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The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
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Presiding Bishop joins other Christian leaders opposing Trump’s proposed cuts to social services

sex, 21/02/2020 - 19:07

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has added his signature to an open letter from a group of Christian leaders expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to social welfare programs. In the Feb. 11 letter, Curry and 12 other members of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of leaders from various denominations and institutions, asked Trump and Congress “to maintain adequately funded safety net programs that provide help and opportunity for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

The group took issue with proposals and policies from the administration intended to reduce the number of Americans relying on government assistance programs for low-income people. Among the proposals they singled out in the letter were changes to eligibility for food stamps and free or reduced-price school meals, work requirements for Medicaid, changes in how the poverty line is calculated and evictions of families with undocumented members from public housing.

The coalition also criticized Trump’s proposed federal budget, released on Feb. 10, which The Washington Post reported “would pursue hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid and also seek reductions in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, while wringing some savings from Medicare despite Trump’s repeated promises to safeguard the program for older Americans.”

“We support the goal of helping Americans move from poverty to financial independence,” the letter stated. “But some of the administration’s policy changes and proposed cuts in funding for low-income programs are likely to add to the hunger, poverty, and economic insecurity which are already far too widespread in our country.

“We can do better,” the group wrote, citing Jesus’ mandate to care for the poor in Matthew 25:31-46, and invited Trump to respond to their concerns.

Read the full letter here.

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‘The soul of our country’: A conversation with the Presiding Bishop on his Lenten call for prayer and fasting

qui, 20/02/2020 - 18:13

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City, Utah] Read Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s 2020 Lenten message and you may notice something different from previous years. For one thing, the tone is noticeably solemn, with phrases like “profound division,” “genuine crisis of national character” and “great national concern and urgency.”

But there’s also an invitation from Curry to join him and a group of other Christian leaders in weekly fasting on behalf of the United States as it grapples with “violence, discord, and confusion,” in the words of the Prayer for Our Nation found in the Book of Common Prayer, which Curry invokes in his message.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 15, 2020. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Curry and the same group of diverse leaders from evangelical, mainline Protestant and Catholic churches released the “Reclaiming Jesus” statement in 2018. This year, in light of what they see as a worsening political and cultural crisis in the U.S., those leaders are committing to fast every Wednesday from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) until Advent.

But why fasting? And why now? Episcopal News Service sat down with Curry at the Executive Council meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 15 to talk about what led to this statement and invitation. The conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ENS: Many people today have come to see fasting as a sort of archaic form of self-punishment. What does fasting mean to you?

There are a lot of ways that people can fast. Abstinence, giving up something, is a modified form of fasting. Some people fast by giving up food – but you drink water, no matter what – until sunset, and then there’s just the 24-hour fast.

Part of fasting is a spiritual practice that, when I’ve done it, makes me realize how dependent I am on the habits that I have. We need food to live – that’s not the question. I’m more dependent on the excess that is beyond what is necessary for living. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that! So it is not punishment; it’s just kind of a calling back to what is essential, both biologically and spiritually. What do you really need to live? And that is quite liberating.

ENS: What does it mean to fast in the context of prayer and repentance? How does fasting connect with the political situation in the U.S. right now?

We are in a desperate situation right now when we are often failing to learn how to live together with difference. And this has nothing to do with partisan politics. This is bigger than that. Democracy depends on the human capacity for relationship. If those relationships aren’t there on some fundamental level, the very fabric of the democracy’s not going to hold. That is a house divided against itself. And Jesus said it before Lincoln quoted it: “A house divided against itself will not stand.” And that is not about where you stand on issues. That’s deeper. That is a deeper spiritual, relational reality. How do you get a toehold on that? That is a spiritual issue, and it’s going to take some spiritual engagement.

When I was in conversation with some of the other [Reclaiming Jesus] leaders, I said, “Let’s do this even if we don’t get a big following. Let’s do it anyway.” Especially about the fasting part. The people who were in that group are Republicans and Democrats and independents. I mean, it’s a mix. And there’s a lot of stuff we don’t agree on. But we’re all Christian and we’re clear about that. Where we agreed was that our nation is in spiritual trouble. So we have to claim spiritual resources that help us engage that. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a first step. Fasting is in the biblical tradition – not just in the Christian tradition but other traditions as well. It goes back to Judaism, to be sure, but it’s in other religions – prayer and fasting in times of real and great peril, where divisions are deep. Gandhi sometimes fasted to stop violence between Hindus and Muslims. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it did.

There’s something about the fast where you put more of yourself out there than just talking to God about it. I can’t do everything, but this is a little something I can do. And it’s a reminder to me of how serious this is. I don’t think I’ve ever before prayed and fasted during Lent with a particular intention in mind before. But I’ve always done it as a spiritual practice. I grew up doing that.

ENS: It’s typically thought of as an inward practice, but you’re saying it can lead to an outward change, right?

Yes. When the group was talking, people kept looking for solutions. We didn’t have any. What do we do in this situation? And so part of fasting is a cleansing – biologically, too – but then there’s a cleansing to open us up to hear the Spirit. How do we help each other through this? And I don’t have those answers, but I believe in a God who does.

ENS: Is this the first time the Reclaiming Jesus group has made a specific invitation for prayer and fasting for national unity?

Yes, it was really specific. I think the last time we did it, it was a more general thing. This time, our nation is in peril. I’ve not seen it like this. And this is not about the president. This is not about the Democrats. Something is fundamentally wrong. We need God. God’s not gonna do it for us, but God will do it with us. And this is one profound way – a fast day a week throughout Lent, for example, or for the rest of the liturgical year – to actually pray for this country.

In the U.S., we pretty much live in areas where people are like us or think like us. Some of that is racial, but it’s bigger than that. America has resegregated in a new form: people who agree with me. There’s no real conversation. There’s no relationship going on. Even the sources of information that we get are segregated. That means you don’t have the capacity to recognize where you have differences and where you have common ground.

So that’s why, I mean, I’m almost pleading with Episcopalians – get on your knees. And if your knees can’t take it, if you just had a knee replacement, get on a metaphorical knee and pray. And if you’re not the kind of person who’s comfortable praying off the cuff, that’s why I took a prayer right out of the prayer book. There are some good prayers in there! God’s not looking for you to put on a show. He just wants you to pray. Take this Lent and really pray for the soul of our country. Not that we will be greater than anybody else – pray for the soul of our country.

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

The post ‘The soul of our country’: A conversation with the Presiding Bishop on his Lenten call for prayer and fasting appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Los primados de la Iglesia Episcopal y de la Iglesia Anglicana de México firman acuerdo bilateral

qui, 20/02/2020 - 11:33

El obispo primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry, a la derecha, y el arzobispo Francisco Moreno de la Iglesia Anglicana de México firman un acuerdo bilateral, que hace entrar de hecho a las dos iglesias en una relación recíproca, en una eucaristía especial celebrada en la iglesia episcopal de San Juan, en Chula Vista, California, el 16 de febrero. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Chula Vista, California] El domingo 16 de febrero, el obispo primado Michael Curry y el arzobispo Francisco Moreno, primados en representación de la Iglesia Episcopal y la Iglesia Anglicana de México, respectivamente, firmaron un acuerdo bilateral que de hecho hace entrar a las dos iglesias en una relación recíproca.

“Este es un día magnífico y puede que no cause revuelo en los medios de prensa, pero sienta la pauta de que [para] personas que viven juntas en América, personas que comparten una frontera común, personas que siguen el camino de Jesús —que siguen en esto a Jesús— no hay ninguna frontera que nos divida”, dijo Curry durante un período de reflexión en el oficio. “Dios creó la tierra; los seres humanos crearon la frontera. Y así, como dice el viejo himno, ‘Oeste y este en Cristo no hay, no hay norte o sur en él… en él los suyos por doquier encuentran comunión.’

“Es esta comunión de amor que sigue las huellas de Jesús la que nos reúne en este día y en Jesucristo nuestra amistad se profundiza y perdurará. En Cristo no hay fronteras”.

El acuerdo marca una transición en las relaciones entre las dos iglesias, que se remonta a 1875. En un momento, la Iglesia en México fue parte de la IX Provincia, que comprende las diócesis de la Iglesia Episcopal en América Latina y el Caribe. En 1984, la Iglesia Anglicana en México suscribió un acuerdo de pacto con la Iglesia Episcopal y se convirtió en una provincia autónoma de la Comunión Anglicana. El pacto, que incluía un estipendio mientras la Iglesia en México se esforzaba por alcanzar la independencia económica, caducó a fines de 2019.

El obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, y el arzobispo Francisco Moreno se abrazan luego de la firma de un acuerdo bilateral entre la Iglesia Episcopal y la Iglesia Anglicana de México. El acuerdo bilateral reemplaza un pacto de 25 años entre las dos iglesias y las hace entablar una relación recíproca. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“El pacto de 25 años llega a su fin, pero la amistad continúa, es firme”, dijo Moreno en una entrevista con ENS. “Esta es una nueva era en la Provincia de México porque estamos iniciando un nuevo capítulo en nuestro crecimiento, como cultura, como nuestra propia idiosincrasia en nuestro propio país. Este [acuerdo] nos beneficia en gran medida porque nos ayuda a madurar en nuestra fe, y por mucho tiempo, hemos sido amigos allende la frontera. La Iglesia ahora mismo está profundamente comprometida con su autonomía. Está buscando medios de mantenerse y está buscando formas de continuar programas con sus propios recursos”.

