teenagers. Now, “I see this as an opportunity to recognize young people as young adults, having motivation and a desire, already knowing what they want to do with their lives, and making a plan to get it done,” Hubbard said. “Now, they are my grandchildren, and I am so very proud of them!”

Lola Michael Russell is a regular contributor to the Delaware Communion Magazine and the editorial assistant for the Episcopal Church in Delaware.

 

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National Cathedral to renovate, transform former College for Preachers with $22 million in gifts

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:13pm

The Gothic structure that once housed Washington National Cathedral’s College for Preachers has sat vacant since 2008. Photo: National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] Washington National Cathedral announced June 6 its plans to renovate a building that once housed its College for Preachers and reopen it as a hub of faith programming and spiritual formation with help from two gifts totaling $22 million.

The College for Preachers opened in 1929 but the building has been vacant and deteriorating since 2008, when it closed amid the Great Recession. It is scheduled to reopen in 2020 as the Virginia Mae Center, according to an article in the cathedral’s summer issue of its Cathedral Age magazine that was posted online.

The center will provide space for the cathedral’s new programing arm, the Cathedral College of Faith and Culture. Programing will include conferences, forums, retreats and pilgrimages.

“The College of Faith and Culture is the lynchpin for so much of what we hope to do at the Cathedral over the next five to 10 years,” the Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, the cathedral’s death, said in Cathedral Age. “A renewed college will position the cathedral for a new century of ministry.”

Plans for the 27,000-square-foot Gothic structure that was home to the College for Preachers across eight decades also were detailed in a Washington Post article that coincided with the cathedral’s announcement.

The project is made possible by a $17 million gift from Virginia Cretella Mars, married to an heir of the Mars candy fortune, and her children, as well as a $5 million gift from Andrew Florance and his wife, Heather. Florance founded the CoStar Group and also chairs the Cathedral’s board.

Mars, a longtime parishioner at the cathedral, expressed excitement over the project.

“For years, I have loved the building that we all know as ‘The College,’ and the new Cathedral College of Faith and Culture will create space for us to deepen the ties between one another and to come together to find new, better paths forward,” Mars said in a cathedral news release. “In these divided and polarized times, we need the convening power of this cathedral to call us to our highest ideals and aspirations as a nation, and I’m thrilled that this building will be able to bring people together once more.”

The Virginia Mae Center, adjacent to the cathedral on the northeast side, will be able to house up to 40 people in 30 guests suites, for short stays and long-term residencies. The Cathedral College of Faith of Culture will be made up of three institutes: the Institute for Music, Liturgy and the Arts, the Institute for Ethics and Public Engagement and the Institute for Spirituality and Leadership.

“Consistent with the work we’ve done over the past four years to balance our budget, this project will be supported by an endowment, ensuring that we will be able to continue investing in our congregation, our city, the Cathedral building restoration, and our ongoing national events and programming,” Hollerith said in the cathedral news release.

The cathedral, meanwhile, continues to raise money for repairs to its main structure after it sustained considerable damage in the 2011 earthquake that hit the capital area. Those repairs are being done in phases as money is raised, with the cathedral about halfway toward covering the estimated $34 million cost. Its latest fundraiser offers the public the opportunity to help build a large scale model of the cathedral out of Lego bricks.

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

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After building an inviting new parish hall, an Ohio church asks the community to make it their own

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 4:50am

The completed campus of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lakewood, Ohio. Photo: Barrett T. Newman / St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] If you’d walked by the corner of Detroit Avenue and West Clifton Boulevard in downtown Lakewood, Ohio, a year ago, you would have seen an impressive but imposing neo-Gothic church attached to a drab brick building with air conditioners sprouting from rusted window frames. It might’ve been hard to tell whether anything was happening at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, with its fortress-like stone walls and dark wooden doors. Though its stained-glass windows are dazzling from the inside, you would have seen nothing but opaque black glass.

Walk past the same corner in this cheerful Cleveland suburb today and you’ll see the same church, but the adjoining building has been replaced by a modern addition that curves out toward the street. Through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you might see a choir rehearsal, a Bible study, a piano recital, or even a yoga class. As striking as the new building is, your eye would be drawn to the people inside.

That transformation is the basis for a new mission at St. Peter’s. What started as a project to rebuild the aging parish hall became an opportunity to make the parish more accessible and invite the larger community in. Rather than limiting the new building to church-related usage and income-generating space rentals, St. Peter’s is inviting its neighbors to approach the building with their own ideas – and on their own terms.

“The whole building is designed to invite people in,” said the Rev. Keith Owen II, rector of St. Peter’s. “And we’re basically saying to the community, ‘Come and look at this building and help us imagine what we can do in here.’”

The $3.5 million project originated a decade ago, when parish leaders realized that the 1950s parish hall – which housed the parish offices, several classrooms and the church’s long-running day care center – had reached the end of its useful life and was beyond repair.

“The old building was obsolete, falling down and inhospitable,” Owen told Episcopal News Service. “It was hopelessly out of compliance with all current building codes. If we even tried to rehabilitate any part of that building, all of the current building codes would have come into effect, which would have effectively shut down our day care center.”

And the building was a nightmare for elderly or handicapped parishioners.

“If you were mobility-impaired, it was flat-out impossible for you to meet with the rector in his office. You just couldn’t get there. There were eight or nine different levels” between the church and the parish hall, said parishioner Fred Purdy.

“So, for all those reasons, we decided we needed to do a complete tear-down and build a new one,” Owen said.

The new building solves the access problems with an elevator and a hallway that gently slopes from the entrance up to the narthex, where it connects to the church without any steps. But it presented an opportunity to make the parish more accessible in other ways, too. As beautiful as the 1920s church building is, you can’t see in or out. The old parish hall suffered from similar visibility issues.

“The building could be full of people and, from the outside, you’d never know it,” said Owen.

