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Lambeth-based monastic order of young people concludes ‘year in God’s time’

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 4:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third group of young people to spend “a year in God’s time” as members of the Community of St. Anselm – the new monastic order based at Lambeth Palace, have been commissioned to “be Jesus to the world” at the end of their year. Lambeth Palace is the official London residence and offices of the Archbishops of Canterbury. The Community was started by Archbishop Justin Welby, who serves as Abbot of the community, as part of his priority of renewing prayer and spiritual life.

Read the full article here.

Convention to face ‘tough societal questions’ confronting the Episcopal Church

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 9:48am

[Episcopal News Service] When the 79th General Convention considers the resolutions proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, it will confront “tough questions” facing the Episcopal Church in the current social environment.

House of Deputies President, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, asked the 2016-2018 Committee State of the Church to to focus on social justice and advocacy ministries, multicultural and ethnic ministries, and the Church Pension Group. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The pressing areas of social justice, multiculturalism and ethnic ministries were all examined during the committee’s three-year study for how the Episcopal Church can better equip itself and minister effectively in multiple social contexts in “these deeply troubled and divisive times,” the committee’s report stated.

If there is an overarching takeaway the committee’s chair, the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese, the Diocese of New York, hopes deputies glean from the report, it’s that “we need to find more ways to release the gifts of the church from communities that we tend to position as ‘being served’ by the church,” she said in an email in response to questions submitted by the Episcopal News Service.

“There is very creative work being done in local ministries that could be used as resources for the whole church, and that a staff empowered to work across areas in ethnic and multicultural work at the churchwide level would be a great gift for us,” she said.

While the committee is mandated to provide the House of Deputies a report on the state of the church, it received the special charge from the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, deputies’ president, at the beginning of this triennium to focus on social justice and advocacy ministries, multicultural and ethnic ministries, and the Church Pension Group.

Recommending changes to the parochial report also falls under the committee’s purview. Since data gathering is a component of the parochial report, Varghese assumes this is why the State of the Church committee was assigned the task of exploring the rapidly changing context of the Episcopal Church.

“I found the charge from the president of the House of Deputies to the committee challenging and insightful about areas of the church that are high priorities and areas of some interest, concern, maybe confusion,” Varghese said.  “I agree with her that engaging the tough questions is a good use of the wisdom of the broader church.”

To prepare its report, the committee conducted surveys, interviews and reviews of church membership, stewardship and average Sunday attendance and found changes that reflect “modest decline in relation to the recent past,” “radical decline” compared to the 1950s and early 1960s and “a profound and shocking decline when compared to the growth in population of the United States.”

Census data also revealed that while births are barely outpacing deaths in the United State, immigration is fueling the fastest growth in the U.S. population, which in turn has implications for the context of the entire Episcopal Church.

“As a church, more and more of our congregations are visibly diverse, and we must equip ourselves to minister effectively in contexts in which there are multiple social norms, and the weight of discrimination and privilege in society present themselves to us in our congregations,” the committee’s report states.

The committee examined how each of the Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries, which include Latino/Hispanic Ministries, Asian Ministries, Black Ministries and Native American Ministries, began in official roles out of the Episcopal Church Center, recent and current dynamics and strategies of the ministries, and an understanding of the current direction of church leadership with respect to these ministries.

Among its findings is that “racism is active within the structures of the Episcopal Church.”

“Clearly our church has been a prophetic voice in calling out the sin of racism in our society,” the report said, but “little is heard when it comes to exploring the realities within our own church.”

For example, Episcopal churches fail to reflect the diversity of their local communities; clergy from non-dominant cultures face unequal access to theological education, unequal compensation and unequal training and continuing education; and the mutuality of the exchange of gifts, skills, grants, financial gifts and “the way we tend to tell our stories” assumes a flow from the dominant to the “ethnic” minorities rather than sharing with each other or the rest of the church, the report said.

“In the presiding bishop’s ‘The Beloved Community’ plan, we see progress toward understanding the complexity and the need for mutuality in Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries,” the report continued.  “By asking the question, ‘Where is Jesus in this community?’ we shift from the assumption that we are bringing Jesus to the assumption that Jesus is already there with and in the people.”

During interviews with the Church Center’s multicultural missioners, the committee learned that missioners are themselves ministering to diverse communities, nationalities and cultures.  “The result has been the development of strong skills of how to successfully deal with a pluralistic community,” the committee said.  “This is a skill set greatly needed by the church as a whole.”

The committee concluded that the church has “hidden the light of these communities instead of bringing them to the center of church life.”

The committee has proposed resolutions “as practical and doable steps of commitment on a long journey that has already been undertaken and will go on for a long time, a journey that can begin to help us open the deep gifts of developing bridges and mutual accountability and communication.”

Resolution A054 requests $15,000 for multicultural ministers and linguists to create “a small book of prayer, liturgy and music” in recognition of the presence of Christ in all church communities. Resolution A055 invites multicultural ministers to develop ways for sharing the gifts of their ministry with the wider church.

Taking up its charge to explore the work of social justice and advocacy ministries, the committee concluded that while the church is “doing many different types of work, social justice work is not robust across the church.”

Most especially, the committee discovered that the understanding of “social justice” varies broadly and that activities across the church tend to fall more “into the realm of alleviation of suffering and the work of charity than the work of justice.”

To clarify misunderstandings, the committee defined social justice work as “acts to address and heal the root cause of the injustice which prompted our need for charity in the first place.”

Committee research did uncover some “anxiety from the grassroots of the church” over whether “social justice preaching” should advocate a particular view on reform or that “emphasis should be on ‘outreach ministry’ but not social justice.”

Respondents to a survey conducted for the committee were eager for resources, suggestions and people to reach for help and “almost all who responded acknowledged a need for this work and many a desire to do it.  They wanted to connect with others doing this work but did not know how to find them.”

The committee is proposing resolutions to help address these concerns. Resolution A056 proposes a task force to study how the Episcopal Church “currently fosters theological understanding and leadership for social justice, and recommend ways to foster theological and practical conversation across the church on this topic.”

Resolution A057 supports strengthening churchwide resources and collaboration to support the grassroots work of the Episcopal Church in the areas of social justice advocacy and ethnic and multicultural ministry.

Faced with the rapidly changing context of the church, the committee also proposed Resolution A053. This requests that a new parochial report be developed that is “appropriate to the current context of the Episcopal Church including but not exclusive to multicultural congregations; aging populations; outposts of ministry in challenging economic contexts; and creative use of space and local engagement, to be administered and shared in networked, visible tools such as the Episcopal Asset Map.”\

“We decide what we measure and what we measure tends to form what we value,” Varghese said in her email.

“For the sake of data, it is good to measure a few vital things consistently for a long time, but the sake of our formation, and our self-understanding of what makes a great congregation, the committee believes it is important for the church to revisit the entire form to align with what we say today are the characteristics that we value in a church, and make it fully and more robustly electronic, synced with the ways we would record such data, and appropriately shareable through the asset map or a resource like it that helps us to identify and develop networks of mutual support,” she added.

Finally, the committee reviewed how the “traditional” model of clergy employment has changed. For example, more females are clergy and many clerics continue to work after their retirement. The committee asked, in Resolution A060 that a task force be created to study the work on the Church Pension Fund. (See the ENS story  “Ahead of General Convention, Episcopalians consider Church Pension Fund’s service to a changing church” here.)

Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Warriors of the Dream uses African drumming, scripture reflection to build community

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 9:41am

Warriors of the Dream, an Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grant recipient, hosts a gathering based in Episcopal liturgy and using African drums both at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and elsewhere in the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Warriors of the Dream

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] Sometimes you hear a phrase and it just sticks with you. You ponder its meaning, knowing at some level that there is a message in it for you.

For the Rev. Steve Holton an experience he had in 1995 has been “a blessing and a guide” to what is now Warriors of the Dream, an innovative program of community building and leadership training with people on the economic and social margins of their neighborhood based at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Harlem and supported in part by two Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grants.

Back in 1995, Holton was the rector of St. Paul’s on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in Ossining, New York, about three miles from Sing Sing prison. He heard African-American actor and activist Ossie Davis speak at the first graduation ceremony for the Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. Davis marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was the emcee for the 1963 March on Washington when King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Davis, Holton said, often visited the 20 inmates in the program as a kind of  “elder.”

