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Episcopal camps, conference centers offer free meals to federal workers struggling during shutdown

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 3:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] The public normally isn’t invited to breakfast, lunch and dinner at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, Connecticut, its dining hall typically only catering to people attending retreats or conferences. That changed this month when the center launched a kind of pop-up feeding ministry for certain struggling members of the local community: federal employees.

Incarnation isn’t alone. Several Episcopal camps and conference centers across the country have begun offering free meals to some of the 800,000 federal workers who are missing paychecks because of the partial government shutdown, which now is approaching five weeks.

“It fits right into our mission and ministry as an Episcopal organization and simply as an organization that’s involved in our local community,” said the Rev. Dana Stivers, associate executive director and chaplain at Incarnation.

The center’s outreach is part of a broader effort that includes Episcopal congregations and other community organizations, Stivers said, adding that many of the Connecticut residents affected by the federal shutdown are tied to the Coast Guard, which has a station and its academy about a half hour away in New London.

Incarnation’s Facebook post on Jan. 16 advertising free meals over the weekend generated overwhelmingly positive responses on the social network and some inquiries but no reservations from federal employees or their families, Stivers said. The center will extend the offer again this weekend, and other Episcopal conference centers are following suit.

Officials at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, saw what Incarnation was doing and decided to open up their dining hall for federal employees all weekend, too. A Jan. 17 Facebook post extending that invitation has been shared nearly a thousand times, and some local media outlets picked up the story, helping to drive turnout.

Kanuga served about 50 meals to federal employees and their families in that first weekend, and interest seemed to pick up as the weekend progressed, said Jimmy Haden, Kanuga’s executive vice president for mission. The news coverage helped, he said.

To get the meals, the visitors were asked to make reservations in advance and then show a federal employee ID upon arriving for the meals. Most of the federal workers in the region around Kanuga work for the Transportation Security Administration, the Forest Service or National Park Service. One woman, whose husband, a TSA employee, had been assigned temporarily to cover shifts in New York, asked if she still could bring her children for a meal. The family was invited to stop by Kanuga for any of the meals, and they came for two over the weekend, Haden said.

The TSA is among the federal agencies that have asked their workers to stay on the job without pay while the shutdown continues, with the promise that they will be paid for their time when government operations return to normal. Other employees have received furloughs, meaning they temporarily are out of work and may never see that lost pay back, unless Congress restores it retroactively.

The latest impasse over government spending has focused on President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund his proposed border wall. Trump wants $5.7 billion for that plan, and Democrats, though supportive of spending on border security, have refused to budge in opposition to a new barrier on the border.

Federal employees are caught in the middle as the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, wears on with no end in sight. Episcopal institutions around the country are working to minimize the shutdown’s sting for some of their neighbors, especially in communities with large numbers of federal workers.

The Claggett Center in Adamstown, Maryland, is one example. The conference center is only about 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., and it began Jan. 22 offering free meals to federal employees who live nearby and normally commute to work in the capital city.

That first free lunch at the Claggett Center went without any visitors taking advantage of it, but Lisa Marie Ryder, co-executive director, said the invitation stands, at least through this weekend. The center will determine week to week whether it can continue offering the free meals, and Ryder expects they will continue, unless the dining hall is filled by guests attending an event.

“Just as Jesus invited others to come and join him at the table, there’s a place set for you,” she said.

Camp Stevens in Julian, California, and Lake Logan Conference Center in Canton, North Carolina, have said they will set a place for their neighbors as well. Such efforts are being touted by Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers, or ECCC, a network of 77 such sites.

“Welcoming furloughed families to meals being served at the retreat centers is a wonderful way to provide a meal that didn’t fit in these tighter-than-usual budgets, and take that one worry off of someone’s mind,” Ashley Graham-Wilcox, ECCC’s communications director, said in an email. “It’s a simple way for these camps and centers to be a part of the Jesus Movement.”

Kanuga has begun setting aside some of its dining room space for free meals for federal employees during the government shutdown. Photo: Kanuga

Regular conference guests at Kanuga, when told that federal employees had been invited to join them, went beyond offering vocal support, Haden said. Some even made unsolicited donations to help Kanuga cover the costs of the meals.

These conference centers, though, would prefer the free meals weren’t made necessary.

“We would hope [the shutdown] would end for their sake, because this is of no fault of their own,” Haden said, but until then, “we’re ready to extend this into the future as long as we can.”

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

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Amid Pittsburgh division, a priest revives the parish that raised him

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 1:11pm

St. David’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a growing parish with almost 300 members who have no previous Episcopal ties. It rebuilt after a theological split in the diocese left it with only 20 members. Photo: Courtesy of St. David’s

[Episcopal News Service] When the Rev. Kris Opat returned to St. David’s Episcopal Church in suburban Pittsburgh in 2012, only 20 people were there to start over as a congregation with him. The sanctuary, which seats 300, made the group look even smaller. The building’s previous occupants, part of the Anglican Church in North America, had just decamped.

Ordained for only three years, Opat had never been a priest-in-charge.

Today, St. David’s is a growing parish with almost 300 members, mostly busy young families in a growing suburb who have no previous Episcopal ties. They hear the message of Christ’s unconditional love preached every week from Opat, 38, a trained engineer with dreadlocks who grew up in this congregation.

Opat’s entire career as a priest has unfolded amid the rancor and litigation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and weathering that conflict has influenced his welcoming, no-nonsense approach to ministry.

“The split in 2008 was terrible, but since then some wonderful things have happened,” said the Rev. Lou Hays, a retired priest who served in the diocese and mentored Opat. “St. David’s is the top of the list.”

‘What is going on over at St. David’s?’

One Sunday a month, the Rev. Kris Opat (right) invites children to say the Eucharist with him. Young families have fueled the growth of St. David’s Episcopal Church in the south hills of Pittsburgh. Photo: Courtesy St. David’s

About six months into the revival of St. David’s, Opat got a phone call from a curious neighbor: “Did something change at that church?” The question was posed so often that St. David’s posted a brief history on its website, acknowledging the off-putting nature of the confusing changes the church had gone through since October 2008 when diocesan convention agreed to follow then-Bishop Robert Duncan in his attempt to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church but retain all the assets that were held by the diocese.

As the wrangling continued, the sign out front of St. David’s went from saying “Episcopal” to “Anglican,” and even the name of the church had changed at one point from St. David’s to Church of the Redeemer as about 90 percent of the congregation tried to dissolve St. David’s and form a new parish in what became the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. On May 27, 2012, Pentecost Sunday, Episcopal worship returned to St. David’s and the parish resumed the use of its legal name, St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Opat was very familiar with how the neighbors thought. His parents still live in his childhood home, seven minutes away. His mother was one of the faithful remnants of St. David’s, along with a half-dozen other relatives.

As a middle schooler, Opat had felt at home at St. David’s, “which was evangelical then, almost Pentecostal,” he said. “Our youth group would play games and go to the pizza shop. In that evangelical model, I gave my life to the Lord then, which I have a broader view of now.”

Opat needed a broad view as a priest facing a broken congregation of St. David’s size that also had a burdensome mortgage.

A turnaround starts with the faithful remnant

“I felt hopeless,” recalled Jen Yoon, perhaps the most invested remaining member at St. David’s. She directed its preschool (St. David’s Christian Early Learning Center) and its children’s ministries. “We had so few people, and it was going to take so much.”

She was apprehensive about Opat and the direction he was heading theologically.

“I had heard a lot of stories about Episcopalians from the Anglican [ACNA] church – one side of the story – and I was praying about my commitment to a church family where people had acted terribly and decided they couldn’t be together,” Yoon said. “What came to me through nights of painful prayer was to let go of any and all labels or thoughts of Anglicans versus Episcopalians and get back to what this is really about: telling people about the love of Christ.

“I spoke with Kris because I wanted to know: Does he believe in one God and Father, salvation in Jesus Christ and the continued work of the Holy Spirit? We had a frank conversation around those three questions, and our beliefs very much aligned with each other. Kris was clear that we would become a place of community.”

Others stayed at St. David’s despite or because of family concerns.

Sam White had been baptized, raised and confirmed at St. David’s. He worshipped in the ACNA congregation and decided “to see if the Episcopal Church seemed a little more aligned with the attitudes I remembered learning at church during my youth.” That choice put him at odds with his parents, with whom he was living at the time; they left with the ACNA parish. White is now senior warden of St. David’s.

Logistics made member Jamie Sticha decide to stay. “I did consider leaving, and it was a difficult time,” she said. “With four young kids, I felt it would be more difficult to make it to church because we’d have to be ready a half hour earlier.”

