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Diocese of Bethlehem Names Two Priests to Stand for Election as Ninth Bishop

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:41pm

[Diocese of Bethlehem] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem today released the names of two priests who will stand for election for the ninth bishop of the diocese.

The Rev. Kevin Nichols

The Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

They are the Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and the Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, 55, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado. The search committee had chosen three nominees, but one withdrew shortly before the slate was presented to the Standing Committee, which oversees the election.

Nominees may be added to the slate through a petition process that opens today and closes on February 15. Public gatherings known as “walkabouts” will be held around the diocese, April 17-20, to give local Episcopalians an opportunity to meet the nominees. The election will be held at the Cathedral of the Nativity on April 28.

“We’re very excited to have such highly-qualified nominees,” said the Rev. J. Douglas Moyer, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Stroudsburg, who chairs the Standing Committee. “Kevin and Ruth are people of deep faith and spirituality, and we have been moved by how both integrate their faith with their everyday lives. They also have experience working at the highest levels of their dioceses and extensive networks they can call upon thanks to their service to the wider Episcopal Church.”

Learn more about the nominees at the search committee’s website.

The diocese includes almost 12,000 members in 58 congregations in northeastern Pennsylvania. It has been led for the last four years by the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Rowe served as bishop provisional during a period of reorganization and renewal as the diocese determined its future.

Diocese’s call for ‘expansive language for God’ sparks debate on gender-neutral Episcopal liturgies

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 1:23pm

The Diocese of Washington holds its 123rd diocesan convention Jan. 27 at Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Diocese of Washington, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Washington is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.

He? She? Those pronouns aren’t preferred, the diocese says in a resolution it passed Jan. 27 at its convention, held at Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital city. Instead, the resolution recommends using “expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition.”

The diocese’s convention passed two other resolutions, voicing support for immigrants and the transgender community. But it was the call for more inclusive language in the prayer book that drew national attention, especially from conservative-leaning critics.

“What I see is a church that embraces literally any fashionable left-wing cause,” Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, said in a segment Feb. 5 in which he interviewed the Rev. Alex Dyer, one of the resolution’s sponsors.

The Daily Caller, a news website founded by Carlson, reported on the resolution last week, as did Breitbart and The Blaze. Some of the reaction has been “vitriolic,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde told Episcopal News Service in describing three negative emails she has received. All three emails were written in a similar tone, she said, describing her diocese alternately as aligned with Satan and at war with God.

“It’s clear they didn’t read the resolution,” Budde said.

The resolution’s push for more gender-inclusive language grew out of conversations around the diocese in congregations where topics of gender and transgender equality have resonated among the parishioners, Budde said. She sees it as a spiritual matter, not a cultural or political issue.

That view was shared by Dyer, priest-in-charge at St. Thomas’ Parish in Washington, D.C. He responded in the TV interview that the diocese had based its decision on prayer and discernment, not politics – and a belief in “a Jesus who calls us to reach out to people on the margins and to reach out to everyone.”

The resolution is worded to influence future revisions of the prayer book, understanding God as a higher being who transcends gender. It doesn’t mandate the elimination of gender-specific references to God, Budde said, despite what some reports suggest.

“I don’t believe that the way we understand gender is applicable when we imagine who created Heaven and Earth,” Budde said. At the same time, the diocese’s emphasis is on expanding the church’s liturgies rather than eliminating masculine descriptions of God, such as God the father.

“I’m all for expanding our understanding of God and how we pray to God, but I feel no need to take anything away,” she said.

The difficulty in describing God may reside in language itself.

“No language can adequately contain the complexity of the divine, and yet it is all we have to try to explain God,” the diocese said in an explanation of the resolution contained in the convention materials. “By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God.”

The Episcopal Church is not the only Christian denomination grappling with the inadequacy of language to explain God. The Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism, for example, discusses references to God as “Father” while also noting that the image of motherhood is also appropriate.

“We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God,” the Catechism says.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America addresses the question of gendered language in a 2013 liturgical resource: “Because language is created and used by humans, it reflects the imperfections and limitations of humanness. Therefore, no use of language can ever totally describe or represent God.”

Under “Language Describing God,” the document cites some examples – “eagle,” “rock,” “light,” among others – before offering a caution about pronoun use: “Assigning male pronouns to human occupations (such as judge, teacher, potter, guard) or to objects (fortress, rock, shield) should be avoided when they are used as metaphors for God.”

More recently, the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden announced last year that it would update its liturgical handbook with “more inclusive” gender language. That move sparked some complaints that the church was eliminating masculine references to God, a reaction similar to what the Diocese of Washington now faces.

“We are not going to give up our tradition,” Church of Sweden Archbishop Antje Jackelén told PBS NewsHour. “God is beyond our human categories of gender. … We need help to remind us of that, because due to the restrictions of our brains, we tend to think of God in very human categories. We are not worshipping political correctness. We are worshipping God, the creator of the universe.”

The Episcopal Church, too, has a history of emphasizing inclusiveness.

“This is a conversation that we have been having internally in the Episcopal Church for decades,” the Rev. Emily Wachner, a lecturer in practical theology at General Theological Seminary in New York, told ENS.

Examples of the church’s evolution on gender and power dynamics include the approval of ordination of women in 1976, but it didn’t start or end there, Wachner said. She noted the creation of “Voices Found,” a 2003 supplement to the Hymnal 1982 that featured all women composers.

“I’ve never had a parishioner leave or join the church for concern about gendered language for God,” she said. “At the same time, this entire conversion around God and gender is so important.” In some ways it parallels the secular conversations now underway on gender issues in society, such as sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, she said.

Of all the work the church could be doing for gender equity – Wachner mentioned disparity in clergy pay as one example – re-examining descriptions of God in Episcopal liturgies may be just one small step. Wachner is particularly supportive of the first half of the Diocese of Washington resolution, calling for “expansive language.”

She was less impressed by the second half of the resolution, which called on prayer book revisions that, “when possible,” would “avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.” Limiting language seems counter to the intent of the resolution, she said.

“I believe the real conversation we should be having is around the vitality of the church itself,” Wachner said. “I’m not sure God’s pronouns are a vital part of that conversation.”

The Diocese of Washington also has received attention for its resolution on immigration, which committed it to “becoming a sanctuary diocese” and “offering sacred welcome to immigrants.” Certain congregations in the diocese already have offered sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, Budde said, and this was a chance for the diocese to show its support for those efforts.

The same was true of the third resolution, “on inclusion of transgendered people.” Budde said the diocese wanted to stand with congregations that have been at the forefront of welcoming transgender people and fighting violence and hatred against them.

The resolution regarding gendered language for God was approved by a hand vote, with a solid majority in favor, though it was not unanimous, Budde said.

“There was very little debate in the convention itself, and I don’t think it’s because they didn’t want to have the conversation,” she said. If Episcopalians didn’t feel comfortable debating the question on the convention floor, she would welcome such conversations in other settings.

She also underscored the imperfection of language and the ways that our understanding of language can change over time. “Mankind” once was an accepted catch-all term for men and women. “There wasn’t really much debate about that, until there was a lot of debate about that,” she said, and now it is more common to hear inclusive terms like “humankind.”

Her hope is that someday the church will be so confident in welcoming all people that such debates will no longer be necessary. Episcopalians may each see the world differently, she said, but they share a spiritual common ground, “that we’re part of a family trying to be true to the Gospel imperative to love your neighbor.”

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

Anglican mission agency USPG appoints London college leader as new chair

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 1:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] John Neilson, the secretary of Imperial College London, has been appointed as the next chair of trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG. He will succeed Chris Chivers, the principal of Westcott House Cambridge, whose six-year term will finish in July. “There is a big challenge to communicate the vision and purpose of a twenty-first century mission agency more widely, particularly in parishes,” Neilson said.