“He leaned over the podium and said, ‘You are my sons, you are my warriors of the dream,’” Holton recalled in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “And, of course, he was referring to Martin’s dream of the Beloved Community.” That sort of community, Davis knew as an actor, is built through what Holton calls “creative community.”

The Rev. Steve Holton says the idea for Warriors of the Dream began to take shape more than 25 years ago. Photo courtesy of Steve Holton

Fast-forward to 2013, as Holton was about to earn a second theology degree to follow the Master of Divinity degree he received from The General Theological Seminary in 1988. The question he explored was, “what is it about the Episcopal Church that lends itself to community ministry with everybody who’s there.” Holton studied the Anglican monastic tradition’s elements of “food, music and sacred speech.”

As he was thinking about the music part of a potential ministry, a friend told Holton that he had 12 African drums that needed a home. “I said, I’ll take them,” Holton said.

Warriors began at St. Philip’s because its now-deceased rector, the Rev. Keith Johnson, was “open to hosting us so that we could work in the neighborhood,” Holton said. Johnson’s goal was ministry to the neighborhood and “not specifically church growth.” Johnson wanted to explore how to connect the church to the people who live around it.

Holton’s recollection of Ossie Davis’ elder role came to the foreground. “Being an elder has been a theme of Warriors and, in terms of the larger macro goal, is to teach adults how to be elders, because one thing I’ve learned in my discussions with neighborhood leaders both in Westchester and Harlem is what makes neighborhood a neighborhood is elders,” he said. “What makes children think is elders, not just learning stuff, but kind of being in the shelter of elders.”

Holton formed two important partnerships. Jeannine Otis, the director of music at St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery, joined him, following, he said, Jesus’ command to go out to minister two by two. “As a twosome you model and experience community,” Holton said. Moreover, when a white man and a black woman create that sort of community “you expand community beyond the borders people usually draw around themselves and you automatically become available to a whole lot of information you never grew up with,” he added.

Holton and Otis then connected with Akil Rose, “the kind of neighborhood leader who never darkens the door of the church,” who Holton said is interested in African religions as well as Islam and “the mutual nourishment of all religions.”

They initially thought Warriors of the Dream ought to try reach children “who are at risk because they don’t join things” like church. However, early Warriors gatherings attracted people who worked with at-risk kids and “needed a place of nourishment themselves.” Warriors also began to attract formerly incarcerated neighbors who felt their families and churches didn’t welcome their return. Moreover, folks whom Holton called “church folk who are on the edges of their churches” for a variety of reasons began coming.

“In a world that is wrestling over the right doctrine, whether it’s one extreme or the other, having a group of people that says it’s all about fellowship and the ancient prayers and making music together, that’s serious antidote,” he said.

The antidote was to create a time for, as the Warriors of the Dream brochure calls it, “a sanctuary for the dreams and hopes of many, and neighborhood transformation.”

The gatherings, which began on All Saints Sunday in 2013, have a simple structure. They begin with a breathing meditation and drumming, which Holton describes as “the best of who we are, that’s mysticism.” He uses the example in Genesis 14 in which Melchizedek’s “open offer of hospitality… and giving his best to this stranger” Abraham who has been wandering in the wildernesses, getting caught up in tribal warfare.

Otis shares a scripture passage and people discuss what those verses mean in their lives, “and we rapidly go deep.” Holton listens for a theme around which he crafts into a “final message.” A “drum blessing” follows, and people disperse.

New people come to the gathering and “rapidly go to the same deep level we’ve all been because, as you know as an Episcopalian, the liturgy has that effect of opening that doorway in time into the heart of God, and you’re just there and feel it and you realize you were there, and then you leave and go back out on the street,” Holton said.

He has always been convinced that “it’s our liturgy that converts people,” in part because that is how he became an Episcopalian and was baptized as an adult.

Holton “showed that you can gather people with drum circles, you can adapt Episcopal liturgies to people who have no interest in becoming Episcopalians. They just want to follow Jesus or even follow the Spirit,” the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s manager for church planting and mission development, told ENS.

“Steve invited us to learn with him that following Jesus into the neighborhood asks us to serve people, to serve our brothers and sisters in ways that bless them. And the byproduct of that, many times, is that it also blesses the church at large, sometimes with new members and new pledges and a worshipping community, but not always.”

Warriors of the Dream received one of the 30 first $20,000 Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grants awarded in December 2013. Mission Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas, congregations or dioceses with a mission focused on serving under-represented groups, such as young people, poor and less-educated people, people of color and those who never, or hardly ever, attend church.

Warriors then received a renewal grant in October 2016, one of three such grants for Mission Enterprise Zones originally funded in the 2013-15 triennium.

Warriors of the Dream hit a rough patch earlier this year. “We were having a lot of trouble just getting people [to come] and also running low on funding,” Holton said. He was discerning if the project “had lived its natural life” and along the way had taught him things that he is using in his ministry in North Salem, New York, where he is the interim rector of St. James Episcopal Church. He is using the same ideas from Harlem for gathering people who live near St. James and are outside the church.

However, Holton began looking at who was still coming to the Warriors gathering to see where the Holy Spirit might be pointing. What he saw was many of the newer people were former educators “who had real heart for reaching out to those young kids that we had tried to get back in the beginning, but we just grew in a different direction.”

One of those folks, who was also getting nourished by the gatherings, said she wanted to work with a local Roman Catholic deacon at the Lt. Joseph P. Kenney Community Center near Harlem Hospital. The center, Holton said, is a magnet for mothers looking for good places for their children to hang out. He hopes the work that is beginning there can be “the doorway into the larger Warriors experience.”

In addition, Holton said his St. James congregation, which he says is both wealthy and politically conservative in the classic definition of that stance, is happy to have the connections that Holton brings from Harlem to northern Westchester County. His parishioners have become interested in ministry with incarcerated people. They are eager to learn and to minster to and with them, Holton said.

The Warriors musicians are being asked to lead religious services of all kinds. They will continue to be open to those sorts of calls, he said.

All the while, Holton said, he operates from a stance that he wishes more Episcopalians would take. “We should own our identity as radical liturgists,” he said, stressing again that “it’s that the liturgy is profoundly formational.”

Episcopalians need to “believe again in the heart of our faith and in the heart of God incarnate and present in the world and then come out of those walls as Melchizedek did. Don’t just do it inside the church building,” he said. “Think of ways to get it out beyond the doors.”

“This is not really the continuation of church by other means. It is really Mother Church midwifing the next generation, and the next generation will be something new,” he said. “It will have a whole lot, biologically, in common with the last generation but will be a part of the new spirit, just as Mary gave birth to Jesus. The church is always Mary and the new ministry is always Jesus, and she is going to be worried sick about him. But, it is going to go on to new stuff and appeal to a whole bunch of people who never would have made it in the door. That’s where we are now.”

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

Episcopalians join the Poor People’s Campaign rally, march on Washington

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 4:06pm

Members of Washington National Cathedral attended the June 23 Poor People’s Campaign rally at the National Mall. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Fifty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a Poor People’s Campaign. As part of that campaign, during an April 1968 trip to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of African-American sanitation workers striking for higher wages, King was shot dead. Today, a new Poor People’s Campaign is under way and Episcopalians are getting involved.

“Today you are the founding members of the 21st century’s ‘Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call for Moral Revival.’ We gather today for a call to action. We gather here declaring it’s time for a moral uprising all across America,” said the Rev. William Barber on June 23. He co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, along with the Rev. Liz Theoharis.

“This is not the commemoration of what happened 50 years ago, this the reenactment and the re-inauguration. Because you do not commemorate prophets and prophetic movements. You go in the blood where they fell and reach down and pick up the baton and carry it the next mile of the way. For three years we’ve been laying a foundation from the bottom up, not the top down.”

King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized the original Poor People’s Campaign demanding economic and human rights for poor people across America. He was shot dead in Memphis on April 4, 1968 while attempting to organized sanitation workers.

The Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Liz Theoharis co-chair the Poor People’s Campaign. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Barber, a minister and an activist, led the Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina and is the president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit that seeks to build a moral agenda and redeem the heart and soul of the United States. Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister, and founder and co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and coordinator of the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary.

