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Displaced people…a 2,000 year-old story: message from the Diocese of Maryland bishops

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 4:47pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Maryland] We’re told more than 65 million people around the globe are on the move. They’ve left their homelands due mainly to war, famine, and natural disaster.

Just last week many Christians celebrated the feast of the Epiphany. It’s the biblical story of three wise men making a trek, following a star, to witness the newborn Savior. They’d been enlisted by a frightened King Herod to bring back information on where this child was.

But they didn’t.

Instead, they went home by a different road. Thus began the effort to kill all the young children in Bethlehem to get rid of a possible threat to the existing powers. We call it the feast of the Holy Innocents.

Jesus survived because his parents left their country for safety and protection in Egypt. They became refugees fleeing for their lives.

Refugees are still fleeing for their lives today. The U.S. government, in an act of mercy and compassion, has in recent years has granted temporary asylum to refugees from some countries. El Salvador has experienced war and earthquakes in the past nearly 40 years.  Many of their refugees were granted “temporary protective status” (TPS).

That’s now being threatened.  After many years of being here legally and building lives for their families, nearly 200,000 across the country face either deportation or a grueling bureaucratic task applying for a green card. In either case they face an uncertain future.  The U.S. government has been extending their legal status as residents here for 17 years; now it wants to get rid of them.  One of the largest populations of Salvadorans is in Maryland and Virginia.

In 2010 the bishops of the Diocese of Maryland penned a pastoral letter called “Welcoming the Stranger.” It’s a thorough examination of our religious conviction as informed by our Holy Scriptures and the life of Jesus that should direct followers in how to treat refugees.

That work has been consulted by many religious leaders as well as the bishops of The Episcopal Church. It also offers wisdom to legislators considering immigration reform.

Our core beliefs are that all people are created in God’s image, and the teachings of Holy Scripture should shape the way we welcome people who may come into our lives. We are all children of God. We are all seeking basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, safety and security.

In the Bible, God is described as the one “who loves strangers, providing them food and clothing…you shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Jesus, in keeping with the teachings of the prophets, spent a lot of time preaching and showing people how to treat people who are in need of help. He called blessed those who are poor in spirit, who are meek, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and says they shall see God. (Matthew 5:1-11)

Later on in the same gospel Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

He clearly had a special love for those who were displaced.

And when asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus said, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

It’s in that tradition and strong admonition that we who follow Jesus are compelled to welcome the strangers among us. TPS refugees have been residing here legally, but we are reminded by the Bible that all refugees, no matter their status, deserve compassion and respect. No human being is “illegal.” There are only children of God with whom we are connected by God our Creator.

It seems ironic that the country with most TPS designees is named El Salvador, “The Savior.”

That country now has the highest per capita murder rate in the world for a country not at war. And yet our elected officials are considering returning these refugees—many of whom own homes and businesses, pay taxes, and have lived here most of their lives—to a country where they have nothing and will be at risk.

Such an action is not only un-Christian, it is immoral and downright mean. It goes against the clear teaching of Scripture.  It isn’t in the spirit of basic human decency. And it’s certainly not in the spirit of a nation of people who have come from every corner of the globe.

We urge everyone to advocate through the Episcopal Public Policy Network or Episcopal Migration Ministries to stop this threatened action. We pray that our displaced sisters and brothers will continue to live their productive lives under our protection, without fear, and with dignity and respect.

Faithfully yours,
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of Maryland

The Right Rev. Chilton R. Knudsen
Assistant bishop of Maryland

Virginia bishops pledge support to Salvadoran brothers and sisters

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 4:43pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Virginia] Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Holy Scripture commands us over and over again to do the work of God by welcoming strangers and loving them as God loves them.

This past week in our nation we have heard news that calls us to redouble our commitment to this work. On Monday, our President declared that some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants, who have been in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) since earthquakes devastated parts of El Salvador in 2001, will lose protected status by September of 2019. With that change in status, they would have to be deported to a country that is not their home and that does not have the infrastructure to receive them.

The Salvadoran men, women and children affected by this decision are not “other;” they are not all strangers to us. Instead, many hundreds are fellow Episcopalians, members of at least seven congregations in our Diocese. What happens to them affects us profoundly, because they are our brothers and sisters.

To our Salvadoran members and friends, we your Bishops say that we stand with you. We honor the commitments you have made to our civic and church communities as you have raised families, worked hard, paid taxes and contributed positively to our society. And we promise that we will take whatever political actions we can to reverse this decision for your sake, as well as for the sake of the Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants who have already lost protected status.

To the other Episcopalians in our Diocese, we your Bishops ask you to join with us in conveying messages of hope and support to our Salvadoran neighbors, brothers and sisters, and to work for a just immigration policy that allows families to stay together.

Attached to this letter are resources that give more information about TPS and about actions that we can take in response to this threat to our friends. Please read and share them as we strive to be obedient to God’s claim on our lives.

Faithfully yours,
The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff

The Collect for Social Justice  (page 823 of The Book of Common Prayer) Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may lie injustice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Resources:  Top 5 ways to take action Interfaith Toolkit to Defend TPS Call and meet with your members of Congress

Fact Sheet: TPS Holders in Virginia

Immigration Advocacy Toolkit from The Episcopal Church 

More Resources

  On Twitter, use hashtag #SaveTPS

John F. McCard installed as rector of St. James’s in Richmond, Virginia

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 2:50pm

[St. James’s Episcopal Church] The Rev. John F. McCard will be installed by Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia as 14th rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church on Jan. 17 at a Celebration of Ministry service starting at 7 p.m.

McCard was selected by the Vestry of St. James’s to lead the church after an extensive national search that was completed in June 2017. The call for McCard was extended on June 24 and he joined the church staff formally on September 10.

Johnston will preside at the service, which will include a celebration of the Eucharist, and the Rev. Canon Jason Leo, Canon for Congregational Vitality in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, will deliver the sermon.

McCard was rector of St. Martin in the Fields in Atlanta, Georgia for 13 years. He also served as president and member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Atlanta for students from pre-K to 8th grade.

McCard is a native of Macon, Georgia. A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, he earned his Master of Divinity Degree from General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1992. He completed a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Nashotah House in 2003 and a Doctor of Ministry Degree at Virginia Theological Seminary in 2007. McCard serves as a vestry retreat leader and consultant and is an authority on the writings and life of C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia.

St. James’s Episcopal Church is located at 1205 West Franklin Street near Virginia Commonwealth University. It was established in 1835 and has been at the intersection of West Franklin and Birch Streets since 1912.

For more information, visit the church’s website at www.doers.org.