Read the full article here.

Joanna Udal honored for service to Anglican Communion

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 1:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev.  Joanna Udal, former secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs for the Archbishops of Canterbury, has been awarded the Cross of St. Augustine for services to the Anglican Communion by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Udal served both Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Willams and Welby, before stepping down in 2014. The award was in recognition of her “unparalleled service to the Anglican Communion.”

Read the full article here.

Newly appointed Anglican bishops attend induction week at Canterbury Cathedral

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 12:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of 33 recently appointed bishops are spending a week at Canterbury Cathedral – the Anglican Communion’s mother church – as part of a global induction program. They are taking part in the new bishops’ course, which happens every February. It provides an opportunity for newly appointed bishops from around the world to meet each other for fellowship, prayer and learning. Today they are in London, visiting the Anglican Communion Office in Notting Hill, and then Lambeth Palace, the London home and offices of the archbishop of Canterbury.

Read the entire article here.

Good Book Club among diverse Lenten tools offered by the Episcopal Church

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 5:18pm

A worshiper receives ashes at St. Bart’s in New York City. Photo: Episcopal Church submission

[Episcopal News Service] Instead of seeing this Lenten season as a time to do without, you can approach it from a more plentiful perspective: an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, with more resources than ever.

That’s how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry sees it. Lent can be a chance to deepen your intimacy with Christ, he said in a video about helpful Lenten tools, including the Good Book Club.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 14 this year – coinciding with Valentine’s Day – and it lasts through Thursday, March 29, when the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday begins.

Typically, Lent involves fasting and abstinence of some sort, inspired by the 40 days and nights Jesus fasted in the wilderness, according to several Bible passages, including Luke 4:1-13. Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word,” according to page 265 of the Book of Common Prayer.

There are more ways than ever to accomplish these aspirations.

For the first time, Forward Movement presents the Good Book Club to the Episcopal Church and other interested people as a comprehensive resource to observe Lent. The program is a partnership with more than 25 organizations in the church, Richelle Thompson told Episcopal News Service. She’s the Forward Movement deputy director and managing editor.

“One of the reasons we tried to build this is because in one way, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure; we have resources from so many different organizations,” Thompson said. “We really tried to add a lot of variety so people can find what best suits their needs, and so they can find it the way God is calling them to engage in scripture.”

The Good Book Club begins Feb. 11, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and continues through Pentecost, May 20. Forward Movement has created a set of daily readings to divide Luke and Acts into 50 days each. Each day, participants will read a few verses of Luke through the end of March and then Acts beginning on Easter Sunday and running through May 20.

The club features everything from a podcast from Episcopal Migration Ministries to a downloadable booklet to encourage a spirit of gratitude created by United Thank Offering. Parents will find tools to engage their children. A Good Book Club app for iPhones and Android phones has daily readings, a coloring page and a journal for those on the go.

There’s a good reason to study Luke and Acts together.

“Scholars tell us that the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are part 1 and part 2 of the same story, probably by the same author,” Curry said in his video on the Good Book Club.

Luke tells about Jesus while he lived among us, and Acts describes what his followers did afterward, as they put his teachings into action, Curry said.

“Reading scripture individually and collectively can change our spiritual life,” Thompson said. She laughed. “And only God knows how we will be all changed by the end of this.”

Other resources include:

  • “Set Free by Truth”: The ecumenical Lent devotions begin with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continue through Easter Sunday, April 1. Each segment of “Set Free by Truth” presents scripture citations, a reflection and a prayer. The book is available for free downloading here.
  • Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday: Falling on Feb. 18 this year, this church-wide tradition is marked with special prayers, materials and a dedicated offering to support the organization’s worldwide programs. Special resources and a planning guide for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday are available at on the organization’s Sunday page. Churches can download copies Episcopal Relief & Development’s 2018 Lenten Meditations booklets in English and Spanish by visiting the organization’s Lent page here.
  • Lent Madness: The Rev. Tim Schenck created this ministry in 2010 to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. It’s a fun way for people to learn about the Episcopal Church’s Calendar of Saints. The program starts with 32 saints placed into a tournament-like, single-elimination bracket. At the championship, the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Subsequent rounds include quotes, quirks, legends and more saintly kitsch. Learn more at Lent Madness here.
  • Art Stations of the Cross: Feb.14-April 1, visit the 14 stations for reflection, worship services and discussions in New York. Learn more at Art Stations here.
  • Queer Virtue: An interactive, five-week Lenten study will give churches an opportunity to explore the queerness of the Christian tradition this Lent; the course was announced by the Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman, Episcopal priest and author of “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity” (Beacon Press, 2016). For more information, visit here.
  • Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John: A six-week study of the gospel of John starting Feb. 11 is available, including a downloadable journal and facilitation guidance for groups. Learn more from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist here.

For more Lenten tools and resources, visit here.

Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

Latin America bishops call on US to ‘love the stranger’ in statement on immigration policies

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 5:03pm

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican and Episcopal bishops from six Latin American countries met in El Salvador last week to discuss what they warned were “anti-migrant, racist and discriminatory policies adopted by the United States’ authorities,” according to a joint statement released after the meeting.

The statement was signed by Bishop Juan David Alvarado, Diocese of El Salvador; the Most Rev. Francisco Moreno, Primate of the Province of Mexico; Bishop Lloyd Allen, Diocese of Honduras; Bishop Julio Murray, Diocese of Panamá y Costa Rica; Bishop Philip Wright, Diocese of Belize; Bishop Benito Juárez, Diocese of Southeast Mexico, and Bishop Silvestre Romero
Diocese of Guatemala.

The meeting, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, focused specifically on the Trump administration’s decisions to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and the Central American Minors refugee program and to end Temporary Protected Status for some populations, including those from Haiti and El Salvador. Though the bishops’ statement doesn’t reference President Donald Trump by name, it says the bishops have reached out to the president and the U.S. Congress, urging them to follow the biblical command to “love the stranger” as they search for just policies toward migrants.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has information on Temporary Protected Status here and DACA here.

You can read the bishops’ full letter below.

Position of the Diocesan Bishops of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Central America, Belize and Mexico on the termination of the TPS, DACA and CAM programs

The bishops of the Anglican Episcopal Churches of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, North and Southeast Mexico, met in San Salvador, El Salvador, from January 31 to February 2, 2018, to meditate, pray and analyze the evident hardening of the anti-migrant, racist and discriminatory policies adopted by the United States’ authorities, and that are embodied in the termination of the following programs: the Temporary Protected Status (TPS); Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

These policies will affect hundreds of thousands of migrants, for example, people from Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico and other countries.

Faced with this unresolved migration crisis, the diocesan bishops participating in the meeting expressed their position to the administration of the President and to the Congress of the United States of America. Specifically, we urged the search for:

  • humanitarian and fair reception for migrants in the United States,
  • the reasonable opportunity to identify ways to legalize their stay,
  • particularly guarantee mobility and protection for children and adolescents, and
  • protection of family unity.

As previously expressed in the same spirit in the letter issued by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered in Phoenix in 2010:

1. We exhort the authorities of the United States to keep in mind that God has always commanded us to love the stranger: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34).

2. We pray that the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts and minds of the authorities of the United States of America, so that they understand that migration is to the benefit of everyone.

3. We do not accept the re-victimization of these migrants, who in principle are good people and many have been victims of death threats, of harsh conditions of economic and social vulnerability, while others have been victims of violence from both gangs and agents of the State of their countries of origin.

