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Episcopal Church raises concerns on Trump policy enforcing provisions of Cuba embargo

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 3:53pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is raising concerns about Trump administration plans to start enforcing a long-neglected provision of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

General Convention has passed several resolutions over the past decade calling for an end to the Cuba embargo, an issue that took on new urgency last year when the Diocese of Cuba was welcomed back into The Episcopal Church. In particular, The Episcopal Church urges “an end to provisions that hamper the mission of the Church in Cuba and that contribute to the suffering of the Cuba people,” the Office of Government Relations said in a statement released April 18.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Havana, Cuba. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

That statement responded to the Trump administration’s decision to enforce Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which will allow U.S. citizens, including naturalized Cubans, to sue foreign companies that may be profiting from use of property seized by the Cuban government in 1959. That provision has been waived by every U.S. president since the Helms-Burton Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Trump administration officials argue that ending the waiver of Title III will put pressure on the Cuban government over its support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who announced this change last week, has called Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny.”

“The United States looks forward to watching each corner of this sordid triangle of terror fall,” Bolton said in his April 17 announcement.

This harder stance toward Cuba comes after former President Barack Obama sought to improve relations with the island country. Obama, who in 2016 became the first U.S. president to visit communist Cuba, oversaw the easing of travel restrictions and restoring diplomatic relations.  The United States reopened its embassy in Havana, and Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington, D.C.

In 2015, General Convention passed a resolution hailing such examples of progress and calling for an outright end to the embargo against Cuba. It further directed the Office of Government Relations to work “toward lifting aspects of the embargo that impede The Episcopal Church’s partnership with The Episcopal Church in Cuba.”

Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio leads the recessional following the Feb. 28 Eucharist opening the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s 110th General Synod. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Three years later, in July 2018, General Convention passed the resolution that readmitted the Diocese of Cuba, and Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio took her seat in the House of Bishops.

The thaw in relations between the two countries, however, has been in doubt since President Donald Trump took office in 2017 vowing to reverse Obama’s policy toward Cuba. His administration’s announcement this month raised alarms over the prospect that messy legal battles would ensnare companies from countries that do not have embargoes against Cuba, from the European Union to Canada. Some also questioned whether this U.S. policy change would be effective in pressuring Maduro.

“How do you allow lawsuits against a country like Canada who has been supportive of efforts in Venezuela and maintain Canada as an ally?” Pedro Freyre, a Miami attorney who advises U.S. companies, told the Miami Herald.

The Office of Government Relations, in its statement, also emphasized the potential human cost of such policy changes.

“Enacting Title III will cause U.S.-Cuba relations to deteriorate further, and it will hurt the Cuban people and economy,” the office said. “We therefore reiterate our call for an end to the embargo and reassert our commitment to strengthening relations between the Cuban and American people.”

The Anglican presence in Cuba dates to 1871. In 1966, The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops expelled the Cuban diocese in response to the Cuban Revolution and the United States’ policy. Episcopal schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced.

The diocese’s readmission in 2018 was made possible partly because the Cuban government had grown less restrictive toward churches. The U.S. government’s policy, meanwhile, had become less predictable under Trump, church leaders said.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba today has 46 congregations serving about 10,000 members and their communities. Its reintegration into The Episcopal Church is expected to be complete by 2020.

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

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Oklahoma Episcopal, Orthodox congregations share space in new collaboration

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 1:28pm

Father Matthew Floyd (left), an Orthodox Priest, presented a gift to the Rev. Father John Toles, the rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo: Bonnie Vculek/ Courtesy of Enid News & Eagle

Editor’s note: A version of this story ran in March in the Enid News & Eagle.

East meets West in a new collaboration between the Russian Orthodox and Episcopal churches in a small city in north central Oklahoma. Members of St. Nino Equal-to-the- Apostles, a mission parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, have begun meeting for monthly worship services in a chapel at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Enid.

An expanding service

The Russian Orthodox congregation, a mission of St. Benedict Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, about 80 miles to the southeast, held its first service and fellowship dinner at the Episcopal parish in February.

Father Matthew Floyd, mission priest to St. Nino, said having a chapel to host local services expands his opportunities to reach Orthodox faithful who can’t always make the 90-minute drive to Oklahoma City. The chapel time is especially important, Floyd said, for catechumens, people studying for confirmation into the Orthodox faith.

“What are things I would have wanted to know when I was entering the church I didn’t get?” Floyd asked. “One of my core goals of my Enid visits is to give the catechumens and inquirers more instruction into those topics, and to also give a more rounded liturgical experience. I think it’s good for people to see and experience the more liturgical services of the church.”

‘Right thing to do’

Until February, Floyd’s mission congregation of 10-12 worshipers was meeting in the basement of a business owned by one of its members.

The Rev. John Toles, rector at St. Matthew’s, said when he learned of the Orthodox mission meeting nearby, he saw it as an opportunity to open the doors of The Episcopal Church to another congregation in the Body of Christ.

“Knowing we had space available in the church, we thought we would reach out to St. Nino’s and see if they would like to use it,” Toles said. “A church is not a building, but if our building would provide a more formal space for them to be the church, it was just the right thing to do.”

Toles offered Floyd the use of St. Julian’s Chapel, a side chapel the Episcopal congregation uses for Wednesday noon Mass, at no cost. He said there was no concern about the two denominations sharing the same space.

“We’re not in competition here,” Toles said. “We oftentimes think we are, but the different churches are not in competition with one another, and this was an opportunity for them to have a place to worship. We are the Body of Christ. That’s what it really comes down to, in all its multiple expressions.”

Journey through history

The new space-sharing endeavor is not Toles’ first experience with working closely with the Orthodox Church. He has fond memories of working closely with members of the Orthodox faith through a longstanding collaboration between his seminary, Nashotah House, in Nashotah, Wis., and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, in Yonkers, N.Y.

When Toles received his doctorate, the speaker was Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Floyd also has past experience with the Episcopal Church. After being raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he attended an Episcopal Church in Lexington, Ky., during his last two years of college, before being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, then attending the Byzantine Catholic Church in Portland, Ore., and eventually finding his way to the Orthodox Church at St. Antony Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in 2004.

“Somewhere along the way, I got suckered into being a priest,” Floyd said with a laugh.

He was ordained in The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 2014. Floyd half-jokingly refers to his Protestant-Anglican-Catholic-Orthodox progression as “slowly making my way back through history.”

That history is one of persecution and flight, going back to the last days of the Russian Revolution and ensuing Soviet persecution of Orthodox Christians and other faith groups. That persecution led to an exodus of Orthodox Christians from Russia.

“On the last boat out were the hierarchs who formed what was to become the Russian Church Outside Russia,” Floyd said. “This terrible event ended up helping spread Orthodoxy around the globe and helping to establish Orthodoxy’s contact with the Western world.”

Better understanding

Floyd said the Orthodox Church in this region has been blessed with assistance in the past, and St. Nino’s is “thankful to St. Matthew’s for providing a nice venue for us to have services.”

He said the congregation at St. Benedict in Oklahoma City started out holding services in a chapel at a Catholic school, and Saints Peter and Fevronia Orthodox Church in Kansas City got its start in a Lutheran chapel before purchasing a former Coptic church.

“There is a history of other denominations being so kind as to allow Orthodox missions to use their chapels,” Floyd said, “and we’re very thankful to St. Matthew’s for offering this.”

Floyd said the collaboration also gives an opportunity for increased dialogue and understanding between the two faith traditions.

“It’s always important to be able to speak with others in other traditions in a polite and respectful way,” Floyd said. “We always want to understand and respect each other, but we always maintain our identity.”

Floyd said the shared space will enable the St. Nino congregation to continue to grow and to serve those whose search may lead them to the Orthodox Church.

