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The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
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‘Yes in God’s Backyard’: Churches use land for affordable housing

sex, 15/11/2019 - 18:51

An artistic rendering of the future St. Paul’s Commons in Northern California. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek would like to open its affordable housing complex in December or January. It’s called St. Paul’s Commons, and it will be a mixed-use development with community spaces operated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It will include 45 affordable apartments. Image courtesy of Resources for Community Development

[Religion News Service] Faith congregations across California are responding to the state’s housing crisis by sharing their parking lots with people living in their cars, providing mobile showers for the homeless and joining their neighbors in calling for rent control in their communities.

But another form of housing advocacy has been taking place among spaces of faith.

A number of churches are exploring ways to build affordable housing on their own land. It’s what pastors and other leaders are referring to as YIGBY, or “Yes in God’s Backyard.”

The acronym is a play off of the term NIMBY — short for “Not in My Backyard” — a term often used to describe community pushback against affordable housing or other similar projects.

“Jesus very clearly tells us to keep our eyes open to those who are in need,” said Clairemont Lutheran Church pastor Jonathan Doolittle.

California is home to the 10 least-affordable major markets in the nation and is near the top in cost-burdened households — second among homeowners and fourth among renters, according to a January 2019 report from the Public Policy Institute of California. The median home price in California is $549,000. The median rent is $2,800.

Aerial view of Clairemont Lutheran Church in San Diego, with a rendering of proposed affordable housing project in the parking lot, bottom right. Image courtesy of Yigby.org

About four years ago, Clairemont Lutheran Church members in San Diego decided they needed to do something about the housing crisis affecting their community.

The church was part of an interfaith shelter network in which congregations open their spaces for a certain length of time to house families in crisis. During this time, churches host families for two weeks while they get back on their feet.

The families rotate to other churches in the network, but once that cycle runs out, they may have nowhere else to seek shelter, Doolittle said.

As the church made plans to redevelop its fellowship hall, Doolittle said they sought to include affordable housing as part of that project. The church proposed building a number of affordable apartments on part of their current parking lot.

Church leaders thought the affordable housing component could also speed up the approval process for the project. Instead, they encountered more roadblocks including parking restrictions and costly environmental impact reports.

In San Diego, city code makes it a requirement for churches to have a certain number of parking spaces based on the number of people who can fit in the sanctuary.

The renovation of the church’s fellowship hall is underway, but the housing element is on hold for now.

However, that could soon change.

On Nov. 6, a subcommittee of the San Diego City Council voted in favor on an item that would make it easier for faith communities to get approval to build housing on their parking lots. Under this plan, excess parking spaces could be used as a location for housing. The City Council will consider the item at a future meeting.

Clairemont Lutheran Church plans to jump-start its housing efforts next year, hoping to put between 16 and 21 apartments on its parking lot.

To housing advocate Tom Theisen, the city’s move is a step in the right direction.

Theisen — a retired attorney and former chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless — is part of the San Diego YIGBY working group that helps activate under-utilized faith community properties suitable for residential units.

He says the YIGBY group shows how an abundance of church land across the county can help address the region’s housing shortage. Theisen said that in the past, individual churches were going to the government proposing small projects of 15 to 20 units.

“It’s hard to create any change when you’re talking about individual small projects,” Theisen said.

Theisen said the YIGBY group emerged when San Diego County tax collector Dan McAllister identified about 1,100 faith community properties on more than 2,000 acres of land. Theisen said a substantial portion of that land is available for housing.

“If we look at this from the perspective of ‘How do we help the churches help the needy in their community and look at it countywide?’ we’re talking hundreds of potential housing units, possibly thousands,” Theisen said.

Theisen estimates construction costs could be “primarily if not exclusively” paid through income coming in from the housing.

“The idea is to start building housing and start putting people in houses,” Theisen said.

People tour St. Paul’s Commons in Walnut Creek, California, in September 2019. Photo courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

In Northern California, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek would like to open its affordable housing complex in December or January.

It’s called St. Paul’s Commons and will be a mixed-use development with community spaces operated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It’s also where the nonprofit Trinity Center will have a physical space to serve people who are homeless.

The project will include 45 affordable apartments. The church leased its land to Berkeley-based developer Resources for Community Development, which used a property management company to perform background checks, call references and conduct interviews for apartment applications.

The development is taking over a single-family home where Trinity Center provided services to the homeless. The Rev. Krista Fregoso said they were already assisting people who were homeless and later thought, “What if we became a part of the solution, too?”

To Fregoso, “This is just one part of how we live out our faith. We hope to be a model for other faith communities who might see their property in a different way.”

The post ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’: Churches use land for affordable housing appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Church of Ireland celebrates 150 years of independence

sex, 15/11/2019 - 14:10

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of Ireland is celebrating 150 years since it was disestablished from the Church of England and has set out an innovative program to mark the milestone.

A special service of celebration this month in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, where the archbishop of Canterbury will preach, launches the #D150 program and will look back on the achievements of the past century and a half.

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Richard Clarke wrote about the landmark year, saying: “Today we may reasonably celebrate 150 years of disestablishment, but only if we are now ready to show the same faith, courage and generosity our forebears epitomized in 1869 as we seek to shape our future course.”

Read the full article here.

The post Church of Ireland celebrates 150 years of independence appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Diocese of Lexington elects Bishop Mark Van Koevering as bishop diocesan

qui, 14/11/2019 - 19:00

[Diocese of Lexington] On Nov. 1, at the Special Convention for the Diocese of Lexington held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Winchester, Kentucky, the first order of business was the election of the eighth bishop of Lexington.

Bishop Mark Van Koevering

The Rt. Rev. Mark Van Koevering was duly elected and was greeted joyously by the convention. Van Koevering has been serving as the bishop provisional since being appointed by the diocesan convention in February 2018. As such, he continues as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, but now also is bishop diocesan-elect.

The Canons of The Episcopal Church provide that a majority of bishops diocesan and standing committees must consent to the election. Responses must be made within 120 days after receipt of the certificate of election.

Pending the receipt of necessary consents, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has set aside March 21, 2020, for the Van Koevering’s investiture and recognition bishop diocesan of Lexington. That service will take place at Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington.

The Standing Committee will begin formulating plans for the investiture service at its meeting later this month. The Diocese of Lexington looks forward to continuing work with Van Koevering and living into the vision affirmed by the recent convention, “Be the Church: Be the Change.”

The post Diocese of Lexington elects Bishop Mark Van Koevering as bishop diocesan appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis plan unprecedented joint visit to South Sudan

qui, 14/11/2019 - 17:45

Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby embrace before a private audience at the Vatican on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The first joint pastoral visit by a pope and an archbishop of Canterbury could take place in South Sudan early next year, the Vatican and Lambeth Palace announced last night. The news came after a private audience between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta guest house.

“During the friendly talks we focused on the condition of Christians in the world and on some situations of international crisis, with particular reference to the painful reality facing South Sudan,” the Vatican Press Office said in a bulletin. “At the end of the meeting the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that, if the political situation in the country should allow the establishment of a transitional government of national unity in the next 100 days, at the expiry of the agreement signed in recent days in Entebbe, in Uganda, they intend to visit South Sudan together.”

Read the full article here.

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American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem responds to deadly violence in Gaza

qui, 14/11/2019 - 17:43

[American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem] John Lent, executive director of American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, issued the following statement on Nov. 14 in response to volleys this week of rocket fire from Gaza and deadly Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian territory after an Israeli airstrike killed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader.

Dear Friends,

I’m sure you’ve followed the tragic news from Gaza and Israel over the past several days. In the wake of the killing of an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza by Israeli security forces, subsequent missile strikes from Gaza into southern Israel, and retaliatory air strikes by Israel, 34 Gazans – including civilian children and adults, have been killed and 111 have been wounded. Fifty-three Israelis have received medical attention for shrapnel wounds, injuries incurred while seeking protection, and symptoms of acute stress.

As I write, a negotiated truce is in place and security restrictions have been lifted at the borders and in communities in southern Israel. However, no one can predict the stability of the cease-fire or if, in the coming days, the violence will reignite.

We do know this: As American Friends we cannot forget our brothers and sisters at Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City who, no matter what each day brings, continue to serve, with dignity and respect, every person who enters the hospital’s gate seeking treatment and comfort.

Suhaila Tarazi, Ahli Hospital’s director, (pictured at left) wrote to us this morning, “Thank you for your prayers. We are deeply concerned by the recently escalated hostilities between Israel and armed groups for the third day. Gaza is full of fear and this has further strained the deteriorated humanitarian situation. Ahli Arab Hospital is playing a big role in treating injuries and victims of trauma who seek our services. Because Ahli is one of the hospitals used by the health system during emergencies, we need to rebuild our stock of medical supplies to meet the needs of Gazans.”

She told us the hospital’s most pressing needs: medicine, medical supplies, screws for orthopedic surgery and diesel fuel to run generators needed because of daily power outages.

I visited Ahli Hospital on October 31. After my visit, I received a note from Suhaila. She wrote, “You have left us with the feeling that we are not alone in this ministry. Without your strong stand beside us it would be difficult for us to continue.” She sent the message to me, but she is talking about you. You are the support structure for Ahli Hospital in this country. You give Suhaila and her team the strength and resources to continue their remarkable Christian witness in Gaza.