To fan the small ember that was his parish, Opat worked alongside Hays the first 18 months before being appointed priest-in-charge. With no altar guild and no readers, Opat did whatever was needed Sunday mornings, even playing guitar with the band.

“They were traumatized, shell-shocked, so we didn’t ask the laypeople to do more. They needed to engage in healing,” Hays said. “Kris was extremely active in recruiting a vestry and focusing on Sunday morning. But number one, he loved the people. He was demonstrating to them through faithfulness to the Scripture, and just that sense of warmth and connecting that he has, that they could be comfortable with us. He was what we call the non-anxious presence that reassures people that it’s going to be okay.”

By end of first year, about 75 people were coming to the big church that everyone passes on a main thoroughfare. Some families attend after first experiencing the community through the preschool. About a dozen returned from the ACNA congregation. “We are open about anyone coming back,” Opat said.

Welcoming children to participate in St. David’s services has helped spark the congregation’s rebirth after all but 20 members decamped. The Rev. Kris Opat (center) attended St. David’s as a teenager. Photo: Courtesy of St. David’s

St. David’s discovered what it could – and could not – be about. These lessons brought the parish out of the ashes and bucked the trend of Episcopal churches losing visitors and members. Here are some of those positive steps taken by the congregation:

  • Welcoming children to the table. The last Sunday service each month is a Godly Play sermon, and Opat invites children to the table to help break the bread and learn the responses to the Eucharistic prayer.
  • Emphasizing love in small actions. Instead of “please be,” Opat uses “invite.” This makes the service “feel more like an act of worship rather than an obligation,” said White, the senior warden.
  • Accepting less programming. “Our culture is not about doing a lot of stuff,” said Yoon, who now directs children’s ministries. “Our families are busy, and they don’t have extra time for weekday commitments.”
  • Welcoming community groups (which also helps pay the mortgage on the new building erected in 2001). St David’s is also home to tutoring, music lessons and exercise classes. An evangelical Presbyterian church meets there, too.
  • Using extra land to feed local people. Opat and an Eagle Scout built a community garden that produces peppers, green beans, zucchini and more – all of which goes to a local food bank.
  • Hosting a weekly farmer’s market. With a group of moms from St. David’s and others who live nearby, Opat organized local growers and makers to set up in St. David’s parking lot. Today his mom runs it, and hundreds of shoppers take part weekly.

Engineering a path to ministry

Opat’s resilience was strengthened at Grove City College, where education “is also about learning how to serve others while pursuing your own life’s work,” as the school’s website states. Those paths didn’t converge right away when Opat studied engineering there. He wanted to switch to philosophy, but that idea didn’t fly with his mother. His ministry took root when a summer leadership internship involved planting a successful house church.

From there, Opat became involved with Three Nails, then a part of the emergent church movement in Pittsburgh and accountable to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2005, it was described as a fellowship of believers that cut across denominational lines and incorporated Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Jewish liturgies in its services. The group had no regular meeting place, gathering instead in homes, coffee shops, bars and old church buildings.

That experience led him to seminary, at what was then called Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and the frontline of a theological battleground over the ordination of the Rev. Gene Robinson, the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Robinson’s consecration fueled the Pittsburgh split.

“In my ordination class of 12, I was the only one who stayed in the Episcopal Church,” Opat recalled. Today, the seminary has dropped “Episcopal” from its name and uses the tagline “an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition.”

“It was about taking a side more than it was theology,” Opat said. “If there is any Christian tradition that splits over anything but the creeds, that splitting makes so little sense in the Episcopal tradition, which is about space and room to disagree. I wanted to be part of what was diverse, open to nuance and the Holy Spirit doing things in our midst and the tradition of scripture and faith – but not in a dogmatic and unquestioned way.”

At St. David’s, Opat routinely states that he doesn’t have all the answers. His interpretation of the Bible, while informed by his professional studies of the text, may not be the only one, he says. He constantly invites the parishioners to discussions outside the service.

When the theological argument over same-sex relationships cropped up at St. David’s, Opat’s response was based in compassion.

“We had a preteen program for kids in our parish and others who don’t go here, and a conservative mom had words with Kris about homosexual marriage,” Yoon said. “Calmly and respectfully, he didn’t back down. He agonized for days about that because he knows that people hurt in a lot of different ways, and he doesn’t like to have anyone walk away, to not come to solution.”

A decade after the split, moving forward

Today, St. David’s is the seventh largest of the 36 participating congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Almost all of the legal disputes with the breakaway Anglican congregations have been settled. “While acknowledging our deep differences, both sides have been concerned with seeking the highest degree of relationship possible, in the hope of reducing the scandal to the Gospel posed by the split,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell in early 2018, as the diocese reached an ongoing agreement with nine ACNA congregations concerning their use of church properties.

(On Dec. 4, a judge approved the agreement, clearing the final legal requirement for it to go into effect. Under the agreement, the diocese and the ACNA parishes commit to treat each other’s missions with respect. The parishes will continue to maintain, insure and pay for the operations of property held by the diocese before the division, and pay an annual fee to the diocese. If a dispute arises, the diocese and parishes agree “to resolve the dispute promptly as fellow Christians through direct exchange of information and discourse.”)

St. David’s story, as told on its website, says, “Since the split, St. David’s has experienced a wonderful renaissance. The conflict and uncertainty are over and a stable, warm, and inviting spirit has taken root. In this welcoming environment we are growing and flourishing.”

For Opat, his calling isn’t denominational.

“I’m not super-interested in making them [people at St. David’s] Episcopal,” he said. “I want them to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. When I stand in the pulpit, I say, ‘Yeah, this is what we believe, and I have not been sure what to make of it either. But I’ve not found a story more satisfying and real in its experience than this one, with its room for questioning and uncertainty and whatever you bring to it.’”

— Michelle Hiskey is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

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Minnesota extends bishop search timeline

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:13pm

[Episcopal Church in Minnesota] Minnesota Bishop Brian N. Prior and Deborah Brown, president of the Standing Committee, issued a joint statement Jan. 23 extending the timeline for the church’s bishop search. 

The election of the 10th bishop for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota will now take place on Jan. 25, 2020; the consecration is scheduled for June 6, 2020. The election was previously scheduled to take place during the church’s Sept. 13-14, 2019, convention.

Prior issued a statement on Sept. 25 announcing his plan to step down after nearly a decade of service leading the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. He will continue to serve as bishop until his successor is consecrated.

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Rhode Island churches offer warmth during gas outage

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 10:01am

[Diocese of Rhode Island] Episcopal churches on Aquidneck Island responded Tuesday to the state of emergency that left more than 7,000 National Grid customers in Newport and Middletown without natural gas for heat.

As one example, St. John’s, Newport, sent a special edition of its e-newsletter to spread the word that its church and Guild Hall would be “open and warm all night.” The church noted that it was not an “official” warming center but would “welcome you to come in if needed.”

National Grid estimated it would take a week or more to restore service to all those affected.

Read news coverage of the outage here.

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Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal – celebra 15 años de Meditaciones Cuaresmales

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 4:37pm

Episcopal Relief & Development celebra el 15º aniversario de las Meditaciones Cuaresmales de la organización con selecciones inspiradoras de años anteriores que ponen de relieve los increíbles conocimientos y profundidad proporcionados por líderes de toda la Iglesia Episcopal y la Comunión Anglicana. Los folletos ya están disponibles en español y en inglés en www.episcopalrelief.org/lent.

“Durante los últimos 15 años, hemos trabajado con cientos de autores brillantes”, dijo Sean McConnell, el director de Engagement for Episcopal Relief & Development – Participación en Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Cada uno de ellos aportó profundidad espiritual y reflexiones profundamente personales a estas meditaciones, de manera que el proceso de selección no fue fácil. No podemos compartir todas las mejores meditaciones, pero esperamos que las selecciones de 2019 proporcionen al menos una muestra de algunas de las palabras inspiradoras escritas en el pasado”.

La Iglesia Episcopal designó por primera vez la Cuaresma como un momento para recordar el trabajo de Episcopal Relief & Development para responder a los problemas mundiales en la Convención General de 2009. La Iglesia también insta a las feligresías a que observen el Domingo de Episcopal Relief & Development el 10 de marzo, que es el primer domingo de Cuaresma, o en otro momento que les resulte conveniente durante la temporada. Para obtener más guías de planificación y otros recursos, visite www.episcopalrelief.org/Sunday.

“La Cuaresma es una época del año en la que buscamos conexiones más profundas con nuestra fe”, dijo Josephine Hicks, vicepresidenta de Episcopal Church Programs for Episcopal Relief & Development – Programas de la Iglesia Episcopal para Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal. “En este folleto hemos regresado a las meditaciones que conmovieron más profundamente a nuestros lectores en años anteriores”.

