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‘Pray for us’: Southeast Episcopalians brace for Hurricane Irma

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 6:17pm

Christ Church in Frederica, Georgia, on St. Simons Island, stands boarded up and ready for Irma. Volunteers wrote scripture verses on some of the boards. Photo: Frank Logue

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Jim Shevlin looked down at his list fewer than two days before Hurricane Irma was expected to drive up the spine of Florida’s peninsula. As a Category 5 storm, Irma had already killed at least 11 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the Caribbean Islands.

And the massive storm was looming closer.

By Sept. 8, the rector had 18 to 20 people, five dogs and one cat on his list seeking shelter at his Church of Our Saviour on the north side of Lake Okeechobee in the Diocese of Central Florida. When Shevlin found out some parishioners had nowhere else to go, he decided to open the church, its halls and offices for them. The church’s windows are covered with hurricane shutters. Evacuees will need to bring sleeping bags, food and water for at least three days, but there are two generators ready to kick in if the power goes out.

“All people got to do is show up, and we’ll welcome them with open arms,” Shevlin told Episcopal News Service. He’s worried about his home, but Shevlin’s wife, 20-year-old son, 17-year-old daughter, and their two dogs will shelter at the church with him and the other parishioners.

“Pray for us,” Shevlin said.

Farther south, more than half a million people in the Miami-Dade area were ordered to evacuate before Irma was expected to wreak havoc, on a track to churn northward through the state toward Georgia and South Carolina. Northbound traffic was almost deadlocked on the main thoroughfares on the state’s west and east sides, Interstates 75 and 95. Florida was running short of gasoline. Evacuation was becoming less of an option less than two days before Irma’s U.S. arrival.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane when it pulverized parts of the Leeward Islands on late Sept. 5 into Sept. 6. It decimated Barbuda and its 1,600 residents before turning to St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and going past Anguilla. The storm then struck Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, followed by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, all places with Episcopal Church congregations. Gathering information about damage there is being hampered by the storm.

At midafternoon Sept. 8, Irma was battering the Bahamas and Cuba. Now a Category 4 and still potentially catastrophic, Irma is predicted to make landfall somewhere in South Florida midafternoon on Sept. 10.

Hurricane Irma was battering Cuba and the Bahamas on Sept. 8 and heading for Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The island of Cuba is at the middle left, and the southern tip of Florida is above it. Photo: NASA GOES-16 satellite

Besides Shevlin’s church, within Central Florida there’s Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Port St. Lucie, which will serve as a relief center after the storm, said the Rev. Tim Nunez from the diocese. And lastly, Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center and Camp Wingmann have offered basic shelter.

“Most, if not all, of our churches have canceled all services and activities today through at least Monday,” Nunez told Episcopal News Service by email on Sept. 8.

The Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer, bishop of Central Florida, gave practical hurricane resources for before, during and after the storm in a Sept. 5 letter before invoking the Christian’s duty to service. He suggested supporting the American Red Cross, volunteering parish halls as relief distribution centers, volunteering carpentry skills and gathering prayer groups.

“If the worst happens, this could be a time when our people could be of genuine assistance to our communities in need,” Brewer said.

Churches and church offices were closing across the state in anticipation of Irma. The Diocese of Southeast Florida’s office voicemail reported the Miami office will be closed until after the hurricane has passed. Miami’s Trinity Cathedral announced on Facebook it would be closed “until further notice.” And a voicemail recording from the Diocese of Florida, which covers northern Florida, said the diocesan office could remain closed until Sept. 12.

At St. George’s Episcopal Church on historic Fort George Island in Jacksonville, in the Diocese of Florida, the windows and doors were covered with sheet metal by Sept. 8 in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Photo: St. George Episcopal Church

Individual closings of the Diocese of Florida’s 62 churches and one cathedral are left up to the leadership of each church.

“If the circumstances warrant it, please cancel services and other church events and encourage your congregations to exercise caution. Insist that all remain mindful of the dangers that severe weather can present,” said the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard in a Sept. 7 letter to the diocese.

Sandy Wilson, the diocesan communications director, was busy boarding the windows of her family’s Jacksonville Beach home on Sept. 8. For those who want to attend a service but also to stay safe, St. John’s Cathedral will offer an online Sunday service, she said.

Jane Palmer, a parishioner at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the wooded Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville, thought it was Sunday services as usual until she received an email on Sept. 8. All scheduled activities, including a special fall Rally Day and breakfast with mimosas, were canceled through Tuesday, said the email signed by the Rev. Mark Atkinson.

Meanwhile, Palmer prepared her log-cabin home and checked in with friends and family through Facebook and email. She tested her generator and purchased extra gas for it. She stocked her cabinets with food.

“Hotel rooms were all taken earlier this week, the interstate highways are filled with South Florida evacuees, and no telling which way would be safe to go,” Palmer said via email. “We could board the dogs and cats, but who takes chickens? So, the current plan is to hunker down.”

St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Jacksonville asked on Sept. 7 for help forming “a human chain to move the vestments and other valuables from the basement, up the stairs into the church.”

“We’re just kind of waiting,” Diocese of Southwest Florida Director of Communications J. Garland Pollard told ENS by phone from Sarasota. The diocese is keeping track of coastal churches and their clergy as they prepare for the storm. Towns from Captiva on Florida’s Gulf Coast south to Cape Sable on the southwestern tip of Florida have been warned of storms surges of 6 to 12 feet.

“Please be safe. And, if you are safe and sound, pray,” the Rev. Edward Gleason, rector of Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church in Naples, wrote in a Facebook post notifying the congregation that he left town to stay with family in Mississippi.

Episcopalians at Church of the Redeemer, less than a quarter of a mile from the bay in Sarasota, were sandbagging and enclosing parts of the church in plastic.

An altar in a side chapel at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida, has been shrouded in plastic to protect it from Hurricane Irma. Photo: Church of the Redeemer via Facebook

And at Calvary Episcopal Church at Indian Rocks Beach, volunteers spent part of Sept. 7 putting up more than 100 storm shutters, packing up vestments and altar frontals, getting books out of harm’s way and securing Eucharistic vessels.

“We did all we could, hoping and praying for the best, preparing for the worst,” the parish said on its Facebook page.

Episcopal Relief & Development helped Southwest Florida set up AlertMedia, an application to help to collect information about people and places in the diocese. AlertMedia can send text messages to congregational leaders relaying information and asking for a status report.

The dioceses of Louisiana and Texas both used the system during Hurricane Harvey. Southeast Florida, Central Gulf Coast, Georgia and South Carolina also have AlertMedia in place for Irma, according to Malaika Kamunanwire, Episcopal Relief & Development senior director for marketing and communications.

Episcopal institutions are helping Floridians prepare in somewhat unusual ways. For instance, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will serve as a backup communications center for Manatee County, according to Pollard. The school is in a “nice, high, dry area of Bradenton,” he added.

Once the storm is done with Florida, Irma is now predicted to hit Georgia sometime on Sept. 11. Everyone east of Interstate 95 faces a mandatory evacuation order. “That is a lot of our Sunday attendance,” the Rev. Frank Logue, Diocese of Georgia canon to the ordinary, told ENS. Twenty congregations have cancelled Sept. 10 services.

Most of the clergy have already evacuated from the coastal areas, he said. “We’ve got churches that are more exposed boarded up and we’re waiting to see what the winds will bring.”

Some of the boards covering the windows of Christ Church in Frederica, Georgia, on St. Simons Island, have Bible verses on them. Photo: Frank Logue

Meanwhile, just as in October 2016 when Hurricane Matthew hit the state, inland Georgia Episcopalians are helping by housing lay people, clergy and, in a few instances, health care workers.

St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Tifton, Georgia, is sheltering about 40 health-care workers who evacuated with their elderly patients from a nursing home in a low-lying coastal area, according to Logue. The patients are being housed in a Tifton care facility, and the nursing home employees are staying at the church.

“It worked very well all the way around and so they called and asked if they could repeat it,” Logue said. “Similarly, St. Paul’s in Jesup hosted hospice workers and they are opening their doors to them again.

Less than a week after Irma is predicted to hit Georgia, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is due to be at the diocese’s Honey Creek Retreat Center for a revival. Honey Creek is on the Intercostal Waterway on the Georgia south coast. About 1,300 people are expected to attend.

“At this point, we’re still moving ahead with it,” Logue said. However, “even if we don’t get hit by the hurricane, a storm surge could cause some problems.”

A backup date is available, and Logue said he expects a decision will be made by Sept. 12. “It could be exactly what we need a week after,” he said.

And at the northern end of current Irma concern, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina was also in preparation mode. The diocesan staff has been participating in daily check-ins with Episcopal Relief & Development. The staff has also set up a daily check-in system for each congregation, according to Holly Hamor Votaw, director of communications.

Institutions, including Porter-Gaud School in Charleston and Voorhees College in Denmark, have closed. Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community is evacuating residents to Kanuga Episcopal Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Six churches so far have announced the cancellation of Sunday services for Sept. 10, including All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, which recovered from significant flood damage from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Many churches are waiting a bit longer to announce, as the predicted track changes, Hamor Votaw said.

Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston will offer all its Sunday services will be offered for whoever can be at church safely. Grace was one of the churches in downtown Charleston that stayed open through Hurricane Matthew.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, as well as a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.

Anglican Communion Office directors update Standing Committee on range of work

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 4:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Mission; women and gender issues; ecumenical dialogues and the work of the Anglican Alliance topped the agenda earlier this week as the Anglican Consultative Council Standing Committee gathered in London.

Read the entire story here.

