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Comunicado del Obispo Presidente sobre el Mes del Orgullo honra a los episcopales LBGTQ

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 1:41pm

[13 de junio de 2018] El Obispo Presidente Michael Curry, ofreció el siguiente comunicado:

Jesús dijo: “Les doy este mandamiento nuevo: Que se amen los unos a los otros. Así como yo los amo a ustedes, así deben amarse ustedes los unos a los otros. Si se aman los unos a los otros, todo el mundo se dará cuenta de que son discípulos míos”. (Juan 13:34-35)

En mis años de ministerio, he visto y sido bendecido personalmente por innumerables hermanas y hermanos LGBTQ. Queridos amigos y amigas, la iglesia ha sido bendecida de la misma manera por ustedes. Conjunto a muchos más, ustedes son fieles seguidores de Jesús de Nazaret y de su camino de amor. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a ser verdaderamente católica, universal, una casa de oración para todas las personas. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a ser un verdadero reflejo de la amada comunidad de Dios. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a auténticamente ser una rama del movimiento de Jesús en nuestro tiempo.

Sus ministerios para con esta iglesia son innumerables. Yo podría hablar de cómo a menudo ustedes lideran nuestras juntas parroquiales y otros órganos de liderazgo en la iglesia. Yo podría hablar de cuántos de ustedes organizan nuestras liturgias de adoración, levantan nuestras voces en el canto, gestionan los fondos de la iglesia, enseñan y forman a nuestros hijos como seguidores de Jesús, lideran congregaciones, ministerios y diócesis. Pero a través de todas esas cosas y por encima de todo, ustedes siguen fielmente a Jesús y su camino de amor. Y al hacerlo, ustedes ayudan a la iglesia, no tanto a construir una iglesia más grande solo por el mero hecho de hacerlo, sino que ayudan también a construir un mundo mejor por el amor de Dios.

Durante junio, los estadounidenses y las personas de todo el mundo observan el orgullo. Mientras lloramos a las 49 personas que fueron asesinadas en el club nocturno Pulse en Orlando hace tres años, estoy consciente de que el orgullo es a la vez una celebración y un testamento del dolor y la lucha que aún no han terminado. Especialmente este mes, ofrezco un agradecimiento especial a Dios por la fortaleza de la comunidad LGBTQ y por todo lo que comparten con sus cónyuges, sus parejas e hijos, con sus comunidades de fe, de hecho, con toda nuestra nación.

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Iraqi Christians, chicken farmers rebuild their lives in the Nineveh Plains

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:02pm

Ghazwan holding chicks in a farm previously destroyed by ISIS. Photos courtesy of International Christian Concern and Stand With Iraqi Christians

[Episcopal News Service] At a cost of $5 each, chicks are helping Iraq’s Christian chicken farmers rebuild their livelihoods in the Nineveh Plains, a region historically home to Jesus’ followers dating back to his time on Earth.

With the cooperation of the farmers, Stand With Iraqi Christians and the nonpartisan, ecumenical International Christian Concern, the first of two chicken farms are up and running as part of an economic revitalization program aimed at re-establishing farmers in the Nineveh Plains, in an area known as “chicken city” prior to its occupation and destruction by ISIS, or the Islamic State.

“The SWIC initiative in chicken farming speaks to the need for sustainable economic development in a region devastated by violent conflict. The local commercial infrastructure, being destroyed during the fight to reclaim territory from ISIS, needs to be restored to its former levels for job creation and food production,” said the Rev. Robert D. Edmunds, The Episcopal Church’s Middle East partnership officer, in a press release. “This is a far-reaching effort to start to reclaim hope for a prosperous future for the people of the Nineveh Plain.”

 For more information on Stand With Iraqi Christians or to donate click here.

A U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government and initiating an eight-year war. A dictator, Hussein ruled the country for a quarter century and was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in 2006.

Throughout the Iraq War insurgents targeted and terrorized Iraqi Christians, whose numbers fell from 1.4 million at the start of the war to less than 250,000 today. When the United States completed its troop withdrawal in 2011, the then-fledgling Islamic State, began to take hold.

“In Iraq, 80 percent of Christians from some of the oldest Christian communities on earth were driven from their ancient communities by ISIS. Yet, those who remain are extraordinarily courageous, resilient, faithful, and are desperately in need our friendship and help,” said the Rev. Christopher Bishop, Stand With Iraqi Christians’ founder and president and the rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

Still, some Christians have chosen to remain, including chicken farmers in the Nineveh Plains.