Thousands of people, including at least 100 Episcopalians, from across the country representing social justice organizations, churches and faith-based initiatives, gathered on June 23 in Washington, D.C. for Poor People’s Campaign rally and march. For three-and-a-half hours on the National Mall, speakers, the majority of them living on the frontlines of poverty, shared their personal stories relating to systemic racism, environmental degradation and other poverty indicators. Following the rally, attendees took to the street and marched to the Capitol Building, chanting slogans like, “This is What Democracy Looks Like” and “The People United Will Not be Divided.”

The rally and march in Washington followed 40 days of state-level action organized around six themes: systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism and national morality.

The rally and march also followed an intense week of news coverage about U.S. immigration policy.  The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has since early April has been separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration’s family separation policy and the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the border has drawn international condemnation and has further tarnished the United States’ reputation abroad.

“America is great because she is good,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, referencing Alexis de Tocqueville the in a video address broadcast on the big screen to the crowd gathered on the mall.

“We must make America great again, not by force, not by power, not by my might, but by goodness. Make America great by justice, make America great by freedom, make America great by equality. The Poor People’s Campaign doesn’t simply celebrate the past, though, it remembers the past, it remembers the courage of Dr. King and others who carried on the first Poor People’s Campaign,” said Curry.

“The Poor People’s Campaign gathers in order to help this nation live out its true values. Its moral decency, its human compassion, its sense of justice and right. We want this nation to be a nation where there is liberty and justice for all. We want this to be a nation where racism does not stain our moral character, where bigotry is not heard of seen any more in our land. Where injustices of the past are righted by making a new future. That is the America that we seek. That is why you gather, that is why you march. That is why we together seek to bring an end to human poverty in this the land of plenty. We must make possible the day that will come when no child will go to bed hungry in this land ever again.”

In today’s America, 43.1 million people, or 12.7 percent, of the population lives in poverty. That statistic matches with the percentage of impoverished people in 1968, when the population was 200 million, compared to 327 million today.

The Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, and the Rev. Stan Runnels, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and an Executive Council member, prepare to march to the Capitol Building on June 23. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“The Episcopal Church was the second denomination to officially sign on as co-sponsors of the Poor People’s Campaign and this is probably the first time our denomination has done that. It came through the act of Executive Council written in that the church leadership would lead the church in this deliberate and productive partnership so not just in name only, but we would bring people to the movement and we’d bring the issues back into the church,” said the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care.

Episcopalians, lay and ordained, engaged in direct action in their state capitals throughout the 40 days of action, but the Poor People’s Campaign goes beyond that.

“This is not just about 40 days and it’s over. We want to be able to encourage and educate our lay people, our people in the pews, on how to live faith in public life,” said Mullen. “We also want to create a new paradigm for what it means to be clergy; that it’s safe and acceptable to do public faith and to learn from each other’s examples, how to teach, how to preach, lead people in the streets. We’re doing something new and hopefully with the support of Executive Council going forward we can help do culture change in our church that will help change the country.”

Fifty years ago, when King launched the original Poor People’s Campaign, the Episcopal Church and the other white mainline denominations politely declined participation, said the Rev. Stan Runnels, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and an Executive Council member.

The Rev. Stan Runnels, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and an Executive Council member, the Rev. Hershey Mallett Stephens, project coordinator for the Church Center’s Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care department, and Katelyn Kenney, an United Thank Offering intern, march to the Capitol Building June 23 as part of the Poor People’s Campaign. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“The important thing about this, when the Rev. Dr. Barber revisited this on the 50th anniversary, to me and many, is that the Episcopal Church not make the same mistake it made many years ago,” said Runnels, in an interview with Episcopal News Service following Morning Prayer at Church of the Epiphany.

Over the years, the Episcopal Church has been great about “talking the talk,” but has failed to incarnate the moral calling and to be an incarnate witness, said Runnels. “As Bishop Curry talks about the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, it also has to be the justice movement.”

In creating a strategy for a new Poor People’s Campaign, Barber and other leaders recognized that justice issues have only expanded and gotten worse since 1968, he said.

“With a great bit of courage and foresight, the leadership of this new Poor People’s Campaign has broadened the scope of issues addressed … it’s become sort of a holistic expression of all the issues that affect people, each of which in one way or the other, connects to the underlying problem of poverty,” said Runnels.

“Where in ’68 it was clear that racism translated into poverty for one component of the population, the African-American component, in 2018 the issues of poverty are impacting a much broader cross-section and are manifested in many, many different ways. The exciting thing about this campaign is its polymorphic nature, it’s engaging so many different issues.”

Episcopalians gathered not far from the White House at 8:30 a.m. on June 23 at the Church of the Epiphany, for Morning Prayer and to share their thoughts and experiences from the 40 days of action in advance of the rally and march.

“This movement is a long-term campaign, not a one and done,” said the Rev. Glenna J. Huber, Epiphany’s rector, during the Morning Prayer. “It’s not for the weak or the faint hearted, not all are called to be arrested or take action, but all are called to pray, and all are called to witness.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

GAFCON urges restrictions on Lambeth Conference invites

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 3:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Delegates at the third Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, which met in Jerusalem last week, endorsed a communiqué on their final day that called on the Archbishop of Canterbury not to invite to the Lambeth Conference in 2020 bishops from provinces that have endorsed “sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture.”

The communiqué said that unless that happened, and unless bishops from independent breakaway churches that are not in the Anglican Communion – the Anglican Church of North America and the Anglican Church of Brazil – were invited too, it would “urge GAFCON members to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion.”

But ahead of the meeting, a significant number of primates associated with the GAFCON movement made clear their intention to attend.

Read the full article here.

Interfaith voices demanding changes to immigration policy make a difference in Washington

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:58pm

Migrant families from Mexico, fleeing from violence, listen to officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before entering the United States to apply for asylum at Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on June 20. Photo: Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Phones are ringing off the hook at congressional offices on Capitol Hill with Americans demanding migrant children be reunited with their parents, and for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policy of separating families at the Southwest border, according to legislators.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“Calls coming in to Capitol Hill are at an all-time high from Democrats and Republicans, the business community,” U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat and Roman Catholic from Massachusetts, told those gathered June 21 at a 12-plus-hour prayer vigil for family unity at the Simpson Memorial Chapel on Capitol Hill.

“This [family separation] can’t be the face of who we are, so I appreciate you being here, I appreciate your prayers, I appreciate your activism,” McGovern said. “I’ve always felt that faith is more than just ritual, it’s action; and you all have powerful voices, and this is a time to use them for the sake of these kids, for the sake of these parents and for the sake of this country.”

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations hosted the prayer vigil in United Methodist Building’s chapel, where its office is on Maryland Avenue N.E. Of the Congressmen invited, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Presbyterian and a Democrat from Delaware; McGovern and two other Democrats, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Methodist from South Carolina, and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Baptist from Pennsylvania, all dropped in and offered comments. The day began with a bipartisan 8 a.m. Morning Prayer in the Capitol Building, a monthly event hosted by the Office of Government Relations. The vigil ended with Compline in Simpson Chapel.

Western New York Bishop William Franklin preached during Morning Prayer about the role of the first Presiding Bishop William White, the first chaplain to the continental Congress. He saw two authorities for Christians – the Bible and belief in scripture, and reason.

“We are called by scripture to be compassionate, and reason compels us to see that the administration’s policies do not make us safer or more secure, and that it is possible to have a just and humane immigration policy,” said Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Office of Government Relations.

At least 150 people attended the vigil in Washington and 20,000 people tuned in on Facebook Live.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, Western New York Bishop William Franklin and Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, during a 12-hour-plus vigil held at the Simpson Memorial Chapel on June 21. Photo: Alan Yarborough

“We are moved and energized by the passion and the compassion we are seeing. We are committed to praying and to acting and to stopping this outrage,” said Blachly. “From a political standpoint, we have seen that politicians from both parties have spoken out against this cruelty – we know that the trauma inflicted on children spans to the next generation.”

While people of all faiths dropped in and out of the chapel for prayers, stories, testimony, hymns and fellowship, the House of Representatives convened across the street to vote on two immigration bills.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. Photo: Alan Yarborough

“Unfortunately, we are voting on what I call ‘deportation bills’ not ‘immigration bills.’ today and it still doesn’t solve the problem,” said Evans of Pennsylvania, who came by after the first vote.

“It [the legislation] doesn’t do anything about the immediate problem in terms of the separation of the children and families that the president talked about yesterday, let alone it doesn’t do anything about the DREAMers’ long-term citizenship,” said Evans, in an interview with Episcopal News Service outside the chapel.

