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Episcopal churches across country toll bells for victims of Las Vegas massacre

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:46am

St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Wall Street rang the Bell of Hope at noon, joining churches around the country in solidarity with the Diocese of Nevada and remembering those killed in Las Vegas over the weekend. Photo: Trinity Wall Street, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal churches across the country tolled bells simultaneously Oct. 3 in solidarity with the Diocese of Nevada and in memory of the victims of the mass shooting over the weekend in Las Vegas, which left 60 people dead, including the gunman.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops, issued the call for a nationwide bell tolling. Responding to Nevada Bishop Dan Edwards’ suggestion, the bells rang at 9 a.m. PT (10 a.m. MT, 11 a.m. CT and noon ET). Bishops United recommended tolling bells 60 times – for the 59 victims as of the most recent count and for the gunman, who killed himself after firing down from a hotel room on an outdoor country music concert.

Churches from New York to California pledged to join in tolling their bells.

Come at noon/St Paul’s Chapel as we ring the Bell of Hope in solidarity with the Diocese of Nevada, remembering those killed in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/ES6ojDGwdx

— Trinity Wall Street (@TrinityWallSt) October 3, 2017

A bell rings for each of the #LasVegasShooting #victims & a #candle is lit in their memory. Our service of lament begins. #Baltimore @EPFNational @iamepiscopalian @TheCrossLobby #episcopal @MomsDemand pic.twitter.com/7l0sjDuHhf

— Episcopal Maryland (@episcomd) October 3, 2017

An interfaith rally was held at Washington National Cathedral to remember the victims “while also urging a national conversation to end gun violence.” The cathedral offered a live video stream of that event on its Facebook page.

Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said the cathedral’s Bourdon bell typically only is sounded at funerals and at national times of mourning.

“We gather in grief over the senseless bloodshed at a shooting last Sunday night in Las Vegas, and we gather with urgency,” Budde said outside the cathedral before the bell tolled 60 times. “We are people who minister to people affected by gun violence year after year. We are exhausted by the fact that this probing conversation on the issue of gun violence continues to elude us. This failure is a cause for repentance and shame.”

The shooting is the deadliest in modern U.S. history. Authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired down on the crowd from two rooms on the 32nd floor of nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, sending concertgoers fleeing. In addition to those killed, hundreds were injured. Paddock was found dead along with 23 rifles in his hotel suite, and 19 more firearms were found in his home.

Since the nighttime attack Oct. 1, Episcopal leaders have responded by offering prayers, support and calls to action.

“We are praying for the families and friends of those who have died and for the many people who have been wounded,” Anglican Communion’s primates said in a statement released from Canterbury, England, where they, including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, are meeting.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, issued a statement saying “my heart broke once again” after learning of the latest mass shooting, and she cited a General Convention resolution supporting legislation to prevent more massacres.

“May we have the strength to put our words into actions so that the lawmakers who represent us in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the land will enact sensible legislation that can prevent guns from falling into the hands of people whose hearts are torn with hatred, violence, and despair,” she said.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence also issued a statement, saying Christians must act and “engage in the debates that shape how Americans live and die, especially when they die due to violence or neglect.”

In Las Vegas, Episcopal clergy members are helping to provide pastoral care for victims and emergency personnel, and the Diocese of Nevada will hold a memorial worship service at 7 p.m. Oct. 3. at Christ Church, the Episcopal church closest to the Las Vegas strip where the shooting happened.

Budde, who is a member of Bishops United, echoed the group’s written statement, saying it is “entirely reasonable” to seek legislative reform in the immediate wake of yet another mass shooting.

“Thoughts and prayers, while important, are insufficient,” she said. “In our tradition, the scriptures tell us that faith without works is dead. Prayers without actions mean little.”

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


Robin Dodge named as Rio Grande’s Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Dialogue

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 6:37pm

Bishop Michael L. Vono, D.D., announces the appointment of Fr. Robin Dodge as Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Dialogue for the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.