“The Western Church and societies must understand that without our assistance, the impending loss of these communities would constitute a humanitarian, political, cultural and economic catastrophic for Iraq, and an irreparable wound to the world-wide body of Christ,” Bishop said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

A chicken coop on the Nineveh Plains destroyed by ISIS. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dixon

Before ISIS’s invasion, the northern Iraq city of Qaraqosh, located about 20 miles southeast of Mosul, was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community and had some 100 poultry farms. ISIS killed or displaced the city’s residents and destroyed their farms.

Today, however, as conditions improve chicken farmers are returning to the area. Stand With Iraqi Christians and International Christian Concern plan to help farmers establish two more farms in July and another four by October. Each farm creates or supports 134 jobs, from farm laborers to chicken sellers and hatcheries to butchers, grocers, to feed sellers, veterinarians and truck drivers, and generates $48,000 in income during each growing period, according to Stand With Iraqi Christians.

Bassam (right) in his newly rebuilt chicken coop. Photos courtesy of International Christian Concern and Stand With Iraqi Christians

“They’re chicken farmers, they know what they are doing; they’ve been raising chickens for a long time and what they want is to re-establish their chicken businesses. What they lack is the startup capital to re-establish the infrastructure,” said Buck Blanchard, a Stand With Iraqi Christians board member and the missioner for outreach and mission in the Episcopal Church in Colorado, in a telephone interview with ENS.

“Once they get their chicken farms back up and running, they’re capable of running a successful business and supporting their families,” he said.

Blanchard visited Iraq with Bishop in October 2018. Bishop launched his organization in 2015 as a grassroots mission to address Iraqi Christians’ struggles; through friendship and material aid, it supports the right of Christians and their communities in Iraq to survive and thrive.

A former filmmaker, he documented his first trip to Iraq in a 36-minute video, “Where is Our Place?”

The Anglican Church in Iraq is one of 14 Christian communities under the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. Regarding Stand With Iraqi Christians’ economic revitalization efforts in the region, Bishop Michael Lewis said: “I think what you are doing is fantastic. So, the primary thing is ‘thanks.’ Another thing I’d like to add is tell your friends, get more involved, spread in your state, spread across the country.”

The Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention adopted a resolution in support of Iraq’s Christians. In part, it resolved “that the General Convention encourages The Episcopal Church, working in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, to provide prayers, friendship, and material support as determined by the needs and aspirations of Iraq’s Christians, as an expression of our love and recognition of their religious, cultural, and humanitarian inclusion in the sacred Body of Christ.”

Bishop, on Stand With Iraqi Christians’ behalf, drafted the initial resolution.

“The presiding bishop’s staff and the Global Partnership Team at The Episcopal Church have been immensely helpful in raising up Iraq as a long neglected and extremely time-sensitive focus of The Episcopal Global Mission commitments. As Anglicans, Episcopalians are both free of the long-standing religious tensions and conflicts roiling Iraq and are known world-wide as honest and effective mission partners,” Bishop said in an email to ENS. “As Americans, we have a special responsibility to extend the hand of friendship and support. We are uniquely equipped, and have a unique opportunity, to make the crucial difference in walking with our sisters and brothers in Iraq out of a crucifixion into a resurrection story.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Presiding Bishop’s Pride Month statement honors LGBTQ Episcopalians

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 3:06pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry today offered the following statement:

Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

In my years of ministry, I have personally seen and been blessed by countless LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings. Dear friends, the church has in like manner been blessed by you. Together with many others you are faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love. You have helped the church to be truly catholic, universal, a house of prayer for all people. You have helped the church to truly be a reflection of the beloved community of God. You have helped the church to authentically be a branch of the Jesus movement in our time.

Your ministries to and with this church are innumerable. I could speak of how you often lead our vestries, and other leadership bodies in the church. I could speak of how many of you organize our liturgies of worship, lift our voices in song, manage church funds, teach and form our children as followers of Jesus, lead congregations, ministries and dioceses. But through it all and above it all, you faithfully follow Jesus and his way of love. And in so doing you help the church, not to build a bigger church for church’s sake, but to build a better world for God’s sake.

During June, Americans and people around the world observe Pride. Today, as we mourn the 49 people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, I am mindful that Pride is both a celebration and a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended. Especially this month, I offer special thanks to God for the strength of the LGBTQ community and for all that you share with your spouses, partners and children, with your faith communities, and indeed with our entire nation.