“We wanted to make sure the community could see in,” echoed parishioner Lorna Jordan. “Nobody knows what’s going on inside.”

The architectural solution, of course, was glass – so much glass that Owen is convening a “Squeegee Squad” of parish volunteers to clean it all on a regular basis. From the parish offices to the lounge to the day care center, the building is flooded with natural light. A courtyard with a small prayer garden sits in the center of the new church complex. But the focal point of the project is the section closest to the street: a multipurpose space called the Chapel of the Confession of St. Peter.

To highlight its flexibility, the chapel is decidedly minimalist, with plain white walls, large windows and no fixed pews. There will be one major decorative element, though: a specially commissioned icon of the biblical scene the chapel is named for, in which Jesus asks His apostles who they believe He is, and Peter replies that He is the son of God.

The chapel will be used for smaller services, choir practices and parish group meetings, but it also represents a new outreach opportunity for the church. Along with the other mission projects that currently operate on the property – such as the affordable day care center and a free meal program – this multipurpose space is intended as a gift to the community, an open invitation to the people of Lakewood to decide how they want to use it.

“Our function as a parish truly resides in the community at large,” said Purdy. “It’s our intention that it be utilized as the community finds to its benefit.”

“We’re kind of putting our feelers out in the community,” said Jordan. The parish will celebrate the grand opening of the new building on Sunday, June 9, with Lakewood’s mayor and the bishop of Ohio in attendance, and Jordan hopes that will encourage people to reach out with their ideas for how to use the space.

Potential uses suggested by Owen and parishioners include concerts, crafting, tai chi, dance classes, town hall meetings, lectures, meals, art shows, and an emergency homeless shelter on dangerously cold winter nights. Currently, there are no plans to charge rental fees for nonprofit events. Owen said the parish has offered the space to Beck Center for the Arts – a performing arts theater two blocks away – as they undergo a building project of their own.

“We basically said to them, ‘Here’s this beautiful, acoustically alive room, and you’re getting ready to tear your building down and rebuild it, so use it! Here it is! Use it!’ And they were kind of like, ‘What? Really? For free?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, for free!’”

Whatever activities the community brings to the new space in the years to come, the project has already changed the dynamic between the parish and the surrounding neighborhood. With so much glass, it feels like the space doesn’t really have walls at all. The distinction between inside and outside – or secular and religious – seems to fade.

“Now, nothing can go on in that building that cannot be seen from outside,” Owen said. “People can see in and we see out, so there’s a kind of communication going on between the community and the congregation that never went on before.”

And if you happen to walk past at a time when there are no events in the building, there will still be something inside the new chapel that catches your eye: that one-of-a-kind icon. At five feet by four feet, it will be “unavoidably visible from the street,” said Owen, who spoke to ENS while driving back to Ohio after picking up the icon in Florida.

“[That was] something we didn’t really plan,” he said. “It just kind of happened.

“And it asks the question of us at St. Peter’s and it asks the question of people stopped at the stoplight at the intersection of Detroit and West Clifton and people walking by on the sidewalk, ‘Who do you say that I am?’”

-Egan Millard is a freelance reporter based in the Boston area and is a member of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts.

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Mission church’s healthy meals served with loving nod to ‘First Nations’ cuisine, culture

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 1:52pm

Volunteers help prepare the weekly Sunday meal for First Nations Kitchen, a ministry of All Saints Indian Mission in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: First Nations Kitchen

[Episcopal News Service] If you’re trying to differentiate First Nations Kitchen from other Episcopal feeding ministries, look no further than the menu. What other weekly church meal regularly has buffalo instead of beef, turkey instead of chicken, walleye instead of pork?

Some of those entrees can be expensive, said the Rev. Robert Two Bulls Jr., vicar at All Saints Indian Mission in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but his goal in starting First Nations Kitchen more than a decade ago wasn’t to offer hungry neighbors an extravagant meal. Instead, he seeks out these food items because they long have been part of indigenous cuisine and culture. All Saints’ Sunday night meals cater to local Native Americans who both struggle at the margins of society, Two Bulls said.

It’s also about serving good people a good, healthy dinner. “Everybody deserves a good meal,” Two Bulls told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview. “You’re dealing with people who are living far out on the fringe, even farther than most native peoples.”

For a congregation that may only get 15 people on a Sunday morning at its worship service, All Saints’ extended family sometimes swells to more than 100 people when Sunday night dinner is served. Many of the guests live nearby at Little Earth, an affordable housing development serving the local American Indian community. Turnout at First Nations Kitchen’s meals is even larger if you count the many volunteers who come from around Minnesota’s Twin Cities region, including from other Episcopal churches.

“It’s very much community- and relationship-based,” said Karen Evans, who coordinates a volunteer group from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. She also appreciates the emphasis on healthy food. “It’s not about doing things quickly and cheaply.”

Nan Zosel has similar reasons for her support of First Nations Kitchen. She works as a chaplain at Breck Episcopal School in the suburb of Golden Valley, and she brings a group of about 20 students and parents once a year to volunteer. She said her experience working with All Saints has been much more spiritually fulfilling than her past volunteer work at other soup kitchens, which she described as impersonal, dreary and lacking healthy food options.

“I just didn’t think the food ministries I had encountered up to that point had done a good job of feeding either the soul or the body,” Zosel told ENS. First Nations Kitchen felt like a faith-based volunteer’s dream come true, she said.

First Nations Kitchen emphasizes health, organic food, especial longtime-staples of indigenous diets, such as wild rice and bison. Photo: First Nations Kitchen

Two Bulls starts by leading the volunteers in prayer while acknowledging that the land on which they are gathered once belonged to the native peoples of North America. He also explains the ministry’s goal of providing healthy, indigenous food with a sense of welcome to all who come.

“The hospitality is really stunning,” Zosel said. “Rather than people lining up and getting plates of food, they come in and they’re invited to sit down, and people come take their orders.”