Fr. Dodge, who is the Rector of Church of the Holy Faith, Santa Fe, will be inducted as Canon during the opening Eucharist of the 65th Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Rio Grande on October 19 at All Saints Episcopal Church, El Paso. Also to be inducted at the Eucharist will be the Rev. Canon Patricia Soukup, who has been appointed Archdeacon of the Diocese.

The Rev. Robin D. Dodge was called to be Rector, following the untimely death of the Rev. Cn. Kenneth J.G. Semon. Bishop Vono celebrated the New Ministry of Fr. Dodge and Church of the Holy Faith following Diocesan Convention on Sunday, October 30, 2016, with a High Holy Mass.

Fr. Dodge grew up in Springfield, VT and received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1980, where he studied history with a particular focus England during the reign of the Tudors and Stuarts. He received a J.D. in 1983 from Boston University. As a lawyer, Fr. Robin practiced corporate law concentrating in trademarks, copyrights, and unfair competition, first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C., with Winston & Strawn (formerly Bishop, Cook, Purcell & Reynolds) and then Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.

After more than ten years as a lawyer, and wrestling with a perceived call to ordained ministry while a parishioner at Church of Our Saviour in Chicago and Christ Church Georgetown, Fr. Robin entered Virginia Theological Seminary and was awarded an M.Div. in 1999. He was ordained deacon in 1998 and priest in 1999. Fr Robin spent more than three years as Associate Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, VA, before being appointed Associate Vicar of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, England. Upon the Vicar’s departure in 2004, Fr. Robin served as priest-in-charge. In 2005 he was called to be Rector of St David’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where he served until he was called to Holy Faith.

Since 1986 Robin has been married to Thérèse Saint-André, whom he met at coffee hour at Church of Our Saviour in Chicago. They have two sons, Cameron, age 24, a graduate of St. Albans School in Washington and the University of Virginia, who lives and works in Atlanta, and Barrett, age 21, who is pursuing vocational training.

Anglican primates offer prayers for Las Vegas as Episcopal leaders mobilize after massacre

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 3:52pm

FBI agents ride an armored vehicle to a staging area on Oct. 2 after a mass shooting during a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Las Vegas Sun via Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Leaders of the Anglican Communion called the weekend massacre in Las Vegas “truly shocking” in a statement released from Canterbury, England, by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, as faith leaders mobilize outreach efforts in the wake of the shooting, which killed at least 58 and injured hundreds more.

Clergy members in the Las Vegas area are providing pastoral care for victims and emergency personnel, memorial worship services are planned this week and a group of Episcopal bishops is organizing a nationwide effort to toll church bells Oct. 3 in memory of the dead.

“We are praying for the families and friends of those who have died and for the many people who have been wounded,” Curry said Oct. 2 in a video delivering the statement released by the primates, who are gathered in Canterbury. “We remember, too, everyone else caught up in this tragedy – including the emergency services (first responders). We pray that the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with the people of Las Vegas as they endure this trauma.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, also issued a statement in reaction to the deadly violence.

“This morning, my heart broke once again to learn about another mass shooting in the United States,” she said in part, offering her prayers for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, with their deputies, and Bishop Dan Edwards.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Guardian Angels is scheduled to host a prayer service for victims and their families at 5 p.m. Oct. 2, and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada will hold a service at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at Christ Church, the Episcopal church closest to the Las Vegas strip where the shooting happened.

Edwards, who will preach at the Oct. 3 service, told Episcopal News Service by phone that his office reached out to the chaplain at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center to offer Episcopal clergy members to supplement the hospital’s own pastoral care. The diocese offered the same to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department and other first responders. Edwards did not yet have information on how many Episcopal priests and deacons had volunteered.

And with authorities saying blood supplies are running low in the massacre’s aftermath, the Diocese of Nevada plans to include a call for blood donations in its communications to Episcopalians in the state.