Group to examine possible changes to Anglican Consultative Council

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new group is being set up to look at broadening the composition of the Anglican Consultative Council – and to re-examine the financial contributions made by provinces.

The ACC Standing Committee, which is establishing the group, said it would comprise primates, bishops, clergy and laity. The aim would be to recommend how the ACC could better reflect the make-up of Anglican churches around the world.  The recommendations would go to the next meeting of ACC in 2019.

Full article.

Presiding Bishop visits Charlottesville, brings message of Christian love in the face of hate

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:17pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Paul Walker stand at the foot of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. The statue is wrapped in plastic while the city fights a legal challenge to the monument’s removal. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Charlottesville, Virginia] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Sept. 7 visited each of Charlottesville’s three Episcopal churches, spoke at length with clergy and diocesan officials, and preached at an evening worship service here, less than a month after violence during a white supremacist rally thrust this Southern college town into the national spotlight.

Curry’s message was one of support, and of the power of Jesus’ love to show the way forward.

“We have been praying for you. We will continue to pray with you. Above all, we stand together,” Curry said in his sermon before the hundreds of people who filled St. Paul’s Memorial Church overlooking the University of Virginia campus.

On Aug. 12, Episcopal and other faith leaders joined with anti-racism counter-protesters in solidarity against the hate groups that had amassed in Charlottesville to oppose removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The confrontation sparked clashes that injured dozens and left one counterprotester dead.

The melee also amplified a national debate over statues of Lee and other Confederate symbols, including at Episcopal institutions. In Charlottesville, subsequent City Council meetings have featured raucous debate on the issue, leading to a unanimous vote Sept. 5 to remove a second Confederate statue, the Daily Progress reported.

The Rev. Paul Walker (left), rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, speaks with the presiding bishop at an informal orientation. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal churches in Charlottesville are focused on healing and weren’t looking to generate headlines by inviting Curry, said the Rev. Paul Walker, rector of Christ Episcopal Church, a large congregation in downtown Charlottesville. He and other clergy members were grateful Curry agreed to this pastoral visit, a day filed mostly with private gatherings, as well as the public worship service.

Curry began the day at Christ Church, where bishops of the Diocese of Virginia met him around 9:30 a.m. for an informal orientation. He thanked them and the local Episcopal community for its work – “not just what you have done but who you were in the midst of all this.”

Christ Church is on the corner opposite Emancipation Park, where the statue of Lee now is wrapped in a layer of plastic as the city resolves a legal fight over its removal. The park is visible from Walker’s second-floor office window, and before the day’s proceedings got underway, he walked Curry across the street to spend a few minutes at the foot of the Lee statue discussing its history and pending fate.

From there, the group drove a short distance northwest to Trinity Episcopal Church. It’s a smaller and historically black, but diversifying, congregation that on Aug. 12 hosted an afternoon prayer service for faith-based groups to conclude their day of opposition to the white supremacist rally.

On Sept. 7, Trinity’s vicar, the Rev. Cass Bailey, welcomed Curry in the parish hall for conversations – Curry would later describe it as “sacred time” – with about 50 priests and deacons from the 18 congregations in the diocesan region around Charlottesville.

The meeting was not open to the public, but later in the day, Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston said it was a profoundly meaningful experience for those present. Curry served as chief pastor to them and provided a ministry of encouragement, Johnston said, and affirmed the support of the Episcopal Church.

“In times like Charlottesville has come through, the feeling of being connected to the larger body is extremely important,” said Johnston, who was in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 with other Episcopal clergy members.

Curry answers questions during a luncheon at Christ Episcopal Church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Johnston introduced Curry at his next stop, a luncheon back at Christ Church. More than 100 attended, primarily members of Diocese of Virginia governing boards and committees. Curry, in his remarks to them, again applauded those who stood up and spoke out against racism in Charlottesville last month.

“I was never prouder to be an Episcopalian, in all the pain, than I was when I saw you,” Curry said, while underscoring that the issue of racism is bigger than one city.

“We never fully resolved or brought to completion the issues that were engaged in the Civil War, or the War Between the States,” he said. “The fundamental issues didn’t get resolved. And nobody in this room was there, and nobody in this room did it. But we’re stuck with it.”

Racism is a demon that “still must be engaged,” he said. “We’ve come here to figure out how do we follow Jesus in a time such as this, and how do we do it with integrity and with a sense of wholesomeness and in ways that can help us all end the nightmare and realize God’s dream.”

Curry also spent time Sept. 7 with Episcopal college students from the Charlottesville area and those attending the University of Virginia. The afternoon meeting took place in the parish hall at St. Paul’s, a couple hours before Curry preached at the Eucharist in the church.

The Rev. Will Peyton, rector at St. Paul’s, alluded to Curry’s role as chief pastor in an interview with Episcopal News Service before the presiding bishop’s visit.

“I’m grateful to him, to take care of us, to express the care of the church,” Peyton said. “I think there really is a pretty universal feeling in Charlottesville that we were attacked.”

St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, overlooks the campus of the University of Virginia. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Peyton, whose church hosted a prayer service Aug. 11 on the eve of the white supremacist rally, kicked off the Sept. 7 worship service with a welcoming message that was followed by a long procession of choir and clergy.

Curry’s half-hour sermon directly addressed the prior month’s events in Charlottesville only briefly, yet his message of Christian love and compassion was an intentionally pointed contrast to the hate-filled views promoted by the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other supremacist groups that rallied behind the Lee statue.

He began by recounting the Gospel reading, the depiction in John 18:33-37 of Jesus’ response to Pilate. “Jesus was telling us then, and is telling us now, that there is another way.”

Curry went on to pull in additional biblical references, from the Beatitudes and from Jesus’ last discourse in John 13-17 and his command to “love one another,” even your enemies. He continued that God’s unconditional love is embodied in Jesus’ selfless sacrifice on the cross.

“That kind of love is counterintuitive, it is counter to this world, but it can change this world,” Curry boomed to applause.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers his sermon Sept. 7 at St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a daylong pastoral visit to the city. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The presiding bishop also invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rules for nonviolent direct action, which began with the command to meditate on the teachings of Jesus. He also shared a personal story, of a white man who once told him that the love shown by members of an Episcopal congregation had changed his life and prompted him to convert and turn away from his family’s past in the Ku Klux Klan.

The lesson, Curry said, is to be people of Jesus’ love without shame and to bear witness to that love. He concluded with a message specifically for the Charlottesville crowd.

“Charlottesville. Virginia. Lift up your heads, straighten your backs, walk together,” he said. “Walk together and work together and live the way of love until the love of God transforms this world.”

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

Le diocèse anglican de Montréal autorise désormais le mariage gai

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:30am

[Présence – information religieuse] À deux ans du Synode général qui tranchera la question du mariage gai à l’intérieur de l’Église anglicane du Canada, l’union sacramentelle des couples gais demeure un sujet délicat, sous étroite surveillance. Mais certains évêques ont d’emblée choisi de ne pas attendre et ont déjà commencé à autoriser des mariages gais chez eux.

C’est le cas de Mary Irwin-Gibson, l’évêque anglicane de Montréal. Première femme à diriger le diocèse montréalais, son engagement envers les enjeux d’inclusion et de diversité se manifeste notamment par ses efforts pour s’exprimer en français et en mohawk. Même ouverture face à l’homosexualité: celle qui a voté en faveur du mariage gai au Synode général de 2016 a, le 13 août, officié la Messe de la fierté sans gêne aucune, devant 200 personnes.

«Peu importe qui nous sommes, a déclaré l’évêque, nous faisons partie de la communauté de Dieu. Le Christ accepte tout le monde dans son Corps.»

Accès limité pour l’instant

En entrevue, Mgr Irwin-Gibson explique cependant que les couples homosexuels qui demandent le mariage doivent répondre à plusieurs critères.

«Ils font la demande au curé de leur paroisse. Le curé me demande la permission. Pour le moment, nous n’acceptons que des gens qui sont pratiquants. Ils sont membres d’une paroisse, ils participent financièrement. Ils sont engagés, parfois même au niveau du ministère.»

Pas question, donc, de visiter l’Église anglicane le temps d’un mariage.

«J’ai déjà dit non à quelques demandes, confirme-t-elle. C’était des gens qui voulaient le service de l’Église, mais qui n’étaient pas engagés du tout… Pour le moment, c’est juste pour les pratiquants. Nous reverrons notre position quand la loi sera complètement changée.»

Pour qu’une loi canonique puisse être modifiée au sein de l’Église anglicane du Canada, il faut que le Synode général approuve le changement à deux reprises en ralliant les deux tiers des votes. La première lecture visant à inclure les conjoints de même sexe dans la définition du mariage anglican a eu lieu au synode de 2016, où la proposition a été adoptée de manière rocambolesque, après la rectification d’une erreur de comptage électronique. Comme les synodes nationaux ont lieu aux trois ans, la prochaine lecture se déroulera en 2019.

Or, plusieurs diocèses, dont ceux de Niagara, Toronto et Ottawa, ont choisi de ne pas attendre et d’autoriser dès maintenant les mariages gais.

Prudence avant le second vote

«Entre la première et la deuxième lecture, explique Mgr Mary Irwin-Gibson, je ne voulais pas faire de coup d’éclat ni de presse à ce sujet. Notre objectif était d’accepter au cas par cas les couples qui ne pouvaient attendre.»

Trois mariages auraient été célébrés jusqu’à présent.

La révérende rappelle que, même si l’Église anglicane du Canada est complètement autonome de celle de l’Angleterre, des États-Unis ou même d’Afrique, qui est aujourd’hui le berceau de l’anglicanisme, la question n’est pas si simple.