Thank you for your prayers for their ongoing ministry and the safety of all people in Gaza and the region. To donate to Ahli and to learn more, visit our website at www.afedj.org.

Today, families in Gaza prepare to bury their dead. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza attend memorial services and funerals. Below is an intercession for the people of Gaza for use in your personal prayers and to share with your congregation and friends.

With gratitude and hope,

John Lent
Executive Director

An Intercession for the People of Gaza

God of peace, whose beloved Son was born not far to the East in Bethlehem, we pray for the people of Gaza that they may be assured of your unfailing love.

Grant them freedom from fear and give them hope for a future safe from harm. In the midst of their sorrow, keep them from despair.

For all who are injured, in mind, body, and soul, we pray they find healing.

For all who have been killed, we pray they find rest.

For all who grieve, we pray they find comfort.

For leaders on all sides, we pray for a renewed will to lay down arms, for the strength to put the grievances and wrongs suffered by their people to rest, and for the conviction to embrace a path of reconciliation and peace that preserves the rights and dignity of all of your children.

God of justice, help us to remember there is no border that can separate us from your great love, no stone that can sound the well of your deep mercy.

Bless our sisters and brothers in Gaza, especially your servants at Ahli Arab Hospital whose loving and tender care for all of their neighbors reveals the face of Christ.

With abiding hope for a just and lasting peace in the land of the Holy One, we ask all this in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

The post American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem responds to deadly violence in Gaza appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Confederate symbols workshop guides priests in confronting past by reexamining it truthfully

qui, 14/11/2019 - 15:38

Participants in the workshop on Confederate symbols visit All Saints’ Chapel at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Photo: Sewanee

[Episcopal News Service] When the Rev. Hannah Hooker traveled last week to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, she brought along her thoughts of a specific stained-glass window back home in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she serves as associate rector of Christ Episcopal Church. The window depicts Bishop Leonidas Polk preaching at the church’s dedication in 1839.

It’s not a conspicuous window – located to one side of the nave, overlooking a breezeway where little light reaches its panes. Only after a longtime parishioner pointed it out did Hooker examine it closely and consider what Polk’s legacy means for her congregation at a time when The Episcopal Church has called on its dioceses and congregations to research and tell the full stories of their historic complicity with slavery, segregation and other systems of racial oppression.

Polk, as missionary bishop to the Southwest and later bishop of Louisiana, was a key figure in the founding of Sewanee in the 1860s, but he died before the opening of the university, killed in battle during the Civil War while serving as a general for the Confederacy. Today, he has become a problematic figure in the churchwide reexamination of Confederate symbols and memorials in worship spaces.

“I sort of am of the opinion that all churches, whether they have Confederate symbols or history, have the opportunity to investigate their own history and sort of own whatever grossness is in their past,” Hooker told Episcopal News Service by phone this week after returning from a three-day Sewanee workshop on those topics.

Hooker and 10 other priests attended the university’s inaugural Confederate Symbols and Episcopal Churches Workshop Nov. 5-7. Each priest came from a Southern parish with historical connections to the Confederacy. Some of the priests lead worship services in churches where Confederate symbols are present. Their congregations generally have not yet engaged in full-throated discussions of those symbols’ meanings.

At Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, North Carolina, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee are two of the Southern historical figures remembered in stone monuments, more than a dozen in all, arranged in a roadside display outside the church. The rector, the Rev. J. Clarkson, attended the Sewanee workshop on Confederate symbols and described the monuments at his church as “a little bit unusual.”

“Figuring out what the church might want to do with them at this point is … a more complicated discussion,” Clarkson said in an interview with ENS.

The Rev. Rusty McCown brought to the workshop a different example from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, Tennessee, where he is rector. In the parish hall of the 200-year-old church hangs a portrait honoring a prominent early parishioner, but a darker part of the man’s past is hardly acknowledged – that he was a major slaveholder.

“I’m kind of a belief we shouldn’t have any portraits at all,” McCown said, though no changes have been discussed yet at his church. He attended the Sewanee workshop looking for guidance in how to approach such conversations in a congregation where some parishioners may be resistant to change.

He said he came away from the experience better equipped to lead the planning of his congregation’s upcoming 200th anniversary commemorations, knowing that it is important for a church to “own the history and remember that history, but at the same time, how do we go forward with this?”

The Sewanee workshop was a pilot program developed by two seminary graduates, the Rev. Hannah Pommersheim and the Rev. Kellan Day, through the university’s six-year Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation. The research project, named for late history professor Houston Bryan Roberson, aims to tell the fuller story of the university’s founding and first 100 years within social and economic systems built upon racial injustice.

This initial workshop received a $5,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and was only open to Episcopal clergy who are dealing with Confederate symbols at their churches. The workshop’s three parts examined the theological underpinnings of Confederate symbols in worship spaces, provided context for understanding art and symbols and steered participants toward best practices for local action.

Pommersheim and Day, working with Sewanee history professor Woody Register, will review feedback from participants and consider future options, such as offering the in-person workshop for a broader pool of ordained and lay Episcopalians or hosting it online. Another option would be to develop a curriculum that dioceses and congregations can follow on their own.

“These conversations, we want them to be happening in more churches. We want folks to have tools to have these conversations,” Pommersheim told ENS.

The 11 priests who participated in last week’s workshop weren’t expected to return to their congregations and immediately start removing objects connected to the Confederacy, Pommersheim said, though congregations might decide to take such steps after changing and deepening how they engage with their history. “Something actually changing was the goal.”

The Sewanee seminary was among the Episcopal institutions that reassessed their own Confederate symbols in the wake of a deadly August 2017 standoff in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacist groups and counterprotesters, who converged in the city amid a legal dispute over its Confederate statutes.

In September 2017, Sewanee relocated a monument honoring Edmund Kirby-Smith, a 19th-century professor who previously served as a Confederate general, though even before Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate symbols had divided the campus community. Some of the contention centered around how best to represent Polk’s role in the founding of the university without glorifying his Confederate service.

Another focal point for debate has been All Saints’ Chapel. Confederate battle flags were removed from the chapel years ago, but just last year, remaining references to the Confederacy in the chapel’s stained-glass windows generated renewed scrutiny. The university responded in October 2018 by removing a pane from the window that had featured the seal of the Confederacy.

Participants in last week’s workshop on Confederate symbols visited All Saints’ Chapel, turning it into a classroom for lessons on the meaning of art and the assessment of art theologically. Sewanee art professor Shelley MacLaren led one of those discussions. Another session, on best practices for congregations, was led by the Rev. Molly Bosscher, who spent four years as associate rector at Richmond, Virginia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, once known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy.

The Rev. Jamie Osborne led a session on the theological underpinnings of Confederate symbols in churches. Such symbols are given added spiritual importance when placed in a church, elevating them to “a higher level, a God level” alongside the baptismal font and altar.

Osborne brought to the workshop his own experience in Montgomery, Alabama, where he serves as associate rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The St. John’s vestry decided in February to remove a plaque and pew that had been known as the “Jefferson Davis pew” because church leaders determined its connection to the Confederate president was tenuous at best and its 1925 dedication had been steeped in racism.

“The removal of the plaque and the pew is good for the long-term future of the church,” Osborne told ENS. “But there’s also the deeper conversation of ‘How was it that pew and plaque got there?’”

This plaque honoring Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop and Confederate general, was displayed in Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, until its removal in 2018. Photo: Sarah Hartwig/Christ Church Cathedral

Those conversations are happening at Episcopal congregations in all regions of the United States, not just the South. Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, removed its own plaque honoring Polk in 2018. More recently, in Boston, the historic Old North Church held a forum in October to discuss its historic links to slavery, acknowledging that slave traders were among the prominent early members who helped pay for the 1740 steeple.

Reexamining centuries-old history goes beyond what certain Episcopal congregations might do about the Confederate symbols on church grounds. It’s about racial reconciliation, said the Rev. John Jenkins, associate rector at St. Paul’s Church in Augusta, Georgia.

“If you have an older church, your church is a Confederate symbol. It’s a symbol of the whole economic system,” Jenkins told ENS after participating in the Sewanee workshop.

Polk’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s in 1864, and the “fighting bishop” once was entombed on the grounds, Jenkins said. A monument honoring Polk takes up space in the sanctuary, as does a flag display that includes a Confederate banner that was known as the Bonnie Blue.

Jenkins participated this year in the Justice Pilgrimage organized by the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in the Diocese of Atlanta, and he hopes to mine that experience and the recent Sewanee workshop to help his congregation decide on next steps.

“We need to take responsibility for learning our history and confronting it truthfully,” he said.

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

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‘The unvarnished truth’: Episcopal Peace Fellowship marks 80th anniversary with racial reconciliation event

qua, 13/11/2019 - 20:59

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely speaks at the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s 80th anniversary commemoration at the Center for Reconciliation in Providence, Rhode Island, on Nov. 10, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Providence, Rhode Island] Founded in 1939 on Armistice Day – the commemoration of the end of World War I, which now coincides with Veterans Day in the United States – the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, or EPF, was established to promote pacifism and protect conscientious objectors as the world plunged into yet another devastating global conflict.