11 de febrero: Domingo Mundial de las Misiones

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 6:30am

El domingo mundial de las misiones tradicionalmente se celebra el último domingo después de la epifanía, en el 2018 se celebrará, el domingo 11 de febrero. En el video a continuación, el obispo presidente y primado, Michael B. Curry invita a la Iglesia a observar el Domingo Mundial de las Misiones.

El Domingo Mundial de las Misiones nos invita a centrarnos en el impacto global del pacto bautismal y su llamado que exhorta a: “buscar y servir a Cristo en nuestros semejantes” (Libro de Oración Común, p. 305) y a concientizar sobre las muchas maneras en que la Iglesia Episcopal participa en la misión de Dios alrededor del mundo.

“El Domingo Mundial de las Misiones nos recuerda que Dios nos llama a todos a vivir una vida de reconciliación” expresó el Rdo. David Copley, director de Asociaciones Globales y personal de Misión en un sermón que puede que fue publicado aquí. “La reconciliación tanto con Dios como con nuestros semejantes, y la participación en ese proceso de reconciliación, nunca había sido tan apremiante como hoy.

En la actualidad los misioneros de la Iglesia Episcopal sirven en muchos lugares internacionales incluidos Aotearoa, Nueva Zelanda y Polinesia, Brasil, Costa Rica, República Dominicana, Inglaterra, El Salvador, Haití, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel/Palestina, Panamá, Las Filipinas, Catar, Romania, África del Sur y Tanzania.

Recursos
Existe un sinnúmero de recursos disponibles para la observación del Domingo Mundial de las Misiones en las congregaciones.

Información sobre los recursos para el Domingo Mundial de las Misiones está disponible aquí.

La lista de los actuales misioneros de la Iglesia Episcopal está disponible aquí.

Para más información, comuníquese con Jenny Grant, funcionaria interina  de Asociaciones Globales y de interconexión a jgrant@episcopalchurch.org.

Christian groups decry U.S. policy change on Salvadorans as Episcopalians offer support

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 3:37pm

Dozens of people attend an event this week organized by Crecen in Houston to provide information and show support for those affected by the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Salvadorans. Photo: Crecen, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church and ecumenical partner organizations are calling on Congress to act if the Trump administration refuses to reconsider its decision to end immigration protections for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who have for years been allowed to establish roots and raise families in American communities.

At issue is the policy known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The Trump administration has taken a hard line on the policy, saying it never was intended to offer immigrants permanent residency. The status typically is granted to foreign nationals from countries suffering from natural disasters or wars.

In November, the administration ordered an end to TPS for more than 50,000 Haitians by mid-2019. President Barack Obama had approved that TPS designation after a 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti.

Salvadorans have made up the largest group allowed to remain in the United States under TPS. The protection from deportation was granted to Salvadorans by President George W. Bush in 2001 after an earthquake struck El Salvador. Now, Salvadorans will have until September 2019 to obtain legal permanent residency in the United States or leave the country.

“If there’s any group of people you can imagine wide agreement that they not be deported, it’s this set of people,” said Sarah Lawton, a lay leader in the Episcopal Diocese of California who has made outreach to Salvadorans “an issue of the heart for me” since the 1980s.

The Salvadoran families who are being assisted by religious groups in San Francisco are contributing members of the local community, said Lawton, a member of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church. The families typically include hard-working parents and children who are U.S. citizens because they were born here. For such families, the news on Jan. 8 was devastating.

“I woke up on Monday morning to a call from a friend who is terrified she’s going to be deported,” Lawton said.

Her friend is a Salvadoran with TPS whose husband is from Honduras and faces his own uncertainty because the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that has allowed him to remain in the U.S. Their two children are both citizens.

The Episcopal Church regularly advocates for maintaining TPS, particularly when forcing some people to go back to their birth countries could break up families, pose threats to safety or both. General Convention approved a resolution in 2015 pledging to support Temporary Protected Status “for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, or cultural abuse or other forms of abuse.”

The church’s Office of Government Relations raised concerns about the change in policy toward Salvadorans.

“Multiple studies have demonstrated that El Salvador cannot safely repatriate nearly 200,000 individuals,” the Office of Government Relations said in a Jan. 8 statement. “El Salvador is ranked the most violent country in the Western Hemisphere and has suffered from continued natural disasters, stagnant economic growth, and a lack of infrastructure and health systems. Further, the majority of Salvadoran TPS holders are economic, cultural and social contributors to the U.S.

“Congress and the administration must devise a long-term solution for Salvadorans and others currently holding TPS that recognizes both the realities of the country’s harsh conditions and humanely addresses the realities of the individuals impacted.”

The Department of Homeland Security, in announcing the decision to end TPS for Salvadorans, said it is up to Congress to decide whether to grant long-term protections for those affected. It justified an end to temporary protections by citing the success of earthquake recovery efforts.

“Based on careful consideration of available information … the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist,” Homeland Security said in its Jan. 8 statement.

But President Donald Trump’s own State Department has acknowledged the dangers of life in El Salvador. In a travel warning issued February 2017, the State Department advised U.S. citizens “to carefully consider the risks of travel to El Salvador due to the high rates of crime and violence.” It noted the country’s homicide rate is among the highest in the world, and gang activity is “widespread.”

The Trump administration previously announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status for citizens of Sudan and Nicaragua, in addition to Haiti. For now, it remains in effect for citizens from Honduras, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, though the administration is due to review each designation in the next year or so to determine whether to extend or terminate those protections too. The decision on Syrians is due later this month.

Anglican bishops in Central America have scheduled a meeting this month to discuss the impact of migration and repatriation in the region, including as a result of changes in American policy. The bishops will, in part, respond to “the lack of preparation to face the social effects of the migration policies of the United States government,” the Anglican Church of Mexico said.

Christian groups and denominations have joined the Episcopal Church in objecting to the elimination of TPS. A representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling the Trump administration’s decision “heartbreaking.” Church World Service also put out a statement denouncing the decision.

Cristosal, an El Salvador-based human rights organization with roots in the Episcopal and Anglican churches, released a statement warning that the end of TPS will cause “unnecessary human suffering,” not just for the Salvadorans ordered to return to their native country but also for their estimated 190,000 U.S.-born children and “the many U.S. communities that depend on and benefit from migrants’ economic, cultural and social contributions.”

Elmer Romero, an Episcopalian in Houston who serves on the Cristosal board, attended a meeting on TPS held by the support group Crecen this week. The 60 to 80 Salvadorans who attended were asked how many planned to voluntarily move back to El Salvador: “No one raised their hands,” Romero told Episcopal News Service.