“I give thanks to God for opening their doors and allowing us the use of the chapel,” Floyd said. “For a lot of us in missions, we have a special place in our hearts for people who have opened their doors to us, or helped us in any other way.”

–James Neal is a parishioner and vestry member at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Enid, Oklahoma. 

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Episcopal cathedrals to toll bells for Notre Dame, other houses of worship hit by fires

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 11:58am

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal cathedrals are joining their counterparts across the Anglican Communion in scheduling a simultaneous tolling of bells on April 18 as an expression of support for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a fire destroyed the roof and spire of that centuries-old Roman Catholic landmark.

The Episcopal cathedrals, including Washington National Cathedral, will toll their bells at 2 p.m. EDT to coincide with bell tolling around the world, timed for 7 p.m. in Paris in recognition of the hour three days ago when the fire was first discovered at Notre Dame.

National Cathedral in the U.S. capital will sound its large bourdon bell for seven minutes, “as a mark of solidarity following the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral,” the cathedral said in a Facebook post. Episcopal cathedrals in Cleveland, Ohio; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; Jackson, Mississippi; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other cities have announced they will toll their bells at the same time.

The Very Rev. Bernard Owens, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland issued a statement in which he described cathedrals as sacred places that “speak of God’s transcendence in the midst of the places where we live, work, worship and play.” He also noted his own cathedral recently completed a series of fire protection upgrades.

“God is present in these sacred vessels, and so we grieve when fire and flood consume them,” Owens said. “We pray for those whose lives and livelihoods are connected to this magnificent cathedral today, and we pray for the safety of those who will work to preserve and rebuild it in the years to come.”

The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, in addition to tolling its bells, will incorporate music with connections to Notre Dame into its Maundy Thursday and Easter services.

The cathedral’s music director and organist, Maxine Thevenot, had the rare distinction of playing the Notre Dame organ twice. In a news release issued by St. John, Thevenot lamented the Notre Dame fire, saying it felt “like a kick in the gut.”

The show of solidarity follows a call by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu to all cathedrals in the Church of England asking them to toll their bells together April 18.

Following the devastating fire at #NotreDame, the Archbishop of York @JohnSentamu and I are asking cathedrals and churches across England to toll their bells on Thursday: https://t.co/KFffkSPdvM pic.twitter.com/xqStYPvGI1

— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) April 16, 2019

Investigators still are searching for a cause for the fire, but initial evidence indicates it was accidental. France has planned a daylong tribute April 18 to the hundreds of firefighters who battled the blaze for nine hours and helped save Notre Dame from a more severe catastrophe.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the damaged cathedral in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, but some experts warn the work could take decades and cost billions of dollars.

Notre Dame Cathedral, which was completed in 1345 after nearly 200 years of construction, has long been revered as a global architectural icon, and not just for Roman Catholics. News of the fire prompted outpourings of grief this week, and social media users filled feeds with stories of their past visits to Notre Dame.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in a statement issued with the Very Rev. Lucinda Laird, dean of the American Cathedral in Paris, and Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe Bishop in Charge Mark D.W. Edington, offered “our sincere condolences and our readiness to offer any hospitality that would be of help to the community and congregation of Notre Dame in this most holy season of the faith we share.”

More than $1 billion already has been raised for repairing Notre Dame, though the flood of donations sparked some backlash from those questioning whether charity dollars would be better use to helping people rather than repairing buildings.

At the same time, the response seems to have had the unexpected side effect of drawing attention to the plight of three historically black congregations in Louisiana still struggling after an arsonist set fire to their churches this spring. Since the Notre Dame fire, donors have given nearly $2 million to a GoFundMe campaign for rebuilding those three churches in St. Landry Parish.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi, referred to the Louisiana church fires in announcing its plans to join other cathedrals in tolling bells on April 18.

The Notre Dame fire has “brought back painful memories of other beloved houses of worship that have been destroyed or damaged by fire,” the Jackson cathedral said in a Facebook post. “We at St. Andrew’s Cathedral are mindful that our own first two edifices were destroyed by fire.”

St. Andrew’s will toll its bourdon bell “as an expression of solidarity following the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and in solidarity with all whose sacred house of worship has burned.”

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

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Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors takes the burden from victims

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 11:24am

The Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station on April 6 for Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors, an event of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Photo: ENS

[Episcopal News Service] On the morning of April 6, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City became more than a transit hub – it became a site of prayer and activism that connected the Stations of the Cross to the plight of sex trafficking victims.

“The cross is a metaphor for sex trafficking,” said the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation and chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Sex trafficking victims often face continued violence, social stigma and a loss of agency in an unsupportive system.

Dannhauser and a group of some 30 faith-based activists – many of whom wore various hues of purple in support of sex trafficking victims and in recognition of Lent – gathered for a traveling model of the Lenten tradition, which connected the Stations of the Cross to elements of sex trafficking throughout New York City.

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

Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors followed seven stations, abbreviated from the usual 14, across three of the city’s boroughs. Each stop reflected Jesus’ journey on Good Friday and the burden of commercial sexual exploitation, featuring opening devotion and liturgy from faith leaders, as well as speeches from trafficking survivors. Attendees visited a shelter and service provider for homeless youth, a strip club, an area of the Bronx known for street prostitution, a human trafficking intervention court in Queens, John F. Kennedy International Airport and a hotel in Brooklyn known for commercial sex.

Fittingly, the Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station. Located just blocks from Times Square, the Port Authority is the nation’s largest and busiest bus terminal. It’s open 24 hours a day and, because of its location in a tourist district and its nearly 200,000 daily visitors, the terminal has long been a hot spot for traffickers, pimps and others who scout for vulnerable women to coerce into prostitution.

Yvonne O’Neal, a member of the Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, leads a prayer at the third station. Photo: Lynnaia Main via Facebook

“This was the most profound experience I’ve had this Lent. Hearing from survivors of sex trafficking who, after such suffering and degradation, have resurrected into a new life of service and advocacy, women who have found their voice and are now empowered to help others. The prayers were very moving. I led at the third station and at the last. The suffering of Jesus felt real on this day,” said Yvonne O’Neal, a member of the New York diocese’s task force and The Episcopal Church’s representative on the United Nations NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons.

“Sex trafficking is on the increase. I wonder who among us in the pews on Sunday mornings are the johns in this horrific industry. Are they listening to the message of Jesus Christ? The Diocesan Task Force Against Human Trafficking is bringing awareness to this scourge throughout the diocese. I want us to talk about this evil from the pulpit – our priests should not be afraid to address these hard issues of various forms of interpersonal violence.”

Kevin Booker, who recently became a member of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Manhattan, said he attended the event to learn more about the Stations of the Cross and ways he could help combat sex trafficking.

“The mechanisms of sex trafficking in the city are insidious and surround us on a day-to-day basis, and we’re not really aware of it,” he said. “If I can pray my way into the situation, into awareness about it and be around people who are really motivated to do something … this event, in a strong way, feels like an answer to prayer.”

Sex trafficking involves coercing, tricking or otherwise forcing people (mostly women, and often women of color, and children) into prostitution. New York is in the midst of a trafficking epidemic, according to the New York Post, and police, task forces, faith groups and other activists have been working to combat this multilayered issue. Jim Klein, New York Police Department Vice Enforcement Unit inspector, told AM New York that his team has found 12-year-old girls and 35-year-old women working as prostitutes, some of whom are forced to have sex 25 to 30 times a day.

At Covenant House, a youth homeless shelter that served as the event’s second stop and proxy for the fourth station where Jesus meets his mother, approximately 23 percent of clients have been commercially sexually exploited, said Covenant House New York Executive Director Sister Nancy Downing. “We witness how the life, dignity, hope and dreams of hundreds of young people are stripped of them by sexual predators,” she said, noting that the issue of sexual exploitation goes far beyond New York City.

