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Prayer service, search planned for woman who disappeared two months ago on Standing Rock

Episcopal News Service - sex, 10/01/2020 - 14:35

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal leaders on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are helping to organize an ecumenical prayer service Jan. 10 to show solidarity with the family of a woman who has been missing since November, as tribal members prepare to launch their latest search for the woman.

Kara Mauai, 30, missing since Nov. 8 on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is seen in a photo shared on the “Bring Kara Home” Facebook page.

Kara Mauai, 30, was baptized at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fort Yates, North Dakota, and her extended family is still active in the congregation, according to the Rev. Sloane Floberg, a deacon.

“Of course, it’s a mother’s worst nightmare, not to hear from her daughter,” said Floberg, who also works with Standing Rock teens as a mental and behavioral health counselor.

Her husband, the Rev. John Floberg, is rector of the three Episcopal congregations on the part of the reservation in North Dakota, including St. Luke’s. He is planning the Jan. 10 prayer service with a Roman Catholic congregation, and people of all faiths are welcome. It will be held at 9:30 a.m. in a Fort Yates building known as the TERO, or Tribal Employment Rights Office. Volunteers are scheduled to gather after the service to resume their search for Mauai.

Some of the searchers plan to brave the winter cold on horseback, while Episcopal leaders have offered the use of church vans as needed, John Floberg said.

“We remain hopeful that Kara is alive,” he said in an email, though her disappearance has rattled the community. “This isn’t like Kara to go so long without making contact with her mother or other members of her family.”

On Jan. 8, two months after Mauai was last seen, the Standing Rock Tribal Council passed a resolution calling for an emergency declaration in response to the prevalence of drug use, which may be contributing to disappearances and killings on the reservation.

“The increased presence and use of dangerous narcotics has destroyed families and the lives of our people,” the resolution says, according to text that Floberg shared on Facebook. In declaring a state of emergency, the tribal council hopes to draw on greater assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs “to address the dangerous drug epidemic that is directly related to violence, human trafficking and missing, murdered and indigenous women.”

Violence against women and disappearances have fueled growing concerns in other indigenous communities in the United States, as well. A New York Times report in December noted that some activists accuse federal agencies and law enforcement officials of disregarding Native Americans’ pleas to investigate such cases more thoroughly.

Sloane Floberg, in an interview with Episcopal News Service, said many of the children she counsels on Standing Rock are growing up in a system that offers little outside support to break cycles of addiction, and violence is an ever-present threat.

“What I am seeing is a lot of danger coming from the drug and alcohol scene,” she said.

It isn’t clear why Mauai disappeared or what may have happened to her, though on Jan. 6, searchers found some of her clothes near the community of Porcupine. About 35 volunteers had been searching the area on foot, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

Federal and tribal investigators reportedly have declined to comment on the latest developments.

The family has been communicating with supporters and seeking help in the search through a “Bring Kara Home” Facebook page, which now has more than 2,000 followers.

“Someone knows something,” a recent post says. “We are very thankful for the love & prayers.”

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

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South Carolina church’s donation to help alleviate $1.5 million in medical debt

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/01/2020 - 18:52

[St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church] A gift of $15,000 has been made by St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Forest Acres, South Carolina, to RIP Medical Debt, which will enable up to $1.5 million in hospital medical debt to be forgiven in Richland and surrounding counties.

“In the Old Testament, there is the idea connected to the Jubliee year, where every seven years, slaves are freed and debt is forgiven and it is like a big party,” said Caitlyn Darnell, director of outreach at St. Martin’s, a 700-member Episcopal parish located just east of Columbia. “We worship a God who died on a cross to forgive, so as followers of that God, it is our call to forgive and to forgive seven-fold.”

The RIP Medical Debt program, based in Rye, New York, and founded in 2014 by two former debt collection executives, takes donations from donors to buy large bundles of medical debt with no tax consequences to the donor or the recipient. A $1 donated can purchase $100 in debt. RIP buys debt of the neediest people in a community, using federal poverty levels as a guideline. Often the gift not only relieves the debt but also clears a family’s credit report, allowing them to move forward with their lives.

A debt might belong to a single mother who finds herself drowning in medical bills after one of her children suffers something as common as an appendicitis. Or it is the debt of two working parents who experience complications during the birth of on one of their children. Each scenario can lead to thousands of dollars in unexpected medical debt – even when families have health insurance.

“So, when I learned about this organization, I knew it was a no-brainer,” Darnell said. “Of course, this is what the church should be doing.”

The process involving St. Martin’s donation will involve several months of negotiations by RIP with local hospital systems. After the negotiations are complete, individuals whose debt has been forgiven will be notified with a letter from RIP, including that the debt was forgiven by a donation from St. Martin’s. The parish plans to celebrate with a party when the process is complete, Darnell said.

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A look ahead at 2020 for the Anglican Communion Office

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/01/2020 - 18:31

[Anglican Communion News Service] Preparations are well underway for this year’s Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. This gathering, to which all active bishops of the Anglican Communion’s member churches are invited, takes place approximately every 10 years and will run from July 23 – Aug. 2. 

The Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Alliance and Lambeth Conference Company are all part of the Anglican Communion Office in London. Staff from all three charities are busy preparing for the Lambeth Conference, but that is not all that 2020 holds for the ACO.

Read the full article.

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Anglican Primates to gather in Jordan for ‘very strategic meeting’ ahead of Lambeth Conference

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/01/2020 - 18:25

[Anglican Communion News Service] The leaders of 36 of the Anglican Communion’s 40 member churches will gather in the Middle East next week for what has been described as “a very strategic meeting.” The chief pastors of the communion – the senior archbishops, moderators and presiding bishops of the Anglican provinces – will meet from Jan. 13-15  in formal session. A preliminary meeting will be held on Jan.12 for new primates, elected or appointed to their position since the previous Primates’ Meeting in October 2017.