“It’s heartbreaking for the victims and all those affected by this particular tragedy,” Edwards said. “It’s also heartbreaking for our society, that this keeps happening.”

News of the massacre developed overnight Oct. 1, and by morning it was clear the shooting at an outdoor country music concert was the deadliest in U.S. history. Authorities said the gunman fired down on the crowd from a 32th floor room in the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, sending concertgoers fleeing.

As of midday Oct. 2, the death toll was at 58, with an estimated 500 injured. The gunman, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, later was found dead in the room, apparently after killing himself. Authorities also said he was found with more than 10 rifles.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is calling on churches everywhere to toll their bells Oct. 3 at the same time, 9 a.m. PT (or noon ET) in solidarity. The number of bell tolls will mirror the number of dead reported at that time.

Edwards, a member of Bishops United, said there are no simple reasons that the United States continues to see so many mass shootings, though he added there is a compelling case for looking toward the availability of assault weapons and the ability to possess them in numbers beyond what would be needed for legitimate personal use.

He also pointed to the social problems of loneliness, isolation and disconnection, factors that he said are all too common in Nevada.

“It’s not the guns alone. It’s the veneration of violence in our society,” Edwards said. “Our societal embrace of violence as a response to any form of unhappiness is a very serious spiritual concern. The churches have the primary responsibility for converting America away from the veneration of violence back to the prince of peace.”

It was too early to say whether members of local Episcopal congregations were among the victims or their families, though Edwards said an Episcopal priest’s son was one of the police officers who responded to the scene. The priest stayed up into the early morning until hearing that his son was OK.

The Rev. Barry Vaughn, rector at Christ Church, has not yet heard of anyone else in his congregation affected by the massacre, but a message on the church Facebook page invited parishioners to call or stop by if they need to talk to someone.

“I think everyone is just stunned by it right now,” Vaughn told Episcopal News Service. “The best thing that we can do is to reach out and love people who are affected by it. This sort of thing, it’s like a natural disaster. It can’t be predicted.

“It comes out of nowhere, although it doesn’t exactly come out of nowhere,” Vaughn said, echoing Edwards’ concern about the prevalence of guns in American society.

Reaction and condolences have been pouring in from all corners of the church, from the primates meeting underway in London to former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who previously served as the bishop of the Diocese of Nevada.

“Prayers are ascending for all in the midst of this carnage at Mandalay Bay,” she said in an emailed statement. “When, oh when, will we begin to limit the availability of weapons of mass destruction and death?

“May the souls of all the departed rest in peace, may the injured find healing, may all the responders find courage and strength, and may all of us know that God is to be found even in the midst of this evil.”

Also on Oct. 2, Curry prayed during Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral:  “We come to you tonight, Lord, with sorrow in our hearts for 58 of your children are no longer with us. And some 500 of your children are hurting physically and emotionally. And, one of your children took their life. They are all our sisters. They are all our brothers. They’re all your children.”

Bishops United Against Gun Violence issued a full statement on the massacre in the afternoon, offering prayers, but also a call to political action on the issue of gun violence.

“It is entirely reasonable in the wake of mass killings perpetrated by murderers with assault weapons to ask lawmakers to remove such weapons from civilian hands. It is imperative to ask why, as early as this very week, Congress is likely to pass a bill making it easier to buy silencers,” the statement says, noting that silencers make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to detect gunfire as shootings are unfolding.

Jennings, the House of Deputies president, echoed that call to political action based on the Episcopal Church’s values.

“In 2015, General Convention passed resolution C005, titled ‘Implement Laws to Decrease Gun Violence,’ which includes a call to ban the sale of assault weapons to civilians,” she said. “May we have the strength to put our words into actions so that the lawmakers who represent us in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the land will enact sensible legislation that can prevent guns from falling into the hands of people whose hearts are torn with hatred, violence, and despair.”

Some members of Bishops United spoke with Edwards in the morning by conference call, offering their support.