4. We denounce that ending the adopted migration programs, without a possible alternative solution, violates human dignity and human rights, is discriminatory and racist.

5. We absolutely reject the manipulative assertions of certain politicians pointing to migrants as criminals based solely on their irregular migration status and their belonging to other cultures and races.

6. We ask the political authorities of the United States to refrain from expelling the migrants, since this act would be an affront against God, our churches and divine creation.

7. We give thanks to, and join the struggle of, the Episcopal churches of the United States and other denominations as well as groups of people who defend the human rights of migrants. We invite you to continue working together on regional and interprovincial projects to help resolve the migration crisis.

8. We recognize the support, solidarity and sensitivity of the people of the United States, who have made space in their hearts and consciences for migrants. To these noble and humane people belong the faithful of churches, legislators, senators and politicians sincerely concerned that this situation be regularized, seeking peace and social harmony.

9. We urge our political authorities in Central America, Belize and Mexico to coordinate and work on decent and humane proposals in favor of migrants and then present them in a negotiating dialogue with the United States’ authorities.

10. We demand the political authorities of our countries, regions and the United States, to work together to promote structural changes in their respective countries so that there are conditions of employment, health, education, security, housing, basic services and other conditions so that people abandon the idea of emigrating.

11. In the face of the migration crisis, the united voices of the bishops in this meeting remind all political authorities that it does not matter what was done incorrectly in the past or what was omitted to be done, but how beautiful we can build together hereinafter, cultivating in the present a fraternal dialogue, respectful and dignified among all, to attend to the migratory victims.

12. We must all remember that no one is a migrant, because although we come from one place and go to another, we are always within God’s creation. He has made us stewards of creation so that we live together in harmony, freedom, and with equality for mobility, equity and responsibility.

Finally, we express to our sister and brother migrants: we will continue working for you and we commit ourselves to work in pastoral care for migrants at the local, regional and interprovincial levels.

San Salvador, February 02, 2018.

Global prayer urged as tribal violence claims lives in Congo

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 2:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans around the world are being asked to pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo as tribal violence continues to claim lives in the Ituri Province in the north-eastern area of the country. The Ituri city of Bunia is home to one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in Africa as international troops seek to intercede between the warring Lendu and Hema peoples. At the weekend, 26 people were killed when a Hema village 31 miles north of Bunia was attacked by Lendu tribes people. The Rev. Bisoke Balikenga, national youth co-ordinator of the Anglican Church of Congo is urging Anglicans to pray for the country.

Read the full article here.

La Ofrenda del Beato Absalón Jones Asiste a los Institutos y Universidades Episcopales Históricamente Negros

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:53pm

En honor a la celebración del Mes de la Historia Negra durante febrero y al Beato Absalón Jones, el primer sacerdote afroamericano en la Iglesia Episcopal, el Obispo Presidente Michael Curry ha pedido mayor comprensión y compromiso con los Institutos y Universidades Históricamente Negros, conocidos como HBCUs.

El Obispo Presidente invita a los episcopales “a profundizar nuestra participación en el ministerio de reconciliación de Cristo dedicando las ofrendas en las celebraciones de las festividades de Absalón Jones para apoyar a los dos Institutos y Universidades Episcopales Históricamente Negros (HBCU) que quedan: La Universidad de San Agustín en Raleigh, Carolina del Norte, y el Instituto Voorhees en Dinamarca, S.C.”

Los dos institutos de educación superior se fundaron a finales del siglo XIX como empresa misionera de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Estas universidades brindan oportunidades educativas, económicas y sociales a comunidades de escasos recursos, y ofrecen muchas bendiciones en la vida de la Iglesia Episcopal”, dijo.

Las donaciones a HBCUs proporcionarán ayuda muy necesaria para ofrecer becas competitivas y ayuda financiera, atraer y retener a profesores excepcionales, apoyar investigación de vanguardia de la facultad, instalar nueva y mejorada tecnología en todo el campus, y proporcionar un aula de última generación y equipo atlético.

“La Iglesia Episcopal estableció e hizo un convenio de por vida con estas universidades, y son una parte esencial del tejido de nuestra vida compartida”, señaló el Obispo Presidente.

Si bien una vez hubo diez universidades episcopales como estas, hoy en día Voorhees y San Agustín son las únicas que quedan.

La Universidad de San Agustín (SAU, por su sigla en inglés) fue fundada en 1867 por la diócesis episcopal de Carolina del Norte. Ubicada en Raleigh, la Universidad de San Agustín cuenta con más de 1.000 estudiantes que buscan completar sus Licenciaturas en Artes o Ciencias, mientras que estudiantes adultos emprenden estudios avanzados en Justicia Penal, Gestión Organizativa y Estudios Religiosos. La misión de la universidad es respaldar una comunidad de aprendizaje en la cual los estudiantes se preparan académica, social y espiritualmente para asumir posiciones de liderazgo en un mundo complejo, diverso y en constante cambio.

El Instituto Voorhes, localizado en Denmark, Carolina del Sur, es un instituto privado históricamente negro que provee licenciaturas en el campo de las Artes Liberales. El Instituto Voorhees fue fundado en 1897 por la joven afroamericana Elizabeth Evelyn Wright como la Escuela Industrial Denmark. La Srta. Wright, que estudio bajo Booker T. Washington, soñaba con lo que parecía entonces un sueño imposible, empezar una escuela para jóvenes afroamericanos en el condado rural de Bamberg en Carolina del Sur.

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Para más información comuníquese con Tara Elgin Holley, directora de Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal a tholley@episcopalchurch.org

Absalón Jones
Absalón Jones es honrado en la Iglesia Episcopal el 13 de febrero. Jones fue un clérigo afroamericano abolicionista, y el primer afroamericano ordenado sacerdote en la Iglesia Episcopal. Absalón Jones nació esclavizado bajo Abrahán Wynkoop en 1746 en Delaware. Jones se mudó a Filadelfia después de que su amo vendió su plantación junto con la madre de Absalón y seis hermanos. Jones compró la libertad de su esposa Mary y más tarde su amo le concedió la emancipación en 1784.

En 1787, junto con su amigo Richard Allen, fundó la Sociedad Africana Libre, una organización benéfica de ayuda mutua que fue la primera de este tipo organizada por y para las personas negras. El obispo William White ordenó diácono a Jones en 1795 y sacerdote el 21 de septiembre de 1802. Jones sirvió fielmente a la gente en la Iglesia Episcopal Africana de Santo Tomás en Filadelfia, una iglesia que sigue siendo una congregación vibrante.

“A medida que nos acercamos a febrero, el recuerdo del Beato Absalón Jones, el primer sacerdote afroamericano en la Iglesia Episcopal, tenemos la oportunidad única de celebrar su memoria y honrar el testimonio de las dos universidades que continúan formando nuevos líderes”, dijo el Obispo Presidente Curry. “En honor al compromiso de Jones de promover la educación de los afroamericanos y promover el desarrollo de líderes afroamericanos en todos los ámbitos de la vida, la Iglesia Episcopal se complace en designar a la Universidad de San Agustín y al Instituto Voorhees como beneficiarios de las ofrendas de las Festividades de Absalón Jones de 2018”.

Los encartes para los boletines están disponibles aquí.

El Obispo Primado visita congregaciones de Houston y ofrece apoyo en medio de las secuelas del huracán Harvey

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:44pm

El Obispo primado Michael Curry conversa con el Rdo. Andy Parker, rector de la iglesia episcopal Emanuel en Houston occidental, una iglesia que sufrió grandes daños al paso del huracán Harvey. Foto de Carol Barnwell

[Diócesis Episcopal de Texas] Durante la visita del obispo primado Michael Curry a la Diócesis de Texas los días 30 y 31 de enero, el clero y los miembros de la Iglesia compartieron historias de la épica inundación que trajo consigo el huracán  Harvey.