Covenant House operates in 31 cities across six countries in the United States and Latin America, serving more than 80,000 youth.

“Imagine 23 percent of 80,000 young people,” said Downing.

In 2017, the NYPD rescued one person a week from sex slavery and arrested 228 pimps while working 265 sex trafficking cases, the Post reported – more than twice the case load of 2016. “Trafficking is a bigger problem than what the numbers show,” Klein told the Post. “On average, a pimp is going to have at least four or five women, girls, that he’s going to be working. [And] I haven’t locked up every pimp.” Many of those victims are from New York, recruited in their neighborhoods or online.

Among the survivors participating in the event was Gigi Phoenix, who came to New York at age 18 and was recruited at Port Authority terminal by a pimp who coerced her into sex and drug use. Outside JFK airport (the sixth stop and 10th station), Shandra Woworuntu, an Indonesian survivor-advocate, discussed how she was stripped of agency and the American dream, much like Jesus was stripped of his garments.

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser is associate rector at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation and chair of the Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, which organized the April 6 Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors. Photo: Lynnaia Main via Facebook

“He made you carry a cross you could not bear,” Dannhauser told Phoenix, reflecting on the story of many trafficking victims. “We pray for victims who remain entrapped and enslaved in the sex trade. … We hope to instill in them a sense of self-worth that will allow them to seek hope.”

While the Stations of the Cross event served to lift spirits and convene community through prayer, it also marked the beginning of a campaign against a controversial proposal to decriminalize sex work in New York state. In an open letter to the New York Daily News, newly elected state Senators Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos said their bill would “repeal statutes that criminalize consensual sexual exchange between adults and create a system that erases prostitution records for sex workers and sex trafficking survivors so they can move on with their lives.”

Under New York’s current penal code, immigrants, women of color, trans women and LGBTQ youth bear the burden of laws supposedly designed to protect them, the state senators said. “People arrested for prostitution are then diverted to the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, or HTICs, which conflate all sex work with sex trafficking and claim to treat sex workers as ‘victims’ while essentially treating them as ‘criminals,’” the letter continued. Anti-trafficking advocacy organization Polaris gave New York state a “D” on its criminal record relief report card.

Yet on the steps of one such court in the borough of Queens, faith leaders and attendees admonished the decriminalization proposal. Victims of sex trafficking should not be criminalized for their victimhood, they concurred, but traffickers and sex buyers should be.

“Prostitution and trafficking are violent trades; there is no such thing as safe prostitution. That’s why it’s so hard to fathom that we have legislators looking to decriminalize the violent, harmful disease-ridden, trauma-laced sex trade,” said the Rev. Que English, a senior pastor at the Bronx Christian Fellowship, CEO and founder of Not On My Watch NYC, and convener of TrafficK-Free NYC. English called the decriminalization proposal a “demonic dark bill in the making” and cautioned that it would lead to legal brothels that view pimps as entrepreneurs.

“These efforts are being built on discriminatory practices, built on the backs of predominately black and brown communities and the most vulnerable among us,” she continued. “These legal brothels … will not be on Fifth Avenue, they’re not going to be on Park Avenue, they will not be in Country Club or Riverdale. They will be where we find massage parlors and liquor stores on every corner, in our poorest districts, while the buyers will continue to come from the other side.”

Despite their differences, those on both sides of the decriminalization debate have inherently Christian desires: to act in good faith and provide services to people in need. Both English and the bill authors advocate for more education and early intervention for vulnerable children 11-15 years old, as well as employment services, healthcare and comprehensive service-enriched housing.

“Politicians … are supposed to serve us through the policies they make. Our coming here is our way of praying with our feet,” said Pastor James Osei-Kofi of Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn. “Let’s pray for our politicians – local state and federal – that God will give them the boldness, the compassion, and the passion to do what they need to do.”

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Maundy Thursday foot clinics offer loving care rooted in Jesus’ command to serve others

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:53pm

The foot-care clinic hosted by the Diocese of San Diego at its Episcopal Church Center features foot washing and an array of other services, from free shoes for patrons to veterinary checkups for patrons’ pets. Photo: Diocese of San Diego

[Episcopal News Service] Foot-washing ceremonies, a tradition enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer, are part of Maundy Thursday observances in Episcopal churches everywhere, re-creating an act of service that Jesus performed for his apostles as “an example, that you should do as I have done.”

But such acts of service don’t need to stop at washing feet. Some dioceses and congregations expand their Maundy Thursday activities to include foot-care clinics and free socks and shoes for the clinics’ patrons, who typically are the churches’ homeless neighbors.

Cheryl Eagleson poses amid boxes of shoes that were distributed at a past foot-care clinic at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. The cathedral hosts the clinic every year on Maundy Thursday. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral

“For a lot of people who are poor and homeless, their feet are their primary mode of transportation,” said the Rev. Steven King, a priest at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, who is organizing the cathedral’s second annual Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic on April 18.

Similar clinics are scheduled for Maundy Thursday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, New York, and at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where the annual event goes by the name “Sole Clinic.”

“A lot of this is just talking and hanging out while we’re washing their feet,” Cheryl Eagleson, Sole Clinic’s lead organizer, told Episcopal News Service. The cathedral also offers a hot breakfast, bagged lunches and dozens of new shoes for clinic patrons to choose from.

And in San Diego, several Episcopal congregations work together on Maundy Thursday to turn the diocese’s Episcopal Church Center in the Ocean Beach neighborhood into a full-service stop, offering homeless residents a wide range of free services. Foot washing and shoe distribution play a prominent part, but patrons also can visit a shampooing station, get their hair cut, visit with a dentist or a doctor, take pets to see a veterinarian and listen to live music while enjoying a hot meal.

“It’s epic,” said Hannah Wilder, communications director for the Diocese of San Diego. “It’s just a day about loving people that the world considers disposable.”

In Maundy Thursday services, the Book of Common Prayer recommends foot-washing ceremonies after the Gospel reading and homily. The Gospel readings recount the story of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet in John 13:1-15, and in Luke 22:14-30, Jesus responds to a dispute among the disciples by admonishing them and commanding them to serve, rather than wield authority.

“For who is greater,” Jesus says, “the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

In congregations that take that call to serve a step further on Maundy Thursday, their foot-care clinics often complement well-established feeding ministries, through which volunteers already have established connections with the people whose feet they will wash.

Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal washes feet at Christ Church Cathedral’s Sole Clinic. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral

The feeding ministry at Christ Church Cathedral, in downtown Cincinnati, is called the 5,000 Club, and it typically draw more than 100 people to a free dinner every Tuesday. Eagleson, who serves as the cathedral’s head verger, makes announcements about the Sole Clinic on three Tuesdays leading up to Maundy Thursday, so those interested in participating can register and get their feet sized for new shoes.

The Sole Clinic has been a cathedral tradition for several years. Last year, Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal and several Episcopal clergy members joined more than two dozen other volunteers in serving 92 clinic guests, Eagleson said. They also gave out 280 pairs of socks and 180 sandwiches.

Eagleson expects an even bigger turnout this year after distributing nearly 140 tickets to people at the 5,000 Club dinners. She upped the number of shoes purchased and is expanding the washing stations in the cathedral’s undercroft from eight to 12. The cathedral budgets about $2,500 for the annual event, mostly to cover the cost of shoes, supplies and a meal.

“It is a very important ministry to me,” Eagleson said. “Having the opportunity to serve one another in whatever capacity is a great thing.”