«Ça cause quand même des tensions, confirme-t-elle, parce que les Églises sont en partenariat dans une alliance anglicane. Et elles ne voient pas toujours du même œil comment les choses doivent aller.»

Mgr Mary Irwin-Gibson cite l’exemple de l’ordination des femmes prêtres.

«En Afrique, c’est sûr que l’ordination des femmes a été beaucoup plus lente qu’au Canada et aux États-Unis. Même à l’intérieur du Canada, il y a eu différentes vitesses pour l’adoption de ce changement. Ça va être la même chose pour le mariage gai. Il y a des régions au Canada où ce n’est vraiment pas correct pour eux. Ils ne sont pas prêts, ils ne sont pas heureux. Ils ne voient pas cela comme un geste chrétien.»

Ultimement, Mgr Mary Irwin-Gibson veut éviter de froisser les sensibilités avant le second vote de 2019 qui risque d’être à nouveau très serré. Et selon l’évêque de Montréal, c’est loin d’être gagné.

The best ways to help hurricane survivors, now and later

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 5:46pm

Several churches including Trinity by the Sea, businesses and other organizations in Port Aransas, Texas, can no longer take unsolicited donations because there is no clean, secure space for storage. A group left these donations when they were told they were creating chaos on the corner. Photo: Jennifer Wickham via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Brett Covington didn’t have any money to donate to people devastated by Hurricane Harvey. But she gave what she had: a steer.

Only in Texas, right?

Before accepting this gift, Christy Orman, the Diocese of Texas hurricane relief coordinator from Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, had to lock down a place that could use 400 pounds of meat. She immediately thought of The Abundant Harvest, a food truck that acts like a mobile food pantry. Once that end was secured, plus a butcher paid for, Orman decided to travel to Covington’s ranch in Hutto, Texas.

Christy Orman of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston said a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer to give thanks for the gift of the steer, which will provide 400 pounds of meat for hungry people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Courtesy of Christy Orman

“I told my husband, ‘I have to meet this cow.’ I want to honor this animal,” said Orman, who named the steer “Walstan” after the patron saint of farmers and ranchers. “We thanked Walstan for giving to so many that are in need right now … this was exactly where I needed to be, with this woman giving us a piece of her land, her living. The whole situation was just so surreal.”

Standing a few feet from his shiny charcoal coat, Orman read aloud the “For stewardship of creation” prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. The meat will likely become a casserole to nourish those in need since Hurricane Harvey made its first landfall August 25, near Rockport, Texas, on the barrier islands beyond Corpus Christi. The Category 4 hurricane is responsible for at least 60 deaths, record flooding and the destruction or damage of thousands of homes.

Walstan is the exception to the rule repeated by everyone leading ground-zero hurricane relief efforts. For those who want to help, please give money and gift cards — not supplies, unless specifically requested, said Carol Barnwell, communications coordinator for the Diocese of Texas who’s also organizing many of these efforts.

And most of all, don’t donate clothes, especially used clothes.

“I know it’s not as sexy to donate gift cards or funds, but it really is the best stewardship,” Barnwell said.

The diocese’s chaplains and mission groups bring the gift cards to families when they go to Episcopalians’ homes and to their neighbors’ homes. If the family needs dinner, they can buy dinner; if they need gas, they can buy gas. They can buy diapers that fit.

“One of the main things is the dignity of giving the person the ability to buy specifically what they need. It puts the money into the local economy, which is desperately needed,” Barnwell said. And yes, stores are stocked enough.

The most useful gift cards are the general ones, such as Visa and Mastercard, rather than grocery stores or other chains that might not have a location in the neighborhood where it lands. Cards for The Home Depot and Lowe’s are a pretty safe bet too.

Parishes that want to harness the giving energy of their congregations can gather to create prayer cards to go with the gift cards. The Texas diocese is creating slip covers for gift cards with a prayer on one side, and plans to put the template on its website so churches can print them out for their parish. Also, parishioners can organize creative fundraiser events.

The best way for someone living outside the affected areas to help is by donating to the Hurricane Harvey Response Fund managed by Episcopal Relief & Development. Staff are coordinating with diocesan leaders to ensure that the gift cards they purchase with the donated funds are from stores located in or near the impacted community, said Katie Mears, Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program director, in an email to Episcopal News Service.

Christy Orman (left) of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston drove with her husband, Alex (right) to the farm of Brett Covington (center) in Hutto, Texas, to say a prayer over Covington’s steer, which she donated to feed people in need after Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Courtesy of Christy Orman

It’s also important to distinguish between donated goods from local groups and those from outside of the affected communities.

“Donated goods coming from church groups and others within the impacted community can be helpful when they are based on the specific needs of local church partners and contacts. That said, transporting goods over large distances can make things more complicated and is rarely advisable,” Mears said.

Skilled labor and other volunteers won’t be needed from outside the area for a while, maybe even six months, she said. Episcopal Relief & Development’s church partners are still assessing needs and caring for those impacted. While volunteers aren’t needed yet, it’s certainly helpful to start planning for volunteers in the coming months and years, Mears said. Individuals and groups can sign up in the Ready to Serve database so church partners can reach out in the future as needs become clearer.

Mears is traveling to Texas this week to meet with leaders in the Episcopal dioceses of Texas and West Texas to survey and assess the coastal damage. She’s traveling with the Rev. Elaine Clements, the Louisiana diocesan disaster coordinator and member of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Partner in Response team. They will also be continuing to implement disaster recovery plans and map out most urgent needs throughout the region.

Unrequested donations, especially clothes, can become a problem in hurricane-affected areas, attracting rats and mosquitoes. Photo: Jennifer Wickham via Facebook

Trinity by the Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, Texas, served as an early gathering point for the large amount of donated material that flooded the city after Harvey hit. By Sept. 1, however, the church had to stop accepting donations because there were no more secure, clean places to put the supplies, said Jennifer Wickham, a volunteer whose husband is rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, which is about 40 miles west of Port Aransas.

On Sept. 4, what had become known as Trinity GraceMart relocated its donations to the open-air pavilion at Roberts Point Park. Workers also moved donations from the city’s community center to that space, now known as Port Aransas Recovery Supply Depot.

Wickham, who has worked in disaster relief for many years, said sometimes donations aren’t useful or even useable. Food banks, for instance, often get opened, half-eaten food items such as peanut butter or pasta. It seems like some people are cleaning out their cabinets, Wickham said. Or the donations could be from someone who has the desire to give, but not the financial ability to give any other way.

“Or, is it someone thinking ‘let’s give it to the poor people; they’ll take anything.’ That is a completely disrespectful way to look at the people we’re helping,” Wickham said. A fellow volunteer in Port Aransas told her the deluge of donations felt like “somebody’s invited themselves to dinner at my house and they didn’t ask if I wanted it; they didn’t ask if it was helpful.”

It can offend donors when they’re told their gifts can cause more harm than good when, for instance, the trucks bearing supplies block the roads for residents returning home. When businesses, people and organizations receive unsolicited donations of supplies, it can create what Wickham called a “secondary disaster.” Rain destroys donations left outside, attracting rats and mosquitos.

One way to avoid the added effort caused by unsolicited donations is to work within a specific network that publicizes what materials are needed, when and where, and coordinates delivery.

For those who live not too far away, make sure to gather only what is on the organizer’s list of specific items needed, said the Rev. Nancy Springer, disaster relief coordinator from the Diocese of West Texas, in an online letter to the diocese’s clergy and lay people.

“Please don’t think you know more than those on the ground or know of other products that would supplement your donation,” Springer wrote. “For example, the people in the hardest hit communities are asking for vinegar, but this doesn’t mean they need olive oil, too. Vinegar goes with hydrogen peroxide to help with mold clean up.”

This is the reason the Rev. Bill Miller of Christ Church in Covington, Louisiana, was meticulous about his church’s collection for Hurricane Harvey.

Volunteers from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church & School in New Orleans helped load a truck of supplies, headed to relief organizers in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Photo: the Rev. Robert Beazley

On Sept. 7, trucks with filled with $50,000 in requested supplies and $10,000 in gift cards headed to a donated warehouse space with a forklift and pallet jack, overseen by the Rev. Jimmy Grace, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Heights of Houston, and the Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis, associate rector. That Houston church has a network with congregations in lower-income congregations in Houston, San Pablo, San Pedro and The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a group of institutions dedicated to developing power and leadership among citizens in order to transform the city. St. Andrew’s is also in communication with the Venerable Russ Oechsel, Jr., the Texas diocesan archdeacon in charge of relief who’s working with Episcopal Relief & Development.

“A big part of what we did was talking to the right people,” Miller said. “You have to appreciate the good intentions of people, but we also have the responsibility to educate ourselves and stay informed. It really speaks to the power of partnerships.”

Houston is Miller’s hometown where he has a lot of family and friends and was ordained to begin his ministry. “Within 24 hours of the flooding, or less than that, I had people in shelters texting me what they needed,” he said.

Besides those gift cards, the key word here is “requested” supplies. Miller learned what specifically to round up by doing his homework after people from a Covington construction company came to him and said they wanted to help. So, Miller talked to three people organizing relief efforts in the Diocese of Texas: Grace from St. Andrew’s, Lord of the Streets Episcopal Church and an American Red Cross representative.

“So basically, we had three lists. The construction company waited for me to give them the list, and then they got the supplies in bulk, got the transportation — two trucks and drivers — donated,” Miller said.