On Thursday 16 January, the primates will take part in separate pilgrimages, beginning together at the site of Jesus’ baptism with a Eucharist and reaffirmation of baptism vows, before one group heads to Salt and Mount Nebo while another crosses to the west bank of the River Jordan for visits to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Read the full article.

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EDS dean hosted private meeting with Pete Buttigieg and black theologians, thought leaders

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/01/2020 - 12:56

Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Glezman, attend a rally on April 14, 2019, to announce Buttigieg’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Photo: Reuters

[Religion News Service] Former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg met privately with a group of African American theologians and thought leaders in December, another sign of the candidate’s ongoing efforts to bolster his lagging poll numbers with black voters.

The “intimate” meeting was convened by Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she also teaches theology. Douglas told Religion News Service that she hosted the Democratic presidential hopeful during the second week in December in her New York home, where she said she facilitated a “nontransactional conversation” between Buttigieg and a cadre of African American “thought leaders” and faith leaders.

The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas. Photo: Washington National Cathedral

Douglas stressed the meeting was not an endorsement, adding that she reached out to the campaign to set up the meeting because she, like Buttigieg, is Episcopalian.

“It was an opportunity for Mayor Pete to learn, to listen and to hear,” she said.

Douglas declined to detail the guest list for the event, the precise topics discussed or how attendees felt about the exchange afterward.

“He listened. We listened. And people were able to raise issues that mattered,” she said.

She added: “The conversation with Mayor Pete was not so much about him, it wasn’t about a campaign — it’s about a community. It wasn’t about a person; it was about a people.”

Buttigieg’s team acknowledged that the meeting occurred but did not provide any details.

The 37-year-old has made faith a fixture of his campaign: He often references religion during stump speeches, regularly attends worship at churches while on the trail and appeared at a protest led by progressive pastor and activist the Rev. William Barber II. Buttigieg’s campaign was also the first in this election season to hire a national faith outreach director.

Surveys indicate the Democrat is primed to make a strong showing among likely caucus-goers in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state. But he has struggled to attract support among African Americans: In a November poll, he received less than 1% of support among black voters in South Carolina.

The private December meeting may have been a part of an effort by the Buttigieg campaign to use faith as a bridge to reach black voters. Buttigieg attended a service at Barber’s Greenleaf Christian Church in North Carolina the week before, where the openly gay candidate — who brought a Bible with him to the event — fielded questions and outlined positions on raising the minimum wage, enhancing public schools, eliminating private prisons, increasing access to unions and providing Medicare to all who want it.

Douglas said that no Democrat can take the black vote for granted and that relationships with African American voters should be long-standing.

“No candidate for president can win without significant African American support — particularly African American women,” she said. “We know that, they know that, but we don’t want it to be transactional.”

Douglas said she would be willing to hold similar meetings with other candidates should the opportunity arise, and she insisted that faith leaders have an important role to play in the 2020 election.

“Our job as faith leaders is not to scout for votes, but to try to move us toward a more just society,” she said.

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The Episcopal Church urges peaceful solution to U.S.-Iran conflict

Episcopal News Service - qua, 08/01/2020 - 17:08

[Episcopal News Service] The military conflict between the United States and Iran that began when President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of a top Iranian general on Jan. 3 escalated on Jan. 7, as Iran retaliated with missile strikes on military bases housing American troops in Iraq. On Jan. 7, The Episcopal Church released the statement below in response:

“Amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, The Episcopal Church continues to be guided by the teaching of Jesus Christ, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ We affirm that ‘It is crucial in this time of instability and threat of violence that our government and our neighbors seek diplomatic and humanitarian solutions rather than violence.’ We pray for wisdom, restraint, and divine guidance for our leaders and decision makers, that they can move us away from violence and conflict and towards mutual understanding.”

The statement updates one issued in July 2019 at a time of heightened tension over over attacks on shipping vessels and the shooting down of a U.S. surveillance drone.

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Puerto Rico earthquakes severely damage churches

Episcopal News Service - qua, 08/01/2020 - 14:43

An earthquake severely damaged this shop in Guánica, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 7, 2020. Photo: Ricardo Ortiz/Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Several churches in the Diocese of Puerto Rico have suffered severe damage from the series of earthquakes that have struck the island in recent days, killing at least one person and injuring at least eight.

Hundreds of minor earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico’s southwest coast since Dec. 28, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but a 5.8-magnitude quake on Jan. 6 and a 6.4-magnitude one on Jan. 7 destroyed buildings and shut down the island’s power grid, leading to a state of emergency declaration.

Two of the diocese’s churches – Santa Cecilia in Guánica and San Juan Apóstol in Yauco – appear to be in danger of collapsing, according to the Very Rev. Mario Rodríguez, dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in San Juan and the diocese’s canon to the ordinary. Santo Nombre in Ponce and the Quinta Tranquila retreat center in Yauco also suffered major structural damage, Rodríguez told Episcopal News Service. Other church buildings had minor damage.

“We have been monitoring the situation closely and tomorrow (Wednesday) a team from the Diocesan Center, including a structural engineer, will go to the affected areas to carry out a formal damage assessment and to coordinate relief efforts,” Rodríguez said by email. “Today, local teams began to distribute water and meals in affected areas. These efforts will be reinforced tomorrow by the team from the Diocesan Center.”

Puerto Rico has endured a string of crises in recent years, from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 to a massive political scandal in 2019.

“Today our Puerto Rico faces again the challenge of keeping calm and moving forward with faith and hope,” Rodríguez posted on the cathedral’s Facebook page. “Certainly, we are not newbies in this, but yes, vulnerable sons and daughters of God. We face with faith this expression of our nature and trust in the God who loves us and who we call father.”

