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Episcopalians prepare to rally against gun violence at March for Our Lives events across U.S.

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 4:23pm

Representatives from Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment group, meet with youth group members at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, for a training in political advocacy and lobbying. The youth group members will travel to Washington, D.C., this week for the March of Our Lives on March 24. Photo: Juliana Serrano/All Saints Pasadena

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and Episcopal leaders from across the U.S. are traveling to Washington, D.C., this week for the March for Our Lives on March 24, while others plan to attend corresponding local rallies centered on a shared message: Something must be done to stop gun violence, especially against young people.

Episcopalians attending the Washington march or marches in other cities are encouraged to use the hashtags #MarchEpiscopal and #episcopal when posting to social media from the events, and follow the updates March 24 on Episcopal News Service.

Preparations are well underway. In Chicago, a group of young Episcopalians spent their evening March 20 creating the signs they will take with them to the march in Washington. Members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, will rise early March 22 to send off a youth group flying to Washington. And in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, church leaders are putting the final touches on a temporary memorial to the victims of two deadly school shootings.

“This is not politics. This is gospel,” the Rev. Melissa Hall, rector at Montclair’s Church of St. James, said. “We just love our children and want to keep them safe.”

St. James’ memorial features T-shirts draped over poles in front of the church. On one side of the church yard are 17 shirts, one for each of the students and adults killed Feb. 14 in the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that sparked the youth-driven movement behind March for Our Lives. On the other side of the church yard, 26 more shirts memorialize the young children and educators shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

Hall and the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook, assistant rector at St. James, came up with the idea for the memorial in the days after the Parkland massacre as they were asking themselves what they could do about gun violence. “We kind of put our heads in our hands and said, how many more times can we preach about this?” Hall said.

In addition to the memorial, St. James will host an evening service and candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. March 24. Although it is separate from the marches planned around the country, the church will show solidarity with the cause by singing hymns, joining in prayer and tolling its bell for the victims of gun violence.

Episcopalians in numerous dioceses have organized bus trips to Washington, D.C., to attend the main March for Our Lives. Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, who will join a six-bus convoy organized by the Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey, lamented “the scourge of gun violence” in a blog post March 21.

“I am going to Washington this Saturday in part to follow the passion of young people, but more than that, and deeper than that, I am going to follow Jesus – who, with his unwavering commitment to nonviolence, regularly stepped into the crucibles of power that condoned, if not fostered, violence,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith, one of the convening Episcopal bishops in the group Bishops United Against Gun Violence, noted “a groundswell of support” for gun reforms, such as raising the legal age to buy guns, expanding background checks for gun purchases and banning certain assault-style weapons. He also heralded the “eloquence and outrage” of students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the wake of the deadly attack at their school.

He invoked the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a model for challenging the power structures that perpetuate injustice.

“His witness endures, and I believe we are meant to draw on his example and follow him, nonviolently, into this evolving cultural chasm,” Beckwith said. “And not give up, and not be stopped.”

Beckwith and many other Episcopalians making the journey to Washington plan to attend an interfaith vigil March 23 at Washington National Cathedral. The Diocese of Washington is helping to arrange accommodations for some of those coming from out of town, and the diocese also is coordinating its members to march as a group down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol during the March for our Lives.

“We are not alone in this work,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said in a February blog post about the march. “The country’s conscience has been awakened and people from all sectors, many faiths, and every point on the political spectrum are responding.”

Episcopal teenagers are among the wave of young people who have spoken out against gun violence and helped organized demonstrations in response to the Parkland shooting, and they will be at the forefront of the upcoming marches.

The Episcopal formation group Forma has assembled a guide for bringing young people to protests or marches like the ones scheduled for March 24. The Episcopal Church also provides general guidelines for traveling with youth.

All Saints in Pasadena is sending 10 youth group members along with its youth director, Jeremy Langill, and its rector, the Rev. Mike Kinman, to Washington for the march. The trip was made possible by donations from members and friends of the congregation, said the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate rector for communication at All Saints.

They also will meet March 23 on Capitol Hill with staff members of Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat that represents Pasadena. Other youth group members who will remain in California plan to meet with Chu herself at her district office on the same day.

Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment group, met with the youth group this month to train them on lobbying lawmakers while explaining what to expect during the meetings, Russell said.

“We are working with our youth to equip them to amplify their voices as part of the March for Our Lives,” Russell said.

At All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago, some of the young people who will travel to Washington, D.C., gathered March 20 to make anti-violence signs. All Saints is partnering with four other Episcopal congregations in the diocese to rent two buses for the trip. About 110 people will leave Friday evening, march on Saturday and be back home in time for Palm Sunday worship, said the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector at All Saints.

“This is like Jesus going to the capital. That’s why I really wanted us to go to D.C.,” Perry said, echoing Beckwith’s biblical Palm Sunday reference. “This s a pilgrimage. It’s a spiritual pilgrimage, it’s a Lenten discipline. This is what we’re called to do.”

Traveling to the nation’s capital isn’t the only way to participate. Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee issued a call to his diocese to get involved, if not by joining the march in Washington then by marching with him in Chicago or being with marchers in spirit.

“Wherever you are, please pray that God will console, sustain and heal all whose lives are touched by gun violence, and that God will make evident the work that we are being called to do to end this scourge,” Lee said.

That and other Episcopal-led efforts on March 24 are included in a list compiled by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Here are some other highlights:

Bishop Daniel Gutierrez of the Diocese of Pennsylvania invites those who are marching to come for a blessing March 23 at a service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in honor of Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church who fought social and economic injustice until he was assassinated while saying Mass on March 24, 1980. Episcopalians from the diocese are planning to attend marches in Philadelphia and Washington.