“There is not any type of economic development to create opportunities, especially for the youth population,” Romero said of El Salvador, and cartel- and drug-related violence is an ever-present danger.

He also disputed the Trump administration’s claim that the country, outside of its capital, has recovered from the earthquake. “If you go deep in the society, there’s still families who basically lost everything. They continue facing a lot of challenge.”

Romero, a Salvadoran-American who moved to the United States in 2000 before the earthquake, works as a program manager at Houston Center for Literacy and has been active for the past 17 years in helping immigrants and refugees find services in this country. His wife is an Episcopal priest.

He wasn’t surprised by the Trump administration decision this week, and he called it a success that Salvadorans were given 18 months before TPS expires. He is hopeful that advocates can persuade Congress to pass legislation providing permanent protection for the residents he serves. Until then, he said, they face an uncertain future, and some are considering arrangements that will allow their children to remain in the United States.

Similar arrangements are being discussed in the San Francisco area, according to Lawton, who works as a program coordinator at the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California-Berkeley.

Lawton said her church, the Diocese of California and other advocates for immigrant communities are helping to connect Salvadorans with legal representation to fight deportation and rallying for legislative solutions in the state capital and in Washington, D.C.

“We’re a sanctuary diocese. We’re a sanctuary parish. We’re doing everything we can to ensure due process for the people coming through the process,” Lawton said. “Together we lift up our voices.”

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

Zambia’s churches urge ‘ongoing process’ to bring peace and justice to Zambia

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), which includes the Zambian dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, has joined with the country’s other two church mother-bodies, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), to issue a joint Statement on National Dialogue calling for an “ongoing process and effort” to bring peace and justice to Zambia.

Read the entire article here.

Church leaders cancel services in Lusaka in bid to halt cholera outbreak

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 2:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church leaders in Zambia have announced that services in parts of the capital should be cancelled to help halt the spread of cholera. The “epicentres cannot be allowed to hold church programs on [Jan. 14] and any other day until further notice,” the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), which includes the Zambian dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, said. “Church Services can be held in other areas outside these worst hit areas on Sunday as long the highest levels of hygiene are maintained. Every Church must have adequate and very clean toilets as well as enough clean water. Strictly urge all members to avoid handshakes, hugs, and communal foods.”

Read the entire article here.

Canadian Primate and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, announces plans to retire in July 2019

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 12:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, has announced that he will step down from his role on the final day of Provincial Synod’s next meeting, on 16 July 2019. Last year, Archbishop Fred marked 40 years of ordained ministry in the church – 23 of them as a bishop and 10 as Primate. In a letter to the church, he said that he had wondered “if I might not be coming very close to the ‘best before’ date in the leadership I am providing”; but said that, after a process of prayer and discernment, he “felt more than a little sense of solemn obligation to see General Synod through the next round of conversations over a few very significant matters.”

Read the entire article here.

Two years after Cyclone Winston, Maniava’s rebuilt church is consecrated

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 10:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Almost two years since Cyclone Winston swept through Fiji, killing 44 people, the village of Maniava is celebrating its rebirth. Maniava, in the province of Ra on Fiji’s main island of Vity Levu, sits on a hillside at the mouth of a valley. On the night of Feb. 20, 2016, winds of up to 186 mph destroyed the village. Yesterday, Archbishop Winston Halapua, the bishop of Polynesia, consecrated the newly rebuilt Church of the Resurrection and blessed 14 new homes and a school dormitory. He also ordained two new deacons to serve Maniava’s 168 residents.

Read the entire article here.

South Dakota mission church wants stolen bell back, offers forgiveness to thieves

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 4:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] A century-old bell was ripped from its tower at an Episcopal mission church in South Dakota sometime around the beginning of the year, and Rosebud Episcopal Mission has a message for the thieves: Bring the bell back, and all is forgiven.

“If the thief/thieves would like to return the bell, we would gladly accept it and offer forgiveness – because that’s what we do in the Church,” the Rev. Lauren Stanley said Jan. 9 in a Facebook post seeking help in solving the crime.

The bell was stolen from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just north of Norris, South Dakota. It had been housed in a simple, wooden tower that was capped by a wooden cross. A member of the congregation discovered the tower toppled and the bell missing on Jan. 7 and notified Stanley. The cross also was damaged.

“Right now, the whole community is just in shock,” Stanley said when reached by phone. “We are absolutely shocked that somebody would steal a bell from one of our oldest churches, and we are absolute appalled that anybody would attack a church in this way.”

The church was founded in 1890, and the bell could be nearly as old. Decades ago it was used to summon worshipers to St. Paul’s for the monthly service and a community gathering, which would stretch over multiple days, Stanley said. Church leaders also rang it to notify local residents of major news.

Its use as a communication tool eventually was eclipsed by modern technology, but the bell still is a cherished piece of local history for the community of Blackpipe.

The church, served by the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, is on tribal land but outside the boundaries of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. During warmer months, services are scheduled every third Sunday, and attendance can range from a half dozen to as many as 85, if there is a baptism, Stanley said. St. Paul’s typically closes for the winter, when the congregation worships instead at a church in Norris.

The bell was last seen on Dec. 30, after a funeral at St. Paul’s. It was discovered missing by the congregation’s senior warden on her way home from visiting the nearby cemetery the morning on Jan. 7. She called Stanley that night, and on Jan. 8, Stanley drove over to inspect the damage.

Stanley thinks this was more than a case of vandalism. “This was not a quick job,” she told Episcopal News Service. The bell weighs at least 300 pounds – even more when adding its yoke, which also was stolen. The thieves appear to have cut the tower’s posts with a hand saw and then pulled it down with rope and a truck.

She suspects it was taken before Jan. 3 because snow fell that day, covering up the tire tracks left by the thieves’ truck. Stanley contacted both the county sheriff’s department and tribal police, who typically work together investigating crimes that happen on tribal land off the reservation.

The bell was stolen years ago, and members of the Sioux community back then were able to find it by sharing information with each other and convincing the thieves to bring it back. Stanley and investigators hope the same will happen this time.

“We believe that it’s the community that is going to get it back for us,” Stanley said. In the meantime, she is contacting scrap metal dealers from Rosebud to Rapid City asking them to let her know if someone tries selling the bell, though she doesn’t think it’s worth more than $10 melted down.

Stanley’s Facebook post had been shared 350 times as of midafternoon Jan. 9. Comments on the post have expressed shock, sadness and outrage.

“This theft has to be the saddest of all thefts!” said commenter Audrey Williamstead. “Why would anyone want to take the church bell which has been there forever?”

“I was baptized there,” said another commenter, Rhonda Eagle Bear. “Please return our bell.”