Two bills came up for vote in the House on June 21. The first, a hard-line bill, failed. House Republicans delayed the vote on a compromise bill that would provide young, undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” a path to citizenship; and allow families to be detained together.

Still, the compromise bill doesn’t provide a permanent fix for the at least 3.6 million Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as minors and who are protected from deportation the 2012 immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“The pathway to citizenship in the compromise bill, however, is tied to the funding for border enforcement and the wall. If a future Congress revokes the border funding appropriated in the bill, the pathway to citizenship would be revoked,” said Lacy Broemel, the church’s refugee and immigration policy advisor.

Since the summer of 2014 when unaccompanied minors began arriving at the border in unprecedented numbers, every summer brings another humanitarian crisis. “This summer it is a disastrous situation that is happening because they are separating children from their parents,” said Eva Maria Torres, president of Dreamers’ Moms of Virginia, who came to the United States from Mexico in 2006.

Every day, Torres, who was the last to speak at the chapel, said, she hears stories from mothers separated from their children, either because they left them behind with family in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the most violent countries on earth, so they could send money back home. She also hears the anxieties of undocumented mothers who fear deportation and being separated from their U.S.-born children; and, now the stories, images and cries of children and mothers being separated at the border.

The administration’s zero-tolerance policy and the stories, images and cries of children and mothers being separated at the border, have created new fears and anxieties.

The women take risks and face danger to protect their children and are being separated from those they came to protect, she said: “The images have made me reflect, how much more are we going to allow to happen … as a faith community that believes in God, and know and count on God’s protection, I find myself asking what actions is God asking of us, calling us to do? Now is the time to take action. The immigrant community is taking a lot of risks but not just Latinos its immigrants of all nationalities.”

Torres implored American citizens to speak up.

“You, those who are citizens, you have the power to make a change and do something,” she said.
“Let’s be proactive so that we don’t repent later the situation or actions that have taken place. The support that is needed is not a handout, that’s not what the community needs today. As citizens I’d ask you to be empowered to talk to those in power.”

It’s not just migrants on the move fleeing Central America, worldwide an unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; 24.5 million of them are refugees, half younger than 18. For more than a century, the Episcopal Church has welcomed refugees and advocated for immigration policies that protect families, offer a path to citizenship and respect the dignity of every human being. Some of this work happens behind the scenes; other times, it is carried out in public statements, advocacy and public witness.

It was the phone calls, letters and emails that forced the president’s hand, not anything that happened in the halls of Congress, the legislators agreed.

Under intense public pressure, President Donald J. Trump on June 20 reversed course and signed an executive order meant to keep children and parents together for an indefinite detention period. Still, it’s unclear how the administration would implement the policy and it said the more than 2,000 children already separated from their parents would not be “grandfathered in.” The president’s executive order created confusion in the capital and at the border.

Later that evening in a Duluth, Minnesota-rally, the president had returned to his fear-based rhetoric, doubling down on his travel ban and his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For Clyburn, of South Carolina, watching the news unfold on television and in newspapers has made him think back to the time when French historian Alexis de Tocqueville traveled across the United States first to study its prisons but eventually in search of America’s greatness. De Tocqueville searched the halls of government and the countryside, and eventually found it in the churches, during the time of slavery, no less, he said.

“He saw in the people he worshipped with a certain amount of goodness and he said in talking about that experience that ‘America is great because America is good.’ And if America ever ceased ‘to be good, America will cease to be great,’” said Clyburn. “What we are seeing today is ill-advised policy, not law, but policy. It’s a loss, if it ever existed, of goodness. We cannot as people of faith sit idly by and ignore this.”

Since October 2017 through the end of May, Customs and Border Control agents have detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families. In early April, the Trump administration implemented it’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy aimed at prosecuting migrants crossing the border illegally and separating them from their children; 2,322 children have been taken from their parents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The policy was meant to deter other families – many fleeing violence in Central America – from attempting to request asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Never in his wildest dreams did the Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and a former State Department employee who worked on prison reform in Afghanistan, think he’d see mothers and children kept in detention centers in the United States. It wasn’t unusual in Afghanistan to see boys fleeing sexual violence, girls seeking protection from child marriage and mothers escaping domestic violence and their children held in detention centers for their protection, but still it was under horrible circumstances and had a traumatizing effect on everyone.

“It’s like a bad dream … seeing all the things you never thought would happen here,” said Maggiano, outside the chapel after addressing those present. “Seeing what’s possible in our country coming to fruition in real time.”

When Carper, the senator from Delaware spoke earlier in the day, he talked about the violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle and a brother and sister’s story. The brother was forced to join a gang and his initiation included raping his sister. Rather than let that happen, their parents helped them leave and they landed in Delaware.

“There is hope in Honduras, Guatemala El Salvador, there’s hope in those countries in the Northern Triangle, but there’s a lot of misery and we are complicit in their misery,” he said, referring to Americans’ appetite for drugs.

The humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border has drawn international condemnation, bipartisan criticism and outrage from American citizens and religious leaders, particularly following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and other members of the Trump administration’s use of scripture to defend its family separation policy.

“I’m just so profoundly disappointed with this government and I’m so profoundly disappointed, not only with the president, but with my colleagues who are going along with this,” said McGovern. “I just don’t know how people can do this. I worry we are losing our humanity and when we hear biblical versus being invoked to justify this, you know, I’ll be honest with you, I just want to scream. We keep on saying this is not who we are, we’ve got to prove it.”

Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and his administration. Within days of taking office, Trump signed three executive orders cutting funding to so-called sanctuary cities, calling for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries. Trump also made a significant reduction to the nation’s refugee resettlement program; setting the number of refugees allowed to enter the country in 2018 at 45,000; less than half the 110,000 admitted in 2017.

“… our country has been in the midst of a great, profound moral debate over keeping families together. Whether children should be separated from their mothers and from their families while there appears to be some sense of resolution about that immediate issue, the broader concerns about detaining families continue. The ways that we implement our immigration concerns, the ways that we secure our borders, need not be separated from our compassion and our human decency,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in a video promoting the June 21 vigil.

For more on this issue from Episcopal News Service, click here. To join the Episcopal Public Policy Network click here and to Take Action, click here.

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

Justice Select Committee hears New Zealand bishops’ concern over proposed euthanasia law

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops in New Zealand opposed to the legalization of medically assisted suicide and euthanasia have cited examples from Europe to warn that “safeguards” imposed when the law is first changed could later be loosened. The seven diocesan bishops in New Zealand are all opposed to the End of Life Choice Bill, which has been introduced by parliamentarian David Seymour. This week, Bishop Richard Randerson made an oral submission to the Parliament’s justice select committee on behalf of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia’s Tikanga Pakeha.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of York lays foundation stone for new priory at Whitby

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:24am

[Anglican Communion News Service] There has been a monastic community in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby since at least AD 657. The monastery is famous as the venue of the crucial Synod that bought together the different strands of Christianity in the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria to agree the date of Easter, amongst other things. The decision to adopt the Roman calculation over the Celtic formula was eventually adopted across Britain. The original monastery now lies in ruins, but this week Archbishop of York John Sentamu laid the foundation stone for a new priory in the town.

Read the entire article here.

Diocese of Kansas announces candidates for bishop

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:15am

[Episcopal Diocese  of Kansas] The Council of Trustees, acting as the canonical Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, presents to the diocese two priests as candidates for the 10th bishop of the diocese:

  • The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, Diocese of Maryland
  • The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber, Diocese of North Carolina

Nominees may be added by a petition process that closes at 5 p.m. CDT on June 30, 2018.

Members of the diocese will have the chance to meet the candidates in walkabouts scheduled in the diocese for Oct. 2-5; the schedule of events is online.

The election of the next bishop will take place on the first day of Diocesan Convention, Oct. 19, at Grace Cathedral in Topeka. The Service of Ordination and Consecration is scheduled for March 2, 2019, at the cathedral, with Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry officiating.

Here are brief introductions to the candidates; more information about them is on the bishop search website.

The Rev. Martha N. Macgill

Rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cumberland, Maryland

The Rev. Martha N. Macgill was baptized and confirmed at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia, where she sang for several years in the junior choir. She attended St. Agnes Episcopal School in Alexandria for 12 years, where she graduated in 1976 as valedictorian.