La firma del acuerdo bilateral tuvo lugar durante una eucaristía especial que se celebró por la tarde en la iglesia episcopal de San Juan [St. John’s] en Chula Vista, una ciudad al sur de San Diego y ligeramente al norte de Tijuana y de la frontera entre EE.UU. y México. El lugar se escogió deliberadamente para llamar la atención sobre la presente crisis migratoria que se desarrolla en la frontera. El preámbulo del acuerdo reconoce que, pese a las dificultades políticas que enfrentan Estados Unidos y México, las dos iglesias  son llamadas a “compartir un ministerio de oración y colaboración mediante los dones y talentos que tenemos para ayudarnos en el crecimiento mutuo en el que hacemos patente el reino con nuestras acciones de justicia, paz y amor a través del servicio, la educación y la expansión del ministerio”.

A lo largo de la frontera entre EE.UU. y México, los episcopales y anglicanos proporcionan ayuda humanitaria a migrantes y solicitantes de asilo, brindándoles albergue, alimentos, atención sanitaria, asesoría legal y consejo pastoral. En los últimos dos años, en la medida en que migrantes y solicitantes de asilo han seguido llegando a la frontera, las dos iglesias han compartido recursos e información de manera creciente.

“Nuestras dos iglesias están vinculadas por una historia común. Compartimos una frontera. Básicamente vivimos en el mismo suelo. La frontera fue trazada por el hombre, no por Dios. Y en consecuencia, si bien somos dos pueblos, en verdad todos somos americanos, y  por tanto somos un pueblo en común”, dijo Curry durante una entrevista con ENS en el atrio de San Juan. “Es importante, creo yo, para los episcopales y para otros aquí en Estados Unidos, saber que, cualesquiera que sean las diferencias o problemas que nuestros gobierno[s] puedan tener, en Cristo no hay este ni oeste, que en él no hay norte ni sur.

“Y por tanto, nos damos las manos con nuestros hermanos y hermanas, nuestros amigos en Cristo, para realizar una labor de interés humanitario, para realizar una labor que ayude a corregir los errores hasta donde seamos capaces de hacerlo, nos damos las manos para seguir en el camino, en las enseñanzas de Jesús, porque sus enseñanzas y su camino pueden sobreponerse a las divisiones de la gente. Y si podemos hacer de eso un modelo, entonces tal vez nuestros gobiernos puedan, y ese es un mensaje que nuestro pueblo necesita y, confío que el pueblo de México también”.

Aunque simbólicos en gran medida, la eucaristía y la ceremonia de la firma del acuerdo hablan del actual compromiso de las dos iglesias de la Comunión Anglicana de un ministerio compartido, de luchar por la justicia y de reflejar la presencia de Dios en el mundo, dijo la Rda. Glenda McQueen, funcionaria encargada de la Iglesia Episcopal para América Latina y el Caribe.

“El acuerdo bilateral expresa nuestro deseo de estar juntos  según damos testimonio en el mundo. Las fronteras no nos dividen; las fronteras no nos separan; los muros no nos separan. El compromiso cristiano trasciende eso, y los cristianos han encontrado formas a través de la historia para responder al llamado de la justicia, el llamado a colaborar con los seres humanos y caminar con ellos en las diferentes etapas de sus vidas”, dijo McQueen en una entrevista con ENS. “Tal como dice el acuerdo en el preámbulo, ‘Aunque estos son tiempos de dificultades y de conflicto entre Estados Unidos y México, eso no detiene a la Iglesia’. Por el contrario, este es un momento en que la Iglesia es llamada a trabajar y a ser la Iglesia”.

La obispa de San Diego Susan Snook le da la bienvenida a los visitantes en la eucaristía del 16 de febrero que sella la firma del acuerdo bilateral entra la Iglesia Episcopal y la Iglesia Anglicana de México. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Un comité bilateral de 16 miembros, con 10 representantes de la Iglesia Anglicana de México y seis de la Iglesia Episcopal redactaron el acuerdo bilateral, que define la manera en que las dos iglesias compartirán recursos y mantendrán las relaciones existentes y crearán otras nuevas.

“Es fácil pensar solo en términos de nosotros mismos y meternos en nuestra pequeña pecera, pero el hecho es que somos parte de lo que posiblemente es el tercer grupo [confesional] de cristianos en todo el mundo, la Comunión Anglicana”, dijo el Rdo. Charles Robertson, canónigo del Obispo Primado para el ministerio fuera de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Este verano veremos a los obispos de todas las iglesias reunirse por invitación del arzobispo de Cantórbery para la Conferencia de Lambeth. Esto sólo sucede aproximadamente una vez cada década, y es un recordatorio para todas nuestras iglesias, a través de nuestros obispos, de que no estamos solos. … Hacemos juntos lo que sea necesario para promover la buena obra del Evangelio.”

Junto con Moreno, el Rdo. Efrén Velázquez Gutiérrez, secretario provincial de la Iglesia Anglicana de México, y el obispo de México Occidental, Ricardo Gómez Osnaya representaron a la Iglesia Anglicana de México.

Junto con Curry, Robertson y McQueen; el Rdo. David Copley, director de asociaciones globales y de personal en misión de la Iglesia; la obispa de San Diego, Susan Snook; la obispa de Arizona, Jennifer A. Reddall y el obispo de Río Grande, Michael Hunn, representaron a la Iglesia Episcopal.

– Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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Washington National Cathedral light show draws those who don’t normally visit church

qua, 19/02/2020 - 17:09

People sit on the floor of the Washington National Cathedral nave around Earth Music Effects musicians on Feb. 10, 2020, for a “Space, Light and Sound” show as part of Seeing Deeper Week at the cathedral. Photo: Adelle M. Banks/RNS

[Religion News Service — Washington, D.C.] Some people looked straight up, watching the lights and shadows crossing Washington National Cathedral’s neo-Gothic arches. Others stared directly ahead, listening intently to meditative world music emanating from a trio playing instruments from across the globe.

A child rocked to the gentle music and a man nodded to the beat as the altar was bathed in a background of purplish fog.

Over three 45-minute immersive sessions, “Space, Light and Sound,” part of the cathedral’s “Seeing Deeper Week” (Feb. 10-14), drew more than 2,000 people of several faiths, as well as the nonreligious and unaffiliated, including many grandchildren and grandparents of both groups.

With the cathedral’s nave emptied of the 1,400 chairs normally arranged in neat rows facing the altar, the crowd sat, stood or stretched out on the floor in the center of the nearly 500-foot-long space.

“A lot of people who would never come here for church come here for this, which is part of the point,” said Kevin Eckstrom, chief communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s cathedral, often the setting for funerals of state and rites for other national figures. After offering the show for free for three years, for the past two the cathedral has charged $10 per person to control the size of the crowds and help defray the cost of the event.

People sit on the floor of the Washington National Cathedral nave around Earth Music Effects musicians on Feb. 10, 2020, for a “Space, Light and Sound” show as part of Seeing Deeper Week at the cathedral. Photo: Adelle M. Banks/RNS

Nina Goodwine, 33, who describes herself as spiritual but not religious, said she normally wouldn’t darken the door of a cathedral but said that as a fan of art installations she decided to attend the first of the light- and sound-filled events on a rainy Monday night.

“I meditated for, like, two minutes while I was here when the music was playing, so for me there was a spiritual aspect to it,” said Goodwine, who learned about the event on Instagram and traveled half an hour from Takoma Park, Maryland. “I think just being in here, just the scale of everything with the color, it’s a spiritual experience, just looking at it.”

Jaiden Patel, a 9-year-old Hindu boy who attended the second session with his mother and grandmother, described it as the “best 30 bucks spent ever.”

“I thought I was just in a new world,” he marveled.

Michael Wright, an expert on the connections between religion and art, pointed out that, while shows like “Space, Light and Sound” have become a popular draw at cathedrals around the world in recent years, they are part of a millennia-long tradition of artists creating or interacting with religious spaces.

Across the world, cathedrals have welcomed people to see their spaces in a new light — both inside and out.

The exterior of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio has been the background for a video art installation that draws tourists. The facade of Notre Dame, the famed Parisian edifice that suffered a devastating fire last year, was lit up in 2017 to commemorate the centennial of World War I. Several English cathedrals, including Gloucester and Guildford, opened 2020 with immersive shows.

The Washington National Cathedral is illuminated on Feb. 10, 2020 for a “Space, Light and Sound” show as part of Seeing Deeper Week at the cathedral. Photo: Adelle M. Banks/RNS

Meanwhile, art aimed at inducing spiritual experiences has appeared outside sacred spaces. Wright is the head of communications for Bridge Projects, a new Los Angeles gallery that recently displayed Phillip K. Smith III’s “10 Columns,” in which mirrored panels simulated sunrises and sunsets in a mostly dark room, an effect visitors called “meditative.” Ellsworth Kelly’s free-standing structure “Austin” resembles a cathedral with stained glass “tumbling squares.”

“For me it’s exciting to see yet another example of churches waking up to the aesthetic possibilities of their own space and then the general public waking up to the spiritual qualities of art,” said Wright, who earned a master’s degree in theology and the arts from Fuller Theological Seminary. “I see in an experience like these light installations evidence that these worlds are remembering one another and kind of interpenetrating in new ways.”