The bishops of the Diocese of Virginia said in a March 21 statement that they “choose to spend Saturday with young people and others from our congregations and communities to say no to gun violence. We join with responsible gun owners and with others who have a wide variety of views toward guns. We speak not against responsible gun ownership, but against an idolatry of guns that has caused devastating ruin and destruction within our borders. We invite the people of this diocese to join in saying no to violence and yes to life.” Diocesan Bishop Shannon Johnston will march in Richmond, Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff will be in the march in Charlottesville and assisting Bishops Bob Ihloff and Ted Gulick will take part in the Washington, D.C. events.

The Diocese of Indianapolis and Christ Church Cathedral are sponsoring a bus trip to the march in Washington, though Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows will rally with Episcopalians at the March for Our Lives event in Indianapolis. Bishop Douglas Sparks of the Diocese of Northern Indiana also will lead a group of Episcopalians to the Indianapolis march.

Other bishops are inviting Episcopalians in their diocese to join them at local marches. Diocese of Rochester Bishop Prince Singh plans to attend the march in Rochester, New York, while Diocese of Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner will participate in the march in Sacramento. South Carolina Bishop Provisional Skip Adams is scheduled to be at the march in North Charleston, and Diocese of Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher will attend the march in Northampton.

The Episcopal cathedral in Boston is being converted into a sort of hospitality and training center for marchers in that city. Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston plans to serve as a gathering place for participants in the city’s March for Our Lives beginning at 10 a.m. The gathering will offer youth-led trainings and other organizing activities before the group leaves for the march at the end of the morning.

The Diocese of Connecticut is holding a morning event, Equipping and Empowering God’s Women: A Way Forward, in recognition of International Women’s Day. When the event at the cathedral in Hartford concludes at 12:30 p.m., participants are invited to join a procession to the state capitol for Hartford’s March for Our Lives event.

Diocese of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe plans to attend a March for Our Lives rally in Syracuse. She discussed Christian responses to gun violence in a Facebook Live video on March 20.

“Our faith calls us to stand and protect our children, the most vulnerable among us. Jesus tells us, ‘Let the child come unto me,’ that children would be safe and protected. So how do we do that? How do we understand that?” Duncan-Probe said. “It’s time to listen and to be vulnerable, to listen and to be led by our children.”

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

Archbishop of Canterbury gives evidence to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 2:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A public inquiry examining institutional responses to child sexual abuse in England and Wales has heard from  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The Archbishop gave evidence under oath to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The Inquiry was established by the British government to examine institutional responses to child sexual abuse in England and Wales. The archbishop’s appearance before the came on the last day of evidence taking in a three-week public hearing looking at a number of cases in the Diocese of Chichester.

Read the entire article here.

Domestic abuse happens in churches too: new research highlights churchgoers’ experience

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 2:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] New research into the prevalence of domestic abuse amongst churchgoers shows that one in four people have experienced abuse in their current relationship. The research, by academics at Coventry University and the University of Leicester for the Christian charity Restored, surveyed churchgoers in the north-west English county of Cumbria for the ground-breaking study of domestic abuse.

Read the entire article here.

Fire-ravaged home for girls in Jamaica re-opens in time for 100th anniversary

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 2:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A home for girls which was all-but destroyed by a devastating fire in 2015 has been re-opened by Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory after being re-built. The Wortley Home is one of three children’s homes run by the diocese. It was first opened in 1918 and will celebrate its centenary in May. Under the slogan “Founded by Love, Built by Faith,” Wortley Home provides “a place of safety” for girls aged between seven and 18 who are orphaned, abused, or whose family are financially unable to care for them.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopalians join other people of faith in prayers for Maryland school shooting

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 4:44pm

[Episcopal News Service] Church of the Ascension, Lexington Park, Maryland, will be the site of a community prayer service March 20 in response to the latest school shooting in the U.S.

A 17-year-old male student shot two other students at Great Mills High School about two miles from the church earlier that morning before a school resource officer engaged him and stopped the threat, according to St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron. CNN reported that the student was Austin Wyatt Rollins and said the sheriff reported that the shooting began in a school hallway at 7:55 a.m., just before classes started. Rollins, armed with a handgun, shot a female and a male student. The shooter had a prior relationship with the female student, according to the sheriff.

Rollins was dead at the scene, and the Associated Press reported that Cameron said it wasn’t immediately clear whether the shooter took his own life or was killed by school resource officer Blaine Gaskill’s bullet. The 16-year-old female victim has a life-threatening injury, and a 14-year-old boy also suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh, but it wasn’t clear who shot him, the news service reported.

The prayer service at Ascension, a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, is being planned in coordination with Lexington Park United Methodist Church, Good Samaritan Lutheran Church, Lexington Park Baptist Church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lexington Park, God’s House Church in Lexington Park and St. George’s Episcopal Church in Valley Lee.

“Members of the community impacted by the shooting today, and those in the region seeking to pray in solidarity, are invited to attend,” according to a release from the diocese.

The shooting comes just more than a month after the Valentine’s Day killings of 17 students and adults at a Florida high school by a teenager with an assault-style weapon, and five days before the March of Our Lives events, called for on March 24 by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.

Work begins to clear mines from Qasr el Yahud – the west bank site of Jesus’ baptism

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 12:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Work to clear mines from the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism at Qasr el Yahud – the Castle of the Jews – has begun, almost two years after permission or the work was granted. The international anti-mine charity Halo Trust has been working with the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the eight denominations whose churches and monasteries have been made out of bounds as a result of the mines, to raise the funds necessary to clear the site. It was mined after the Six Day War in 1967. A path to the River Jordan was cleared in 2000 for the Pope’s visit; but the site wasn’t opened for tourists and pilgrims until 2011.