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

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Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street resigns

Episcopal News Service - seg, 06/01/2020 - 17:59

The Rev. William Lupfer. Photo: Trinity Church Wall Street

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. William Lupfer resigned as rector of New York’s Trinity Church Wall Street on Jan. 3 after five years leading one of the most influential parishes in The Episcopal Church.

In a brief letter to Trinity’s staff, Lupfer, 59, did not offer a specific reason for leaving, but Trinity spokesperson Patti Walsh said in an email that Lupfer is “discerning a new call outside of Trinity.”

Lupfer wrote in his letter that he and his wife intend to “enjoy some sabbath rest to open our hearts to God’s call for the next chapter of our ministry together.”

“While we will miss our many friends at Trinity, we are excited to incorporate the incredible learning we have been blessed with these past five years and move energetically into this next chapter of our lives,” Lupfer wrote.

Effective Jan. 6, the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson – Trinity’s vicar – has been named priest-in-charge as the search for a new rector begins, the vestry wrote in a letter provided to Episcopal News Service. Lupfer plans to “recalibrate his ministry to discern a new call that incorporates all of what he has learned at Trinity with his love for aspects of ministry that the role of rector did not allow him to fully engage: being in much closer contact to the faithful people worshiping in the pews, while continuing strategic work with global mission partners and institutions to invest in their values,” the vestry wrote.

Trinity’s communications staff did not answer questions from Episcopal News Service about the timing of Lupfer’s resignation, and Lupfer could not be reached for comment. As of Jan. 6, there had been no announcement on Trinity’s website or social media accounts about the resignation, but Lupfer was no longer listed on its staff page.

Founded in 1697, Trinity was Manhattan’s first Anglican church. As a result of a land grant from Queen Anne, it owns 14 acres in lower Manhattan and has become a major real estate developer. It had a $6 billion portfolio as of February 2019 and acquired Church Divinity School of the Pacific, an Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California, in March 2019.

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

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Settlement reached in St. Paul’s Darien, Connecticut, cases

Episcopal News Service - seg, 06/01/2020 - 17:18

[Episcopal Church in Connecticut] On Dec. 10, 2019, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut settled three legal cases involving the former wardens and vestry members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien. The settlement will result in a withdrawal of all pending litigation, bringing to a close a period in which the former wardens and vestry members filed five different lawsuits against ECCT since 2005.

The most recent litigation began in late 2017 when the former wardens and vestry members refused to adhere to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church with respect to church governance and attempted to remove their duly chosen rector, the Rev. George I. Kovoor. When bishop diocesan of ECCT, the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, chose to support Kovoor and enforce the canons of The Episcopal Church, the former wardens and vestry members sued to have their rector removed. Further, when the former wardens and vestry members refused to participate in church ordered reconciliation efforts, the ECCT Annual Convention unanimously changed the status of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church putting it directly under the supervision, direction and control of the bishop in October, 2018. This occasioned a
second lawsuit by the former wardens and vestry members seeking control of the church and its property. Both of these lawsuits were heard in Stamford Superior Court in late 2018 and early 2019 and were dismissed by the court in the spring of 2019. The former wardens and vestry members had appealed these decisions.

In a related action, in October, 2018, ECCT and The Episcopal Church sued three former vestry members and wardens who served as trustees responsible for holding real estate for the benefit of St. Paul’s. The trustees had sold the real estate in 2011 in violation of church canons. This suit sought to secure the proceeds of the sale of the real estate to benefit St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and prevent the trustees from using the monies for other purposes, including to pay lawyers pursuing lawsuits against ECCT.

Under the settlement agreement, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church recovers control over the funds held in trust, and the former wardens and vestry members relinquish all claims to the property of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The parties have withdrawn all of the pending matters, including the appeals. Further, the parties have mutually agreed not to sue each other in the future.

The settlement recognizes that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien continues as a worshipping community in ECCT. All accusations against the Rev. George I. Kovoor have been withdrawn and his status as a priest in good standing in The Episcopal Church is unchallenged.

The former wardens and vestry members have chosen to move forward as a separate Christian community, now referred to as New St. Paul’s Church.

Commenting on the settlement, Douglas said: “While this has been a long and trying legal process, I thank God that we have been able to reach a settlement that both maintains the Canons of The Episcopal Church, while offering a hand of reconciliation to those who have chosen to leave St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien. We are particularly indebted to the faithfulness and hard work of our legal team who have worked tirelessly on the Church’s behalf, Canon Kovoor who has been steadfast in support of ECCT at great cost to himself and his reputation, and the devoted congregation at St. Paul’s in Darien who have chosen to remain in The Episcopal Church. My prayer is that we all now move forward in God’s mission to restore and reconcile all people to unity with God and each other in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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For an Epiphany blessing, chalk the door with ‘holy graffiti’

Episcopal News Service - seg, 06/01/2020 - 15:40

The combination of numbers, letters and symbols involved in chalking the door evokes the year, the cross and the traditional names of the kings: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. The letters are also an abbreviation for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] From the Epiphany and continuing for days to come, more and more Episcopalians are joining other Christians around the world in writing this ancient yet ever-changing formula on their doors: 20+C+M+B+20.

The numbers, letters and symbols have been called “holy graffiti,” and some people suggest the combination looks like the start of an algebraic equation.

The letters C, M, B come from the traditional names for the wise men: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, whose arrival at Mary and Joseph’s home is celebrated on the Epiphany. (Tradition also says that three men visited the infant Jesus because the gospel writer Matthew, the only one who describes such a visit but does not number them, says they brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their names appear in a Greek manuscript from 500 AD translated into Latin, which many biblical scholars consider the source of the names.) The letters are also an abbreviation for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling.” The first and last numbers refer to the current year, and the plus signs in between represent the cross.