The shows often highlight the artistry of the buildings themselves. Several evenings a week throughout the year, Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada, presents “Aura,” an immersive event that lights up its interior and fills it with an original soundtrack.

“We wanted to continue to reveal the richness of our basilica and continue to invite people to see and celebrate its beauty from another angle than the daily visit,” said Claudia Morissette, the basilica’s director. More than 215,000 people attended “Aura,” produced by Moment Factory, in 2019, compared to an average of 800,000 who visit each year for guided tours.

“Aura,” which costs 28 Canadian dollars per ticket, shows off the artwork and interior décor of the Catholic church as an experience in itself, as did a previous light show at the basilica, “Et la lumière fut” (“And then there was light”). “We like the idea of being inclusive with this experience in particular,” said Morissette, who said that people view the show in different ways. “I think it is half entertainment and half spiritual experience.”

An “Aura” presentation at Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Photo courtesy of Moment Factory

At Washington National Cathedral, attendees of “Space, Light and Sound” talked about how relaxing the 45 minutes were — a welcome break from traffic, dinner preparations and worries about next activities with their kids. One man who had removed his shoes for the show said he wouldn’t have to take his anxiety medication that night.

Couples held hands as musicians from Earth Music Effects played drums, along with wind instruments and seedpod rattles that evoked forest sounds like chirping birds and flowing water. A woman held her child in front of her as they listened and watched the lights, which were provided by Atmosphere Lighting.

Diane Pruitt, a Catholic who missed last year’s show because it had sold out, said the mixture of art in the cathedral broadened her appreciation for how such a sacred space could be used.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The combination of the laser show and the music was just unbelievable,” she said. “You’re in the cathedral, but here, it just changes the whole experience.”

Tim Whittemore, a musician from Earth Music Effects, plays a didgeridoo during the Washington National Cathedral’s “Space, Light and Sound” show on Feb. 10, 2020 as part of Seeing Deeper Week at the cathedral. Photo: Adelle M. Banks/RNS

This article was originally published by Religion News Service.

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Mexican churches act together to support families in their campaign for missing relatives

qua, 19/02/2020 - 16:28

Human rights activist Ana Sepulveda carries pieces of cloth with names of missing or killed people during a protest against violence in Mexico City on Jan. 26. Photo courtesy ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Mexico have joined forces to support families who are campaigning for the return of tens of thousands of missing people. The missing are victims of the increasing violence spurred on by drug cartels. Most are thought to have been killed.

A year ago, Mexico’s minister for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, told journalists that government estimates put the number of missing at 40,000. He said that the government knew of more than 1,100 secret graves and that local coroners had 26,000 unidentified corpses. The figures “give you an idea of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and the human rights violations we are dealing with,” he said.

Today it is estimated that some 60,000 people are missing, with more than 30,000 unidentified bodies in local morgues.

Read the entire article here.

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Church of Uganda stages 310-mile pilgrimage to commemorate martyred archbishop

qua, 19/02/2020 - 16:20

Pilgrims arrive in Kitgum, the burial site of Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was martyred in 1977. Photo courtesy ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of 76 pilgrims has walked the final journey of Archbishop Janani Luwum to commemorate his 1977 martyrdom. The pilgrimage began at the place of Archbishop Janani’s arrest, Namirembe, on Jan. 29 and ended in Mucwini in Kitgum, where he is buried, on Feb. 14. The journey was 500 kilometers long (approximately 310 miles).

The pilgrimage was organized by the Church of Uganda, but was open to all Christians who wanted to join. Former undersecretary-general of the United Nations and special representative for children and armed conflict Ambassador Olara Otunnu led the pilgrims to Kitgum.

Read the full article here.

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Primates of The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Mexico sign bilateral agreement

seg, 17/02/2020 - 18:03

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, and Anglican Church of Mexico Archbishop Francisco Moreno sign a bilateral agreement, effectively moving the two churches into a reciprocal relationship, at a special Eucharist held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chula Vista, California, on Feb. 16. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Leer el artículo en español aquí

[Episcopal News Service – Chula Vista, California] On Sunday, Feb. 16, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Francisco Moreno, primates representing The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Mexico, respectively, signed a bilateral agreement, effectively moving the two churches into a reciprocal relationship.

“This is a wonderful day and it may not make a splash in all the news media, but let the record note that peoples live together in the Americas, that people who share a common border, people who follow the way of Jesus – following in this Jesus – there is no border that divides us,” said Curry during a time for reflection in the service. “God created the land; human beings made the border. And so, as the old song says, ‘In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south, no north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide world.’

“It is this fellowship of love following in the footsteps of Jesus that brings us together this day, and in Jesus Christ our friendship grows deep and it will last long. In Christ there is no border.”

The agreement marks a transition in the relationship between the two churches, which dates to 1875. At one time, the church in Mexico was part of Province IX, which encompasses The Episcopal Church’s dioceses in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1994, the Anglican Church in Mexico entered into a covenant agreement with The Episcopal Church and became an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The covenant, which included a financial stipend as the church in Mexico worked toward financial independence, expired at the end of 2019.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, and Archbishop Francisco Moreno embrace following the signing of a bilateral agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Mexico. The bilateral agreement replaces a 25-year covenant between the two churches and brings them into a reciprocal relationship. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“The 25-year pact is coming to an end, but the friendship continues. It’s solid,” said Moreno in an interview with ENS. “This is a brand-new era in the Province of Mexico because we’re beginning a new chapter in our growth, as a culture, as our own idiosyncrasy in our own country. This [agreement] greatly benefits us because it helps us mature in our faith, and for the longest time, we’ve been friends across borders. The church right now is deeply committed to being autonomous. It’s looking for ways to provide for itself and to look for ways to continue programs with our own resources.”

The bilateral agreement’s signing took place during a special Eucharist held in the afternoon at St. John’s Episcopal Church here in Chula Vista, a city just south of San Diego and slightly north of Tijuana and the U.S.-Mexico border. The site was chosen intentionally to call attention to the ongoing migration crisis unfolding along the border. The agreement’s preamble recognizes that, despite the political difficulties facing the United States and Mexico, the two churches are called to “share a ministry of prayer and collaboration through the gifts and talents we have to help us in mutual growth where we reflect the kingdom with our actions of justice, peace and love through service, education and the expansion of ministry.”

All along the U.S.-Mexico border, Episcopalians and Anglicans are providing humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum-seekers by providing shelter, food, medical care, legal aid and pastoral counseling. In the last two years, as migrants and asylum-seekers have continued to arrive at the border, the two churches have increasingly shared resources and information.

“Our two churches are tied together by a common history. We share a border. We basically live in the same land. The border was drawn by man, not by God. And so, while we are two peoples, we actually are all Americans, and therefore we are a common people,” said Curry during an interview with ENS in St. John’s courtyard. “It’s important, I think, for Episcopalians and for others here in the United States to know that, whatever differences or issues our government may have, that in Christ there is no east nor west and in him no south, no north.

“And therefore, we join hands with our brothers and our sisters, our siblings, our friends in Christ, to do work of humanitarian concern, to do work that helps to right wrongs so far as we are able to do so, to join hands to follow in the way in the teachings of Jesus because his teachings and his way can overcome divisions of people. And if we can model that, then maybe our governments can, and that’s a message that our people need and, I trust, the people of Mexico as well.”

Though largely symbolic, the Eucharist and agreement’s signing ceremony speak to the two Anglican Communion churches’ ongoing commitment to shared ministry, the fight for justice and mirroring the presence of God in the world, said the Rev. Glenda McQueen, The Episcopal Church staff officer for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The bilateral agreement speaks about our desire to be together as we bear witness in the world. Borders don’t divide us; borders don’t separate us; walls do not separate us. The Christian commitment goes beyond that, and Christians have found ways throughout history to respond to the call for justice, the calling to work with human beings and to walk with them in the different stages of their lives,” said McQueen in an interview with ENS. “As the agreement says in the preamble, ‘Although these are times of difficulty and conflict between the United States and Mexico, that does not stop the church.’ On the contrary, this is a time when the church is called together to work and to be the church.”

San Diego Bishop Susan Snook welcomes guests to the Feb. 16 Eucharist marking the signing of The Episcopal Church’s and the Anglican Church of Mexico’s bilateral agreement. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

A 16-member bilateral committee with 10 representatives from the Anglican Church of Mexico and six from The Episcopal Church authored the bilateral agreement, which defines how the two churches will share resources and maintain existing relationships and form new ones.

“It’s easy to think just in terms of our own selves and kind of get into our own little fishbowl, but the fact is we’re part of what is arguably the third largest group of Christians worldwide, the Anglican Communion,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, the presiding bishop’s canon for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church. “This summer we will see the bishops of all the churches meeting together at the invitation of the archbishop of Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference. This only happens every decade or so, and it is a reminder to all of our churches, through our bishops, that we are not alone. … We do whatever is needed together to further the good work of the Gospel.”

Along with Moreno, the Rev. Efren Valazquez Gutierrez, provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Mexico, and Western Mexico Bishop Ricardo Gómez Osnaya represented the Anglican Church of Mexico.

