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Canadian archbishop reflects on achievements and ‘serious questions’ about future at General Synod

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 4:12pm

Archbishop Fred Hiltz. Photo: Milos Tosic/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal – Vancouver, British Columbia] In a wide-ranging address to General Synod on Thursday, July 11, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, outgoing primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, spoke of what he saw as some of the church’s most important recent accomplishments and priorities, as well as the challenges likely to face his successor, who will be elected Saturday, July 13.

Hiltz, who has led the church as primate since 2007, opened General Synod’s first day of business with a speech dealing with the themes of discipleship; the Indigenous church and reconciliation with Indigenous people; human trafficking; climate change; ecumenism and interfaith relationships; same-sex marriage; and the need for his successor to keep the church together in the aftermath of a potentially divisive vote on the marriage canon while facing an “alarming” decline in church membership.

Read the full article here.

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Canada’s General Synod practices respectful dialogue ahead of same-sex marriage vote

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 3:53pm

[Anglican Journal] In an exercise intended to produce more compassionate discussions than those that sometimes prevailed during marriage canon discussion in 2016, members of the 2019 General Synod spent almost the entire afternoon of the gathering’s first official day of business hearing about and practicing ways of speaking and listening respectfully to one another.

From 1:30 p.m. until close to 5 p.m. on July 11, with one break, Lynne McNaughton, bishop of the Diocese of Kootenay, and priest and psychologist Canon Martin Brokenleg led a session on “being a synod,” discussing the importance of living out Christian love during debates about potentially contentious issues, and having synod members practice respectful listening and talking skills in table groups.

Read the full article here.

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Canada’s General Synod hears ‘lessons learned’ from Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 3:50pm

[Anglican Journal] The signing of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2003 was a tumultuous experience for the Anglican Church of Canada—one that transformed the church’s relationship with Indigenous peoples and left a lasting legacy, the effects of which are still being felt to this day. The precise meaning of that experience, however, depends on whose voices are heard.

On July 11, the 42nd General Synod passed a resolution acknowledging receipt of a “Lessons Learned” report, along with its executive summary. The resolution encourages all levels of the church to read the documents and to “take action on their recommendations for ongoing reconciliation work both within the Anglican Church and more broadly.”

Read the full article here.

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Uganda’s first female cathedral provost takes up her post

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 2:30pm

The Very Rev. Rebecca Margaret Nyegenye was installed as provost of All Saints Cathedral in Kampala on July 10. Photo: Church of Uganda via Facebook

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of Uganda’s first female provost was installed on July 10 at All Saints’ Cathedral in Kampala. Dr. Rebecca Margaret Nyegenye was ordained in 1997 in Bukedi Diocese and was assistant vicar at St. John’s Church in Busia before moving to Uganda Christian University as a chaplain’s assistant in 2002. In 2012, she became the university’s chaplain.

Read the full article here.

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Covenant for ‘historical cousins,’ Methodist Church and Church of England, moves forward

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 1:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Despite an amendment to slow down the process, the Church of England’s General Synod has agreed a series of motions to take forward its Covenant with the Methodist Church in Britain to allow interchangeability of ministries and intercommunion between the two Churches.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the General Synod: “I for one am profoundly committed to moving forward in this matter, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the Church and for the sake of the world we are sent to serve.”

Read the full article here.

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New Zealand churches challenged to give up plastic for July

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 1:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] July has been designated a “plastic free month” by the Anglican Social Justice Network in New Zealand. The network is encouraging churches to join in the challenge. The plastic-free July challenge originated in 2011 as a pilot plan rolled out by five groups in Western Australia, and it has now snowballed into a millions-strong worldwide movement that continues to grow.

During the ‘Plastic-free July’ challenge, community groups and social organizations cut out single-use plastic within their community activities for the month of July each year.

Read the full article here.

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Canadian archbishop apologizes for spiritual harm inflicted on Indigenous peoples

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 11:15am

Canon Norm Wesley hears Primate Fred Hiltz’s apology to Indigenous peoples on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: Milos Tosic/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal – Vancouver, British Columbia] In a speech that stirred emotional reactions and caused members of General Synod to rise to their feet, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, apologized on behalf of the national church for spiritual harm done to Indigenous peoples.

Delivering his apology to the gathering of General Synod July 11, Hiltz laid out a confession of the ways the Anglican church demonized, dismissed and actively discouraged traditional Indigenous spiritual practices.

“For such shameful behaviors, I am very sorry. We were so full of our own self-importance. To quote the Book of Common Prayer, we followed ‘too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ We were ignorant. We were insensitive. We offended you. And I believe we offended God.”

Read the full article here.

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A church invests in mental health in response to parishioners’ suffering

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 4:06pm

Dr. Jon Kocmond looks at photos of his family in his home office in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kocmond lost his 16-year-old son, Nathan, to suicide in the fall of 2017. He has since been active in the suicide support group at Christ Episcopal Church. Photo: Wendy Yang/Faith & Leadership

[Faith & Leadership] When their teenage son Nathan took his own life, Jon and Sarah Kocmond’s pain was too heavy to bear alone. So they turned to the place where they knew they would be comforted and heard: Christ Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina — and, eventually, its Survivors of Suicide (SOS) group.

“If we need love to overcome sorrow, what greater source than God?” Jon Kocmond said. “The thing that has sustained me is my faith. I’ve become closer to God and the Holy Spirit. The act of sharing stories with others, sharing grief with others, is therapeutic.”

The support group was formed after the congregation was rocked by a half-dozen suicides within five years — a series of traumas that affected nearly everyone at the church, the largest Episcopal congregation in North Carolina.

The experience helped spur the congregation to make mental health a top priority, inspired by Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John to a man who had been ill for 38 years: “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6 NRSV).

In addition to the SOS group, the church has invested in mental health support and awareness in a number of ways.

It has helped one member establish a nonprofit residential mental health center and another launch a one-woman crusade to educate people about bipolar disorder. It has hosted two appearances by bestselling author Brené Brown to share her message that asking for help is a sign of strength.

And most significantly, the church has begun a search for a wellness director, a new full-time position that will focus on mental health as part of a holistic understanding of what it means to be well.

While the trend is too new to be reflected in hard numbers, mental health advocates and faith leaders say that a growing number of houses of worship across the nation are ministering to those with mental health challenges. Few have discerned the church’s call to nurture body, soul and mind as dramatically as Christ Church.

Besides offering people opportunities to share their life challenges, Christ Church seeks to equip them with information and resources. Photo: Wendy Yang/Faith & Leadership

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults has some form of mental illness in a given year, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias.

The poor are hardest hit: according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the rate of adults with serious mental illness is highest among those with family income below the federal poverty line.

That factor generally does not affect Christ Church, whose membership is largely well-to-do. But regardless of one’s affluence or status, no one is immune.

And the church has a responsibility to offer help for those who are suffering, said Warren Kinghorn, a psychiatrist and theologian at Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School, who speaks often to congregations about the church’s responsibility in addressing mental illness.