King, who serves as director of congregational life at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, said in an interview with ENS that he was inspired to start a Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic after hearing about a similar ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut. He also saw an opportunity to build on the Omaha cathedral’s feeding ministry, which on Wednesdays serves about 100 homeless neighbors, many of them staying at a nearby shelter.

Volunteers from an Omaha, Nebraska, beauty salon tend to the feet of patrons at the Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in 2018. Photo: Steven King

Last year, at the Omaha cathedral’s first Maundy Thursday clinic, the congregation gave away 110 pairs of shoes, and thanks to the publicity the event generated, much of it by word of mouth, King is prepared for turnout to double this year.

Some people just come for the free shoes and leave, but others stay for additional services. A local beauty salon brings some of its workers to provide an enhanced foot-washing station, softening calluses and offering pedicures. A local podiatrist volunteers his time and advises guests on any health issues related to their feet.

Other priests have asked King for advice in replicating the clinic at their congregations. “It’s really not a hard thing to do but both reveals and proclaims a really important piece of our faith,” King said. He described this kind of loving service as “a preview of the kingdom of God.”

It also is a way to “live out Jesus’ example,” said the Rev. Liz Easton, the Diocese of Nebraska’s canon to the ordinary. Volunteering at last year’s clinic was a profound spiritual experience, she said.

“It made Maundy Thursday come alive in a really moving way, and I think there’s something about feet, the vulnerability of caring for someone else’s feet,” Easton said. “Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is an act of service and also of loving kindness.”

The Diocese of San Diego provides the space for its Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic, but it is the volunteers from eight Episcopal congregations who make this annual ministry come alive. The San Diego event is now in its ninth year.

A guest has his feet washed at the Diocese of San Diego’s Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic. The annual clinic is in its ninth year. Photo: Diocese of San Diego

It, too, is connected to a year-round feeding ministry, which provides hot meals every Wednesday night and breakfast every Saturday morning. The Wednesday meals also are attended by nursing students from California State University San Marcos, Wilder, the diocese’s communications director, told ENS, and those students will return April 18 to participate in the foot-care clinic.

Last year, about 40 volunteers served more than 300 patrons. The event starts with a Eucharist at 9 a.m. in the courtyard of the diocesan offices. Foot-washing and shoe distribution run for the rest of the morning, and breakfast is served. In addition to the various services provided, the guests receive hygiene kits and a bag lunch.

They also are invited to simply pray and talk with the church volunteers.

Embedded in such acts of service is the Christian vision of the Beloved Community, Wilder said. “Washing feet is about welcome and respect and dignity and loving neighbors as ourselves.”

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

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Episcopalians remember, reflect, pray for Notre Dame Cathedral

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:00pm

Smoke rises around the altar in front of the cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1516DDAB60

[Episcopal News Service] While the world watched in stunned disbelief as Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames April 15, many people, including Episcopalians, took to social media to post photos of their visits to the iconic church and offer prayers for the people of Paris.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined with the Very Rev. Lucinda Laird, dean of the American Cathedral in Paris, and Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe Bishop in Charge Mark D.W. Edington, to offer “our sincere condolences and our readiness to offer any hospitality that would be of help to the community and congregation of Notre Dame in this most holy season of the faith we share.”

The three said members of the Episcopal cathedral – located about three miles up the Seine from Notre Dame – “send our prayers in this week that ends in what we know to be the sure and certain promise of resurrection for the future life and restoration of this monument of Christian faith.”

Notre Dame, the most famous of the world’s medieval Gothic cathedrals, was begun in 1163 on the Île de la Cité the Seine and was considered finished in 1350. It rose on the site of two earlier churches. Prior to those churches, the site held a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. Some of the Roman ruin can still be seen below that cathedral. About 13 million people visit the Roman Catholic cathedral each year.

In New York, members of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine must have watched news broadcasts from Paris with a special sympathy. A fire in the cathedral’s crypt broke out the morning before on Palm Sunday, sending smoke into the 124-foot-high stone nave and forcing the evacuation of about 100 people. The fire began after the 9 a.m. service had ended. The 11 a.m. service was moved outside, as was the Sunday soup kitchen.

Bishop Clifton Daniel, dean of the cathedral, told Episcopal News Service that the fire started in an art storage room and was contained to that space. About three-quarters of the art was saved but the fire destroyed a valuable icon and a 16th century chair as well as some prints, drawings and carvings, he said. He credited the New York Fire Department’s prompt response for keeping the damage to far less than it could have been.

The cathedral was open on April 15 but because of on-going clean up, public tours were cancelled as were the three services scheduled for Holy Monday (Eucharist plus Morning and Evening Prayer).

“My first thought, even though I wasn’t here, was oh, God, it’s just like the fire in 2001 here at the cathedral,” said Daniel, recalling his reaction to hearing about the Notre Dame disaster. (Daniel first came to the cathedral in March 2017 as interim dean. )

It was a week before Christmas Eve in 2001 when the six-alarm fire burned through the timbered roof trusses which caved in, destroying the north transept, he said. The 2001 fire also severely damaged the Great Organ and two of the cathedral’s Life of Christ Barberini tapestries. Sections of the cathedral were closed until 2008 for cleaning and restoration.

“My second thought was oh, the trauma, the trauma. It will take years to recover from the trauma. You will recover but it will take time,” Daniel said. “And then I thought, those poor people, all that suffering, all that history, all that hope. It’s going to be a tough time.”

Daniel said some people asked him if the two fires this week were a sign. He told them they showed “we’re in a season of dying and rising.”

Flames may have destroyed art at St. John the Divine and a large part of Notre Dame, “but, you know what, we rise again,” he said, noting that the 2001 fire left the cathedral “a little bit scarred” but still at work among the people of New York.

“I feel confident that Notre Dame will be repaired, restored, renewed and will go on about its mission,” Daniel said, adding that along with the hard work that will be required in the coming years, comes “an opportunity for renewal and strength to move ahead.”

At Washington National Cathedral, a place that has known the impact of disaster since an August 2011 magnitude 5.8 earthquake caused tens of millions of dollars of damage, Dean Randy Hollerith expressed solidarity with another cathedral in what he called “a small sisterhood of globally recognizable Gothic cathedrals.”

Evensong at the cathedral on April 15 included a prayer for Notre Dame and a copy of the prayer was placed in the church’s St. John’s Chapel for those who wanted to light a candle for the church community in Paris.

“Our hearts are breaking for their loss, but we know that this great cathedral has touched and inspired millions of people around the world, and that impact can never be destroyed,” Hollerith said.

The Rev. Broderick Greer, canon precentor at St. John’s Cathedral https://sjcathedral.org/ in Denver, Colorado, wrote a prayer for Notre Dame, which the cathedral offered on its Facebook page “from one cathedral to another.”

The Rev. Vicki Geer McGrath was among the many Episcopalians who post their prayers and reflections on Facebook. She told parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Millington, New Jersey, where she is the rector, that while buildings do not make a church, but “a place that is built to hold and inspire the faith and prayers of believers, and to contain the hopes and aspirations of all men and women, becomes a vessel and vehicle of holiness, no matter how simple or how grand.”

McGrath wrote that she was moved by people – “their faith and hope on very public display” – who gathered in the streets of Paris, praying and singing hymns as they watched Notre Dame burn.

Acknowledging the increasing secularization of Europe and the United States, she suggested that it is time for all Christians “to pray earnestly and daily for the renewal of our faith in Christ and for new life for the church” and “each one of us will be inspired and directed to be God’s agents in a new flowering of faith and life in Christ.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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RIP: Marge Christie, 13-time deputy who was ‘keen for justice, quick with mercy’

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 4:44pm

Marge Christie, long-time Diocese of Newark General Convention Deputy. Photo: Nina Nicholson

[Episcopal News Service] Marjorie “Marge” Christie, a lay General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Newark who worked for the full inclusion of women and other excluded people at all levels of The Episcopal Church, died April 13.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings called Christie, who was 90, “a tireless champion for women in the House of Deputies and The Episcopal Church.