Along with Curry, Robertson and McQueen, the Rev. David Copley, the church’s director of global partnerships and mission personnel, San Diego Bishop Susan Snook, Arizona Bishop Jennifer A. Reddall and Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn represented The Episcopal Church.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Executive Council approves readmission of Cuba, selects Louisville for 2024 General Convention

seg, 17/02/2020 - 15:33

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry embraces Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba after the formal readmission of her church into The Episcopal Church at the Executive Council meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 15, 2020. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Amid the detailed and sometimes tense discussions that took place during the meeting of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Feb. 13-15, moments of joy and excitement burst forth. Among the highs of the meeting were the selection of Louisville, Kentucky, as the site of the 2024 General Convention and the formal approval of the readmission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of The Episcopal Church, which elicited an enthusiastic and emotional response from those gathered.

Executive Council, a 43-member body tasked with enacting the policies adopted by General Convention, meets at least three times per year. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, vice-chair of council and president of the House of Deputies, presided over the meeting at the Hilton hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry arrived on the meeting’s second day after recovering from a bout of food poisoning.

The meeting opened with a somber presentation from several leaders in Native American communities on the deep and lasting impacts of the racist “Doctrine of Discovery.” Forrest S. Cuch and the Rev. Michael Carney of the Diocese of Utah, the Rev. Cornelia Eaton of Navajoland and the Rev. Angela Goodhouse-Mauai of North Dakota shared, through personal and historical narratives, how the church can be an instrument of oppression and erasure of Native peoples or a source of strength and empowerment for them.

Kristine Stache speaks to council about membership decline on Feb. 14. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

After a day packed with committee meetings, council reconvened on Feb. 14 to hear a presentation from Kristine Stache, interim president of Wartburg Theological Seminary, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America affiliate. Stache spoke about how to interpret and respond to The Episcopal Church’s membership decline, as depicted in the most recent parochial report data.

The 2018 parochial reports show a 17.5 percent decline in baptized members and a 24.9 percent decline in average Sunday attendance across the church between 2008 and 2018.

Stache started off with a brutally honest look at those “very sobering” statistics. If the rate of decline experienced over that decade continues, The Episcopal Church will have no Sunday attendance in 30 years and no baptized members in 47 years. As with other mainline Protestant denominations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has experienced a similar decline, with 35 years left until it runs out of baptized members and 23 years until it runs out of Sunday worshippers, if current rates continue.

“It depicts a church that appears to be dying,” Stache said. “Perhaps.”

But, she argued, other signs show a church that is not dying but transforming.

“How is this measured? Through changed lives, which is not one of the questions, I believe, on the parochial reports of the ELCA,” Stache said. “Perhaps the structures and forms of the way we measure church are dying.”

Stache encouraged council to see this difficult transformation as a sign of God’s presence, not God’s absence, citing Isaiah 43:18: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”

While “innovation” has become the buzzword of choice in discussions of how to deal with these changes, Stache said, it often consists of creating new pathways to traditional models of ministry or coming up with solutions to perceived problems. But that’s not what the word really means or what the church needs, she argued.

“Innovation gives us permission to say, ‘We don’t have it figured out. But we trust that God has a future and it includes the church.’”

Instead of coming up with new ways to keep the church as we know it afloat, we should ask new questions and experiment, creating “a culture of failure by which we learn something,” Stache said.

The church should become something truly new, “something we have yet to imagine,” she said. “This kind of thinking looks nothing like we’ve ever done before. We don’t have the current knowledge or solutions to address this work. In fact, we can’t even define the problem. But that’s the point. Living in this space is about a mental shift to a focus on questions instead of answers.”

That mental shift was already apparent in a discussion of potential changes to the metrics of parochial reports in the Governance and Operations Committee. The Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams, chair of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, led a discussion of that committee’s work on proposed revisions to the questions parishes are asked.

“We’re trying to get data on what are the actual markers of vitality,” Rankin-Williams said.

Rankin-Williams expressed a desire – shared by members of the Governance and Operations Committee – to move away from average Sunday attendance as the defining metric of a parish’s health. Other metrics – like weekly service attendance, number of people involved in volunteer activities or the total reach of those activities – might provide a fuller picture, he said.

The committee also discussed having a section in which the parish can write its own narrative, so it doesn’t feel like it’s being “graded” by the wider church. Rather than being a burden, the report could be a chance for a parish to do some valuable discernment and tell its own unique story.

On Feb. 15, the committees presented their reports to council and all resolutions were passed unanimously. Among them was a resolution to accept the recommendation from the Joint Standing Committee on Planning & Arrangement to select Louisville, Kentucky, as the site for the 81st General Convention in 2024. The Rev. Michael Barlowe, secretary of Executive Council, said Louisville and the two other finalists – Detroit, Michigan, and San Juan, Puerto Rico – were in the same range in terms of cost to the church and convention goers, but Louisville stood out for a few reasons.

The last time General Convention met in Province IV – which contains the Diocese of Kentucky – was in 1982 in New Orleans. It’s also Curry’s home province, and this will be his last General Convention as Presiding Bishop. Accessibility was another factor. Louisville is within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population, Barlowe said, and the city’s brand-new convention center, several hotels, the Episcopal cathedral and an arena big enough for a revival are all within a 5-minute walk. Having General Convention there will also present a chance to highlight the city’s “breathtaking” work on racial reconciliation in recent years, Barlowe said.

Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba and the Rev. Gilberto Junco Sotolongo of Cuba join in a round of applause after the formal readmission of their church into The Episcopal Church on Feb. 15. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

In his capacity as secretary of General Convention, Barlowe also formally certified that the Episcopal Church of Cuba had met the requirements for readmission to The Episcopal Church as a diocese. At the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas, the House of Bishops and House of Deputies voted to readmit Cuba, which the House of Bishops had expelled from the church in 1966.

“Our friends from the Episcopal Church in Cuba have been exemplary,” Barlowe told council, “not only in their extraordinary ministries undertaken in such difficult circumstances over the years, but in all of our conversations over the last five or six years as we’ve moved toward this moment.”

After a unanimous vote of “sí,” it was official: The Episcopal Church of Cuba became the Episcopal Church in Cuba, to a round of joyful applause.

Her voice breaking with emotion, Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio addressed council in Spanish through an interpreter.

“Each one of us has been living [through] a very emotional time in our life in the Diocese of Cuba,” Delgado said, “because the church lived for more than 50 years all by itself.

Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba expresses thanks to Executive Council. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

“I want to express my gratitude to each one of you … who has worked so arduously to achieve this moment. … We will continue serving our people, our country – however, we will do it in your company.”

Other resolutions adopted by council included a statement urging Episcopalians and political leaders to fight misinformation and enact election security measures in the United States and elsewhere, an assessment waiver for the Diocese of Alabama, and the adoption of a Covenant for Care of Creation and a plan for its implementation. After a blessing from Curry, the meeting was adjourned on a high note.

“We spent Valentine’s Day apart from our loved ones because we love Jesus,” Bishop-elect Frank Logue of Georgia told council on the final morning.

The full list of resolutions is available here. The next council meeting will take place June 8-11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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

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Executive Council meeting kicks off in Salt Lake City with presentation on racism’s toll on Native Americans

qui, 13/02/2020 - 20:20

Forrest S. Cuch addresses the Executive Council meeting on Feb. 13, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] “The first thing I want to say is that we, as a nation, are in big trouble,” said Forrest S. Cuch at the meeting of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on Feb. 13.

“And due to the extreme degree of cruelty and nastiness that is being displayed in our nation’s capital, I believe it is of a diabolical nature. And it needs to be taken seriously.”

Cuch – a longtime leader of the Ute people, former director of Utah’s Division of Indian Affairs and the bishop’s warden at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church on the Uintah-Ouray Ute Reservation – knows what it’s like to live in a nation facing big trouble, as a member of a tribe that has persevered through genocide, oppression, disease and a multitude of other adversities. On behalf of the Diocese of Utah, he spoke to council on the first day of its three-day meeting at the Hilton in downtown Salt Lake City on the topics of racism and reconciliation from an indigenous perspective.

Executive Council, a 43-member body tasked with enacting the policies adopted by General Convention, meets at least three times per year. Its various committees bring forth resolutions to be voted on by the full council, whose high-ranking members – including the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies – also typically hear presentations on specific topics of interest to the entire church. Although Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was unable to attend the first day of the meeting due to a minor illness, the rest of council shared a Eucharist and witnessed a heart-wrenching presentation on how the “Doctrine of Discovery” dehumanized Native peoples.

The Rt. Rev. Scott Hayashi, bishop of Utah, leads a hymn at the opening Eucharist of the Executive Council meeting. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

The Doctrine of Discovery, a broad concept that asserted the superiority of white Europeans and their descendants over indigenous peoples, was used to justify the taking of Native lands and the forced assimilation of Native peoples, among countless other injustices. The Episcopal Church formally rejected the doctrine and repented for its complicity in it at the 2009 General Convention, but the presentation given to Executive Council in Salt Lake City showed ways in which it lives on.

Cuch, the Rev. Cornelia Eaton of Navajoland and the Rev. Angela Goodhouse-Mauai of North Dakota (both members of council) shared, through personal and historical narratives, how the church can be an instrument of oppression and erasure of Native peoples or a source of strength and empowerment for them.

“In The Episcopal Church, we meet in the paradox of everything,” Goodhouse-Mauai said. “And it’s always the ‘both/and’ – how do we meet in the middle to continue this work together that we’re called to do?”