“God cares about human suffering and calls us to attend to those who suffer,” he said.

‘The silent things’

The roots of Christ Church’s mental health ministry trace back to the 2008 recession. Realizing that many in the congregation were having their lives turned upside down, the church organized a Sunday morning forum called “The Wisdom of Contentment” and invited members to come and share their struggles out loud.

Church leaders were stunned by the outpouring. Parishioners rose to tell their stories, not just about financial woes, but about their spiritual and emotional well-being — or lack of it.

“It made our pain so public, and so widely shared,” said the Rev. Chip Edens, the rector of the 6,400-member church. “It defrosted us. It opened us up more deeply to the struggles of our members.”

The Rev. Lisa Saunders, an associate rector, was struck by how eager people were — and are — to express out loud the most difficult issues in their lives. “It made us realize the impact of sharing our stories,” she said. “It made this big place seem warmer and more caring.”

The focus expanded from that first gathering, as the congregation and clergy began to see the role of the church as a safe place for parishioners to share what Saunders calls “the silent things.”

The Rev. Lisa Saunders offers communion during a Sunday service. Photo: Wendy Yang/Faith & Leadership

As the congregation’s awareness of mental health needs grew, Saunders said, so did their support of programs, preaching and teaching on wellness.

Besides offering people opportunities to share their life challenges, Christ Church seeks to equip them with information and resources, to direct them toward help, and to encourage them not to suffer in silence.

While the initiatives are focused on the congregation, the community is welcome to attend the classes and programs. No one is turned away.

The question posed in the Gospel of John — “Do you want to be made well?” — is applied broadly in this setting. Edens said the ministry isn’t based on the belief that Jesus alone can heal what ails us. God, he notes, works through many means, including health care, exercise, meditation and more.

“Jesus wants to renew our minds,” Saunders said.

‘What greater source than God?’

Despite its growing support of mental health, the congregation was shocked by the rash of suicides. Among the dead was a 20-year-old college student, a 51-year-old businessman and father of two who was active in the church, and the Kocmonds’ son Nathan.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. suicide rate was 14 per 100,000 — 47,000 deaths — in 2017, the year Nathan Kocmond died.

Christ Church was moved to act. In 2019, the church created the SOS group, which meets twice a month for an hour and a half, longer if necessary. Saunders helps guide the conversation. The half-dozen families involved politely declined a reporter’s request to sit in, asking for privacy.

But over coffee one Saturday afternoon, Jon Kocmond, a pediatrician, talked about SOS, and about his son.

Nathan Kocmond, 16, died by suicide Oct. 9, 2017. He left home on a Monday and did not return. His body was discovered the following Friday, about a 90-minute drive from Charlotte. He left no note, nor did he share any warnings on social media.

A junior at Providence Day School, he was an excellent student, a football player and a Boy Scout. His father said that Nathan, the middle of their three children, made friends easily.

The Kocmond family smiles in their last family portrait before Nathan’s death. Photo: Courtesy of Jon Kocmond via Faith & Leadership

But as Jon Kocmond characterizes it, multiple factors seem to have played a part in the tragedy. Eight months before his death, Nathan started showing signs of distress. He ran away briefly, and was having thoughts — though not suicidal — that disturbed his sleep.

Six weeks before his death, he suffered a football-related concussion, which caused daily headaches. He had to step away from football, and he missed three weeks of school, further fraying his social network.

Jon and Sarah Kocmond try not to blame any one person or factor. “We were all a part of his world,” Jon Kocmond said. “And his world failed him.”

In SOS, Jon Kocmond talks about Nathan. He listens intently to others who have lost a child, spouse or other loved one. His wife, Sarah, attends, but not as often as he does.

The group discusses the importance of recovering at your own pace, he said, and of not blaming yourself or feeling shame. And the importance of heeding the advice that Edens and his wife gave Kocmond: “You can’t do this without community and love.”

Dr. Jon Kocmond and his wife, Sarah, lost their 16-year-old son, Nathan, to suicide in the fall of 2017. They have since been active in the church’s suicide support group. Photo: Wendy Yang/Faith & Leadership

‘We belong to each other’

Kinghorn, of Duke, can cite any number of passages from the Old and New Testaments about God hearing those who cry out in the night.

“Jesus knew what it was to have people say, ‘You’re crazy,’” he said.

From the beginning, the church has raised the question of how we relate to each other, Kinghorn said. In the 1700s and early 1800s, Quakers opened rural “retreats” for the mentally ill — forerunners of psychiatric hospitals.

Psalm 13:2 asks, “How long must I bear pain in my soul?” — a challenge that individual congregations have an obligation to answer, Kinghorn said.

When he speaks at churches, Kinghorn offers suggestions to put this principle into practice: Preach about mental health from the pulpit. Organize support groups. Offer classes to help people learn the warning signs. Offer information on where to find help — through pamphlets in book racks, for example, or a page on the church website. Host forums for people to tell their stories aloud. Call people with mental illness into positions of leadership and service. Sponsor direct treatment.

But he also notes that there’s a difference between being included and truly belonging. He urges congregations to ask themselves whether they truly welcome the mentally ill into the life of the church and let them know they have a place in God’s home.

Kinghorn said he is moved by Christ Church taking the step, unusual among congregations, of creating a suicide support group.

While Scripture, he said, does not affirm suicide — our lives are God’s and not ours to take — neither does it condemn those who take their own lives. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, he said; there is grace and hope for those who die from suicide.

And yet, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, suicide leaves lasting scars in communities. “We belong to each other,” Kinghorn said.

Life matters

Coping with suicide hasn’t been the only struggle for parishioners. Personal experience with mental illness has prompted two church members to action.

Parishioner Beth Purdy spoke publicly for the first time at a Sunday morning forum in 2008 about her decades-long struggle with bipolar disorder, panic attacks, depression and misdiagnoses.

Purdy and Saunders had feared that few would come to the gathering, called “Life Matters.” But a capacity crowd of 200 turned out.

The experience emboldened Purdy to share her story at churches, mental health seminars — wherever she could. She launched her ministry as a speaker and advocate for mental health at Christ Church.

Purdy believes that by speaking out about her experience, she emboldens others to come out of the shadows.

Thinking back to that turning-point Sunday at Christ Church, she recalls that people seemed relieved to share their stories. “It was like a huge pressure valve was released and people could breathe when talking about mental illness,” she said.

‘It’s courage’

Faced with a family mental health emergency and finding nowhere to turn, Bill Blue retired early from Wells Fargo. With his wife, Betsy, he established HopeWay, a nonprofit residential mental health facility that they opened in 2016. It was unveiled at a Sunday morning forum at Christ Church, the Blues’ parish for 34 years.

Today, the church refers families to HopeWay, and the facility’s medical staff has spoken at the church. The congregation has supported HopeWay financially, Blue said — including a grant to bring in Theo, a therapy dog.