Read the entire article here.

Anglicans and evangelical groups work to build a creation care movement in southern Africa

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 11:59am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Green Anglicans network in southern Africa is partnering with a number of ecumenical bodies to create a creation care movement in the region. Some 28 Anglicans from eight countries attended a Creation Care and the Gospel Workshop in South Africa recently, organized by Lausanne / World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Creation Care Network and A Rocha ZA, together with Green Anglicans.

Read the entire article here.

Small, rural Episcopal churches designed by world-renowned architect are disappearing

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 11:18am

Trinity Episcopal Church in Groton, South Dakota, is the last remaining church designed by renowned architect and Episcopalian Richard Upjohn. Photo courtesy of Groton Community Historical Society

[Episcopal News Service] In the center of a little former frontier town in northeastern South Dakota stands an Episcopal sole survivor.

The one-room wooden Trinity Episcopal Church was built only three years after the town of Groton was organized as a railroad stop in 1881. Groton is now a city of 1,400 people, according to the last U.S. census.

This simple, white-painted church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, representing significant mid-19th century revival architecture, exploration and settlement. Properties listed in the register are deemed important in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. It’s the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.

The church’s cachet also stems from its architectural design. It was created by renowned church architect and Episcopalian Richard Upjohn, who designed the majestic Trinity Church Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and founded the American Institute of Architects.

There once were 153 churches built from Upjohn’s designs in South Dakota, and this is the only one remaining.

Perspective drawing for Trinity Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of Groton Community Historical Society

“I always took it for granted that it was there. I live two blocks from the church and walked by it every day of my life since 1965,” said Betty Breck, who is striving to keep the church preserved and open for use.

She’s part of the Groton Community Historical Society that is seeking help from the public to gather enough donations to be able to apply for a grant from the City of Deadwood, South Dakota, and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, set up to help historic preservation throughout the state.

A circa 1870 oil portrait depicts architect and Episcopalian Richard Upjohn. Photo: Wikmedia Commons

Upjohn, a heavily indebted English cabinet maker, migrated to the United States in 1829, gradually becoming one of North America’s famous architects. “The buildings he designed reflected new currents in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States and its parent, the Church of England,” according to an article by Joan R. Gundersen, the soon-to retire archivist for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Gundersen, who lived in Northfield, Minnesota, from 1975 to 1989 while she was a tenured member of the St. Olaf College history department, wrote about Upjohn’s influence in “Rural Gothic: Building Episcopal Churches on the Minnesota Frontier,” published in Minnesota History, a quarterly publication of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Upjohn helped spread the Gothic revival in church architecture to the United States with his work on Trinity Church Wall Street and several other major churches.

“More important for the architect’s and the revival’s overall impact was the fact that Upjohn donated plans for many small churches and made it a policy to design one mission church each year,” she said.

“With these plans, they could build churches very quickly,” Breck said. “The directions were so complete. It’s fascinating to me how they did it.”

Betty Breck is trying to preserve Trinity Episcopal Church in Groton, South Dakota, due to its historic architectural design and significance. Photo courtesy of Groton Community Historical Society

Upjohn’s practical plans for building small churches, quickly, affordably and with local materials and craftsmen in rural America started a wave of 19th century church building, starting in western New York sometime in the 1820s, Breck learned.

It wasn’t until the 1820s that the Episcopal Church looked toward the American frontier, Gundersen wrote. That’s when the General Convention founded the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, which first began work on the immediate frontiers of western Pennsylvania, New York and New England. Western New York was booming, thanks to the completion in 1825 of the Erie Canal. (Today, the Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out its mission under the name of the DFMS.)

Eventually, Upjohn gathered plans for a church, chapel, rectory and schoolhouse that he published as “Upjohn’s Rural Architecture” in 1852.

Then the building spread with the missionary movement throughout the Western frontier. In 1880, there were 22 chapels and 73 churches built with Upjohn’s plans in Minnesota, Breck said.

Trinity, Groton, was a consecrated church in the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota until the diocese deeded the property to the Brown County Historical Society in 1975. It joined the National Register in 1983. But the society struggled to take care of the church, so in 2016, the Groton Community Historical Society was formed for the express purpose owning the church to maintain and preserve it.

The interior of Trinity Episcopal Church in Groton, South Dakota. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Robert Hill

The church is exactly as it was in the 1880s, except for the chimney, turn-of-the-century wiring and the removal of an oil furnace on the floor. The ecclesiastical furniture — including the original pump organ, pews, altar and pulpit — are the same.

Once the roof is fixed, Breck envisions weekly music events and maybe use as a destination wedding chapel. She has an event planned May 27, with pump organ music.

When Breck started doing research on this church, she had no idea about its history.

“It was just this sweet little church down the road. When you sit in there, it just works its spell on you. It speaks to the spirituality of our ancestors here,” Breck said.

“They worked hard, and they took time to build a church not only for their Episcopal congregation, but by others also. It was a community center, the center of the town and held everything together on the prairie.”

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

El Camino Real bishop announces plan to resign in 2020

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 3:10pm

[Episcopal News Service] Diocese of El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves recently called for the election of her successor, and announced that she will be resigning in early 2020. That will be her 13th year of her episcopate. The text of her letter to the diocese follows.