“She witnessed the first women being seated as deputies in 1970 and went on to serve at 13 General Conventions as a deputy or alternate deputy. My ministry and that of so many other women, lay and ordained, was formed and fostered by Marge’s powerful witness and fierce insistence on women’s leadership,” Jennings said. “She could work the floor of the House of Deputies like no one I have ever seen. At last year’s General Convention, for the first time, the majority of deputies were women. Marge’s ministry made that milestone and so many others possible, and I will be forever grateful to her.”

Christie was a delegate to the Episcopal Church Women’s triennial meetings in 1970 and 1973, which run concurrently with General Convention, and then became a deputy in 1976.

The Diocese of Newark said Christie was “a giant of the church.”

Christie’s family plans a public memorial service in May or early June.

Christie became an Episcopalian in the 1950s after marrying her husband, George, and taking an inquirers’ class in their local congregation. Soon, she joined the women’s group at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Paramus, New Jersey. Those two decisions set her on a journey of service and advocacy based in The Episcopal Church and concerned about the lives of women and other excluded people.

She began her ministry before women could be General Convention deputies. In 2006, she introduced the resolution for the House of Deputies to confirm the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the church’s first female presiding bishop and thus the first female leader of an Anglican Communion province.

When the Diocese of Newark established the Marge Christie Congregational Growth and Vitality Fund in 2009, Jefferts Schori said Christie was an iconic example the activity of a minister of the good news. The 26th presiding bishop said Christie was “passionate about empowering women and others without traditional access to power” and had “the ability to lead others in change.”

In announcing the formation of the fund, now-retired Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith said Christie had “the ability to agitate, and agitate graciously and tenaciously, for the rights of all people” and was “THE model of what it means to put faith into action.”

Bishop John Spong, who was Newark’s bishop from 1979 to 2000, also said at that time that Christie “was a force to be recognized. She had more energy than 10 normal people.”

Tributes and memories began to appear April 14 on Facebook as word of her death spread.

The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, a long-time advocate for the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ people in the church, recalled that Christie “worked tirelessly for the ordination of women who, themselves, were not called to ordination but, rather to an empowered ministry of the laity.”

Kaeton said those “who were privileged to stand on her shoulders will be forever and eternally grateful that she helped us reach for the stars and dare to bring glimpses of the Realm of God into the church.”

Diocese of Forth Worth Deputy Katie Sherrod called Christie a mentor who was “a warrior woman, keen for justice, quick with mercy, and beloved of her God.” Christie was “fierce and funny and one of the smartest people I ever met. I’d say rest in peace, but good luck with that. Say a prayer for God.”

Christie’s involvement at the church-wide level began in the 1960s, when she was elected to the Department of Missions, formerly an all-male group. The Department of Missions was part of the church’s National Council, the precursor to the Executive Council.

She was one of the first women to sit on Executive Council, as a representative of Province II. An early member of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, formed to promote the ordination of women, Christie attended the groundbreaking 1974 ordination service of 11 women in Philadelphia.

In 1976, her first year in the House of Deputies, she cast her vote in favor of women’s ordination. She was also present at the ordination and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Church. (An interactive timeline of women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is here.)

As a founding member of Anglican Women’s Empowerment, Christie worked with Anglicans around the world for greater inclusion and opportunities for women everywhere. In 2012, Christie spoke with Episcopal News Service about her advocacy for women.

“I do think that women bring somewhat of a different perspective to things,” she said. “They tend to be more ready to make partnerships. They are deeply concerned about the outcasts and children. That’s not to say men aren’t, but I think women are more active in that, in living out how they feel about those issues … doing whatever needs to be done in order to assure that women are welcome everywhere and that their perspectives are heard and listened to.”

ENS’ article profiled Christie as she prepared to head to what would be her 13th convention as a deputy. Her 2012 status began in dramatic fashtion when the Newark 2011 convention elected its deputies to the coming meeting of General Convention in Indianapolis. The voting came down to the final position with only Christie and her granddaughter, Caroline Christie, then 17, left on the ballot.

At that point, the grandmother withdrew in favor of her granddaughter and was later elected as the first lay alternate deputy.

Christie’s ministry of advocacy for inclusion reached beyond her attention to women’s voices. She was a founding member of The Oasis (the Diocese of Newark’s LGBTQ ministry) as well as the diocese’s Dismantling Racism Commission. In 1998, she co-chaired the diocese’s nominating committee searching for a successor to Spong and supported the inclusion of Gene Robinson, then canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of New Hampshire, on the list of nominees. He was the first openly gay priest to be nominated for the episcopate. He would become the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion in 2003 when ordained and consecrated bishop of New Hampshire.

She was also concerned about how the church invested its money and in 1977 was appointed to the Committee on Social Responsibility in Investments. That was one of her many terms on a number of Episcopal Church committees and commissions over the years. The Diocese of Newark posted what it calls an “incomplete list” of Christie’s involvement in the diocese and The Episcopal Church here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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Episcopalians continue humanitarian response along Southwest border

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 12:59pm

People belonging to a caravan of migrants from Honduras en route to the United States walk on a road as they leave Tapachula, Mexico, April 15, 2019. Photo: Jose Cabezas/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] A month and a half ago, asylum-seekers arriving in Nogales, Mexico, faced a three-week wait for an initial interview to enter the United States legally. More recently, those wait times have more than doubled, putting a strain on humanitarian relief efforts.

“The biggest challenge is the wait time. … It’s up to eight weeks now, and we need to keep collecting monetary donations to feed these people,” said the Rev. Rodger Babnew, a deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church just across the border in Nogales, Arizona.

Like other Episcopalians living along the Southwest border – which stretches more than 1,550 miles from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California – Babnew’s ministry has turned toward meeting the humanitarian needs of asylum-seekers. Through an ecumenical partnership with the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Babnew coordinates the Diocese of Arizona’s border ministry, which includes a 600-person capacity shelter system (including two homes set aside for people quarantined with chickenpox and measles) in Mexico, where asylum-seekers receive a place to sleep, food, medical attention, clothing and transportation assistance.

Asylum-seekers began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in caravans last fall, many of them attempting to cross through Tijuana to San Diego. Since that time, asylum-seekers increasingly have moved east along the border, to crossing points in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

By definition, asylum-seekers are fleeing violence or persecution in their homeland and seeking sanctuary elsewhere. When asylum-seekers arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, typically they are given a number that guarantees their place in line for what’s called a “credible fear” interview.

If credible fear is established, asylum-seekers are given an electronic bracelet and released from U.S. custody, the majority reuniting with family members already in the United States while they await a formal asylum hearing. Wait times for court hearings now can last up to two years.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents might release asylum-seekers onto the streets and at bus stations, as the government does not provide humanitarian assistance. This is where faith-based and other nonprofit organizations come in, supplying asylum-seekers with shelter, food, medical care, clothing and assistance booking travel arrangements so they can reunite with sponsors, typically family members throughout the country who pay for the bus or plane tickets and offer support during the long wait for a formal hearing. Increasingly, as trust has grown, border agents cooperate with faith-based and other humanitarian groups and release asylum seekers into their care, said Babnew, at least in Nogales, Arizona.

Unlike in El Paso, Texas, where asylum-seekers crossing through Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, have been held in fenced-in areas under bridges while waiting for credible fear interviews, things have gone more smoothly in Nogales, a small 20,000-population city an hour’s drive south of Tucson.