Extending its reach beyond its campus, HopeWay has hosted communitywide programs in uptown Charlotte featuring nationally known speakers — among them, ABC News anchor Dan Harris, who has written and spoken about mindfulness and meditation since suffering a panic attack on live TV.

Bill Blue praises his church’s commitment to shatter stereotypes around mental illness. “It’s courage,” he said.

The Rev. Chip Edens says God works through many means for our healing, including health care, exercise, meditation and more. Photo: Wendy Yang/Faith & Leadership

‘What does it mean to live together?’

Perhaps the biggest step that Christ Church has taken is to create the new staff position of wellness director. The vestry, the lay leadership body, agreed to fund the full-time position in January 2019.

The ad for the position ends with these words from Romans 12:2 (NIV): “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The first wellness director, when he or she is hired, will serve as an advocate, educator and navigator for the congregation.

The position calls for training and credentials in psychology, social work, counseling or psychiatric nursing, but rather than providing treatment, the director will triage parishioners to the right places for help. In addition to being on the church campus at least two Sundays a month, he or she will be available to respond to crises at any time.

Church leaders describe the new position as a ministry of presence, charged with addressing the array of issues that contribute to a person’s health — mental and otherwise.

It’s one answer to the question that Kinghorn asks congregations everywhere he goes: “What does it mean to live together as a community of people, committed to the glory of God?”

This was first published in Faith & Leadership.

 

Resources on mental health

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Diocese of Olympia chaplains rally behind homeless campers facing eviction from riverfront

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 3:41pm

About 100 people live in a homeless encampment on the Chehalis River in Aberdeen, Washington. Photo: Sarah Monroe

[Episcopal News Service] A group of Episcopal chaplains who for several years have ministered to homeless individuals in the coastal communities of Grays Harbor County, Washington, are standing in support of about a hundred people who face eviction from a riverbank encampment in Aberdeen.

The legal battle over the fate of the encampment, which the city has long sought to clear, could enter a new phase next week. The city announced it would conduct “a comprehensive clean-up of the property” starting July 15.

The Rev. Sarah Monroe, founder and priest-in-charge of Chaplains on the Harbor, a mission station of the Diocese of Olympia, is a plaintiff in the residents’ lawsuit seeking to stop the city from clearing the encampment on the Chehalis River. She regularly visits the encampment and counts the residents there as her parishioners.

“The request was not so much to stay. The request was the city be obligated to provide somewhere for people to go,” Monroe told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview last month. She acknowledged that sleeping in tents by a river isn’t an ideal long-term solution to homelessness in Aberdeen. “What we’re arguing is people deserve someplace that’s safe.”

Such homelessness ministries have the strong backing of the diocese and are being followed closely by churchwide leaders. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spent time with the chaplains during a pastoral visit to the diocese in June 2018, and his staff members have kept in touch with Chaplains on the Harbor as it puts pressure on city officials to respond more compassionately to homeless individuals.

“The theological underpinning of our faith expressed the Bible contains numerous directives to provide help for the poor, the sojourners, the strangers and the homeless. Jesus himself was described as homeless,” the Rev. Melanie Mullen, The Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, said in a written statement for this story. “Relationship with those experiencing homelessness is central to who we are as Christians.”

Aberdeen, with about 17,000 residents, is the largest city in Grays Harbor County. These communities about 100 miles southwest of Seattle have struggled with economic slump for decades – Aberdeen native Kurt Cobain was homeless briefly in the 1980s before fronting the band Nirvana – amid sawmill closings and the decline of the timber industry. And though Grays Harbor County’s business community has encouraged growth through tourism and courting wealthy transplants, the county’s incomes and employment rates remain considerably lower than state and national averages, according to a report released in May by Greater Grays Harbor, the regional chamber of commerce and economic development council. An affordable housing shortage has further complicated the picture.

A Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services report estimates as many as 3,000 of its 70,000 residents lacked stable housing, and 500 to 700 were considered fully homeless. Chaplains on the Harbor has been ministering to about 500 people, including some facing Aberdeen’s deadline to leave the contested city-owned property on the river.

“We’re talking about fellow human beings, and they need a place to live,” said the Rev. Bonnie Campbell, an Episcopal priest who is on the 11-member staff at Chaplains on the Harbor.

On July 10, the City Council approved Mayor Erik Larson’s $30,000 proposal to set aside the City Hall Parking lot as a temporary encampment while Larson pursue negotiations for a long-term site.

Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson says homeless in the River Camp got 72-hour notices this morning to pack up and move from the banks of the Chehalis River… and the city will allow them to temporarily put up tents behind city hall. #komonews pic.twitter.com/coImPvLXII

— Keith Eldridge (@KeithKOMO4) July 11, 2019

Aaron Scott, another leader with Chaplains on the Harbor, said the uncertainty has been difficult for people living on the riverfront. He and the rest of the team remained focused on providing pastoral support.

“We’re still kind of in the mindset of trying to prepare as best we can and support people in preparing for this displacement,” Scott said in an interview with ENS.

Though legal advocacy has taken the spotlight recently, Monroe and the other chaplains, several of whom were once homeless themselves, started their ministry about six years ago by simply meeting homeless individuals on their own turf.

The Rev. Sarah Monroe, far right, began her ministry with homeless people in Aberdeen, Washington, by getting to know the folks who hang out under a bridge that connects two parts of the coastal town southwest of Seattle. Photo: Glenn Stone

In addition to developing trusting relationships, in the early years Chaplains on the Harbor launched programs common to homeless ministries around the country, from free meals and clothing drives to street worship services. In 2014, Monroe’s nascent work was bolstered by a one-year Justice and Advocacy Fellowship from The Episcopal Church.

Monroe, in an ENS story at the time of her fellowship, lamented the push in Aberdeen “to make the town prettier by getting rid of the people on the street.” Today, the people on the street “consider me their pastor,” Monroe said, and she visits with them as other pastors would the housed members of their congregations.

She once counted herself as one of them. While finishing seminary, she spent about a year homeless, sleeping on acquaintances’ couches. Those days are behind her, but Monroe said the experience informs her work as a priest. She was ordained in 2014, not long after starting Chaplains on the Harbor.

Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel participates in foot washing for the Maundy Thursday service at Chaplains on the Harbor in 2017. Photo: Chaplains on the Harbor, via Facebook

The ministry has enduring financial support from the Diocese of Olympia, and Bishop Greg Rickel is a prominent booster, participating each year in the Maundy Thursday service held at Chaplains on the Harbor’s church property in Westport.

“For the past six years, Chaplains on the Harbor has worked to build ministry and leadership in Grays Harbor County, one of the poorest counties in our diocese,” Jim Campbell, the diocese’s treasurer for chaplains, said in a written statement. “We have built a strong presence in the diocese, and we have raised up powerful leaders to both direct the organization and speak truth on a local and national level.”

Most of the people Monroe serves are young, ranging from about 18 to 35, she said. Those who aren’t “couch surfing” are forced to survive on the streets. For years, the group on the riverfront has been targeted by the city for periodic sweeps, though each time the encampment residents returned.