If the thieves bring the bell back, Stanley said she not only will offer forgiveness, “I’ll probably end up buying them dinner. Because what would you take a church bell for?”

Stanley added: “And then I’ll find some people to help me rebuild the bell tower, and the community will turn out for that.”

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

Diocese of Michigan Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr. announces retirement

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:54pm

[Diocese of Michigan] 

Dear Sisters and Brothers of The Diocese of Michigan:

In September of 1999, one of the questions asked of me during the “walk-about” was: “you’re young; you could be a bishop a long time! If you were elected, how long would you be our bishop?” My response was, “as long as I believe God is calling me to be here. I have always been committed to following where God calls me.”

On February 5th of this year, I will begin my 19th year as a bishop in God’s holy Church. I have served as your Bishop Diocesan since November 1, 2000. After much prayerful discernment, I have heard God’s call to move into retirement. Therefore, in consultation with The Standing Committee of the Diocese and in conversation with the Diocesan Staff, I am calling for the election of the 11th Bishop of Michigan. It is my intention to resign effective December 31, 2019; and, in conversation with the Office of the Presiding Bishop, the ordination and consecration of the next Bishop of Michigan is expected to occur in February 2020.

I know that some of you might feel that I am “too young” to retire. At the time that I step down as your bishop I will be three months shy of my 66th birthday and, I will have given nearly 33 years of service as an ordained leader in the Church. The time is right for me to spend more time with family and friends who have graciously shared me with the Church for many years and to enjoy other lifelong passions.

It has been a distinct honor to serve as your bishop. You have taught me so much about what it means to be Beloved Community. My own faith has strengthened as I have served with and learned in partnership with you. This is still very much a ministry I love with the depth of my being.

The Standing Committee recently met with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, from The Episcopal Church Office of Pastoral Development. In this role, Bishop Ousley is tasked with providing support and guidance to dioceses as they journey through times of episcopal transition. While it has been nearly 20 years since the diocese has experienced a transition in the bishop’s office, I am confident that with the able leadership of the Standing Committee you will journey well and faithfully.

Meanwhile, we have two years of ministry ahead of us. We have much to do as we continue to remain faithful to the call of God in our lives as individuals and as part of the Jesus Movement in southeast Michigan. During this time, I ask your prayers for the Standing Committee and all those who will have roles in keeping this time of transition focused. I ask your prayers for the Diocesan Staff who continue to work and minister on your behalf.  I also ask your prayers for Karlah and for me as we travel this time with you; I promise we will keep you in ours.

Faithfully,

+Wendell

The Rt. Rev’d Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.

Archbishop urges churches to commemorate the ‘vile and shameful’ holocaust

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, is encouraging churches, parishes and chaplaincies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. Internationally, Holocaust Memorial Day is held on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army. In the United Kingdom, the day not only commemorates the holocaust of the Jewish people at the time of World War II, but subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is a day on which the victims are remembered, as well as an opportunity for the living to learn lessons for the future.

Read the entire article here.

Se celebrará una Conferencia sobre Evangelismo en Cleveland

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 9:33am

Invitamos a la Iglesia toda a asistir a la Conferencia sobre Evangelismo que se realizará entre el 15 y 17 de marzo de 2018. Esta conferencia es para toda persona que anhele compartir y profundizar una relación con Dios que sea amorosa, liberadora y vivificante.

Este evento se realizará en la Iglesia San Pablo en Cleveland Heights, Ohio, y está patrocinado por el Equipo de Iniciativas para el Evangelismo y Forward Movement.

La Rvda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga para evangelismo, reconciliación, y cuidado de la creación, participó de un evento similar que se realizó con muchísimo éxito en Dallas en noviembre de 2016. La Rvda. Spellers declaró: “El evento de Dallas demostró que nuestra gente anhela profundamente compartir, estudiar y aumentar nuestra capacidad de evangelizar. Esta vez esperamos recibir a todavía más personas, y nos enfocaremos en cómo compartir e incrementar el amor de Dios en diversos contextos: rural, urbano y suburbano; iglesias grandes, pequeñas, y nuevas; comunidades seculares y sitios de saturados de iglesias. Este ministerio nos atañe a todas y a todos”.

El Rvdo. Scott Gunn es el director ejecutivo de Forward Movement. “Estamos tan entusiasmados por la oportunidad de asociarnos con la oficina del Obispo Presidente y compartir este emocionante evento con toda la iglesia”, declaró el Rvdo. Gunn. “Esta conferencia sobre evangelismo se centrará en Jesús y su movimiento, es decir, en compartir la Buena Noticia por palabra y obra con todo el mundo”.

El Obispo Presidente Michael Curry será uno de los oradores. Las sesiones plenarias y los talleres serán dirigidos por un grupo diverso de líderes de evangelismo.  Las varias diócesis enviarán además representantes a una conferencia para “catalizadores del evangelismo”. Muchas de las sesiones se trasmitirán por internet y estarán disponibles para descargar en línea; alentamos la participación individual y de grupos satélites.

La inscripción está abierta y disponible en este enlace. El formulario de inscripción está disponible en español. Los participantes internacionales pueden inscribirse a un costo de solamente 50 dólares.

El sitio web contiene información actualizada sobre el programa, los presentadores, patrocinio del evento, recomendaciones de hospedaje, etc.

Para recibir más información, favor de contactar a Sarah Alphin, salphin@episcopalchurch.org  o 212-716-6102.

World Council of Churches begins its platinum anniversary with celebration in China

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 11:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches has begun a year of celebrations to mark its 70th anniversary with a celebration in China. The general secretary of the council, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, preached in one of the oldest Protestant churches in China Sunday – Chongwenmen Church in Beijing – on the theme “Jesus Christ, the Joy of the World.”  And he took with him a message of greeting from what the council describes as “the living fellowship with 348 member churches worldwide.”

Read the entire article here.

 

Presiding Bishop in Puerto Rico exchanges messages of hope as struggles persist after hurricane

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:37pm

Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales, left, gives a toy to a child during a pop-up medical clinic that doubled as a hurricane relief station Jan. 3 in Toa Baja. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, who was on a two-day pastoral visit, helped distribute the toys alongside three costumed Wise Men. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] Bishop Rafael Morales leaves no impression he is still wading into his job. He had led the Diocese of Puerto Rico a mere two months when Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, and since then he, his staff and clergy around the diocese have mobilized relief efforts with a determination that this week earned praise from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during his two-day visit.

Hurricane Maria was and continues to be an unparalleled catastrophe, Morales said, but he is seizing the opportunity for ministry to his fellow Puerto Ricans.