“We assured him of our prayers and then we offered him any assistance that we as bishops could provide to him or the diocese of Nevada as they attend pastorally or otherwise to the victims of this massacre,” said Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, one of the Bishops United conveners.

Douglas helped form Bishops United after the 2012 massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The group now totals more than 70 bishops, who have pushed for gun reform legislation to help prevent future mass shootings.

The bishops’ statement on the Las Vegas said that, as cliched as it has become, Christians must offer “thoughts and payers.” They must pray for all who have been touched by the Las Vegas massacre and “by our country’s cripplingly frequent outbursts of lethal gun violence.”

“We must look into our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day,” the bishops wrote.

They also said that Christians must act and “engage in the debates that shape how Americans live and die, especially when they die due to violence or neglect.” However, Christians must understand that a comprehensive solution to gun violence “will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives.”

“Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other,” the bishops said. “The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us.”

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

Coptic pope opens new Anglican media center

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 2:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new state-of-the-art media center for the Anglican Diocese of Egypt has been officially opened by Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The diocese is one of four in the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Read the entire story here.

Memorial services held for Bishop Jean Rigal Elisee of Newark, New Jersey

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:43am

[Diocese of Newark] With sadness, members of the Diocese of Newark announced the passing of the Rt. Rev. Jean Rigal Elisee, who served as the diocese’s supply bishop, assisting with confirmations from 2005 to 2007. His funeral was Sept. 30 at Grace Church in Newark, New Jersey, followed by a repast. It was preceded by a viewing that morning and the prior evening.

Born to Joseph Elisee and Melicia LaBorde on Sept. 26, 1927 in Leogane, Haiti, Elisee died Sept. 20, at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, New Jersey, six days before his 90th birthday. He was the oldest of 12 children, with three siblings and eight half-siblings.

After receiving his masters in divinity from the former Philadelphia Divinity School in Philadelphia, Elisee first became an ordained priest in the Diocese of Haiti. He was then sent by the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society as missionary to Monrovia, Liberia. In 1980, he was appointed as bishop of The Gambia and the Rio Pongas in the province of West Africa to be a missionary of the Episcopal Church and the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London, England. He spent more than 22 years in mission in West Africa, serving in Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Liberia.

Prior to leaving Haiti for his mission in West Africa, he married his wife Anita, who worked by his side as a missionary teaching at the church nursery, developing strong relationships with the local people in each country and being actively involved in the church.

In 1986, Elisee came to the United States and served for several years in the dioceses of New York and Newark as a supply bishop assisting with confirmations until his retirement.

Elisee is survived by his wife, Anita, and his four children Ruth, Raynald, Joseph and Monique. He also has four grandchildren: Michelle, Brittney, Jordan and Chanel. He is also survived by his brothers, Martelly, Roland, and half-brothers and half-sisters, Nicholas, David, Jean-Baptiste, Pauline and Catherine. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Ovide, half-brother Ribeau and half-sisters Ann and Mamie.

Good and gracious God, the light of the faithful and shepherd of souls, you sent your servant Jean to be a bishop in your church to feed your sheep with your word and to guide them by his example; give us the grace to keep the faith he taught and to follow in his footsteps. We entrust him into your unfailing mystery of love and hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Presiding Bishop at Nashotah House praises seminary for making ministers for Jesus Movement

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 3:10pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, speaking Sept. 28 at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin, gets a laugh from the crowd, including Acting Dean Garwood Anderson, center, and Bishop Daniel Martins, right. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Nashotah, Wisconsin] “It is good to be here.”

A throwaway cliché in most speeches, but spoken Sept. 28 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as the fall sun was setting at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, there was reason enough for his audience of 150 or so people to believe he was being sincere.

For starters, Curry was in Nashotah to receive the seminary’s Ramsey Award, named after Arthur Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974. Bishop Daniel Martins of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, who serves as Nashotah House’s board chairman, presented the award to Curry for “his eloquent, inspiring preaching to refocus church discourse in a Christo-centric manner.”