The Rev. Cornelia Eaton shares a story as the Rev. Angela Goodhouse-Mauai looks on. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Churches – including The Episcopal Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – played a central role in the sweeping history of indigenous oppression in Utah that Cuch presented to council. Cuch’s people and other tribes were slaughtered by settlers; killed off by diseases; removed to ever-shrinking reservations; and stripped of their land, language, culture and spirituality. In residential schools, they were separated from their parents and subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

Those deep injustices linger on today in forms like intergenerational trauma, Cuch said, but new injustices continue to manifest the centuries-old idea of Native peoples’ inherent inferiority. The gruesome realities of massacres committed by white settlers on Native communities are still being covered up today, Cuch told council. And political actions like President Donald Trump’s 85% reduction in the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah – the first national monument created at the request of Native tribes – continue to show a lack of respect for the dignity of Native peoples.

The Episcopal Church, which has made racial reconciliation a cornerstone of its mission, can and should be at the forefront of the movement to undo the damage of the Doctrine of Discovery and root it out where it still grows, the presenters said. The Rev. Michael Carney, vicar at St. Elizabeth’s, showed some of the many ways his church is working to heal and renew the people of the Uintah-Ouray Ute Reservation, especially children. Through talking circles and art projects, children can share traumas openly, receive support and express difficult emotions. By bringing in Native storytellers to share the Ute creation stories, children can reconnect with the cultural heritage that was taken away from them. Gatherings of Native Episcopalians like Winter Talk and Mountains and Deserts can help heal, too, Carney said.

Other topics on the agenda for the Salt Lake City meeting include preparations for the 2021 General Convention and updates on diocesan assessments and the status of the readmission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese. On Feb. 14, Kristine Stache, interim president of Wartburg Theological Seminary, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will give a presentation on understanding and addressing the metrics of membership decline found in the most recent parochial report results.

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

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Church of England sets 2030 net zero carbon target

qui, 13/02/2020 - 13:47

[Church of England] The Church of England’s General Synod has set new targets for all parts of the church to work to become carbon “net zero” by 2030.

At its February 2020 meeting, members voted in favor of a revised date encouraging all parts of the Church of England to take action and ramp-up efforts to reduce emissions.

A motion approved today called for urgent steps to examine requirements to reach the new target, and draw up an action plan.

An amendment by Martin Gainsborough (Bristol) introduced a more ambitious target date of 2030, 15 years ahead of the original proposal.

The motion follows the launch of the Church of England’s first-ever Green Lent (#LiveLent) campaign for 2020, featuring 40 days of prayers and actions to encourage care for God’s Creation.

The Church of England has also announced an appliance-style footprinting tool for parishes to calculate their carbon footprint.

Following the debate, Bishop of Salisbury Nick Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop for the Environment said:

“Synod has set an ambitious target for the whole Church of England to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis.

“To reach synod’s target of 2030 we will each need to hear this as an urgent call to action, but I am encouraged by the statement of intent this makes across the church, and wider society about our determination to tackle climate change, and safeguard God’s creation.

“This is a social justice issue, which affects the world’s poorest soonest and most severely, and if the church is to hold others to account, we have to get our own house in order.

“There is no serious doubt that climate change is happening, and that people are causing it, so it is very encouraging that synod is grappling with the most urgent issues of our time.”

The final motion approved was as follows:

That this Synod, recognizing that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the call of the Anglican Communion in ACC Resolutions A17.05 and A17.06;

(a) call upon all parts of the Church of England, including parishes, BMOs [Bishop Mission Orders], education institutions, dioceses, cathedrals, and the NCIs [National Church Institutions], to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;

(b) request reports on progress from the Environment Working Group and the NCI’s every three years beginning in 2022 and;

(c) call on each Diocesan Synod, and cathedral Chapter, to address progress toward net zero emissions every three years.

More information:

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Florida Episcopalians lead efforts to remember victim of 1914 lynching in St. Petersburg

qua, 12/02/2020 - 18:23

The Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative founded the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in April 2018 and encouraged counties around the country to pursue local memorials for the victims of lynchings in their communities. The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council visited the memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, during its October 2019 meeting there. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which opened two years ago to honor more than 4,000 victims of lynchings in America, has become a popular destination for Episcopal racial reconciliation pilgrimages. Numerous congregations have organized trips, and The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council visited the memorial in October 2019 during its meeting in Montgomery.

The Equal Justice Initiative, which created the national memorial, also has a program to encourage local efforts to increase the public’s awareness of what the organization labels racial terror violence during the era of Jim Crow segregation. Parishioners from St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, are taking that next step.

“We were all moved by it, and a group of us decided we would take on this project,” said Jacqueline Hubbard, a St. Augustine’s member and retired lawyer.

St. Augustine’s is a small, historically black congregation that has gradually grown more racially diverse. Its fall 2018 visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice partly inspired some parishioners’ involvement in efforts to install a historical marker in St. Petersburg that will memorialize John Evans, a black laborer who in 1914 was hanged from a light pole in the city and murdered, as a mob of 1,500 white residents encouraged and celebrated his death.

Reports suggest he was able to keep himself alive by wrapping his legs around the light pole, until he was shot by people in the crowd. He had been accused by the crowd of killing a white employer despite little conclusive evidence tying him to the crime.

“In many cases these individuals were not given or allowed to experience a proper memorial,” vestry member Andrew Walker said in an interview with Episcopal News Service, adding, “the current narrative in a lot of places is a false notion that [lynching victims] did something wrong.”

A small group from the church formed the Community Remembrance Project Coalition in April 2019, and it now has 42 coalition partners, including a wide range of religious, historical and civic organizations. It meets twice a month at St. Augustine’s to plan a historical marker for Evans.

Hubbard, who serves as co-chair, told ENS the coalition aims to install the marker by this November on city-owned property at Ninth Street and Second Avenue, near where Evans was lynched on Nov. 12, 1914.

Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative speaks to the Executive Council members on Oct. 19, 2019, at Church of the Good Shepherd in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The killing of Evans was one of at least two lynchings in Pinellas County from 1877 to 1950, according to Equal Justice Initiative research. The nonprofit was founded by attorney Bryan Stevenson, whose book “Just Mercy” was turned into the movie of the same name released in December. Stevenson’s organization documented more than 4,400 lynchings in 12 Southern states during those decades, and another 300 victims were identified in states outside the South.

“Terror lynchings were horrific acts of violence whose perpetrators were never held accountable. Indeed, some public spectacle lynchings were attended by the entire white community and conducted as celebratory acts of racial control and domination,” the Equal Justice Initiative’s research report “Lynching in America” says.

Even before the recent work by St. Augustine’s parishioners, Episcopal leaders have taken a lead in bringing details of this brutal history to light, particularly in the Diocese of Atlanta. The diocese organized a pilgrimage in October 2016 to the historic site of a lynching in Macon, Georgia, part of a three-year series of racial reconciliation events. And in 2017, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in LaGrange, Georgia, supported local efforts to dedicate a historical marker remembering lynching victims.

Also in 2017, the Diocese of Tennessee held a Eucharistic service and memorial litany for three identified victims of lynchings in Davidson County and for others whose identities are lost to history. A memorial marker was dedicated at St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church in Nashville.

Such efforts coincide with The Episcopal Church’s setting racial reconciliation as a top priority in recent years, and that work gathered steam last week when the Diocese of Texas announced it was committing $13 million to racial justice projects and promotion of racial healing.

The Equal Justice Initiative has been building momentum in its campaign to tell the fuller story of the United States’ legacy of racial injustice, violence and oppression. Its national prominence surged with the opening in April 2018 of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. On a hill overlooking downtown Montgomery, the memorial’s series of steel columns hang in rows around a green square. Each column represents a county where the Equal Justice Initiative has confirmed at least one lynching occurred. The victims are listed on the columns.

“It is powerful when you see every county in the United States where lynchings occurred,” said Walker, who first visited the memorial soon after it opened.

In addition to the two lynchings the Equal Justice Initiative confirmed in Pinellas County, Hubbard said the coalition is investigating evidence of one or two possible others.

The coalition has budgeted about $25,000 for the project, with hopes that a pending donation will cover most of that cost. The coalition also is requesting about $10,000 from the Equal Justice Initiative, partly to support a high school essay contest on racial justice. The nonprofit has engaged in similar collaborations with other communities, from Selma, Alabama, to Wilmington, Delaware.

“They’re committed to community development strategies and coalition strategies, to avoid conflict in doing this kind of work, because it is powerful work and it is challenging work,” Walker said.

The Equal Justice Initiative also created duplicate columns at its memorial in Montgomery, one for each of the more than 800 counties, and it has invited each county to claim and display its column as an act of confronting, acknowledging and remembering its history.

Few counties have done so yet, but Hubbard said that is one possible next step for the St. Petersburg coalition, after it installs the Evans marker.

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

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What’s on pastors’ minds? It’s not religious liberty

ter, 11/02/2020 - 15:43

[Religion News Service] What’s on pastors’ minds? It may not be what you think, according to a report released last week by Barna Group.

A new survey by the California-based Christian research firm found that Protestant pastors are worried less about hot topics like religious liberty than they are about the decline of religion in America.

The report is the first of a series of monthly releases from Barna Group’s State of the Church 2020 that will analyze how Christianity in the United States has changed and where it is headed, president David Kinnaman said.

It’s the first time in 10 years that the research firm has publicly released the data from its annual State of the Church survey.