En algunos lugares, Harvey dejó caer más de 127 centímetros de lluvia durante cuatro días a finales de agosto, y su impacto se dejó sentir a través de 41 condados con medio millón de viviendas afectadas y daños que se calculan en más de $190.000 millones.

La tormenta que causó esa inundación histórica parecía difícil de imaginar esta semana en Houston en que un cielo despejado y temperaturas suaves recibían al Obispo Primado y a su equipo. Curry estaba acompañado por Sharon Jones, su coordinadora ejecutiva; Abigail Nelson, vicepresidente de programas del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo y Geoffrey Smith, director de operaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Una vez que retiraron los escombros, las cosas pueden parecer bastante normales, hasta que uno entra en la nave de una iglesia, y mira a través de los travesaños, aulas, oficinas y el salón parroquial que se encuentra más allá y tiene que andar con cuidado para no tropezar con los grandes pernos que sobresalen en el desnudo piso de concreto que alguna vez sostuvieron la baranda del altar. Cinco meses después del Harvey, en muchas iglesias y en miles de casas se sigue percibiendo el hedor de las aguas pútridas que dejó la inundación y el moho sigue buscando un asidero.

La Fundación Episcopal para la Salud [Episcopal Health Foundation] tomó  la pronta decisión de destinar sus recursos a la investigación, le dijo a Curry la presidente y directora ejecutiva Elena Marks en una sesión informativa en la mañana del 30 de enero. La Fundación para la Salud se asoció con la Fundación Kaiser para supervisar la zona afectada y localizar el impacto de la tormenta a fin de mostrar dónde se concentraban los daños y quiénes eran los más afectados.

“No se trata sólo de investigación y mapas”, enfatizó Marks. “Queríamos captar a las comunidades y estamos haciéndoles presentaciones a grupos que realizan labores de socorro con la esperanza de que utilizarán los datos para establecer sus prioridades”.  Los mapas y la investigación resultantes ya han sido consultados más de 30.000 veces.

La investigación revela algunas cosas que merecen mirarse más de cerca. Shao-Chee Sim, vicepresidente de investigación aplicada en la Fundación Episcopal para la Salud, contó que de las 900.000 solicitudes de ayuda que le han presentado a la Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA por su sigla en inglés) la tasa de aprobación para los propietarios de viviendas fue de un 45 por ciento, mientras era del 36 por ciento para los inquilinos. En la lujosa zona Memorial del oeste de Houston, el 66 por ciento de las 2000 solicitudes que se presentaron habían sido aprobadas.

Andy Doyle, el obispo de la Diócesis de Texas, dijo que los datos ayudarán a los episcopales y otras personas a proporcionar un diferente tipo de respuesta al desastre. “Queremos aprovechar la investigación para ayudar a los más vulnerables, para tener un efecto a largo plazo dentro de estas comunidades”, señaló.

Al este de Houston, la zona de Beaumont, Orange y Port Arthur —conocida como el Triángulo de Oro — recibió más de 150 centímetros de lluvia durante el Harvey.

Curry escuchó el relato del Keith Giblin, juez federal y sacerdote episcopal bivocacional, que atiende a San Pablo [St. Paul`s] en Orange, donde el 86 por ciento de las casas quedaron dañadas. Aislado de su congregación durante la tormenta, Giblin navegó en su bote de aluminio por las zanjas de drenaje de Beaumont para rescatar a personas. Él fue uno de los miles de ciudadanos que estuvieron entre los primeros en acudir para dedicar días y noches a buscar a personas atrapadas en ocasiones con el agua al cuello.

“Teníamos que arrastrar los botes en algunos lugares debido a que el agua tenía apenas 33 centímetros de profundidad, y a veces más de un metro”, dijo Giblin. Los autos sumergidos, los enjambres flotantes de hormigas rojas, los cables derribados de la electricidad y las serpientes acuáticas asediaban a los que utilizábamos botes, kayaks y flotadores para rescatar víctimas.

Luego del “caos absoluto” de la inundación, siguió diciendo Giblin, San Pablo, que tenía agua en la iglesia, el salón parroquial y las oficinas, celebró oficios en el patio durante más de un mes. “El servir juntos [durante este desastre] nos acercaría más a todos”, afirmó. “Eso es lo que hacemos, ayudarnos unos a otros”.

Otras iglesias episcopales en Beaumont se convirtieron en centros de distribución de agua y útiles de limpieza. El Rdo. Tony Clark, rector de San Marcos  [St. Mark’s] dijo que después de chequear con la congregación y de ofrecer socorro inmediato a los necesitados, su junta parroquial puso el gimnasio al servicio de la comunidad. “ Éramos un almacén, un hotel y un estacionamiento”, dijo. “ La tienda de segunda mano proporcionó paquetes de socorro. Almacenábamos suministros y albergamos a 75 voluntarios de la Cruz Roja durante varias semanas para que no se fueran a un albergue público”.

El Rdo. Stephen Balke rector de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] le agradeció a Curry el vídeo que él grabó después de la tormenta para ofrecerles [a las víctimas] oraciones y apoyo. “Nos reunimos para adorar y pusimos su vídeo. No puedo decirle cuánto eso nos reanimó el espíritu”.

La congregación ayudó a más de dos docenas de feligreses cuyas casas se inundaron, y cocinaron para toda la comunidad durante semanas.

“Paramos de contar cuando llegamos a servir a 4.000 personas”, dijo Balke. “Cada vez que nuestros suministros escaseaban, se aparecía otro camión. Fue una gran bendición decir ‘sí’, cuando las personas necesitaban ayuda”.

La Rda. Lacy Largent, a cargo de los equipos de auxilios espirituales, enfatizó que el apoyo que llegó de otras partes fue decisivo. Ella puso el ejemplo de Kate Hello, maestra en Lamay, Misurí, que le envió cartas de sus alumnos.

“Le di una carta a un hombre para que la leyera y se echó a llorar”, dijo Largent. “Me excusé por haberlo perturbado, pero él me dijo. ‘No! Usted me ayudó a llorar. Voy a buscarle a mi esposa, para que usted la ayude a llorar”.

Si bien el trauma de la situación que siguió a las inundaciones puede calar hondo, para muchos se ha acentuado con el paso de los meses. “Nadie tenía seguros contra inundaciones”, dijo Giblin. “Esto nunca había sucedido antes y ahora tenemos ancianos que no pueden recuperarse económicamente. Están usando sus cheque de la Seguridad Social para compras planchas de cartón yeso”.

La Rda. Pat Richie, diácona de San Esteban, dijo que ella está viendo más traumas familiares ahora. La gente —especialmente niños— están experimentando alguna especie de choque postraumático. “Ahora cuando llueve, los niños quieren saber si Harvey va a volver. Es una herida que sigue abierta”.

El proceso de reconstrucción se compara a una maratón más bien que a una carrera corta, y Curry afirmó el apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal a largo plazo. “Somos corredores de largas distancias”, afirmó.

Durante una escala en La Trinidad [Trinity], en Baytown, el Obispo Primado escuchó testimonios del guardián mayor Robert Jordan y de una pareja que él rescató.

“Estuve durante cinco días en el agua en tareas de búsqueda y rescate”. Dio la casualidad que él estaba cerca del hogar donde habían vivido los miembros de la iglesia Duane y Lois Luallin durante 40 años, cuando se enteró de que la pareja de ancianos necesitaba ayuda.