And some of its leaders today – including the Rev. Bob Davidson, chair of EPF’s national executive council, and the Rev. Will Mebane, vice chair – became involved when EPF supported them as conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

“EPF is actually the reason I’m an Episcopalian,” Mebane told Episcopal News Service. Mebane had thought he only had two choices as a conscientious objector: “Go to Canada, or go to prison.” But a friend referred him to an Episcopal priest who connected him with EPF’s resources and invited him to come back to church on Sunday. The rest is history.

However, peace means more than just the absence of war, and EPF’s mission has expanded from its earlier focus to a wider variety of social justice issues, from combating gun violence and sex trafficking to promoting racial reconciliation and criminal justice reform.

“Part of our mission statement is to ‘dismantle’ violence,” Davidson told ENS. “That’s a more active term than ‘be aware of’ or ‘oppose.’ … What we’ve come to understand is the intersectionality of poverty and racism and violence. That … has led us more deeply into racial reconciliation and the awareness of white supremacy, white privilege, as the root cause of so much collective and interpersonal violence.”

The Cathedral of St. John in Providence, Rhode Island, now houses the Center for Reconciliation. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

That’s why the organization chose to celebrate its 80th anniversary with a two-day series of events focused on racial reconciliation. On Nov. 10, EPF hosted a “Commemoration of Witness” evensong service at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Bristol, Rhode Island – at which Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island officiated and the Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, the newly consecrated bishop of Vermont, preached. It was followed by a fundraiser.

Members of the EPF National Executive Council at the 80th anniversary evensong at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Bristol, Rhode Island. Front row: The Rev. Cody Maynus, the Rev. Ann Coburn, Bob Lotz, the Rev. Will Mebane
Back row: Rob Burgess, the Rev. Bob Davidson, Melanie Ath, Ellen Lindeen. Photo: Steven Atha

The next day, the events continued at the Center for Reconciliation at the Cathedral of St. John in Providence. The cathedral – which remains the seat of the Diocese of Rhode Island – suspended services in 2012 due to financial difficulties, but it has housed the Center for Reconciliation since 2013. Established as a diocesan initiative, the nonprofit center educates the public about the history and legacy of slavery and racism.

With the center mostly operating in the basement of the cathedral, repair work in other areas of the building is ongoing, with the hope of reopening it completely in the future.

“The cathedral had closed just about a month before I was elected bishop, and I was not consulted, but it was presented to me as a closed building, and I set as a goal for myself reopening the building,” Knisely said.

The Center for Reconciliation is an especially useful resource in Rhode Island because, as with much of the Northeast, public awareness of the local impact of slavery is not as acute as in the South, Knisely said – a theme that was repeated throughout the day on Nov. 11.

“The Diocese of Rhode Island in its early days profited directly from the slave industry, and worse than that, a number of our buildings were built by enslaved people,” Knisely said. “As a child … I thought I was in the North and therefore I was exempt from having to feel guilty about this, and I discovered that’s not the case. And I have learned that this is not something that happened a long time ago. This is something that is ongoing, built into the historic inequities in American culture.”

When asked why racial reconciliation work – especially dealing with events that happened centuries ago – is important for Christians now, Knisely explained that progress cannot happen if not everyone understands the full historical context.

“How can I be a person of the Gospel truth if part of my life is blocked from my own understanding?” Knisely asked. “It is impossible for us to have a conversation across racial divides if half of that group knows a history we don’t know. … [Racism] is the original sin of the United States. And gun violence, drug addiction, gender violence – all of that vectors back to the enslavement industry. Capitalism, the way we abuse workers on the assembly line, vectors back to the plantation. Until we go to confession, we have no way of being reconciled.”

Traci Picard, the Center for Reconciliation’s program and research associate, gives a presentation on the history of slavery in Rhode Island. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

The day began with a presentation from Traci Picard, the center’s program and research associate, and volunteer tour guide Mark Burnham on the history of slavery in Rhode Island.

“This is what we call ‘difficult history,’” Picard said.

She spoke of how the state, the church and businesses combined to create a “web of complicity,” even in states like Rhode Island, which lacked the large plantations found in the South but where the economy was heavily based on trade, including the slave trade. Until 1807, Rhode Island was the top slave-trading state in the United States, Picard said, and Rhode Island had some of the strictest laws on runaway slaves.

“We didn’t have a primary crop, like tobacco or cotton,” Picard explained. “The African people were the commodity. That was our primary product.”

Byron Rushing, vice president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, delivers the keynote speech. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

In the afternoon, Byron Rushing – the vice president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies and founder of the Episcopal Urban Caucus who also served as a Massachusetts state representative from 1983 until this past January – delivered a keynote speech in which he delved into some of the semantic problems encountered when talking about slavery, racial reconciliation and colonialism.

“Episcopalians, like many Christians, love words that start with the syllable ‘re-,’” Rushing said. “[Those] words have a huge implication: the implication of return. Returning to something that existed. Returning to a different relationship between humans.

“In the ‘re-,’ what was the ‘conciliation’? ‘Re-conciliation’ assumes there was a time when it was not a problem.”

Rushing also took issue with the use of the word “discover” to describe European colonization of Native land, explaining the problem in a modern parable.

“I’m going to go out into the parking lot and I’m going to find your car. I’m going to figure out a way to get into your car. I’m going to get into your car. I’m going to drive your car to Boston! I have ‘discovered’ your car,” Rushing said.

The theft of Native land gave rise to the theft of the labor needed to exploit it, Rushing said.

“You have stolen the land, so you steal the people.”

Rushing then moderated a panel discussion with representatives from all over Province I, who spoke about the various racial reconciliation projects they had undertaken.

When the Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, decided to hold the 10-part Sacred Ground dialogue series on race and racism developed by The Episcopal Church, co-facilitators Holly Carter and Caitlin Slodden expected about 20 people to sign up to participate in the whole series, while in fact, 88 parishioners did – nearly a third of the congregation in a town whose population is almost completely white.

Holly Carter speaks during the discussion panel. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Carter and Slodden credited the success to robust support from the clergy and vestry and to the fact that Carter, who is black, and Slodden, who is white, are equal partners in running the series, bringing different backgrounds and experiences.

The Rev. Katie Ernst, interim executive director of the Mission Institute, talked about how she successfully lobbied the Commission on Ministry in the Diocese of Massachusetts to make changes to the diocese’s vocational discernment process after a black woman left the process because of issues related to race. Through a series of interviews with multiple seminarians and recently ordained clergy of color, the Mission Institute was able to identify patterns of white supremacy within the process, she said, and the commission has made promising changes.

Lee Cheek of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, spoke of her efforts to restore the “erased” history of W.E.B. Du Bois, the black writer and activist who was born in her town but not appropriately recognized and celebrated there. The Rev. Gail Avery described a similar struggle to recognize and honor the contributions of black citizens through the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.

It’s crucial, Cheek said, for white people to personally engage with people of color and witness “the unvarnished truth” of the effects that racism has had on their lives.

The Rev. Rowena Kemp and Suzy Burke, the conveners of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Racial Healing, Justice, and Reconciliation Ministry Network, spoke of the success they’d had in fostering difficult conversations through pilgrimages, forums, workshops and even theatrical performances, in addition to curating a library of helpful media and resources. They stressed the importance of reaching beyond the intellectual level to a deeper emotional level, a point also raised by Cheek.

“We need to grab people by the heart,” Cheek said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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‘Wake-up call’: Canadian church hears statistics report on membership decline

ter, 12/11/2019 - 18:20

[Anglican Journal] The Anglican Church of Canada’s first reliably collected set of statistics since 2001 show the church running out of members in about two decades if the church continues to decline at its current rate, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard on Nov. 9.

“We’ve got simple projections from our data that suggest that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,” the Rev. Neil Elliot, a priest for the diocese of Kootenay assigned in 2016 by the national church to collect a new set of statistics, told CoGS. Elliot, who reported on 2017 data collected from all of the church’s dioceses, also told the group about ongoing efforts to expand and diversify data collection.

Read the full article here.

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UTO grants helped the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church survive, rebuild

ter, 12/11/2019 - 15:30
The United Thank Offering grant-site pilgrims pose for a group photo outside Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Villaescusa, Spain. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] At one point in the mid-19th century, almost all of the residents of Villaescusa, a tiny village in the north of Spain near Santander, were Episcopalians.

It started with one villager who traveled 200 miles to the town of Fuentesaúco, where he bought a Bible, carried it home and began reading it. Then he brought the Bible to his Roman Catholic priest.

“The priest said, ‘This is a Protestant Bible; you cannot have this,’” said Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, during a visit with 12 U.S. Episcopalians to Holy Spirit Church in Villaescusa.

The man, Melquíades Andrés, didn’t know anything about being a Protestant; he just wanted to read the Bible. But the priest said, “‘Give me this Bible. I’ll put it in the fire.’” The man did not surrender the Bible and, instead, traveled 222 miles to Salamanca, where he attended his first Episcopal service at the Church of the Redeemer. “He went, he liked the service and then he saw the school,” López explained.

In October, 31 Episcopalians traveled to Spain for a 10-day pilgrimage organized by the United Thank Offering in coordination with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana through Corazon Travel. The pilgrimage began with Mass at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Madrid. The following day, the pilgrims boarded a bus and drove to the 11th-century walled city of Avila.