A message from Bishop Mary

Dear friends,
I write today to share with you my decision to begin the process of electing the next bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real. Many of you became aware last year that I was praying and discerning the timing of my departure as your diocesan bishop. I spoke with both the Board of Trustees and the Standing Committee at that time, recommending that we begin budgeting for the transition process. The transition of a bishop takes time, money and oversight. A search process is necessary. It includes full diocesan participation about the identity of the diocese, a review of its history, what has been accomplished during our tenure, and what the hopes and dreams are for the future. This work is essential to a healthy discernment process that results in the fruitful calling of our next bishop.

While a date for an electing convention is not yet set, the ordination and consecration of the next bishop will be held January 11, 2020. At that service the transition from my episcopate to that of our new bishop will take place. In other words, I will remain your bishop, working as I have, until that day. I will be in the 13th year of my episcopate at that time.

The Canons of the Episcopal Church and our diocesan canons will govern the process of the transition and election of the new diocesan bishop. The process will be overseen by our Standing Committee, assisted by the Office of Pastoral Development and a search consultant. This morning The Right Reverend Todd Ousley joined the Board of Trustees, the Standing Committee, myself and the staff so that we could be fully oriented to the process, to our respective roles during the time of transition and to express our own needs moving forward. The Standing Committee will soon communicate with you their next steps in appointing a Search Committee and the anticipated timeline.

Meanwhile, I am going to continue working as I have been, focusing on our Strategic Plan remix alongside diocesan leaders and staff. It will be important that I not involve myself in the search process, but continue to keep our diocese moving forward in the positive direction that has allowed us to accomplish so much in these years of ministry together.

Many will wonder what I am doing after my tenure here is completed. The answer is that I do not yet know. I will not run for election in another diocese. Personal considerations include needing more flexibility in my schedule, regaining balance in my personal life. The work of a diocesan bishop is demanding, and the Diocese of El Camino Real is no ordinary place! A leader who will harness the considerable energy, gifts and spiritual depth of this diocese will be needed to engage the Spirit’s call on our church and the ministry we share with our neighborhood partners. Our transition will be orderly and in the best interest of the church. Fresh energy will allow us not to miss a beat as we seek to live out God’s calling as a diocese.

Please join me in prayer, trusting in the grace of God who holds all life and calls us to exciting and fruitful opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. May we be courageous as we are enlightened, faithful as our wisdom is deepened, and true to our following of Jesus whose path leads us into all life.

I love you and I am deeply honored to continue serving as your bishop in the nearly two years before us. I will treasure this time of transition, knowing that God has yet more wonderful life ahead for us all.

Blessings of grace and peace,

Episcopalians follow Way of the Cross out of churches to pray at Lenten stations in their communities

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 1:58pm

Episcopalians in Jersey City, New Jersey, lead a public procession for Stations of the Cross at sites of violence crime in the city on Good Friday 2017. Photo: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Praying the Stations of the Cross during Lent is a centuries-old tradition that focuses Christians on the path of suffering that Jesus followed to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and for many Christians, that story is retold in solemn tones inside the walls of a church or chapel.

Some Episcopal congregations, however, have followed the Way of the Cross out the cathedral and church doors into the community for public liturgies that often connect the details of Jesus’ Passion with contemporary examples of injustice and persecution.

Such liturgies, held each year from New Jersey to Louisiana, also allow worshipers to publicly witness to their Christian faith.

The Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul is one of four Christian congregations in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, that have organized a Way of the Cross procession each year for more than a decade. Photo: William J. Gentsch

“What we do is we read the station, and then different people are invited ahead of time to formulate a very short reflection, and typically, that reflection ties the reading to the site where we’re reading and contemporary issues,” said the Rev. John Doherty, a deacon and administrator at Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines, Iowa, where he participates in the annual Way of the Cross procession through the city’s downtown.

The Rev. Audra Abt, missionary vicar at Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Greensboro, North Carolina, helps organize a similar Good Friday procession that serves to brings the story of Jesus’ suffering into a present-day context.

“If we do it outside the church, we can’t help but see how that suffering continues,” she said. “I think it transforms us as people of faith and calls us to put ourselves where Jesus was.”

Praying the Way of the Cross, though not a solely Episcopal devotion, is outlined in the Episcopal Church’s “Book of Occasional Services.” The book provides biblical readings and prayers for each of the 14 stations, from the first, “Jesus is condemned to death,” to the final, “Jesus is laid in the tomb.” Congregations often hang pictures on church walls depicting Jesus in each of the 14 stations, so worshipers can process from station to station around the church.

There are no geographical limitations, however, and following the Way of the Cross as an outdoor procession envokes early Christian history, when worshipers starting in the fourth century followed what was believed to be the actual path of Jesus through Jerusalem.

“A winding route emerged over time from the ruins of Antonia Fortress, held to be where Jesus stood before Pilate, then west to the basilica,” according to a history of the Stations of the Cross produced by Baylor University.  “Eventually stops developed, and in 1342, Franciscan monks were given official custody of these holy sites, closely identifying them with the stations from then on, in the Holy Land.”

The number of stations has varied widely over the years, sometimes reaching as many as 37, as Catholic News Agency notes, and the term “stations” was first applied to these devotions in the 15th century.

“Along that way of suffering Jesus’ every meeting – with friends, with enemies, with the indifferent – is a chance for one final lesson, one last look, one supreme offer of reconciliation and peace,” the Vatican says in its online presentation on the Way of the Cross.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde recites prayers at the first Way of the Cross station March 21, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James Curry, left, and Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas listen. ENS photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

It was a lesson that Episcopalians took to Washington, D.C., in March 2013 when they prayed the Way of the Cross in a march against gun violence after the December 2012 massacre of 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Organizers meant for the procession to send a powerful message to friends, enemies and the indifferent, though congregations need not have a specific issue in mind to plan an outdoor Way of the Cross.