Duane se había caído y era incapaz de levantarse, y los servicios de emergencia estaban sobrecargados. Jordan llegó en cinco minutos y transportó a los Luallin a un sitio seguro. Los llevó a su casa donde se secaron y les dio de comer y donde se quedaron durante casi un mes hasta que se mudaron a un apartamento.

“¿Cree usted que el Señor nos abandonó? No, él estaba allí con nosotros”, dijo Luallin. “La gente trajo cajas, cosas empacadas, y se llevó las nuestras para enviarlas a la lavandería y a la tintorería. No hubiéramos podido hacer todo por nuestra cuenta”.

Lois Luallin, a la izquierda, le cuenta a  Curry como ella y su marido, Duane, fueron rescatados por Robert Jordan, guardián mayor de la iglesia de La Trinidad, en Baytown, mientras las aguas del huracán Harvey inundaban su casa de 40 años. Foto de Carol Barnwell.

La iglesia de La Trinidad también le sirvió desayuno a los primeros intervinientes y le brindó alimento a toda hora a cualquiera que estuviera hambriento.

“Obispo Curry, puede sentirse alentado de que el Movimiento de Jesús está vivo en La Trinidad”, le dijo la Rda. Micki Ríos, diácona de esa iglesia.

Durante su visita a Texas, Curry y su equipo también se reunieron con clérigos hispanos de la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo en el suroeste de Houston.

El Rdo. Janssen Gutiérrez, rector de San Mateo, acababa de empezar su nuevo trabajo cuando Harvey derribó cuatro de los seis edificios del campus. La congregación de 300 a 400 feligreses estuvo congregándose en tiendas de campaña durante dos meses y actualmente ha visto acrecido su número, dijo Gutiérrez.

Andy Doyle, obispo de la  Diócesis de Texas, a la derecha, observa mientras algunas personas toman fotos con sus celulares del obispo Curry que posa con miembros de la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo. Foto de Carol Barnwell

El Rdo. Pedro López, vicario de la iglesia de San Pedro, en el sureste de Houston, contó que los vecinos ayudaban a los vecinos. “Nos convertimos en distribuidores de alimentos durante casi dos meses”, dijo.  “La iglesia fue fundamental en ayudar a las personas a encontrar lo que necesitaban. Acudieron millares de personas”.

Curry les agradeció a los miembros de la iglesia que hubieran preparado, la segunda mañana de la visita, un abundante desayuno con pupusas,  hojuelas de plátano y frijoles colorados hechos en casa.

Él les recordó que Jesús siempre alimentaba a la gente antes de enseñarles.

“Durante los momentos de prueba, cuando la Iglesia está abierta para ofrecer apoyo, esa es la alimentación de la gente”, dijo. Cuando ayudan a las personas a arreglar sus autos para que puedan ir a trabajar, eso es alimentar a la gente. Gracias por lo que han hecho. Quiero ofrecerles el amor, el afecto y las oraciones de nuestros hermanos y hermanas de la Iglesia Episcopal. Ellos están prestos a unirse a ustedes en el trabajo de la reconstrucción”.

Curry también visitó la iglesia episcopal de Santo Tomás [St. Thomas] en el suroeste de Houston donde el grupo fue amenizado brevemente por varios estudiantes que tocaban gaitas en el patio. La iglesia y la escuela de 600 estudiantes resultó seriamente afectada por las inundaciones por tercera vez en dos años. A resulta de lo cual gran parte de la escuela tiene que ser reconstruida.

El grupo concluyó su recorrido de la zonas afectadas en la iglesia Emanuel [Emmanuel Church], donde fueron recibidos por el rector, Rdo. Andy Parker. El edificio de Emanuel está desnudo luego de que el campus se inundara cuando dejaron salir el agua de los depósitos de reserva en los días siguientes al Harvey. Han removido todo hasta las bases, y también deben reemplazar el revestimiento externo.

Miembros del equipo del obispo primado Michael Curry, personal de la Diócesis de Texas y miembros de la iglesia Emanuel y del templo Sinaí se reúnen para orar al término de la visita pastoral del Obispo Primado a las áreas afectadas por el Harvey. Foto de Carol Barnwell.

La congregación de Emanuel sigue reuniéndose en el vecino templo Sinaí [una sinagoga] donde no pasa inadvertida la sacralidad de colocar el altar temporal encima de la plataforma desde donde se lee la Torá.

“Ha sido una bendición cada semana¨, dijo la rabina Annie Belford, aunque ella reconoce que algunos de los miembros de su congregación se sorprendieron de tener una cruz en su santuario. “La colaboración cariñosa es increíble. Es lo que hacemos por nuestros prójimos”.

La rabina Annie Belford del templo Sinaí, a la izquierda, y el Rdo. Andy Parker, rector de la iglesia episcopal Emanuel en Houston posan con el Obispo Primado durante una visita de Curry a Emanuel. Belford se puso en contacto con Parker inmediatamente después de que Emanuel se inundó  —luego que vaciaran los depósitos de agua de Houston en agosto pasado— para ofrecer un espacio de culto en el templo Sinaí.  Foto de Carol Barnwell.

Esa bendición fluye en ambos sentidos, explicó Belford. “En el curso de todo esto, a mi madre le diagnosticaron cáncer y las mujeres de Emanuel le hicieron una manta de retazos de manera que ella duerme todas las noches arropada por las oraciones de la iglesia Emanuel”.

El Obispo Primado le preguntó a todas las personas con quienes se reunió lo que querían decirles a sus hermanos episcopales, Para una persona, todo el mundo reconocía que recibir oraciones y apoyo de los demás les había dado impulsos para proseguir.

Lance Ferguson, recién electo guardián mayor en Emanuel, dijo, “hemos tenido ayuda de todas partes del mundo. No lo logramos solos, y eso les ha abierto los ojos a la gente aquí. Uno puede sobreponerse a cualquier cosa si sabe que cuenta con apoyo”, afirmó.

Algunas encuestas hechas por el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo después de Harvey mostraban que en sólo unos pocos meses, y con el apoyo económico y los suministros enviados por episcopales de todo el país y del mundo, la Iglesia Episcopal en la Diócesis de Texas ha prestado servicios a más de 90.000 personas afectadas por la tormenta.

“Nos alzamos sobres vuestros hombros”, dijo Richie, el diácono de San Esteban. “Es el vigor de toda la Iglesia el que ha hecho posible la labor que se ha realizado aquí”.

Curry alentó al grupo que se reunió para adorar en Emanuel. “Ustedes, nosotros, no estamos solos, aunque a veces lo sintamos así”, dijo Curry. “Somos hechos para Dios y los unos para los otros, e incluso en medio del infierno puede haber atisbos de cielo cuando no estamos solos”, expresó. resaltando las muchas veces que los vecinos han acudido en ayuda de sus  vecinos durante las inundaciones del Harvey y después.

Yendo más lejos, la misión de la Iglesia se orientará hacia la restauración y la reconstrucción, y eso exigirá mucho apoyo, de las iglesias episcopales de la Diócesis de Texas y de más allá. Al Rdo. Stacy Stringer lo han nombrado director de recuperación del huracán para supervisar los centros regionales en las zonas afectadas que ayudarán a coordinar los empeños de reconstrucción que se calcula que tomen de dos a tres años.

“Estamos muy agradecidos de la visita pastoral del obispo Curry y de sus garantías de oraciones y apoyo continuos de la Iglesia de que él fue portador”, dijo Doyle. “Nosotros también seguimos orando por nuestros hermanos y hermanas que se han visto afectados por huracanes, incendios y deslaves. Es en momentos como estos que nuestra comunidad de creyentes resplandece”.