Para obtener copias impresas de las Meditaciones Cuaresmales el o antes Miércoles de Ceniza, el 6 de marzo, Forward Movement debe recibir los pedidos a más tardar el 19 de febrero de 2019. Los pedidos se pueden hacer visitando www.ForwardMovement.org o llamando al 1.800.543.1813. Están disponibles los folletos cuaresmales y otros recursos, incluyendo cofres de esperanzas, sobres para los bancos de las iglesias, encartes para los boletines y oraciones especiales.

“Episcopal Relief & Development ha tenido la suerte de compartir reflexiones de muchos redactores maestros, teólogos y guías espirituales de gran talento”, dijo Rob Radtke, el presidente y CEO de Episcopal Relief & Development. “Estoy profundamente agradecido por las numerosas personas y feligresías que mantienen a Episcopal Relief & Development y a sus asociados en sus oraciones durante la Cuaresma y todo el año”.

Para obtener más información sobre pedir las Meditaciones Cuaresmales y otros materiales o para la    planificación del Domingo de Episcopal Relief & Development, visite www.episcopalrelief.org/Lent. También invitamos a los que nos apoyan a que se inscriban para recibir las meditaciones diarias por correo electrónico en español y en inglés.

Por más de 75 años, Episcopal Relief and Development ha estado trabajando junto con simpatizantes y asociados para realizar cambios duraderos en el mundo entero. Todos los años la organización facilita que más de 3 millones de personas que luchan con el hambre, la pobreza, los desastres y  las enfermedades vivan vidas más plenas. Inspirado por las palabras de Jesús en Mateo 25, Episcopal Relief and Development apalanca los conocimientos y los recursos de asociados anglicanos y otros para realizar cambios medibles y sustentables en 3 áreas programáticas específicas: Mujeres, Niños y Clima.

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‘Today feels like a miracle’ for same-sex couples in two Dallas parishes

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:50am

Some of the 15 couples renewing their vows and having their marriages blessed Jan. 19 at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in north Dallas sing during the evening service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Dallas, Texas] The talk over the weekend in two Episcopal Diocese of Dallas parishes was of history being made, dreams coming true and miracles happening as 24 same-sex couples received what they had longed for: their home church’s recognition and blessing.

“For a lot of years, you and I have been told that our relationships are not worthy of celebration, are not worthy of God’s love, not worthy of God’s blessing,” said retired Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in his sermon at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in the first of the two services the weekend of Jan. 19-20 to bless couples who had to leave the diocese to get married, or be married in civil ceremonies, because the diocesan bishop opposes same-sex marriage.

“Today we put that aside forever,” Robinson told the 15 Transfiguration couples. “We know it is not true and our lives will show it. This day may feel like a miracle to you and that’s because it is. Thanks be to God.”

A miracle was happening in their midst, retired Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson told the nine same-sex couples who were renewing their vows and having their marriages blessed Jan. 20 at the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle in Dallas. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Robinson reiterated that sense of the miraculous at Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle the next day where nine couples participated in a similar service. He called those expressions of unworthiness “a perversion of God’s love.”

Robinson, the Christian church’s first openly gay, partnered bishop, told the St. Thomas congregation that he was elected in 2003 just weeks before the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law. Lawrence v. Texas effectively meant states could no longer count same-sex sexual activity as a crime. The decision paved the way for the 2015 Supreme Court decision, known as Obergefell v. Hodges and Consolidated Cases, that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to be married.

Ten of the 24 couples had been married in civil services while 14 had had church weddings, mostly in other Episcopal churches. The liturgies at the two churches recognized that difference. Those with civil marriages asked for the blessing of God and the church on their unions, pledging in the words of the St. Thomas service “to fulfill the obligations which Christian marriage demands.” The other 14 gave thanks for God’s blessing received during their liturgical marriages and renewed the vows that they made.

Then all of them together had their marriages, and their rings, blessed.

Having their wedding rings blessed was part of the services for the 15 same-sex couples at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and the nine at the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“Many of you in this congregation have been waiting a very long time for this moment,” Robinson said during his Transfiguration sermon. LGBTQ people “have been waiting since time began.”

“And we get to be the generation where it happens,” he said, fighting back tears.

The weekend services took place after Transfiguration and St. Thomas, along with Episcopal Church of the Ascension, said they wanted to perform same-sex marriages under a 2018 General Convention compromise with Dallas Bishop George Sumner and seven other conservative diocesan bishops. The bishops had refused to authorize two trial-use marriage rites that were approved by General Convention in 2015 and required couples wanting to use them to be married outside their diocese and away from their home church.

In 2018 when convention approved Resolution B012 to give same-sex couples unfettered access to those rites in all of its domestic dioceses, Sumner and some of the conservative bishops interpreted the resolution to mean they had to appoint another bishop to provide some sort of supervision or pastoral support of that access. Such supervision is only required for straight couples in cases of remarriage when the divorced spouse is still living.

Sumner decided that he could not be in a pastoral relationship with parishes that wished to perform same-sex marriages. He negotiated with Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith to provide Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, to those parishes, relinquishing oversight but not diocesan authority. (More information about the 2018 compromise and its impact is here).

Brooke Robb sorts M&Ms Jan. 19 as she assembles rainbow-themed centerpieces for the reception at the Church of the Transfiguration. Robb, a lifelong member of “the Fig,” as some call it, recalled that the parish raised up the first women priest in the diocese: the Rev. Gwen Buehrens. The parish has always been a leader on issues of inclusion, she said, adding she was glad that same-sex couples could finally be formally recognized by the parish. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“We are aiming to live out ‘communion across difference’ with all charity and respect,” Sumner told Episcopal News Service in an email Jan. 19.

Smith, who met with leaders of the three parishes the previous weekend, wrote to ENS that he believes B012 “provides a provisional and contingent way forward, as our church seeks a balance between theological diversity and the unity which most Episcopalians desire.”

Smith called Sumner “gracious in welcoming me to Dallas and clear about his continuing desire to care for the three parishes entrusted to my pastoral and spiritual oversight.”

“We are both, I have found, committed to showing generosity toward one another, so necessary if DEPO is to work. And I want all that I undertake to be both clear in purpose and transparent in all the particulars, for the sake of the parishes, the Diocese of Dallas, and the whole of our church.”

Fred Ellis, a St. Thomas member and longtime LGBTQ advocate, told ENS just before the Jan. 20 service there that Sumner has “made every effort to make this as seamless as possible.”

“We’ve come a long way in this diocese,” Ellis said. “We’re able to talk to each other now without rancor and without the vitriol that previously occurred.”

Both Transfiguration and St. Thomas decided to live into the access granted by B012 by first recognizing couples whose marriages were caught up in the diocese’s prior refusal to authorize the rites in any way. The Rev. Paul Klitzke, Ascension’s rector, told ENS that members there did not feel the need for such a service. Instead, same-sex couples who until now had been unable to even have their anniversaries blessed were all invited to join in the parish’s tradition of giving those blessings on the first Sunday of each month. Those blessings first happened on the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, the day when B012 became effective.

“The biggest heartbreak for us with this was that we had a really faithful couple who were here every week, sat in the front row, were really excited about the outcome of General Convention, and one of them died this fall,” he said. “We were expectant and hopeful, and I think they would have been our marking the new era because they would likely have been married now. Probably, this month we would have had a wedding service for them; instead last fall we had a funeral.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, acknowledged in letters to both parishes that the historic celebrations “cannot fully compensate for the sadness of being unable to be married in your own church.”

She told the couples that “Episcopalians rejoice with you that justice has finally come” to their parishes. She said faithful LGBTQ Episcopalians “for too long have been asked to bear the burden of the church’s historic struggle to embrace the Gospel’s promise of inclusion.”

In her letter to St. Thomas, Jennings echoed a theme of both services when she remembered “with particular gratitude the saints who labored for decades to bring God’s justice to God’s church, including those who went on before us without seeing their dream come true today.”

Each of the Transfiguration couples could order their favorite cake and frosting for their individual “wedding cake.” Some further customized the cakes with toppers reflecting their interests. The cakes were displayed with each couple’s photos and a place card noting the date and location of their marriage. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Beth Ann Hotchko told ENS she and her wife, Sandra Kay Potter, were married three times in different parts of the country as U.S. laws changed. She said she appreciated the leaders of The Episcopal Church who crafted Resolution B012, which she said brought Transfiguration to “a place where we don’t have to rely on our bishop to say yes or no, we have alternatives.”

The Rev. J.D. Godwin spent decades at Transfiguration, first as an assistant, beginning in 1982, and then as rector from the fall of 2000 until leaving in March 2013. For all of that time, his partner, David Stinson, was with him. “For the first 18 years, we were very quiet,” Godwin told ENS before a rehearsal on Jan. 18. However, Godwin said, during the search that led to him being called as rector that the vestry understood and accepted their relationship.

