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Merged Episcopal congregations in California are first to take name of church’s only African American deaconess

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 5:02pm

Deaconess Anna E.B. Alexander is shown with a group of her students in front of the Good Shepherd School, which she founded in Pennick, Georgia. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church now has its first congregation named after an African American woman.

St. George’s in Antioch, California, and St. Alban’s, Brentwood, both in the Diocese of California, officially merged March 24. The combined congregations are now known as St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church.

The seasonal game known as Lent Madness gets some of the credit for the California Episcopalians’ choice of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander as their patron. Forward Movement’s version of March Madness features saints “competing” in brackets for the Golden Halo. St. Anna “won” the 2018 halo, six months before General Convention reaffirmed her sainthood last July.

“We were so inspired by Anna’s story of the pouring out of her life for the sake of those formerly enslaved; despite having little resources she managed over time to build a school as well as a church to help people succeed through literacy,” the Rev. Jill Honodel, the congregation’s long-term supply priest, said in a Diocese of California press release.

Educational segregation exists their neighborhood, according to Honodel. For example, she said, the majority of African American boys struggle to pass their math classes through high school. “We are inspired by St. Anna to do our part so that as many people as possible have a chance to succeed and the opportunity for a good future,” Honodel said.

Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander was born in 1865 to recently freed slaves and died in 1947. She ministered in rural Georgia, focusing on the education of poor black children. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

Alexander’s faith and her championing of literacy and education exemplifies “what I feel is true Christianity,” said Michelle Price, the new senior warden of St. Anna’s.

“I took away from Lent Madness her being a saint as something I could emulate in my own life,” Price said in the release. “Some of the saints do things that are so huge and so dynamic and here’s this humble, small woman in Pennick, that just quietly changed people’s lives one student at a time.”

Alexander brought new life to children who otherwise would have been left behind, Price said. “Hopefully our church will model the same through our resource center by hosting literacy programs, after-school programs and math programs,” she added.

Alexander, the first black female deaconess in The Episcopal Church, ministered in Georgia’s Glynn and McIntosh counties, concentrating on the education of poor blacks. She helped establish Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and its parochial school in Pennick, just west of the Atlantic coast. She also established and helped run the St. Cyprian’s School at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Darien.

In 1907 during the Convention for Colored Episcopalians, Bishop C.K. Nelson set Alexander aside as a deaconess. He wrote in his diary for May 3 of that year, “Admitted as Deaconess Anna E. B. Alexander, a devout, godly and respected colored woman, to serve as teacher and helper in the Mission of the Good Shepherd, Pennick, Ga.”

She would be the only African American to serve as an Episcopal deaconess. The Episcopal Church recognized deaconesses from 1889 until 1970, when General Convention eliminated the order and included women in its canons governing deacons. (An interactive timeline of women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is here.)

Alexander was born in 1865 to recently emancipated slaves on St. Simons Island, Georgia. She died in 1947 and is buried in front of the original two-story Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry celebrates the legacy and ministry of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander during a visit to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Pennick, Georgia. Walter Holmes, left, a former student of St. Anna, and current senior warden of Good Shepard, greets Celestine Alexander Cartwright, right, also a former student of the saint. Photo: Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Walter Holmes, senior warden for Good Shepherd, told Episcopal News Service that as a student of St. Anna’s, he “got to experience firsthand her love, her dedication to people and the impact she had on so many people right here in South Georgia

“So now, it’s a beautiful testimony to see her legacy reach the other side of the country — and even internationally with her as a saint now. She would probably be embarrassed by all the attention, though truthfully, that’s just who she was.”

St. Anna taught Zora Nobles’ father and two of her uncles. “When I was very young, my dad would talk about her and how she in fact was instrumental in guiding he and his siblings to always strive to do the very best of the best—and to also get an education and encourage them to go to college,” she said in an interview last year.

The deaconess was always discussed in their home, she said. “All of the good work that she had performed, how she was just diligent and passionate, and how she was so driven to do what she was doing to help children to read, to understand science, to understand the world outside of Pennick, Georgia,” Nobles said.

Georgia Episcopalians worked for more than 20 years to have Alexander recognized by the church. In 1998, Bishop Henry Louttit Jr. named her a Saint of Georgia with a feast day of Sept. 24. In 2011 and 2014, the diocese passed resolutions calling on the General Convention to include her on the church’s calendar. General Convention began the process of doing so in 2012. The 2018 meeting of General Convention added Alexander to the church’s calendar of saints via Resolution A065 when it approved a revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” for trial use. Her feast day is Sept. 24 (found beginning on page 490 here).

The newly named congregation of St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church gathers March 24 outside the Antioch, California, church in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Photo: Emma Marie Chiang/Diocese of California

The new St. Anna’s has parishioners from Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Ghana, among others. “It was good to come to church this morning and to see a saint of the church that looks like me,” parishioner Betty Smith said when she saw the saint’s photo on the front cover of the March 24 order of service, according to the press release. “I’m really thankful that God has given this to me in my time.”