– Carol Barnwell es directora de comunicaciones de la Diócesis Episcopal de Texas. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

This flu season, congregations urged to take common sense health precautions

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] Has the sound of coughing and the sight of runny noses got you questioning whether to shake hands during the peace or sip from the common cup on Sunday?

With this flu season said to be the worst since 2009, you have reason to be concerned for your health, but Episcopal leaders are advising parishioners to use common sense during worship without letting their precautions get in the way of participating fully in the life of the church.

“There are, I suppose, a million ways to get the flu, and it troubles me that we bring so much of our attention to the common cup as a particular danger,” Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche said in a Jan. 19 letter to the diocese, adding there is little evidence that sharing wine during the Eucharist poses a great risk of spreading illness.

“I am concerned that extraordinary practices adopted during the flu season may send the message to our worshippers that the cup is a threat to us – that communion with one another is itself a threat to us – and that those perceptions may be hard to overcome later when the flu danger passes,” Dietsche writes.

The Rev. Thomas Mousin, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, summed up his advice to the congregation with the phrase, “be a good neighbor.”

“If you are sick, or feeling sick, stay home if you can,” Mousin said Jan. 25 in his weekly email message to parishioners. “It is OK to miss a Sunday at church if you have any reason to believe that you might be catching the flu or are capable of spreading it.”

For those who are well enough to attend services, it also is fine if they choose a friendly wave instead of a handshake as a sign of peace, Mousin said, and “since we understand that Christ is fully present in both the bread and wine, you may choose to refrain from receiving the wine until the flu season has passed.”

Mousin told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview that he agreed with Dietsche that fear of infection need not prevent Episcopalians from remaining active in their congregations, especially when celebrating the Eucharist.

“We don’t want to discourage people from seeing this as a communal activity that’s meant to be part of our regular life,” Mousin said. His intent was to provide liturgical guidance to parishioners so they could decide for themselves whether to alter their routine during the flu season.

Peak flu season typically occurs sometime from November through March, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that flu activity now is widespread across the country.

The influenza virus can cause mild to severe respiratory illness that in some cases can lead to hospitalization or death, especially among high-risk populations, such as young children, older patients and people with certain health conditions. Symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The CDC’s top recommendation for preventing the flu is to receive the vaccine, even in years when the particular flu strain may seem more resistant to vaccination. Some Episcopal churches have done their part by hosting vaccination clinics, like the one in October at Grace Episcopal Church in Fairfield, California. Grace Episcopal wanted the community to see the church as a “health and wellness resource,” outreach coordinator Ron Cupid told the Daily Republic.

The CDC’s other recommendations for preventing the flu’s spread include avoiding close contact with sick people, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Episcopal Relief & Development’s website also offers faith-based guidelines for how to respond to large-scale outbreaks of diseases like influenza. For example, clergy members should wash their hands before services. Other guidelines mirror the advice Mousin and others have given their parishioners: Stay home if you’re sick. Share the peace with a wave if you don’t want to shake hands.

“Those who are concerned may abstain from communion or receive ‘in one kind’ (host only),” Episcopal Relief & Development advises, though it also says there is little need for concern. “Use of the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents relatively low risk; intinction should be avoided.”

Cases of flu and hospitalizations are on the rise across the country, and the CDC said last week people are seeing their health care providers for flu-like illnesses at the highest rate since the 2009 pandemic, when the flu season also was dominated by fears of a strain called “swine flu.” Congregations took special precautions during that flu outbreak, too, with some going as far as to replace the handshake with a bow and doing away with the communal cup altogether.

The precautions being considered this year aren’t limited to Episcopal congregations.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, announced in January it was asking parishes to suspend certain rituals of Mass: sharing wine, shaking hands at the peace and holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. In Buffalo, New York, the Roman Catholic diocese issued a similar list of directives, including a command to parishes to drain their holy water fonts and clean them regularly.

Mousin emphasized that the precautions at St. John’s are voluntary, and he hasn’t noticed a decrease in the 75 to 80 people who typically attend the church’s two services on Sunday.

“Our parish has not, knock on wood, been significantly affected by the flu this season,” he said.

Dietsche, in his letter to the Diocese of New York, shared his personal list of precautions, which he followed during the 2009 flu outbreak and is following this year, starting with getting the flu shot and washing his hands often.

“I never failed to drink from the common cup. I never failed to shake the hands of my brothers and sisters as I greeted them at the door. I used a little Purel after those greetings. I washed my hands before I ate food.

“I didn’t worry about getting the flu at church.”

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

Anglican school in Sri Lanka welcomes British royal visitors

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Sri Lankan Anglican school founded in 1872 by a priest working for the Church Missionary Society was this week visited by the Earl and Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. Trinity College in Kandy was founded as the Kandy Collegiate School by the Rev. Richard Collins in what was then British Ceylon. Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, is visiting Sri Lanka with his wife on behalf of the queen as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Read the full article here.

Martyred Ugandan archbishop honored in church’s new finance building

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new 16-story commercial office suite in the heart of Uganda’s financial district will carry the name of martyred Archbishop Janani Luwum.

The building, to be known as Janani Luwum Church House, was first envisioned by Archbishop Luwum before he was murdered on the orders of Idi Amin in February 1977. The building, which is being constructed by the Church of Uganda with the support of the Kenyan-based Equity Bank, will provide an income stream to support the ministry of the province.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop tours Houston-area congregations, offers support in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 5:45pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks with the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in west Houston, a church that sustained major damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] During Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Texas on Jan. 30 and 31, clergy and church members shared stories of Hurricane Harvey’s epic flooding and aftermath.

In some places, Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain in four days last August, and its impact was felt across 41 counties and a half million homes, with damages estimated at more than $190 billion.

The storm that caused such historic flooding seemed hard to imagine this week in Houston as clear skies and mild temperatures greeted the presiding bishop and his team. Curry was joined by Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator; Episcopal Relief & Development Senior Vice President for Programs Abigail Nelson, and Geoffrey Smith, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church.

Once the debris is hauled away, things can seem pretty normal, until one walks into the nave of a church, looks through the studs to classrooms, offices and the parish hall beyond and has to be careful to avoid tripping over large bolts in the bare concrete floor that once secured the altar railing. Five months after Harvey, in many churches and thousands of homes there remains the odor of floodwaters, and mold still seeks a foothold.

Episcopal Health Foundation made an early decision to deploy its resources into research, President and CEO Elena Marks told Curry at an early morning briefing on Jan. 30. The Health Foundation partnered with the Kaiser Foundation to survey the area affected by Harvey and mapped the storm’s impact to show where damage was concentrated and who was most affected.

“It’s not just research and maps,’’ Marks emphasized. “We wanted to engage communities and are making presentations to groups doing relief work with the hope that they will use data to set their priorities.” The resulting maps and research already have been accessed more than 30,000 times.

The research reveals some things that deserve a closer look. Shao-Chee Sim, vice president of applied research at the Episcopal Health Foundation, said of the 900,000 relief applications filed with Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, the approval rate for homeowners was 45 percent, while it was 36 percent for renters.  In the upscale Memorial area of west Houston, 66 percent of the 2000 applications filed had been approved.

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle said the data will help Episcopalians and others provide a different kind of disaster response. “We want to leverage the research to help the most vulnerable, to have a long-term effect within these communities,” he said.

East of Houston, the area of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur—known as the Golden Triangle—received more than 60 inches of rain during Harvey.