The two men were married in 2012 in a United Church of Christ congregation in Davenport, Iowa. To be able to come back to Transfiguration and be among the 15 couples and renew their marriage vows “is just awesome; it’s heartwarming; it’s just incredible.

“And, I am so sorry for the years that people didn’t get this opportunity. I look back at the numbers of people who are rejoicing on another shore.”

The Rev. Casey Shobe, Godwin’s successor, told ENS that being able to offer such a service “really does feel like a dream coming true.” Shobe testified at convention and was deeply involved in the work by deputies and others that resulted in the passage of B012. Robinson described him “as astounding in his passion for justice, even when he doesn’t have a pony in this race.”

Shobe in his interview with ENS said he hoped that the publicity the service received tells the rest of Dallas that “there is a Christian church in this community that really does believe in the equality of all and that the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in Christian churches is no longer a fringe issue, something only done by a radical subset.”

Here is how the Dallas Morning News covered the Transfiguration service.

Shobe was involved in the development of a website called “Dear General Convention” that included videos and written stories about people who, prior to Resolution B012, could not be married in that diocese. Their aim was to convince bishops and deputies to ensure full access to the rites. He said the site will eventually become a thank-you to the convention for its passage of B012. The organizers want to show “how grateful we are that the leaders of the Episcopal Church listened to our stories and heard our appeal and understood our hurt and our needs and helped to solve this problem,” he said.

St. Thomas members David Flick and Bob Moos were part of that appeal and were among the couples who renewed their vows on Jan. 20. In a Dear General Convention video, Flick and Moos told the story of Flick receiving a bad report during his struggle with prostate cancer and how glad they were to have the support of St. Thomas’ clergy and members.

“The church was with us in the worst of times and it never seemed right to me that they couldn’t be with us in happy times as well,” Moos said after the service.

Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle members David Flick, left, and Bob Moos take a turn at cutting the cake at a reception following the Jan. 20 service there. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The couple have been together since 1997 and were married in 2015 at the Church of St. Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Some St. Thomas members went with them to Cape Cod for the service “but it’s not the same as being surrounded by your fellow parishioners (in your home church). I felt bad about that. I felt like a second-class Episcopalian,” Moos said through tears.

John Touhey, who renewed his vows with John Lambert during the St. Thomas service, said his sense of not being welcome in The Episcopal Church had driven him to a Universal Unitarian congregation. “If they’re not going to keep up with me, why should I stay in a church where I am not accepted,” Touhey said of his decision.

The Rev. Joy Daley, who served at Transfiguration as a deacon and priest before becoming St. Thomas’ rector in 2014, told ENS that over the years she found herself “sending people off to this church or that justice of the peace” to be married. Often those couples would ask if she could bless their rings before their marriage elsewhere. “It always struck me as strange: I can bless these objects, but not this beautiful relationship that God has brought into being?”

Daley, who testified during the B012 debate at convention, said she wants the rest of The Episcopal Church to know that the weekend of celebrations in Dallas means “love wins. If you don’t give up standing up for what you know that God has called you to, that faithfulness will ultimately be rewarded. You never know when and how.

“I just feel grateful that in my time here, all that pain that I have seen people go through, that I have been able to be here for this day is a true blessing. All those long meetings and frustration that people here have had to live with, that day has finally passed.”

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

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Congregation votes to cede from the Scottish Episcopal Church

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 2:52pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A congregation in the northeast Scottish coastal city of Aberdeen is preparing to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church. Members of Westhill Community Church voted Jan. 17 by 83 percent to 13 percent to leave the Anglican Communion’s province in Scotland following what they say is the “continued liberal trajectory” of the church.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican Consultative Council prepares to meet in April in Hong Kong

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 2:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The next meeting of the triennial Anglican Consultative Council begins in 100 days time in Hong Kong.

“As chair of ACC and primate of the host province, I cannot be more excited and honored to welcome all ACC delegates representing 40 provinces and coming from 160 countries assembling in Hong Kong,” Archbishop Paul Kwong said.

The meeting will take place April 28 to May 5. The Anglican Consultative Council is one of four “Instruments of Communion” of the Anglican Communion.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopalians to join wide range of weekend events honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 2:40pm

Attendees are seen during a silent march and rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2018, to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Dioceses and congregations churchwide are planning events this weekend, from worship services to forums, for Episcopalians and their communities to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

King, whose federal holiday will be celebrated on Jan. 21, was born 90 years ago on Jan. 15, 1929. As a Baptist preacher in Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, he was the leading voice and icon of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and 1960s until his assassination in 1968.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will mark the holiday weekend by participating in a panel discussion during a King event at 3 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Apollo Theater in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. “Unsung Champions of Civil Rights from MLK to Today” will feature a mix of one-on-one interviews and panels focusing on King’s legacy and other civil rights figures. More info and a link to a live stream of the event can be found here.

Curry quoted King on “the redemptive power of love” in his much-heralded royal wedding sermon in May. “Dr. King was right,” Curry said. “We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”

Daylong activities are planned at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 21, including a continuous reading of King’s speeches, sermons and writings over eight hours. “Let Freedom Ring” will be held in the church’s nave.

The Rev. Mike Kinman, rector at All Saints, said the marathon of readings was an idea he hatched years ago while serving as dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. It stemmed from his personal tradition of reading from a collection of King’s writings and speeches every year on the federal holiday.

“We advertised it as a complement of reflection to the King National Day of Service activities taking place in the community. And people came,” Kinman said, recalling the St. Louis event in an online post for All Saints. “They came for a half hour, for two hours, for the entire day. They read and they listened. School groups came after doing service projects and then had conversations about how what they had done and what they heard were related.”

This will be All Saints’ third year hosting a similar marathon of King’s words.

“I hope you will join me in … coming down for an hour, or two, or even eight and letting the words of this great man wash over you,” Kinman said. “Hear more than just the sound bites, and let your life be set on fire.”

Some congregations are planning to join large community celebrations. In St. Petersburg, Florida, the city’s Episcopal churches will participate in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, said to be that longest-running parade in the country to honor King.

In the Diocese of East Tennessee, eight or nine Episcopal parishes and ministries are expected to march in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Knoxville, with the Episcopal School of Knoxville entering its own float. In Austin, Texas, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church will join a downtown march on Jan. 21, starting at the King statue on the University of Texas’ campus.

The Diocese of Georgia is continuing its tradition of participating in an annual parade in Savannah, which typically includes a diocesan float and up to 100 Episcopalians. A post-parade Eucharist will be held at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

At other churches, the congregations are inviting the public inside for more intimate commemorations.

St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., will celebrate King’s life and legacy at its two Sunday services Jan. 20 and follow up with the launch of a series of forums, “Instruments of Change: From White Guilt to Empowered Ally.” Church of the Holy Spirit in Lebanon, New Jersey, will host a service at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 that will feature readings from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as well as cello and organ music.

The series of events hosted by All Saints in Pasadena will include a Diocese of Los Angeles event at 3 p.m. Jan. 20 featuring music by the Episcopal Chorale Society and a speech by Devon Carbado, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Through their faith-based approach that embodies Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s vision, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing works to move us from chaos to community. In celebration of Dr. King's birthday, consider making a donation to the Center. https://t.co/jILNzsqBEe pic.twitter.com/5Ygbnxgul0

— Episcopal Atlanta (@episcopalatl) January 16, 2019

Service work is another common theme of Episcopalians’ plans for honoring King’s calls for justice.

The Diocese of Long Island’s Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministries is organizing a day of service work at two locations on Jan. 21. Young people will bag about 15,000 meals for a feeding ministry from 1 to 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Then from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. they will greet guests and help serve a weekly community meal at Christ Episcopal Church in Babylon.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, churches are participating in their local Day of Service on Jan. 21, as well as the city’s march and worship service. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Liverpool, New York, also has service activities planned for its parishioners. Trinity Episcopal Church in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, will spend the morning Jan. 21 packing breakfast bags and making hot meals for residents confined to their homes.

Such service projects coincide with the MLK Day of Service, backed by Congress and coordinated by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The message was to see the federal holiday as a “day on, not a day off.”

In this week's newsletter…MLK celebrations across the Diocese, Bishop's office hours and more. https://t.co/GV8Lsnjwdt #diopalove #MLKday2019 #MLK pic.twitter.com/PCdnw0YJRY

— Episcopal Diocese PA (@DiocesePA) January 18, 2019

The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector at Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, took that message a step further in a blog post this week looking ahead to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He urged Episcopalians to see the holiday as not just a day of service but a day of action.