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In California, celebrating a new name and affirming authentic identity

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 1:20pm

Jennifer Gonzales affirms her new name with “I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image” during the renaming ceremony at Holy Trinity Church in Covina, with the Rev. Steve DeMuth, rector. Photo: Pat McCaughan

[Episcopal News Service] For Jennifer Gonzales, 49, participating in a June 7 Service of Renaming at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Covina, California, near Los Angeles, was claiming her authentic self.

“I knew I was transgender from a young age,” Gonzales told Episcopal News Service after the ceremony. “Even though I did all the boy stuff, biking, skateboarding. My mom didn’t know, really. One time I told her, Mom, I’m transgender. She laughed at me.”

The ceremony is included in the Book of Occasional Services 2018, a liturgical resource of The Episcopal Church that was released in April 2019 and is available online. The service of renaming is intended for “when an event or experience leads a baptized person to take or be given a new name … this new beginning is distinct from the new life begun in Holy Baptism.”

The Book of Occasional Services is a companion to the Book of Common Prayer and offers ceremonies and rites for occasions that occur too infrequently to be included in the prayer book. Authorized by The Episcopal Church General Convention, it includes rites intended to aid congregations in celebrating specific occasions, such as: the Blessing of a Pregnant Woman; St. Francis Day animal blessings, and the Way of the Cross, typically used during Holy Week and representing Christ’s journey to the cross.

Vicky Mitchell, 58, who attended the June 7 ceremony and identifies as a transgender woman, said the ceremony makes sacred what too often has been ridiculed and shamed.

It has often led to “dead-naming,” the practice of referring to a transgender person by the name they used before they transitioned to their new identity.

“For trans people, identity is a really core thing,” Mitchell said. “It has to do with the divine image, with personal identity. Naming is just so special, having our name accepted. Knowing that our name is lifted, and that we have found the right one for us.”

She, like many transgender people, “knew years and years ago, that the outward image that all the rest of you saw did not match the image within our hearts,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t know how to communicate that to you for so long. But we kept looking, kept seeing this, and finally one day, it was either let it out or harm ourselves.”

“I knew I was female in spite of being the father of three children,” she added. “I tried for years to fit in with my male counterparts.”

The discontinuity between inner awareness and outer appearance can lead to heightened suicide rates compared to the general population, she said.

A 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that among transgender teens, more than half of males, 29.9% of females and 41.8% of nonbinary, or youth whose gender identity may fluctuate, said they had attempted suicide at least once.

Additionally, a Human Rights Campaign online survey of 12,000 LGBTQ youth from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., revealed “heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection” from family and others. It also indicated that all LGBTQ teenagers “overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms.”

The 2017 report indicated that transgender youth were twice as likely to be harassed and mocked by family members. About 51% reported they are barred from using school restrooms matching their gender identity.

‘I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image’

After the April release of the Book of Occasional Services 2018, “Jennifer and I read the service together and we both started crying,” recalled the Rev. Steven De Muth, Holy Trinity’s rector. “I asked her if doing it would be a blessing, and she said yes.”

Gonzales, who lives in Covina, said she felt nervous before the ceremony’s start, practicing again and again, her one-line response: “I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image.”

“I’m trying to memorize it,” she told De Muth, who officiated. The ceremony recalled scriptural name changes such as: “Sarai, who became Sarah; Jacob, who became Israel; and Simon called Peter” and included prayers for the LGBTQ community written by Rabbi Heather Miller of Temple Beth El of South Orange County, California.

“This isn’t my story to tell. I am simply a companion on the road,” De Muth told about 50 worshippers in a reflection during the ceremony.

Speaking directly to Gonzales, he said: “Along the way, you captured our hearts, with your willingness to participate in our ministry of feeding those who are hungry.

“You captured the imagination of The Episcopal Church who, until they met someone who was transgender, the beauty of experience and the challenge of experience were just on a written page. For us, you’ve brought that to life.

“It’s sometimes not until your heart is touched by someone you love that you begin to understand and to care.”

The service was co-sponsored by the Covina and Pomona chapters of GLEAM—Gathering of LGBTQ Episcopalians in Active Ministry in the Diocese of Los Angeles. During a meal after the ceremony, they led a conversation about challenges specific to transgender persons.