Curry heard from the Rev. Keith Giblin, a federal judge and bi-vocational Episcopal priest, who serves St. Paul’s in Orange, where 86 percent of the homes were affected. Cut off from his congregation during the storm, Giblin navigated drainage ditches in Beaumont to rescue people in his aluminum fishing boat. He was among thousands of citizens who joined first responders to spend days and nights searching for people trapped in sometimes neck-deep water.

“We had to drag the boats in places because the water could be 13 inches deep, sometimes four feet deep,” Giblin said. Submerged cars, floating clumps of fire ants, downed power lines and water moccasins plagued those who used boats, kayaks and pool floats to rescue victims.

After the “utter chaos” of the flooding, Giblin said, St. Paul’s, which had water in the church, parish hall and offices, held services out in the yard for more than a month. “Serving together [through this disaster] has brought us all closer,” he said. “That’s what we do, we help each other.”

Other Episcopal churches in Beaumont became distribution centers for water and cleaning supplies. The Rev. Tony Clark, rector of St. Mark’s, said after checking on the congregation and providing immediate relief to those in need, his vestry put the church gymnasium to good use for the community. “We were a warehouse, a hotel and a parking lot,” he said. “The thrift shop provided care packages. We warehoused supplies and hosted 75 Red Cross volunteers for several weeks in lieu of being a public shelter.”

St. Stephen’s rector, the Rev. Stephen Balke, thanked Curry for the video he recorded after the storm to offer prayers and support. “We gathered to worship and put your video up. I can’t tell you how much that rallied our spirits,” he said.

The congregation helped the more than two dozen parishioners whose homes were flooded and cooked for the entire community for weeks.

“We stopped counting at 4,000 people served,” Balke said. “Every time our supplies ran low, another truck would pull up. It was a great blessing to say, ‘Yes,’ when people needed help.”

The Rev. Lacy Largent, in charge of spiritual care teams, emphasized that support from elsewhere was critical. She gave the example of Kate Hello, a teacher in Lamay, Missouri, who sent letters from her students.

“I gave a letter to a man to read and he broke down in tears,” Largent said. “I apologized for upsetting him, but he said, ‘No! You helped me cry. I’m going to get my wife so you can help her cry.’”

While trauma in the immediate aftermath of the flood ran deep, for many it has become more profound months later. “No one had flood insurance,” Giblin said. “This has never happened before and now we have senior citizens who can’t come back financially. They are using their Social Security checks to buy drywall.”

The Rev. Pat Richie, deacon at St. Stephens, said she is seeing more family trauma today. People—children especially—are experiencing some post-traumatic shock. “When it rains now, kids want to know if Harvey is coming back. It’s a wound that is still there.”

The process of rebuilding was compared to a marathon rather than a sprint, and Curry affirmed Episcopal Church’s long-term support. “We are long distance runners,” he said.

During a stop at Trinity, Baytown, the presiding bishop heard from Senior Warden Robert Jordan and one couple he rescued.

“I was in the water for five days doing search and rescue,” Jordan told Curry. He happened to be near church members Duane and Lois Luallin’s home of 40 years, when he learned the elderly couple needed help.

Duane had fallen and was unable to get up, and 911 responders were overwhelmed. Jordan arrived in five minutes and ferried the Luallins to safety. He had them dry out and eat at his home, where they stayed for nearly a month before moving to an apartment.

“You think the Lord left us? No, he was right there with us,” Lois Luallin said. “People brought boxes, packed things, took our wash and dry cleaning. We could not have done all that by ourselves.”

Lois Luallin, left, tells Curry how she and her husband, Duane, were rescued by Trinity Episcopal Church’s senior warden, Robert Jordan, in Baytown as flood waters from Harvey rose in their home of 40 years. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Trinity also fed first responders breakfast and provided food at all hours for anyone who was hungry.

“Bishop Curry, you can be encouraged that the Jesus Movement is alive at Trinity,” said the Rev. Micki Rios, Trinity’s deacon.

During his visit to Texas, Curry and his team also met with Hispanic clergy from the Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in southwest Houston.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez, rector of San Mateo, had just begun his new job when Harvey took out four of the campus’ six buildings. The congregation of 300 to 400 worshipped in tents for two months and actually saw an increase in their numbers, Gutierrez said.

The Rev. Pedro Lopez, vicar of Iglesia San Pedro, in southeast Houston, described neighbors helping neighbors. “We became a food distributor for almost two months,” he said. “The church was central to helping people find what they needed. Thousands of people came.”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, right, looks on cellphones are used to snap photos of Bishop Curry posing with members of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Curry thanked church members who had prepared a large breakfast of papusas, plantains and homemade red beans on the second morning of his visit.

He reminded them that Jesus always fed people before he would teach them.

“During trying times, when the church is open to offer support, that’s feeding folks,” he said. “When you are helping people get their cars fixed so they can get to work, that’s feeding folks. Thank you for what you have done. I want to offer the love, affection and prayers of your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. They stand ready to join you in the work of rebuilding.”

Curry also toured St. Thomas Episcopal Church in southwest Houston where the group was entertained briefly by several bagpipe students’ practice in the courtyard. The church and school of 600 students was hit hard by flood waters for the third time in two years. Much of the school will be rebuilt as a result.

The group concluded their tour of affected areas at Emmanuel Church, hosted by the rector, the Rev. Andy Parker. Emmanuel’s buildings are bare after the campus flooded when water from the reservoirs was released in the days after Harvey. Everything has been taken down to the studs, and the exterior will also be replaced.

Members of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s team, Diocese of Texas staff and members of Emmanuel and Temple Sinai gather to offer prayers at the conclusion of the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to areas affected by Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Emmanuel’s congregation continues to worship at nearby Temple Sinai where the sacredness of placing a temporary altar over the bema, from where to Torah is read, is not lost on anyone.

“It’s been a blessing every week,” Rabbi Annie Belford said, although she admits some of her congregation wondered at having a cross in their sanctuary. “The partnership of the heart is incredible. It’s what we do for our neighbors.’”

Rabbi Annie Belford of Temple Sinai, left, and the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Houston pose with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Curry’s visit to Emmanuel. Belford contacted Parker immediately after Emmanuel flooded during the release of water from Houston’s reservoirs last August to offer worship space at Temple Sinai. Photo: Carol Barnwell

That blessing goes both ways, Belford found. “In the course of all this, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and the women of Emmanuel handmade her a quilt so she is sleeping every night wrapped in the prayers of Emmanuel Church.”

The presiding bishop asked all of the people with whom he met what they wanted to tell fellow Episcopalians. To a person, everyone acknowledged that receiving prayers and support from others had kept them going.

Lance Ferguson, newly elected senior warden at Emmanuel, said, “We’ve had help from around the world. We didn’t do it alone, and that’s been an eye-opener for people here. You can get through anything if you know you have support,” he said.

Surveys done by Episcopal Relief & Development after Harvey showed that in just a few months, and with the financial support and supplies from Episcopalians throughout the country and the world, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas had served more than 90,000 people affected by the storm.

“We stand on your shoulders,” said Richie, the St. Stephen’s deacon. “It’s the strength of the wider church that allows work to be done here.”

Curry encouraged the group gathered to worship at Emmanuel. “You, we, are not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes,” Curry said. “We were made for God and each other, and even in midst of hell there can be glimpses of heaven when we are not alone,” he said, noting the many times neighbors have come to the aid of neighbors during and after the waters of Harvey.

Going forward, the church’s mission will pivot to restoration and rebuilding, and that will take much support, from Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Texas and beyond. The Rev. Stacy Stringer has been named director of hurricane recovery to oversee regional centers in the affected areas that will help coordinate rebuilding efforts that are estimated to take two to three years.