The Rev. Robert Beazley, associate rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church & School in New Orleans, helped volunteers at Catholic Charities in Lake Charles, Louisiana, transport 300 buckets and bags of cleaning supplies using his rented 16-foot truck. Photo: Courtesy of the Rev. Robert Beazley

Verifying the best thing to do sometimes takes a lot of phone calls. When students, their families and other parishioners clamored for a way to help, the Rev. Robert Beazley, associate rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church & School in New Orleans, contacted the Rev. Lois Maberry, who is in charge of disaster response in the Diocese of Western Louisiana. She connected him with Rev. Jack Myers, rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who then connected him to a nearby Catholic Charities facility that could handle the delivery and sorting of supplies.

Beazley drove a 16-foot truck of supplies to the designated spot and after unloading, found he could be of more service: Volunteers asked to use his empty truck to move 300 cleaning kits for families from a nearby church to the places that needed them. Otherwise, they would’ve had to pack dozens of volunteers’ vehicles.

“I kept hearing phrases like, ‘You’re a godsend!’ But if it hadn’t been for the students and parishioners stepping up and donating the original supplies, that truck would have never been there in the first place,” Beazley said on Facebook.

He continued in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service: “I’ve been at this church less than two months, and they’ve already blown me away with their willingness to help the stranger.”

What helps and what hinders

Katie Mears, Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program director, provided a list of what donations help and what hinders recovery from hurricanes:

Helps

  • Prayer: Pray for people impacted by the storms as well as church partners responding compassionately to the crisis.
  • Financial gifts: Donate to Episcopal Relief & Development to help those most in need.
  • Share information: Help circulate bulletin inserts for your congregation to use during Sunday services.
  • Sign up to volunteer: Register in the Ready to Serve database as a possible volunteer in the future when local needs have been identified.
  • Stay informed: Visit episcopalrelief.org and follow Episcopal Relief & Development on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
  • Be active in your own preparedness plans: Here are resources and information to help prepare for disasters.

Hinders

  • Sending food, clothing and other items.
  • Self-deploying as a volunteer. Local churches might not be ready for outside volunteers.   

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and is also a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Mary Frances Schjonberg, interim managing editor for the Episcopal News Service, contributed to this report.

Time includes Katharine Jefferts Schori in series on women changing the world

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 12:10pm

[Episcopal News Service] Time magazine’s new multimedia project, Firsts: Women Who Are Changing the World, features the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 26th presiding bishop, as one of 46 profiled women.

A trailer for the video interview with Jefferts Schori, along with the text, is here.

Jefferts Schori was the bishop of Nevada when she was elected in June 2006. She was installed as presiding bishop in November of that year. Her term ended in November 2015 when current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry succeeded her.

She is now serving as assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego while that diocese discerns who to call as its next bishop.

The Time project, which debuted Sept. 7, uses the metaphor of the glass ceiling. “What a jagged image we use for women who achieve greatly, defining accomplishment in terms of the barrier rather than the triumph. There she is up where the air is thin, where men still outnumber women, but where the altitude is awesome,” the introduction says. “Our goal with Firsts is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular.”

The list of the other 45 women is here, and includes such women as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Serena Williams, Oprah Winfrey and Kellyanne Conway.

Time plans to publish a book from the series Sept. 17.

Episcopal Relief & Development continues to respond to needs in Texas after Hurricane Harvey

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 2:15pm

[Episcopal Relief & Development] Hurricane Harvey, the first major storm of the 2017 hurricane season, caused heavy rain and catastrophic flooding as it hovered over Houston, Galveston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana in late August. More than 60 deaths have been reported to date. This powerful storm first made landfall on August 25 as a category 4 hurricane with record rainfall. After downgrading to a tropical storm several days later, it devastated cities and towns throughout Texas.

Episcopal Relief & Development is working in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas to provide gift cards to families in impacted communities along the southern Texas Coast. These gift cards will enable people to purchase food, water and basic hygiene products as well as cleaning supplies, power tools and other equipment.

In the Diocese of West Texas, thousands were forced to seek shelter and many have lost their homes. Several areas remain without electricity and a viable infrastructure and with no equipment and resources to clean up in the aftermath of the storm. Buildings have been destroyed with trees and power lines still down. It may take weeks and even months to fully assess the scope of Hurricane Harvey’s damage.

Katie Mears, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director of the US Disaster Program, is visiting Texas this week to meet with leaders in the Episcopal dioceses of Texas and West Texas to survey and assess the coastal damage while continuing to implement disaster recovery plans and map out most urgent needs throughout the region. Mears is traveling with Deacon Elaine Clements, the Diocesan Disaster Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana and a member of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Partner in Response team, who will accompany diocesan and congregational leaders through the stages of long-term recovery.

“One of the strengths of our Church is its ability to identify where the greatest needs are in the community and leverage the strengths of our church partners who are intimately connected with their communities,” noted Mears, who will be in Houston and San Antonio this week.

Episcopal Relief & Development has also partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to respond to the immediate needs of people throughout the impacted region including Beaumont, Houston, Galveston and other areas. The diocese is providing temporary housing for families, recruiting volunteers to help clean out homes and deploying trained, spiritual care teams to reach out to people in shelters and in impacted communities. These teams are also distributing gift cards to help with purchasing food, basic supplies and other necessities.

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” noted Mears. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities affected by this devastating storm.”

Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Response Fund to help Episcopal Relief & Development in responding to critical needs.

For bulletin inserts and other Hurricane Harvey resources, visit episcopalrelief.org/harvey

Hong Kong could host ACC-17 after Brazil ‘postponement’

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 2:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Sao Paulo, Brazil, was unveiled as the host of the 2019 conference at last year’s ACC conference in Lusaka. But the ACC Standing Committee, meeting in London, heard that the event was scheduled to go ahead at what would be a challenging time for the country and for the Anglican Church there.

In particular, concerns were raised about the political and economic instability and also the church’s discussions on human sexuality and marriage which will take place at the provincial synod next year. Whatever the outcome of those discussions, it was felt this would have an impact on the Anglican Church in Brazil and hamper its ability to stage ACC-17. Specifically, it was thought that the leadership of the church would need time to deal with pastoral issues arising from the discussions.

Read the entire article here.

New archbishop of Wales elected

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 1:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] John Davies, who has served as the bishop of Swansea and Brecon for the past nine years, has been chosen as the 13th Archbishop of Wales.

He succeeds Barry Morgan who retired in January after 14 years as the leader of the Church in Wales.

Read the entire article here.

Preachers offer comfort, challenge and humor in the face of Harvey

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 1:14pm

The Rev. James Derkits, rector of Trinity by the Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, Texas, said Sept. 3 that people there were “living out the teaching of Romans.” Photo: Jennifer Wickham via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Sometimes, it is the simplest words that work the best. That, and some humor.

“So.”

“Wow.”

“What a week.”

That is how the Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, began his Sept. 3 sermon. Like many preachers faced with the task of bringing the word of God to bear on the experience of Hurricane Harvey, Levenson combined simple comfort laced with humor and biblical interpretation with a call to ministry.

When he asked his congregation how they were doing and there was what seemed to be a positive murmuring reply, Levenson said gently: “Yeah, you’re all lying.”

He elicited a good laugh.

At Trinity by the Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, Texas, near where Harvey first struck on Aug. 25, the Rev. James Derkits described in his sermon a typical conversation.

“Hey, how’re you doing?”

“Oh, holding up all right.”

“And then we cry for a minute. And then we say, OK, back to work.’”

“We’re just going to keep on doing that,” Derkits said.

He admitted that he didn’t know if he could preach that day. “I wasn’t sure I could say one word without crying,” said Derkits, whose family lost much when Harvey destroyed the rectory. He has been helping to lead recovery efforts in his town.

At St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Houston, the rector, the Rev. Rob Price, confessed that he had been busy that week with “the work of doing the word of God and I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to prepare for preaching upon the word of God.”

Luckily, he said, the lectionary came to the rescue. The appointed readings included the story of Moses standing on holy ground before the burning bush to receive God’s call to lead his people out of misery, Paul’s exhortation to the Romans not to lag in zeal and be ardent in spirit as they serve the Lord, and Jesus’ call to his disciples to take up their cross and follow him.

Price said he had seen St. Dunstan parishioners engaged in “simple acts of love that will persist long after the media has left Houston.” And, he pledged that “we will be walking with our [church] family and your friends for as long as it takes.”

Levenson at St. Martin’s told his congregation that God was everywhere while Harvey was submerging Houston under nearly 52 inches of rain, whether they themselves suffered damage or had to be rescued – or not. He urged his listeners to act.

“In the wake of nature’s havoc, now comes the work of God. You, as you stand before him in prayer, are like Moses,” he said, telling them they have the opportunity to show the world that they are the body of Christ. “You, as you allow genuine love to pour out of you. You, as you show others you’re his disciples by loving” the people in their communities.

He warned against despair. “You can allow this storm to define you in such a way that you are frozen and stagnant or you can allow this storm to pass through us and over us, because as its waters recede, even slowly in some places, life will begin again,” Levenson said.

The waters of baptism are stronger that Harvey’s flood, he said, urging the congregation to transplant the holy ground of their worship space into the community. “My friends, it’s what we’re called to do,” he said.

That ministry will help rebuild Harvey-hit areas, preachers said.

A thank-you sign hangs outside a downtown hotel housing emergency response teams in the aftermath of Harvey in Houston. Hebrews 6:10 says “or God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do” Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake –

At St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockport, Texas, also near where Harvey first came on land, the Rev. Jim Friedel pointed to symbolic new growth. “When I returned from evacuating a few days ago, every single tree was bare,” he said. “But today, if you look closely at the oak trees on our church grounds, new leaves are budding.”

Friedel held Eucharist in the church’s parking lot in muggy weather under a blazing sun. During the readings, a neighboring congregation could be heard singing “Bless the Lord, my soul.”