“King was not an advocate for more feeding programs,” Kerbel wrote. “He worked tirelessly for changes to our laws that would create a more just order where feeding programs would not be so necessary. He worked to create the conditions where all people could exercise self-determination and self-sufficiency, for themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods.”

St. Martin-in-the-Fields is partnering with the interfaith organization POWER Philadelphia in offering a schedule of activities for the MLK Day of Action, including a rally outside a McDonald’s to call for a minimum wage increase and a “teach-in” to rally behind public policies that will improve education.

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

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Tennessee bishop recruits neighboring colleague to implement same-sex marriage rites

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 2:38pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt announced Jan. 18 that neighboring Bishop Brian Cole of East Tennessee will “provide pastoral support” to Tennessee couples, clergy and congregations who want to solemnize same-sex marriages.

To begin that process, Bauerschmidt wrote in a two-page description of his policy, all canonically resident clergy in the diocese must notify him and assure him that the cleric’s congregation agrees to their use.

Bauerschmidt, who opposes same-sex marriage, said that “where there is disagreement in teaching about the sacramental rite of marriage between bishop and clergy there can be no effective oversight of marriage by the diocesan bishop.” Thus, another bishop must be available to “provide whatever episcopal support is needed for couples and clergy preparing for marriage.”

Bauerschmidt said his policy applies whether the trial-use rites or any other marriage rite is used.

Cole will handle the canonically required episcopal permission needed (Canon I.19.3 (page 60 here)) in what Bauerschmidt previously called the “extraordinary instance of the remarriage of a person with a previous spouse still living.”

Bauerschmidt said that the two rites for marriage, which General Convention first authorized in 2015 for trial use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, cannot be used in mission and chaplaincy churches of which he is effectively the rector, or in facilities for which he is directly responsible.

Before formulating his policy, the bishop issued two “pastoral teaching” essays, one on the bishop’s role and one on the “church’s traditional teaching on marriage.” At the end of his policy statement, Bauerschmidt reminded clergy of the “obligations undertaken at ordination, and the role of the bishop as chief pastor, and commended to them the teaching on marriage.

The policy, he said in a letter that accompanied it, is “intended to promote the highest degree of communion and fellowship in a time of challenge for the church. These provisions require consultation. No document can answer every question in advance.”

General Convention in 2015 said that the bishops of the church’s domestic dioceses needed to give their permission for the rites to be used or “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”. (The Episcopal Church includes a small number of dioceses outside the United States in civil jurisdictions that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples.)

There was widespread acceptance of the rites across the church. However, eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses did not authorized their use. Bauerschmidt was among those eight, as was Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs.

The eight bishops required that couples wanting to use the rites be married outside their dioceses and away from their home churches. Some bishops, including Love, refused to allow priests in their diocese to use the rites anywhere.

Last July, convention attempted to remedy to the situation by passing Resolution B012, which went into effect on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2. Bishops and deputies moved the authority for deciding to use the rites from the diocesan bishop to parish priests.

B012 said diocesan bishops who do not agree with same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary,” another Episcopal Church bishop to provide “pastoral support” to the couple, the clergy member involved and the congregation. Some of the eight bishops have interpreted B012 as requiring – or allowing them to require – the involvement of another bishop.

Christopher Hayes, who as a deputy from California proposed the amended version that convention passed, has told Episcopal News Service that the key phrase is “as necessary.” Hayes thinks some bishops are misinterpreting that to mean “necessary” by mere fact of the bishops’ disagreement, whereas he understands it to mean pastorally necessary. Such pastoral necessity, he said, would be rare.

B012 makes the rites available within every diocese of The Episcopal Church where civil law permits same-sex marriage.

Shortly after convention, Bauerschmidt said B012 sets up “a particular structure that upholds the bishop’s unique role as chief pastor and teacher and presider at the liturgy,” even when the bishop cannot support same-sex marriage.

Some Tennessee Episcopalians grew concerned when Dec. 2 came and went without a policy from Bauerschmidt. A group of more than 100 lay and ordained Tennessee Episcopalians connected with All Sacraments for All People wrote letters to Bauerschmidt and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Jan. 7 to decry the former’s refusal to institute a policy for implementing B012. They noted that at least one couple and their priest have asked Bauerschmidt for guidance and were told to wait.

“Other committed couples anxiously wait to make their vows before God surrounded by the communities who love and support them,” the group told Bauerschmidt.

“We therefore are reluctantly notifying you of this delay in making the trial liturgies available in this diocese,” the signers told Curry.

Love is the only one of the eight who initially refused to permit use of the rites who has flatly refused to conform to B012. On Jan. 11, Curry prevented him from punishing clergy, laity and congregations who wish to use the rite, and Curry has referred the matter for investigation through the church’s clergy discipline process. Love is appealing the restriction.

Gumbs now has told his clergy to offer the rites without further obstacles. The other bishops, like Bauerschmidt, have said they intend to ask another bishop to assist when congregations ask to use the rites.

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

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US churches raise money to buy ambulance, save Anglican hospital in West Bank city

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 3:29pm

St. Luke’s Hospital is a charity hospital in Nablus, West Bank, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Photo: AFEDJ, from video

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Washington is rallying its parishioners and other churches behind an Anglican hospital thousands of miles away in the West Bank city of Nablus, where the loss of an ambulance could cost the charity hospital its accreditation, forcing it to close its doors.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norwood Parish, took a leading role last fall in raising money for St. Luke’s Hospital, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and by the end of the year, donors had pledged enough to pay for a new ambulance.

The Rev. Sari Ateek is rector of St. John’s Norwood in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photo: St. John’s Norwood.

“The exiting thing wasn’t so much how much money. It was more the enthusiasm of the response from people around this,” said the Rev. Sari Ateek, rector at St. John’s Norwood in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Ateek, a Palestinian Christian and son of an Episcopal priest, grew up in Jerusalem and moved to the United States at age 19 to attend college. He doesn’t return often to his native land, though in 2014, he led his congregation on its first Holy Land pilgrimage. Afterward, St. John’s Norwood began supporting the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem though contributions to American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, or AFEDJ, and the congregation now pays part of a nurse’s salary at St. Luke’s.

Last year, St. Luke’s was in a bind after the breakdown of its 15-year-old ambulance, which had been making more than 2,000 emergency trips a year. Not only did it lose use of the vehicle, but the Palestinian Ministry of Health said at least one working ambulance was required to maintain the hospital’s accreditation. The Ministry of Health gave the hospital a February deadline to comply, and the hospital estimated it would cost $110,000 for a new ambulance, equipment, licensing and insurance.

“At first I was amazed that the hospital only had one ambulance,” Ateek said. “It just became very clear that this was something we needed to do.”

After AFEDJ launched a fundraising campaign, Ateek wrote a letter in late November in his church’s newsletter detailing the hospital’s plight. He refrained from making a direct appeal to his parishioners for money, but several came forward with large donations, including one of $20,000. Those, combined with smaller donations, brought the total from St. John’s Norwood to $37,000.

Ateek obtained a list of churches of all denominations in the Washington, D.C.-area that had given to AFEDJ in the past. He went down that list and reached out by email with personalized messages asking for contributions to pay for the ambulance. Among them, Washington National Cathedral pledged $10,000, and Grace Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Virginia, raised $13,000, bringing the total from Ateek’s ecumenical efforts to about $75,000.

With an additional $27,000 from the U.K.-based Anglican Communion Fund, AFEDJ had nearly met its goal for the ambulance campaign.

“People are hungry to do good work like this,” said the Rev. Anne Derse, a deacon at St. John’s Norwood, who served for six years as a U.S. ambassador, first to Azerbaijan and then to Lithuania.

Derse participated in the church’s 2014 Holy Land pilgrimage, a “life-changing experience” that prompted the congregation to form a Holy Land Committee. Part of the committee’s mission is to support humanitarian work that helps the neediest and most vulnerable residents of Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories.

The hospital in Nablus and Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza are just two of many such humanitarian ministries led by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

“Those projects are wonderful Christian witness in the Holy Land, because they’re open to anyone,” Derse said.

Her congregation has followed up with Holy Land pilgrimages every two years, and on the 2018 pilgrimage, participants visited St. Luke’s Hospital for the first time. That fueled the interest in paying for part of a nurse’s salary, and it later provided additional grounding for Ateek’s attempt to raise money for the ambulance.

“Honestly, the need speaks for itself,” Ateek said. “You have this hospital that we want to continue to serve the population, and we can solve this. … And we did, which is super exciting.”

Even with a new ambulance, AFEDJ underscores that financial struggles are an ongoing challenge at the Diocese of Jerusalem’s medial facilities, which face uphill battles to remain open for everyone who needs care, regardless of their ability to pay for that care.