The annual Des Moines liturgy is organized by a partnership between the Episcopal cathedral and the downtown Lutheran, Methodist and Roman Catholic congregations. It has been held every Good Friday for more than a decade, with turnout ranging from 30 to 60 people, depending largely on the weather.

“We actually do carry or pull the cross from station to station,” Doherty said, explaining that the large, wooden cross that leads the procession has a wheel on the bottom.

The annual Good Friday procession in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, is led by someone pulling a large wooden cross on wheels. Photo: William J. Gentsch

Those leading the prayers at the stop in front of the Des Moines jail reference Jesus being brought before the council to be condemned, Doherty said. At another stop, in front of a public housing complex, the group may contemplate Jesus’ call to minister to the poor.

“It’s a public display or witness of our faith, and also to remind people that it’s Good Friday – it’s not just another Friday,” Doherty said. The Way of the Cross also is a time “to recall, as much as we can get our head around it, what the crucifixion, the sacrifice of Christ really means to us in contemporary society.”

The core devotional experience remains consistent from Des Moines to Greensboro, though each public Way of the Cross is tailored to the local community. Some congregations draw direct connections between the stations and the sites. Others see the public liturgy more generally as a spiritually rich form of evangelism. The following are some examples from around the country.

Jersey City, New Jersey

This Good Friday will mark the fourth year the three Episcopal churches in Jersey City will pray at Stations of the Cross that are located the sites of violence in the city from the past year. The processions have grown to about 150 people, including members of the Jersey City Police Department, which provides the list of locations.

“What we wanted to do was to figure out a way to have a public witness and also a way to make holy places that had been touched by violence,” said the Rev. Tom Murphy, rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith speaks at one of the stations in the April 14, 2017, Way of the Cross procession in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

At first, it was difficult to explain to police officials what the churches were trying to accomplish, Murphy said, but the department has become a partner and even participates in the event.

“One of the years, the captain of the precinct was right at the front of the procession, and several times over the course of it he said he could visualize the people who had been killed at each of the locations,” Murphy said.

Part of the procession involves a blessing for the police force, and individual officers are invited to step forward to receive personal blessings. Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith also has participated in each of the past three years, as have members of other Christian denominations.

Murphy describes the day as powerful and moving, made more so by the fact that the procession sometimes has encountered residents who knew the victims of violence highlighted by the route. The message to those residents, Murphy said, is that the church cares and is engaged in the community beyond what takes place in traditional worship spaces.

“On Good Friday, we remember the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, but if Jesus is really in our brothers and sisters, Jesus continues to suffer in what happens to people on the streets and homes in our city,” he said.

Greensboro, North Carolina

The public Stations of the Cross in Greensboro, North Carolina, also is in its fourth year. It grew out of a conversation between clergy and lay leaders at three Episcopal churches in the area. They wanted a Stations of the Cross that anyone downtown would be welcome to join.

Abt called it “a very vulnerable and humble evangelism.” The Good Friday has maintained a minimalist and even impromptu feel. In the first year, some stations didn’t even have prayers ready, so some of the participants volunteered to lead extemporaneous prayers. Last year, about 60 people joined the procession.

“We had this intuition that Stations of the Cross would be something that would draw people … but that we didn’t have to over plan it,” Abt said. “People came wanting to offer something. It’s almost like we created the container and we created this liturgy of the Way of the Cross and were open to whatever people were willing to offer.”

Participants stop at one of the stations in the 2016 Way of the Cross procession in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo: Audra Abt.

The organizers also shy away from drawing too direct of a connection between the moment in Jesus’ final journey depicted in each station and the places in Greensboro chosen for each stop. At the same time, participants have noted parallels at certain local landmarks.

One such landmark is the site of the Woolworth’s lunch counter where four black college students in 1960 staged a sit-in against segregation, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement. Another stop that resonates with worshipers is the Family Justice Center, which serves victims of domestic violence and abuse.

“I’ve watched there as people connect the sorrow of the women [of Jerusalem] to the sorrow and the anguish and the resilience of people who have survived domestic violence,” Abt said.

Covington, Louisiana

This is the second year that Christ Episcopal Church in Covington, Louisiana, is leading an outdoor Way of the Cross in partnership with a Presbyterian church. A procession was held March 4, and another will be offered March 21.

The church has adopted a Lenten focus on racial relationships this year, so organizers plotted a mile-long route that showed the city’s diversity by passing through different neighborhoods, some predominantly black and others predominantly white.

“We said this year when we do stations we need to make sure we’re walking in both parts of town,” said the Rev. Anne Maxwell, associate rector.

The Way of the Cross, led by the Rev. Anne Maxwell, center in clergy collar, stops at a station in front of the Columbia Street Tap Room and Grill in Covington, Louisiana, in 2017. Photo: Karen Mackey/Diocese of Loiuisiana

The liturgy for the stations was written to reference various social justice issues, but Maxwell said this Stations of the Cross still will feel familiar. Participants are encouraged to contemplate their faith beliefs while applying them to present-day society: “How does culture speak to the church, and how does church speak to the culture?”

Simply being visible in the community is doing the work of God, she said.

“If we’re hiding in our church, then we don’t have a voice in current affairs,” she said. “And at the same time, there’s something timeless and faithful in walking the Stations of the Cross.”