Two Bulls prefers helping with the cooking rather than the cleanup, so right after Sunday worship he starts prepping the food. Kale, mixed greens, all organic. Wild rice is a typical grain. Most of the bread and vegetables are donated by grocers or restaurants, and the various protein sources are purchased from regional farms. The walleye is from a fishery run by the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, Two Bulls said.

One big reason he accepted the call here 12 years ago was the opportunity to create a ministry like First Nations Kitchen. All Saints previously had attempted to grow a feeding ministry, even installing commercial-grade equipment, but it had struggled to get it off the ground. Two Bulls was assured he would have his new congregation’s support to try again.

“That was the hook, because I’ve lived all over the States, East Coast, West Coast, and have volunteered in soup kitchens and been to many of them and just helped out whenever I was able to,” he said. “I just like that kind of ministry, and it’s real Gospel-based, simple as you can get.”

Two Bulls, who is Lakota and originally from South Dakota, also serves as missioner for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s Department of Indian Work and Multicultural Ministries. He said it took a couple of years to build up a solid base of volunteers, donations and word of mouth for First Nations Kitchen. About a half dozen people now form the ministry’s core, including Two Bulls’ wife, Ritchie Two Bulls, and a ministry coordinator.

The ministry hasn’t been able to rely on its congregation for sustaining financial support, because many members are retired or living paycheck to paycheck, Two Bulls said.

“I’m not expecting them to give it their all. They’ve got bills and everything else, so we find the money to keep it open,” he said. Fundraisers and money from the diocese help maintain First Nations Kitchen.

The ministry also brings the congregation to life once a week in ways that go beyond the modestly attended Sunday Eucharist. “Really, the kitchen is what’s keeping the place rolling,” he said.

He has a rotation of about five cooks who take turns drafting menus and coordinating the meals. Unless Two Bulls has other commitments, he is at the church Sunday evening helping out, and even when he can’t make it, the team at All Saints makes sure that First Nations Kitchen opens its doors once a week, every week.

“Never missed a Sunday yet,” Two Bulls said. “I always tell people: Snowstorms, Easter, Christmas if it falls on a Sunday, New Year’s and the high holy American holiday Super Bowl Sunday, we serve.”

Zosel’s group from Breck Episcopal School makes it their annual ritual to claim the volunteer roles every Super Bowl Sunday – or Soup-er Bowl Sunday, as she calls it.

“Any folks who are not into football, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Zosel said. Later this year, she hopes to add a second Sunday to the school’s annual support of First Nations Kitchen, and one of the high school seniors at Breck chose to spend two weeks last month helping First Nations’ coordinators as part of the school’s May Program internships.

The group from St. Mary’s helps with the meals at First Nations Kitchen about every four to six weeks. Up to 10 church volunteers are split into two shifts. One in the afternoon helps with food prep, such as chopping vegetables and filling baskets of bread for guests to take home after the meal.

“The sustainability piece of it has grown a lot over the years,” said Evans, who has volunteered since Two Bulls started First Nations Kitchen. In addition to using high-quality, organic ingredients, the scraps are composted whenever possible. “We’re just kind of here taking our turns as stewards of the Earth.”

The second shift is responsible for serving the food, and when possible, the volunteers sit at the tables to share conversation with the guests.

“It’s not like a food line where you go in and you’re just dumping food on a plate,” she said. “It’s a community.”

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

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Lucinda Ashby elected next bishop of El Camino Real

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 11:03am

The Rev. Lucinda Ashby

[Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real] The Rev. Lucinda Ashby, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Idaho, was elected June 1 to be the fourth bishop of the San Jose, California-based Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real.

The election at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga was framed within the liturgy of the Eucharist and attended by 350 people. She received the required number of votes in the third ballot of voting.

“I can hear you!” said Ashby as she appeared by video feed and was greeted with enthusiastic applause. “I am honored. I am humbled. I am very grateful that you’ve called me to become the fourth bishop of El Camino Real. I’m humbled that the Holy Spirit has moved us toward this outcome … and because I really can’t believe it!”

“There was so much more I wanted to say,’ she added, speaking about the walkabout sessions in early May. “Do you know that feeling where you wish you’d said something better? I wanted to give better answers to your questions, delve deeper into the aspirational topics you raised … and now I have that chance.”

“I’m grateful that so many people were fully engaged in the discernment process for our next bishop,” said diocesan Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves following the election. “The votes show that people recognized the gifts of all of our candidates. As a lead candidate began to emerge, everyone was willing to move with the energy as it was manifesting before us. It was exciting and beautiful to experience.”

Ashby has been the canon to the ordinary in Idaho since 2011. She was ordained in 2004 in the Diocese of Northern California, where she served as assistant rector at St. Martin’s in Davis and then rector at St. Matthew’s in Sacramento. In addition, she taught at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. Before ordination Lucinda taught Spanish and music in grades 7-12 and was head of school for a private school in Sacramento. She also founded and built a school for Native Americans in Capay Valley, California.

While in the Diocese of Northern California, Ashby served as president of the Standing Committee, member of the Hispanic commission, chair of the liturgy committee, and numerous other positions. She grew up in Perú and speaks Spanish fluently.  She and her husband, Bob, currently live in Boise, Idaho; they share three grown children who reside in California with their spouses.

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Kathryn McCrossen Ryan consecrated as bishop suffragan of Diocese of Texas

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 10:20am

[Diocese of Texas] Kathryn McCrossen Ryan, former canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Texas, was consecrated bishop suffragan in Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin on June 1, 2019. Ryan was elected at the 170th Diocesan Council at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott on Feb. 22.