Those struggles were underscored in December when a building collapsed at a surgical outpatient clinic on the campus of Al Ahli Arab Hospital. The 120-year-old building apparently was empty that afternoon at the time of the collapse, and no one was injured.

An engineer and construction team have surveyed the damage and recommended about $150,000 in reconstruction work, the diocese said. Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani has launched an appeal for donations to rebuild the clinic.

St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus, West Bank, is one of two run by the Diocese of Jerusalem. The other is in Gaza. Photo: AFEDJ, via video.

“In Nablus City we have five different hospitals. St. Luke’s Hospital is the only charitable hospital and the only church hospital in the West Bank,” Dr. Walid Kerry, executive director of St. Luke’s, said in a video produced by AFEDJ. “We are happy to give the medical care and surgery to everyone who asks for it, especially the needy and poor patients.”

The Episcopal Church has supported and remains closely engaged with the Anglican diocese’s work in Israel and the Palestinian territories for many years. The diocese is among the recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Good Friday Offering, which collected a record $414,310 in 2017 to support ministries in the Middle East.

AFEDJ, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit, is the recommend partner organization for Americans interested in supporting the work of the Diocese of Jerusalem, which covers Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Donations can be made at afedj.org/give.

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

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Anglican Communion secretary general honored for Nigerian reconciliation ministry

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 3:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon has received the inaugural Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation 2019 Merit Award for Excellence in Promoting Religious Tolerance and Peace Building in Northern Nigeria, an award created to honor the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, the Sardauna of Sokoto and premier of the former Northern Region.

Read the full article here.

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Terror attack in Kenya leaves ‘trail of pain and untold suffering,’ church says

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 3:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] This week’s terror attack in Nairobi has “left behind a trail of pain and untold suffering among innocent and hardworking citizens,” the Anglican Church of Kenya said in a written statement. At least 21 people are known to have been killed after militants from al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate, attacked the DusitD2 hotel and business complex in Nairobi on Jan. 15. A further 19 people are still unaccounted for.

Read the full article here.

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Bishop of Zululand, Monument Makhanya, steps down after sexual misconduct allegation

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:30am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A bishop in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has stepped down after being accused of sexual misconduct. The Sunday Times newspaper in Johannesburg reported at the weekend that Bishop Monument Makhanya has decided to stand down at the end of this month after a former deacon in the diocese lodged a complaint of sexual misconduct against him. Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba told the Anglican Communion News Service that he would seek the input of the province’s Synod of Bishops in response to the resignation.

Read the entire article here.

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Zimbabwean Anglicans launch football team for new diocesan university

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:19am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The 2019 football season in Zimbabwe will see a new team in the Mashonaland East Division Two: Anglican Saints, owned by the local Anglican diocese of Harare. Anglican Saints will eventually be part of the new diocesan university being built in Mashonaland East, but until that is built, it will use the Greendale Sports Club as its home ground. The team will be managed by Lawrence Nyarumwe, a former assistant coach with Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League side Shabanie Mine, assisted by Basil Makoni. The team aims to climb the leagues to play in the top division within two years.

Read the entire article here.

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Episcopales de todo el país responden al impacto del cierre federal

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 4:15pm

[Episcopal News Service] Mientras los efectos del cierre más largo del gobierno federal se replican a través del país, muchos episcopales sienten por igual la necesidad económica mientras otros tratan de ayudar a sus prójimos a hacerle frente.

“Entiendo lo que está en juego. Entiendo que es más grande que mi mero salario”, dijo el episcopal Christopher Dwyer, veterano que trabaja para el Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano, a Lester Holt de NBC News el 10 de enero.

Dwyer, que es miembro de la  iglesia de Cristo [Christ Church] en Bloomfield Glen Ridge y seminarista de la Escuela Teológica de Drew en Madison, Nueva Jersey, le dijo a Holt que él pronto tendría que encontrar otro trabajo, afirmando que su seguro de desempleo finalmente se acabará. (Si bien las reglas varían de un estado a otro, los beneficios de desempleo por lo general pagan un porcentaje del salario del beneficiario y los empleados federales se dice que tendrán que reembolsar sus beneficios si reciben pagos retroactivos).

De aplazamiento de matrículas escolares a leña gratuita y grupos de apoyo para [combatir] la ansiedad, las respuestas recorren toda la gama en los barrios de Washington, D.C., las reservas nativoamericanas y las comunidades costeras.

Las reservas están entre las más afectadas debido a su dependencia de toda clase de ayuda federal. Esa dependencia quedó consagrada hace siglos en tratados entre las tribus y el gobierno de EE.UU., en los cuales las tribus cedieron enormes territorios a cambio de muchas garantías, incluido dinero para servicios como atención sanitaria y educación.  La Oficina de Asuntos Indios ofrece esos servicios, ya sea directamente o a través de subvenciones a 567 tribus reconocidas federalmente. Es decir, aproximadamente 1,9 millones de indios americanos y de nativos alasqueños se ven afectados.

Rodney Bordeaux, presidente de la tribu de los Sioux Rosebud  ha dicho que el 74 por ciento de los ingresos del presupuesto de la tribu es dinero federal. Bordeaux y otros líderes tribales se proponen ir a Washington esta semana para reunirse con legisladores.

La Rda. Lauren R. Stanley, presbítera superintendente de la misión episcopal Rosebud (Oeste) in Dakota del Sur, y el Rdo. John Floberg, sacerdote a cargo de la parte de Dakota del Norte en la misión episcopal de Standing Rock, le dijeron a Episcopal News Service  que los gobiernos tribales están considerando cerrar parte de sus operaciones por carecer del dinero de las subvenciones federales.

Stanley dijo que está recibiendo llamadas en que le piden ayuda para pagar facturas de electricidad y gas propano. La cooperativa eléctrica está colaborando con los trabajadores federales suspendidos temporalmente, pero otros residentes de la reserva se están desesperando, señaló ella. Es ahí donde interviene el programa  “Leña para los Mayores”de la misión. Stanley dijo que las temperaturas en Dakota del Sur han estado “bien”; a 3º.C en la tarde del 14 de enero, pero hay pronóstico de nieve para el 18 de enero y se espera una temperatura máxima de -8º.C.  Stanley explicó que el programa está proporcionándole leña no sólo a los miembros más viejos de la tribu, sino a cualquier familia afectada por el cierre [del gobierno] y a los trabajadores suspendidos.

Las personas están preocupadas por el Programa Asistencial de Nutrición Suplementaria del Departamento de Agricultura de EE.UU., SNAP o EBT como se le conoce en la Reserva Rosebud. Los beneficios de enero estaban disponibles el 10 de enero, y se anunció que el dinero de febrero será depositado en las cuentas de las personas el 20 de enero. Stanley dijo que ella teme que algunas personas no podrán presupuestar ese dinero para que les dure hasta fines de febrero.

Si bien el Departamento de Agricultura (USDA por su sigla en inglés) ha dicho que su Programa Suplementario de Alimentos hará las entregas planeadas en febrero, Stanley dijo que muchos alimentos no están llegando y que los beneficiarios están recibiendo cheques de emergencia para redimirlos cuando lleguen.

“La misión episcopal Rosebud está comprometida a ayudar a los más necesitados”, dijo Stanley a ENS.

Y personas a través del país han estado preguntándole cómo pueden ayudar, ofreciendo donaciones de bienes materiales, dinero y tarjetas de regalo. Stanley le dice a la gente que el dinero y las tarjetas de regalo son mejores porque cada familia tiene diferentes necesidades.

El cierre parcial del gobierno entró en su 24º. día el 14 de enero, convirtiéndose en el más largo en la historia de EE.UU., mientras el Congreso y el presidente Donald Trump siguen enfrentados por su demanda de miles de millones de dólares para la construcción de un muro en la frontera sur. En este día que sienta récord, Trump rechazó una sugerencia de que permitiera que el gobierno reabriera temporalmente mientras continuaban las negociaciones en torno a la seguridad en la frontera.

Alrededor de 800.000 empleados federales, más de la mitad de los cuales aún continuaba trabajando, no habían recibido paga el 11 de enero. El Congreso le ha enviado a Trump un proyecto de ley para darle a esos trabajadores paga retroactiva  una vez que el cierre concluya. El Presidente ha dicho que la firmaría.

Tales promesas, sin embargo, no ayudan al flujo de efectivo de los trabajadores afectados, de ahí que los episcopales intervengan. Por ejemplo, la escuela diurna episcopal de San Patricio, [St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School] en Washington, D.C., le dijo a los padres el 7 de enero, el día que la escuela reanudó clases luego de las vacaciones de Navidad, que los padres que fueran empleados o contratistas federales y tuvieran dificultades para pagar matrícula y costes pueden diferir esos pagos sin cargos adicionales. Tendrán que estructurar un plan de reembolso más adelante.