Brandon Schirmer chalks the door of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde, Texas, west of San Antonio, after Eucharist on Jan. 5. Photo: Cyndy Marsh/St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

“Chalking the door,” as it is known, is seen as invoking Christ’s blessing not only on the physical house but on the people who live there and those who visit. There is a long tradition of blessing homes, especially on the Epiphany, which falls on Jan. 6 each year, and the weeks that follow. Europeans have chalked their doors as part of Epiphany house blessings for centuries, especially Roman Catholics. The practice has become popular in the United States only relatively recently. Chalking can be done simply with a short prayer or with songs, prayers, processions, incense and holy water. Clergy or laypeople can do the chalking.

The tradition of chalking the door evokes the visit of the three wise men, or the Magi, to the Holy Family’s home. Photo: “The Magi Journeying” by James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia Commons

The Episcopal Church recognized the practice two years ago. Its Book of Occasional Services historically has contained a liturgy for blessing each room of a house, along with a shorter Epiphany house blessing. When the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music revised the book in 2018, the editors included chalking the door for the first time. They wanted to respect how the tradition had caught on among individual Episcopalians and their congregations, according to the Rev. Paul Fromberg, a member of the commission. (The blessing is found on page 167 here.)

The Rev. Mike Marsh, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde, Texas, told Episcopal News Service that he is glad the tradition is spreading.

“Given what’s going on in our country and in our world today, we need homes of refuge, whether you are a church member or not,” he said.

Marsh, who annually writes about the tradition on his “Interrupting the Silence” blog, blessed about 80 pieces of chalk during the Jan. 5 Sunday Eucharist so that parishioners could take some home to chalk their doors. They will use a copy of the prayer he suggests. The parish also keeps some chalk for neighbors who often come asking about the practice after they see the symbols on their friends’ homes.

“We’re all Magi, visitors bearing gifts to other people’s homes, and we’re all the Holy Family who received the visitors,” Marsh said. “The chalk reminds us of that. It’s a reminder that this is a home of refuge, it’s a home of love, it’s a home of Christ for you to come into. And, it’s not only for the guests who come into our homes; it’s a reminder to us when we come home that we have a home, that we have a refuge.”

As Epiphany and the days beyond it come and go, he said, the chalk fades, but the blessing remains.

“If all we do is chalk the doors and then it goes away, we haven’t done much,” Marsh said. “It needs to go into the home and into our hearts.”

The tradition’s origins are obscure, but the practice has its echoes in the story of the Israelite exiles in Egypt marking their doors with lamb’s blood so that the angel of the Lord will pass over their homes when it comes to kill the firstborn of Egypt. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to write God’s words on their hearts, their gates and the doorposts of their houses, and to talk about them when they are at home.

Diocese of Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan and her husband, Glenn, chalk the inside lintel of their front door so that the formula is a reminder to take their faith out into the world. Yet, she added, the “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” abbreviation “is really about an internal blessing, not a blessing of sending.”

Hanna Case holds a basket of blessed chalk as Tamsin Gerdes and her father, Mickey, choose some to take home Jan. 5 from St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde, Texas. Photo: Cyndy Marsh/St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

Scanlan likened the chalked symbolism to the mezuzah, the small case on the right outside doorpost of Jewish homes that contains a scroll which typically is inscribed with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. The verses tell of God’s covenant with Jews to protect them and help them flourish if they keep God’s law. They instruct Jews to write the words of the covenant on their doorposts as a reminder to them when they enter or leave a home.

Both the mezuzah and the door chalking are “a totem to remind us, coming and going, of our faith,” said Scanlan, who wrote about why her family chalks their door in a 2017 blog post.

She first experienced chalking the door at Trinity Episcopal Church in Collinsville, Connecticut, the parish that sponsored her for ordination in the early 2000s. Her family has practiced it ever since. “One of the things that I’ve always coveted about other faith traditions is the prayer and expression of faith in the home,” she told ENS, adding that Episcopalians do not always explore the daily practice of faith. “I love the idea of bringing faith into the home,” she said.

At some times and in some places, chalking the door has also been a far more public declaration of faith and refuge. It is said that in the years of Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe, the practice defied state-imposed atheism.

Marsh likes to link chalking the door to another Epiphany tradition: the ancient church’s practice of announcing the dates of Easter as well as other major feasts and fasts which, unlike Christmas and the Epiphany, do not have a fixed date. They are Ash Wednesday; the Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter; the Ascension; Pentecost; and the First Sunday of Advent. Marsh has copies of the proclamation for people to take, along with their chalk and blessing prayers.

The so-called Easter Proclamation, he recently wrote, is about more than dates.

“Ultimately, it proclaims the reality that our lives are to be lived in rhythm with and according to Jesus’ life,” Marsh said.

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

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Final slate of candidates for bishop of Episcopal Church in Minnesota announced

Episcopal News Service - seg, 06/01/2020 - 14:41

[Episcopal Church in Minnesota] The Standing Committee is pleased to announce three petition candidates for the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota:

  • The Rev. Kara Wagner Sherer, rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Chicago, Illinois
  • The Rev. Robert Two Bulls, vicar, All Saints Indian Mission, Minneapolis, Minnesota; missioner for the diocese’s Department of Indian Work and Multicultural Ministries
  • The Rev. Erika von Haaren, vicar/COO, Saint Barnabas on the Desert, Scottsdale, Arizona

These individuals will be joining previously announced candidates:

  • The Rev. Abbott Bailey, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of California.
  • The Very Rev. Craig Loya, dean, Trinity Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska.

All five of these individuals will appear on the ballot during the special electing convention for the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota on Jan. 25. A service of ordination and consecration is expected to take place on June 6 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The full announcement and information about each candidate can be found on the Bishop Search website.