“We have an opportunity to respond in a way that will give new life,” the rector said as helicopters droned overhead.

Reminding worshippers that God heard the cries of the Israelites, Friedel said “he has heard our cries and the cries of this community. We have suffered, and now with grateful hearts, we will press forward.”

The Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston, also used the image of communities being stripped bare but beginning to show new life. In a Sept. 3 blog post, he described what Houston looked like “after the world ended.”

“In the wake of disaster, beyond the wilderness, when everything is stripped bare, the God whom fire cannot consume and water cannot drown comes to us and says, “I will send you’,” he wrote. “God is calling now – us, this cathedral, this community of disciples – and he does not send us alone. We are Christ Church together, and we will see the dawn.”

Eucharist at Trinity by the Sea in neighboring Port Aransas took place with the sounds of recovery in the background. Derkits thanked the police chief, mayor and city manager for being at the service, and for their leadership.

He said that Paul could have found on the battered streets of Port Aransas the basis for the inventory of Christian behavior that he gave to the Romans.

“This is what the kingdom of God looks like; this is what the Son of Man coming into his kingdom looks like,” Derkits said. “People are reaching out in love to each other and so we are living out this gospel teaching and we are living out the teaching of Romans.”

Earlier in the service, Derkits gathered children around the baptismal font and showed them shells he had found along the hurricane-littered beach. He called them treasures that Harvey had washed up, adding that they were symbols of what was happening in their city.

“We’ve had this challenging terrible hurricane that’s come through and all these treasures have been stirred up in people’s hearts,” he said, explaining how residents and volunteers alike were taking care of the city and of each other.

He asked each child to take a shell to serve “as a reminder to watch out for the treasures because even though we’ve had a hard time and it’s going to be a rough road ahead, there’s lots of good treasures out there to be had.”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle told the congregation at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Houston that seeing Episcopalians helping their communities was among the most joyous parts of his job.

“Nothing shows me the kingdom and God’s love for us more than the work you all have undertaken in the last week and the work that is before you,” he said in his sermon. “And it would be easy to say we don’t have the resources or we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re not professionals. We don’t know about remediation. But that does not stop the kingdom of God.

“God gives us a spirit to walk into the breach and change people’s lives. Christ’s church is at its best when it puts down all its mightiness, when it puts down all its victory, when it puts down its ‘church knows all’ attitude. And instead, it is at its best when it rolls up its sleeves and creates a new community out of generosity, hospitality, vulnerability and love.”

To the east, the Rev. Sharon A. Alexander, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recalled for her congregation Hurricane Katrina in 2005, last year’s so-called 1,000-year flood in Baton Rouge and her city’s deep economic connections to Texas through the energy and chemical industries.

“They extended their help to us last year after our flood. It is our turn to return the favor. It is not in our DNA at Trinity to ignore the suffering of others,” she said of Texans. “You all have demonstrated many times qualities set forth in today’s passage from Romans: hope, zeal, prayer, hospitality – these are keys to the kingdom that we have inherited from St. Peter.”

Alexander said Trinity will use those keys to help people in the Beaumont, Texas area. She asked parishioners to ask in their prayers “how we can be bearers of Jesus’ compassion and hope, as we were once the receivers of these holy gifts.”

Preachers as far away as California spoke of Harvey. The Rev. Peggy Bryan, pastoral assistant at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in Saratoga, California, described how her two sons and their families, spared from the flooding in Houston, had taken in evacuees, human, dog and guinea pig. In part, she said, their actions reciprocated the help they received in the wake of Hurricane Rita in September 2005.

Bryan noted that both CNN and Breitbart News had acknowledged this sort of volunteerism on the part of ordinary people. “Seriously, if those two news sources can spin the same direction, even for a fleeting moment, there is hope,” she said. “And it’s not hope for more unifying disasters but hope we can pursue bold love and courageous hospitality, so one divine day it’s not radical, but natural.”

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Washington National Cathedral decides to remove Confederate generals windows

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 12:44pm

[Episcopal News Service] Washington National Cathedral and the Diocese of Washington announced Sept. 6 that the cathedral’s stained-glass windows depicting two Confederate generals will be removed, bringing to an abrupt close a discernment process that was expected to last into next year.

“These windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation,”cathedral and diocesan leaders said in a written statement. “Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral.”

The expedited decision comes less than a month after the violent clashes between hate groups and anti-racism counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that amplified the national debate over Confederate symbols in public places, including in Episcopal institutions.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will visit Charlottesville on Sept. 7 to meet with clergy, diocesan staff and Episcopal students from the University of Virginia. He also will preach at an evening worship service near where Episcopal leaders on Aug. 12 others in solidarity Aug. 12 against white supremacists rallying around a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The melee, which left one counter-protester dead, prompted renewed scrutiny of Confederate symbols in Episcopal institutions, from Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a church named after Lee in Lexington, Virginia.

Washington National Cathedral had been halfway through a two-year period of discernment over its windows honoring Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That process began in the wake of the June 2015 massacre of nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Gunman Dylann Roof’s fondness for the Confederate flag sparked a broad re-examination of the flag as a controversial symbol of the South that had been co-opted by white supremacists.

The cathedral removed depictions of the Confederate flag almost immediately. Dean Randy Hollerith wrote a June 30 letter to the congregation urging patience with the longer process of discerning the fate of the windows themselves.

“There is real frustration that we have not yet decided the ultimate disposition of the windows,” Hollerith said. “I want you to know I hear that frustration, and I appreciate that many people have good reasons for feeling that this decision-making process is taking too long.”

But he said the congregation had embarked on the work of reconciliation “for the long haul” and would continue the conversations “over the next year.”

“These windows, and these questions, have exposed emotions that are raw and sometimes wounds that have not yet healed,” Hollerith wrote. “They have helped to reveal how much we still have to learn as we work toward repairing the breach of racial injustice and building the beloved community.”

A cathedral spokesman told Episcopal News Service last month that the events in Charlottesville added a sense of urgency to the process, but the cathedral gave no updated timetable for a decision on the windows.

Instead of dragging on for months, the process came to an end with the statement Sept. 6 signed by Hollerith, Bishop Marianne Budde and Cathedral Chapter Chair John Donoghue. They said the windows, installed in 1953 when the civil rights movement was gaining steam, “will be deconsecrated, removed, conserved and stored until we can determine a more appropriate future for them.”

The statement also alluded to the violence in Charlottesville.

“The continued presence of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in our nation cannot be ignored – nor will they be solved simply by removing these windows or other monuments,” the statement said. “The racial wounds that we have seen across our nation compel us to renew our commitment to building God’s Beloved Community.”

The full text of the statement follows.

6 September 2017

Dear friends,

Two years ago, following a tragic shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., then-Dean Gary Hall called for the removal of two stained glass windows at the Cathedral that honor Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

At that time, we began a process to engage this community in deep questions of racial justice, the legacy of slavery and God’s call to us in the 21st century. Over the past two years, we have heard from deeply passionate voices who have engaged with us and held us accountable to this process, and we thank them.

The programs we have hosted, the conversations within our community and national events have brought greater focus on the key question facing us: Are these windows, installed in 1953, an appropriate part of the sacred fabric of a spiritual home for the nation?

After considerable prayer and deliberation, the Cathedral Chapter voted Tuesday to immediately remove the windows. The Chapter believes that these windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation. Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral.

These windows will be deconsecrated, removed, conserved and stored until we can determine a more appropriate future for them. The window openings and stone work in the Lee-Jackson Bay will be covered over until we determine what will go in their place.

There are several things that we know to be true:

• Whatever their origins, we recognize that these windows are more than benign historical markers. For many of God’s children, they are an obstacle to worship in a sacred space; for some, these and other Confederate memorials serve as lampposts along a path that leads back to racial subjugation and oppression.

• A central question we have asked throughout this process is what narratives are shared within the sacred fabric of the Cathedral, and which are yet untold. We have concluded that these windows tell an incomplete and misleading account of our history. We are committed to finding ways to offer a richer, more balanced expression of our nation’s history.

• We have asked whether it is possible to contextualize these windows or to augment them with other narratives. The Chapter concluded that there is no way to adequately contextualize these windows while keeping them within the sacred fabric of the Cathedral.

• We want to be clear that we are not attempting to remove history, but rather are removing two windows from the sacred fabric of the Cathedral that do not reflect our values. We believe these windows can yet have a second life as an effective teaching tool in a place and context yet to be determined.

• The recent violence in Charlottesville brought urgency to our discernment process.  We find ourselves compelled by the witness of others, moved by the presence of God in our midst and convicted that the Holy Spirit is pointing us toward the answer. The continued presence of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in our nation cannot be ignored – nor will they be solved simply by removing these windows or other monuments. The racial wounds that we have seen across our nation compel us to renew our commitment to building God’s Beloved Community.

There are questions we cannot yet answer, such as what will replace these windows. Those answers will come after careful thought and deliberation. But we know this for sure: while this part of our work has reached its end, the harder task of working for racial justice, combating intolerance and fostering reconciliation continues with renewed urgency.

We recognize that there are people of goodwill who disagree with our decision, and also others who have been hurt or confused by the amount of time it took us to reach it. We trust, however, that what unites us in Christ is greater than our differences. We continue to hold the entire Cathedral community in prayer as we strive always to see each other as beloved children of God.

In the coming weeks and months, the Cathedral leadership will create opportunities for all in the Cathedral community to express their views and feelings. We promise to listen carefully to all who are willing to share. And we renew our commitment to follow Jesus and do our part to build the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

Faithfully,

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Washington 

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral

John Donoghue
Chair, Cathedral Chapter

Anglican Communion secretary general: ACNA isn’t a province

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 3:43pm

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, addresses members of General Synod 2016. Photo: Art Babych

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a province of the Anglican Communion.

Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Idowu-Fearon said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ANCA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July. “It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said.

Full article.

Episcopalians say Trump’s DACA decision is not the last word

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 3:15pm

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration Sept. 5 scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S. Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde joined other faith leaders at the demonstration. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque –

[Episcopal News Service] Many Episcopalians vowed to fight to preserve the federal immigration policy known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and to support the 800,000 “Dreamers” it impacts, after the Trump administration announced Sept. 5 an end to the program.

The administration announced that it would phase out the DACA policy, giving Congress six months to act legislatively to save the program that allowed qualifying undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.

President Barack Obama instituted DACA in June 2012 by executive action, giving so-called “Dreamers” the ability to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits.

For the Rev. Nancy Frausto, associate rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach, California, in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and a “Dreamer,” the Sept. 5 news was terrifying.

Frausto, 33, who came to the United States at age 7, said she and her brother “are very proud of our Mexican heritage, but we know no other country. We have worked so hard to achieve our dreams, and it all could be taken away in a second.

“I am trying very hard to stay positive, to remember the words from last Sunday’s reading, ‘do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by good.’ But, let me tell you, it’s not easy.”

Frausto was ordained a priest in 2013; she grew up attending All Saints Episcopal Church in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles where she was a popular youth leader. Because of her undocumented status, she was unable to apply for financial aid for college, so the church created a scholarship fund and assisted her education.

In 2013, she was named an Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow, and she is popular at conferences for speaking about “scrappy” or struggling churches. She also serves as a consultant evangelist for the Presiding Bishop’s Office on Evangelism.

“I know a lot of the church will rise up and will defend the rights of all people and there’s people doing amazing work,” Frausto told ENS, amid frequent pauses and tears. “But, it’s so hard to stay positive right now.”

Frausto said she knows immigration can be “a touchy subject.”

“And that I know that in our church there are people who stand on both sides. And with all due respect to anyone who agrees with the sides that all undocumented persons should be sent back to their country, I would hope that their Christian value would be stronger than their political values.”

The Episcopal Church’s presiding officers issued a statement after the Trump administration’s announcement, vowing to work for immigration reform and to support Dreamers like Frausto.

“We believe that these young people are children of God and deserve a chance to live full lives, free from fear of deportation to countries that they may have never known and whose languages they may not speak,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings said. “As people of faith, our obligation is first to the most vulnerable, especially to children. In this moment, we are called by God to protect Dreamers from being punished for something they had no agency in doing.”

The complete statement is here.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, and its Episcopal Public Policy Network, has long been engaged in adovcacy for “a humane and proportional immigration system,” based on the General Convention’s stance of the issues involved. The office has a collection of resources for advocacy and action on immigration policy, as well as information on current policies and proposed legislation here.

In Los Angeles, members of Episcopal Sacred Resistance, the diocesan task force on immigration, said they would join a demonstration at 5 p.m. in the city where thousands were expected to protest the decision.

Just last week, they had rejoiced at the Aug. 30 release from detention of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents took him into custody in the presence of his teen daughter, after he had dropped another daughter off at school. The case was widely publicized and after a six-month detention, he was returned to his family.

Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, has lived in California for 30 years and has four U.S.-born children. The nation’s highest immigration court vacated a final deportation order on Aug. 10 and his case will return to a local court for another hearing.

“In the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, home to one of the largest immigrant populations in the nation, the bishops reaffirm the diocese’s continuing commitment to Dreamers and their families and call upon the president and Congress to strengthen the status of these deserving persons rather than jeopardize it through partisan politics,” Bishop J. Jon Bruno, Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce and Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor said in a statement.

“Dreamers add daily, long-term value to all aspects of life across the United States and should receive respect and fairness from our government rather than equivocation rooted in fear and racism and that must be eradicated for the common good.”

Immigration activists will continue to press for justice, said the Rev. Mike Kinman, rector of All Saints Church, in Pasadena, California.

“This is us,” Kinman told ENS in a telephone interview Sept. 5. “This is not some other. These are our sisters and brothers and members of our family, members of our community. These are God’s beloved and our beloved. God has joined us together, and Scripture tells us that which God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

Kinman said the administration’s decision means the government is “literally trying to tear our family apart, and we can’t do that, because family is a gift from God.”

“We know how to fight this and we’re going to fight it. It starts by doing what we’re doing today, taking to the street and saying, not on our watch, especially here in California, where about 223,000 of the 800,000 people who are Dreamers live,” he said of the demonstration planned for La Placita Olvera in Los Angeles later in the day.

He called the statement released by Attorney General Jeff Sessions “a tragic rejection of the actual gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“From a nation that has for centuries stolen resources from Central American nations, pauperizing them and leaving their citizens little choice but to follow those resources north in search of survival, this action is particularly cruel and deeply ironic,” he added.

The Rev. Joanne Leslie, a member of the Los Angeles diocesan immigration task force, called the Trump administration’s action “pointless.”

“It seems [Trump] has so little political capital left, why would he spend any of it on something that seems to me to have no upside?” Leslie said.

Leslie, who recently retired as archdeacon of the diocese, said she also planned to be at the demonstration in downtown Los Angeles and she vowed to continue to fight for just immigration reform.

“There’s a lot that creative legal minds can do,” Leslie said, adding, “we haven’t finished pushing the envelope yet.”

Leslie said the release of Avelica-Gonzalez after six months of dogged work proved a point. “It just means you can, when motivated people work together, you can get something done,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being with a bunch of motivated people today.”

Avelica-Gonzalez’s release doesn’t make up for the other people she said are unfairly held in Adelanto detention center in Los Angeles, she said. However, each time activists are faced with a new challenge “and we gather together, it gives me hope.”

Meanwhile, Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde was among the immigration advocates, dreamers and other faith leaders who demonstrated in front of the White House on Sept. 5. Speaking to the crowd, she noted that last week she joined with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, and Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, to send a letter to Trump and members of Congress, saying that each religion’s sacred texts and teachings are clear that supporting Dreamers “is consistent with the moral imperative of extending hospitality to the stranger, of caring for immigrants and children, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

“Now that the president has acted, we will turn our attention to Congress,” Budde said outside the White House.

Dreamers are part of the U.S., she said. “I want you to know that you belong here. We love you; we are so proud of you; and we need your gifts, talents and hard work to help make this country live up to its greatest ideals.

“Your dream is the American dream of opportunity and diversity, of safe haven and of building a better life for ourselves and our families. The future of this country is in your hands. The president’s decision is not the final answer on DACA. We commit ourselves to work with and alongside you for a better day.”

As for Frausto, she admits to struggling against “being in a very dark place now.” She was able to work in the church because of DACA, after previously fearing she would need to leave the country for at least 10 years.

As to what she’d say to the Trump administration: “Have a little heart. Stop trying to dehumanize us, we are God’s children.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

Presiding Bishop, House of Deputies president on DACA

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 2:07pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have issued the following statement concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Today our hearts are with those known as the Dreamers—those young women and men who were brought to this country as children, who were raised here and whose primary cultural and country identity is American. We believe that these young people are children of God and deserve a chance to live full lives, free from fear of deportation to countries that they may have never known and whose languages they may not speak. As people of faith, our obligation is first to the most vulnerable, especially to children. In this moment, we are called by God to protect Dreamers from being punished for something they had no agency in doing.

Since 2012, individuals who are undocumented and who were brought to the U.S. as children have benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Through this program, those eligible have the opportunity to obtain a work permit and can secure protection from deportation. The nearly 800,000 recipients of DACA have proven that when given the opportunity, they succeed and contribute positively to our country. Without protection afforded by DACA or a legislative solution, these young people will live in fear of arrest, detention, and deportation to countries they may not remember. In six months those fears may become reality, so we must use that time wisely to advocate for their protection.

The Episcopal Church supports these undocumented youth as part of our decades-long commitment to walking with immigrants and refugees. Out of that commitment, we call on our nation to live up to its highest ideals and most deeply held values, and we call on Congress to take action to protect these young people and to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy that is moral and consistent and that allows immigrants who want to contribute to this country the chance to do so while keeping our borders secure from those whose business is in drugs, human trafficking or terror. We are committed to working actively toward both the passage of a bipartisan Dream Act by Congress and comprehensive immigration reform, and we will provide resources for Episcopalians who want to participate in this work.

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, our Christian values are at stake. Humane and loving care for the stranger, the alien, and the foreigner is considered a sacred duty and moral value for those who would follow the way of God. In his parable of the last judgment, Jesus commended those who welcomed the stranger and condemned those who did not (Matthew 25:35 & 25:43). This teaching of Jesus was based on the law of Moses that tells the people of God: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-35).

We stand with the Dreamers and will do all that we can to support them while we also work for the kind of immigration reform that truly reflects the best of our spiritual and moral values as people of faith and as citizens of the United States.

-The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, and The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies

Episcopalians labor on to help Hurricane Harvey-hit Gulf Coast

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 6:56pm

Volunteers at Trinity by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, Texas, sort donations on Aug. 31. The church is serving as a staging ground for recovery workers in the town that is near where Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Photo: Jennifer Wickham via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The rest of the United States might be headed into the three-day Labor Day weekend with thoughts of picnics and beaches, but Episcopalians along the Harvey-hit Gulf Coast will be working to clean up the damage and begin to put their lives, and the lives of their neighbors, back together.