“The Episcopal Church has been way ahead” in supporting LGBTQ persons, Robert Amore, coordinator for GLEAM’s Pomona chapter, told the gathering. He described “as groundbreaking” the General Convention 1976 Resolution A069, which affirmed the full and equal claim of homosexual persons as children of God deserving of the love, acceptance and pastoral concern of the church.

From the election of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as the first gay bishop in 2003 to renaming ceremonies, “we just keep going,” he said. “Here I am, 64 years old, and things are opening up and I’m so grateful.” During the renaming ceremony he said: “I could just feel the joy in God’s spirit, and this is how we go forward, in joy.”

Accepting new names; new understandings

When Gonzales first selected Jennifer as her new name, “the people I told laughed at me,” she told ENS.

Others dead-named her, “almost weaponizing my former name and calling me by it to make me feel bad. It makes me really mad.

“When I was a guy, I didn’t like myself,” she said. “I was really self-conscious. I couldn’t even go into a place or a building that had people in it, I hated myself so much. But I don’t care now. I go wherever I want and if somebody’s hateful to me, I say to myself, just give it to God.”

The Rev. Julie Kelly, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Riverside, California, told the gathering she is “the proud mom of a young bisexual man, two straight young men and a nonbinary transgender transmasculine child as well” and that dead-naming is a very real and very damaging occurrence.

“‘Dead name’ sounds so powerful and hurtful for some people,” she said. “Some trans persons don’t use the word because they appreciate their history, their previous name, but they also know that is not representative of who they are now.”

As a member of several support groups for transgender parents and children, she said often parents have difficulty with the new names chosen by their children.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re ever denying the love, the intentionality, the nurturing of that person. It’s just a name we picked before we knew the person, and now the right name has risen up and that is a sacred thing,” Kelly said.

“We rebirth our children over and over again. That’s what parenting is. We rebirth, we go through the pain and we watch them become a person on their own in the world. When we let the dead name go and we acknowledge how important that is, we give them that breath, just like the first one they take after they are pushed out of the womb.”

She said it is vital for communities to understand and support the importance of acceptance of transgender persons’ chosen names.

“It is such a tiny thing for us and yet for a trans person, it is everything,” she said. “It is lifesaving. It is breath. I invite you into that as a mom who has seen what happens to my kid, every time they’re dead-named … I hear a little part of them die. I invite you into that practice, because it’s life-saving.”

Maria Guadalupe Sanchez, 61, a Holy Trinity parishioner who also attended the celebration, said both ceremony and conversation felt wonderful.

“I am very proud of my church,” Sanchez told ENS. “It is very open, very human. We really try to help everyone believe they are made in God’s image. We celebrate our diversity, and our dignity, that we are all God’s children.”

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

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Appalachian Trail inspires Episcopalians to embark on weeklong ‘Camino’ trek in Pennsylvania

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 3:08pm

About 3,000 people each year attempt to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, including this segment in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

[Episcopal News Service] The United States may lack a pilgrimage path quite like Spain’s centuries-old Camino de Santiago, which draws hundreds of thousands of foot-powered Christian pilgrims each year, but American hikers have a worthy alternative: the Appalachian Trail.

Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan’s diocese is leading a group hike on part of Pennsylvania’s segment of the Appalachian Trail June 23-28. Photo courtesy of Audrey Scanlan

At 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It crosses peaks, dips into valleys and passes through or near communities along the way, step by step revealing the natural beauty of the Appalachian mountain range.

About 3,000 people attempt to hike the trail’s full length each year. The Rev. Dan Morrow is not one of them. Instead, Morrow and his wife set out on a day hike in spring 2018 on the part of the trail that passes a couple miles from their home in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and by the time they returned, Morrow had found inspiration.

“I thought, how cool would it be to have a pilgrimage on the trail, like the Camino in Spain?” Morrow, the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s canon for congregational life and mission, told Episcopal News Service. “If we truly believe that God is active here in our communities, then Central Pennsylvania is holy ground, too.”

That inspiration was the spark behind Appalachian Camino, a weeklong group hike organized by the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania that will cover most of the trail segment through the diocese starting June 23. Participants will begin and end each day in worship, with churches near the route offering the hikers a place to camp for the night.