She attended Davidson College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude. After attending University of Virginia Law School and New York University Law School, she practiced law in Connecticut and as a clerk at the United States Tax Court in Washington, D.C.

Martha entered the ordination process in the Diocese of Virginia from St. Paul’s, Alexandria, in 1990. She attended Virginia Theological Seminary, where she graduated with honors in 1995. She was ordained to the diaconate in June 1995 by the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee at All Saints, Richmond.

She served as an assistant rector at St. Stephen’s, Richmond, where she was ordained to the priesthood in January 1996.

In 1997, she and her family moved to the Diocese of Christ the King, South Africa, where she became priest-in-charge of St. Francis, Walkerville. In August 2000, she returned to the United States to become rector of Memorial Church in Baltimore, Maryland., until May of 2014.

In the Diocese of Maryland, she has served as chair of the Commission on Ministry. She was a mentor to the new Episcopal Service Corps of young adults and served as a deputy to General Convention in Indianapolis in 2012. Martha now serves as rector of Emmanuel Parish in Cumberland, Maryland.

Martha is married to Bryan Kelleher. Martha and Bryan have two children: Jack, age 29, and Anna, age 26. Martha’s interests include swimming, tennis, golf, gardening and reading.

The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina

The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber grew up in Chapman, Kansas, and graduated with degrees in psychology and human development from the University of Kansas. Her Masters of Divinity degree is from the Seminary of the Southwest, and her Doctor of Ministry degree is from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, both in Austin, Texas.

Before going to seminary, Helen was a researcher at the Center for the Influences of Television on Children and was a registered representative at Twentieth Century Mutual Funds (now American Century).

Helen spent three years as curate and then canon at Grace Cathedral, Topeka; three years as assistant pastor at Holy Cross ELCA in Overland Park; 10 years as rector of Harcourt Parish in Gambier, Ohio; and has been rector of St. Luke’s in Durham, North Carolina, since 2014.

She is active in all levels of the church, including as convocation president (Kansas), diocesan Christian Education Chair (Ohio), Credentials Committee (North Carolina), Council of Advice for the President of the House of Deputies, and several-time deputy to General Convention.

She has been on the Executive Committees of the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice (Kansas), Interchurch Social Services (Ohio) and Latino Education Achievement Program (North Carolina).

She and her husband, Shawn, are parents to Charlie, 14, and Luke, 11. Helen enjoys board games, reading, weaving and needlework, and she loves time spent with her family.  

Prayer service set at Texas detention center during General Convention

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 6:40pm

[House of Deputies] Responding to calls from Episcopalians across the church to act on behalf of families seeking asylum at the southern U. S. border, a team of concerned leaders heading to General Convention has planned a prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, at about noon on Sunday, July 8.

The planning team, led by alternate Deputy Megan Castellan, rector of St. John’s Church in Ithaca, New York, is working with Grassroots Leadership — a local community organizing group in Texas that has held numerous gatherings at the Hutto Residential Center. Deputy Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, is helping to arrange buses to the event.

“What is happening to those at our borders is monstrous,” Castellan said. “My bishop, DeDe Duncan-Probe [of Central New York] and I were discussing how we, as a church, could respond on Saturday morning. By evening, and with the help of enthusiastic Episcopalians across the church, the idea had taken shape and was moving forward.”

The detention center at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, and is about a 40-minute drive from the Austin Convention Center where General Convention is being held.

Varghese says Trinity Wall Street hopes to provide buses for the event that would depart from the convention center at 10:45 a.m. Organizers say participants may also drive to the detention center. Parking is available nearby.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, have arranged for a one-hour delay in Sunday’s legislative calendar to facilitate participation by bishops and deputies. The legislative session will begin at 3:15 CDT.

The event, which Curry and Jennings will attend, is open to all who are committed to praying for an end to the inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum in the United States. It has been planned not to conflict with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence event at 9:30 a.m. in Brush Square Park, near the convention center.

A former medium-security prison, the Hutto center has been the target of frequent lawsuits over issues including harsh conditions, poor food and sexually abusive guards. Originally a family detention center, the facility, since 2009, has housed only female immigrants and asylum seekers.

The planning team, which includes several clergy and parishioners of the Diocese of Texas and the Association of Episcopal Deacons, is considering follow-up advocacy activities.

La Convención General prosigue su ‘tendencia digital’ de funcionar sin papeles

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:53pm

Los Rdos. Joseph Harmon y John Mennell, diputados de la Diócesis de Newark, muestran sus iPads asignados en préstamo a todos los diputados y obispos para la reunión de la Convención General en Salt Lake City en 2015. Los mismas contienen una “carpeta virtual” que reemplaza electrónicamente a la mayoría de los sistemas de la Convención, hasta entonces impresos. Foto de Nina Nicholson/Diócesis de Newark.

[Episcopal News Service] Lo usual era que la Convención General llevara a cabo todas sus funciones legislativas en papel —aproximadamente 1,2 millones de hojas de papel. Ya no más.

Por segunda convención consecutiva, cuando cada diputado, diputado suplente y obispo llegue a Austin, Texas, para la 79ª. Convención General, recibirá en préstamo un iPad para usarlo como su “carpeta virtual”. Los iPads que se usarán durante la reunión del 5 al 13 de julio son más nuevos y veloces que los que la Convención General alquiló en 2015.

La última vez que los obispos y diputados usaron carpetas físicas para seguir el proceso legislativo de la Convención General fue en 2012 para la 77ª. reunión de la Convención. Foto de Julie Murray/Diócesis de Ohio Sur.

Reemplazar cada carpeta física con el sistema digital ahorrara el costo aproximado de 2.400 resmas de papel, las cuales ascienden a unas seis toneladas, más los gastos de copias. Los veteranos de la Convención recuerdan una carpeta que gradualmente se iba llenando con sus copias según progresaba la reunión, con frecuencia hasta el punto de que algunos usaban bolsas con ruedas para transportar sus carpetas. Se reservaba un tiempo en cada cámara para que los obispos y diputados actualizaran sus carpetas. Seguir el progreso de las resoluciones resultaba imposible para las personas que no asistían a la Convención. Ya no más.

Además, no sólo las funciones de la carpeta virtual se han mejorado y expandido para brindar un mayor acceso a través de la Iglesia, el sistema ha convertido a la Iglesia Episcopal y a la Convención General en un líder innovador en el terreno de monitorear legislación. Existe también la posibilidad de compartir y facilitar la arquitectura básica del sistema a otros grupos.

La carpeta virtual es una aplicación [app] que funciona en los iPads de obispos y diputados, y a la cual se puede tener acceso vía Internet. Los que carecen de un iPad de la Convención General pueden tener acceso a la versión online aquí. Esa última versión reproduce la app que funciona en los iPads y cambia junto con ella en tiempo real.

No importa cómo se accede a ella, la edición de 2015 de la Carpeta Virtual le permite a los usuarios  rastrear el desarrollo de las resoluciones de la Convención. Incluye también las agendas diarias de cada cámara, los calendarios para cada día y los diarios (una lista de mensajes intercamerales en que informan a la otra parte de las decisiones que se toman), calendarios e informes de comités . Contiene fichas para verificar las actividades actuales y las enmiendas del pleno en cada cámara.

La carpeta virtual para la 79ª. reunión de la Convención General incluye nuevas posibilidades de indagación y medios para seguir la legislación en ambas cámaras. Para pasar de una cámara a otra, o [del inglés] al español, basta hacer clic en el icono que aparece en la parte superior derecha. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Resumiendo, “esto es exactamente lo que los obispos y diputados están viendo en sus iPads”, dijo Twila Ríos —directora de los sistemas de información digital en la oficina de la Convención— a Episcopal News Service. Se replica en tiempo real, lo cual significa que hay una diferencia de nanosegundos entre lo que sale allí y lo que entra aquí —algo que los seres humanos no pueden registrar”.

“Lo más importante es que dentro de las restricciones presupuestarias, que es con lo que todo el mundo en la Iglesia tiene que operar, los nuevos dispositivos responden absolutamente a las interrogantes y las reacciones que hemos recibido después de la última Convención General”, dijo el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General en una entrevista con ENS.