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United Methodist leaders propose plan to split church over LGBTQ ordination, marriage

Episcopal News Service - sex, 03/01/2020 - 19:08

People attend a day of prayer on Feb. 23, 2019, ahead of the special session of the United Methodist Church General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo: Kit Doyle/RNS

[Religion News Service] Bishops and leaders of a number of United Methodist groups have announced a proposed agreement to split the United Methodist Church.

The proposal, called the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, would create a new conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination that would receive $25 million over the next four years.

“The undersigned, in recognition of the regional contexts and divergent points of view within the global United Methodist Church, propose separation as a faithful step with the possibility of continued cooperation around matters of shared interest, enabling each of us to authentically live out our faith,” the proposal reads.

Pressure to split one of the largest denominations in the United States has grown since last year’s special session of the United Methodist General Conference approved the so-called Traditional Plan strengthening the church’s bans on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.

Approval of the plan has been met with resistance from progressive and moderate members of the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

And several groups have proposed legislation to split the denomination for consideration at the next regular meeting of the General Conference this May in Minneapolis.

But members of the unofficial group of leaders who wrote and signed the agreement that was announced Jan. 3 say their proposal is the only one that includes representatives of all different theological viewpoints within the church, as well as clergy from across the global denomination. It also is signed by both the outgoing and incoming presidents of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Read the full article here.

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Presiding Bishop joins social media campaign to counter anti-Semitism in wake of attacks

Episcopal News Service - sex, 03/01/2020 - 18:57

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, joins Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, on Jan. 6, 2020, as Jews around the world express their Jewish identity on #JewishandProud Day. Photo: Office of the Presiding Bishop

[Episcopal News Service] Amid a rash of attacks against American Jews in recent weeks – and a larger trend of violent anti-Semitism in America – Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is inviting Episcopalians to join him in supporting a social media visibility campaign and expressing solidarity with the Jewish people.

“On Jan. 6, Jews around the world are expressing their Jewish identity using #JewishandProud. I invite everyone who follows Jesus and his way of love to stand with our Jewish brothers, sisters and siblings,” Curry said in a statement to Episcopal News Service.

The American Jewish Committee, the advocacy organization also known as AJC, is organizing #JewishandProud Day on Jan. 6. Curry participated by sharing a photo with Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations.

The AJC campaign is a response to the recent attacks, including the killing last month of four people at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, and the stabbing last week of five people at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York.

But it’s also a reaction to the fear many American Jews are experiencing as more anti-Semitic hate crimes are reported. The number of hate crimes against Jews reported to the FBI jumped 40 percent between 2014 and 2018, and 2019 saw another large increase in anti-Semitic assaults. In an October survey of American Jews, AJC found that “31 percent avoid publicly wearing, carrying or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jews, and 25 percent avoid certain places, events or situations at least some of the time out of concern for their safety or comfort as Jews.”

“Enough is enough. We will not shy away from publicly displaying, celebrating our Jewish identity and faith,” said AJC CEO David Harris in an announcement for the campaign. “The most visible of our brethren, Jews who are easily identifiable because they proudly wear yarmulkes and traditional clothing, have become the number one targets, but if any Jew anywhere is attacked for being a Jew, we must all respond in total support and solidarity,” said Harris.

So, for #JewishandProud Day, AJC is encouraging Jews around the world to wear items of clothing that “exhibit [their] Jewishness publicly and proudly” – such as a kippah or anything with Hebrew or Jewish symbols on it – and post a photo to social media using the hashtag #JewishandProud, with a sentence or two explaining why they are proud to be Jewish. AJC also offers a sign that participants can print and display.

#JewishandProud Day is not only for Jews who want to express their pride, but also for non-Jews who wish to show solidarity.

People wait to attend the illumination of a menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Berlin, Germany, on Dec. 22, 2019. Photo: Michele Tantussi/Reuters

“People who are not Jewish also are encouraged to participate, posting photos and comments in support of the Jewish community in this perilous time, and sharing on AJC.org/jewish-and-proud what they will be doing in 2020 to support the Jewish community,” AJC wrote in its announcement.

Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, suggested some creative ways that non-Jews can use the hashtag:

  • “I stand with my friends who are #JewishandProud.”
  • “Jews around the world are expressing their Jewish identity today using #JewishandProud. We should all stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
  • “I am not Jewish, but today I stand with all who are #JewishandProud. No community should have to live in fear.”

“We cannot stand silent before this fresh outbreak of anti-Jewish terror,” the Episcopal bishops of Long Island wrote in a statement of solidarity with the Jewish community after the attack in Monsey. “We call on our fellow Episcopalians now to boost our own spiritual solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers. Anti-Semitism is a problem of special concern, not to be overlooked, to Episcopalians and all Christians. … Episcopalians should become a prayerful presence in the face of the fear and vulnerability created by these incidents threatening the Jewish community.”

Curry encouraged Episcopalians to participate in #JewishandProud Day and help counter the rhetoric of hatred with a Christian message of love and support.

“Acts of violence in religious settings are also acts of intimidation and fear,” Curry said. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

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

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Churches in Australia act on national fire crisis with aid and prayers

Episcopal News Service - sex, 03/01/2020 - 16:01

[World Council of Churches] Red and smoky skies at night and in the morning looming in four Australian states indicate a catastrophe of biblical proportions as killer fires engulf towns and communities, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded.

Photo: Victoria Emergency Ministries via WCC

Churches have been at the forefront among the responders in both their prayers and deeds as Australians in four states, including New South Wales and Victoria, reel under flames, with thousands fleeing in the first days of a new decade.

Read the entire article here.