“I felt like we’d been learning a lot over the past 10 years that allows us to more clearly communicate the big cultural trends that are taking place and what they mean for the church,” Kinnaman said.

According to the report, three-quarters (72%) of Protestant pastors identify the impact of “watered-down Gospel teachings” on Christianity in the U.S. as a major concern. That’s especially true for pastors in non-mainline denominations (78%). Mainline pastors (59%) are less concerned.

About two-thirds (66%) of pastors say a major concern for Christianity is “culture’s shift to a secular age,” followed by 63% who identified “poor discipleship models” as a major concern and 58% who named “addressing complex social issues with biblical integrity,” the survey says.

In their own churches, most pastors reported that the major concerns they face are “reaching a younger audience” (51%) and “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” (50%), according to the report.

What doesn’t worry pastors very much: religious liberty — the stuff of Supreme Court cases, executive orders, campaign promises and a recent task force and summit. Only 23% of Protestant pastors identify it as a major concern or issue facing the Christian church today in the U.S., and 32% said it was not a concern or issue at all, according to Barna Group data.

Other issues low on pastors’ list of major concerns include keeping up with technology and digital trends (7%), online churches and other challenges to the traditional church model (11%), “celebrity pastors pulling people away from the local church” (19%), the declining influence pastors have in their communities (20%) and the role of women in the church (23%).

Barna Group’s survey also includes a small group of Catholic priests — not enough to be nationally representative, according to the research firm — who also place increasing secularism at the top of their concerns for the church nationally (along with addressing scandals and the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and reaching a younger audience) and reaching a younger audience for their parishes.

The research firm also is launching tools that allow churches to survey their own members. Kinnaman said it felt “more important than ever to give churches the opportunity to see the state of their church” — not just of the church, or Christianity, in general.

“There’s so much information about big, broad trends. In order for trends to be relevant, they have to be contextual,” he said.

Data in the first report of the State of the Church 2020 is based on 547 interviews with Protestant senior pastors on Barna’s PastorPanel conducted online between November and December 2019. The sample error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, according to Barna Group.

This article was originally published by Religion News Service.

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Pennsylvania church unveils restored 500-year-old painting attributed to ‘minor master’

ter, 11/02/2020 - 15:36

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal congregation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has unveiled a restored 500-year-old painting of Mary and Jesus, which had been in the parish’s possession for more than a century but only recently was revealed to be a rare work by an Italian artist from the Renaissance period.

Christopher Daly, an art historian from Baltimore, Maryland, had been researching “minor masters” and came across a photo of “Madonna and Child,” a painting said to belong to St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, according to a Lancaster Online story. He called the church in January 2018 and visited later that year to view the painting up close.

Daly told Lancaster Online that his analysis of the painting indicated it was produced by Giovanni Graffione, who lived from 1455 to 1527 and who, according to Daly, is remembered for only one other documented painting – “Virgin Adoring the Child,” at a church in Italy.

The painting owned by St. James was a gift in 1908 from the family of one of the congregation’s former priests, who had purchased it decades earlier while serving at an Episcopal church in Rome, Italy. Daly’s inquiry sparked renewed interest in the painting and prompted St. James officials to restore it, with help from a grant.

The restored painting was unveiled Feb. 10 as part of a church history lecture at the Lancaster History museum celebrating St. James’ 275th anniversary. It will remain on display at the museum through March as part of a St. James history exhibit.

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

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Anglican Church of Canada launches new podcast featuring indigenous voices

ter, 11/02/2020 - 14:45

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Canada launched a podcast on Feb. 3 entitled “Sacred Teachings: Wisdom of the Land.” The podcast is an eight-part series featuring indigenous speakers, who will share their insights, wisdom, traditions and stories about the sacredness of creation.

In a trailer for the podcast shared on Facebook, Ginny Doctor of the Mohawk Turtle Clan said that the series would explore the meaning and importance of the natural world to the First Peoples of the land. She said: “It is our responsibility to live in harmony and balance with all of creation. In this time, when young people across the globe are calling out for justice and for all of us to stop destroying our natural world, we offer to use some wisdom and reflections to inform and inspire the way forward.”

Read the entire article here.

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‘Crazy’ Chili Farm’s sales, members’ donations scale-up Arizona church’s outreach efforts

ter, 11/02/2020 - 14:33

Farm Manager Bill Robinson gives a tour of the Crazy Chili Farm at Church of the Transfiguration in Mesa, Arizona. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Mesa, Arizona] Like many Episcopal churches nationwide, Mesa’s Church of the Transfiguration engages in outreach, donating money to organizations that address food insecurity, provide educational assistance, support to women and children fleeing abusive situations and offer other essential social services.

In 2006, responding to food insecurity in its own neighborhood where within a 5- or 6-mile radius 35,000 people live at or below the federal poverty line, rather than open a food pantry or run a soup kitchen, church members began collecting spare change in cups labeled “A Million Meals for Our Neighbors.” By consolidating members’ coins and making donations to existing feeding programs, Transfiguration has provided 1.4 million meals for its neighbors.

“We do that by making grants to the agencies in our own neighborhood, like soup kitchens and box distribution programs, and when we can, we cover their bill with United Food Bank,” said Bill Robinson, a Transfiguration member. “By paying the food distribution agency rate, we pay a gross weighted average of about five cents a pound, regardless of the value of the food; it could be T-bone steak and it would be five cents a pound.”

The donations, as Robinson explained, have a 20-to-1 multiplier effect. For example, a $200 donation to United Food Bank pays for 2,000 pounds of food. Building on the church’s already strong commitment to outreach, some members sought to take things further.

In 2014, the church dedicated a 4,000-square-foot plot of land – an area that has since grown to 10,000-square-feet behind the parish hall and the former rectory – where volunteers plant, nurture, harvest and grind heritage chilis into powder sold at $10 per 4 ounces. They called it the “Crazy Chili Farm.”

“One of the reasons the chili farm was founded was to hopefully provide additional funding for million meals. That way we could do the funding ourselves by earning the money, and then

the farm just kind of grew like top seed,” said Robinson, the farm’s manager.

Volunteers never intended to farm two fields, but after several years’ production, the chili plants developed Fusarium wilt and other wilts. A second field was added for crop rotation.

Thirty minutes east of downtown Phoenix in the East Valley, Mesa was originally settled by Mormons who farmed cotton and citrus fruits, grapefruit and oranges. It’s still predominantly Mormon, though the farms have largely given way to subdivisions and mobile home parks, explained the Rev. Bob Saik, Transfiguration’s rector.

The “parks,” as locals prefer to call them, can be as large as 1,000 to 2,000 residents; and Mesa’s favorable winter climate attracts snowbirds and retirees. Retirees and part-time residents make up the majority of Transfiguration’s members; in the summer, average Sunday attendance reaches between 80 and 90, climbing to 150 in the winter.

The church’s reputation as a strong supporter of outreach has served to attract members, something strengthened by the chili farm’s appeal to volunteers and gardeners.

Volunteers grind chilis and pack chili powder at the Crazy Chili Farm on a winter morning. The sales from chili powder boost the church’s outreach efforts. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“It [the chili farm] attracts a certain kind of people that like to do that work, and they feel that they are blessed to have the opportunity to work in the chili farm. They feel not only that it is a calling of theirs, but they feel that when they work in the chili farm, they’re receiving God’s love and blessings,” said Saik. “It attracts people that have an interest in that space and sometimes the people aren’t really connected very much to this church. The ones that you saw today are very connected to this church and come all the time, but we’ve had people work in the chilly garden that aren’t really connected with this church.”

On a Monday morning in December, three volunteers wore breathing masks as they worked outside on a folding table grinding chilies into powder, weighing and packaging it in small plastic bags. Despite the masks, the volunteers and anyone within 10 feet of the table coughed from chili dust.

The volunteers were part of a larger group who’d gathered for breakfast in the parish hall before getting to work on the farm, which operates year-round. In the summer, the work begins at 6 a.m. and finishes by 10, when temperatures begin to climb toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit and beyond.

Laura Whayne, a winter member who spends the rest of the year in Lexington, Kentucky, where she’s a member of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, enjoys the chili farm’s “camaraderie” and “also knowing that we’re providing a way to support outreach.”

Volunteer Catharine Schuyler also enjoys the fellowship and engaging in service.

“The people are very down to earth, very outreach-oriented, and that was my attraction to this church community,” said Schuyler, who moved to Mesa from New Jersey two years ago. A former Roman Catholic, Skylar became an Episcopalian and member of Transfiguration after volunteering with the chili farm.

“There’s a real sense of community as well as spirituality,” she said. “And I just fell in love with the chili farm because it’s a way to support outreach projects.”

Caryll Prokosch’s parents moved to the valley in the 1960s, but she stayed behind in New York, marrying and working in Schenectady.

A cradle Episcopalian, Prokosch became a member of Transfiguration in 2009 when she retired and moved to Mesa. She studied horticulture in college but worked in computers. The chili farm, she said, has allowed her to get outside and into gardening.

“I can actually get something to grow rather than killing it,” she laughed.

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Florida church to offer same-sex marriage in diocese that previously refused to allow rites

seg, 10/02/2020 - 18:20

[Episcopal News Service] The General Convention resolution aimed at making marriage rites available to same-sex couples in all the church’s domestic dioceses took effect more than a year ago, in December 2018, though the pace of implementation has varied between the handful of dioceses that previously had refused to offer the rites.