Kathryn McCrossen Ryan was consecrated bishop suffragan of
the western region of the Diocese of Texas on June 1. Photo: Diocese of Texas

She will have oversight of congregations in the western region of the diocese, with an office in Austin. A bishop suffragan is an assisting bishop and serves under the direction of the diocesan bishop, in this case, the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop of Texas. In addition to her Episcopal visitations (and confirmations), Ryan also will serve as the chair of the Austin-area institutions: the Seminary of the Southwest, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and El Buen Samaritano.

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church was the chief consecrator, joined by Doyle, Bishop Suffragan Jeff W. Fisher, Bishop Assistant Hector Monterroso and other bishops across the country to ordain Ryan. Doyle was the preacher during the service.

“Kai, you are meant to sing to those who are far off and those who are near. To those who have found their way within God’s garden walls and those who do not yet know the gospel. All people need to be reminded of God’s song,” said Doyle during his sermon.

Ryan, a native of Raton, New Mexico, graduated from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and received her Master of Divinity from Seminary of the Southwest in 1992 where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees. Ryan served at All Saints, Austin, and in Mobile, Alabama, before moving to Dallas where she was called as rector of Ascension, Dallas, in 1999. She is married to Timothy Ryan, an attorney, and they have two children, Ned, 18, a freshman at Goucher College in Baltimore, and Eleanor, 12.

Ryan’s breadth of experience in four dioceses, Provincial Synod and General Convention, her participation in the national Gathering of Leaders for young clergy and nearly 15 years in a culturally diverse parish as rector stand her in good stead for the ministry of bishop suffragan.

Ryan has a history of cross-cultural ministry with which she hopes to enhance the diversity within the clergy of the Diocese of Texas.

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Diocese of Michigan elects Bonnie A. Perry as 11th bishop

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 9:41am

[Diocese of Michigan] The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan announced June 1 the election of the Rev. Bonnie A. Perry, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago as its 11th bishop diocesan.

The Rev. Bonnie A. Perry

Perry is the first woman and first openly gay priest to be elected bishop since the diocese was formed in 1836. This also marked the first time in the history of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan that the slate of candidates was comprised entirely of women.

Perry was elected on the fifth ballot of the Special Electing Convention held June1 in Detroit. She received 64 clergy votes and 118 lay votes. A minimum of 55 clergy votes and 94 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot.

The other nominees were:

  • The Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards, rector, St. Thomas, Columbus, Georgia.
  • The Rev. Paula Clark, canon to the ordinary and canon for clergy development, multicultural ministries and justice, Diocese of Washington.
  • The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of Colorado.

“I am in awe of the trust you have placed in me, and I will, with God’s help, do all I can to live up to this trust and this honor,” Perry said following her election. “I am so excited about the ministry we are going to do together. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Perry holds a holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Chicago and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York. She was ordained deacon and priest in 1990 in the Diocese of Newark. Perry and her spouse currently live in Chicago and will relocate to Michigan this year.

Pending the consent of a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction and a majority of the diocesan standing committees, Perry will be ordained and consecrated on Feb. 8, 2020, in the Diocese of Michigan. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, will serve as the chief consecrator.

Perry will succeed the Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., who has served as bishop since 2000 and will retire in at the end of 2019.

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan is comprised of 75 congregations and over 16,000 baptized members.

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Criminals impersonate Anglican Communion secretary general in gift card fraud

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 3:01pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Scam emails designed to look as though they have been sent by Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon have been used to acquire iTunes gift cards from unsuspecting recipients.

At least one recipient of the emails was taken in by the fraudsters and ended up £200 out of pocket. The scammers used a Gmail account. The victim who fell for the scam was targeted mere hours after the Anglican Communion Office informed Google that the email account was being used to commit fraud.

Read the full article here.

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South Sudanese in diaspora and in Africa garner renewed Episcopal Church attention

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 2:46pm

The Very Rev. Patrick Augustine soon will retire from Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and become a South Sudanese bishop. Photo: Christ Episcopal Church via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is paying renewed attention to Sudanese Episcopalians in two ways, one conventional and one unique in the Anglican Communion.

The Task Force on Dialogue with South Sudanese Diaspora, created by the General Convention in 2018 (via Resolution D088), is the conventional way, working to “establish an official conversation for the purpose of developing a statement of understanding of the relationship with the South Sudanese American Anglican diaspora living in this country and The Episcopal Church.”

The unconventional approach will begin June 2 when the Very Rev. Patrick Augustine retires as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and a week later becomes an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Bor, part of the Anglican Communion Province of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan.

He will divide his time between Bor and the United States, where, in the words of a March letter from Jonglei Archbishop Ruben Akurdid Ngong, Augustine will be “our voice to represent us in North America and in the Anglican Communion … to seek help in the continuing work of peace and resources for development to empower our people to live in harmony” after years of civil war.

In the past, the assignment of a bishop from one province of the communion to function in another province has been met with skepticism or outright objection. In the 2000s, so-called “cross-border interventions” involved bishops from conservative Anglican provinces and dioceses entering other provinces with the goal of ministering to those who objected to their church’s theological stance on the roles of LGBTQ people in those churches. In 2004, the communion imposed a moratorium on such interventions while also banning same-gender relationship blessings and the ordination and consecration of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

Augustine and his current bishop, Diocese of Eau Claire Bishop Jay Lambert, told Episcopal News Service that word of Augustine’s appointment came last August via an unexpected letter to Augustine from Ngong. They consulted with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, initiating a long series of conversations, email exchanges and discernment. That months-long process ended with the presiding bishop, Lambert and Augustine concluding that the archbishop’s offer was workable and was a recognition of Augustine’s nearly 30-year history of ministering with and to Sudanese Anglican leaders and their people during the decades of conflict in the African nation.

A delegation from The Episcopal Church presents gifts at a combined worship service in May 1998 at Kakuma Refugee Camp in the Sudan. The Very Rev. Patrick Augustine is at right. Photo: John Bullen/Episcopal News Service

South Sudan became the world’s newest nation in July 2011, when it seceded from the north in a referendum on independence following almost half a century of civil war. But a separate conflict erupted in December 2013 after the South Sudan president accused his former deputy of plotting a coup. The conflict quickly morphed into tribal warfare between the Dinka and the Nuer. A peace deal brokered last year by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the nation’s churches is fragile.