“Our people have a good heart,” he said Jan. 3, on the road to the coastal town of Toa Baja accompanied by Curry. Puerto Rico’s culture is one of thanksgiving, Morales said. “This diocese is a diocese of hope.”

Curry was in Puerto Rico on a pastoral visit, and he preached Jan. 3 in the evening at the Episcopal cathedral in San Juan, the capital of the U.S. territory. The earlier stop in Toa Baja introduced Curry and his delegation to Hugs of Love, a series of pop-up medical clinics the diocese has offered since the hurricane through the health care system it runs. This and other ministries are strengthened by ecumenical partnerships and through collaboration with federal agencies, local nonprofits and the Episcopal Church’s Episcopal Relief & Development.

For the Hugs of Love event in Toa Baja, open-air canvas tents were set up on a vacant gravel lot provided by the local Disciples of Christ congregation, which also sent volunteers. They wore hats and shirts with the message “Ama Como Crist” – “Love Like Christ.”

“Thank you for what you’ve both done. It’s God’s work,” Curry said to the Disciples of Christ pastor, the Rev. Prudencio Rivera Andujar, and his wife, Azalia Gomez.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry greets people Jan. 3 at the pop-up medical clinic in Toa Baja. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Curry walked through the tents shaking hands and doling out hugs to the diocesan volunteers and some of the hundreds of residents who had come for the daylong clinic. They waited their turns to receive blood pressure checks, blood tests, vaccinations, prescription refills and other medical services, all provided free by doctors and nurses from Episcopal Hospital San Lucas, based in Ponce.

Everyone from the San Lucas system gets involved in the pop-up clinics, Jesus Cruz Correa, the hospital’s medical director, told Curry. “We rotate the doctors.” Patients who need further medical attention are referred to the hospital for follow-up visits.

A box truck from the hospital, parked near one of the tents, was filled with food, water and personal hygiene items for distribution to the families. Lunch and music were included in the event, along with activities for the children.

Morales, who spent seven years as a priest in Toa Baja, was an eager host, leaning in for a laugh often and deploying his infectious smile nearly always. He is an Episcopalian who talks constantly about his blessings, his diocese’s blessings, his people’s blessings, even in a time of such deprivation. The church is motivated to engage with the community, he said.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a ministry,” he had told Curry earlier in the day after greeting him at the hotel in San Juan. “We have hard moments now, but Jesus is blessing us.”

Residents still struggle months after hurricane

The scene around Toa Baja, about 20 minutes west of San Juan, only hints at the scale of the disaster still gripping much of the island more than 100 days after the hurricane struck as a powerful category 4 hurricane. It made landfall Sept. 20 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, knocking out power and telephone service for the island’s 3.4 million residents. It caused mudslides, destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and created extreme shortages of food and drinking water.

The official death toll from the storm stands at 64, but a New York Times analysis last month suggests the disaster’s real toll is exponentially higher, possibly topping 1,000 deaths.

The damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has been particularly devastating. The governor’s office announced last week that power had been restored to only 55 percent of customers across the island, and getting the lights back on in remote areas might not happen until May.

In Trujillo Alto, a downed utility pole rests at the side of a road that leads to the Episcopal diocesan offices, in a neighborhood among those still without power. Some stoplights on the town’s thoroughfares have only recently begun working again, but as of this week Morales’ team was based in a building still powering itself by generator.

Some inland mountain communities have been hit even harder. “Roads are completely destroyed,” the Rev. Edwin Orlando Velez said through a Spanish translator while visiting the Hugs for Love clinic in Toa Baja.

Orlando Velez serves two congregations in the west-central part of the island, in the towns of Lares and Maricao. Many people are still are without power or water, he said. Because of mudslides and downed trees, driving is difficult.

The churches are working with the local municipalities to help with cleanup, but Orlando Velez and other priests also have been ministering to hurricane victims through home visits. They often find simply to hold someone’s hand and listen to stories makes a difference.

“I would say that they are in pretty good spirits,” he said. “The people in the mountains are used to hardships. Because of that they have had an accepting attitude.”

Some of the diocese’s priests lost their homes. Others didn’t have power in their churches until receiving generators, with help from Episcopal Relief & Development and other church partners, such as the Diocese of Maryland.

In the first days after the storm, with phone lines down and cell service unreliable, Episcopal Relief & Development arranged to get satellite phones to the diocese so Morales’ team could coordinate pastoral and medical relief efforts with far-flung clergy. Episcopal Relief & Development also has paid for food and water, and because of its experience responding to previous hurricanes, it is helping the diocese coordinate with federal agencies and other relief organizations.

Episcopal Relief & Development President Rob Radtke, who accompanied Curry on his two-day visit, called Puerto Rico a “high-capacity diocese.” The diocese has successfully leveraged its health care system as part of relief efforts, he said, and it benefits from well-organized and ambitious leadership with a heartening interest in serving its community.

“This is where the church really has a particular gift. This is true both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere,” Radtke told Episcopal News Service. “It has access to the most intimate parts of people’s lives, and it has a high level of trust that it can call on, in terms of people reaching out to the church and seeing the church as a place that will meet their needs.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joins a group led by the Diocese of Puerto Rico that conducted home visits Jan. 3 to provide medical care to sick residents of Toa Baja. Here, Mariana Cabrera, 83, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers, is checked by medical personnel. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Morales expressed disappointment in the federal response so far. He doesn’t think the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, has shown the same commitment to Puerto Rico as it has to communities in the continental United States that were ravaged by hurricanes in 2017, such as Houston. In areas where the government is seen as falling short, his diocese hopes to step up.

“The blessing is that now we are a missionary diocese,” Morales told Curry over lunch of chicken, rice and beans, as three costumed Wise Men took the lead in handing out bags of food and water to families visiting the Toa Baja clinic.

After lunch, Morales and Curry joined the Three Wise Men to distribute toys to a long line of smiling children and their parents – “the Epiphany in advance,” Morales said.

In face of despair, seeking signs of hope

Curry had another biblical reference in mind. “You have turned the water of the hurricane into the wine of hope,” he told the church leaders in Toa Baja, providing a preview of his sermon hours later.

That evening, at Holy Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Curry spoke of the Epiphany gospel reading resonating for the local church’s mission – how the Three Wise Men of the Gospel of Matthew stumbled upon a miracle, and how Episcopalians in Puerto Rico may find miracles in themselves. Then he invoked the story of the Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus took jars of water and turned them into wine for all of those gathered.

“I’ve heard about neighbors taking care of neighbors,” he said, highlighting examples in Puerto Rico, from the priests who have reached out to people with damaged homes to the doctors and nurses he met at the “hospital in the field” in Toa Baja.