“We don’t have that, we don’t have people sleeping on the border or standing in line,” said Babnew, in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.

At the current rate of 100,000 “migrants” attempting to cross the border monthly, 1 million will have entered over a 12-month period. Asylum-seekers and migrants are not one in the same; the latter is someone who typically moves temporarily for work or other reasons.

“Each asylum-seeker who enters the United States and expresses fear of return or declares an intention to seek asylum is granted an interview with a trained U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer,” said Lacy Broemel, The Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy adviser, in an email message to ENS. “This interview, which is aimed at determining whether the asylum-seeker has a ‘credible fear’ is the first step in the asylum process. If [asylum-seekers are] found to have a credible fear of returning home, they are legally entitled to be able to apply for asylum and present their case to an immigration judge.”

In recent years, asylum-seekers increasingly have joined the flow of migrants seeking economic security in the United States. Many of them are fleeing gang- and drug-related violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence in the Northern Triangle. (Forcible displacement is a global phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.)

“Rates of violent death in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are some of the highest in the world and comparable with those of other armed conflicts internationally,” wrote Noah Bullock, executive director of Cristosal, in response to a New York Times’ editorial that called for building up Central America, rather than building a border wall.

“The optics of death and destruction in the region differ from those of traditional armed conflicts, yet the humanitarian consequences are acute; people are tortured, raped, disappeared, killed; families torn apart, livelihoods and property are destroyed,” he wrote.

Cristosal is a San Salvador, El Salvador-based human rights organizations with longstanding ties to The Episcopal Church. Because of its early work addressing forced displacement, the organization receives funding from USAID and has expanded its operations into Guatemala and Honduras.

For a better understanding of the violence females face in Central America’s Northern Triangle read ‘Someone is Always Trying to Kill You’ in the New York Times.

In late March, President Donald Trump announced his administration would cut $1 billion in designated aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The aid funds programs like those developed by Cristosal that address poverty, gang violence, security and drug trafficking. Some lawmakers criticized the president’s decision, saying the aid cuts would only worsen the situation on the ground.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency to build a border wall, citing an invasion at the southern border. More recently, the president declared: “Our country is full” and called the U.S. asylum system a “scam.”

Trump made curtailing immigration a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and, since taking office, has issued executive orders and has supported policies and legislation to cut legal immigration.

Read The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations statement on cuts in aid to Central America here.

“As we have seen over the past two years, the administration is creating chaos at our southern border in order to advance harmful policies like long-term detention of children and disregarding guaranteed rights of asylum-seekers. The Episcopal Church believes that families, children, and individuals seeking protection should not be condemned as creating a national emergency or crisis, but rather should be recognized as children of God who deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity,” said Broemel, who works for the church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations.

“There are strategies and solutions to process asylum-seekers in a safe and orderly manner, to address the situations forcing these persons to flee in the first place, and to ensure that the U.S. is maintaining its moral and legal obligations when it comes to asylum-seekers,” she said. “The Episcopal Church has official policies passed by General Convention that urge the administration to employ such strategies as increasing aid to Central America, employing alternatives to detention, modernizing our ports of entry, and hiring child welfare professionals to assist with the children and families at the border.”

On April 4, The Episcopal Church joined the National Immigrant Justice Center and other human and civil rights and faith-based organizations in issuing a framework to address the “crisis” at the border. The framework “describes steps the U.S. government must take to uphold U.S. and international law, and basic human rights, in a region that has been increasingly destabilized by the president’s anti-immigrant agenda.”

The Episcopal Church, through General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, has a long history of supporting refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. During the 79th General Convention, the church strengthened its stance on immigration.

In November 2018, the Episcopal Diocese of Rio Grande, whose geographical territory includes 40 percent of the Southwest border, hosted a summit that brought together people engaged in borderland ministry to share experiences and practices.

This network of Episcopal borderland ministries has led to increased cooperation across the Southwest. For instance, when immigration agents in the Rio Grande region told Babnew they intended to release 1,500 asylum-seekers over a three-day period, he called Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn, and together they found shelter space for everyone.

The Rio Grande diocese also has responded to humanitarian need in El Paso and in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church recently helped 55 asylum-seekers over a four-day period. When the asylum-seekers were released from U.S. custody, the church provided them with beds, shelter, food and medical care and helped arrange transportation to reunite them with family members.

In El Paso, the Rev. Justin Gibson, vicar of St. Francis on the Hill Episcopal Church, issued a call on April 3 for baby formula, some of it for new mothers unable to produce breast milk to feed their babies.

“Formula – that’s a sign of how desperate the situation is,” said Hunn. “Women are under such stressful conditions that they are not lactating; we reached a different level of humanitarian need.”

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

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La Diócesis de Texas notificada del exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónico

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 4:43pm

[12 de abril de 2019] La Diócesis Episcopal de Texas recibió una notificación del Obispo Presidente y Primado Michael B. Curry y del registrador de la Convención General, el Reverendo Canónigo Michael Barlowe, que la obispa sufragánea-electa Kathryn ‘Kai’ Ryan ha recibido la mayoría de los consentimientos necesarios en el proceso de consentimiento canónico detallado en el Canon III.11.3.

Al dar el consentimiento a su ordenación y consagración, los Comités Permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de que “no hay impedimentos por los cuales” la obispa sufragánea-electa Ryan no deba ser ordenada como obispa, y que su elección se realizó de acuerdo con los cánones.

La Reverenda Canóniga Kathryn ´Kai´ Ryan fue elegida obispa el 22 de febrero. El Obispo Presidente Curry oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 1 de junio.

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Bible Challenge connects parish with women’s prison

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:35pm

[Episcopal News Service] On both prison cots and comfy parlor chairs, two communities in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania are taking a singular journey of reading the entire Bible together over the course of the next year.

The Rev. Jennifer Mattson presented an idea to the leadership of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Take up the Bible Challenge — an initiative to read the entire Bible over the course of a year, with 15 minutes each day reading sections from the Old and New Testaments, a psalm, and a proverb. But Mattson didn’t stop there. She wanted to extend the initiative to the local women’s prison, inviting the inmates to participate in the Bible Challenge alongside the people of St. Thomas.

“This is a congregation truly willing to try new ideas,” says Mattson. “Their commitment to inclusion and love blows me away. Reading scripture is foundational to discipleship, to having a relationship with God. There is something so profound about being steeped in God’s Word. When you do that as a community, I think there’s something transformational that happens.”

In a congregation with an average Sunday attendance of 100, 60 people of all ages joined the Bible Challenge. And the congregation made a commitment to the prison as well, purchasing thirty Bible Challenge books for the women’s spirituality group there.

“These are ladies who have been isolated, rejected, for all sorts of reasons,” says Stacey Catigano, a chaplain at the prison and postulant for the diaconate. Doing the Bible Challenge with the people of St. Thomas “reminds them that community is beyond walls, beyond barbed wire, that God is with them. This practice is a divine thread, connecting them to the larger community.”

The path to this shared journey of engaging scripture wasn’t straight.

Catigano didn’t plan on ministering in a prison. After a career as an assistant chaplain in the Army, she thought she was called to hospice ministry. But for one reason or another, things weren’t working out, and the niggling idea of volunteering at a prison kept resurfacing.

It was difficult at first. Hot. Lots of angry people. Not the type of ministry Catigano thought God was calling her to, until one day, she looked at the prison roster and noticed a bunch of women with the same first name as hers, even spelled the same.

“God converted my heart that day. I had been ‘othering’ the women in the prison, and I realized that I am them and they are me, and we are all children of God,” says Catigano, her voice tight with emotion. “I see beautiful things happening here. God is definitely here.”