From left, Isabelle Watkins, UTO intern; Louise Ambler, a member of Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church walk the streets of Lugo, Spain, where the old city is still surrounded by Roman walls. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In Avila, the group went in two different directions. A dozen people traveled by small bus to Salamanca, where they visited the first of three UTO grant sites; the larger group departed for Sarria, where the next day they began the 62-mile walk along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The two groups would later converge in Arzúa for a pilgrims’ Mass the night before the walking pilgrims completed the journey’s final 12 miles and the groups reunited in Santiago de Compostela.

The “grant-site pilgrims” made stops in Salamanca, where they visited the Atilano Coco Center, an international student center named for Coco, an Episcopal priest and a professor at the University of Salamanca who was assassinated by the Franco regime in December 1936. From there, they visited the rectory that serves as Holy Spirit Church in Villaescusa, and later, they stopped by St. Eulalia, a storefront church serving low-income Spaniards and immigrants in a public housing development on the outskirts of Oviedo.

The grant-site pilgrims, who heard the history of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, were surprised to learn of the critical impact UTO grants have had on churches and ministries across Spain.

“I knew that we had this long relationship with the Spanish church, but I didn’t realize how [the church was] nearly exterminated and how deliberate that extermination had been,” said Sherri Dietrich, UTO board president, who attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newcastle, Maine. “And what they’ve done since then, and Bishop Lozano and the church people we’ve met, they’re so positive and optimistic. Not pie-in-the-sky optimistic, but they’re just doing what God has called them to do.”

“The [UTO] board, like all church boards, doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on board expenses, so we don’t get to see what our grants have done. You know, we get reports, but we don’t see it firsthand,” she said.

Sherri Dietrich, UTO board president, admires the goods in the pantry of St. Eulalia, a storefront church serving low-income Spaniards and immigrants in a public housing development on the outskirts of Oviedo, Spain. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018. In the years following the Spanish Civil War when the country was under the dictatorial rule of Francisco Franco, the government confiscated the church’s property, with the exception of the cathedral in Madrid, forcing the church underground.

“Twenty-six buildings and 14 schools were taken by Franco,” said López, who led the grant-site pilgrims’ tour. “The church was almost entirely destroyed. People met in a private home with a Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.”

Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church explains to the UTO pilgrims that Holy Spirit Church in Villaescusa, Spain, was seized by the government of Francisco Franco in 1936. Today, the building belongs to a Swiss company and the congregation worships down the hill in the former rectory. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In 1936, when Holy Spirit Church in Villaescusa was forced out of its building, the congregation moved a three-minute walk down the hill to the rectory, where they worshiped until 2008, when the roof collapsed and they moved to the city hall. A $20,000 UTO grant allowed the small congregation to fix the rectory’s roof.

“Seeing where our money went to repair a roof with a congregation that had only 15 people – they would have never been able to do that; they would have had to close again,” said Dee Dugger, a UTO coordinator for the Diocese of Florida and also her parish, Holy Trinity in Gainesville.

Like Dietrich, Dugger appreciated the opportunity to see the results firsthand.

“For me, to be able to see where the money goes that we collect each year, and then to be able to go back and tell my parishioners and my diocesan constituents that every penny counts,” she said, while fighting back tears. “How can we have made [such] a difference in Spain? We have basically saved the Episcopal Church here in Spain,” said Dugger.

Each day of the pilgrimage, the UTO grant-site pilgrims would stop and reflect and read one verse of Psalm 103:1-5. Here, Leo Dugger reads the verse. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In the 1950s, the U.S.-based Episcopal Church became aware of the Spanish church’s challenges, among them having no bishop. So in 1956, two American bishops – Minnesota Bishop Stephen Keeler and Northern Indiana Bishop Reginald Mallett – along with a bishop from the Church of Ireland, which had oversight of the Spanish Episcopal Church at the time, snuck into the country and in secret, consecrated the Rt. Rev. Santos M. Molina in his home in Sevilla.

Mallett and his wife had vacationed in Spain previously and returned under the pretense of tourism, said Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks, who walked the Camino with the UTO pilgrims.

“On the first day, they baptized, confirmed and received a number of people. On the next day, they ordained deacons and priests, and then they ordained the bishop who had been elected [clandestinely],” said Sparks, and when they left, their secret visit hit the newspapers.

“The Episcopal Church in Northern Indiana, our diocese, they’re grateful for the risks that Bishop Mallett took and the other bishops to come and to make it possible for the church to be sustained in the midst of some pretty challenging and life-threatening experiences,” Sparks said.

The United Thank Offering grant-site pilgrims pose for a group photo outside the cathedral in León, Spain. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Then, UTO took notice. “From 1956 until now, UTO has helped us to survive,” said López. To date, the Spanish church’s properties have not been returned, nor has it received compensation, though it formally requested the latter a decade ago.

After Franco’s death in 1975, the church began to rebuild with the continued support of UTO and others. Today, it operates 55 parishes in all major cities and towns in Spain with bi-vocational clergy. Last year, to help celebrate its anniversary, the Spanish church invited the Rev. Heather Melton, UTO’s staff officer, to speak during its kickoff event, and it was from there that she imagined the pilgrimage.

“During that trip, I heard countless stories of how congregations or ministries would not have existed were it not for the funding provided through UTO grants,” Melton told Episcopal News Service. “It was so inspiring to see how far the UTO grants to Spain have gone. I really wanted others to see and experience the church in Spain and the powerful witness of blessings.”

When Melquíades Andrés saw the school at the Church of the Redeemer in Salamanca, he set out to establish an Episcopal church and a school in Villaescusa, where only the children of wealthy families who could hire tutors received an education. From that one church, another five were established in the region.

“Four hundred people, almost all the villagers, became Episcopalians,” said López.

Today, Villaescusa has only 150 to 200 year-round inhabitants, and the 15 to 20 Episcopalians who attend Holy Spirit Church continue to worship in the former rectory, while up the street at 41 Calle Derecha, a Swiss company owns the actual church building, whose front gate stays locked. Still, it’s an active congregation engaged in the community.

“You cannot imagine how important it is to us to have you here and to thank you,” said López, as the pilgrims toured Holy Spirit.

Isabelle Watkins, United Thank Offering intern, and UTO board member Caitlyn Darnell take a selfie outside the Botana family estate church in Arzúa, Spain. The grant-site and walking pilgrims came together for a shared Eucharist the night before the walking pilgrims would complete the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Thank offerings collected during a calendar year are granted the following year. UTO has set aside $60,000 in matching funds for the 2020 grant cycle to help to establish an Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago de Compostela. To date, $23,594 has been raised.

The Anglican Pilgrim Centre would follow those in Jerusalem and Rome, the two other cities most often visited by Christian pilgrims. Like Israel and Italy, Spain has a rich religious history, from the time the Apostle St. James brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula just after Jesus’ death to its history as part of the Roman Empire to the Muslim conquest that began in 711 and continued until 1492. Then in 1880, the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain was established by former Roman Catholic priests who began to question the pope’s infallibility and dogma in what was truly a Spanish-led – not an Anglican-led – movement.

Still, the Roman Catholic Church, which aligned itself with the Franco regime, continues to be the state-sanctioned church, receiving $900 million from the Spanish government yearly, and its history is told throughout the country in its many Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals, as the grant site pilgrims would discover. Yet, it was the Episcopal churches and ministries that most impressed the group and brought tears to their eyes.

“It’s just very touching, spiritual and sacred. … It’s holy work, and it feels like holy ground,” said Dugger. “You know, the cathedrals that we’ve been in have been awesome, but these little, tiny, simple churches are more magnificent than the biggest cathedral with all the silver and gold.”

The United Thank Offering was founded in 1890 to support innovative mission and ministry in The Episcopal Church and to promote thankfulness and mission throughout the Episcopal and Anglican churches worldwide. One hundred percent of thank offerings collected are distributed annually in support of projects that address human needs and help to alleviate poverty.

“We say, I don’t know how many times every Sunday, ‘Thanks be to God,’ and I think very few think about it what it is to give thanks and gratitude. What I love about gratitude is that it’s … relational: It means someone has given you something, and there’s really nothing you can do in return. I mean, you can turn it into a transactional thing. But just being grateful and acknowledging that gift, it makes you feel good. It makes you healthier, emotionally and physically,” said Dietrich.

“God asks us to be thankful. He doesn’t ask us, he tells us to be thankful. And I love that it is one of the most obvious things to me that God tells us to do this,” she said. So it’s … a command, but it turns out [that] it feels really good. And it’s so good for us; it brings us closer to God and to others.”

Since it began, UTO has collected and granted $138,629,911.07 in thank offerings to support innovative mission and ministry in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion through 5,257 grants.

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

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Diocese of New York establishes reparations fund, adopts anti-slavery resolutions from 1860

ter, 12/11/2019 - 13:47

Wayne Kempton, archivist and historiographer for the Diocese of New York, displays the journal of the 1860 diocesan convention. Photo: Diocese of New York

[Episcopal News Service] At its annual convention on Nov. 8 and 9, the Diocese of New York established a task force to examine how it can make meaningful reparations for its participation in the slave trade and committed $1.1 million from its endowment to fund the efforts the task force recommends.

It also passed four resolutions condemning slavery, which had first been introduced by John Clarkson Jay – grandson of founding father John Jay, governor of New York and first chief justice of the Supreme Court – in 1860. At the time, the resolutions were met with fierce opposition from the clergy and laity, many of whom were still profiting from the slave trade, and they had been tabled indefinitely until now, according to the diocese.