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The archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon, as delivered in Canterbury Cathedral

Episcopal News Service - qui, 02/01/2020 - 14:35

[Anglican Communion News Service]

The archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon, as delivered in Canterbury Cathedral, England, on Christmas Day 2019

John 1:1-14

Just this morning, I don’t know if you heard the news, but I understand that the BBC said what I was going to say [congregation laughs] so the temptation is to just change it. Then I could say, “Oh no I didn’t,” and then you could say [congregation joins in] “Oh yes you did!” I’ll resist the urge.

Canterbury is such a wonderful place. It’s a city of peace that celebrates Christmas gloriously. Last night, several thousand people were in the center singing and laughing and enjoying themselves.

It was wonderful. It’s a city of roughly 50,000 people. And now imagine a city five times the size of this one where its citizens face disease and war this Dec. 25, this very morning.

Read the full sermon here.

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Church of Uganda aims to fight trafficking through new mobile app

Episcopal News Service - qui, 02/01/2020 - 14:08

Paul Davis, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, John Kafwanka and Canon William Ongeng. Photo: Church of Uganda

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new mobile app has been launched by the Church of Uganda to help young people avoid falling into human trafficking when they seek work abroad.

The new free app called Just Good Work, developed by clergyman Paul Davis, was commended by the archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, when he was given a presentation by the developers this week.

Archbishop Ntagali had warned against the increasing cases of human trafficking over the past few years.

Read the entire article here.

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RIP: Morgan Porteus, 11th bishop of Connecticut, dies at 102

Episcopal News Service - sex, 20/12/2019 - 20:01

[Episcopal Church in Connecticut] The Rt. Rev. Morgan Porteus, 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, died peacefully on Dec. 15 at his home in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, surrounded by his loving family. He was 102.

Son of the late Robert William and Ruth Morgan Porteus, he was born Aug. 10, 1917, in Hartford, Connecticut. His paternal grandfather was Robert Porteus, a well-known building contractor in Hartford with the Porteus-Walker Company. His maternal grandfather, Frederick Morgan, was a tobacco merchant in Windsor, Connecticut, and a state representative.

The Right Rev. Morgan Porteus

As a boy, Porteus attended public schools in Windsor and graduated in 1941 from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Having been accepted as a postulant for Holy Order in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, he attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1943.

Porteus was ordained a deacon in 1943 and a priest in 1944 at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, where as a boy he sang in the choir. He considered the cathedral to be the heart of his life and ministry.

After serving as curate in 1943 at Trinity Church, Torrington, Connecticut, he accepted a call in 1944 to be rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire, Connecticut, where he served for 27 years.

In 1971, he was elected bishop suffragan in Connecticut and coadjutor bishop in 1976. In 1977 he was installed as the 11th bishop of the diocese at Christ Church Cathedral.

He served as a member of The Episcopal Church’s Standing Liturgical Commission for eight years until the 1979 Prayer Book was compiled and approved by General Convention.

He retired in 1981, moved to Cape Cod, and became an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts, a position he held until 2009.

Porteus had three sons with his first wife, Martha A. Walsh of Lowell, Massachusetts, whom he married in 1944. After they divorced, he married Rev. Joan Cottrel in 1988, a marriage that also ended in divorce.

He was an avid fly fisherman, gardener and photographer with a deep love of Cape Cod and its natural beauty.

A memorial service and internment will be held in summer 2020 at St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Chapel in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. An additional graveside memorial and internment will be held at First Church Cemetery in Windsor, Connecticut. Dates will be determined. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of one’s choice.

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As the only choir boarding school in America turns 100, alumni reflect on its lasting influence

Episcopal News Service - sex, 20/12/2019 - 19:39

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys provides music for at least five choral services each week. Photo: St. Thomas Choir School

[Episcopal News Service] In fifth grade, most kids are focused on their friends, their favorite TV shows, pushing the limits of their parents’ authority and maybe a sport or two.

Dana Marsh was singing in the Washington National Cathedral in front of the president of the United States and the queen of England.

The year was 1976, and 11-year-old Marsh and his classmates from the renowned St. Thomas Choir School in New York had been invited, along with other choirs, to sing at a service celebrating the U.S. bicentennial attended by President Gerald Ford and Queen Elizabeth II. Marsh was the treble soloist.

Such is the kind of opportunity afforded to students at St. Thomas, the only boys’ choir boarding school in the U.S. and one of only three in the world. The school, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and is connected to St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, enrolls boys from grades three through eight to study in a rigorous academic program and sing in the acclaimed St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys.

That means the students’ experience is marked by intense and disciplined immersion in the rich Anglican choral tradition, singing at least five services a week in the church, as well as international tours, concerts with symphonies and unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Thomas Carroll (class of 1988, and the son of a 1945 graduate) remembers singing the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem Mass at St. Thomas Church in 1985 with Plácido Domingo and Sarah Brightman.

A few years later, he and some of his classmates went to The Hit Factory, the legendary New York recording studio, to record vocals with Carly Simon for “Let the River Run,” the song she had written for the movie “Working Girl” that went on to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. To this day, he still gets royalty checks of about $5 every few months for that song.

Bishop Chip Stokes of New Jersey, who attended St. Thomas during the tumultuous late 1960s, recalls singing at a memorial service at St. John the Divine for Martin Luther King Jr. and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while mourners were paying their respects to Robert F. Kennedy.

“Being in that place and being a part of that school during those experiences was pretty powerful,” Stokes told Episcopal News Service.

As St. Thomas celebrates a century of choral education, Stokes, Carroll, Marsh and other alumni shared with ENS their reflections on how the school shaped their lives. Though the school’s influence has manifested in different ways in the lives of its alumni, it can still be seen even decades later in the pursuit of excellence and the passion for music that unites them.