Martins also noted Curry’s “tireless efforts seeking reconciliation in Christ’s broken body from his first days of ordained ministry all the way to his service now as presiding bishop,” adding that Curry’s “work to promote growth in racial equality, educational development, social justice and humanitarian outreach are equally noteworthy.”

Curry’s trip to the tranquil rural countryside west of Milwaukee also served as a reprieve between big church events. He had just attended the six-day House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, and was on his way to London to attend the Anglican Communion’s primates meeting.

The pleasure of being in Nashotah, Curry indicated, also stemmed from an appreciation of the seminary’s mission, training leaders for what Curry regularly describes as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

“We are making ministers in this mission moment, to claim and provide leadership for a movement, a movement that began long ago … a movement whose purpose is to change this world from the nightmare our sinful, selfish selves make of it to the dream, the vision of the kingdom, the reign that God has intended,” he said.

After joining the crowd in applauding the matriculation of 21 seminary students and then receiving his award, Curry began his 30-minute convocation address by thanking the seminary for the honor and quoting the words of Ramsey that are reproduced on the plaques now given to every newly consecrated bishop in the Episcopal Church.

As he proceeded, he began developing the theme of movement, citing the “active verbs” and commands that Jesus uses in the gospels.

“Follow me.”

“Come and see.”

“Go and proclaim the good news.”

“This is action,” Curry said. “This is movement. These are verbs of movement. This is a movement.”

Jesus called on his disciples to “be my witnesses, in Judea, in Samaria and unto the utmost parts of the Earth, and in the first century Palestine and in 21st century America,” he said.

Curry followed up that thread with a nod to seminary history.

“I’m at Nashotah House. … You got here because somebody named Jackson was part of a movement,” Curry said in summarizing the 175-year-old seminary’s origin story – the founding role of Bishop Jackson Kemper, the influence of what was known as the Oxford Movement and the desire to bring the church back to its roots in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

“That’s what catalyzed and woke up this wonderful old church of ours,” Curry said. “You know, the power of movement to change institutions and change the world.”

Curry, always a ready storyteller, also took time to engage the students, faculty and family members with tales of childhood winters spent up in Buffalo, New York, of his grandmother’s deep Christian faith, of an inspiring visit to Howard University. He injected notes of humor that several times had the crowd erupting in hearty laughter.

While incorporating a favorite refrain of his sermons, that God is love, he returned throughout the speech Sept. 28 to the theme of movement and the calling of spreading Jesus’ message of love.

“That high calling is worth claiming. That high calling is worth giving your life for,” he said.

As Nashotah House gears up for Experiencing Nashotah on Nov. 9 and 10, a twice-annual event for prospective students, Curry he praised the seminar for its work in educating, not just future priests, but also a new generation of deacons and lay people who will carry out Jesus’ mission.

“We need this seminary to form leaders of a movement,” Curry said, “a movement that will bring folks Christ and send them out in his name to change the world.”

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

Bishop of Mexico thanks Communion for prayers and concern after earthquake

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 2:36pm

[Anglican News Service] The Bishop of Mexico, Rt. Rev. Carlos Touché-Porter, has written to the Anglican Alliance to thank the Anglican Communion for their prayers and concern following the magnitude 7.1 earthquake, which hit Mexico City last week.

Read the entire article here.

Church leaders appeal for dialogue over U.S.-North Korea nuclear crisis

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 2:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church leaders in Korea and the United States of America have appealed for dialogue to replace the conflict between the two countries’ political leaders. In separate moves, the National Council of Churches in Korea, which includes the Anglican Church of Korea; and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, which includes the Episcopal Church, are calling on politicians and Christians to push for peace.

Read the entire article here.

Preparing for Primates 2017: Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 10:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, looks ahead to the 2017 Primates Meeting

Preparing for Primates 2017: Archbishop Winston Halapua of the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 9:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Winston Halapu, one of the primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, looks ahead to the 2017 Primates Meeting.