The Rev. Justin Cannon presides at Holy Eucharist during one of the Holy Hikes outings of the original chapter in the San Francisco area. Photo: Holy Hikes

Morrow and other organizers of Appalachian Camino are following in the footsteps of nature-minded Episcopalians who have launched numerous outdoor pilgrimages and ministries in recent years. Holy Hikes, which originated in California’s San Francisco Bay area in 2010, has grown to more than a dozen chapters across the country that organize day hikes incorporating Holy Eucharist and creation care themes. And in New England, the region’s Episcopal dioceses have collaborated on an annual paddling pilgrimage called River of Life that, since 2017, has turned the Connecticut River into a place of prayerful meditation and communion.

The River of Life pilgrimage influenced the planning for Appalachian Camino. Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan, before becoming bishop in 2015, had served in the Diocese of Connecticut, and after welcoming Morrow’s idea for a hike, she conferred with Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas about how he and his fellow paddlers approached their journey. The Connecticut River pilgrims, for example, typically start their mornings in silence to open their senses to the world around them.

Pilgrims launch from a dock in Essex, Connecticut, on July 9, 2017, the final day of the River of Life pilgrimage. Photo: Kairos Earth, via Facebook

“I’ve wondered what that would be like for us to begin our hike each morning with some great silence of our own,” Scanlan said in an interview with ENS.

One of Scanlan’s goals as bishop has been to bring her diocesan staff members into the diocese’s communities so they can foster deeper relationships with Episcopalians on their home turf. She saw Morrow’s idea as a unique opportunity to further that mission.

“It’s connections between ourselves, among people of our diocese, as we continue to try to build unity across the diocese,” Scanlan said of Appalachian Camino’s purpose. “It’s connections with the Earth and initiatives around creation care, and actually being in creation and spending time appreciating and walking through God’s place. It is gorgeous here.

“The other piece is getting out and being among other fellow pilgrims who are hiking and being the church in the world.”

Those “fellow pilgrims” are not just the 25 or so Episcopalians who signed up for Appalachian Camino. “Thru-hikers” who started in Georgia and plan to go all the way to Maine should be passing through Pennsylvania this month, Scanlan said, offering the possibility for trailside fellowship.

Scanlan isn’t the only Episcopal bishop with an eye for ministry and mission possibilities on the Appalachian Trail. Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher leads a diocese that includes the trail’s full 91-mile Massachusetts segment, and when the Rev. Erik Karas took over as rector of Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield two years ago, Fisher suggested he consider a trail-based ministry.

Christ Trinity Church, a joint Episcopal and Lutheran congregation, is just a few miles from a point where the Appalachian Trail crosses a sunny field. Karas hatched a plan to create “a corner of kindness” in the field for passing hikers.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail pause for a break at the rest stop maintained last July by Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Photo: Erik Karas

His congregation bought shade canopies, chairs with backs, a grill and a table and stocked the makeshift oasis with high-calorie snacks and lunches. Church volunteers staffed the rest stop midday on Wednesdays and Saturdays last July, when the thru-hikers were most likely to pass by.

“The hikers call it trail magic, and the people who give that kind of hospitality they call angels,” Karas said. His parishioners benefited from the experience, too.

“It’s an opportunity for the people in my church to practice hospitality and kindness to strangers,” he said. “It sort of embodies that gospel, that grace moment, unexpected and abundant.”

They are planning to bring the ministry back to the Appalachian Trail this July and to expand the number of days if more churches sign on to help.

Episcopalians in Central Pennsylvania have a long history of trail magic along their stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Bishop James Henry Darlington, the diocese’s first bishop in the early 20th century, is remembered as an early booster for conservation efforts and trail development in the region. Darlington Shelter, named in his honor, is one of the landmarks the Appalachian Camino hikers will pass.

The Appalachian Trail covers 229 miles in Pennsylvania, though only part of that segment passes through the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. The group hike will kick off June 23 near the Maryland state line at Calvary Episcopal Chapel in Beartown, Pennsylvania, and it is scheduled to conclude on June 28 with an end-of-hike celebration at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Harrisburg.

About 15 people have signed up to hike the full six days, Morrow said. Others will join the hike for a day at a time. A support van will shadow the group along the route, lightening the hikers’ load while they’re on the trail and transporting them to and from the trailhead at the start and end of each day.

“It’s not going to be overly programmed, but there will be some opportunities for reflection and silence and, I’m sure, some singing as well,” he said.