Atlanta, Georgia

All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta has a new rector, the Rev. Simon Mainwaring, and after its Good Friday service, All Saints is trying a public Stations of the Cross for the first time around its bustling midtown neighborhood.

“In a lot of ways, we’re seeking to locate the church amidst the vitality of the city we see around us,” Mainwaring said. Residents of multimillion-dollar condos pass people sleeping in doorways amid the din of new construction. The sense of movement here is constant, as people file in and out of the nearby Fox Theater and the subway station.

Mainwaring hopes the procession’s participants will bring a newfound “theological imagination” the next time they pass through this neighborhood.

“I see public liturgy like this as an act of reimagining society around us,” he said. “It’s planting these little seeds. … It’s not a presence that is loud and obnoxious on the street corner, but it’s also clearly a Christian presence.”

All Saints has brought that Christian presence outside the church before, from its Ashes to Go ministry on Ash Wednesday to caroling outside the subway station during Advent. The Way of the Cross, meanwhile, has something specific to say about a social landscape where power differentials affect the struggle for justice.

“Good Friday is a day when grace meets the violence of the world,” he said. In addition to recounting Jesus’ earthly suffering, “it connects to our ultimate questions of where is the divine in this struggle?”

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

Bishops in England and New Zealand step down to pursue new callings

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 1:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, Victoria Matthews, and the Bishop of Shrewsbury in the Church of England’s Diocese of Lichfield, Mark Rylands, have announced they are stepping down to pursue new callings. The unrelated announcements, from bishops on the other side of the earth to each other, were made in the past 24 hours.  Matthews will step down on May 1. In a message to her diocese, she said explained she was doing so because she was prompted by God to do so. Meanwhile, Rylands will step down from his position in July, in order to return to parish ministry in the Diocese of Exeter.

Read the entire article here.

Diocese of Rio Grande announces three-candidate slate for next bishop

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:48am

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande announced March 19 a slate of three candidates for bishop.

“The people of our diocese have prayed diligently and faithfully for God to send us good candidates,” Kathleen Pittman, president of the Standing Committee, said in a press release. “Our prayers have been answered,” she said.

The electing convention will be May 5, at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the bishop-elect receives the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will ordain and consecrate the new bishop Nov. 3.

The candidates are:
• The Rev. Lucinda Ashby, canon to the ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Idaho;
• The Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, canon to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; and
• The Rev. Simon Charles Justice, rector, Church of the Good Samaritan, Corvallis, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

The Standing Committee also announces the petition process by which names may be added to the slate opened on March 19. The petition process closes at 4 p.m. (MDT) April 2. Details are available here.

Bishop Michael L. Vono has announced his intention to retire in late fall 2018. His successor will be the 10th bishop of the diocese.

Members of the diocese will have opportunities to meet the candidates at “Walk-About” events to be held in each of the four deaneries from April 16-21. The 58 congregations of the Diocese of the Rio Grande comprise the state of New Mexico and the portion of Texas west of the Pecos River known as the Big Bend region. The 154,000 square miles of the diocese make it the second-largest geographical diocese, after Alaska, in the Episcopal Church.

The candidates’ full resumes are available here.

New Zealand Anglicans plan climate change protest at Petroleum Conference

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 3:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans from the Diocese of Wellington are planning a series of protests against what is billed as “New Zealand’s premier oil and gas event.” The Petroleum Conference will take place March 26 to 28, when “large numbers of delegates from across New Zealand and around the world come together to celebrate our petroleum industry,” conference organizers say.

Read the full article here.

Two children killed in machete attack on Anglican school in Nigeria

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 3:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Two kindergarten children have died after being attacked March 12 by a man wielding a machete at an Anglican school in Nigeria. A suspect was arrested March 14 in the attack at St. John’s Anglican Primary School in Agodo, Ogun State.

Read the full article here.

Episcopales se congregan para un Día de Lamentación en medio de llamadas a tomar medidas contra la violencia armada

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 9:51am

Estudiantes de la escuela de la iglesia de La Gracia participan en una manifestación frente a esa escuela de Nueva York el 14 de marzo, como parte de un día nacional de actividades dirigidas por estudiantes en que llaman a tomar medidas contra la violencia armada. Las flores son en memoria de un asistente escolar muerto a tiros cerca de la escuela el año pasado. Foto de Art Chang/NYC.

[Episcopal News Service] Un grupo de episcopales se congregó en Springfield, Massachusetts, frente a las oficinas centrales de Smith & Wesson Corp. para manifestarse detrás de pancartas de protesta en que pedían que los fabricantes de armas “dejaran de vender fusiles de asalto”. Episcopales en Trento, Nueva Jersey, participaron en un “Día de Lamentación” de 12 horas por la violencia armada, y estudiantes de las escuelas episcopales desde Nueva York hasta la Florida salieron de clases para tomar parte en un llamado nacional a la acción.

Manifestaciones lideradas por estudiantes en todo el país y las docenas de eventos separados en catedrales e iglesias episcopales coincidieron el 14 de marzo para conmemorar un mes de la masacre en la escuela secundaria de Parkland, Florida. Aunque organizados independientemente, la variedad de eventos —que los jóvenes organizadores anunciaron como un Día de Paro Nacional— sirvió para resaltar el común empeño para que se tomen medidas políticas que aborden lo que parece un persistente brote de masacres con armas de fuego en EE.UU.

“Esta es la única nación desarrollada del mundo que tiene un problema de muertes por armas de fuego en la medida en que nosotros lo tenemos”, dijo el obispo de Nueva Jersey Chip Stokes  en su sermón de la eucaristía que se celebró en la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Trenton. “Aquellos de nosotros que nos oponemos, debemos enfrentarnos al problema y denunciarlo en el nombre del Señor”.