New York Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche has made racial reconciliation a priority in his diocese, which designated 2017-18 a Year of Lamentations, 2018-19 a Year of Repentance/Apology and 2019-20 a Year of Reparation.

“The legacy, the shadow, of white supremacy which flows from our slave past and continues to poison the common life of the American people … continues to impose extraordinary burdens, costs, hardships and degradation upon people of African descent in our country,” Dietsche said in his address to the convention. “The Diocese of New York played a significant, and genuinely evil, part in American slavery, so we must make, where we can, repair.”

Dietsche noted in his address that in the 18th century, a high proportion of New Yorkers were slave owners, and according to diocesan records, some churches owned slaves as parish servants or “property assets.”

“We have a great deal to answer for,” Dietsche said. “We are complicit.”

At the 1860 convention, Jay, an ardent abolitionist, introduced four resolutions urging the leadership and laity of the diocese to publicly renounce and oppose slavery and slave trading. Importing slaves had been illegal in the United States since 1808, and the last remaining slaves in New York were freed in 1827. However, the Port of New York was still considered “the largest slave market in the world” as late as 1859, being the home port for ships that sailed across the Atlantic to abduct Africans and generate profits for New York merchants.

Jay wanted his diocese to take a firm stand against the human trafficking that continued “in violation of the statutes of the Republics, of the teachings of the Church, of the rights of man, and the laws of God.”

The reaction?

“Enough people rose and left the floor of the convention to deny the action even the possibility of a quorum,” Dietsche said.

Diane Pollard of the diocesan Reparations Committee said it was decided to bring back the resolutions at this convention in part because “it is so painful” to have them still sitting on the table, an unfinished chapter of an ugly history.

“It is painful to people who have family that were slaves,” Pollard said in a video produced by the diocese about the resolutions.

Dietsche referred to the passing of the resolutions as “the fruit of the Year of Apology” but noted that “there is a third and final chapter to this movement, which begins now with this convention, and that is the Year of Reparation.”

In his address, Dietsche called for a previously unannounced resolution “to set aside $1.1 million from the diocesan endowment for the purpose of reparations for slavery.”

Citing Virginia Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary as examples – VTS pledged 1.1 percent of its endowment and Princeton 2.25 percent – Dietsche considered 2.5 percent of the diocesan endowment an appropriate amount, which came to $1.1 million.

“Much smaller, and the resources for significant reparation would be insufficient; much larger, and it might not be something we could do,” Dietsche said. “When I ask that we remove this much money from our modest endowment, I know that this is not a small thing. However, I am sure that any honest process of reparation must require sacrifice and a commitment, not only from our surplus but from our seed corn.”

The resolution included the creation of a task force that will determine how best to structure the reparations effort and make recommendations at the next diocesan convention. Dietsche emphasized that the effort is about more than simply spending money, but he brought up several specific possibilities.

“This money could produce five $10,000 college or seminary scholarships every year in perpetuity,” Dietsche said. “This money could establish and fund an education and advocacy library and resource center in this diocese dedicated to racial justice and reconciliation. This money could support a first-step program in this diocese to invite, nurture and prepare black young people, and men and women, to explore the possibility of ordained ministry. $1.1 million isn’t so much money, but it’s not nothing either, and I look forward with anticipation to the creative possibilities that might come from this initiative.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Iconic Boston church reckons with its links to slavery

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Old North Church is Boston’s oldest standing church, and it still houses an active Episcopal congregation. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Boston] Old North Church is a living witness to one of the most significant chapters in American history. Immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” the white spire rising above the narrow streets of Boston’s North End is where two lanterns were hung to signal the approach of British troops that started the Revolutionary War.

But while Old North has been known as a symbol of the American fight for liberty and justice, its story is also intertwined with the national sin of slavery.

Old North Church, built in 1723, is the site of the lantern signal — “one if by land, two if by sea” — that set Paul Revere off on his famous ride. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

In October, the leadership of the 296-year-old church – which is Boston’s oldest standing church, the city’s most visited historical site and an active Episcopal congregation – held a panel discussion on Old North’s links to slavery. New research had revealed that some of its most prominent early members were slave traders and they had donated large sums of money to pay for the construction of the original steeple in 1740.

One name in particular – Newark Jackson – is still familiar to the Old North community. In an adjacent building, the historic site runs a re-creation of an 18th-century chocolate shop named for Jackson, who owned and operated a chocolate shop elsewhere in the North End in the 1740s. Since 2013, Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop has offered visitors the chance to watch the process of Colonial-era chocolate making and taste (and buy) the results. In the church, there was also a memorial sign in the private pew Jackson occupied when he attended services.

When Old North started the chocolate shop, Jackson’s name was “picked somewhat out of a hat,” without knowing much about him other than his ownership of an Old North pew and a chocolate shop, said the Rev. Stephen Ayres, the vicar at Old North and executive director of the Old North Foundation.

“‘Jackson’ just sounded good, so we picked that without knowing a lot about him,” Ayres told Episcopal News Service.

The deeper research started after Ayres happened upon a book called “Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston” by Jared Ross Hardesty, which mentions Newark Jackson – not as a chocolatier but as a slave owner. Old North asked Hardesty to do additional research, and the results were informative but upsetting.

At Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop next to Old North Church in Boston, visitors can watch chocolate-making demonstrations and experience what Colonial-era chocolate tasted like. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

“Jared eventually found the ship manifests, and that’s when he called me and said, ‘I’ve got bad news for you,’” Ayres said.

The news was that Jackson and several other Old North members were participants in a slave-smuggling ring. Defying British law, they transported slaves from Barbados to Suriname, outside the British Empire. In 1744, Jackson and fellow Old North parishioner George Ledain were killed in a mutiny shortly after leaving Suriname, according to Hardesty’s research. On the ship, Dutch authorities found 15 slaves who had not been sold: 2 adults and 13 children. Jackson himself owned three slaves at the time of his death, according to Hardesty.

Hardesty’s research had “given us some work to do to figure out how to go from where we are to where we should be,” Ayres said.

The first step was to present the findings to the community at that panel discussion in October, which included Hardesty, another historian, a lawyer and the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts. The commemorative sign in Jackson’s pew has been removed and may be replaced with a new one. Further changes are in the works, Ayres said.

The Rev. Stephen Ayres, vicar of Boston’s Old North Church, stands next to Newark Jackson’s old pew. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

“We have a board meeting next week and on their agenda is to talk about de-branding the [chocolate] shop, which would be to stop calling it ‘Captain Jackson’s.’ We still want to do the chocolate program, but we don’t want to be honoring somebody who by our standards is not honorable,” Ayres told ENS.

The discoveries about Jackson and the other parishioners could be just the tip of the iceberg. Even in a region not typically associated with slavery (Massachusetts abolished it in 1783), almost 10 percent of Boston’s population in the 1740s was enslaved.

“There was probably enslaved labor working on the construction of church; we haven’t really done the deep dive into our archives to see if we can find any information about that, but that’s for future research. We know the first two rectors of the church were slave owners,” Ayres said.

Slaves and free black citizens attended Old North, and there are multiple records of a particular free black family, Ayres said. But all people of color had to sit up in the mezzanine, which was the least comfortable part of the church – cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

“Because of the nature of slavery, black people did not have much of an opportunity to get together and socialize. So this was a real source of community to them. I also think about how they’re sitting up there looking down on all their owners,” Ayres said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Spreading God’s love through coffee and cookies in Bethlehem

sex, 08/11/2019 - 17:22

[Diocese of Bethlehem] Morning commuters traveling on Wyandotte Street outside the Cathedral Church of the Nativity received a pleasant surprise last week: free cookies, coffee and a reminder of God’s love.

Early on Friday Nov.1, the Very Rev. Tony Pompa, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, and the Rev.  Dale Grandfield, the cathedral’s canon missioner, handed out cups of coffee and packs of cookies to anyone stopped at the red light on the corner of Wyandotte and Third Avenue. Included with the morning refreshments was a card which read: “God loves you. We do too. Remember someone you love.” The card also included a prayer to celebrate All Saints’ Day.

“The idea came to me, building on the concept of ashes to go, that there are other times of the year when we go out and we remind people that God is present in their lives,” said Grandfield.

Commuters were appreciative of the morning pick-me-up.

“They would say ‘Thank you so much. This is so sweet,’” said Grandfield. “They were just delighted.”

All Saints’ Day was not the first time the pair built an event around cookies and coffee. Now dubbed, “Cookie Canon” and “Barista Dean,” respectively, Grandfield and Pompa held a similar event at the cathedral’s Kickoff Sunday. Falling early to mid-September, Kickoff Sunday is the first Sunday of the program year, when Sunday school and other formation opportunities restart after a summer hiatus. The event was popular, and the promotional Facebook video received thousands of views.

“We wanted to get people excited about being there, and to just be hospitable and engage with people,” said Grandfield.

Fueled by the recent call of their new canon missioner, the people of the cathedral have been making a concerted effort to reach out more to their surrounding neighborhood. In an interview held during Diocesan Convention, Grandfield described an event held in September, when a group from the cathedral walked the South Side neighborhood to learn more about the people in the community.

“I’m exploring a lot, and just trying to find my way and help the cathedral find their way,” said Grandfield.