Like Catigano, the Rev. Jane Miron had no desire to visit prisons. She lived out her diaconal vocation through food banks and clothing closets and other hands-on ministry, but something about the locked doors of a prison scared her.

But Catigano’s repeated invitation to help with a Bible study in the prison wore down her resolve, and she made her first visit.

“During that time with the women, something changed for me,” Miron said. “The honesty and realness of the women keeps me balanced and focused…I can get so caught up with doing ‘God’s work’ and being busy in the church that I forget that we are called to go out into our communities—all of our communities.”

Miron and Mattson alternate leading the women’s spirituality group at the prison, along with Catigano. Perhaps because of their commitment to this ministry, the people of St. Thomas were very receptive to the idea of taking on the Bible Challenge within the congregation as well as in the prison community.

People have covenanted to pray with and for one another throughout the year, Mattson said. In the congregation, affinity groups are developing: parents with kids under the age of 13, the Wednesday lectionary group. In the prison, the women are engaging the Bible Challenge in a variety of ways, from lectio divina to adventure/comic book Bibles.

“God speaks to people in different ways,” says Catigano. “Overall, what I’ve noticed is that the women know that I am reading the Bible and that the people of St. Thomas are reading it with them. It broadens the sense of community, and that’s very important to the women. For me personally, this process connects me to God and connects me to God’s community in a very profound way.”

The women’s spirituality group and the people of St. Thomas are part of a much bigger community: More than 1 million people have participated in The Bible Challenge since it began in 2011, says the Rev. Marek Zabriskie, founder of the program.

“We’ve experienced enormous spiritual hunger in the Episcopal Church as well as other mainline churches,” says Zabriskie, now rector of Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Members have been eager to engage scripture and to develop a daily spiritual practice of reading the Bible in a prayerful manner that leads to spiritual growth and transformation.”

Zabriskie said this is the first such prison/congregation partnership for the Bible Challenge, but other creative partnerships have flourished, such as with schools and book clubs.

“It can work wherever there is a willing spirit,” he says.

For Miron, the Bible Challenge is both an opportunity to dive deep into scripture—and to live out the words.

“Whenever we yoke with other groups that are in a different place or different part of our community, I think there’s something really powerful in that,” she says. “It’s so easy to get isolated in our individual parishes—any time you partner with different groups and focus on what we have in common, on God’s word, then it strengthens your spiritual foundation and leads to our collective spiritual growth.”

– Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church committed to inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists.

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Lambeth Conference 2020: Over 500 bishops in 39 Anglican Communion Churches register

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Organizers of next year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have announced that 502 bishops and 382 spouses have so far registered for the decennial event, with the numbers rising each day. Registrations to date come from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 45 member provinces and extra-provincial churches. “In comparison to the 2008 event when registrations had not started at this point, this is a most encouraging position to be in,” Lambeth Conference Chief Executive Phil George said.

Read the entire article here.

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Pope Francis kisses the feet of South Sudan’s leaders at conclusion of ecumenical retreat

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An ecumenical spiritual retreat led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis at the Vatican ended April 11 with Pope Francis kissing the feet of South Sudan’s political leaders. The unprecedented two day retreat was organized in an effort to support the country’s fragile peace deal. The political leaders present at the retreat included South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Vice President Riek Machar. The two are expected to form a national unity government under a fragile peace deal designed to end six years of civil war in the world’s newest country.

Pope Francis shocked the church and political leaders present at the retreat in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the official Vatican guest house which is also home to Pope Francis, when he broke off from his prepared remarks to make a personal plea to Sudan’s political leaders.

Read the entire article here.

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Nuevo recurso litúrgico: El Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018 Descarga disponible en inglés y español.

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:11pm

[9 de abril, 2019] La Comisión Permanente de Liturgia y Música (SCLM) se complace en anunciar la publicación del Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018. La disponibilidad de este recurso litúrgico es el resultado de las medidas adoptadas en la 79ª Convención General de La Iglesia Episcopal del verano pasado.

El Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018, un volumen que acompaña al Libro de Oración Común, es una colección de recursos litúrgicos relacionados con ocasiones que no ocurren, con la frecuencia suficiente, para justificar su inclusión en el Libro de Oración Común. Diseñado para brindar a las congregaciones los recursos que forman a nuestros miembros en la fe episcopal, los ritos y ceremonias contenidos en este libro deben ser entendidos, interpretados y utilizados a la luz de la teología, estructura y direcciones del Libro de Oración Común.

El material incluido en esta colección proviene de una variedad de fuentes, que generalmente surgen del uso específico de las comunidades de culto involucradas en el proceso de crear respuestas litúrgicas en ocasiones particulares en la vida de la Iglesia. Se incluyen las bendiciones de animales del día de San Francisco y los ritos para el 12 de diciembre, día de la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Donde sea apropiado, en lugar de los ritos completos, el Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018 incluye párrafos de los principios y pautas establecidos para elaborar liturgias en contextos particulares. Por ejemplo, los recursos para el Día de Muertos se ofrecen en forma de esquema. Una parte del formato del esquema es un deseo expresado de que aquellas congregaciones que quieran desarrollar y utilizar el rito, lo hagan en colaboración con las comunidades para quienes la celebración ya es un evento culturalmente importante, creando oportunidades para un aprecio más profundo y amor en las congregaciones.

Este material incluido en el Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018 está autorizado por la Convención General para su uso en toda La Iglesia Episcopal.

El Libro de servicios ocasionales 2018, que se ofrece en inglés y en español, está disponible como descarga gratuita en la página de publicaciones del sitio web de la Convención General, en https://www.generalconvention.org/publications#liturgy.

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La Dióceis de Maine anunció el exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónico

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:07pm

[11 de abril de 2019] La Diócesis Episcopal de Maine recibió una notificación del Obispo Presidente y Primado Michael B. Curry y del Registrador de la Convención General, el Reverendo Canónigo Michael Barlowe, de que el obispo electo Thomas James Brown ha recibido la mayoría requerida de consentimientos en el proceso de consentimiento canónico detallado en Canon III.11.3.

Al dar consentimiento a su ordenación y consagración, los Comités Permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de que “no hay impedimento debido al cual” el obispo electo Brown no debe ser ordenado como obispo, y que su elección se llevó a cabo de acuerdo con los cánones.

El Reverendo Thomas James Brown fue elegido obispo el 9 de febrero. El Obispo Presidente Curry oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 22 de junio.

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La Diócesis de San Diego anunció el exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónico

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:05pm

[12 de abril de 2019] La Diócesis Episcopal de San Diego recibió una notificación del Obispo Presidente y Primado Michael B. Curry y del registrador de la Convención General, el Reverendo Canónigo Michael Barlowe, de que la obispa electa Susan Brown Snook ha recibido la mayoría requerida de consentimientos en el proceso de consentimiento canónico detallado en Canon III.11.3.

Al dar consentimiento a su ordenación y consagración, los Comités Permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de que “no hay impedimento debido al cual” la obispa electa Snook no debe ser ordenada como obispa, y que su elección se llevó a cabo de acuerdo con los cánones.

La Reverenda Canóniga Susan Brown Snook fue elegida obispa el 2 de febrero. La Rvma. Katharine Jefferts Schori oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 15 de junio. fue elegida obispa el 2 de febrero. El Obispo Presidente Curry oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 15 de junio.

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Maryland partnership blends Episcopal-Lutheran congregations while upholding both traditions

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 4:03pm

Parishioners of the Churches of Holy Apostles & St. Stephen gather for the first time March 3 in the home of their partnered congregation in Arbutus, Maryland. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

[Episcopal News Service] Communion at 901 Courtney Road in Arbutus, Maryland, looks a bit different from Communion at most Episcopal congregations. Worshipers choose between wine and grape juice, with the option of drinking out of small individual cups instead of the common cup.