Episcopales participan con un grupo interreligioso de manifestantes frente a las instalaciones de la Smith & Wesson en Springfield, Massachusetts, el 14 de marzo. Foto de Victoria Ix/Diócesis de Massachusetts Occidental.

Tales llamados han ido aumentando desde que 17 estudiantes y educadores fueron muertos a tiros el 14 de febrero en la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Un antiguo alumno de la escuela de 19 años ha sido acusado de la masacre.

La serie de eventos episcopales el 14 de marzo, coordinados por Obispos Unidos Contra la Violencia Armada, incluyó oficios, oraciones, dobles de campanas y, en algunos casos, formas más directas de promoción social.

Un centenar o más de manifestantes, dirigidos por jóvenes y líderes interreligiosos, entre ellos los obispos de las diócesis de Massachusetts y Massachusetts Occidental, estuvieron durante una hora frente a las instalaciones de Smith & Wesson en Springfield con pancartas de protesta, una de las cuales decía “Protejan a los niños, no a las armas”.

Smith & Wesson fabricó los fusiles que se usaron en las masacres de Parkland, en Aurora, Colorado y en San Bernardino, California.

Al final de la hora, los líderes estudiantiles entregaron tres demandas a los guardias en el centro de visitantes de Smith & Wesson. Esperan tener una reunión con líderes de la compañía en el transcurso de los próximos 30 días. Ellos le piden al fabricante que deje de vender armas de uso militar a la población civil y que creen un fondo de compensación comunitario para ayudar a cubrir los costos relacionados con la violencia armada.

Tales eventos compartieron la publicidad con la salida general de las aulas y las manifestaciones encabezadas por estudiantes contra la violencia armada. En la escuela afincada en la iglesia episcopal de La Gracia [Grace] en Nueva York, los estudiantes de 4º. a 12º. grados se unieron de manos alrededor de la escuela, y pusieron flores en memoria de un asistente escolar que fue muerto a tiros cerca de ese plantel el 1 de noviembre del año pasado.

Estudiantes en la Academia Episcopal de la Santa Trinidad [Holy Trinity], en Melbourne, Florida se reunieron por la mañana junto al asta de bandera de la escuela para orar por las víctimas de la violencia armada y firmar una pancarta de apoyo para la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Una manifestación estudiantil también tuvo lugar en la escuela Palmer Trinity de Miami, Florida.

Los eventos en catedrales e iglesias episcopales fueron desde reuniones de reflexión silentes a actividades de todo el día en que resaltaba el llamado a tomar medidas. He aquí algunos ejemplos:

Doble de campanas: La iglesia episcopal de San Pablo [St. Paul’s] en Grinnell, Iowa; la iglesia de La Gracia [Grace] en Sheldon, Vermont y la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Portland, Oregón, estuvieron entre las iglesias cuyas campanas doblaron 17 veces, un doble por cada una de las víctimas de Parkland.

Oficios de lamentaciones: Estos oficios, alentados por Obispos Unidos, han tenido lugar en numerosas diócesis a lo largo del día, tanto en catedrales como en congregaciones individuales. Obispos Unidos Contra la Violencia Armada ha publicado información acerca de algunos de estos oficios. Entre los participantes se incluyen la catedral de Santiago Apóstol [St. James] en Chicago; la iglesia catedral de San Pablo [St. Paul] en Des Moines, Iowa; la catedral de San Lucas [St. Luke’s] en Portland, Maine; la catedral de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Sacramento, California; la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ] en Springfield, Massachusetts y la catedral de Todos los Santos [All Saints’] en Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Día de Lamentación: El Día de Oración, Lamentación, Ayuno y Silencio de la Diócesis de Nueva Jersey comenzó a las 6:30 A.M. en la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Trenton y duró hasta las 6:30 P.M.. El oficio incluyó lectura de los nombres de fallecidos por armas de fuego. La Diócesis de Vermont comenzó a las 9:00 A.M. en la iglesia catedral de San Pablo [St. Paul] en Burlington, con un programa lleno de actividades, entre ellas música y lecturas, así como oraciones públicas que se ofrecían a cada hora en punto.

El programa de la Diócesis de Connecticut incluyó eucaristía a las 12:00 meridiano en la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ] en Hartford seguida por un almuerzo donde líderes de la comunidad iban a dirigir diálogos sobre la violencia armada. Estaba programada una vigilia para las 7 P.M.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es jefa de redacción interina de Episcopal News Service. David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él en dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Lambeth Conference 2020 theme unveiled

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 2:25pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The theme for the Lambeth Conference in 2020 is to be “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together.” Details have been announced on a new webpage which went live March 15. A more detailed website is being designed and will go live later this year.

Read the entire article here.

Memphis church’s reconciliation project reveals untold story of slave-trading operation next door

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 1:36pm

The historical marker in Memphis, Tennessee, for Nathan Bedford Forrest references only “his business enterprises” without identifying him as a slave trader who operated a slave mart on property next to Calvary Episcopal Church. Photo: Robyn Banks/Calvary Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] A previously little-known piece of history just outside the doors of Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, is being brought to light as the church prepares to dedicate a historical marker at the pre-Civil War site of the Forrest Slave Mart.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave trader who served as a Confederate lieutenant general during the Civil War and later was an early member of the Ku Klux Klan. Photo: Library of Congress, via Wikipedia

An existing historical marker on Calvary’s block notes that it once was the home of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a nineteenth-century businessman and Confederate general, but the marker fails to convey the more disturbing context: Forrest was a slave trader, and from 1854 to 1860 he operated a slave mart on property that the church now owns and uses as a parking lot.