Supporters of the new rites were particularly critical of Diocese of Florida Bishop John Howard, accusing him in January 2019 of failing to honor the intent of Resolution B012 in the process he established to comply. Howard denied those allegations.

A year later, a congregation in Howard’s diocese, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, is now moving forward with plans to offer the rites to same-sex couples.

The vestry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, Florida, voted last month to offer marriage rites to same-sex couples. Photo: St. John’s, via Facebook

After an extended process of discernment, a committee of nine church members issued a report in December in which most of the group recommended offering the rites, and the vestry decided in late January to accept that recommendation.

“We want to do our very best to care for God’s people at St. John’s,” the Rev. Dave Killeen told the Tallahassee Democrat. Killeen, the rector, was one of the nine members of the consultation group. “All couples will be treated equally… We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and has a place here at St. John’s — that they know they are loved and valued.”

Howard had been one of eight diocesan bishops who, citing their theologically conservative views on marriage, initially refused to allow clergy in their dioceses to use the trial rites that General Convention approved in 2015 for use in same-sex weddings. In 2018, General Convention passed B012, calling on all bishops to make provisions for allowing the rites in any jurisdiction where civil law allowed same-sex marriage.

Some of the eight holdout bishops, including Howard, announced processes that relied heavily on one provision of the resolution that specified they should ask outside bishops “as necessary” to provide pastoral oversight when congregations request to use the rites.

Howard’s canon to the ordinary, the Rev. Allison DeFoor, referred questions directly to Killeen, who told Episcopal News Service by phone that Howard planned to delegate another bishop to oversee matters relating to all marriages at St. John’s. That bishop has not yet been identified, Killeen said, and Howard will continue to provide pastoral oversight for St. John’s on all other matters.

Howard “was very, very supportive of the process itself,” Killeen told ENS.

The St. John’s vestry approved use of the rites in a majority vote on Jan. 28, according to the church’s website. The decision partly drew on the input collected from parishioners at three forums, held in June, September and October.

“Our clergy has been in touch with Bishop Howard to share the St. John’s Vestry’s decision,” the church said on its website. “Bishop Howard has pledged to continue to wholeheartedly support the missions and ministries of this church.”

At least one other congregation in the diocese has gone through the same process. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach notified Howard late in 2018 that it intended to offer the rites to same-sex couples, and Howard said he would delegate another bishop to provide oversight there, the Rev. Stephen Mazingo, rector at St. Peter’s, told ENS. He said he made the decision to move forward with the support of lay leaders, though no same-sex couples have yet asked to be married in the church.

Change came much faster to the Diocese of Dallas, where Bishop George Sumner agreed after General Convention in 2018 to allow same-sex marriage under Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith’s oversight. In January 2019, less than two months after B012 took effect, the Dallas diocese’s Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle held services to bless the unions of 24 gay and lesbian couples who previously had been forced to marry outside the diocese or in civil ceremonies.

Same-sex couples in the Diocese of Albany, meanwhile, have yet to benefit from a change in policy, because Bishop William Love continues to refuse to allow the rites for their weddings in his northern New York diocese. Love’s decision now has become the focus of disciplinary proceedings against him, under The Episcopal Church’s Title IV Canon. A hearing in that case scheduled for late April.

The Diocese of Springfield, in the mostly rural southern half of Illinois, is another conservative diocese where same-sex marriage had been forbidden. Bishop Daniel Martins responded to B012 by reluctantly agreeing to a process similar to the one Sumner adopted in Dallas, though its implementation last year drew less fanfare.

Martins allowed the Chapel of Saint John the Divine, at the University of Illinois in Champaign, to use the trial marriage rites after delegating pastoral oversight of the chapel to Fond du Lac Bishop Matt Gunter, as Martins outlined in an October letter to the diocese.

Later that October, the chapel posted a simple congratulations on its Facebook page to “Andrea and Sarah on the blessing of the marriage today!”

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

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With weekly feast, Hawaii church feeds community’s body and soul

seg, 10/02/2020 - 18:04

Members of a local Girl Scouts troop flash the shaka sign of aloha during a break from serving dinner at a recent Waimea Community Meal at St. James Episcopal Church in Waimea, Hawaii. Photo: Jeanne Savage

[Episcopal News Service] It can be lonely in paradise.

The Big Island of Hawaii is a stunning combination of deep tropical canyons, wind-scrubbed hills, occasionally snow-capped mountains, high surf and active volcanoes, but it can be hard to live there.

Some of the 186,000 people who call the 4,000-square-mile island home live in multimillion-dollar houses. Others pitch tents on beaches. In a tourism-based economy, many residents work more than one job to make ends meet. Groceries cost 60 percent more than the national average.

Every Thursday evening a group of staunch volunteers and one part-time paid coordinator use donations of food and money from Waimea-area businesses, farms and other organizations to feed the bellies and souls of more than 350 people in 90 minutes at St. James Episcopal Church. Diners eat together at long tables in the open-air Savanack Pavilion on the church grounds while volunteers deliver meals to home-bound people.

The team’s work and the parish’s commitment to the ministry is getting a major boost. One of St. James’ mainland visitors who considers the parish to be their second church home has pledged $1 million toward the planning and construction of a gathering space to house the weekly meal and other ministries. The donation will allow St. James to go into the next phase of planning and preparing drawings for bids and permits.

“We are very grateful to the Lematta Foundation of Vancouver, Washington, for their trust in the Waimea Community Meal and their support of our dream,” Junior Warden Tim Bostock told Episcopal News Service.

When the Waimea Community Meal began in December 2016, organizers wanted to help those who were physically hungry, the Rev. David Stout, rector of St. James, said in a recent interview.

Soon, however, larger needs became apparent.

Co-chairs Tim Bostock and Jane Sherwood, center, partner each week with Community Meal ministry coordinator Sue DeleCruz, right, and a number of volunteers to bring the weekly meal to the table. Jaisy Jardine, left, is a frequent volunteer. Photo: Jeanne Savage

Meal organizers realized that people in and around town “were not only hungry in belly but hungry in heart and soul,” Stout said. “There is a lot of lonely eating on the island.”

He invoked Mother Teresa, who once said that loneliness is the West’s greatest disease.

“We decided very early on that we were not going to advertise this as a homeless meal and that we weren’t going to emphasize the St. James Church thing,” Jane Sherwood, who co-chairs the ministry with Bostock, said in an interview. “So, we are the Community Meal at St. James. While we are church-sponsored, we are not Bible-thumping. We’re trying to live by example; our actions are louder than our words.”

Community Meal ministry coordinator Sue DeleCruz says the meal is a sermon preached by doing.

Each Thursday evening, one of the three clergy associated with St. James — either Stout, the Rev. Marnie Keator or the Rev. Linda Lundgren — gathers in a circle the people who are present at 4:30 p.m. for a prayer. They are always there and “collared up,” as Sherwood put it, so that people know who they are when they make the rounds.

The weekly gathering does not offer a bare-bones soup kitchen sort of meal. Think of it as more like a luau with an ever-changing variety of food, entertainment, social services and pastoral care. One night it’s enchiladas with all the trimmings plus hula music. Another week it might be the Hawaiian dish called shoyu chicken served with broccoli soup, roasted carrot and celery salad, and folk music.

 

Some nights, diners can get their blood pressure checked or take a hot shower.

At every meal people from different backgrounds settle in for the Hawaiian tradition known as talking story, taking as much time as needed to discuss both the mundane and the profound. One recent night a Tesla-driving man talked story with another man who rode in on a rickety bicycle. Meanwhile, kids played outside and families visited the church’s thrift shop.

“It brings us together even if it’s for one night,” DeleCruz told ENS. The meal’s slogan is “building community one meal at a time.” Every week, she said, the regulars show up and often there are new people.

“There had been an idea of a meal bubbling for years,” Stout said. It came to fruition after a congregational process to discern the parish’s call to ministry. He credits Bostock and Sherwood with being “the visionaries” of what became the Community Meal.

While church growth is not the meal’s goal, six adults and nine children or youths who have baptized into St. James had an initial connection through the Community Meal ministry, according to Stout and Susan Acacio, who heads the parish’s ministries for children, youth and families. About 15 already baptized people have joined St. James through the same connection.

Sue DeleCruz, the Community Meal ministry coordinator, starts early each Thursday morning in St. James’ kitchen preparing for the volunteers who make the Community Meal happen each week. Photo: Jeanne Savage

The meal’s weekly orchestration combines food-service logistics with a bit of magic. The Community Meal Core Ministry Team plans the year’s meals and then meets every Monday to fine-tune that week. They make changes based on what food donors have promised to deliver that week and which volunteer cooks are on board. Any needed basics are bought from a local food distributor.

Each week’s dinner involves 80-85 pounds of protein and foods that meet a growing demand for vegetarian and vegan offerings. The meal usually features three different salads and lots of vegetables.

“We’ve gotten pretty creative with kale,” said Bostock. The team has stealthily but good-naturedly introduced people to new foods. “More salads are being eaten by people who would not normally eat salads,” said DeleCruz.

 

On Tuesday, a large sign inviting everyone to the meal gets hung up near the entrance to St. James on busy Kawaihae Road. Wednesday is food delivery day. Those deliveries include a weekly donation of expired but still-usable food from the island’s only Costco.