This stretch of the Appalachian Trail is known as “Rocksylvania” because it crosses some rough terrain, though much of it remains relatively flat, Morrow said. A mix of clergy and laity, as well as some young children, have signed up. The group will hike 13 to 20 miles a day, with options for shorter day hikes.

Each evening, the group will leave the trail and join a local congregation for dinner, worship and fellowship – and, in some cases, access to showers. These overnight stops will offer additional opportunities to make connections with Episcopalians in communities near the trail.

“Most of the churches along the route are smaller rural churches,” Morrow said. “We’re hoping that they just want to come out and hang out with us.”

The churches will have space, such as in parish halls, for the hikers to roll out their sleeping bags for the night, though certain hikers might prefer the church lawn.

“Some of us, like me – I would rather put my tent up and sleep outside,” Scanlan 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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Episcopal Church in South Carolina outlines plans for bishop transition

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 2:47pm

[Episcopal Church in South Carolina] The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina on June 11 issued a letter to the people of the diocese regarding transition plans for episcopal leadership. A copy of the letter can be viewed here, and the text of the letter follows.

Dear Faithful People of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-13

In January of this year, your Standing Committee began exploring options for the future of the Episcopacy in our diocese. Over the course of these past several months we have discerned that our diocese is ready for the next faithful step as we continue to “grow into the full stature of Christ.”

In our meeting on May 23, the Standing Committee voted unanimously to initiate a process that will lead to our calling for the election of a full-time Bishop Diocesan. With that goal in mind, the Standing Committee is working to find a full-time Bishop Provisional who can provide episcopal leadership during the transition period ahead.

As you are aware, Bishop Skip Adams has been our Bishop Provisional for nearly three years and plans to conclude his time with us by the end of 2019, or as soon as a successor is in place. Bishop Adams has been working on a part-time basis for these three years, and both he and the Standing Committee are convinced that our next bishop needs to be full-time to meet the needs of this growing Diocese.

Therefore, the Standing Committee continues to work in consultation with the Right Rev. Todd Ousley of the Episcopal Church’s Office for Pastoral Development on two fronts: First, to identify persons for the Standing Committee to consider for the role of full-time bishop to serve our diocese in the interim, and second, to prepare for an official call to election for a full-time Bishop Diocesan.

As you may know, electing a bishop is to engage in a significant process of discernment. From the time such a call is issued until a new bishop is ordained and consecrated typically takes 18 months to 2 years. The Standing Committee will oversee that process, which typically includes the formation of search and transition committees, the creation of a diocesan profile, and a period of nominations before the slate is announced. An electing convention would be called. The election then must receive consent from a majority of the House of Bishops and a majority of the Standing Committees of the 110 other dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Upon the successful completion of the canonical consent process, the bishop-elect can be ordained and consecrated.

We are developing a plan and timeline for this process in consultation with Bishop Ousley and will be able to announce more details in the weeks ahead. Please know the Standing Committee is committed to keep everyone informed along the way and to be as clear and transparent as possible throughout the process.

Please remember that we are at the very beginning of what we believe to be a major step forward in “building up the body of Christ” in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. We will continue to update you on the next steps as they unfold.

Your Standing Committee asks that prayers begin for all involved in this process. Pray for +Skip, our bishop, the councils and committees of our diocese; for all diocesan leadership and all who might be called upon to serve in this process. Most of all, we ask your prayers for those persons whom the Holy Spirit will call forward to provide episcopal leadership for our Diocese.


The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

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Council is ‘leading from the future as it emerges,’ mutual ministry review shows

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 5:37pm

Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple, an Executive Council member, breaks the bread during the Eucharist. The Rev. Lillian Davis-Wilson, a deacon and council member from Western New York, served with Hodges-Copple. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Executive Council is starting to lead The Episcopal Church toward the future using what is currently happening in the church and in the world, according to a recently completed mutual ministry review.

General Convention in 2015 called (via Resolution A004) for a cross section of council members to do such reviews on a regular basis. The reviews are not meant to be performance evaluations. Instead, they are designed for groups to reflect on their ministry together. A group of 12 council members, including the officers and the six people who formed a transitional executive committee of council between the 2015-2018 triennium and the current 2019-2021 triennium participated in the reviews in late 2016 and 2018.

The reviews are aimed at “looking at the present from the standpoint of the future,” said Matthew Sheep, who teaches management, organizational behavior and leadership at Illinois State University. Sheep, who facilitated both of the reviews, told the council during the opening session of its June 10-13 meeting here that the participants in the most recent review that begin in November 2018 were open to considering a number of “possible futures.”