When asked what the cathedral has planned for the future, Grandfield, who holds a degree in Spanish and speaks the language, says that the cathedral plans on offering more worship opportunities in Spanish and figuring out how they can work towards social justice in their area.

“If we can make one step in the right direction, then I will have done what I’m called here to do,” said Grandfield. “I don’t have a grand plan, a grand strategy … I’m just following. Jesus has the plan.”

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Archbishop of York condemns oil companies for sparking ‘environmental genocide’

sex, 08/11/2019 - 17:20

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of York John Sentamu has called for urgent action to stop the oil spills that are devastating communities in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state.

Following the release of an interim report of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, which he chairs, Sentamu called the actions of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta as “nothing less than environmental genocide.”

Sentamu said that oil companies needed to end a culture of double standards in Nigeria. Launching the report, he accused Shell, AGIP and other oil companies of reaping environmental devastation upon the people of Bayelsa and of ignoring their pleas for assistance.

Read the full article here.

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Bishop joins rally at Wisconsin Capitol for gun safety bills that GOP leaders promptly ignore

sex, 08/11/2019 - 15:21

Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller speaks at a rally at Wisconsin’s Capitol in Madison in favor of two gun safety bills. Photo: WisconsinEye via video

[Episcopal News Service] Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller was among a handful of Wisconsin gun safety advocates who spoke Nov. 7 at the state Capitol in Madison in favor of pending legislation – two bills that state Republican leaders promptly ignored before closing the day’s brief legislative sessions without debate.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, had called the special legislative session for the Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Republicans, to consider measures that would implement universal background checks for gun purchases and a “red flag” system allowing judges to approve the temporary seizure of guns from individuals suspected of posing threats to the public.

Miller, a founding convener of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, spoke before the legislative session at a news conference organized by a coalition of groups, including the Wisconsin Council of Churches, Mothers Against Gun Violence, March for Our Lives and Forward Latino.

“We are here, as Episcopalians, because we believe in the dignity of every human being. And the dignity of every human being includes keeping people safe,” Miller said, describing Evers’ legislation as “common sense” measures that have Wisconsin citizens’ widespread support.

He and other advocates of the bills point to the results of an August poll by the Marquette University Law School that found 80 percent of voters in the state support background checks for private gun purchases and gun show sales, and 81 percent back red flag laws.

“This government must take a vote. We deserve to know where our legislators stand on this issue since 80 percent of us support it,” Miller said. He spoke for about two minutes at the beginning of the 25-minute news conference, which was streamed online by WisconsinEye.

Republican leaders were required by law to convene a session on the legislation based on Evers’ request, but they were not required to act on it. Instead, the Assembly and the Senate each met Nov. 7 for mere seconds before adjourning.

The Wisconsin Senate’s special session on guns starts and ends in approximately 30 seconds. pic.twitter.com/vXymsBxf8H

— Patrick Marley (@patrickdmarley) November 8, 2019

“There’s just not any momentum in the caucus to take up either one of the bills that the governor has offered,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Episcopal Church has for decades advocated stricter regulations on gun ownership and improved gun safety. General Convention’s most recent actions, in 2018, included a call for greater study of gun violence as a public health crisis. Another resolution paved the way for the church to buy stocks in gun manufacturers to implement new shareholder advocacy strategies.

Bishops United, a network of about 80 Episcopal bishops, also has pressed for federal legislation. Some of the bishops traveled to Washington, D.C., in February to meet with lawmakers on the issue. While they were on Capitol Hill, the Democrat-led House passed a background check bill that has since languished in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Miller did not participate in those lawmaker visits earlier this year, but he has been active in Bishops United since the network was created in the wake of the December 2012 massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Two other deadly shootings had occurred months earlier in suburban Milwaukee, at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield.

In a radio interview Nov. 7 before the news conference, Miller cited the salon shooting in October 2012 as a grim example of the need for a more comprehensive background check law. In that attack, the shooter killed his wife, two of her coworkers and himself with a gun he had purchased in an online sale after being turned away by a gun store.

Miller also highlighted the rising problem of suicide by firearm, especially in rural Wisconsin. The proposed legislation, he said, promises to help alleviate that strain of gun violence, which claims hundreds of lives in the state each year.

“This is an opportunity to care for one another, I think, in a significant way,” Miller told the Between the Lines show. “We know that these laws will save lives, and I don’t know why an elected representative would not want to save the lives of his or her citizens.”

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

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Absalom Jones Center to launch social justice project named for Bishop Barbara Harris

qui, 07/11/2019 - 17:42

Retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris leads the Diocese of Massachusetts in singing hymns during its 2014 electing convention. Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Diocese of Massachusetts

[Episcopal News Service] The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, an initiative of the Diocese of Atlanta that has served the past two years as a resource supporting The Episcopal Church’s racial reconciliation work, is about to expand its scope, and it will do so in the name of one of the church’s most heralded bishops.

On Nov. 16, the Episcopal educational center will launch the Bishop Barbara C. Harris Justice Project to strengthen the church’s efforts to address environmental injustice, health inequities, mass incarceration, the death penalty, inhumane immigration policies and other social justice issues.

Harris became the first female bishop in the Anglian Communion when she was consecrated as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989. Now retired at age 89, she continues to be an inspiration to Episcopalians and an example of faithful commitment to justice work, making her a natural choice for this honor, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright said.

Harris is able to “thread the needle” of being both kind and candid, Wright told Episcopal News Service, exemplifying “how to talk in terms of inequity and to talk in terms of justice and where we’ve missed building relationships of Christian affection.” She has spoken forcefully on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation while remaining personable and affable, Wright said, “and you just don’t see that every day.”

Retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts.

Harris is scheduled to join the ceremonies next week in Atlanta, which will include a forum discussion, a commemorative dinner and a worship service, with Wright preaching, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

The day will be both a celebration of Harris’ life and the starting point for the new justice project named for her.

“She totally embodies what this work is about, in her own journey and the way she has been living her life in the world as an advocate for justice and her courageousness and her trailblazing spirit,” said Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Atlanta-based Absalom Jones Center, which is located across the street from Morehouse College.

Meeks analogizes the Harris Justice Project as the center “spreading its wings.” So far, the center has assembled online resources, organized events, developed curricula, and led classes and a pilgrimage intended to help Episcopalians and Episcopal clergy members reckon with their own racial biases and need for healing, in the context of The Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community framework. Meeks sees the next step as connecting that spiritual journey to the outside world.

“The idea is that the justice project will be kind of the outreach arm of the center. A lot of our work has been focused on healing and inner work and we will continue doing that, but we are also getting ready to expand ourselves,” Meeks said in an interview with ENS. “Now that you’ve had some opportunity to heal, what do you do next?”

Much of the center’s ongoing racial healing work will build on the example of an inaugural pilgrimage that brought 20 Episcopal priests and deacons to Atlanta in May. The participants were selected from all 20 dioceses in the church’s Province IV, which encompasses all or part of nine states in the Southeast. Future pilgrimages will draw from a broader pool of participants, and the center hopes clergy members will return to their dioceses and parishes and mobilize Episcopalians to start their own journeys toward racial healing.

They also will be encouraged to consider how their faith calls them to work for justice on a range of social issues, Meeks said, because she thinks “racism is at the core of all those issues.”

Starting with a focus on the environment, the Harris Justice Project is developing a course curriculum that will debut in the new year. The curriculum will highlight ways that environmental risks tend to disproportionally affect minority communities and people of color, especially in less-affluent neighborhoods, Meeks said.

The Episcopal Church has endorsed such work through its General Convention, which in 2015 passed a resolution opposing environmental racism, “expressed in such ways as the locating of extraction, production, and disposal industries where they disproportionately harm neighborhoods inhabited by people of color and low income communities.” That resolution echoed a similar measure passed in 2000 that raised concerns about “the practice of locating polluting industries disproportionately near neighborhoods inhabited by people of color or the poor.”

Racist roots of unjust environmental policies stem from “the ways in which we’ve constructed this country on ideas of supremacy, on ideas of some people are better than others,” Meeks said.

She also knows that the people who come to the center’s classes bring a wide range of attitudes about race and society. Sometimes, it’s important for diverse groups first to unite around the basic Christian principle that “everybody on the planet is an equal person,” Meeks said. “That’s a starting place.”

Wright sees the Absalom Jones Center’s mission as “increasing people’s capacity to have more courageous conversations,” with the hope that they will replicate those conversations when they return to their families, communities and congregations. It helps to spotlight people like Harris who have embodied that work.

“Bishop Harris has been a courageous communicator, someone who has tried to create a brave space … as bishop and even beyond that,” Wright said.

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

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With elections one year away, Office of Government Relations prepares to launch civic engagement initiatives

qui, 07/11/2019 - 16:10

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is preparing for a contentious election season. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Nov. 3 marked the one-year countdown to the U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is gearing up for a year that’s expected to see even more vitriol in public discourse than the rancorous 2016 election brought. And as debates over the church’s role in politics have intensified, so have OGR’s efforts to facilitate civil, respectful discussions about political issues across partisan boundaries.

The Office of Government Relations, based in Washington, D.C., directly across the street from the Capitol and the Supreme Court, exists to advocate for policy positions based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions. It also educates and engages Episcopalians on those policy positions through the Episcopal Public Policy Network, which sends out action alerts for those looking for opportunities to get involved.