In 2018, the city purchased the property with plans to clear it for good, and initially visitors were barred from accessing the site without a permit. When Monroe was denied access, she sued the city and argued successfully that she should be allowed to continue her pastoral work with the people living on the riverfront.

When she signed on to a second lawsuit seeking to block the city’s actions against the encampment, it was in the spirit of empowering the other plaintiffs to be heard, drawing on a core principle of Chaplains on the Harbor’s work.

“For me the key to addressing that is to raise up and listen to and provide platform for leaders in poor communities to develop,” Monroe said. Putting her name on a lawsuit “gives weight to their struggle, but it’s their struggle.”

They cheered in May when the judge in the case put a temporary hold on the city’s eviction plan, but that hold has since expired. Aberdeen officials pledged to give people at the encampment three days’ notice before clearing the property. After that, though their struggles may continue, so will support from Chaplains on the Harbor.

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

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Canada: Church leaders seek discipleship and renewal as 42nd General Synod opens

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 3:14pm

[Anglican Journal] In a changing world, Anglicans must rise to the challenge and once more become a “community of disciples,” National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said as the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada got underway.

That call for discipleship and renewal suffused MacDonald’s homily at the opening worship service of the weeklong meeting. The evening celebration of the Eucharist took place on Wednesday, July 10, at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, blocks away from the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre where the majority of synod would take place in the coming days.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal pilgrims bring Spain’s Camino de Santiago to the Appalachian Trail

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 12:07pm

Pilgrims walk through a field on June 26, 2019, on Day 4 of the Appalachian Camino, a weeklong pilgrimage organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania on parts of the Appalachian Trail passing through the diocese. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service — On the Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania] The pilgrims had come to a fork in the road.

They had just finished a hard uphill climb on the Appalachian Trail, and they weren’t sure they wanted to head 200 yards in the opposite direction to stop at the Darlington Shelter — even if it was named after the Episcopal bishop who contributed to the development of the trail.

But when they arrived, they found a bit of the “trail magic” that the Appalachian Trail is known for awaiting them.

Several of the support team members following their pilgrimage along the legendary 2,190-mile footpath had parked their van nearby and hiked a short way to the shelter carrying cold water and Gatorade.

“They were, like, magical. They just appeared,” said Debbie Pflager, 67, recounting the high point of the day’s hike during a time of reflection that evening.

The group was part of last month’s weeklong “Appalachian Camino,” inspired by the 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, it took the pilgrims along parts of the Appalachian Trail that pass through the diocese.

About 20 pilgrims, most from parishes within the diocese, hiked the full week, staying overnight in churches and parish halls along the way. Another 24 joined as day hikers throughout the week.

“We live in such a beautiful place here in Pennsylvania, and the Appalachian Trail is such a gorgeous walk,” Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan said. “So this is an opportunity to come together in community, in nature and appreciate God’s creation.”

The idea for the Appalachian Camino came from the Rev. Dan Morrow, the diocese’s canon for congregational life and mission.

Morrow is no stranger to pilgrimages.

He has traveled to Ireland and to the home of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy, he said.

And he has always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, which ends at what many Catholics believe to be the resting place of St. James. The walk has exploded in popularity with American pilgrims in the past decade.

Morrow said he has never had the time to make the trek, but on a recent day hike on the Appalachian Trail with his wife, it occurred to him that the diocese could bring the Camino to Pennsylvania.

“We should do a pilgrimage here along the trail, visiting our sacred spaces with our own group of pilgrims,” he said.

It wouldn’t end at the final resting place of an apostle, he said, but “having done other pilgrimages … I just know that the journey is just every bit as important, as transformative, as the destination.”

When Morrow approached the bishop with the idea for an Appalachian Camino, she immediately said yes.

It fit perfectly with the “Bishop Out of the Box” program Scanlan started last fall. The program is meant to model “how we could engage ministry in different ways and kind of invite people to think creatively, obviously out of the box, to do things differently,” she said.

So far, that has taken the bishop to a county fair wearing a button reading “Need prayer?” and to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration with a color-by-number picture of King on canvas, among other things.

“This is our own opportunity to embody our faith, to say that we’re on a journey and literally, not just figuratively or metaphorically, but literally to journey with others on the way,” she said.

Building on the “way of love” espoused by the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, they referred to the pilgrimage as “walking the way of love in central Pennsylvania,” Scanlan said.

By June 25, the fourth day of the Appalachian Camino, some of the pilgrims and their support crew had earned “trail names” like “Go Go Gadget,” “Major Tom” and “Mama Bear.” The bishop was “Trinity on the Trail” and Morrow, “Venom Sucker,” which came with a story recounted with much laughter about how — since the hike had been his idea — he was responsible for rescuing anybody bitten by a snake along the way.

They gathered early in the morning for a brief liturgy, including a prayer of blessing for the pilgrims. Scanlan knelt at the feet of those joining them for the first time that day, making the sign of the cross over their boots, and they split into two groups — the faster hikers charging ahead first with the bishop.

Morrow set his timer for 10 minutes of contemplative silence as his group began the hike. Everybody was looking forward to the first five miles — relatively flat, according to their maps, after three days of hills and rocks.

In the silence, Lisa Work said, she noticed the temperature changes as they crossed an open meadow into the shade of the forest.

As the day went on and temperatures soared in the stretches through soybean fields or along the roadside with no protection from the blazing summer sun, Work took turns with fellow hikers pouring cool water from their water bottles onto each other’s heads in a kind of trail baptism.

The 52-year-old, who attends St. John Episcopal Church in York, Pennsylvania, also wants to walk the Camino de Santiago someday. For her, hiking is a form of worship, a necessary rhythm, she said.

“Some of it I don’t have words for, but the experience has been so real,” Work said. “In the Scripture, it talks about the Holy Spirit understanding the groaning of your gut, and I think that’s what this is. It’ll fall short to anybody I try to describe it to.”

It’s different hiking with a group when she’s used to silence and solitude on the trail, she said. But, as she begins a new job heading a school, it has been a reminder how much she needs other people and a chance to unplug and slow down for a week.

After climbing a ridge, pilgrims stop to rest and enjoy the view on June 26, 2019, Day 4 of the Appalachian Camino. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/Religion News Service

Work was surprised to have forged a “sisterhood” with several of the women on the trail, including Amanda Kniepkamp, who joined the Appalachian Camino from Philadelphia, where she attends Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.

For Kniepkamp, weekly church services weren’t cutting it anymore. The 40-year-old, who works in academic support at the University of Pennsylvania, said she wanted a deeper experience of her faith.

If there was any place she would find that, Kniepkamp thought, it would be in the outdoors. Having grown up in a small town, she gets “city rage” the way others get road rage, she said.

Remembering church camps she attended growing up, she prayed, “Please let it not be hokey.”

But that hasn’t been her experience on the Appalachian Camino.