As DeleCruz spoke to ENS recently, a new donor dropped off some microgreens. DeleCruz said she is “on 24 hours a day” connecting with people in her broad network of contacts, which she built while previously working for social service agencies across the island.

The Rev. David Stout, rector of St. James Parish, who sees the meal as an extension of the Communion table, says the lay leadership of the Community Meal Core Ministry Team frees him to be a pastoral presence at the weekly meal. Photo: Jeanne Savage

The parish recently increased DeleCruz’s paid hours because the weekly meal was receiving more food than it could use. She was spending extra time farming out that food to smaller meal programs and food banks so that none would go to waste. Now, that part of her ministry is officially part of her job.

Every week an outside organization pays $600 to help cover the meal costs. The groups often supplement their monetary donations with volunteers from their staff to help serve the meal.

Early Thursday morning DeleCruz is in the commercial kitchen at the back of the St. James sanctuary, setting up equipment and writing instructions for the day on a whiteboard. Soon the vegetable washing crew shows up, followed by the veggie and meat chopping crews. The afternoon is spent cooking, cleaning up, packing up meals for delivery and getting the pavilion ready for the 4:30-6 p.m. meal.

The effort takes about 50 volunteers. “We always seem to get the right number” of volunteers, Bostock said, calling it a weekly miracle.

The youngest volunteer is a 7-year-old boy who often delivers meals with his grandmother and older brother, Bostock said.  The oldest is Harry, a 93-year-old dish dryer. Community-building happens among the volunteers, not just the diners.

“The wonderful thing about these chop crews, as we call them, is that the conversations and the friendships that have developed around our tables is remarkable,” Sherwood said. “They are people who are not church members for the most part but who want to be part of this group, who just come and have fun and chat, and know that they’re part of the big community here in Waimea.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg retired in July 2019 as the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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Bonnie A. Perry consecrated 11th bishop of Michigan

seg, 10/02/2020 - 13:23

Michigan Bishop Bonnie A. Perry celebrates her ordination with her family. Photo: Mechelle Sieglitz-Castelli

[Diocese of Michigan] The Rev. Bonnie A. Perry was ordained and consecrated as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan on Feb. 8 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. Perry is the first woman bishop as well as the first lesbian bishop in the diocese since it was formed in 1836; she is the 39th woman to be consecrated bishop in The Episcopal Church. More than 2,500 people have viewed the service, which was originally live-streamed.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the chief consecrator and the Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows was the preacher. The ceremony included prayers and readings in Arabic to celebrate the diocese’s ministries in the local Arab-American community.

On Feb. 9, the newly consecrated bishop will be formally welcomed and seated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit.

Perry was elected bishop on June 1, 2019, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Previously, Perry was the rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois. Perry earned a doctor of ministry degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of the Holy Cross. She was ordained in 1990 in the Diocese of Newark.

Perry succeeds the Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., who has served as bishop since 2000 and retired in December 2019.

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan was established in 1836 and is comprised of 77 congregations and more than 16,000 baptized members.

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Offering free legal aid, Pennsylvania attorney’s only office is the Episcopal churches he visits

sex, 07/02/2020 - 17:01

Attorney Steve Chawaga, executive director of Episcopal Legal Aid, greets a client during his free clinic at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Steve Chawaga

[Episcopal News Service] The individuals and families who visit the weekly food pantry at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral in the Diocese of Pennsylvania – usually about 150 households, according to Dean Judith Sullivan – know if they come hungry on a Monday morning, they can leave with an assortment of canned goods, fresh produce and frozen meats to help get them through the week.

The food pantry has been a ministry of the cathedral for years, but in recent months, participants have been able to take advantage of one additional benefit: free legal assistance, courtesy of Steve Chawaga, a local attorney and the founder of Episcopal Legal Aid.

Chawaga launched the nonprofit in November as a ministry of the diocese and serves in a paid position as its executive director. In Episcopal Legal Aid’s first two months, he counseled 54 clients on civil law questions during his 10 clinics held at the cathedral and a handful of other Episcopal churches around the Philadelphia area. He estimates about half of the questions relate to landlord-tenant disputes or property matters, such as setting up wills, while the other half cover a range of topics, from immigration issues to personal injury incidents.

“They’re not life-or-death questions, but they’re questions that they’re not going to find another lawyer to answer,” Chawaga said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

That’s because many people of moderate means who would benefit from meeting with an attorney either can’t afford one or don’t have the time to look for one, Chawaga said. Other social service organizations offer pro bono legal assistance, but he sees Episcopal Legal Aid as unique in leveraging church gatherings to reach people where they already are.

Once a month at the cathedral’s Monday food pantry, “people come in for other services and supports and find out that he’s there, and they have been very appreciative,” said Sullivan, who also chairs the nonprofit board of Episcopal Legal Aid. She thinks Chawaga’s ministry fits naturally with the cathedral’s broader mission of serving the community in a variety of ways, such as through clothing drives and medical checkups.

“We have this beautiful intersection with the values of our faith, with our way of love, with our way of sharing the Gospel in this world and caring for every seeking soul, loving our neighbors as ourselves, seeing Christ in one another,” she told ENS.

Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral serves about 150 households at its weekly food pantry. Steve Chawaga sets up his legal aid clinic in the space one Monday a month. Photo courtesy of Steve Chawaga

Chawaga began forming the idea of a service like Episcopal Legal Aid when he was turning 60 and planning to step away from a career in corporate law. “If I want to do something else, I better get going,” he told himself.

And that something else became clearer to him at the November 2018 convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, for which he has long served as parliamentarian. Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez, while rallying the diocese behind the theme “Know Jesus, Change the World,” urged congregations to find ways of putting their church buildings to use serving their communities on the other six days of the week.

Chawaga thought free legal aid might fit that calling, and after the convention, he spoke to Gutiérrez about the idea. The bishop’s response was supportive and simple: Why not give it a try?

“He has got this deep and faithful heart,” Gutiérrez said in an interview. “He started digging the ground and planted some seeds, and let’s see where it sprouts.”

The diocese agreed to provide some startup funds, about $20,000, and it hopes soon to provide some space in a diocesan building, mainly for storage and administrative functions – not for welcoming clients, since Chawaga’s consultations are offered not in an office but in the community, at churches.

Chawaga grew up attending Church of Saint Asaph in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd, where he still is a parishioner. As the diocese’s parliamentarian, he knows many of its clergy leaders and is familiar with some of their outreach efforts and regular community events. When he pays a visit, the churches may promote his services in advance, but his main tactic for courting new clients is to set up a table at the event and invite anyone with questions to take a seat with him.

For one recent outing, Chawaga traveled to St. James the Greater Episcopal Church in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which he described as “an old industrial town, very modest economic means” across the Delaware River from New Jersey. The church holds a free dinner once a month for anyone who needs a meal, and he said it sometimes draws people who live in a nearby tent encampment.

Since this was Chawaga’s first time visiting the St. James dinner, he figured he would just introduce himself and describe his services to the 60 or so guests, and then let them know he’d be back the following month to set up his legal aid clinic.

“And then these hands started going up,” he said.

Someone had a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service. Someone else had a question about setting up wills for herself and her husband. One woman said she was having problems with her doctor but her insurance company was no help. A man told Chawaga he was facing a noise complaint at his apartment but he wasn’t to blame.

Some of the questions could be answered easily that night, while others required follow-up work.

“By the time I left, I had taken on four new clients,” he said.

Because his former corporate job involved general litigation, Chawaga said he has a broad base of civil law knowledge, though for certain issues that he can’t handle himself, he will refer those clients to another lawyer with the appropriate specialty, such as immigration law or housing law. Either way, making that initial contact with his clients is a key advantage of the church-based clinics.

Chawaga, as executive director, is Episcopal Legal Aid’s only paid staff member. As the ministry grows, he may look to hire someone to provide administrative help, though the more substantive growth will involve scheduling more clinics at church events where people who are struggling on society’s margins gather.

“If they have to go across the street, let alone another town, they won’t ask,” he said. “I’m having beef stew with them and not occupying an office and asking folks to come find me.”

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

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More visitors seek cathedrals, historic churches

qui, 06/02/2020 - 18:29

Quebec City’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity saw almost 100,000 more visitors in 2018 than five years before. Photo: Luc-Antoine Couturier/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] In a time when attention has begun to focus increasingly on declining church attendance, some places of Anglican worship in both England and Canada — including English cathedrals — are seeing an increase in visitors.

Visitors to Church of England cathedrals numbered 10 million in 2018 — an increase of more than 10% on the previous year, according to a November report published by the church.

There were also more than a million visitors to Westminster Abbey, the report states, and attendance at some major Christian festivals grew. Some 58,000 people attended cathedrals at Easter and 95,000 during Holy Week — the highest numbers recorded for a decade.

On the other hand, participation at Christmas services in cathedrals slipped to 133,000 in 2018, from 135,000 the previous year, and the number of people attending usual cathedral services every week also fell slightly to 36,700 from 37,000 in 2017.

Some of the more historic Anglican churches in Canada, also, have been seeing brisk attendance by visitors in recent years. Quebec City’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity had 240,000 visitors in 2018 — up from 149,000 five years previously, says Tommy Byrne, project manager at the cathedral. A 2013 marketing study showed that 96% of its visitors come for culture, heritage, music and other non-religious factors, he says — though this doesn’t suggest spirituality didn’t also play a role in some tourist visits.

Read the entire article here.

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