Augustine, 69, is a Pakistani-born cleric whose orders were transferred from the Anglican Church in Pakistan to The Episcopal Church in 1986. Having recently had two stents put in his heart, he was planning to retire when he turned 70 in 2020. Instead, he said, he has decided that, with Curry’s approval, he could not refuse the South Sudanese’s call to him.

Curry recently told the House of Bishops that Augustine’s impending episcopate is not an end run, reminiscent of those interventions.

“This is not something that’s bad. It’s potentially something that’s good. We’ve never done it before, but we’ve put safeguards in place that all have agreed to,” Curry said, “for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.”

Those safeguards include requiring Augustine to have a diocesan bishop’s permission before he can enter a diocese to work with any South Sudanese Episcopalians whom the bishop has determined would benefit from Augustine’s pastoral presence, the presiding bishop wrote in a letter to him.

Augustine will be expected communicate and collaborate with the church’s Global Partnerships Office, the Rev. Charles Robertson (Curry’s canon for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church) and church-related organizations such as the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

Curry also said that he will continue to talk to the South Sudanese primate about how the arrangement is working. Either one can end it if they feel people are confused about Augustine’s role.

In addition, Augustine will not be a member of The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, Curry said.

The presiding bishop told the bishops that he had talked with Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, the South Sudanese primate, and told the archbishop of Canterbury’s staff about the their conversations.

Curry wrote, in a letter to Ngong that Lambert is carrying to Juba, South Sudan, that he hopes “the careful instructions” he gave to Augustine and shared with the primate “will offer the clarity needed to strengthen the bonds of faith and love that hold us together as fellow Anglican Christians.”

Relations between The Episcopal Church and Sudanese Anglicans have been rocky in the past because of General Convention’s decisions to fully include LGBTQ people in the life of The Episcopal Church. Augustine told ENS that he supports convention’s actions. “We do it in the name of compassion and justice. They disagree with us on conservative theological grounds,” he said.

Augustine insists, “I have no other agenda” other than to “be a bridge to being reconciliation” between South Sudan and the United States, all the while bringing the hope of the Gospel to the poor and war-torn country whose people “have been on the run for 40 years and are now beginning to come back” to the newly independent nation.

“The agenda of Jesus is to work for the poor, to open the eyes of the blind and bring peace and comfort,” he said.

Ngong, who is also the bishop of Bor, told Augustine in outlining his appointment that the diocese and country need the world “to stand in solidarity with us to help God’s children who are suffering” because of war and internal conflicts and a lack of resources. “Our people are hungry, suffering from diseases and many are living in refugee camps in diaspora,” he wrote.

The archbishop also said he wants Augustine to help with theological education of both clergy and laity, including members of the Mothers Union.

“The needs are enormous” in Bor, Augustine said. He will not be paid, relying instead on his Church Pension Fund benefit that he earned serving churches in the dioceses of Virginia, Chicago and Eau Claire. He is setting up a nonprofit organization for his currently nonexistent budget. Augustine has already received some donations for his work in South Sudan, including $1,000 from Bishop William Patrick Callahan, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse.

Lambert said he supports Augustine in his new ministry as long as he stays within Curry’s guardrails.

“I’m very excited for him. It’s amazing how God works. And, it’s amazing how people have embraced this for him,” Lambert said. “I think it’s a wonderful story. It’s like anything else that’s new: it presents danger and it presents opportunity. I want to see the opportunity. I believe that will happen.”

Lambert said the arrangement could be “a marvelous model” that can be a factor in “building up our church.”

Augustine will begin “to try and build bridges to work together” with the convention task force and the American Friends of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, or AFRECS, Lambert said, adding that he is helping Augustine in that effort.

“I don’t want a diffused perspective because if they all care about each other they can be more effective in unity,” he said.

Richard Parkins, the executive director of AFRECS, told ENS that he has not yet talked with Augustine, whom he has known since they worked together in Sudan in the late 1990s. The group has had no involvement in the formation Augustine’s new ministry. However, he said, AFRECS has always worked towards the same goal of peace-making and reconciliation.

AFRECS does that work both independently and, at times, with the help of the church’s Global Partnerships Office. In addition, Episcopal Relief & Development has worked in the area for years.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the six-person Task Force on Dialogue with South Sudanese Anglican Diaspora was “struggling to get our hands and heads wrapped around the scope of this conversation because we don’t know where all the South Sudanese communities are,” Diocese of West Missouri Bishop Martin Field told the House of Bishops in March. He and Diocese of Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe, who are both on the task force, asked their colleagues to fill out a survey to help them find those congregations.

Field noted that many of the South Sudanese immigrants are now U.S. citizens who are building families. However, “first- and second-generation and beyond still identify very strongly to their cultural roots in Sudan,” he said.

The Rev. Ranjit Matthews, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in New London, Connecticut, chairs the group. He told ENS that the survey uncovered nearly 40 South Sudanese faith communities spread across The Episcopal Church. In some cases there are parishes where the majority of the members are South Sudanese. Other groups are not so formally organized.

Regardless of their structure, Matthews said, The Episcopal Church “could be doing a better job” of listening to South Sudanese who are in the United States to learn how the church can support them in their ministries and in their life now.

“The whole point is to help the South Sudanese realize that we want to be their church and try to meet their spiritual needs in a way that is authentic, and not something that we’re asking that they do for us but [asking] how can we be in real relationship,” said Matthews, who worked as The Episcopal Church’s Africa officer before coming to New London.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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Episcopal leaders cheer New Hampshire becoming 21th state to outlaw death penalty

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 4:18pm

Doris Hampton of Canterbury, New Hampshire, stands in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord on May 23 to greet lawmakers ahead of the vote to override the death penalty veto by Gov. Chris Sununu. Photo: Associated Press

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has pushed for more than 60 years to abolish the death penalty, and on May 30, New Hampshire became the latest state to align with the church and other opponents of capital punishment in favor of repeal.