She has been moved by the worship in the mornings and evenings. And the intensity of the shared experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail, the joys and the adventure, quickly brought the group together, she said.

“We’ve been together for three days, and we’re sharing everything about our journey,” Kniepkamp said.

That was a theme sounded by several on the Appalachian Camino.

Kay Cramer, 66, walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain several years ago when she retired from her career as a hospice nurse. When she heard about the diocese’s pilgrimage inspired by the Camino, she knew immediately she needed to join.

“Where I was trying to find myself on the Camino, on this one, I’m finding that it’s more about relationships with other people,” Cramer said. “I’m finding love instead of finding myself.”

Others had what could be considered less spiritual reasons for making the pilgrimage — for weight loss or for the challenge of it. Some were hiking along with their children.

But then, Morrow said, “I also think not everything has to have a deeper meaning. Hiking is a good in and of itself, just like other things are. You can make connections, and drawing connections is really good, but just doing it is a good in and of itself.”

At the end of the 12-mile hike on June 25, the pilgrims let out a “Thanks be to God!” as two white support vans came into view.

They piled into the vehicles for the half-hour drive to the Church of the Nativity in Newport, Pennsylvania, a picturesque little church along a river, where they plunged aching and blistered feet into the rushing water.

A trailer arrived carrying their backpacks and other supplies, and some of the pilgrims rolled out sleeping bags in the church’s parish hall. Others set up tents around the stone labyrinth in its neatly manicured lawn.

Then they gathered in the church basement for a homemade dinner prepared for them by parishioners. Cramer, who belongs to the Church of the Nativity, made a Santiago cake, an almond cake on pilgrims’ menus along the Spanish trail.

During a time of reflection afterward led by the bishop in the sanctuary, the pilgrims took turns sharing the highs and lows of the day’s hike.

There were discouraging moments on some of the tougher switchbacks and a fall that cut short the day’s hike for one pilgrim.

There was encouragement from fellow pilgrims and that trail magic at the Darlington Shelter.

And, all in all, Scanlan said, “It’s been a good day — a holy day.”

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Emiten los obispos de las seis diócesis de Texas una declaración colaborativa lamentando las condiciones inhumanas en las fronteras de nuestro país. Llaman a los líderes nacionales y estatales a tomar acción.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 12:07pm

[8 de julio 2019] Somos los obispos de las seis diócesis episcopales en Texas. Al menos 700 de las casi 2,000 millas de la frontera entre U.S. y México se encuentran en Texas.

Todo Texas siente el impacto de todo lo que sucede en nuestra frontera sur. Lo sentimos a través de nuestras familias, muchas de las cuales tienen raíces antiguas profundas en las tierras del sur de los Estados Unidos. Lo sentimos en nuestra economía, ya que México es el mayor socio comercial de Texas. Lo sentimos en nuestra cultura, ya que Texas era parte de México antes de ser parte de los Estados Unidos. Pero, sobre todo, lo sentimos en nuestras almas, porque estos son nuestros vecinos y los amamos.

Escribimos para denunciar las condiciones en los centros de detención ubicados en nuestra frontera porque somos cristianos y Jesús es inequívoco.

Debemos orar sin cesar por todos los involucrados; por los refugiados, los funcionarios electos y las fuerzas del orden, al mismo tiempo abogamos por el trato digno de los seres humanos que se abarrotan en nuestra frontera mientras huyen del terror y la violencia de sus países de origen.

Hacemos un llamado a nuestros líderes estatales y nacionales para que rechacen la formulación de políticas basadas en el miedo que se dirige a las personas que simplemente buscan seguridad y la oportunidad de vivir y trabajar en paz. La situación en la frontera es, a ciencia cierta, una crisis. Los refugiados vienen desesperados y el personal de la frontera está bajo mucho estrés.

Hacemos un llamado a nuestros líderes para que confíen en la bondad, generosidad y la fortaleza de nuestra nación. Dios nos ha bendecido abundantemente. Con ello viene la capacidad y la responsabilidad de bendecir a los demás.

Hacemos esto porque a los cristianos se nos ha llamado a amar a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos. Y la forma en la cual debemos tratar a nuestros vecinos, especialmente a los niños, está escrito claramente en el evangelio según San Mateo 18: 2-6:

“Llamó a un niño pequeño y lo colocó entre ellos. Y él dijo: “En verdad les digo que, a menos que cambien y se conviertan como un niño pequeño, nunca entrarán en el reino de los cielos. Por lo tanto, quien toma la posición humilde como la de un niño es el más grande en el reino de los cielos. Y el que reciba a uno de esos niños en mi nombre, a mí me recibe. ‘Si alguien hace que uno de estos pequeños, que creen en mí, tropiece, sería mejor para ellos tener una gran piedra de molino colgada alrededor de su cuello y ser ahogado en las profundidades del mar.’”

Debemos cuidar a los niños, protegerlos y mantenerlos seguros.

Pero ¿y si son extranjeros? El mensaje de Dios en las Escrituras hebreas, Levítico 19: 33-34, también

es muy claro: “Cuando un extranjero reside entre ustedes en su tierra, no lo maltraten. El extranjero que reside entre ustedes debe ser tratado como uno de ustedes. Ámalo como a ti mismo, porque eras extranjero en Egipto. Yo soy el Señor, tu Dios.

Y otra vez, en Mateo 25: 31-40. “Tenía hambre y me diste de comer, tuve sed y me diste de beber, fui forastero y me recibiste.” Y en Mateo 25:40: “De cierto os digo, como lo hiciste con uno de los más pequeños, me lo hiciste a mí.”

Esto no es una solicitud de fronteras abiertas. Esto no significa que la inmigración no sea un proceso complicado. Este es un llamado a establecer un sistema justo y humano para movilizar a los solicitantes de asilo y refugiados a través del sistema tal como lo exige la ley. La búsqueda de asilo no es ilegal. De hecho, las personas en nuestra frontera están siguiendo la ley cuando se presentan ante las autoridades fronterizas.

El asilo es una protección otorgada a ciudadanos extranjeros que ya se encuentran en los Estados Unidos o en la frontera y cumplen con la definición de derecho internacional de “refugiado”, esto es, “una persona que no puede o no quiere regresar a su país de origen por qué no puede obtener protección en ese país, debido a la persecución o al temor de ser perseguido en el futuro 'por motivos de raza, religión, nacionalidad, pertenencia a un grupo social particular u opinión política.’ ”.

El Congreso incorporó esta definición a la ley de inmigración de los U.S. En la Ley de Refugiados de 1980. La Ley de Refugiados estableció dos vías para obtener el estatus de refugiado; ya sea en el extranjero como refugiado reasentado o en los Estados Unidos como solicitante de asilo.

Como cristianos, buscamos seguir los imperativos bíblicos y morales de nuestro Señor. Además, Los Estados Unidos tiene obligaciones legales a través del derecho internacional, así como nuestra propia ley de inmigración de brindar protección a aquellos que califican como refugiados.