St. George’s and St. Alban’s were both hard hit by the 2008 real estate crash, according to the release.  In 2018, they decided to not only share space in Antioch but also to share governance. On Sept. 30, the two mission churches voted unanimously to petition the diocese to merge and form a new mission congregation. There is potential for a future church plant in Brentwood on a nine-acre property owned by the Diocese of California, the release said. California Bishop Marc Andrus was at the Antioch church March 24 to make the merger official.

St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church sports a new sign after becoming a new mission congregation of the Diocese of California. Photo: Diocese of California

Honodel said the California Episcopalians hope to honor St. Anna’s name throughout the years through their connection to the people of Pennick, Georgia, who knew her personally; and they hope to strengthen that bond between Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Georgia and the new mission church in San Francisco’s East Bay area.

Few Episcopal Church congregations are named for women

Among The Episcopal Church’s 6,712 congregations, just under 400 are named for women, with just five named for a woman of color, St. Monica. She was born in North Africa to Berber parents in about 331 and was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. The Episcopal Church’s calendar honors St. Monica on May 4 and St. Augustine on August 28.

There are about 42 congregations named for St. Augustine that are not explicitly named for St. Augustine of Canterbury who, in 596, led a group of 40 monks to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Each new archbishop of Canterbury kisses the Gospel book said to have been brought to England by Augustine, swearing to observe the customs of Canterbury Cathedral. Augustine of Canterbury is commemorated on May 28.

Some 200 Episcopal Church congregations are named for Mary, Jesus’ mother, or Mary Magdalene. There are about 50 congregations named for the saint who was Mary’s mother, variously spelled as Ann, Anne or Anna.

At least two congregations are named for women who are not officially considered saints. Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, New York, was named to honor Queen Wilhelmina Karoline of Brandenburg-Anspach, Queen of George II of England. The church’s website notes that the choice is evidence of “the strong loyalist convictions of the original congregation.” Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, is a memorial to Edward Albert Palmer who heroically lost his life while saving that of his sister, Daphne Palmer Neville.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter. Christopher Sikkema, Episcopal Church coordinator for digital evangelism, contributed to this report.

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Anglican-Jewish Commission holds latest round of talks in Manchester, England

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 3:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Senior Anglican and Jewish leaders met this week for the latest meeting of the Anglican-Jewish Commission. The Commission is the vehicle for the official dialogue between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The annual meetings usually alternate between Lambeth Palace and Jerusalem; but this week’s meeting took place in Manchester, England. “There is a strong Jewish population here and there is a vibrant Anglican Diocese”, the Anglican Co-Chair of the Commission, Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said.

Read the entire article here.

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La promesa de cuidar de la creación despega en toda la Iglesia 1.000 promesas solicitadas para el Día de la Tierra, 22 de abril.

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 3:05pm

[29 de marzo, 2019] Los episcopales y amigos preocupados por toda la creación de Dios se unen al Obispo Presidente Michael Curry en el compromiso de actuar para proteger y renovar el mundo de Dios y todos los que lo consideran su hogar. El objetivo es reunir al menos 1,000 promesas con compromisos personales concretos para el Día de la Tierra, el 22 de abril.

Edificando a partir de la declaración de la Visión Episcopal para el Cuidado de la Creación, desarrollada por la Oficina del Obispo Presidente y el Consejo Asesor sobre la Mayordomía de la creación para la 79ª Convención General, esta promesa,  y la Guía de Reflexión, que la acompaña, son una manera tangible y práctica de demostrar amor por el mundo de Dios.

Como señaló el Obispo Curry, “muchos de nosotros estamos listos para comprometernos y ayudar a cuidar de la creación de Dios. Como dijo la Biblia: Dios amó tanto al mundo que dio a su único Hijo. Eso significa el mundo real: todos nosotros y todo. Y esta es una manera en la que podemos participar para ayudar a cuidar de la creación de Dios. Esto es querido y cercano a mi corazón y al corazón de Dios”.

“Esperamos que la gente entienda que esto es más que agregar su firma a una petición”, dijo la Reverenda Melanie Mullen, directora de cuidado de la reconciliación, la justicia y la creación. “Ore con la promesa y la Guía de Reflexión durante la Cuaresma. Piense en lo que ama de la creación de Dios, dónde su corazón se rompe por la injusticia ambiental y cómo le gustaría simplificar su vida: consuma menos, comparta más. Luego, para el lunes de Pascua, Día de la Tierra, celebremos nuestro compromiso compartido”.

Las diócesis de todas partes están aceptando el compromiso. En su ordenación y consagración del 2 de marzo, como Obispa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Kansas, la Reverendísima Cathleen Chittenden Bascom y el Obispo Presidente Michael Curry animaron a la congregación a tomar la promesa de cuidar de la creación.