“You’ve been turning the water of Maria into the wine of hope,” he told the congregation.

He concluded with words of encouragement, for Episcopalians in Puerto Rico to keep following the way of Jesus as they minister to their neighbors.

“When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high,” he said. “If you follow Jesus, you’ll never walk alone.”

Such encouragement is welcome. Despair is a constant threat for families struggling after the hurricane, said Damaris DeJesus, who serves as secretary of the diocese’s board of directors and who chauffeured Curry and the other visitors to some of their stops this week.

“For example, that house,” she said, pointing to a damaged apartment building on the side of a road in Toa Baja. “That family, what are they going to do?” At the same time, she credited Morales with emphasizing hope in calling the diocese to serve those in need.

Damaris DeJesus discusses Puerto Ricans’ mix of despair and hope during the drive from Toa Baja back to San Juan on on Jan. 3 with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, and an Episcopal Church delegation. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

DeJesus is a psychologist who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico, and after the hurricane she worked with interns to set up group counseling sessions with families dealing with the psychological trauma of losing so much. She was struck by the perspective of a 6-year-old boy, who was living in a tent with his parents because his family’s home was damaged in the storm.

“At the moment I met him, I saw how happy he was,” she said told Curry and his staff through an interpreter. The boy had pointed out all that his family still had, including each other. “He was thankful to God that he was with his parents.”

On Jan. 4, Morales arranged for Curry to hear testimonials from people who survived the hurricane. After giving Curry and his staff a tour of the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto, he invited them outside to a banquet lunch under a tent, where the generator’s rumble mixed with the sound of live music.

Before the lunch was served, four Episcopalians stood to speak to the crowd of several dozen people about their experiences during and after Hurricane Maria. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo described how she and her wife lost everything – their house flooded, their car destroyed.

“We also had God as our companion,” she said through a translator. And they felt fortunate to have members of the Episcopal community checking in on them and offering food, water and transportation when needed. “We are struggling, but we are standing.”

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo describes her experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria at an event Jan. 4 hosted by Bishop Rafael Morales outside the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla of Loiza said she and her neighbors were similarly thankful for the support of the Episcopal Church. The hurricane “turned our home upside-down. I have lost everything that I had,” Pizarro Parrilla said. “The church said, ‘we are here, present with you.’”

Morales gave his own testimonial, beginning by acknowledging his own despair after the hurricane struck. He came to the diocese’s offices, saw the surrounding destruction and wondered what he could do. He was inspired by the sight of a cross, which was still standing outside behind the main building.

“When I saw the cross, I understood that the Lord was indeed in the middle of the storm and he was here after the storm,” Morales told the crowd gathered under the tent.

The tent had been raised on a large concrete slab in front of the main building, and it served as a symbol of resurrection as Morales spoke of how God has guided the diocese forward. The hurricane destroyed a provisional church building on the concrete slab, which now supported a gathering filled with fellowship and resolve.

“What a hurricane takes away can be rebuilt into something good,” he said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro contributed translation for this report.

UK government begins bell-ringer recruitment drive ahead of Armistice Centenary

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:29am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Two British government departments are working with the United Kingdom’s Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to recruit 1,400 new campanologists ahead of the centenary of the First World War armistice on Nov.11,2018. As part of commemorations in the UK, bells will ring out from churches and cathedrals in cities, towns and villages across the UK. Some 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives in the First World War, and the Ringing Remembers campaign is designed to “keep this traditional British art alive in memory of the 1,400 who lost their lives – linking together past, present and future,” the government said in a statement.

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El Obispo Primado intercambia mensajes de esperanza en Puerto Rico mientras persisten los problemas después del huracán

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:38am

El obispo de Puerto Rico, Rafael Morales, le da un juguete a un niño durante una visita a una clínica temporal en Toa Baja que fungió también de estación de socorro para [damnificados por] el huracán el 3 de enero. El obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, que estaba en medio de una visita pastoral de dos días, ayudó a distribuir los juguetes junto con los tres Reyes Magos que iban con sus trajes típicos. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] El obispo Rafael Morales no da la impresión de que sigue inmerso en su trabajo. Llevaba apenas dos meses al frente de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico cuando el huracán María devastó la isla en septiembre, y desde entonces, su personal y el clero de la diócesis han movilizado las iniciativas de ayuda con tal determinación que esta semana le ganaron el reconocimiento del obispo primado Michael Curry durante sus dos días de visita.

El huracán María fue y sigue siendo una catástrofe sin paralelo, dijo Morales, pero él está aprovechando la oportunidad para ministrar a sus compatriotas puertorriqueños.

“Nuestra gente tiene buen corazón”, dijo él el 3 de enero, en camino al pueblo costero de Toa Baja acompañado por Curry. La cultura de Puerto Rico es de acción de gracias, afirmó Morales. “Esta diócesis es una diócesis de esperanza”.

Curry estuvo en Puerto Rico de visita pastoral y predicó el 3 de enero por la noche en la catedral episcopal de San Juan, la capital de este territorio de EE.UU. En la escala que antes hiciera en Toa Baja, a Curry y su delegación les presentaron Abrazos de Amor, una serie de clínicas itinerantes que la diócesis ha ofrecido desde el huracán a través del sistema de salud que dirige. Este y otros ministerios se han fortalecido gracias a las asociaciones ecuménicas y a la colaboración de agencias federales, instituciones locales sin fines de lucro y el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo.

Para el evento de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja, se levantaron tiendas en un solar yermo de suelo de gravilla que proporcionó la congregación local de los Discípulos de Cristo, la cual también envió voluntarios que llevaban gorras y camisetas con el mensaje “Ama como Cristo”.

“Gracias por lo que han hecho. Es la obra de Dios”, dijo Curry al pastor de los Discípulos de Cristo, el Rdo. Prudencio Rivera Andújar y a su esposa Azalia Gómez.

El obispo primado Michael Curry saluda a las personas el 3 de enero en la clínica temporal de Toa Baja. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Curry anduvo a través de las tiendas dando estrechones de mano y abrazos a los voluntarios diocesanos y a algunos de los cientos de residentes que habían venido a esta clínica de un día de duración. Esperaban su turno para que les midieran la tensión arterial, les tomaran muestras de sangre, los vacunaran, les dieran repuestos de recetas y otros servicios médicos, todos ellos ofrecidos gratuitamente por médicos y enfermeras del hospital episcopal San Lucas, que tiene su sede en Ponce.