El director de la escuela,  Peter A. Barrett, le dijo a ENS el 14 de enero que muchas escuelas episcopales no hay duda de que se encuentran en situaciones semejantes, especialmente en el área de Washington.

Para algunos empleados federales, las necesidades son más básicas. En la Despensa del Señor [Lord’s Pantry] un ministerio de la iglesia episcopal de San Jacobo [St. James Episcopal Church] en New London, Connecticut, Eleanor Godfrey le dijo a un noticiero de televisión local que la despensa está a la espera de ayudar.

“Este es probablemente el mejor lugar para venir a obtener alimentos. Ciertamente espero que las personas que se vean afectadas por el cierre no tengan pena [en venir] porque en San Jacobo estamos aquí para ustedes y queremos que vengan”, dijo Godfrey, la directora de la despensa.

Más de 7.000 empleados federales  trabajan en Connecticut y el gobierno federal es un importante empleador en la parte sureste del estado donde se encuentra New London sobre el estrecho de Long Island. New London es la sede de la Academia de la Guardia Costera. Los empleados de la Guardia Costera han quedado sin paga porque son parte del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, uno de los departamentos afectados por el cierre parcial.

La despensa también está propagando la voz a través de las redes sociales.

El comedor de beneficencia comunitario de la iglesia episcopal de Cristo  [Christ Church] en New Haven, Connecticut, está diciéndole a los trabajadores que han quedado sin paga que son bienvenidos. “San Pablo nos dice en la Escritura que el obrero merece su salario. Y esperamos que el gobierno reabra y les paguen a los obreros que están trabajando”, dijo el Rdo. Stephen Holton a una estación local de televisión de NBC. “Todo el mundo merece una comida, y este es un lugar donde puedes recibirla. Ven y come. Ven y comemos juntos”, dijo.

En Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Jackson Cupboard, una despensa de alimentos de iglesia episcopal de San Juan [St. John’s Episcopal Church] está asociándose con el Banco de Alimentos de las Rocosas en Wyoming [Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies] para organizar una despensa móvil el 15 de enero.

Cuando la Despensa Episcopal 4Santos  [4Saints Episcopal Food Pantry] publicó su anuncio, lo compartieron 25 veces, una cantidad inusual para la despensa, lo cual llevó a la directora. Judy Cariker. A pensar en la existencia de una necesidad.

Entre tanto, allá en Georgia, el Muy Rdo. Alexis Chase, vicario de la iglesia episcopal del Santo Consolador [Holy Comforter] en Atlanta, acudió a Facebook el 14 de enero para ofrecer a “amigos cesantes” la oportunidad  de algún consuelo.

El “Estudio Bíblico del Cesante“ [Furlough Bible Study] es sólo una de las maneras en que la iglesia episcopal de San Columba  [St. Columba’s Episcopal Church] en el noroeste de Washington, D. C., está tratando de ayudar. El estudio bíblico para “aquellos con un tiempo inesperado en su jornada y un deseo de reunirse con otros visitantes”comienza el 16 de enero. El Grupo de la Madre [Mothers Group] en San Columba coordinará un conversatorio dirigido profesionalmente con consejos prácticos acerca de cómo controlar la ansiedad y sus efectos.

“Algunos de ustedes me han dicho que, aunque han vivido otros cierres del gobierno en el pasado, esta vez parece particularmente alarmante”,  dijo el Rdo. Ledlie Laughlin, rector de San Columba, a su congregación el 9 de enero. “Otros me han dicho que están haciendo malabares para resolver sus finanzas, calculando el costo sobre sus ahorros en ausencia de un salario. Este es un tiempo para juntarnos, para cuidar los unos de los otros, y para ocuparnos de nuestros prójimos”.

Laughlin dijo que la oración debe ser la primera respuesta de los episcopales. San Columba está incluyendo a todos los afectados por el cierre en su oraciones dominicales y diarias.

(La II Provincia de la Iglesia Episcopal ha ofrecido “Una letanía por los afectados por el cierre del gobierno”que puede encontrarse aquí.)

San Columba también está “reuniendo e identificando recursos”para personas que pueden estar enfrentando dificultades por primera vez y no saben donde encontrar ayuda para alimentos y otras necesidad, explicó él.

Y Laughlin instó a los feligreses que necesiten ayuda económica a dirigirse a él y también les pidió a los “que tienen suficiente para ayudar a alguien más” a ponerse en contacto con él.

La Iglesia Episcopal también está respondiendo con acción social en Washington. Su Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales ha pedido un fin del cierre, diciendo que “cerrar nuestro gobierno es un fracaso del liderazgo y del reconocimiento de la responsabilidad que conlleva el ser un funcionario electo”.

“El cierre del gobierno tiene grandes implicaciones para nuestro país en la medida en que afecta la subsistencia de empleados federales y sus familias; así como de aquellos que dependen del apoyo federal para alimento, vivienda, servicios médicos, y más; y a los servicios vitales del gobierno, tales como seguridad aeroportuaria, proceso de hipotecas y de préstamos estudiantiles, y una amplia gama de servicios que el gobierno federal es responsable de prestar a las comunidades nativoamericanas”, dijo la oficina en un comunicado del 9 de enero.

Basando sus comentarios en la política de la Iglesia tal como ha sido establecida por la Convención General, la ORG dijo que el Congreso y el Ejecutivo deben trabajar juntos para abordar las legítimas necesidades de seguridad, garantizar la responsabilidad legal del gobierno de procesar a los solicitantes de asilo, tratar a todos los migrantes con humanidad y respeto y promulgar políticas que aborden las causas raigales y ayuden a aliviar las condiciones que motivan la migración forzada en Centro y Sudamérica.

– La Rda Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora sénior y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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First couple to marry under Church of South India’s ‘Green Wedding’ protocol

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] When Anjay and Nisha, a young couple from Kerala, were married at St Thomas’ Church in Punnackadu, last month, they planted saplings as part of the Church of South India’s new “Green Wedding” protocol. The couple were the first to be married in the CSI since the Green Protocol for Green Discipleship policy, which includes weddings, was agreed by the CSI synod in December. In addition to the planting of saplings instead of the traditional lighting of a lamp; couples are encouraged to avoid plastic bottles at their reception by serving water in glasses.

Read the entire article here.

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Interim director of the Anglican Centre in Rome rebuffs ‘resurrection’ criticism

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 2:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service]  A retired Anglican priest from Australia who has been chosen to lead the Anglican Centre in Rome on an interim basis has sought to rebuff criticism about his beliefs in the resurrection. The former dean of St George’s Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia, John Shepherd, was appointed as interim director last week following the resignation of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi.

Read the entire article here.

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‘The church will be there,’ Presiding Bishop tells Florida hurricane survivors on long path to recovery

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 6:25pm

Judy Hughes, head of school, leads Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on a tour of Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City on Jan. 12. The school is undergoing extensive repairs after being damaged in Hurricane Michael. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service.

[Episcopal News Service – Panama City, Florida] A current of human electricity ran through the large crowd that had filled the sanctuary at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Post-hurricane emotional fatigue gave way to an undeniable, positive energy. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry could feel it.

“I have to admit, I wish it had been a different name than Michael,” Curry said, opening with a joke that generated a hearty laugh from the room of Hurricane Michael survivors, easily 300 strong.

When the rapidly intensifying storm made landfall near here on Oct. 10 with an estimated windspeed of 155 mph, some of these residents of Florida’s Panhandle lost everything or nearly everything. Even those who fared better than most awoke to a landscape forever altered and daily life upended – trees gone, homes damaged or destroyed, businesses darkened, schools closed, jobs up in the air and a coastal region facing the uneasy question of how many of their neighbors would be coming back.

Curry spent last weekend in and around Panama City on a pastoral visit to these communities three months after the storm, encouraging them to share their stories of recovery and assuring them that The Episcopal Church has not forgotten or given up on them.

“To hear what you have done and are doing, therein is hope and grace and the power of love,” Curry said Jan. 12 at Holy Nativity during the first of two listening sessions organized by the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. With the crowd filling every pew and spilling over to folding chairs on the sides and a standing area in the back, he praised them for their perseverance in the face of disaster.

Episcopalians here gave Curry a warm welcome literally from the moment he stepped off the plane at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The airport manager is a parishioner at Holy Nativity and greeted Curry at the gate.