The Rev. Scott Walter, rector at Calvary, called it “chilling” to think of the inhumanity that once occurred every day on land located just beyond the church wall behind him when he stands at the pulpit every Sunday. But the effort to research the full history of that block has been infused with a spirit of reconciliation as much as an interest in revealing ugly truths.

“We don’t want it to be a divisive thing but a truth that can be told that can lead to some healing,” Walters said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

The new historical marker, to be dedicated April 4 as Memphis marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in the city, is the product of a research project led by history professor Timothy Huebner, who is a member of Calvary Episcopal Church.

“It’s not that the existing marker isn’t factually accurate. … It just leaves out a lot,” Huebner told ENS. “And so that’s what we’re trying to do. We are trying to tell some of what has been left out that has to do with the history of that site.”

An organization called Lynching Sites Project Memphis,  whose mission is to accurately tell the history of racial violence in and around the city, first drew attention to the existing historical marker in 2015. Organizers held a prayer service calling for the sign to be changed to make clear that Forrest’s “business enterprises” were the selling of humans.

At the same time, the Episcopal Church has made racial reconciliation one of its three priorities during the current triennium. Some dioceses already had taken up their own efforts to confront hard truths about their complicity with slavery, segregation and lynchings. Notable examples include the Diocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Tennessee, which encompasses the central third of the state but not Memphis.

In 2016, Huebner and others at Calvary Episcopal Church formed a group to learn more about the church’s block and surrounding properties. Their inquiries initially focused on blighted buildings and ways the congregation could help improve the neighborhood, but Huebner’s preliminary research soon gravitated toward Forrest’s historical activities on the block.

A Memphis city director from the 1850s shows an ad for the slave mart run by Forrest and a business partner.

“We did not know at that point that he operated the slave mart at that actual site,” Huebner said. “We didn’t learn that until later.”

He uncovered those surprising details in newspaper advertisements and city directories from the 1850s. It also became obvious that the Tennessee Historical Commission would have looked through the same records and, therefore, been well aware of the Forrest slave mart when it drafted the text for its historical marker on the block, dedicated in 1955.

Huebner, who teaches at Rhodes College, chose to make Forrest the subject of his historical methods course in fall 2017. His 15 students researched Forrest’s life, as well as the history of that city block, and they determined that thousands of enslaved men, women and children were sold at the slave mart Forrest operated there.

The students also found that Forrest, one of at least eight slave traders in Memphis during the 1850s, was engaged in importing slaves from from Africa, which had been outlawed by the U.S. in 1808.

The slave mart operated by Nathan Bedford Forrest was located on a property now being used by Calvary Episcopal Church for a parking lot. The church will dedicate a new historical marker on April 4 telling the fuller story of the Forrest’s use of the property. Photo: Robyn Banks/Calvary Episcopal Church

The church was built in 1843, meaning the slave trading and Christian ministry were conducted nearly side by side for several years. No evidence has been found, however, that Forrest was a member or benefactor of the church.

His legacy in Memphis generated additional debate last year when a City Council vote led to the removal of a statue of Forrest from a city park in December. State legislators now are considering legislation that would punish local officials for such actions. Scrutiny of Confederate monuments intensified nationwide in August after a white supremacist rally in support of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in deadly violence there.

In Memphis, Huebner’s students drafted the text on the new historical marker about Forrest. A group of local scholars vetted their research. The marker itself was paid for by the National Parks Service. The students also have identified dozens of the slaves who were sold at the slave mart, and some of those names will be read during the dedication ceremony.

“That’s been poignant to me, realizing the names of real people and real lives and families are behind these statistics,” Walters said.

The dedication is part of a full slate of events on April 4 in Memphis, where the National Civil Rights Museum is leading commemorations marking 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel, about a mile from Calvary Episcopal Church.

Calvary’s ceremony is described as a “Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation,” and it will be led by Walters and the Rev. Dorothy Wells, the rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in nearby Germantown, Tennessee, and a 1982 graduate of Rhodes College who worshiped at Calvary when she was a student.

Wells, in an email to ENS while she finishes up a pilgrimage in Israel, said she was as surprised as anyone that a slave mart once operated nearby “as well-heeled worshippers came and went past it, week after week, apparently never questioning the trading of human lives for the proverbial few pieces of silver.”

Wells, who is black, also wonders if some of her own ancestors might have among those sold by Forrest.

“While it has been hard to process, I cannot dwell on that past – but only on the hope that the future holds,” she said. “I still believe that reconciliation is possible – but only if we as a nation are committed to truth-telling.”

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

Video: Anglican Communion, Mothers’ Union reflect on goals of the UN Commission on the Status of Women

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:17pm

[Anglican Communion Newes Service] Some of the women from the Anglican Communion and Mothers’ Union delegations to the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women reflect on their hopes for the gathering.

Oceania primates pledge united action on climate change, gender-based violence

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican primates in the Oceania region have committed themselves “to take concrete action, to be champions and advocates, and to support each other” in the fight against climate change and gender-based violence. The church leaders made the commitments in a communiqué following their recent regional meeting in Fiji.

Read the full article here.

Bishop appeals for prayer after attacks on Muslims lead to state of emergency

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The senior Anglican bishop in Sri Lanka has spoken out against an outbreak of violence targeting the Muslim communities in Amapara and Digana in the central district of Kandy. At least two people were killed and 232 homes destroyed in riots sparked by the death of a Sinhala Buddhist man.

Read the full article here.