“We are so grateful for Bishop Curry’s pastoral visit and for the assurances of continued prayers and support from across the church that he brought,” Doyle said. “We, too, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have been affected by hurricanes, fires and mud slides. It is in times such as these, that our community of believers shines the brightest.”

– Carol Barnwell is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Vermont: Burlington’s urban cathedral meets massive change with bold imaginings

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 3:03pm

Members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group are pictured from left to right: John Rouleau, Jenny Sisk, Lisa Schnell, Jeanne Finan, Lee Williams, Paul Van de Graaf, and Josh Brown.

[The Episcopal Church in Vermont] Amid the bustle of construction in the heart of downtown Burlington, VT, there is no denying that the city is changing. To some, the latest architectural developments are outward expressions of cultural shifts that have been remaking the local landscape for some time. With this in mind, members of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul have been exploring the best ways to serve the community as it navigates these shifting internal and external dynamics.

The crux of their efforts has been the Urban Cathedral Study, a research project that has for the past 12 months challenged cathedral members to reimagine the meaning of church and its viability for people who may or may not have any religious leanings. The next phase of the Urban Cathedral project, which begins in February, will empower the congregation to move from imagining to planning.

As published in the January 2018 Urban Cathedral Report, when the members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group began their work a year ago, they decided that planning the future of the cathedral would, in fact, be excluded from their scope. Instead, their aim was “to spend an entire year learning what it means to be an urban cathedral in Burlington by reading, listening and asking questions.” They wanted “to avoid any tendencies toward the prescriptive by remaining open and interrogative” in their approach.

The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan, cathedral dean, explained, “With the Urban Cathedral Study, we wanted to look at what it means to be an urban cathedral in the 21st century, particularly in Burlington. We needed to know more about who we are, not only from our own inside view, but also by asking people in the community, everyone from the mayor to other religious leaders to city council members and so forth.”

In a recent communication to the cathedral, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote, “I appreciate participating in St. Paul’s examination about its future as an urban cathedral. I look forward to seeing how St. Paul’s will become part of the new Cherry Street.”

This positive sentiment has been echoed by Rabbi Amy Small of Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, as well as urbanites outside Burlington who have faced similar challenges and have recognized the wider implications of the Urban Cathedral Study as a best practice, including the Rev. Anne B. Bonnyman, rector of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Rev. Scott Gunn, director of Forward Movement based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Several members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group presented a creative summary of their progress during the cathedral’s Jan. 21 Annual Meeting. In a series of stories titled Bold Imaginings, the presenters described future possibilities inspired by their year-long practice of reading, listening and questioning.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, said, “We are so fortunate that the Urban Cathedral Study Group has worked so faithfully to bring this report and their Bold Imaginings to us.”

“The Urban Cathedral project is a powerful example of what it means to be a missional church in Vermont, where being missional is about changing, adapting, innovating and improvising to move more deeply into the neighborhoods and communities where we live and move and have our being.”

“The next step,” explains Finan, “will be a presentation to the congregation on February 11 where church members can reflect on the Bold Imaginings and the Urban Cathedral Study, ask additional questions of the Urban Cathedral Study Group, and — under the vestry’s guidance — begin planning for the future.”

The Episcopal Church in Vermont comprises 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State that share in the mission to pray the prayer of Christ, to learn the mind of Christ, and to do the deeds of Christ. The congregations live into this mission through ministries of Formation, Liberation, Communication, Connection, and Celebration. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is a member of the worldwide Anglican communion. Learn more at http://diovermont.org.

— Maurice L. Harris is communications minister for The Episcopal Church in Vermont.

Anglican Alliance launches global focus on anti-slavery initiatives in Freedom Year

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance, which helps to coordinates Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and justice, has launched a yearlong focus on anti-slavery initiatives across the Communion. Through its Freedom Year initiative, the Alliance is inviting people to learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, pray for change, and take action to end it.

Read the full article here.

NYC Episcopal churches call for increased mental health crisis training after parishioner’s shooting death by police

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] Deborah Danner didn’t have to die.

In October 2016, the Episcopalian had a psychotic episode at her Bronx, New York, apartment. It wasn’t the first time that police responded to a disturbance complaint about Danner, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago. In the past, 911 calls resulted in Danner taking a trip to the hospital, returning home stabilized.

This time, however, gunshots rang out. And Danner, 66, was gone.

New York Police Department Sgt. Hugh Barry was charged with murder and manslaughter because prosecutors say he didn’t have a reasonable threat to his life and wasn’t following police protocol. His trial began Jan. 30, more than a year later. After a one-day break, the trial is expected to resume Feb. 1.

Deborah Danner

Episcopal church members plan to be in the courtroom every day in a show of support, said the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. He knew Danner for the last 10 years.

On that first day in the courtroom, about 35 parishioners from Manhattan churches, including Church of the Heavenly Rest, Trinity Church Wall Street, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, marched to the Bronx courthouse. She attended all those churches at one time or another.

“It’s hard because the trial is about tragedy, both the tragedy of her killing and the tragedy of mental illness being unaddressed,” Heyd told Episcopal News Service. “And it’s hopeful, because the church is organizing, both to recognize the dignity of her life and to respond and give meaning to her struggle and to support others who are struggling with mental illness also.”

Parishioners and clergy were also there to bring home the point that law enforcement officers, in New York and nationwide, need much more training in handling mental health crises. New York officers can take Crisis Intervention Team training, but fewer than a quarter of the force has. It’s not required.

In 2016, NYPD received approximately 157,000 calls involving people in mental crisis, according to the city inspector general’s January report reviewing how the NYPD handles interactions with people in mental crisis.

That’s about 430 mental crisis calls a day.

“How many times a day is an officer at a door and doesn’t know what’s going on inside and how to handle it?” Heyd asked. “However the trial turns out, the need for more skill and support in this is abundantly clear.”

Nationwide, police officers in 2015 shot and killed 251 people who had exhibited signs of mental illness — a quarter of all the people shot and killed by police that year, the report stated. Alternatively, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that 1,710 law enforcement officers nationwide were assaulted while handling people with mental illness, and two officers were killed while doing so.

“We share your conviction that Deborah’s death was a tragedy that should have been prevented,” the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of the Diocese of New York, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio. “And we believe that Crisis Intervention [Team] training for this officer and for his fellow officers could have saved Deborah’s life.”

Diocesan representatives are calling to meet with the mayor, as well as police, to discuss this mental health crisis issue.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest and director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, also attended Barry’s criminal trial Jan. 30. Churches across the United States regularly minister to people who have mental illness, and often come upon people in a state of crisis who need professionals to help de-escalate the situation, she said.

“Until we have a better health system in New York, our police are our front line for mental health emergencies; if people are trained correctly, we can solve this,” Varghese told ENS. “These folks aren’t committing a crime; they’re sick. It puts police officers in a horrible position, and it puts people who are ill in a horrible position. It makes everyone vulnerable.”

“This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about how do we change this situation,” she said.

Varghese and Heyd said the church can’t handle the problem alone. Increased police training makes the most sense. It’s a cause they’re fighting for so that they don’t lose more parishioners this way.

Heyd knew Danner pretty well while she attended both Heavenly Rest and Trinity.

“She knit baby blankets for both my children,” Heyd said. “She was really smart and kind, and she struggled. All of that was evident to people who knew her.”


Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

‘We want a local bishop’ say Ethiopian Anglicans

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:39am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in the Gambella district of Ethiopia have expressed a desire that their next bishop be local. Within the Anglican Communion, Ethiopia is part of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop launches TV commercial in support of exiled South Sudanese school students

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:34am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The assistant bishop of Melbourne has produced a TV commercial urging people to give South Sudanese exiles a “safe start” to the school year.

Read the entire article here.