That work comes a week after Hurricane Harvey developed into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas, on the barrier islands beyond Corpus Christi shortly before 10 p.m. CDT Aug. 25. Harvey then moved over Copano Bay and made landfall again, this time as a Category 3 hurricane.

After moving east and submerging the Houston area under nearly 52 inches of rain, a weakened Harvey wobbled back out over the gulf and then returned to land on Aug. 30, hitting again near Cameron, Louisiana.

The New York Times reported Sept. 1 that at least 46 deaths were related to, or suspected to be related to, the storm. That number could still rise.

The remnants of Harvey, now classified by the National Hurricane Center as Post-Tropical Cyclone Harvey, are moving northeastward across the Ohio Valley and pushing as much as 1 to 6 inches of rain into Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia.

Harvey’s rainfall totals as of 5 p.m. EDT Sept. 1 are here.

“All of the churches in the Diocese of West Texas are standing strong,” said the diocese on whose southern portion Harvey made its first two U.S. landfalls on Aug. 25. “There is damage, which is to be expected after a direct hit from such a large storm. Much of the damage includes fallen and broken trees and limbs, as well as large amounts of debris that were distributed with the 100+ mph winds and the storm surges.”

The churches across the diocese are “doing what they are supposed to be doing,” the statement said. “They are responding and issuing calls to action by making numerous hygiene kits and beginning to gather and organize volunteer efforts.”

In Port Aransas, Texas, Trinity by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, with its parish hall and church in relatively good shape, has become a gathering point for volunteers before they go out in neighborhoods. Once there, they are helping survivors clean up massive amounts of debris from their properties and ruined items from their homes and businesses.

One volunteer, Eddie Roberson, said other folks “are out in droves providing free food and everything imaginable to help all of us working.”

“A beautiful ray of hope in a place that desperately needs it,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “God Bless us all!”

Roberson said it is hard to navigate through Port Aransas because most of the street signs are missing. “Be prepared, the devastation is unreal. The working conditions beyond the heat zaps your energy fast,” he wrote. “The mildew, humidity and heat from the sun make for a very humbling experience even for the most in-shape individual.”

Volunteers need to have good gloves, cool clothing, baby wipes, mosquito spray and a lot of water, Roberson suggested.

 

Jennifer Wickham, who lives in Corpus Christi where her husband is rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, is helping coordinate volunteers at Trinity. “We were overwhelmed at several times today, not only by the generosity of volunteers who came to help, but also by the sheer volume of people bringing truckloads of supplies,” she said in an update late on Aug. 31.

The outpouring is wonderful, she wrote, but “it is becoming clear that the storage of donations will quickly become a challenge — not only for us, but also from many of the grassroots organizations working in the community.” The few places in town that are clean and secure are filling with large deliveries of supplies, and some groups have even begun to turn donations away.

“But this is not because we have enough items,” wrote Wickham, who is also the development coordinator for Saint Vincent Centre for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “It is simply a reality that there are not enough places to put all of the things we need.”

Thus, Wickham suggested that people donate in just one of two ways: labor and money.

“I am exhausted, but amazed by the people, resources, and love that keep pouring in,” the Rev. James Derkits, Trinity by-the-Sea’s rector, said in West Texas’ update.

Derkits, his wife, Laura, and their family had to relocate when they discovered after Harvey that the storm destroyed the nearby rectory. They hope to move back to Port Aransas into a friend’s condominium once power is restored, he told Episcopal News Service.

Meanwhile, Trinity will have two services on Sept. 3.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (http://www.stpeterbythesea.com/) in Rockport, Texas, near where Harvey made landfall, sustained minor damage. Photo: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church via Facebook

In nearby Rockport, Texas, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church sustained minor damage. The congregation used its Facebook page to check on its members.

St. Peter’s state is unusual. Rockport Mayor Charles Wax estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the town’s houses and businesses were destroyed, and another 30 percent are so damaged that they will need to be demolished.

A parishioner of St. James Episcopal Church and School in Alexandria, Louisiana, Babs Leggett is worried about Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston, Texas, where she and her husband, Jim Leggett III, attend when vacationing and visiting family. Leggett is on the church’s email list, and she received an email warning people that there would be no Sunday service on Sept. 3.

“It’s like a second home to us,” Leggett told Episcopal News Service. Her cousins were away from their Houston home when Harvey hit, and their house sitter had to evacuate to a hotel with their cat. They still don’t know how their home fared, Leggett said. The Leggetts plan to send a check to help the parish recover. “We’re just grieving for what’s happening next door. We went through it with Katrina, and it’s unbelievably challenging.”

 

As the barrier island towns near Corpus Christi pick of the pieces, Episcopalians in Houston are helping their neighbors in that waterlogged city.

Harvey survivors are finding food, cleaning supplies, underwear and more at Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services, a ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. ECHOS helped 104 families on Aug. 31.

“Virtually all of them needed cleaning supplies, food, diapers, baby formula and other staples for their homes,” the agency said in an emailed update. “Each of them had a story to tell … Most who walked in our doors today lost everything. Some had damaged apartments. All have been traumatized. For many, it will take months for life to go back to normal. For others, it will be a new normal.”

ECHOS will host what it is calling a Disaster Relief Food Fair on Sept. 2. Ten pallets of water, and disaster relief food kits will be available. Bee Busy Wellness Center will have a nurse practitioner onsite to provide health assessments.

And, because relief work needs fuel, a local Starbucks delivered donated coffee on Aug. 31 for ECHOS workers and clients.

 

“These days of disaster have also been marked by many occasions of grace,” the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston, wrote in a Sept. 1 Facebook post.

The most recent example of that grace, he said, was the Rev. Steve Wells, the pastor of South Main Baptist Church, and his congregation delivering shoes to the Beacon. The Beacon is a cathedral ministry that offers homeless people daily services, civil legal aid, counseling and mentoring and access to housing. The facility still has no power, Thompson said, “but as soon as we are able to reopen, every homeless woman or man who enters the door with waterlogged shoes will be able to receive a new pair. What a phenomenal act of generosity.”

Thompson is helping to coordinate the rectors of Houston’s largest Episcopal churches to respond in the recovery effort. He noted on Aug. 31 that “this work is in no way restricted to the Episcopal Church,” citing Wells, along with the Rev. Tommy Williams of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and Rabbi Oren Hayon of Temple Emanu El.

“I’m humbled and blessed to witness the faith community in action,” he wrote. “For those who say the world would be better off without the church, I say visit Houston.”

There are lists posted around Trinity by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, Texas, with information and instructions for volunteers. Photo: Jennifer Wickham via Facebook

Many congregations will be taking up special collections on Sept. 3 for the work of Episcopal Relief & Development. Individual donations can be made here.

The organization, in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, is responding to the immediate needs of people in the Greater Houston area, including Galveston. That support will help the diocese provide temporary housing for 50 families, recruit volunteers to help clean out homes and deploy trained, spiritual care teams to reach out to people evacuated to the George R. Brown Convention Center and in other hard-hit areas.

Those teams are also distributing gift cards to help with purchasing food, basic supplies and necessities. The organization said its U.S. Disaster Program staff is in regular contact with the affected dioceses in Texas and Louisiana.

“Our church partners are providing critical assistance and caring for their neighbors in the aftermath of this devastating storm,” said Robert W. Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “I am deeply grateful to them and to our community of faithful supporters for their compassion and enormous generosity.”

At the Diocese of Western Louisiana office, Holly Davis, communications missioner, said she was without power and cell phone service for most of Aug. 30, but was back to work by Sept. 1. So far, she had no reports of flooding at the diocesan churches.

Dee Drell, senior warden at St. James Episcopal Church in Alexandria, which is northeast of Lake Charles and in the center of the state, said his and Leggett’s church will do a special offering for relief efforts Sept. 3.

Louisiana’s mega-shelter in Alexandria is filling up with flood victims, Leggett said. More than 1,100 evacuees filled the 2,500 beds by the evening of Aug. 31, according to The Town Talk newspaper. “And now we’re expecting the shelter to overflow with people coming in from Lake Charles,” said Leggett, who’s also a part-time TV news producer.

Across the Diocese of Louisiana, Episcopalians are remembering the generosity of the wider church after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and they are responding by collecting supplies and money. The diocese’s Facebook page is filled with such notices.

The Rev. Deacon Elaine G. Clements, the Louisiana diocesan disaster coordinator, reiterated the warning, however, to keep it simple and stick to monetary donations for now, unless there is a personal relationship with someone on the ground in the most affected areas.

“Two days ago, Houston needed divers; now they are overflowing with divers. Distribution and storage is a nightmare. So, money to Episcopal Relief & Development and gift cards [to local churches] are the way to go,” Clements told Episcopal News Service.

 

Still, some churches are trying to donate material goods. Christ Church in Covington, Louisiana, has given 100 blankets to a shelter Houston. The donation started when a friend texted the Rev. William Miller: “I had to tell 300 people that we were out of blankets. If you could have seen the look in their eyes…”

Miller, the church’s rector, writes here about the quest that followed. The Rev. Scott Painter, curate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston and Miller’s friend, found his way to a Costco store that had just reopened and that had blankets. He texted photos of the options and Miller had him buy 100, sending him a check. Painter delivered them to NRG Stadium, where 10,000 people were expected by the end of that day.

“In the grand scheme of relief efforts, in a swampy region spread out over a vast territory with 6 million inhabitants, 100 blankets delivered to one shelter probably won’t make much of a difference,” Miller wrote. “But for the 100 people at the shelter who end up with one, it might make some difference. And you and I can each make some difference. Together, we can make a big difference.”

Previous ENS coverage of Hurricane Harvey is here.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, as well as a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.