Preparing for Primates 2017: Church in Wales Archbishop John Davies

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 9:53pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop John Davies, primate of the Church in Wales, looks ahead to the 2017 Primates Meeting.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry hopes to discuss immigration at Anglican Communion primates meeting

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 9:42pm



[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs]  “I am so looking forward to being with my friends and colleagues in the upcoming gathering of the Primates,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry stated in a video message.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion, of which Curry is a member, will be meeting Oct. 2 to 6 at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Curry shared that he wants to discuss immigration at the gathering.  “I do hope we have an opportunity to talk about migration and immigrations and refugees,” he said.  “Most of our countries are impacted.”

Following the recent Episcopal Church House of Bishops meeting, in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the issuance of A Word to the Church focusing on the environment, Curry is also planning to discuss climate change and environment with the primates.

More information on the primates meeting is here, and more information on the Anglican Communion is here.

Alaskan Episcopalians eager to worship in Native language with Book of Common Prayer translation

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 4:52pm

Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime shakes hands with parishioners outside St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks after a Sunday worship service on Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, in the business center of the Interior region’s largest city, is distinctly Alaskan in its wood and its words.

Log buildings are ubiquitous Alaskan structures, both the homes and churches – from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the small town of Nenana to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the Interior village of Venetie. And in Fairbanks, St. Matthew’s presents a familiar facade to the worshippers who enter the log church on First Avenue.

What sets St. Matthew’s apart from churches in the Lower 48 is what is said inside: Every Sunday, the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer and doxology in Gwich’in, the Native language most common in the region. The congregation, a mix of white and Native families, doesn’t offer a full service in modern Gwich’in, however, because official services in the language don’t exist in the Episcopal Church – at least not yet.

“I would love it,” said Irene Roberts, who serves as an usher at St. Matthew’s.

On Sept. 24, she greeted dozens of Episcopal bishops and their spouses as they filled her church’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday service, at the midpoint of the six-day House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks. “It only took me 83 years to see this many ginkhii ch’oo,” Roberts said, using the Gwich’in word for bishops.

The Diocese of Alaska, which hosted the bishops Sept. 21 to 26, is overseeing work on the first modern Gwich’in translation of the Book of Common Prayer. Those efforts got a boost this year with a $40,000 grant from the Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering program, or UTO. When the translation is done, services in the Native language finally will be possible for any ginkhii, or priest, who wants to offer them.

“It will be an opportunity for people to worship in the language they speak and with the prayer book that they use,” Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime said. “This has a lot of support from elders and folks in the Interior who are excited to be making it happen.”


The Book of Common Prayer has been translated into more than 200 languages, including Takudh (pronounced “tah-GOH”), a Canadian dialect related to Gwich’in. St. Matthew’s also has a hymn book in Takudh. But the Takudh prayer book is more than 100-years-old, and Takudh isn’t the language Alaskan Natives like Roberts speak and read in their daily lives.

“Some of the hymns, I know the tune, but the words are difficult for me,” Roberts said.

Irene Roberts, left, joins the congregation at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, in reciting the Lord’s Prayer in her native Gwich’in language on Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Takudh translation of the Book of Common Prayer was completed in the late 1800s by Archdeacon Robert McDonald, an early Anglican missionary who is credited with helping the indigenous people put their spoken language into written words. But McDonald’s translation was based on the Canadian prayer book, not the one used by today’s Episcopal churches, and it was not updated as the language evolved. The Takudh of McDonald’s translation is a dialect distinct from the modern Qwich’in spoken by many of Alaska’s Episcopalians.

At the same time, the Gwich’in people of Alaska, like other Native tribes, have struggled to maintain their traditional culture, customs and way of life, and that includes their language. The younger generation is more comfortable speaking English than the language of their ancestors, said Allan Hayton, who works as language revitalization program director for the Doyon Foundation, the charity branch of one of Alaska’s 12 regional Native corporations.