Y mientras que las autoridades fronterizas pueden detener a los solicitantes de asilo, los tribunales les han ordenado que lo hagan en “condiciones seguras e higiénicas.” Informes de noticias creíbles que documentan condiciones inseguras, especialmente para los niños, han dejado claro que esto no está ocurriendo de manera consistente y sostenida, debido a que los recursos y el personal se ven abrumados por la situación.

Esta nación tiene los recursos para tratar a estos refugiados humanamente. Hacemos un llamado a nuestros líderes para que tengan la voluntad de hacerlo rápidamente.

The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. George Sumner

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer

The Rt. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey

The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High Jr.

Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle,

The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher

The Rt. Rev. Kathryn M. Ryan

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

The Rt. Rev. David Reed

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson

Mayores informes al:

In the Diocese of Texas, Communication Director Tammy Lanier, tlanier@epicenter.org

In the Diocese of the Rio Grande, Canon to the Ordinary Raymond Raney, rraney@dioceserg.org

In the Diocese of Fort Worth, Communication Director Katie Sherrod, katie.sherrod@edfw.org

In the Diocese of Northwest Texas, Diocesan Administrator Elizabeth Thames, ethames@nwtdiocese.org

In the Diocese of West Texas, Director of Marketing and Communications Emily Kittrell, Emily.Kittrell@dwtx.org

In the Diocese of Dallas, Communication Director Kimberly Durnan, kdurnan@edod.org

The post Emiten los obispos de las seis diócesis de Texas una declaración colaborativa lamentando las condiciones inhumanas en las fronteras de nuestro país. Llaman a los líderes nacionales y estatales a tomar acción. appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

A primer to the Anglican Church of Canada’s 42nd General Synod

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 11:03am

[Anglican Journal] More than 350 Anglicans from across Canada—delegates, partners, invited guests, displayers, volunteers and observers—will gather July 10-16 in Vancouver for the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. While there, delegates will consider resolutions affecting the whole church.

General Synod is the highest governing body in the church. Although the Anglican Church of Canada is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, it has final authority over its own affairs. It can pass, alter and strike down its own laws—or, in church parlance, canons.

Read the full story here.

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Megan M. Traquair consecrated as eighth bishop of Northern California

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 12:19pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Northern California] The Rev. Megan M. Traquair was ordained and consecrated as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern California on June 29 at the Mondavi Center in Davis, California. Traquair became the first female bishop in the 109-year history of the diocese.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Rev. Bruce Jackson, rector of St. John the Baptist, Glendale, Arizona, was the preacher. Pictures and Traquair’s first message to the diocese are here.

On June 30, the newly consecrated bishop was enthusiastically welcomed and seated at Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento, California at the 11:15 am service. Her formal seating in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, is symbolic of the teaching ministry of a rabbi or a bishop from the early church. The bishop wrote about this connection in a second message to the diocese, which you can read here.

Traquair was chosen as bishop during a Special Electing Convention held at Faith Church, Cameron Park, California, on Feb. 9, 2019. Traquair had served as the canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Arizona since 2013, assisting Bishop Kirk Smith. Previously, she was vicar of Church of the Apostles in Oro Valley, Arizona, from 2008- 2013. She also served in churches in Arizona, Northern Indiana and California. She was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 1992.

Traquair grew up in Santa Barbara, California.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and public policy analysis from Pomona College. She earned her Master of Divinity at Seabury Western Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Traquair and her husband, Philip, have two grown children.

Traquair succeeded the seventh bishop of Northern California, The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, who had served for 13 years. The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California was established in 1910 and has approximately 13,000 members across 68 parishes and missions in Northern California.

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Detroit ministry to offer showers, laundry services to homeless residents with help of UTO grant

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:45am

Volunteers in April help install drywall for the shower stalls at what will become Corner Shower and Laundry in the basement of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Corner Shower and Laundry, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan, is a small congregation, with only about 30 active members, but those members are committed to “doing the right thing for the community that we’re located in,” Janet Ray told Episcopal News Service.

Her congregation, Ray said, is known as a “social justice church.”

“Church doesn’t only happen on Sunday,” she said. On other days of the week, the parish hall serves as a kind of social justice hive, providing space for meetings of the local lawyers’ guild, a water board and a peace team, among other organizations. And every weekday, from 7 to 11 a.m., St. Peter’s basement becomes a dining room for the Manna Community Meals that are served to 150 to 200 needy guests, many of them struggling with homelessness in this gentrifying neighborhood.

St. Peter’s has been involved with the ecumenical Manna Community Meals since 1976. It was through those meals that volunteers hatched the idea for the church’s major new social justice project: Corner Shower and Laundry.

The Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering recently announced it was awarding a $70,000 grant to help St. Peter’s complete renovations and construction in its basement to open the space to soup kitchen guests who have no place to clean up before returning to the streets. Through Corner Shower and Laundry, they will have access to four private shower stalls, as well as sinks and bathrooms, and they will be able to wash their cloths in three washers and dryers at the facility.

“It’s really a beautiful thing, having an ecumenical effort coming together to help people who are the most vulnerable, and so St. Peter’s is proud to be a part of having it housed there,” said Ray, who represents the church on the board of Corner Shower and Laundry, now an independent nonprofit.

This project has been a long time coming, and its origin story is woven from numerous threads. “A diverse group of volunteers helping out at Manna Community Meals saw an opportunity to provide additional services to the Manna Meal guests,” the project’s website said. “This group of volunteers joined together to create the vision of providing those in need with a means to a fresh start.”

A lot of the credit for the idea goes to one longtime volunteer, Eugenia Bajorek, who said in a radio interview that she often brought free clothes and toiletries for the men whom she and the others were serving at Manna Community Meals.

“When you’re doing this for a while, you realize these people don’t have any other means to get clothes. They don’t have any place to wash their clothes. They don’t even have a place to take a shower, and when you think about that, you think about how important it is for you to take a shower,” she told WDET in March.

Organizers drew motivation from another experience, recounted on St. Peter’s website. A homeless man was attending a Sunday worship service when he suffered a seizure and was taken to a hospital. The congregation later learned that his legs had been amputated to prevent an infection from spreading.

Could a shower and laundry ministry have saved the man’s legs? At least it would have provided him with “access to clean socks, soap and water for his wounds and people to surround him to get the care he needs,” the church website says.

The idea began gaining momentum around Christmas 2014 when Ray welcomed Sue Goldsmith and her family to help clean out the church’s basement. Goldsmith, who is Jewish, chose to volunteer at St. Peter’s for a Mitzvah Day, an interreligious day of service commonly timed for Christmas, with Jews and Muslims supporting neighbors who are celebrating the Christian holy day.

While they worked, Ray explained to Goldsmith the idea for a shower and laundry ministry. The project attracted Goldsmith’s interest, and in the new year, she returned to the church to help get it off the ground.

Goldsmith, who lives in a northwest suburb, still attends her own synagogue, but as a Corner Shower and Laundry board member, she sometimes visits St. Peter’s on Sundays and refers to it as “my church.”