Holy Nativity Episcopal School’s campus has been closed since Hurricane Michael, though classes are being held in portable classrooms nearby. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Curry’s first stop Jan. 12 was Holy Nativity Episcopal School, a few blocks from the church of the same name in The Cove, a beach-side neighborhood filled with modest houses and stunning oak trees. Because Hurricane Michael passed just east of Panama City, the powerful Category 4 winds were aimed out to sea, sparing the city a devastating storm surge, but at that strength the wind did plenty of damage on its own, including to the school.

One of the trees felled by the storm landed on the school’s roof, creating a gaping hole over the school’s lobby and one of its classrooms, but as the presiding bishop arrived accompanied by Bishop Russell Kendrick, the progress on repairs was remarkable. A new roof was in place and renovations were well underway inside.

“Holy cow, they’ve gotten a lot done,” Kendrick said.

Judy Hughes, Holy Nativity’s head of school, welcomed them into the lobby and kicked off her tour with a short video about the storm damage and repairs. A projector and screen were set up on floors still stripped to the base boards, and the group watched the video standing under exposed rafters.

Hughes’ goal is for her students to return to this school building by the fall, but their temporary accommodations are themselves quite an achievement. “We were the first school in Bay County to open,” Hughes said proudly. Classes resumed Oct. 29 in the hallways, courtyard and any other available spaces at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, and additional space provided for by St. Thomas by the Sea Episcopal Church in Panama City Beach.

Teachers and students have since moved into 15 portable classrooms set up like a makeshift educational village on vacant land behind the Holy Nativity church, and spirits are running high again, Hughes said. The school, which teaches preschool to eighth grade, had about 285 students enrolled this year, and only about 20 have yet to return after the hurricane.

Curry thanked Hughes for the tour. His goal in scheduling this visit months after the storm was “to remind the church you’re still here.”

“The church will be there 10 years from now,” Curry said later, during the short drive from the school to the church. The vehicle passed a man jogging through The Cove. “We’re long-distance runners. We’re not sprinters.”

Panama City was spared a storm surge during Hurricane Michael, but with windspeed reaching an estimated 155 mph, damage in the city was widespread. Debris piles still are a common site. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Communities still in the thick of recovery

If storm recovery is a marathon, these coastal communities are in the early miles of the race.

Some properties have been cleared of downed trees and storm-tossed vegetation, while others appear untouched and frozen in a state of disarray. The smell of cut wood emanates from certain parts of Panama City, especially near lots that have been converted to mulching grounds.

Residents say in the initial aftermath of the hurricane a massive amount of household debris was hauled to the curbs. Walls of junk rose along the sides of residential streets broken only by the gaps left for driveways. Now neighborhoods are beginning to look like neighborhoods again, with debris heaps still scattered here and there, some towering taller than houses – furniture, bricks, drywall, large appliances, siding, anything that might have broken free or been damaged during the storm.

Some gas stations have reopened despite missing the roofs over their pumps. Many other businesses appear closed, either temporarily or for good. Those that have reopened struggle to get that message across with signs that say, “Yes We Are Open.” Business signs that have yet to be repaired speak in a kind of post-hurricane dialect. “SEAFOOD MARKET” becomes “EAF ARKE,” and “MARINE SERVICE” is now “MARI E ERVICE.”

More than $5 billion in losses have been reported in insurance claims from Hurricane Michael in Florida. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The ubiquity of roof damage has launched thousands of homeowners on simultaneous searches for available roofers, creating a service backlog. Blue tarps are the most common stopgap until repairs can be made. Some roofs no longer exist to be repaired, either blown away or collapsed into the building, and occasionally there is no building left either, just a pile of rubble waiting to be cleared.

More than $5 billion in losses have been reported in insurance claims in Florida, according to the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation, with most of the claims coming from Panama City, Mexico Beach and other communities in Bay County.

The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, with financial and logistical assistance from Episcopal Relief & Development, has worked closely with the eight Episcopal churches that sustained significant damage during Hurricane Michael, though all were able to resume Sunday services within two weeks of the storm.

On the day of Curry’s listening session at Holy Nativity, the roof was still clad in blue tarp and other protective materials. The session inside was a mix of laughter and tears, applause and “amens,” as about two dozen Episcopalians from across the region rose to speak to Curry about their experiences during and after the hurricane.

They shared stories of first responders’ heroic work, of one congregation’s homeless parishioners camping out in the parish hall, of neighbors sharing information over downed fences, of students glad to return to school to see their friends, of residents chipping in any way they could to help each other and of a shared desire to return to daily life.

Curry thanked them for their stories, saying they echoed what he had heard from Episcopalians during his visit last month to the Diocese of East Carolina, which is recovering from its own disaster after Hurricane Florence.

“They started asking, who is our neighbor?” Curry said. “Who may be worse off than we are? … We’re kind of all in it together.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Steve Bates listen to Episcopalians share their stories of Hurricane Michael at a listening session Jan. 12 at Bates’ Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Panama City. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Anna Eberhard said afterward that the presiding bishop’s visit was a tremendous personal boost for her and her family. Eberhard, a teacher at Holy Nativity Episcopal School and a member of the church, was displaced after the storm, forced to move more than hour away in Walton County until their house is repaired.

She and her two daughters still make the trip back each weekday for school, but by the weekend, they are too tired of traveling to attend Sunday services. “I’m without my church home,” she told Episcopal News Service, so returning to the church and her congregation for this session with Curry gave her “the feeling of the Holy Spirit.”

‘Serve each other in his spirit’

Curry’s second listening session was held at St. James Episcopal Church in Port St. Joe, a smaller coastal community east of Panama City. On the drive to Port St. Joe, the presiding bishop passed through Mexico Beach, the small community that was hit hardest by Hurricane Michael. This region felt the brunt of Michael’s powerful storm surge, which virtually wiped out Mexico Beach.

The community of Mexico Beach was virtually wiped out by the storm surge from Hurricane Michael. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

What is left of the community looked like a war zone, with buildings reduced to scrap or badly damaged. Roofs, if not missing altogether, were patched with blue tarp. The main road through town was dotted on the roadside by pile after pile of debris, and part of the road was down to one lane where roadway was eroded by the storm and had yet to be restored.

The scene in Port St. Joe was nearly as bleak, though the neighborhood around St. James is farther inland and was mostly spared the worst of the waves.

A crowd of about 125 people filled the church for Curry’s listening session. The tone was more subdued than in the morning session, but nearly 20 people stood to share their stories from Hurricane Michael.

Melina Elum, a member of St. James, told of hunkering down in her Port St. Joe home with her husband during the storm, “wondering if we were going to live.”

Elum said she prayed to God out loud and made a lot of promises while asking for protection. When the ordeal of the storm was over, “it was a relief, but it was also a responsibility when I realized what I promised,” she said. “I have more to do now because of that.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Tommy Dwyer listen to residents share their hurricane stories at Dwyer’s St. James Episcopal Church in Port St. Joe, Florida, on Jan. 12. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Anna Connell, who moved to Mexico Beach with her three children about three years ago, worked a nurse at Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital in Panama City. When the storm hit, the family fled, and when they returned their house was gone. Connell also was left without a job because part of the hospital was destroyed.

Connell struggled to hold back tears as she told Curry about a phone conversation she had with her father after the hurricane. He told her to pray, so she did.

“It was the first time in my life that I ever completely gave myself to God. It was very humbling,” she said. “I still don’t have a plan, but I have peace.”

Curry thanked her and gave her a hug.

“The truth is, none of us has the strength to do it by ourselves,” he told the crowd. “Together we can.”

The next morning, Curry concluded his visit to the diocese by participating in Eucharist at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Panama City. During the hurricane, trees fell onto the administrative building at St. Andrew’s, crushing part of the roof, but the roof had been rebuilt by the time of Curry’s visit.

The church itself sustained only minor damage, so on the first Sunday after the storm, the congregation was able to return and worship there. That day, the Rev. Margaret Shepard, rector at St. Andrew’s, invited parishioners to write on poster-size paper their emotions on the theme “What Has Made You Sad/Angry” in the hurricane’s aftermath, a coping exercise recommended by an Episcopal Relief & Development official.

Among the responses: “So much loss and destruction.” “It made my aunt go away.” “Nothing is the same.” “Fear of starting over.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches Jan. 13 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Panama City, Florida. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The parishioners’ words were still on display as the sanctuary filled with more than 200 people for the service Jan. 13.

“Y’all got to listen. This Jesus has something to say,” Curry urged the congregation in his half-hour sermon. “He knows the way of life. … Follow him, love him and serve each other in his spirit.”

For a community that may be experiencing a collective fear of starting over, the call to serve each other echoed some of the responses that parishioners had added to a second sheet of paper hanging in the sanctuary, which asked “What Bright Spot Have You Found?”

“Neighbors sharing and getting to know one another.”

“The deep goodness of people.”

“Coming to church!”

“God’s comforting presence.”

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

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