St. Thomas Choir School students in the 1920s with T. Tertius Noble (back row center, with mustache). Photo: St. Thomas Choir School

St. Thomas was founded in 1919 by the English-American organist and composer T. Tertius Noble to train a boy choir in the Anglican choral tradition for St. Thomas Church. Housed in a 15-story building several blocks from the church, the school now has about 30 students in grades three through eight; third-graders board Monday through Friday, while the rest of the students live at the school full time. Currently, students come from eight states and more than half are ethnic minorities. Following the English choral tradition, St. Thomas only enrolls boys, but since 2005, it has also hosted a nine-day choral workshop in sacred music for girls.

Sending a young child to a boarding school is often difficult at first, both for the students and their parents, said Victoria Vanasco, who is now the school’s admissions director but lives in Buffalo, New York. She first heard of St. Thomas from a friend who recommended it for her musically talented son, Quinn.

Students typically enroll at 8 or 9 years old. They have a demanding music education of vocal lessons, instrument lessons and six years of music theory, enabling them to sing an annual repertoire of nearly 400 songs at a professional level at services and concerts. Photo: Ira Lippke/St. Thomas Choir School

“The idea of sending my nine-year-old 400 miles away was not at the top of my list of things to do,” Vanasco said, but visiting the school sealed the deal. Her son wouldn’t just be going to school; he would get the chance “to do something that was meaningful and important in the larger world. And I think there’s so few opportunities for them to do that. And it’s life-changing.”

Homesickness is common at first, but it typically fades away once the boys settle into the routine and start to feel the sense of tight-knit community that alumni remember so fondly.

“The first few weeks, I was really homesick,” Carroll said. But soon enough, “St. Thomas was as much my home as my [family’s] home was, and I think that gives you a sense of belonging.”

“I was homesick going into Christmas,” Stokes remembered, “but when I walked into that church to sing the Christmas Eve service my first year, I didn’t want to be anywhere else, and that was December 1967, as a 10-year-old boy. And from then on, I never looked back.”

For Nathan Fletcher (class of 2007), coming from a small town in Connecticut, a highlight of the St. Thomas experience was exploring the city on Saturdays. Fletcher and his friends would ride the subway to Chinatown, see movies, “go to art exhibitions or museums – for me that was so cool … being in the middle of this amazing city, with so much going on.”

Science class takes over the library to study physics. Photo: Ira Lippke/St. Thomas Choir School

The tiny class sizes (the school has a 1:3 faculty-student ratio) and caliber of the teachers foster an atmosphere of academic excellence, Vanasco said. Teachers can personalize lessons based on needs and abilities instead of having one curriculum for everyone. The academic rigor is matched by the demanding but transformative choral program that teaches students the value of setting high standards and putting in the work to meet them.

“I think it took maybe a few years after St. Thomas to realize how high of a musical bar was set for all of us,” said Trevor Weston (class of 1981), who is now a composer and the chair of the Music Department at Drew University. “At St. Thomas, we were encouraged not just to do an OK job but to strive toward excellence. … We had an obligation to not just perform but perform well enough to actually move people.”

Fletcher, a freelance musician, composer and singer with a master’s degree in composition, learned from his time at St. Thomas how dedication can pay off.

The choristers are often asked to make special appearances. Here, they are taping a Christmas segment with NBC, bringing Christmas cheer to passersby. Photo: St. Thomas Choir School

“If you think of music as being like a language, which I think it is, I think St. Thomas really is like a foreign language immersion school, but for music. … You end up gaining a kind of fluency in the language of music,” Fletcher said.

When alumni talk about the qualities in themselves that they attribute to St. Thomas, discipline is frequently mentioned – the kind of organization that allows creativity to flourish. It’s a skill that has helped Marsh in all areas of his life ever since.

“It was a great disciplining influence on me. At that point in my life, I did tend to get in trouble in school,” Marsh said. St. Thomas taught him the importance of “organizing one’s life, being on time for things, planning ahead, all those kinds of things that any community needs to coexist really [were] instilled in me [so] that it just became second nature.”

Being immersed in sacred music at an Episcopal school forms a powerful spiritual basis for the lives of many students, like Stokes, who came to know God through the mystical beauty of Anglican worship and music.

“I love singing the worship of the church. I love being engaged in the worship of the church. And more than anything, the story of Jesus Christ began to be absorbed in my being in powerful ways. … I often share with people that the hymns are my primary prayer life,” Stokes said.

The careers these men have now are a testament to the lasting influence of St. Thomas on the boys who become young men there. Despite the disparity in the fields they’ve chosen, they all look back on St. Thomas as the crucible in which their passions were forged.

“It was an incredibly formative experience for me,” Stokes told ENS. “In terms of shaping my faith and my love of Christ and love of Christ’s church, that was a key piece for sure.”

After St. Thomas, Marsh got a bachelor’s degree in organ performance and a master’s and doctorate from Oxford and went on to have a career as a countertenor, conductor and music director in England and the U.S. He now chairs the historical performance program at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and is also the artistic director of the Washington Bach Consort. He spoke to ENS from Washington, D.C., where he was immersed in rehearsals for a presentation of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

“Without the experience of St. Thomas, very clearly, none of this would have happened,” Marsh said. “Everything, every direction that I have gone since, in every musical sense, was directed by that change in my life and going to St. Thomas.”

Carroll is a laryngeal surgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and director of the B&W Voice Program, bringing his personal knowledge of vocal health to his work with singers and other patients.

“I operate on vocal cords all day, and obviously I got that interest from my interest in music and singing, which I carried through my entire life after St. Thomas,” he explained. “I got a degree in music from Oberlin College after high school and then went to medical school and realized there was this field out there that would allow me to combine a lot of my interests into taking care of people. So St. Thomas was ultimately a huge influence on my career choice.”