“I love the warmth that comes from that congregation,” Goldsmith said in an interview with ENS. “It’s a small congregation, but it’s a mighty congregation.”

Ray, Goldsmith and about a half dozen others from diverse faiths and personal backgrounds formed the core group that moved the project forward in 2015. They enlisted graduate students from the University of Michigan to conduct a needs assessment for the project, to confirm that the services would be used.

“We didn’t really want to do a shower and renovation unless people would use them and it would not be a duplication of services,” Ray said.

The students surveyed dozens of regular guests at the Manna Community Meals and also studied other shower and laundry facilities around Detroit. They concluded that Corner Shower and Laundry would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and recommended that the ministry focus on “privacy, cleanliness, and safety when designing the facilities,” according to a report from the students.

The project incorporated as a nonprofit and began holding fundraisers as it moved forward with developing the facility. Bajorek said she knew an architect who was willing to help them design a floor plan. Organizers also recruited contractors to estimate what it would take to convert the space to new use, from foundation work to utility upgrades.

By 2017, volunteers and contractors had produced professional design drawings, removed asbestos, repaired leaky waste pipes, identified a new boiler big enough to produce enough hot water for the showers and washers and determined how much electricity would be required. The basement’s foundation was partly demolished so that sturdy construction could begin from the ground up.

In February 2018, Corner Shower and Laundry announced it had approved a contractor for the full renovation of the basement and installation of the showers and laundry. The cost was estimated at about $250,000, and although less than half that amount had been raised, the group decided later in the year to begin construction.

Corner Shower and Laundry board members in October stand in the framing for what will become the shower stalls of the ministry in the basement of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Corner Shower and Laundry, via Facebook.

Volunteers provided free labor when appropriate, and organizers continued to host fundraisers and issue calls for donations. In February 2019, Bajorek’s sister, Sue Laabs, pitched the project to a local philanthropic organization called 100+ Women Who Care Northville, based in a northwestern suburb. The group’s members responded by voting to give $13,500 to Corner Shower and Laundry.

The shower ministry was still short of its fundraising goal, but it has since raised what it needs for the construction phase with the help of the United Thank Offering grant, Goldsmith said. Construction is moving along slowly but steadily, and she is hopeful that the showers and laundry will be ready to open by the end of this year.

It is expected to be run by a mix of volunteers and paid employees, possibly including some social work professionals who are trained to assist people living on the margins of society, Goldsmith said. Some of those details are still being worked out, including what revenue streams will support ongoing operations.

The ministry also hopes to offer supportive employment to the guests from Manna Community Meals. They will have access to the showers and laundry during the meals’ morning hours, and the goal is to hire some of them in the afternoons to help operate a commercial laundry, which will bring in revenue for the ministry.

Some foundations and donors “did not want to invest in something that did not already exist,” Goldsmith said, but she thinks it will be easier to raise money for the project once it is up and running.

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

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Wichita church embraces its role in urban ministries

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 3:26pm

The Rev. Arland Wallace, left, assists the Rev. Eli Montes on June 1 as she prepares to bless the ministries taking place in the parking lot across the street from St. John’s, Wichita. Photo: Tom Pott

[The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] For more than 25 years, St. John’s, Wichita, has provided a sack of sandwiches every Saturday to people in need. But in recent months the church has partnered with organizations to serve even more people in new ways. And through it all, the church has maintained a ministry of presence to people who are homeless in downtown Wichita.

Late last year, the church moved its Sandwich Saturdays distribution from an area behind the church to a vacant parking lot across the street to make it easier to hand out its 200 meals. That led Joshua Reed, a nurse practitioner who had developed a model for street medicine, to ask if he could bring his new medical trailer to the parking lot to provide care for people who came to eat, and others. And later in the spring, the church was approached by Family Promise, a group that helps homeless families, about using a vacant building the church owns for part of its work.

Together, these efforts have resulted in what the church has labeled St. John’s Urban Ministries.

Shirley Orr, St. John’s senior warden, said these partnerships reflect the fact that “we are an urban church serving an urban population.”  She said the church wanted to be a better neighbor to the community around it. Those efforts have “radically transformed the congregation,” she said, prompting a more intentional effort to serve those who rely on the shelters and soup kitchens in the neighborhoods around the church. Orr said, “Our hope is that people see that we have a social justice mission and are trying to be the hands of Jesus in the world.”

Medicine for people on the street

That effort rang true with Reed, who grew up at St. Paul’s, Clay Center, before he drifted away from the church as a young adult. As a nurse working in a variety of clinics and hospitals, he saw patients arrive with serious complications that could have been avoided if they had access to medical care that didn’t require a phone to make an appointment or a car to get there. He researched best practices for care with those who are homeless and spent time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see if a model of street medicine could work. He came back to Wichita convinced it could.

While working full time in an area emergency room, he started the ICT Street Team, a registered non-profit (ICT is the airport code for Wichita). It consists of a trailer with exam tables stocked with everything a health care professional would need to treat the kinds of conditions Reed’s team sees in homeless patients: wound care, lesion removal, and management of chronic illness including COPD and asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. Donations from pharmaceutical manufacturers allow him to provide antibiotics, insulin and other medications without charge. Meds that need to be kept refrigerated, along with other supplies, are stored in office space that the church provides.

The van also includes equipment to run diagnostic tests, including blood work and EKGs, to better treat patients.

Josh Reed, left, the founder of the ICT Street Team clinic, and other volunteers get ready to see patients outside the mobile medical van. Photo: Tom Pott

Reed said the Street Team provides key aspects of care for people living on the streets – availability and consistency. They are in the parking lot across from St. John’s every Wednesday and Saturday morning. When they hand out medicine for high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetics, they ask people to return for follow-up testing. And patients know they will be there.

Jeremy, a 27-year-old man, recently stopped by the mobile clinic because he needed help with his diabetes. He had been hospitalized to try to get his blood sugar levels under control, and while there he lost his job and with it his health insurance. After being released, he had gone three weeks without insulin, which now costs nearly 10 times what it did five years ago.

When he stopped by a recent Street Team Saturday clinic, his glucose level was in the 400s, far above the normal of around 100, leaving him feeling tired all the time, even with plenty of sleep. Reed was able to provide insulin and syringes and asked Jeremy to return the following Wednesday to get his blood checked again.

Reed and those who work with him are all volunteers, and the cost of the van and other supplies comes from private donations and partnerships with other organizations.

During most clinic sessions, the Street Team will see as many as 30 patients, with about a quarter of them new each time. On the first Saturday of the month, however, the clinic expands and hands out donated clothing and sleeping bags, while other groups provide breakfast and other items. On those days, they can see more than 60 patients.

Just being there for people

A nurse takes the blood pressure reading for a patient at a clinic run by the ICT Street Team in Wichita, a partner with St. John’s Church. Photo: Melodie Woerman

While Reed and his team see patients, St. John’s rector, the Rev. Eli Montes, also is there twice a week; the Rev. Arland Wallace, a deacon, joins every Saturday. They visit with folks who stop by, offering bottled water and kind words. People say it makes a difference.