“One of the aspects of language revitalization is the prestige of the language and its public visibility,” Hayton said. To preserve, it should be spoken at home, in schools, in churches and at other public gatherings, Hayton said. “The more we can create for them … the occasion to hear the language in a public setting, all of those things make a big difference.”

Hayton is a member of St. Matthew’s in Fairbanks and the head translator for the diocese’s Book of Common Prayer project. On Sept. 21, the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting, Hayton also was invited to the bishops’ 4 p.m. Eucharist to read the gospel passage in Gwich’in.

Allan Hayton reads the gospel passage Sept. 21 during the Eucharist on the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

He met with Native elders over the summer to being work on translating the Rite II Eucharist. That work built on the diocese’s success in 2015 partnering with the Yukon Native Language Centre to celebrate a Holy Eucharist entirely in Gwich’in at St. Matthew’s.

The scope of that earlier effort was limited, and a full translation may take years. But Hayton and church leaders think the effort will pay off in time. With the UTO grant, they hope to translate the Ministry of the Word and Great Thanksgiving Prayer A, as well as to start translation of the Collects and Prayers of the People.

The goal is to publish a Gwich’in liturgical supplement that can be used alongside the English language prayer book. Translations into other indigenous languages may follow.

If services can be offered in Native languages, “more people in Alaska will understand the service and might come participate,” Hayton said.

“It would be easy for me,” Roberts said outside St. Matthew’s after the Sept. 24 service. She was born in Fort Yukon and later lived in the tiny village of Circle before moving to Fairbanks.

Roberts is encouraged by efforts to preserve the Gwich’in language. “It makes me sad that we’re losing it.” Even in remote villages, English often drowns out the Native tongue, she said, and younger generations aren’t being taught their people’s language. She said she sometimes answers her phone in Gwich’in only to have callers hang up on her, even fellow Alaska Natives.

“A lot of us are not speaking [Gwich’in] to our kids, and we should,” she said.

Earlier, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had preached at St. Matthew on the theme of family, based on the gospel reading.

“Jesus came to show us how to be the family God,” Curry repeated throughout the sermon, and he took a moment to underscore the breadth of the family that Jesus had in mind.

“Make disciples of all nations, all stripes and types, all ethnicities. Teach them, indigenous folk and other folk. Teach them, black and white. Teach them, Anglo and Latino,” Curry said. “Make them a family, when you teach them and baptize them into the very life of God.”

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

Trump’s refugee limit ‘runs counter to the reality’ of crisis, Episcopal Migration Ministries says

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 3:39pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Migration Ministries’ director released a statement Sept. 28, saying the Trump administration’s reduced cap on admitting refugees runs “counter to the reality of an ever-growing worldwide crisis.”

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, Episcopal Migration Ministries’ director, preached during a June 5 Eucharist to begin the “Love God, Love Neighbor” refugee advocacy training at St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“We are thankful, however, that we are now one step closer to fully resuming a program of welcoming refugees to the safety and hope of this land,” the Rev. E. Mark Stevenson of Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM, says in the statement (included below).

Federal officials announced in a Sept. 27 Department of State special briefing the planned cap of 45,000 refugee admissions for the 2018 fiscal year — the lowest number in the history of the Refugee Admissions Program.

The regional breakdowns will be: Africa, 19,000; East Asia, 5,000; Europe and Central Asia, 2,000; Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500; and Near East South Asia, 17,000.

“The security and safety of the American people is our chief concern,” U.S. officials said. “While maintaining the United States leadership role in humanitarian protection, an integral part of this mission is to ensure that refugee resettlement opportunities only go to those who are eligible for such protection and who are not known to present a risk to the safety and security of our country.”

Federal law allows the president to make an annual determination of the maximum number of refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the United States. Under President Trump, the number will be cut to less than half the historic average number of admissions.

There are more than 65.6 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people all over the globe, forced by violence to leave their homes, according to EMM.

EMM is one of nine agencies that contract with the U.S. government to resettle refugees. The other resettlement agencies are Church World Service; Ethiopian Community Development Council; HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society); International Rescue Committee; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services; and World Relief.