Weston said the music he studied and performed at St. Thomas “mesmerized” him and inspired him to write his own music. And the St. Thomas name still opened doors for him long after he had graduated; he was offered an organist job on the spot while practicing in a church after mentioning he had attended the school. Coming full circle, he received his first commission as a composer from the late Gerre Hancock, the beloved organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas from 1971 to 2004.

Fletcher, who has written operas on commission and is working on the intersection of opera and film, also feels the continuing influence of St. Thomas. Until recently, he returned to St. Thomas to sing as one of the gentlemen in the Men and Boys Choir.

“St. Thomas is a really special place and it’s very difficult to get away,” Fletcher told ENS. “The musical experiences are obviously totally formative in terms of who I am as a person. … They cemented in me a really deep appreciation for the power of music, to create experiences of transcendence.”

Watch Lessons & Carols from St. Thomas live from 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern time on Christmas Eve.

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

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Diocese of Newark church connects local students to children with disabilities in East Jerusalem

Episcopal News Service - sex, 20/12/2019 - 19:12

Barbara Boehm, center, a parishioner from St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair, New Jersey, presents a letter from student employees at the church’s thrift shop to children at the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre in 2018. Photo courtesy of AFEDJ

[Episcopal News Service] Student employees at an Episcopal church’s mission store in Montclair, New Jersey, are supporting children thousands of miles away through a campaign to raise money for an Anglican medical center in East Jerusalem.

St. James Episcopal Church runs a secondhand shop called Sky’s the Limit Thrift Store. It is staffed by local high school students with disabilities. St. James also for several years has partnered with the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem to support the families served by the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre.

Last year, the Sky’s the Limit student employees sent a letter to the children at the medical center who are being treated for their own disabilities. This year, four of the St. James store’s employees wrote to the Diocese of Newark urging approval of a diocesan grant for the East Jerusalem facility’s Mother Empowerment Program. The program provides individualized support for mothers of children with newly diagnosed disabilities.

“It is very important that we help. That is the only way to make things better for everyone,” the student employees wrote in their letter.

The Diocese of Newark responded by awarding $4,000 from its Alleluia Fund, and the students donated an additional $1,000 from sales at Sky’s the Limit. St. James was able to offer another $5,000 thanks to a one-time gift to the church’s discretionary fund. The $10,000 is enough to pay for two mother-and-child pairs to attend the Mother Empowerment Program at the Princess Basma Centre.

The Montclair church’s connection to the Diocese of Jerusalem’s medical center has meant a lot to the students employed by the Sky’s the Limit Thrift Store, St. James parishioner Barbara Boehm told Episcopal News Service.

“It’s so great to see the excitement that it generates in them to be helping students half a world away,” said Boehm, who volunteers at the store on Saturdays and also serves as a trustee with American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, or AFEDJ.

And the Princess Basma Centre partly inspired the creation of the Sky’s the Limit Thrift Store two years ago, according to the Rev. Melissa Hall, rector at St. James. The congregation’s efforts to raise money in support of the children served by the Diocese of Jerusalem opened St. James to the idea of finding ways to serve children in its own community.

“The wheel keeps going around,” Hall said. “It’s really been remarkable.”

Many disabled students served by the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre are mainstreamed into the inclusive school where on-site therapies are available to them. Photo: Heidi Shott/AFEDJ

Support for the East Jerusalem medical center is spread across The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Newark is one of nearly a dozen Episcopal dioceses that AFEDJ contacted this year as it worked to raise money for the Mother Empowerment Program.

The program has three objectives: training mothers to provide therapy to their children at home, alleviating the stress of caring for a child with disabilities and building up mothers to become advocates for their families. AFEDJ notes that those objectives coincide with several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015 to build on the global anti-poverty work promoted by the U.N.’s previous Millennium Development Goals.

The Episcopal Church and many of its dioceses had championed the Millennium Development Goals after they were created in 2000. Newark, for example, voted in 2004 to commit 0.7 percent of its annual operating income to ministries supporting the eight goals. When the United Nations shifted to its Sustainable Development Goals, Newark continued to set aside money for international outreach and distributed the money through its Alleluia Fund grants.

In addition to Newark, the dioceses of Maine, Massachusetts, Northern California, Olympia, Ohio, Rochester and Western North Carolina have committed money this year to the Mother Empowerment Program through their own grants aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Education equity and gender equality are among the goals addressed by the program at the Princess Basma Center, AFEDJ says.

The facility, founded by the Diocese of Jerusalem in 1965, is a charitable rehabilitation center serving children with a range of disabilities, and it is known as a pioneer in treating children with autism from the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

Boehm, an art curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said she first traveled to Jerusalem about five years ago on a work trip. While there, she took baby blankets to the Princess Basma Centre based on a request from AFEDJ. She brought back stories of the experience to her congregation at St. James.

“Everyone was just overwhelmed by the amazing work that they do at this center,” Boehm said. She and other St. James parishioners began visiting the center on church trips to Jerusalem, and the congregation, through its outreach budget, now gives more than $2,000 a year to AFEDJ to support the Princess Basma Centre.

Separately, a parishioner who works as a high school teacher mentioned to Hall two years ago that it was difficult to find workplaces that would hire special-needs teenagers. Hall said it was like “the Holy Spirit blew through the room,” and the congregation quickly developed a plan to renovate the church basement and turn it into a thrift shop that would hire students with disabilities.

The dozen or so students who now work at the Sky’s the Limit store have been drawn to the cause of helping children in Jerusalem, and AFEDJ welcomes their support.

“We thank the young people who run the thrift store at St. James for showing us all how to share gifts with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land,” AFEDJ Executive Director John Lent said in a written statement. “These students and the St. James community have built a tangible connection to children in East Jerusalem who are treated and educated at the remarkable Princess Basma Centre.”

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

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