La edición de 2018 de la carpeta incluye estos importantes cambios:

  • Una función expandida de búsqueda de una resolución también le dará a los usuarios más información acerca del estatus de la resolución. Estarán disponibles informes sobres las decisiones respecto a cada resolución, así como información de cuando un comité o una cámara ha de considerar una resolución. Los textos de las resoluciones se actualizarán en la medida en que los comités o las cámaras les hagan cambios.
  • La única manera de saber lo que un comité legislativo estaba haciendo, consistía en encontrar el gran atril en un pasillo de la convención en el cual se anunciaba la agenda diaria de cada comité. Ese puesto seguirá funcionando en Austin, pero ahora esa información podrá buscarse en la carpeta virtual por comité, fecha o/y número de resolución. “Esperamos que funcionará muchísimo mejor que la última vez”, dijo Ríos. “También es dinámica”, añadió, explicando que cuando el presidente de un comité le informa a la Oficina de la Convención General acerca de una reunión que [el comité] quiere programar, uno de los muchos voluntarios ingresa la información en el sistema y la misma aparece inmediatamente en la carpeta virtual. Esos voluntarios también procesarán los cambios de las resoluciones en tiempo real.
  • Las comunicaciones de una cámara a la otra también se publicarán el la carpeta virtual. Además, los documentos basados en textos (diferentes de los PDFs) que se usen durante el debate o los anuncios en forma textual estarán disponibles en la carpeta.
  • La Constitución y los Cánones de la Iglesia también se incluirán en la carpeta. Los obispos y diputados con frecuencia necesitan hacer referencia a esas reglas y “es más fácil tenerlas allí mismo” que en un libro aparte o mediante el acceso a Internet, apuntó Ríos.

Versiones actuales de todas las resoluciones sometidas a la consideración de la Convención General se pueden consultar a través de la carpeta virtual. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

La carpeta virtual es la porción de cara al público de un sistema de múltiples faces conocido como el Sistema Online del Proceso Legislativo que la Oficina de la Convención General creó con la ayuda de E-accent , una empresa programadora, según explicó Ríos.

“No hay muchos programas legislativos. Existe una serie limitada de proveedores y un número limitado de clientes”, dijo ella, explicando que las entidades gubernamentales con los principales usuarios.

“Cuando saltamos a esto para 2015, no había mucho”.

La Oficina de la Convención General asumió “un gran riesgo que se vio recompensado” de hacer el cambio a los sistemas digitales en el período previo a la convención de 2015, dijo Barlowe. “Realmente inventamos esto. Nadie ha hecho nada semejante a esto en el mundo legislativo”.

E-accent “tomó nuestras ideas y creó esta cosa”, precisó él, llamando a su personal los arquitectos y a los que desarrollaron el programa los ingenieros.

La carpeta virtual y todos los otros sistemas que se combinan para hacer que la Convención funcione sin problemas exige muchísimo de ancho de banda y Barlowe dijo que el director de tecnología de la información de la Iglesia Episcopal, Darvin Darling, y su personal han ayudado a su oficina con algunos “medios innovadores [de manera] que podemos hacer más dentro del mismo ancho de banda”.

Tanto en Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, donde se reunió la Convención en 2015, como ahora en el Centro de Convenciones de Austin, el personal de apoyo técnico del edificio, dijo él “se fascinó también con lo que estábamos haciendo”.

“Es realmente un reconocimiento a la Iglesia Episcopal y a la Oficina de la Convención General que incluso en un lugar como Austin, el cual es tecnológicamente muy avanzado, los apasionados de la computación se han interesado en lo que hacemos”, dijo Barlowe, refiriéndose al evento anual de Austin South by Southwest .

La aplicación de la agenda virtual y sus sistemas conectados son también lo que Barlowe describió como un ejercicio en “programación ética”. Sus creadores no explotan a sus trabajadores y la Convención General cumple o incluso sobrepasa las reglas de privacidad estadounidenses y europeas.

“Es parte de nuestro trabajo pensar en estas cosas y actuar como uno esperaría que funcione una Iglesia, no sólo con las mínimas normas éticas, sino maximizando la manera en que manipulamos los datos  y la manera en que organizamos las cosas y el modo en que funcionamos digitalmente”, señaló.

“La esperanza a largo plazo” es que la Oficina de la Convención General pueda encontrar medios de compartir los sistemas con [las] diócesis y con otras denominaciones, apuntó Barlowe. Por ejemplo, ya ha habido conversaciones con la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América.

Si la Iglesia ha sido innovadora en [materia de] programas, también lleva la delantera en el tipo de equipos que la convención necesita. Cuando Ríos estaba buscando alquilar 1.200 tabletas antes de la convención de 2015 para los miembros de ambas cámaras, además del personal administrativo que las necesitaría, descubrió que era un pedido inusual. También resultó inusual  su solicitud de que los iPads tuviesen una “visualización personalizada” con las aplicaciones de la Convención General.

“Fuimos una novedad para los proveedores”, dijo ella.

En efecto, el proveedor, Meeting Tomorrow, ahora usa la idea de los iPads con “visualización personalizada” como parte de su discurso de venta. Y E-accent, que tendrá personal en la Convención General, usa su trabajo para la Iglesia Episcopal como una exhibición de su negocio.

Los sistemas, dijo Ríos, se están refinando y actualizado constantemente. “Es una labor en progreso”, afirmó.

El objetivo de esa labor es “tratar de perfeccionar los medios en que podemos proporcionar la información,  hacerla más susceptible de consultar”, explicó. “Existen limitaciones y yo siempre estoy intentando sortear las limitaciones y ayudar a hacer esto mejor, de manera que la gente pueda encontrar la información que necesita”.

La aplicación móvil de la Convención General funciona en EventMobi. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Algunas limitaciones son económicas, y algunas son tecnológicas, dijeron ella y Barlowe. Por ejemplo, algunas personas pidieron que obispos y diputados individuales pudieran intercambiarse mensajes desde sus iPads. Añadir la infraestructura para responder a esa solicitud, “estaba más allá de nuestra capacidad económica”,  dijo él.

Otra manera digital de estar al tanto de la Convención

Una aplicación [app] gratuita de la Convención General está al alcance de cualquiera que use un teléfono inteligente o una tableta que incluya Android 4,4 o IOS 8.0 o posterior. La app contiene horarios de la Convención General, mapas, información de proveedores, órdenes de servicios religiosos diarios y otros materiales útiles. (órdenes completos del oficio eucarístico diario también se incluyen en esta app. como en el iPad, eliminando así la necesidad de imprimir diariamente cientos de folletos  para el culto).

Descargue la app. aquí o de la App Store o de Google Play, y luego ingrese el código 79GC cuando se lo pidan. La app también puede usarse en una computadora. Ese enlace se encuentra aquí.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es jefa de redacción y reportera de Episcopal News Service.  Traducción de Vicente Echerri.


Church in Wales wins contract to train British military chaplains

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Chaplains serving U.K. military personnel will continue to be trained by the Church in Wales, after the Anglican province won a contract to provide training for the next five years. Britain’s Ministry of Defense awarded the contract to St. Padarn’s Institute, the Church in Wales’ new training institute. The Church in Wales has been training British military chaplains since 2001 but has to re-bid every five years.

Read the full article here.

Episcopal Church to host vigil in Washington to condemn Trump’s immigration policies separating families

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 6:54pm

Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest in front of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. District Court building in Phoenix on June 18. Child welfare agencies across America make wrenching decisions every day to separate children from their parents. But those agencies have ways of minimizing the trauma that aren’t being employed by the Trump administration at the Mexican border. Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

[Episcopal News Service] The U.S. government is holding the youngest children – babies and toddlers – separated from their families in “tender age” shelters in south Texas. In these shelters, some children are kept in chain-link cages, their screams and cries for their parents a cacophony of terror.

On June 20, under intense political pressure, President Donald J. Trump reversed his stance and signed an order ending family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the new order will keep families together in federal custody while they await prosecution for illegal border crossings. That might violate court orders baring the government from keeping children in family detention centers for more than 20 days, and saying they must be housed in the least-restrictive setting possible.

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy has separated 2,342 children from 2,206 parents at the US-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9, according to a June 19 report in the online news site Vox. That statistic follows an announcement last week by the Department of Homeland Security that that 1,995 children had been separated from their parents from April 19 to May 31. The policy was meant to deter other families – many fleeing violence in Central America – from attempting to request asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On June 21, the summer solstice, the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations will hold a 12-hour prayer vigil beginning at 9 a.m. until sunset in its chapel on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to call further attention to the Trump administration’s policy. A virtual vigil will be stream live on Facebook from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time.