Over the past few years, OGR has been busy in the halls of Congress representing the church’s positions on a wide variety of specific issues, from refugee resettlement to drilling in the Arctic to gerrymandering to gun control and many more. As the election approaches, it’s focusing on ways that people can engage with these issues in a productive way, cast informed votes and ensure fair representation in Congress.

In addition to its usual advocacy work, OGR is “kicking off a civic engagement initiative that we’re breaking down into three parts,” said Alan Yarborough, OGR’s church relations officer.

The first part focuses on the 2020 Census, which will take place in the spring. The Episcopal Church is an official partner of the Census, which means OGR is working directly with the U.S. Census Bureau “to encourage people to take the census because we want the count to be as accurate as possible,” Yarborough told Episcopal News Service.

Census data is used to determine how government funds and services are distributed, so an accurate census count is necessary to ensure fair representation in government.

“The U.S. Census has profound impacts on not just our electoral system, but also how over 100 federal programs, and many other state and local initiatives, allocate funding and other resources to best serve the population,” Yarborough explained. And frequently, the groups needing those resources most are the hardest to count.

“Evidence shows that faith-based communities often have some of the closest connections to communities that are hard to count,” Yarborough said, which is why the Census Bureau is working with The Episcopal Church and other religious groups to spread the word. Within the next few weeks, OGR will start releasing an educational series on the census, explaining why it’s important and how it will work.

The second part is election engagement, which has long been a component of OGR’s work. This includes resources like the Vote Faithfully Toolkit, a guide for congregations that covers registering voters, getting voters to the polls and advocating for voting rights. It’s not a primer on specific issues or candidates, and OGR emphasizes that it is an entirely nonpartisan endeavor. The IRS prohibits churches and other nonprofit organizations from campaigning for or against particular candidates. However, churches are allowed to involve their members in advocating for policies they support, and to help them get registered to vote.

“The U.S. election is a chance to participate in our democratic process to elect officials that reflect the values we want our society to hold,” Yarborough told ENS.

The toolkit also offers liturgical resources that can be incorporated into a service to remind people of the moral importance of voting and allow for prayerful consideration of the topics at hand. The 2020 version of the Vote Faithfully Toolkit will also be released within the next few weeks, Yarborough said.

The third part is a new and expanded multi-week curriculum on civil discourse. Last year, recognizing how difficult it has become to have a political discussion in good faith with someone who holds different views, OGR developed a five-week group workshop that creates a framework for productive dialogue. Grounded in prayer and Scripture, the curriculum establishes an environment of mutual respect and guides participants through political discussions in ways that foster learning and understanding, rather than the kind of divisive, emotional arguments that have become more common.

“Civil discourse is a key component of our engagement in 2020. We want to equip Episcopalians, and all people, to be able to engage across political differences, especially with our fellow parishioners and community members,” Yarborough said. “We hope that the civil discourse curriculum can help Episcopalians to listen, to be aware of how their own messages are heard, and to allow us all to enrich our own thinking about different political perspectives and policy proposals.”

In OGR’s dealings with politicians, the response to its civil discourse efforts has been encouraging.

“The Office of Government Relations is well placed in the church to help us to speak across political difference,” the Rev. C.K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church, told ENS. “In our meetings with legislators and policymakers in Washington, we have heard and seen the need for civil discourse. And we know that need extends across the country where many of our parishes and communities are already engaged in this crucial work.”

The new civil discourse curriculum will be an expanded version of last year’s, plus a few advanced sections, such as a training for facilitators. There will also be a video version and an online platform that allows individuals to take the course on their own, rather than as part of a parish group.

Although part of the idea behind the civil discourse curriculum is that it’s a framework that people of all political persuasions can unite behind, there has been some pushback on the concept of “civility” itself. On social media, some Episcopalians have reacted negatively, arguing that calls for civility are not an effective way to respond to an administration and political movement that embrace lies and white supremacist ideology and make threats of civil war.

Yarborough says he understands that view but draws a distinction between civil discourse and the mere idea of civility.

“We focus on civil discourse because it is useful when we are already in – or want to be in – conversation with our neighbors. It doesn’t apply in all circumstances, and it doesn’t mean we stop advocating for justice in all the ways we can. Civil discourse is a tool, and like any tool, it’s appropriate for certain applications. It’s not a prescription for solving any and every disagreement or injustice, but it is useful for leveraging our diversity in thought, perspective and identity to give us the best shot at solving problems in our society.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Canadian priest’s study finds gratitude can fight loneliness

qua, 06/11/2019 - 17:48

[Anglican Journal] Prayers and other expressions of gratitude may hold significant potential in making people feel less lonely, a small study by a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada suggests.

Last summer and fall, the Rev. Eric Partridge, rector at the Anglican Church of St. Andrew in Sidney, British Columbia, paired six research volunteers from the church’s pastoral care team with six senior parishioners. Team members measured both their own and the seniors’ levels of loneliness using an assessment system employed by loneliness researchers (the UCLA Loneliness Scale) as well as a “narrative” assessment based on conversation between the volunteers and seniors. Then they met six times over the next 14 weeks to perform gratitude practices together. When researchers and seniors were assessed again at the end of the 14 weeks, all of the seniors and some of the researchers showed reduced levels of loneliness. The study also assessed participants’ levels of gratitude before and after the 14 weeks, Partridge says, and found similar results.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal Church ‘still in’ despite Trump administration’s withdrawal from Paris climate pact

ter, 05/11/2019 - 16:54

Members of the House of Bishops pose for a photo on Sept. 20, the final day of their fall meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, behind a banner supporting creation care. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Trump administration announced on Nov. 4 that it would withdraw the United States from the global climate pact known as the “Paris agreement” within a year, but that won’t affect The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the agreement’s goal of stopping or slowing climate change.

“The Episcopal Church considers climate action part of fulfilling a sacred trust from God,” California Bishop Marc Andrus said in a written statement reacting to the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw, which he called “an irresponsible move that particularly threatens some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Andrus, who has led Episcopal delegations in recent years to annual climate summits hosted by the United Nations, warned that delays in addressing climate change could produce catastrophic scenarios in both the short and long term. The hardest-hit communities “will continue to suffer the tragic effects of wildfires, sea level rise, heat waves, and other climate-related disasters,” he wrote.

An Episcopal delegation was in Paris, France, in December 2015 to make a spiritual case for climate action during the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP. At that conference, member countries, including the United States, reached a landmark agreement to set voluntary goals aimed at keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists think would be necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

The COP23 summit in 2017 was intended to build on the Paris agreement, but the agreement’s effectiveness was thrown into doubt when President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the accord rather than hold the United States to its pledge to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The Episcopal Church responded by joining the We Are Still In movement, a coalition of faith partners, governments, nongovernmental organizations and companies committed to continuing to work toward the Paris agreement’s goals.

Environmental justice is one of the church’s three main priorities, along with racial reconciliation and evangelism. Over the years, General Convention has passed numerous resolutions on the issue, whether supporting federal climate action or pledging to mitigate the church’s own impact on the environment.

In 2018, General Convention approved a resolution titled “Episcopalians Participating in Paris Climate Agreement” that called on Episcopalians and congregations to set examples “in the spirit of the Paris Climate Accord, by making intentional decisions about living lightly and gently on God’s good earth.”

Some of those individual decisions were collected by The Episcopal Church last spring through the church’s Creation Care Pledge, which coincided with Easter and Earth Day 2019. More than 1,000 people pledged to take steps to improve the environment and reduce their contributions to climate change.

California Bishop Marc Andrus, right, participates in a panel discussion in December 2018 at the United States Climate Action Center during COP24 in Poland. Photo: Lynnaia Main

Andrus’ diocese also has taken the lead in developing the online Carbon Tracker for Episcopalians to record and visualize the impact of their efforts. The diocese has nearly completed development of the tracker, and more than 800 households have participated so far in the test phase.

“For us, climate action means commitment to personal and local community transformation, advocacy for the best climate and environmental policies, and standing with those who are already experiencing the deep pain of climate-related displacement and loss,” Andrus said.

In 2016, The Episcopal Church was granted U.N. observer status, which allows members of the delegation to brief U.N. representatives on The Episcopal Church’s General Convention climate resolutions and to attend meetings in the official zone. Most recently, Andrus led a delegation representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to the COP24 summit in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The United Nations’ COP25 summit had been scheduled for Dec. 2-13 in Santiago, Chile, but the country was forced to withdraw as host because of civil unrest tied to Chilean student protests over rail fares. Instead, the summit will be held in Madrid, Spain.

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

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Central New York priest under investigation for alleged financial misconduct

ter, 05/11/2019 - 16:10

[Episcopal News Service] An upstate New York priest accused of financial misconduct is now being investigated by law enforcement, according to the Diocese of Central New York, which announced on Oct. 31 that it had turned over the results of its own investigation to police.

The Rev. Joell Szachara. Photo: Diocese of Central New York

The Rev. Joell Szachara had been serving as the rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in New Hartford, New York, but resigned at the direction of Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, the diocese said in late September. At that time, Duncan-Probe placed Szachara on administrative leave, restricting her from engaging in ministry, while a forensic audit was conducted on the finances of St. Stephen’s.