Todo el mundo del sistema del San Lucas participó en las clínicas temporales, le dijo a Curry Jesús Cruz Correa, director médico del hospital. “Rotamos los médicos”. Los pacientes que necesitan ulterior atención médica los remitimos al hospital para visitas de seguimiento.

Un camión del hospital, estacionado cerca de una de las tiendas, estaba lleno de alimentos, agua y artículos de aseo personal para distribuírselos a las familias. El almuerzo y la música estaban incluidos en el evento, junto con actividades para los niños.

Morales, que pasó siete años como sacerdote en Toa Baja, fue un anfitrión entusiasta, riéndose con frecuencia y mostrando su sonrisa contagiosa casi siempre. Él es un episcopal que habla constantemente de sus bendiciones, de las bendiciones de la diócesis, de las bendiciones de su gente, incluso en un momento de tantas privaciones. La iglesia se siente motivada a interactuar con la comunidad, afirmó él.

“Es una bendición, es un ministerio”, le dijo él a Curry horas antes ese día luego de saludarlo en el hotel de San Juan. “Ahora tenemos momentos difíciles, pero Jesús nos está bendiciendo”.

Meses después del huracán, los habitantes de la isla aún se enfrentan a dificultades

La escena en torno a Toa Baja, a unos 20 minutos al oeste de San Juan, apenas insinúa la magnitud del desastre que aún afecta a gran parte de la isla más de 100 días después que la tormenta azotara como un violento huracán de categoría 4. Tocó tierra el 20 de septiembre con vientos sostenidos de 249 kph, interrumpiendo el servicio eléctrico y telefónico de los 3,4 millones de habitantes de la isla. Causó aludes de lodo, destruyó casas y empresas, derribó árboles y provocó extrema escasez de alimentos y agua potable.

La cifra oficial de muertes debido a la tormenta es de 64, pero un análisis del New York Times el mes pasado sugiere que la cifra real de bajas mortales es exponencialmente mayor, ascendiendo posiblemente a 1.000 fallecidos.

Los daños a la infraestructura de Puerto Rico han sido particularmente devastadores. La oficina del Gobernador anunció la semana pasada que sólo se había restablecido el servicio eléctrico a un 55 por ciento de clientes en toda la isla, y que el regreso del alumbrado en algunas zonas remotas podría no ocurrir hasta mayo.

En Trujillo Alto, un poste de la electricidad descansa derribado a la orilla de la carretera que conduce a las oficinas de la diócesis episcopal, en un barrio de los que todavía no tienen servicio eléctrico. Algunos reflectores en las carreteras del pueblo sólo recientemente han comenzado a funcionar de nuevo, pero hasta esta semana el equipo de Morales trabajaba en un edificio que aún depende de un generador.

Algunas comunidades de las montañas del interior se han visto aun más afectadas. “Las carreteras están completamente destruidas”, dijo el Rdo. Edwin Orlando Vélez a través de una traductora mientras visitábamos la clínica de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja.

Orlando Vélez atiende a dos congregaciones en la parte centrooccidental de la isla, en los pueblos de Lares y Maricao. Muchas personas aún se encuentran sin electricidad ni agua, dijo él. Debido a los deslaves y el derribo de árboles, resulta difícil conducir.

Las iglesias están trabajando con los gobiernos municipales para ayudar en la limpieza, pero Orlando Vélez y otros sacerdotes también han estado ministrando a víctimas del huracán mediante visitas a los hogares. Con frecuencia encuentran que sostener la mano de alguien y escuchar sus historias marca la diferencia.

“Yo diría que tienen muy buen ánimo”, afirmó él. “La gente en las montañas está acostumbradas a pasar trabajo. Debido a eso tienen una actitud de aceptación”.

Algunos de los sacerdotes de la diócesis perdieron sus hogares. Otros no tuvieron electricidad en sus iglesias hasta que recibieron generadores, gracias al Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo y otras entidades de la Iglesia, tal como la Diócesis de Maryland.

En los primeros días después de la tormenta, con las líneas telefónicas caídas y el servicio de celulares inestable, el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo logró conseguir teléfonos satelitales para la diócesis, de suerte que el equipo de Morales pudiera coordinar iniciativas de ayuda pastoral y médica con clérigos que se encontraran lejos. El Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo también ha costeado alimentos y agua y, debido a su experiencia en huracanes anteriores, está ayudando a la diócesis a coordinar esfuerzos con agencias federales y otras organizaciones humanitarias.

Rob Radtke, presidente del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, que acompañó a Curry en su visita de dos días, definió a Puerto Rico como “una diócesis de alta capacidad”. La diócesis ha potenciado exitosamente su sistema de atención sanitaria como parte de las iniciativas de ayuda, explicó él, y se ha beneficiado de un liderazgo emprendedor y bien organizado con genuino interés en servir a su comunidad.

“Es en esto donde la Iglesia tiene un don particular. Esto es cierto lo mismo en Puerto Rico como en cualquier otra parte”, dijo Radtke a Episcopal News Service. “Tiene acceso a los más íntimos sentimientos de las vidas de la gente, y disfruta de un alto nivel de confianza que puede invocar desde el punto de vista de personas que se acercan a la Iglesia y ven a la Iglesia como un lugar que responderá a sus necesidades”.

El obispo primado Michael Curry se suma a un grupo de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico que llevó a cabo visitas a hogares el 3 de enero para proporcionarles atención médica a vecinos enfermos en Toa Baja. Aquí el personal médico examina a Mariana Cabrera, de 83 años, que padece de diabetes, hipertensión y úlceras. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Morales expresó  su decepción por lo ha que sido hasta el momento la respuesta del gobierno federal. Él no cree que la Administración Federal de Asistencia en Desastres (FEMA por su sigla en inglés) haya mostrado  el mismo nivel de compromiso con Puerto Rico que con otras comunidades de Estados Unidos continental que fueron azotadas por huracanes en 2017, tales como Houston. En áreas donde se percibe que el gobierno no ha hecho lo suficiente, su diócesis espera  redoblar sus esfuerzos.

“La bendición es que ahora somos una diócesis misionera”, dijo Morales a Curry durante un almuerzo de pollo, arroz y frijoles, mientras tres hombres vestidos como los Reyes Magos repartían bolsas de alimentos y agua a las familias que visitaban la clínica de Toa Baja.

Después del almuerzo, Morales y Curry se reunieron con los tres Reyes Magos para distribuir juguetes a una larga cola de niños sonrientes y a sus padres —“la Epifanía por anticipado”, dijo Morales.