Bishop of Polynesia addresses festivalgoers in England on climate change

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:47am

[Anglican Taonga] Archbishop Winston Halapua of Polynesia has taken his concerns about climate justice and his moana theology message to a new stage – to the immaculate grounds of a stately hall in the English midlands. He’d been invited by the United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) to be their keynote speaker at the Greenbelt Festival, which was held in the grounds of Boughton House. The Greenbelt Festival has been a British fixture for more than four decades and its organisers say their mission is “to create spaces, like festivals, where art, faith and justice collide.”

Read the full article here.

 

Summering Episcopalians love their seasonal chapels

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:35pm

St. Elisabeth’s Chapel by the Sea near the Atlantic Ocean in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, has been housed in two different buildings since its founding. Superstorm Sandy destroyed the 1885 chapel, and nearly five years later, on July 23, 2017, the congregation dedicated its new building. Photo: St. Elisabeth’s Chapel by the Sea

[Episcopal News Service] They have clergy every Sunday, but few have a priest to call their own. Most are only open for a few weeks, but some meet every Sunday of the year. Most Episcopalians have never set foot in one, but for those who have worshipped in them for years, they are imprinted on their faith journeys.

They have been compared to Brigadoon, the mysterious Scottish village that legend says appears for only one day every 100 years. However, the summer chapels of the Episcopal Church, most with three months or less of seasonal life, have far more staying power.

For more than a century, these often-small buildings have weathered changes in church attendance and vacation trends. They evoke an era when people decamped from the heat of the city to “summer” in the natural beauty of the countryside, preferably near a body of water, large or small.

Far away from their winter church homes, Episcopalians pooled their money and built chapels in those summer enclaves. The chapels have a deep hold on generations of summering families. Many people, along with some newcomers, mark the major passages of their lives in the chapels: baptisms, weddings, even memorial funerals.

Most chapels were built at a time when people walked to church. For instance, in a 22-mile stretch of New Jersey Shore towns, there are five summer chapels along with eight year-round congregations. Over the years, some chapels have grown into year-round congregations.

Regardless of their deep hold on some Episcopalians’ faith lives, the chapels have tenuous – and varied – relationships with the dioceses in which they exist. Some chapels are held by private trusts, some are incorporated, some are associated with Episcopal summer camps, some are missions of nearby year-round congregations. Very few file the annual Parochial Report required of year-round congregations. Most have no formal list of members because most of the Episcopalians who worship in them officially belong to other congregations. Some dioceses prevent seasonal chapels from formally enrolling members.

Thus, an accurate count of their number and attendance is hard to come by. Kirk Hadaway, the since-retired Episcopal Church officer for congregational research, compiled a list in 2015 of known seasonal chapels. It held the names of 85 such chapels, but he acknowledged that there might be more. The list ranged from St. Francis of the Mountains in South Lake Tahoe, California, and St. Hubert the Hunter in Bondurant, Wyoming, to some in the Midwest and a long chain of chapels lining the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida.

The Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration, built in 1925 very near Grand Teton National Park and now a part of St. John’s Episcopal Church 15 miles away in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, held an eclipse service on Aug. 18. Afterward, the congregation went outside to witness the 2:20 minutes of totality. The 65-seat chapel offers two Eucharists each Sunday in summer. St John’s also has a summer Sunday service at the Chapel of St. Hubert the Hunter in Bondurant, 35 miles from Jackson. Photo: St. John’s Episcopal Church

The chapel with the newest building on that list is, arguably, St. Elisabeth’s Chapel, just steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Ortley Beach, New Jersey. Nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy swept the chapel off its moorings, across Barnegat peninsula and into the bay during the night of Oct. 29, 2012, the congregation has rebuilt. New Jersey Bishop Williams “Chip” Stokes dedicated that $1.2 million building this past July.

“When the chapel went down, we all mourned the loss and realized that we couldn’t mourn too long because we had to rebuild,” Senior Warden Dennis Bellars said.

The old chapel sat about 70 people; the new cedar-lined building can hold 120 comfortably, according to Bellars. The altar furniture and the pews are new. The bishop’s chair, which was found wedged in Ortley Beach’s wreckage, has been restored. Bellars even found an antique bell for the new steeple that was made in 1885, the year St. Elisabeth’s was founded.

The congregation combined the proceeds of a capital campaign with its insurance settlement from the lost chapel and added some congregational savings to finance the project that began in 2015. A member of the summer congregation pledged the largest individual amount to the effort. (While St. Elisabeth’s is classified as a summer chapel, it is open for worship all year. It averaged 40 people per Sunday during the 2016-2017 winter months.)

“The neighborhood is very, very pleased to have us back,” Bellars said, although he joked that he worries about the loudness of the “new” old bell.

Seasonal chapels “fill a need for the summer people to worship in an Episcopal service,” Bellars said.

 

“The people that go to summer chapels are really faithful,” said Stokes. “They understand that God doesn’t take a vacation.” Returning to their chapel every summer “is the way by which they keep up the rhythm of their faith lives and stay connected to their life in Jesus Christ, and remain connected to a community that they’ve been part of, for many of them, since they were children.”

“You walk into some of these places and that comes through loud and clear,” Stokes said. “That’s really quite special.”

Sometimes, the seasonal opening of a summer chapel means even local Episcopalians will choose to worship there. Their move can cause attendance and, sometimes, giving to dip at nearby full-year churches. While recognizing that this can be a bit disruptive and might raise the question of the best use of resources, Stokes sees “health, vitality and life” in the seasonal communities and in their neighboring churches.

“Some people discover Jesus when they see these pretty churches and chapels and maybe wander in during the summer,” he said. “What a nice thing, what a grace-filled thing.”

Stokes, whose family used to vacation in Bay Head, New Jersey, and did believe that “God took a vacation in the summer,” remembers pedaling his bike past All Saints Episcopal Church and hearing the hymns coming from what was then a summer chapel. The chapel, founded in 1888, became a year-round congregation in the mid-1980s.

Episcopalians in the pews are not the only ones for whom summer chapels are a tradition. Many priests – and their families – look forward to coming back for a few weeks each season to serve the congregations. Plus, along with taking the services and being available for pastoral care, they get vacation in popular, scenic spots.

Stokes recalls earlier in his ministry when he spent nine years with his wife, Susan, and their family opening the season at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Stokes explained that the seasonal position, which came with a stipend and a house, provided a “respite” for his family, which then included his wife, four children and a nephew who was living with them. Stokes was a curate earning $23,000 when he got the chance to serve on the clergy rotation for St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea in Saltaire, New York, on Fire Island.

“I can promise you I would never have been able to afford a beach house rental on Fire Island,” he said. “My kids remember that as some of the best times of their lives.”

 

The Very Rev. Timothy Kimbrough, dean of the Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, Tennessee, would agree. His 28-year stint as one of the priests for the Episcopal Church of St. Simon-by-the-Sea, a summer chapel in Mantoloking on the Jersey Shore, has frequently served as his family’s vacation.

“It always felt like grace and like you just sort of stumbled into this privilege,” he said.

Kimbrough has roots in the area. He was a boy in 1962 when his parents moved to nearby Bay Head, where his Methodist minister father took a small church for four years while working on a doctorate at Princeton.

St. Simon-by-the-Sea was built in 1889 on land donated by Frederick W. Downer, the founder of Mantoloking, New Jersey, who was a Presbyterian. The church became an Episcopal church because the first minister was an Episcopalian, according to the church’s website. It is believed to be a copy of a Norwegian fishermen’s church. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg

During what Kimbrough called the last chapter of his father’s working life, his family moved back to Bay Head and his father commuted to New York. His mother became an Episcopalian at All Saints in Bay Head after Kimbrough was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1984.

Having been a part of the St. Simon clergy roster for so long, Kimbrough said that “a collection of relationships begins to form that become dear.” Those relationships, some of which were forged during one summer when the congregation lost a young member in a traffic accident, are now a large part of what makes Kimbrough and his wife agree to come back every summer, even now that their children are grown.

Summer chapels have both a ministry and a mission, he said, to busy people who are taking a summer break. They can be, he suggested, a place where people can “actively cultivate the spiritual when, maybe in the rest of their lives, life has gotten too busy to do that.”

Kimbrough said when “we are all trying to come to terms with what it means to be church” and when the church is exploring new ways of reaching people, “the summer chapel is not just a point of contact where the faithful are able to maintain the habits of faith.”

It might also be, he said, “where people, maybe, who aren’t otherwise exposed to the gospel or who haven’t developed regular habits of faith in the winter, have the opportunity to be exposed to good news and have the possibility of developing them.”

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

RIP: Richard Sui On Chang, fourth bishop of Hawaii

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 2:51pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Richard Sui On Chang, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Hawaii, died Aug. 30 after a short illness.

Chang served from 1997 to 2006 when he was succeeded by Robert L. Fitzpatrick, who had been his canon to the ordinary.

He was the first bishop of Hawaii who was native to the islands. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a Master of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California. He also studied at the University of Hawaii.

George Richard Millard, the suffragan bishop of the Diocese of California, ordained Chang to the diaconate in March 1966. Then-Bishop of Hawaii Harry S. Kennedy ordained him to the priesthood six months later.

Chang served in several roles in Hawaii before becoming the diocese’s archdeacon from 1970 to 1974. After the first bishop of Hawaii, the Rt. Rev. Edmond Browning, was installed as the Episcopal Church’s 24th presiding bishop, Chang served as his assistant. He was the executive officer of the diocese when Browning was bishop in Hawaii.

Chang served for a time as vice president of the House of Bishops.

He is survived by his wife, Delia Chang, and daughters Holly and Hannah. Service arrangements are pending.

 

 

 

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