The 2018 review found that the participants felt there is a “rebuilt trust” among council members, officers and the church-wide staff. All have a sense that people assume the best intentions on the part of others, rather than assuming that others are only looking out for their own interests. They also appreciated, according to Sheep, what they saw as a clarity and strength of the organization’s mission and vision, impactful leadership and council’s decision in October to reduce and restructure its committees.

Episcopal Church Executive Council member Julia Ayala Harris of the Diocese of Oklahoma preaches June 10 during a Eucharist that opened the council’s June 10-13 meeting at the Maritime Institute Conference Center (http://www.ccmit.org/) in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, outside Baltimore. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The council has an “improved organizational climate,” Sheep said.

The participants are also concerned about sustaining those improvements, regardless of any changes that might happen in the leadership. For instance, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, will complete her third and final term at the end of the 2021 meeting of General Convention and leave the council.

Among the areas that need improvement, the review said, were the financial cost of governance, further clarification of roles and responsibilities, how to bring the Way of Love to all levels of the church and how to deal with tensions as they arise. Sheep encouraged the council’s willingness to look at “possible futures,” envisioning what it might look like to improve these areas “and where it might lead.”

Earlier in the meeting Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told the council during his opening remarks that the relationship between the council and the church-wide staff is “growing and developing in healthy and positive ways.”

At a June 3-5 gathering, the staff spent time considering how each person’s work advances the church’s priorities of evangelism, reconciliation and care of creation. Sometimes, that work is obvious, Curry said, but sometimes the relationship of work such as making sure the boiler is working and the checks are written on time to those priorities is not so clear.

Evoking Ephesians 4:11-12, Curry said his job, and that of both the staff and the council, is to “equip the church to be the Jesus Movement in the world, witnessing and walking the Way of Love.”

In @PB_Curry's opening remarks to #excoun, he gives a shoutout to the staff of @iamepiscopalian. They convened last week for their regular in-house meeting. He described them as remarkable and hardworking as well as lots of other accolades.

— Andrea McKellar (@AMcKellar17) June 10, 2019

Jennings agreed with Curry’s idea of looking at staff and council effectiveness by how they equip the church for mission. And, she added a caution. In her opening remarks, she noted that many people want to say that the world is in a “post-institutional age.”

Even in The Episcopal Church, she said, people “seek to flatten structures and decentralize power.”

“Every three years, we go to General Convention to debate the budget, and we hear about how we should be funding mission, not governance and institutional structures. As though the mission happens by magic,” Jennings said.

If the church wants to be the Jesus Movement “we have to focus on how we are actually going to move,” she said. “We have to remember that governance is mission, just the same as programs that more commonly get defined that way. General Convention’s commitments to creation care and to racial reconciliation and to evangelism would mean very little without the governing structures of the church that help make them happen.”

If we are going to be the Jesus Movement, and we do, we need to figure out how to move. Our work as Executive Council makes mission happen. President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings #excoun @gaycjen pic.twitter.com/MjBkvext6i

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) June 10, 2019

Also during the meeting’s first day, the council

* heard a report from Treasurer Kurt Barnes that showed the 2019 part of the church’s 2019-2021 budget is on track. Barnes also noted that the Episcopal Church Center in New York is fully leased. The two newest tenants are a True Value Hardware store, which has taken over the former bookstore space on the street level, and a physical therapy practice.

Barnes said the first of three mailings soliciting donations to the church’s Annual Appeal from 38,000 constituents has raised $90,000 towards the $250,000 goal. In addition, the church’s effort to raise money to provide future retirement benefits for current and retired clergy in the Episcopal Church in Cuba has raised $730,000 through the end of May. Additional unconfirmed pledges could take the total over the $800,000 goal, he said.

* spent time with Ursuline Bankhead, a New York psychologist who led the members in implicit bias awareness training. Implicit bias, Bankhead explained, is an automatic preference for certain groups over others. It operates below the consciousness, is culture-bound, pervasive, evoked by group membership and is taught by parents and other elders. Implicit bias is normal but also malleable, she added. “We can change it. This is the beauty of bias; it is not stuck,” Bankhead said.