The reason? This congregation is a little bit Episcopal and a little bit Lutheran.

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles hasn’t quite merged with St. Stephen Lutheran Church, but on March 3, through a cost-saving partnership between the two struggling congregations, they began worshipping together in the same building and sharing the leadership of the Rev. Jim Perra, an Episcopal priest who now serves as both rector of Holy Apostles and pastor of St. Stephen.

The Rev. Jim Perra presides March 3 at the last service in the former Church of the Holy Apostles in Arbutus, Maryland. The congregation now worships with at a nearby Lutheran church through a partnership with that congregation. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

“It shows the faithfulness of the people in these two congregations that they had less interest in a comfortable death … than they did in doing hard and sacrificial things,” Perra told Episcopal News Service by phone. His expanded congregation now calls itself the Churches of the Holy Apostles & St. Stephen.

With The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, in full communion with each other since 2001, these kinds of partnerships, though still rare, are growing more common around the country for a variety of reasons, including in places like Arbutus where two congregations see sharing worship space and clergy as a difficult but fruitful path to continued viability.

“There’s no one way this happens,” said the Rev. Margaret Rose, ecumenical and interreligious deputy to The Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, and she added that these partnerships aren’t solely motivated by an interest in financial survival.

“That’s, I really think, the important thing,” Rose told ENS. “It’s about uncovering or revealing the unity of the church.”

Rose referenced part of the Book of Common Prayer’s Eucharistic Prayer D: “Remember, Lord, your one holy catholic and apostolic Church, redeemed by the blood of your Christ. Reveal its unity, guard its faith, and preserve it in peace.”

“What Maryland has discovered is how joyful that is,” Rose said, “much to their surprise.”

The Churches of the Holy Apostles & St. Stephen benefited from a successful “Lutherpalian” model close by, in Baltimore, where the Church of the Nativity and Holy Comforter has nurtured the two Christian traditions under one roof since 2015. At Nativity and Holy Comforter, the two congregations took their partnership a step further and formerly merged into one, overcoming an array of logistical challenges.

The Rev. Stewart Lucas celebrates Holy Baptism at the Church of the Nativity and Holy Comforter in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Rev. Stewart Lucas, the Episcopal priest who leads Nativity and Holy Comforter, said his congregation decided early on that it didn’t want administrative duplication – the committees, the bank accounts, the insurance policies, the tax IDs – to hinder the congregation’s higher focus on mission and ministry. And the congregation chose not to split its Sunday Eucharist into distinctly Episcopal and Lutheran services. They preferred worshiping together.

“We want to sing with a hundred instead of 50 people,” Lucas said.

He now offers guidance to other congregations considering similar partnerships, and he advised Perra on the process at Holy Apostles & St. Stephen. “We’re kind of cheerleaders for them, because we think the church is about people and not the buildings,” Lucas said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton. “The church is not distinct along congregational and denominational lines,” Sutton said in an emailed statement. “We’re all in this together. All of us. Visionary leadership such as that demonstrated by Jim Perra and Stewart Lucas leads the way for the people of the congregation to see the possibilities, praise, joy and happiness inherent in partnering.”

The Maryland congregations are just two of about 65 Episcopal-Lutheran partnerships of various kinds across the country, such as Epiphany Lutheran-Episcopal Church in Valdez, Alaska, and All Saints in Big Sky, Montana, both of which ENS profiled in 2016 for a series on the 15th anniversary of Called to Common Mission.

That 2001 full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the ECLA, which allowed Episcopal clergy to preside at Lutheran services and Lutheran clergy at Episcopal services, acknowledged the theological common ground between two denominations and their shared Christian roots. It also opened the door for Episcopal and Lutheran congregations to pursue blended worshiping communities.

Ecumenism “is about revealing that unity God intended from the very beginning,” Rose said, but it doesn’t require elimination of differences. “Our unity is not about uniformity.”

That spirit guides the partnership at Holy Apostles & St. Stephen in Arbutus. “Who knows what the future will hold, but we’re interested in what it would mean to have an Episcopal and Lutheran church that celebrates the two traditions with a degree of specificity,” Perra said.

Before the partnership, Holy Apostles’ Sunday services were only drawing about 50 people, Perra said. The numbers were about the same at St. Stephen. Each congregation began taking a sobering look at the future, and each concluded it could not survive for long with revenue failing to match expenses.

“We could count the death of both congregations within a decade,” said Perra, who joined Holy Apostles as rector in 2014.

Perra’s counterpart at St. Stephen, the Rev. John Sabatelli, was looking to retire as pastor, but his Lutheran congregation hadn’t found a pastor to replace him. After discussions between the two congregations, church leaders proposed giving Perra the dual role of rector and pastor, and the blended congregation would worship at the St. Stephen church.

Holy Apostles parishioners carry items from their old church building as they make their way to their new home at St. Stephen on March 3.

That plan, with the approval and support of both churches’ bishops, gained momentum last summer with a trial clergy swap: When Perra went on vacation, Sabatelli presided that Sunday at Holy Apostles – and took his Lutheran congregation with him to worship at the Episcopal church. And Perra took his congregation with him to worship at St. Stephen when he covered for Sabatelli’s vacation.

From there, the partnership came together rather quickly, “by the standards of two mainline Protestant traditions, where things move at a glacial pace,” Perra said.

On March 3, to celebrate finalizing the partnership, the two congregations began their Sunday worship service at Holy Apostles. After Communion, they said a prayer of thanks for that church space. They collected items from Holy Apostles and carried them in a procession of about a mile to the worship space at St. Stephen. There, they dressed the altar and concluded the service.

That has been home base ever since.

Parishioners of the Churches of the Holy Apostles & St. Stephen walk in a procession March 3 from the former Holy Apostles church to their new combined worship space at St. Stephen. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

“This is not something I’d ever thought I’d be party to,” Perra said, but he sees a newfound energy in his combined worshiping community as it commits itself to thriving, not just surviving.

The blended congregation will keep both church properties, since the former Holy Apostles facility remains an active site for community meetings, and several Burmese congregations rent the former Episcopal church for their worship services.

With Holy Apostles & St. Stephen’s typical Sunday attendance now reaching about 100, the two congregations haven’t really lost any members in the transition, Perra said, though some might feel more comfortable taking a Sunday off now and then because they don’t fear their church is at the verge of folding in their absence.

As for denominational distinctions, Episcopalians still can attend a spoken service from the Book of Common Prayer at 8 a.m., but few of them do. Most parishioners attend a hybrid service with singing at 10 a.m., which Perra calls “the big show.”

Both traditions are reflected at the Churches of the Holy Apostles & St. Stephen, though Perra admits his Episcopal training still leaves him with a learning curve as a new Lutheran pastor. “I’m in the process of being Lutheran enough for my Lutherans,” he said.

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

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La Diócesis de Northern California anunció el exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónico

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 11:58am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] La Diócesis Episcopal de Northern California recibió una notificación del Obispo Presidente y Primado Michael B. Curry y del registrador de la Convención General, el Reverendo Canónigo Michael Barlowe, de que la obispa electa Megan Traquair ha recibido la mayoría requerida de consentimientos en el proceso de consentimiento canónico detallado en Canon III.11.3.

Al dar consentimiento a su ordenación y consagración, los Comités Permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de que “no hay impedimento debido al cual” la obispa electa Traquair no debe ser ordenada como obispa, y que su elección se llevó a cabo de acuerdo con los cánones.

La Reverenda Canóniga Megan Traquair fue elegida obispa el 9 de febrero. El Obispo Presidente Curry oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 29 de junio.

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