The New Hampshire Senate voted 16-8 to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of legislation outlawing the death penalty in the state, following an earlier successful override vote in the House. The prohibition on executions took effect immediately after the vote, making New Hampshire the 21st state to end a form of punishment that opponents have decried as state-sanctioned murder.

“Today the Legislature fulfilled its moral obligation to the people of New Hampshire and demonstrated the courage to make the right decision,” New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld said in a written statement released after the Senate vote. Hirschfeld had submitted written testimony in favor of the legislation outlawing the death penalty in February, as did his canon for transition and community engagement, the Rev. Gail Avery.

“In New Hampshire, the diocese’s Prison Concern Committee will continue its good work to advocate for humane and just incarceration policies and practices, eliminate patterns of institutional racism, and promote effective re-entry of formerly incarcerated persons into caring communities,” Hirschfeld said in his May 30 statement.

The Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, issued a statement praising state legislators for voting to repeal the death penalty. All member denominations, which include The Episcopal Church, oppose capital punishment, he said.

“We celebrate the legislators who stayed faithful to their convictions in today’s vote. We celebrate the clergy and laity of our local churches who shared their faith in God as a reason to oppose the death penalty,” Wells said. “We celebrate the individuals, legislators, churches and denominations who, in spite of many defeats over the years, remained faithful to see this life-affirming day finally arrive.”

Episcopal Peace Fellowship Executive Director Melanie Atha joined Wells and Hirschfeld in heralding the veto override.

“This action is, of course, consistent with our conviction that the life of one individual is of infinite worth and that, by grace, no one is beyond redemption,” Atha said in a written statement to Episcopal News Service.

New Hampshire was the last of the six New England states to outlaw capital punishment, though no one has been executed in New Hampshire since 1939. The state has only one prisoner on death row, Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing a police officer. The new law doesn’t apply retroactively, though people on both sides of the issue suggest it is unlikely Addison will be executed.

“It is our hope and prayer that the one inmate on New Hampshire’s death row, Michael Addison, will have his death sentence commuted,” Atha said.

Twenty-nine states still allow the death penalty for certain crimes, though four of those states’ governors have implemented a moratorium on the punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Nationwide, executions have become less common over the past two decades, down from a high of 98 executions in 1998 to a low of 20 in 2016.

Still, public opinion has for decades tilted in favor of the death penalty, with a Gallup poll from 2018 showing 56 percent of respondents supporting a death sentence for someone convicted of murder. Sununu defended his veto of the New Hampshire by saying the state had been responsible in its use of the death penalty, which he believed was justified in cases like the killing of Officer Michael Briggs by Addison. The governor was surrounded by police officers during the veto ceremony.

Support for the death penalty, however, has been on the decline since the mid-1990s, and polls show fewer people favor the death penalty when alternatives are suggested, such as life in prison.

The Episcopal Church has never wavered in its vocal opposition of the death penalty since General Convention in 1958 passed a resolution asserting a theological basis for the belief that “the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God; and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of man.”

General Convention has reaffirmed that stance several times since then, most recently with a resolution passed in 2018.

New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld. Photo: David Price

The Episcopal Church in New Hampshire also has been active in advocating against the death penalty. The diocese has long been a supporter of the New Hampshire Council of Churches’ Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and in 2010, the diocese passed a resolution calling on New Hampshire Episcopalians “to urge their governor and state representatives to repeal the death penalty statute in New Hampshire.”

Hirschfield issued an extended pastoral letter to the diocese on the subject in 2013, the year after he was consecrated bishop, writing in favor of anti-death penalty legislation then pending in the Legislature.

“In a society that is increasingly marked by anger, hatred, revenge and violence, to hold out the possibility for repentance and forgiveness is hard – even offensive,” Hirschfeld then wrote. “Yet, for the Christian, to hold out such hope is the Way of the Cross.”

Hirschfeld, in his February 2019 testimony to the House Committee on Criminal Justice, called the death penalty “morally repugnant because it makes us all complicit in homicide,” adding that it does not effectively deter capital crime. He also criticized what he saw as “the distortion of Christian teaching” in the justifications of some capital punishment supporters.

“Such reasoning defies logic and reflects a toxic perversion of the Gospel message, the clear heart of which is that violence and hatred are not overcome, conquered or transformed by more acts of violence, but by the power of mercy,” Hirschfeld said.

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

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Bishop of Jamaica elected to serve as archbishop of the West Indies

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 3:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory has been elected to serve as archbishop and primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies.

Howard was elected during the 40th synod of the province, being held in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He succeeds Archbishop John Holder, who retired as bishop of Barbados in February 2018.

Read the full article here.

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Christians unite around the world unite to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 3:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Christians around the world are preparing to pray individually, in churches, in ecumenical gatherings and in large-scale beacon events, as part of this year’s Thy Kingdom Come global wave of prayer.

The initiative began in 2016 as a call from Archbishops of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu to the clergy of the Church of England to set aside time between Ascension and Pentecost – May 30 to June 9 – to pray for more people to know Christ. Leaders of other Christian churches in the U.K. echoed the call, as did Anglican leaders around the world. It is now a global ecumenical annual initiative.

Read the full article here.

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First woman bishop makes history in Philippine Independent Church

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 12:09pm

Bishop Emelyn Dacuycuy was consecrated May 5 as the first woman to serve the Philippine Independent Church. Photo: Winfred Vergara/special to Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] “The church is not about maintaining museums, building aquariums and perpetuating unjust structures but making disciples, fishing for people and building bridges for justice and equality.”