With the audit complete, the diocese – which did not specify the type of financial wrongdoing Szachara has been accused of – referred the case to law enforcement as it continues its own investigation through the Title IV disciplinary process, Duncan-Probe wrote in an Oct. 31 letter to the clergy and wardens of her diocese.

“In this diocese, we have a shared commitment to transparency and accountability, acting in ways that honor the sacred trust of being a community of faith,” Duncan-Probe wrote. “While there may be times when that trust is betrayed, together we will do the hard work of holding one another accountable, repenting, and seeking forgiveness, praying to ‘live lives worthy of our calling.’”

Szachara, who served St. Stephen’s for over a decade, has held several prominent positions in her diocese and The Episcopal Church. She was a deputy at three General Conventions and served on various General Convention committees, in addition to the board of the Diocese of Central New York and several diocesan committees.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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UTO matching grant aims to help build Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago de Compostela

seg, 04/11/2019 - 18:00

In October, 19 Episcopalians took part in United Thank Offering Pilgrims on the Camino, a pilgrimage organized by UTO and the Diocese of Northern Indiana to raise awareness for a proposed Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Santiago de Compostela, Spain] Dawn Baity shared stories, tears, laughter, meals and lodging with fellow pilgrims along her 32-day walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, but when she arrived at St. James’ Cathedral in the heart of the medieval city and joined hundreds of fellow pilgrims for Mass, she couldn’t share in the Eucharist.

“You’re there at the cathedral and you’re hearing about all the countries represented by the pilgrims that arrived in Santiago that day and you’re all worshipping together in this absolutely beautiful Mass, and it’s a Mass of welcome. Then they get to Communion, and you are basically disinvited from the table,” said Baity, who finished her solo walk along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela’s popular 500-mile French Way on Nov. 1, 2018, All Saints’ Day.

Nancy Mead, vice president of the board of the Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago, left, and Edie Morrill, right, the board’s treasurer, stand outside the three-story building proposed for the center, which is located just inside the old city directly on the route to the Cathedral of St. James. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

A year later, Baity has left her Chicago home and a full-time grant-writing position to become an Episcopal Church volunteer in mission serving the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, from its base in Madrid. Part of her job is to assist the Spanish church in its plan to build an Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago de Compostela, a place where all pilgrims can share in the Eucharist and where women clergy can preside at the table.

“An Anglican center that’s ecumenical is an alternative where people can come and worship, continue that spirit of community and be invited to receive Communion; it’s the invitation that’s the important part,” said Baity, who is a member of Chicago’s St. James Cathedral. “The center is not designed to exclude anyone. It is truly a place of welcome for everyone.”

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or “the Way of St. James” is one of Christianity’s oldest networks of pilgrimage routes, stretching across Europe and converging at the tomb of St. James the Greater, known as the patron saint of Spain, as well as of pilgrims and laborers.

A dozen years ago, the Spanish Episcopal Church began receiving phone calls from pilgrims across the Anglican Communion and other Protestant churches who were asking for help with everything from lodging to replacing lost passports, said Bishop Carlos López Lozano, who was consecrated bishop of Spain in 1995.

“We discovered that thousands of youth pilgrims are from the Protestant churches and that they really need something,” he said, while seated in a café in Santiago de Compostela not far from the three-story building in mind for the Anglican Pilgrim Centre. “And we started to offer them spiritual support.

“In the Roman Catholic Church they are very clear that they do not give Communion to non-Roman Catholics,” López explained. “At the end of the pilgrims’ Mass at the cathedral in Santiago, in five languages – English, French, German, Spanish and Galician – they say, ‘Remember before you take Communion, you must go through confession and fast for two hours. If you are not Catholic, please do not take Communion because Communion is not for you.’”

Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, right, and Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks preside over a Eucharist at the Church of Santa Susana, a Roman Catholic church used by special arrangement with the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Last year, 327,378 pilgrims – the majority on foot and split 50-50 male and female – traveled the length of one route or some section of the Camino de Santiago. Forty-four percent were Spaniards, followed in order by large numbers of Italians, Germans and Americans and including another 173 nationalities, according to official statistics.

The United Thank Offering pilgrims pose for a group photo on the start of the third day.

The massive Cathedral of St. James – also called the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – normally hosts at least one pilgrims’ Mass daily, though as it undergoes a major restoration, the location and frequency have changed. And, given the archdiocese’s friendly relationship with López, it has offered the cathedral’s Chapel of St. Andrew to the Spanish Episcopal Church to hold its own Mass, López said. Still, so as not to offend, women cannot preside. But beyond that, the church found that pilgrims need at last two days after completing the walk to reflect on their spiritual journey.

“We were thinking there must be an Anglican place in Santiago de Compostela for pilgrims to give them the opportunity to have a safe space where they can stay for one or two days to reflect on their spiritual life at the end of the pilgrimage,” López said.

Four years ago, a group calling itself Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago began working alongside López to lay the groundwork for the center. This year, the United Thank Offering has joined the effort. UTO has set aside $60,000 in matching funds for the 2020 grant cycle. To date, $23,594 has been raised. The total cost for the center is estimated at $5 million.

In October, 31 Episcopalians traveled to Spain for a 10-day pilgrimage organized by UTO in coordination with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana through Corazon Travel.

Just after arrival, the larger group split into two: A dozen people traveled by bus with López to discover how UTO helped the church rebuild after the death of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, work that continues today. The second and larger group set off to walk the final 62 miles of the Camino from Sarria-Portomarín to Santiago de Compostela.

Dawn Baity reaching the “minimum required distance” to receive the Camino de Santiago de Compostela certificate. Last year, Baity completed the entire 500-mile distance along the popular French Way. Photo: Michael Donnoe

Like Baity, who last year set out on her own to walk the Camino, Nancy Mead first set out alone to walk the Camino 20 years ago and since then makes an annual pilgrimage.

“One of the things on the Camino is you bring a stone that’s a symbol of a burden or sadness, and you leave it at the face of this cross … this whole idea of weight and shedding weight and leaving the sorrow,” said Mead, who serves as vice president of the Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago.

Not everyone can take a month or six weeks away from work and family to make a pilgrimage, and not everyone can do it alone or has the physical ability to walk the Camino in its entirety. For that reason, the UTO pilgrims set out to walk the last length of the journey as a group.

“We just became a community immediately with the older ones caring for the younger ones and the ones who could walk better cared for the ones who couldn’t,” said the Rev. Michelle Walker, UTO’s associate staff officer. “The pro to being in the group is the pleasure of having other people that you know, that you see along the way, that help you that encourage you, that you also get to help and encourage. The camaraderie, to be honest, got me out of bed on mornings when I just might not have because after the first couple days of walking, you feel it.”

At the base of a tall stone cross on the Camino de Santiago near Palas de Rei, many pilgrims have left offerings of stones, flowers, acorns, photos, coins and cards, along with their wishes, dreams and prayers. Photo: Michael Donnoe

Along the way, Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks shared conversations with people about their lives, struggles and burdens. “It was an opportunity to listen, to walk along the road and say, ‘Gosh, you know, that’s happened in my life,’ or ‘That’s how God called me, or got my attention,’” he said.

Northern Indiana Bishop Doug Sparks successfully navigates the stepping stones to cross a river along the Camino de Santiago. Photo: Michelle Walker

Sparks brought some of his own burdens and concerns, as well as those of the people he serves at home. He said the 62-mile walk was difficult, taking attention and focus, and that he spent a lot of time in thought and silent prayer.

“I decided I was going to pray the rosary every day for the people among whom I serve because the rhythm and pattern of walking is that rhythm and pattern of prayer,” said Sparks. “It was also a time I was thinking, you know, this is the way the Gospel was spread. … Jesus sent the apostles and they walked, and when they got to the ocean, they got on a boat and then they walked to the next place.

“And whether or not you believe in all the traditions and such, the reality is, the way the Gospel was spread throughout the world was through people walking.”

One of Jesus’ 12 disciples, St. James is said to have brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula following Jesus’ crucifixion. Later, upon his return to Judea in A.D. 44, he was beheaded by King Herod.

Religious pilgrimages have played a role in all religious traditions – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, paganism – and in the Christian tradition dating back to the second and third centuries.

The day the Episcopal pilgrims arrived at Santiago, they paid a visit to the cathedral and joined the long line of visitors and pilgrims to touch St. James’ tomb, but it wasn’t until the following day that they worshipped together at the Church of Santa Susana, a Roman Catholic church in Alameda Park, and shared the Eucharist, again by special arrangement with the archdiocese.

UTO board member Caitlyn Darnell took a photo of her hiking boots as the first “official steps” of her journey along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is a symbol of direction along the Camino and is also worn as a sign of camaraderie. Photo: Caitlyn Darnell

For Caitlyn Darnell, a UTO board member and a candidate for ordination in the Diocese of North Carolina, coming together at the table was an important part of the journey, akin to “laying one’s heart on the altar in joy.”

“Walking the Camino was so emotional in ways I don’t think I fully appreciated. … I can’t imagine having arrived here and not having the opportunity to take the Eucharist because walking a pilgrimage is a metaphor for what we’re doing on this earthly journey. We’re walking together, we’re struggling, but we’re holding each other in joy and in community as we’re pushing toward that heavenly city on the other side of this life,” said Darnell. “To not have the opportunity to give thanks for what Christ did so that we would have the opportunity to be with him on the other side … it seems absurd.”

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

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