Walter, a tall man with a keen mind and sharp wit, said both the Street Team and St. John’s helped him through a recent medical crisis. He wasn’t feeling well, and Reed’s team discovered his blood pressure was sky high. They sent him to the hospital, where after four days he was discharged with a prescription. With no money in his pocket he returned to the parking lot, only to find it wasn’t a day the Street Team had a clinic. He crossed the street, knocked on the church door and was greeted by Montes, who everyone calls Mother Eli. She researched the cost to get his prescription filled – $4 – and gave him money to pay for it. But then, Walter said, “We sat and talked. She prayed with me. That was a low moment, but God and the church helped. That renewed by faith. It wasn’t just the $4; we talked. It encouraged me on the right path.”

Shorty, who wears a ball cap and a crucifix, said that Reed’s efforts helped save his life, after he got off drugs and alcohol by going cold turkey, alone in his shack by the railroad tracks, last winter. He ended up in the hospital where Reed was working, diagnosed with kidney and liver disease. “Josh told me he could help me if I would let him,” Shorty said. With his conditions now stabilized with medications, he said, “God sent them to help and save me.”

He said people on the streets know that “St. John’s has always had a love for us,” noting the annual memorial service in December for people who have died on the streets. But the united efforts with the ICT Street Team have expanded that. “We love them,” he said. “There is love everywhere we go.” One of the Street Team nurses, working with the Wichita Police Homeless Outreach Team and the city’s Housing Authority, was able to get Shorty into an apartment, with rent and utilizes provided for two years.

Montes said the partnership of the medical team and the church has helped to create a sense of community for those seeking help. “What I experience every Saturday is beyond my imagination,” she said. “People feel acknowledged, loved and cared for. They are seen. They aren’t invisible anymore.”

St. John’s presence took a liturgical turn on June 1, one of the large first-Saturday clinic mornings, when Montes formally blessed all those serving and being served in the parking lot.

People line up to get a sack lunch every Saturday in the parking lot across the street from St. John’s. Photo: Melodie Woerman

But St. John’s tends to more than just spiritual well-being by making paperback books available in a lending library.  Retired teachers Peggy Karr and Marlene Franklin seek out donated books, and often scour used bookstores, to meet requests from those who stop by the table they set out each Saturday. Westerns and science fiction are favorites. The women do this as a labor of love because, according to Karr, “A life without reading is a life without happiness.”

And the partnership with Family Promise soon will result in space to help more people. That agency is renovating an empty building St. John’s next to the church, where it can help more homeless families move into sustainable independence. The building will help provide services like adult training and childcare, with families heading to partner churches every evening to sleep.

Church is the most important partner

Reed said that St. John’s is the most important partner for the ICT Street Team, surpassing even those who donate or provide free goods. The church’s eagerness to support his street medicine plan made a real difference. “Without them we couldn’t have gotten off the ground so quickly.”

He said that even though Wichita has decriminalized being homeless, there remains a stigma about having homeless people on one’s property. “But homeless people congregate around the church and they know they won’t be run out. These are people who sometimes are on drugs or with mental health issues, or prostitutes or drug users and people who are drinking, and it has taken the high road. The church is very embracing.”

-Melodie Woerman is the Diocese of Kansas’ director of communications.

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A ‘Trek’ toward the Kingdom of God

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 1:27pm

The 2019 Trek group after three hours of spelunking in Worley’s Cave, Tennessee. Photo: Greydon of Rock Dimensions, Boone, North Carolina

[St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound – Wilmington, North Carolina] For the week of June 17th, the Rev. Sarah K. Smith, St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound’s assistant rector, wasn’t in her office at the Wilmington, North Carolina, church. In fact, for most of the week she wasn’t even within cell phone range. No, rather than leading her congregation in daily morning prayer or the weekly healing service as she normally would, Smith was in different woods every morning, leading reflections with a disparate group of teenagers from other congregations around the state.

For the third year, Smith and co-leader Daniel Sockwell led young people from around North Carolina on Trek, an opportunity to engage with God in new and unique settings, while strengthening bonds with individuals from different communities. This year’s experiential formation brought together diverse youth from church communities in Wilmington, Winston Salem and New Bern for a week of tent camping, community outdoor meal preparations and adventure activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, caving, white water rafting and zip lining.

This year was different than years past, with no representatives from Smith’s own church, and also a broader range of age, with middle schoolers joining the typical high school participants.

“I had no idea what to expect from the kids,” said Smith, meeting most for the first time on the first night of the trip. “I’m excited about the energy from our youngest ones!”

The kids were in for new experiences as well. As they were driving to Table Rock, one of the Wilmington boys asked why his ears felt funny. He’d never needed to pop them before. It was in that moment that Smith realized just how new and different this experience might be for this year’s group. Beyond the standard new experience of rock climbing or white water rafting, this year’s Trek, with a significant majority of the participants there through scholarships offered by various congregations, was an opportunity for these youth to get out of the only environments they’ve ever known. An opportunity for suburban Episcopal youth to interact with Presbyterian youth from a rural Spanish-speaking congregation and two African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church congregations based in Wilmington.

“I act more like myself when I’m not around people I know,” said Zion Moore, one of the boys from a Wilmington church. Sindy Santana, a member of the Spanish-speaking congregation, added, “I learned that I can be a can be a nice person.” When pressed on what they meant by these comments, both explained that Trek had become an opportunity to explore themselves outside the often-fraught environments of their “normal” lives. It’s no surprise such insights were reached, as the theme of scripture and journaling prompts chosen for this year’s trek was stories—what stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves, what stories we allow others to tell about us, and what we hear if we listen for God’s story about us.

Trek leaders participated in daily journaling and reflections as well. In response to the daily prompt of “Where did you experience God today?” co-leader Sockwell reflected, “On the river, our guide told us they’re trying to get the Nolichucky designated ‘wild and scenic’ which means it won’t ever be developed, it’ll always be the beautiful creation God made.”

This led the group to a discussion of the Genesis story and what it means to be stewards of creation. Together, the Trek group came to the realization that if all are made in God’s image, then they become closer to God by becoming closer to each other. In getting to know each other in such a richly diverse group, one that is truly reflective of the Kingdom of God, every single person who spent that rainy week on Trek was able to know God more fully, know God’s story more fully, and better understand the stories they are in the act of creating.

“If you’re scared, you should know that God has your back, like when I was rock climbing,” said participant Tyshaun James. “If I’m scared, I just have to build a little self-confidence.” Listening to God’s story in order to reshape their stories of themselves. That’s what this year’s Trek was all about.

If your congregation would be interested in sponsoring a Trek for your community or for further conversation about the joy of adventure catechesis, contact sarah@saots.org.

–Colin D. Halloran is a Wilmington poet and author who attends St. Andrew’s.

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