This comment seems to summarize the thoughts of the Rt. Rev. Emelyn Dacuycuy as she became the first woman bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). (The IFI and The Episcopal Church have been in a full communion relationship since 1961.)

Her consecration as “bishop in the church of God” was held May 5 at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, her diocesan see and birthplace of the church co-founder and first obispo maximo, the Most Rev. Gregorio Aglipay.

“Making changes in the church is like giving birth to a child except that it takes a longer time,” Dacuycuy said, referring to her journey to the episcopate. It took eleven special meetings of the General Assembly and three meetings of the Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) before her election as bishop of Batac Diocese was finally approved.

Following her consecration, the new bishop took leadership over a diocese with an all-male clergy and attended the meeting of the Supreme Council of Bishops where she was the only woman.

“I was seeing this image of a female dragon entering a den of lions, but it turned out to be a very pleasant, amiable and largely enthusiastic reception,” Dacuycuy said of her first council meeting.

Part of this receptivity was the presence of mostly young and newly consecrated bishops who were ready for change and the decisive leadership of the Most Rev. Rhee Timbang, the current obispo maximo who is supportive of Dacuycuy and an advocate for gender equality and inclusion.

“In the past, many bishops were reluctant to elect a woman priest to the episcopate because they fear the possibility that they can become obispo maximo,” Timbang said in an interview. “Ironically, it is this possibility which made Emelyn’s election a reality and the change that the church hopes to see.”

“As obispo maximo who has a limited term of six years, I do not mind a woman bishop becoming obispo maximo someday. For a long time, the church has been hostage to patriarchal values and has restricted the role of women in leadership forgetting the fact that women disciples were the last ones who stayed at the crucifixion of Jesus and the first ones who witnessed his resurrection,” Timbang added.

Dacuycuy’s consecration generated support from the global church. Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry commissioned Bishop Cathleen Bascom of Kansas and Bishop Nedi Rivera of Southern Ohio to represent the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and to serve as co-consecrators while Bishop Frederik Modeus sent the Rev. Sara Olofsson and the Rev. Fredlund Olofsson to represent the Church of Sweden.

In her sermon, Bascom expressed “unspeakable joy” over Dacuycuy’s consecration and noted that with her consecration of as their first woman bishop, “the IFI has reached another threshold” in its journey of reformation or religious revolution.

Following her first attendance to the SCB, Dacuycuy’s took part in the pontifical solemn mass celebrating the 50th anniversary and rededication of the IFI National Cathedral of Holy Child in Manila.

The IFI Gallery reported that she was “the most photographed among the bishops,” her Facebook photo received thousands of “likes” and the livestreams of the event had thousands of hits.

“I noticed that almost every clergy and lay person have beautiful smiles and were greeting me enthusiastically as if they were very proud of what they’ve accomplished. Like one famous Filipino ice cream, I became an instant ‘flavor of the month,” Dacuycuy remarked in jest.

Dacuycuy, who is married to the Rev. Noel Dacuycuy, professor at Aglipay Central Theological Seminary in Luzon (one of the two seminaries of the IFI, the other being St. Paul’s Theological Seminary in the Visayas), is also passionate about education for liberation.

“The main concern of women is not merely a demand for more positions and equal opportunity in decision-making bodies of the church; it is more than that. It is a struggle to recognize women’s theological and spiritual contribution as an integral part of the church’s prophetic ministry in the world.

“My greatest joy is to serve in a church that welcomes all and gives everyone an opportunity to serve. Gender is just a social construct, a way of ordering society and ascribing values. As a spiritual community, however, we must see beyond gender. We must see God’s people as Jesus sees them — children of God and heirs of God’s eternal reign.”

— The Rev. Winfred Vergara is missioner for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church

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Inside Diocese of Atlanta’s 2019 Ghana pilgrimage

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 2:34pm

The steeple on Christ Church Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast taken from the auction room in Cape Coast Castle where slaves were sold.

[Diocese of Atlanta] Ever since she was 12 years old, growing up in Guyana, St. Simon’s parishioner Claudette Seales, now 70, dreamed about visiting Ghana – in part because of the murmurings among family members that this is where her ancestors had originated, before they were forcibly brought to South America as part of the transatlantic slave trade.

Over the decades of her life, Seales moved to the U.S., started a family with her husband, and worked her way through college and a career. For a long time, that impetus to visit Africa lay dormant — until recently, when she came across a blurb about the Ghana Pilgrimage on the Diocese of Atlanta website and decided to apply.

“It wasn’t something that my church sponsored or talked about or told me about. It was just destiny,” she said. The dream had been reignited.

Seales was one of 15 faithful travelers from different backgrounds and experiences across the diocese who embarked at the end of April – fittingly, a week after Easter Sunday, with its themes of deep despair transforming into hope and absolution – on this year’s pilgrimage to Cape Coast, Ghana, a former hub of the transatlantic slave trade. The trip also happened to take place during the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia.

An annual tradition in the diocese, the Ghana Pilgrimage offers participants the opportunity to confront one of the ugliest facets of history: slavery, and the devastating repercussions of institutionalized racism for subsequent generations in both Western Africa and the Americas.

For centuries, tens of thousands of human beings were ripped from their families, homes and livelihoods and forced into brutal living conditions to build up the wealth of their captors. The city of Cape Coast, Ghana, was occupied at various points by colonizing forces from Great Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark and Holland.

THE DUNGEON

One of the stops on the pilgrimage was Cape Coast Castle, where West African people were held in dungeons before being sold and forced onto ships bound for the Americas.

“Those dungeons or detentions are still standing there like ghosts, as if they want to tell the story of their own brutalities that men and women suffered,” Seales said.

By all accounts, seeing the castle is a core-rattling experience. During a trip to Ghana in 2009, President Barack Obama described his visit to the castle this way: “I’m reminded of the same feeling I got when I went to Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel. You almost feel as if the walls could speak.”