“We are holding this vigil to condemn family separation and to pray for all parents and children who are currently being detained. While tomorrow we will be focused on the recent separations of families at the border, we must also remember the millions of families who have been torn apart by violence and persecution in the global refugee crisis,” said Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations. “We chose to hold this vigil on June 21 – the longest day of the year – because every day that family members are separated is too long. We will join together with interfaith partners to pray together for an end to this crisis, and to ask all governments to develop humane policies towards migrants.

“We continue to encourage Episcopalians and all people of faith to call on the U.S. Congress to end harsh and harmful immigration policies and to pass bipartisan, comprehensive reform that recognizes the dignity of every person.”

To join the Episcopal Public Policy Network, click here.

Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and his administration. Within days of taking office, Trump signed three executive orders cutting funding to so-called sanctuary cities, calling for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries.

In defense of his separation policy, in a June 19 speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, he said: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.”

In anticipation of the executive order, Bishop of New York Andrew M.L. Dietsche issued the following statement:

“I pray that by the time this letter reaches you the hundreds and hundreds of children, including small babies, who have been taken by force from their parents and are currently detained in this country will be returning to their families. People across the political spectrum and faith communities in America are joining in heartbroken and outraged opposition to what may well be the cruelest and least defensible policy decision by an American president and administration in our memory,” he said.

“The recordings and photographs of the children are almost impossible for any caring person to apprehend. I left New York late last week to baptize my youngest grandchild, and as we watched my daughter’s happy, carefree children in their safe home she turned to me and said, ‘I can’t follow this news story. I can’t even open the articles.’ Because it does violence to our eyes and ears, and assault and battery to our hearts. It strikes terror. And it is racist. And it is systematic child abuse.”

The June 21 vigil follows on the annual international observance of World Refugee Day June 20, which is intended to raise awareness to the violence and persecution of refugees worldwide.

Worldwide, an unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; 24.5 million of them are refugees, half younger than 18. For more than a century, the Episcopal Church has welcomed refugees and has advocated for immigration policies that protect families, offer a path to citizenship and respect the dignity of every human being. Some of this work happens behind the scenes, other times its done in public statements, advocacy and public witness.

On June 19, Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde joined dozens of other female faith leaders outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters to pray together and speak out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the borders.

“As women of faith, we speak on behalf of mothers and fathers, men and women. We speak on behalf of all Americans who are horrified at the way that migrant families are being forcibly separated at our borders,” she said. “These adults and children have already been traumatized by life-threatening violence in their own countries, and they have made the dangerous journey to our borders in hope of refuge. Yet then when they arrive to the United States, in our name, they are forced apart–the most devastating trauma imaginable for young children and parents.

“I speak today as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who taught us, by his example, to welcome children when they come to us, to welcome, not detain them. He taught us that however we treat the least among us–those most vulnerable and in need of care–is how we treat Christ himself,” she continued.

“Our nation’s immigration policies have been devastating for children for a very long time. The level of cruelty rises with each new policy, thus far without sufficient outrage among the American people to compel our elected officials to change course.”

Unaccompanied minors and families from Central America began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers in 2014. The numbers later dropped off, but there’s a new surge happening now at the Southwest border where Customs and Border Control agents have detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families – over the last eight months. There are some 11,000 unaccompanied minors in federal custody.

The humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border has drawn international condemnation, bipartisan criticism, outrage from American citizens and religious leaders, particularly following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and other members of the Trump administrations’ use of scripture to defend its family separation policy.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed onto an interfaith statement calling for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. And the presiding bishop has talked about immigration and Jesus’s call to welcome the stranger in mainstream media, including on MSNBC’s AM Joy and The Last Word and has been interviewed in various newspapers.

Bishops throughout the church have criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

“It’s not being political to say America shouldn’t be in the business of breaking up families, it’s Christian. It’s not being political to say America shouldn’t be putting children in kennel style cages, it’s Christian,” said Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright, in a June 19 statement.

“It’s not political to say that causing children’s tears and mothers’ fear is the best use of our nations might, it’s Christian. It’s not being political to remember that both Republican and Democratic Presidents previously chose not to separate families while enforcing immigration policy” he said.

“Not being political to remind the U.S. Attorney General that quoting the Book of Romans is fine but, ‘…as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.’ is probably a more apt guidance for this situation.”

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely issued the following statement on June 19.

“The Trump administration’s new policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents is morally wrong, not in keeping with the teachings of Christianity or other world religions, and should stop.

“Jesus, reiterating the witness of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, calls on us to treat others as we would want to be treated. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. Christians are called, with many others, to welcome the stranger in our midst. Jesus tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel (18:4-6), that whoever welcomes a child, welcomes him. And whoever causes harm to such a one is in grave moral danger.

I join my voice with other faith and community leaders around this state and this country in calling for the current family separation policy to end immediately and for children to be reunited with their parents as their lawful application for asylum proceeds.”

And from Texas.

“Families are the bedrock of American society, and our government has the discretion to ensure that young children are not separated from their mothers and fathers and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Separating babies from their mothers is not only unconscionable, it is immoral,” said Texas Bishop Andrew C. Doyle, in June 14 statement.

“Superior orders will not be an ethical defense for the legacy of pain being inflicted upon these children or the violence to families being woven into the fabric of our future. These actions do irreparable harm, are not proportional to the crime, betray our covenant with God in both the Old and New Testaments, subvert American family values, and are patently inhumane.”

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

Anglicans worldwide work to provide support, care for refugees

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:44pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] June 20 is World Refugee Day, when the world is called to remember the millions of individuals fleeing their countries as refugees and the millions more internally displaced people stranded within their country with no home to go to.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a statement calling on the church to lift up these millions of people in their prayers, and he reflected on ministry to refugees that he had seen on his travels.

“My heart continues to break for over 68 million men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and oppression,” he said. “In my prayers I also remember the extraordinary welcome and support for refugees that I have seen during visits to Sudan, Uganda, Jordan and other countries. In your prayers today, please take some time to remember what it means that God came to us in the vulnerability of a child whose life was in danger.”

Read the full article here.

Jerusalem archbishop calls for reconciliation among Anglicans

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani has stressed the need for reconciliation amongst Anglicans. Speaking to delegates at the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, being held in the city, Dawani spoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s work of reconciliation in the Holy Land and emphasized the importance of the Church being one. This message was featured in a homily delivered at an evensong in St George’s Cathedral on June 17 attended by some 200 of the GAFCON participants.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians, world religious leaders confront climate disruption

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 8:50am

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew releasing a kestrel. Photo: Robert A. Jonas

[Episcopal News Service] Earlier this month, leaders of the Eastern church and the Western church, representing billions of people worldwide, spoke with one voice about the moral urgency of confronting the climate crisis.

“A civilization is defined and judged by our respect for the dignity of humanity and the integrity of nature,” declared the head of the Orthodox Church, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in his keynote address for an international symposium held June 5-8 in Greece. “Toward a Green Attica: Preserving the Planet and Protecting Its People” was the ninth international, inter-disciplinary, and inter-religious symposium that the patriarch has convened since 1991 to highlight the spiritual basis of ecological care and to strengthen collaboration across disciplines in the quest to build a just and habitable world.

Two hundred leaders in a variety of fields – science, economics, theology, public policy, journalism, business, human rights and social justice activism – attended the symposium, which gathered initially in Athens and then moved to the islands of Spetses and Hydra.  Participants studied the latest findings of climate science, explored strategic actions toward sustainability and resilience, and renewed their commitment to push for the economic and societal changes that must take place if we are to avert social and ecological chaos and widespread suffering. (For program and participants, visit here.)

The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Holtam, bishop of Salisbury, represented the archbishop of Canterbury and affirmed the commitment of the Anglican Consultative Council to address the climate crisis (e.g. Resolution 16.08: Response to Global Climate Change).  As the Church of England states on its website,  “We believe that responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation.” From Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, Anglicans will unite with Christians around the world to care for God’s creation in a “Season of Creation.” (Excellent materials for “Creation Season” worship, study, and prayer are available from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and elsewhere here; a guide to celebrating 2018 “Season of Creation” is available here.)