En presencia de la desesperación, se buscan señales de esperanza

Curry tenía otra referencia bíblica en mente. “Ustedes han convertido el agua del huracán en el vino de la esperanza”, les dijo a los líderes de la Iglesia en Toa Baja, brindándoles un adelanto de su sermón horas después.

Esa noche, en la Santa Eucaristía en la catedral de San Juan el Bautista, Curry habló de la lectura del evangelio de la Epifanía que repercutía en la misión de la Iglesia local —como los tres magos del evangelio de Mateo tropezaron con un milagro, y cómo los episcopales en Puerto Rico pueden encontrar milagros en sí mismos. Luego invocó la historia de las Bodas de Caná, en las cuales Jesús tomó jarras de agua y las convirtió en vino para todos los que estaban allí reunidos.

“He oído hablar de vecinos que se ocupan de vecinos”, dijo, destacando ejemplos de Puerto Rico, de los sacerdotes que se han allegado a personas con viviendas dañadas, de los médicos y enfermeras que conoció en el “hospital de campaña” en Toa Baja.

“Ustedes han convertido el agua de[l huracán] María en el vino de la esperanza”, le dijo a la congregación.

Él concluyó con palabras de aliento, para que los episcopales de Puerto Rico se mantengan siguiendo el camino de Jesús en tanto ministran a sus prójimos.

“Cuando atraviesen la tormenta, mantengan la cabeza en alto”, dio. “Si siguen a Jesús, nunca andarán solos”.

Tal aliento es bien acogido. La desesperación es una constante amenaza para las familias que siguen luchando después del huracán, dijo Damaris DeJesus, que sirve de secretaria de la junta directiva de la diócesis y que condujo a Curry y a los demás visitantes a algunas de sus citas esta semana.

“Por ejemplo, esa casa”, dijo señalando un edificio de apartamentos afectado junto a la carretera en Toa Baja. “La familia, ¿qué va a hacer?” Al mismo tiempo, ella le hizo honor a Morales en enfatizar la esperanza al llamar a la diócesis a servir a los necesitados.

Damaris DeJesus explica la mezcla de desesperación y esperanza de los puertorriqueños durante el viaje de regreso de Toa Baja a San Juan el 3 de enero con el obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, y la delegación de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

DeJesus es psicóloga y enseña en la Universidad de Puerto Rico y, después del huracán, trabajo con pasantes en la creación de sesiones de consejería de grupos con familias que se enfrentan al trauma psicológico de afrontar grandes pérdidas. Ella se quedó impresionada por la perspectiva de un niñito de 6 años, que estaba viviendo en una tienda con sus padres porque la casa de su familia se había visto afectada por la tormenta.

“Desde el momento en que lo conocí, vi lo feliz que era”, le dijo ella a Curry y sus acompañantes a través de un intérprete. El niño le había señalado todo lo que su familia aún tenía, incluidos unos a otros. “Le agradecía a Dios el estar con sus padres”.

El 4 de enero, Morales concertó que Curry oyera testimonios de personas que sobrevivieron el huracán. Luego de hacerle a Curry y su personal un recorrido por las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto, los invitó a almorzar afuera bajo una tienda de campaña, donde el ruido del generador se mezclaba con el sonido de la música en vivo.

Antes de que sirvieran el almuerzo, cuatro episcopales se levantaron para hablarle al grupo de varias docenas de personas acerca de sus experiencias durante el huracán María y después de su paso. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, contó cómo ella y su esposa perdieron todo: su casa inundada y su auto destruido.

“También tuvimos a Dios como nuestro compañero” dijo ella valiéndose de una traductora. Y se sintieron afortunadas de contar con miembros de la comunidad episcopal que estaban pendientes de ellas y que les brindaron alimento, agua y transporte cuando lo necesitaron. “Tenemos dificultades, pero estamos en pie”.

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, describe sus experiencias después del paso del huracán María en un evento el 4 de enero preparado por el obispo Rafael Morales frente a las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla, de Loiza, dijo que ella y sus vecinos estaban igualmente agradecidos por el apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal. El huracán “viró nuestra casa al revés. Yo he perdido todo lo que tenía”, dijo Pizarro Parrilla. “La Iglesia nos dijo ‘estamos aquí con ustedes’”.

Morales dio su propio testimonio, empezando por reconocer su propia desesperanza después del azote del huracán. Él vino a las oficinas de la diócesis, vio la destrucción circundante y se preguntó qué podía hacer. Se sintió inspirado al ver una cruz, que seguía en pie afuera, detrás del edificio principal.

“Cuando vi la cruz, entendí que el Señor estaba ciertamente en medio de la tormenta y que él estaba aquí después de la tormenta”, dijo Morales al grupo reunido en la tienda.

La tienda se levantó sobre una gran placa de concreto frente al edificio principal [de la diócesis] y sirvió como un símbolo de resurrección mientras Morales hablaba de cómo Dios había guiado la diócesis para que saliera delante. El huracán destruyó el edificio de una iglesia provisional que se alzaba sobre la placa de concreto, que ahora sostenía una reunión rebosante de fraternidad y resolución.

“Lo que huracán se lleva puede rehacerse en algo bueno”, afirmó él.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él a dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro colaboró con la traducción para este reportaje. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Church of England unveils £24.4 million ($33 million) national investment in new churches and evangelism

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has announced grants of £24.4 million ($33 million) in the latest [portion] of its Renewal and Reform program funding. The money is being provided by the Church’s strategic investment board, which was created as part of a change in the way national funding from the church commissioners is provided to diocese and parishes. Previously, the commissioners provided support to dioceses on the basis of a national formula. But after a review looking into resourcing the future of the Church, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops agreed instead that all of the national funding should be distributed for investment in the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church.

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Government of Burundi praises Anglican Church for tree-planting campaign

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:49am

[Anglican Communion News Service]  The Anglican Church of Burundi (EAB) has been awarded a Certificate of Merit from the government’s environment ministry for its ongoing tree-planting campaign. Over the past ten years, more than 12 million trees have been planted as part of EAB’s commitment to preserve the environment. In December 2016, the EAB revealed it had set a “One Person, One Tree” goal – a five-year commitment to plant a tree for each one of Burundi’s 10 million-strong population.

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Anglican Welfare Association helps Hong Kong respond to the ‘silver tsunami’

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:47am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Welfare Association of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – is working with the government to help respond to a predicted “silver tsunami” – an increasingly aging population. Law Chi-kwong, Hong Kong’s secretary for labor and welfare, said that the “silver tsunami” would bring on a surge in demand for elderly care services in the next several decades. He revealed that the church was planning an innovative project that would provide the elderly with affordable accommodation and accessible facilities; and he said that the government was “proactively considering appropriate supporting policies”.

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