Smithsonian Magazine included this horrifying note about the site: “Guides tell visitors that the walls bear the remnants of the fingernails, skin and blood of those who tried to claw their way out.”

Pilgrimage participant Peggy Courtright, a board member of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing since its inception in 2017, said she had visited several memorial sites in the U.S. that honor the victims of slavery and lynching. But seeing the legacy of racism and its heinous machinery far across the ocean inspired a different level of understanding.

“Confronting the capacity of human beings to not only be stunningly cruel but to systematize it, creating a system that will continue the cruelty, abuse and murder – we’ve seen it happen over and over again in history,” she said, adding that she was surprised by “how much healing happened in all of us. In ways that I wouldn’t have imagined, in ways that made me sob.”

HEAVEN AND HELL

The Rev. Jeff Jackson, rector at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Carrollton, said that in contrast to other pilgrimages he’s joined, which involved “basking in the spiritual residue of the goodness of the church” — visiting the home of a holy person, for instance, or a place where miracles were said to have taken place — this trip offered the invitation to delve into something much more challenging: “The chance to stand in the footsteps of my spiritual ancestors who committed atrocities, who committed grave sin.” The church very much participated in, and profited from, the slave trade.

Rev. Jackson said the image that stuck with him most viscerally was the paradox between the dungeon at Cape Coast Castle – “the mouth of hell,” as he saw it – and the haughty regality of the Anglican chapel looming above it. His first thought was that this was a darkly ironic panorama of heaven and hell.

“But then I thought, no: the people who were up there in the Anglican church praising God and taking communion together, all while human lives were being systematically dismantled and dehumanized and brutally tortured — those people up there were not in heaven. That’s a different level of hell. When you are completely aware of the atrocities of humanity and yet you do nothing about them, and in fact you revel in them, that is a totally different separation from God. It made me ponder, what are the ways that we are knowingly or unknowingly perpetuating other atrocities?”

As a white man raised in the south, Jackson said his fervent interest in, and commitment to, racial reconciliation and community-building has grown out of a willingness to enter into uncomfortable conversations and confront insidious biases and fears planted during childhood.

He remembers growing up in rural Alabama and being exposed to racist beliefs that he later learned to question: “Once you start tapping at that root, you realize how deep the root goes,” he said. This process of wrestling with the sins of the past has informed his understanding of faith.

 “We are complex people. We are not just all good. Spirituality isn’t about the warm and fuzzies; it’s confronting the sin that we hold and the sins of those who have gone before us,” he said. “And not denying the truth but entering into it. That’s a core tenet of our faith – repentance. . . Through repentance, we’re healed, if we’re honest.”

HAUNTED AND HALLOWED

The haunted places in Ghana today have become a kind of hallowed ground, as people lay memorial wreaths and pay tribute to the lives destroyed through the devaluation of humanity. As a group, Seales said, “We thanked God for the strength that he gave us as a group to pray, to share our hugs and share our pain, the tears. I think that’s how we got through it. Our group really connected. There was an understanding, every step of the way, that it was not easy.”

Courtright said that when she returned home, someone asked her if the trip was “fun.”

“I said I don’t know how to answer that. Fun wasn’t really the purpose of the trip,” she said. “I expected a lot of pain and anger. But I did not expect that degree of healing, too. We witnessed a lot, and now it’s our job to come back and witness to others.”

These shattering moments of confronting the past and its echoes in the present were intermingled with bittersweet moments of beauty and tenderness –  like venturing down the canopy walk through Kakum National Park – as well as the warm, welcoming services the pilgrims attended in local parishes, and the reverberations of jubilant music through the sounds of piano, trumpet, drums and voices joined in song.

An equally important facet of the annual pilgrimage is planting the seeds of new relationships. The pilgrims visited six parishes of the Cape Coast Diocese, worshiped with seminarians at St. Nicholas Seminary, and learned from the women’s diocesan ministries. The kindness, generosity and hospitality of those they met, even amid astounding levels of poverty, stood out to the Rev. Angela Shepherd, rector at St. Bartholomew’s in Atlanta.

Like Seales, Shepherd had also dreamed about traveling to Ghana – seeking to shadow her ancestors’ path “and bridge the gap in history.” The trip was especially poignant because she was able to share the experience with her adult daughter, who joined the diocese’s cohort.

HONORING ANCESTORS

The most moving part of the trip for many was the visit to the Last Bath or River of Remembrance in Assin Manso, where those who had been kidnapped were taken before being sold.

Seales said that she was able to honor her ancestors by leaving a note on the memorial wall at the Last Bath, after which she received her African name, Akua. “When we returned and met at the Bishop’s Chapel, he welcomed me as Akua. How can I ever forget that?’”

Shepherd brought a portrait of her great-great grandmother, Daphene Scales, who was born in 1836 and endured enslavement. In the picture, Daphene clearly bears the deep physical and mental scars of enslavement. “Her eyes look so sad,” Shepherd said. “I placed the photo against the wall in each place where the women were held in Cape Coast Castle and observed a moment of silence.”

At the Last Bath, Shepherd stood alongside three other women who had also descended from enslaved people, including her daughter. She unfolded the photo of Daphene and placed it in the river.

“It swirled a bit before being taken under and carried away,” she said. “Part of my mission was to bring her home, and I imagined her eyes smiling and rejoicing then.”

The tears, and the opportunity to honor these relatives, were a profound catharsis for Shepherd. “I experienced a powerful sense of God’s presence. It was a spiritual moment of reconciliation with history and healing: one that rivals none other in my life.”

The palpable sense of survival, and of the enduring human spirit, followed Shepherd home. As she put it, “I am a descendant of those who survived the walk to the Last Bath, the transatlantic journey, and chattel slavery. I am because they were. Perseverance was born.”

The post Inside Diocese of Atlanta’s 2019 Ghana pilgrimage appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

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