Los tres elementos principales tanto de la visión como de la promesa: amar, liberar y dar vida, surgen directamente del llamado a vivir como la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús y como personas que viven el Camino del Amor:

Anhelamos crecer en una relación amorosa, liberadora y vivificante con la creación de
Dios. En este momento urgente, nos comprometemos a proteger y renovar esta buena
Tierra y a todos los que la llaman su hogar. Juntos, nos comprometemos a acciones
específicas, confiando en que podemos hacer más como un cuerpo que lo que podría
cualquier persona sola.

AMAR: Compartiremos nuestras historias de amor y preocupación por la Tierra y nos
vincularemos con otros que se preocupan de proteger la red sagrada de la vida.

LIBERAR: Nos uniremos a los más vulnerables a los efectos nocivos de la degradación
ambiental y el cambio climático: mujeres, niños, pobres y comunidades de color,
refugiados, migrantes.

DAR VIDA: Cambiaremos nuestros hábitos y elecciones para vivir de manera más
sencilla, humilde y gentilmente en la Tierra.

La Guía de Reflexión que se acompaña se creó en colaboración con la Diócesis Episcopal de California e incluye meditaciones, oraciones, pasajes de la Escritura y de acción relacionados con cada elemento de la promesa. La misma diócesis está lanzando una oportunidad relacionada con el cuidado de la creación: un rastreador de carbono que ayuda a individuos, congregaciones y a diócesis a evaluar y reducir el uso de energía y el impacto climático. Descubra más sobre el rastreador y otros recursos en https://www.diocal.org/climate

“Este no es un nuevo plan de estudios que usted necesita para atascarse en una Cuaresma ya atareada”, dijo Amy Cook, directora del grupo de trabajo de formación en la fe de la Diócesis Episcopal de California. “Para muchos de nosotros, la Cuaresma es naturalmente un momento para la reflexión y la simplicidad. Esperamos que la promesa y el proceso de reflexión conduzcan al pueblo a un profundo discernimiento y compromiso con la nueva vida en esta Pascua y más allá”.

Obtenga más información sobre el ministerio de Cuidado de la Creación en La Iglesia Episcopal enwww.episcopalchurch.org/creation.

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RIP: Diane M. Porter, former church-wide staff executive

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 2:37pm

[Episcopal News Service] A memorial service will be held May 25 for Diane M. Porter, who served on the church-wide staff of The Episcopal Church from 1988 until 1997.

Porter died March 21. The service is set for 11 a.m. at Grace Church inBrooklyn Heights, New York.

She held a number of positions in government before joining the church-wide staff in January 1988, serving as deputy for public ministries. Porter became senior executive for program in September 1992 and served in that capacity until March 1997.

Then-Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning said at the time that Porter would continue to represent The Episcopal Church on the board of the National Council of Churches and on the Seminary Consortium on Urban Pastoral Education as a link to the Office of the Presiding Bishop. He also expressed his gratitude for Porter’s leadership and said he hoped that she would “continue to labor in the vineyard with the same concern and commitment to justice.”

During her time at the Episcopal Church Center, Porter also served as the head of the Office of Advocacy, Witness, and Justice Ministries and was the staff member assigned to the Commission on Racism. In 1991, a racism audit was conducted during the second day of the 70th meeting of General Convention, which found that the church was not paying adequate attention to the problem of racism — at least in the eyes of those surveyed.

“I call it an institutional CAT scan that we can use to see where we are at this particular point in the church,” she said at the time. The question format, said Porter, was intended to elicit the personal experiences and attitudes of the bishops and deputies toward racism. Combatting institutional racism requires personal intervention, she added. “We have a lot of perceptions,” Porter said, “but we don’t have actual facts.”

While the methodology of the audit was criticized by some, the results were “gratifying,” Porter said. The outcome “portends an openness to change and a willingness to engage this issue seriously.” It also shows “that the church is ready to get on with being an inclusive community,” she said.

Porter continued to advocate for the church to confront its racism, saying in 1994 that “every day there’s reason to hope.” Anti-racism work “goes in fits and starts, but it keeps going,” she said.

Porter also served as the first lay canon to the ordinary to the bishop of Long Island, when the Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker held the see. Her volunteer activities on behalf of the diocese included: Executive and Standing Committees, Archdeaconry of Brooklyn, Standing Committee, trustee of the Estate of the Diocese of Long Island, Mercer School, Episcopal Charities, chair of the Select Commission on Diocesan Structure, Provincial Synod and General Convention, chair of the Mercer Scholarship Fund, and member of the Cathedral Chapter, according to the Union of Black Episcopalians, which honored here in 2018 with the Mattie Hopkins Honor Award. She also was the chairperson of the Interfaith Medical Center Foundation in Brooklyn, New York.











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