Curry had said during his opening remarks that racial reconciliation in the United States is “the gateway to all the ways we are broken and fragmented and separated from each other so, it’s the entrance not the end.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s opening remarks to the #Episcopal Church Executive Council reports on a recent staff meeting discussing their work of equipping the saints for ministry. #excoun @PB_Curry pic.twitter.com/EpyATs5TgK

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) June 10, 2019

* learned that the Rev. Jabriel Ballentine from the Diocese of Central Florida had resigned his seat. The council will elect a person to serve the remainder of his term, which runs through General Convention in 2021. The Rev. Michael Barlowe, the church’s executive officer, told the council that its executive committee will develop a list of nominees. He said he and others were considering the propriety of council to hold a special electronic meeting for the election so that the person could begin serving at the next meeting in October. Information on the solicitation for nominations will be released soon.

The rest of the meeting

Council will spend most of June 11 and 12 meeting in its four committees.  On June 13, the chairs of those committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the council to consider.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The June 10-13 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center outside Baltimore.

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


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Episcopal Church joins efforts to mark 400 years since enslaved Africans’ arrival in North America

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 3:16pm

[Episcopal News Service] A historically black Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., hosted a service June 9 marking 400 years since enslaved Africans first landed in North America at Jamestown in what is now Virginia.

The event at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, one of seven participating capital-area churches that were founded by slaves or former slaves, was led by Bread for the World’s Pan African Young Adult Network, and it kicked off this week’s annual Bread for the World Advocacy Summit, a large, ecumenical gathering of anti-hunger advocates.

The kickoff service at St. Luke’s was framed as a time both of lament for past injustices against African Americans and of hope for a better future, Bread for the World’s Angelique Walker-Smith told Episcopal News Service. She said the commemoration also was a fitting start to this week’s advocacy on Capitol Hill on issues related to food.

“We’re bringing historic roots and historic lens to our legislative agenda,” Walker-Smith said. Four hundred years ago, “people of African descent were basically fed the crumbs off the table.”

The calendar this year is filled with services and events marking the first transatlantic voyage of Africans in 1619 to the land that would become the United States, and The Episcopal Church is in the middle of planning its own commemorations. The church is coordinating with the Diocese of Southern Virginia, which includes Jamestown.

“Staff of the presiding bishop’s office are co-laboring with the people and staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia to plan a meaningful commemoration of the arrival of enslaved Africans to Jamestown,” the Rev. Charles Wynder Jr., staff officer for social justice and engagement, said by email. “The commemoration will afford The Episcopal Church a space, time and place to tell the truth and grapple deeply with the implications of its role in the transatlantic and domestic slave trade in North America.

“It will be a significant offering to the church and the world alongside numerous ecumenical, regional and national commemorations.”

Racial reconciliation was identified by The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2015 as one of three priorities for the 2016-18 triennium and beyond, along with evangelism and care of creation. Resolutions dating back decades have helped guide the church as it responds to racism and atones for its own complicity in racial injustice and support for racist systems.

A 2006 resolution specifically apologized for the church’s complicity, acknowledging that “The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture.” Three years later, General Convention voted to encourage each diocese to research the church’s role in enabling or resisting slavery and segregation, as well as “the economic benefits derived by The Episcopal Church from the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of slavery.”

The Episcopal Church also regularly partners with ecumenical organizations like Bread for the World in advocacy on Capitol Hill. Bread for the World, for example, led planning for the “For Such a Time as This” fasting campaign, which The Episcopal Church supported, and its Advocacy Summit was expected to bring hundreds of participants to Washington this week.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington is serving as home base for much of Bread for the World’s two-day Advocacy Summit. The congregation, near Capitol Hill, will host a breakfast and worship service June 11 before participants leave for their rounds at Senate and House office buildings to meet with lawmakers and their staffs in support of legislation that would prioritize global nutrition efforts.

Setting the stage for those meetings, the sanctuary at St. Luke’s was filled with song and prayer on June 9 as a modest crowd gathered for a service based on a yearlong devotional that Bread for the World developed to commemorate the quad-centennial of Africans arriving in North America.

Among the highlights was a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn penned by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson in 1900 for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and now known as the black national anthem.

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.”

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

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Brazil archbishop highlights justice, peace in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 5:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] As Christians in the Southern hemisphere celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week in the days running up to Pentecost, the Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Archbishop Naudal Gomes, has highlighted the struggle for justice alongside peaceful dialogue. In an open letter, Gomes writes: “It is impossible to be a Christian without being open to dialogue, partnership, the common walk.”

Read the full article here.

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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 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 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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