Although EMM receives some money from the Episcopal Church, the majority of its income comes from contracts with the federal government to cover the costs of resettling refugees approved for U.S. entry. Stevenson said 99.5 percent of the contract money directly goes to resettling refugees. The rest of the income is for administrative costs, including all staff salaries. Any unused money goes back to the government.

EMM had announced in April that it would cut its network by six officers in the new fiscal year, in anticipation of a reduction in refugee resettlement under Trump.

Refugees benefit everyone, Stevenson said Sept. 28, “providing a fresh infusion of entrepreneurial spirit and friendship into a country built into a world leader over centuries” by such values.

Also, welcoming people into the United States from other countries is a Christian act, Stevenson reminded Episcopalians. Jesus says in the gospel that the way to him, his grace and redemption is among the poor, the sick and the stranger.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for The Episcopal News Service. She is also a journalist and editor based in Brooklyn.

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, released the following statement Sept. 28 in response to the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the number of refugees allowed annually into the United States to 45,000:

The Administration has reported to Congress that their intent is to set the refugee admissions ceiling for the coming year at 45,000 persons, a cap that is not only the lowest in the history of the program but which also runs counter to the reality of an ever-growing worldwide crisis. At this critical moment, 65.6 million women, children, and men live forcibly displaced by violence from their homes, including 22.5 million refugees who have fled across the border of their homeland to another country into situations often only slightly more sustainable than the horrors they have fled. By the end of this day – and of every day that will follow for some time – more than 28,000 additional persons will find themselves in this predicament. In the face of such a crisis, this cut in our response to less than half the historic average is sad and hard-hearted.

We are thankful, however, that we are now one step closer to fully resuming a program of welcoming refugees to the safety and hope of this land. We live in a time of great hurt, yet also in a time of great promise. These past many months have raised awareness across our great nation of the struggles faced by refugees, and of the benefits to all of us when they find a new life in one of our communities. Refugees have overcome the greatest of trials, and refugees are providing a fresh infusion of entrepreneurial spirit and friendship into a country built into a world leader over centuries by such things. The struggles, and the successes, of these new Americans provide inspiration, opportunity, and optimism for a brighter future for us all.

Jesus, in the parable of the mustard seed, reminds us that even the smallest of faithful acts can grow into something spectacular and transformative. He also instructs us throughout the gospel that it is among the poor, the sick, and the stranger that we will find him, and his grace and redemption. So, we will welcome 45,000 children of a loving God to a better life in this coming year, and pray and work for even more in the years following. And, we will conform our wills to the Divine Will, loving even as Jesus has loved, to the glory of God and the transformation of our own lives.

To learn more about ministry among refugees, or to donate to this work in this critical time, we invite you to visit EpiscopalMigrationMinistries.org.

The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries

Kenyan bishops call for national dialogue over ‘political and social crisis’

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 2:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Kenya’s Anglican bishops have called for a national dialogue conference to resolve the current “political and social crisis” in the country. A fresh general election will be held Oct. 26, after the country’s supreme court ruled that the original poll, on Aug. 8, was “neither transparent or verifiable.” The court annulled the declared result, which gave sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Alliance 54.17 percent of the vote; and his nearest challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance, 44.94 percent. The remaining six candidates received just 0.89 percent of the reported votes.

Read the entire article here.

Historic western Cape church badly damaged in student protest arson attack

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 2:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A 130-year-old church in District Six at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town has been badly damaged in a suspected arson attack. The building was set alight the night of Sept. 27, during the latest in a long-running series of sometimes violent protests at the campus. The church’s undercroft and hall bore the brunt of the damage. The protests relate to the suspension of four students last month as a result of their involvement in demonstrations about student facilities and in-sourced workers. The protests have continued despite the university obtaining a temporary court order prohibiting students from unauthorized occupation of campus buildings.

Read the entire article here.