Peter Cardinal Turkson, a Ghanaian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who worked closely with Pope Francis in developing the papal encyclical, Laudato Si, represented the pope at the symposium.  Turkson read a statement from Pope Francis that included these lines: “It is not just the homes of vulnerable people around the world that are crumbling, as can be seen in the world’s growing exodus of climate migrants and environmental refugees. As I sought to point out in my Encyclical Laudato Si’, we may well be condemning future generations to a common home left in ruins. Today we must honestly ask ourselves a basic question: ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’” (The entire statement can be found here.)

One of the most powerful, disturbing and illuminating lectures was given by Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Sachs gave a one-hour overview of the history of economics that included a blistering critique of corporate capitalism and its veneration of greed, by which “Nature is utterly sacrificed for profit.”  (A professional videographer recorded the speech, but until that video becomes available, you can watch a basic recording here).

Professor Hans Joachim Schellnuber, director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact, gave a hair-raising presentation on the precarious health of “the vital organs of the planet,” such as the Gulf Stream, coral reefs, alpine glaciers, the Amazon rainforest, and West Antarctic Ice Sheet (a recent study shows that Antarctica’s ice loss has tripled in a decade; if that continues, we are in serious trouble).  Citing a 2017 article in the journal Science, “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization,” Schellnuber contended that we could halve carbon emissions every decade – “but we have to want to do it.”

Other speakers likewise underscored the urgent need to galvanize our vision, will, and moral courage as we confront the climate crisis, which poses an existential threat to civilization.

Both Jeffrey Sachs and Cardinal Turkson left the symposium early to make a trip to Rome. Pope Francis had taken the unprecedented step of inviting the world’s top fossil fuel executives – including the chairman of Exxon Mobil, the chief executive of the Italian energy giant Eni, and the chief executive of BP – along with money managers of major financial institutions, to meet with him in a two-day, closed-door conference at the Vatican. Sachs and Turkson joined the meeting to add their perspectives.

“There is no time to lose,” the pope told the participants. He appealed to them “to be the core of a group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems.”

Thus, in one extraordinary week, Christian churches, both East and West, called for robust action to address climate disruption.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of California and leader of the presiding bishop’s delegation to U.N. Climate Summits, commented: “The moment is dire, and also is our (humanity’s) moment of greatest possibility. St. Irenaeus called a human fully alive the glory of God. Now, 1,300 years later we may understand that for humanity to act as one for the good of the Earth is yet a greater expression of God’s glory.”

Looking back on the symposium, Andrus was thankful for its “great spirit of respect and mutuality. Rather than lobbying to enlist people to each cause, there was a celebration of what each person is doing to heal the Earth, and a seeking to support each person on their path, to make connections. A good example of this to me was the tremendous joy we all felt as the Ecumenical Patriarch released two kestrels that had been nursed back to health by an Athenian woman whose ministry is protecting and healing endangered birds.”

Another Episcopal participant, Sheila Moore Andrus, a biologist and an active climate champion from the Diocese of California, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet new climate activists and connect with individuals she has long respected – including the Rev. Fletcher Harper, who, she said, “is currently working on a project similar to one I am working on for the Diocese of California: a web-based tool that can help people decrease their carbon footprint and aggregate those choices by church and diocesan Community.  The conference gave Fletcher, Marc and me a chance to explore ways to promote such a tool among interfaith groups, and all this in settings filled with inspiring talks and sacred indoor/outdoor spaces.”

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, concluded: “The fact that it was searingly hot during the symposium made the point about the need for action as powerfully as any of the speakers.  This September, the multi-faith service at Grace Cathedral at the start of the Global Climate Action Summit gives everyone a chance – whether in person or on the live-stream – to commit to living the change in our own diet, transportation and home energy use that’s needed for a non-scorched, sustainable future.”

– The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas serves as Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ. She maintains a Website: RevivingCreation.org.

Grant boosts effort to rebuild New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:00am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Property Trustees of the New Zealand Diocese of Christchurch have received a grant equivalent to about $4 million toward the rebuilding of Christchurch Cathedral.

The building was all but destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 2011. In September 2017, the Diocesan Synod voted instead to reinstate the cathedral as part of a funding package with local and national government. The new grant is from the Lottery Significant Project’s Fund.

Read the full article here.

Major grant awarded help more bishops attend Lambeth Conference 2020

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The organizers of the 2020 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have received a major boost with the announcement that Allchurches Trust – owners of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group – have made a £750,000 grant, worth about $1 million, to help more bishops attend the conference. Every active bishop in the Anglican Communion will be invited to the Lambeth Conference; but the costs of attending can be prohibitive for bishops from developing countries.

Read the full article here.

Third Global Anglican Future Conference underway in Jerusalem

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, has begun in Jerusalem. Organizers say 2,000 people are taking part. The ecumenical gathering attracts a large number of Anglicans.

The event includes Bible studies, group work and plenary sessions. The list of speakers includes a number of Anglican primates: Archbishop Laurent Mbanda from Rwanda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from Uganda and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria, as well as Bishop Héctor Zavala from the Anglican Church of South America’s Diocese of Chile.

Read the full article here.

Two become one in this Virginia Episcopal mission

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:14pm

St. Gabriel’s parishioner and volunteer teacher Luz Margery Quiceno-Spencer leads an Educating with Love class for children, teaching them how to read and write in Spanish, which they speak at home while learning English reading and writing at school. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] A Puerto Rican corporate entrepreneur-turned-priest wasn’t the obvious answer for a failing church with no permanent home in Leesburg, Virginia, where attendance had dwindled to 20 people.

English is the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera’s second language, and St. Gabriel’s was an Episcopal church where English was the first, and for the most part only, language spoken by its Anglo congregation.

Yet, the congregation’s unlikely choice has been a catalyst for growth and ministry expansion. An expert in start-ups as a lay person and a church-planting priest after being ordained 12 years ago, Vélez-Rivera’s efforts have drawn 98 people to Sunday services since he arrived in 2012. The church has been a flurry of activity — with challenges and rewards — bolstered by its first New Church Start grant of $100,000 awarded during the 2013-2015 budget cycle, followed by a recent $75,000 renewal grant in the current triennium, Vélez-Rivera said.

Today, the priest leads a single congregation with two Sunday services: one in English, the other in Spanish. Membership is about 50-50 of the two populations, he said.

“Serving God’s children is messy. It’s not just liturgy and services. Starting churches the way Peter and Paul did, it’s not easy; it’s not comfortable,” Vélez-Rivera told Episcopal News Service. “It might fail, it might not flourish, but you have to try — like start-ups.”

The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera leads a Eucharist at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia, a mission church with one congregation and a service in English and one in Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Leesburg is in Loudoun County, one of the wealthiest, fastest-growing counties in the United States with an annual median income of $125,672, according to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s a Washington, D.C., commuter city where the Latino population is burgeoning as a result of that growing economy — filling jobs in construction, landscaping and farming — but they can’t afford living there.

In a county where almost one-quarter of its population is foreign-born, St. Gabriel’s had to look outside of itself to minister to the new people in town. It was the key to survival.

That’s pretty much the point of these grants.

Resolution D005 and Resolution A012, approved by General Convention in July 2015, called for the new and continued funding of church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones.

Mission Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas, congregations or dioceses with a mission focused on serving under-represented groups, such as young people, poor and less-educated people, people of color, and those who never, or hardly ever, attend church.

In the children’s classes of the Educando con Amor program, part of St. Gabriel’s social justice ministry, young students learn skills to improve their bilingual abilities in speaking, reading and writing to improve their college and career prospects. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

As a single congregation in which two languages are spoken, St. Gabriel’s is a study in contrasts that complement each other: It is both the planting of a Latino congregation, and the restart of an Anglo congregation founded by the Rev. Jeunee Cunningham in 2002-2003 as a mission plant and daughter church of St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg. Membership dwindled after Cunningham left.

When Vélez-Rivera arrived to be vicar of St. Gabriel’s in 2012, it was almost like he needed to plant a whole new church with the remaining members.

The priest had some tough lessons ahead, despite his business experience in start-ups. Sunday attendance dropped from 20 to 15 people in those early days. He listened to concerns and logistical issues that people expressed and worked on growing the English-speaking congregation first. Then, Vélez-Rivera spent time getting to know the Latino community better, at grocery stores, soccer games and festivals, in order to make his face familiar and learn about people’s needs.

On his first Spanish-language Easter service, only one person showed up.

“I cried on the way home. It was so hard. They said the place was hard to find. That’s when I stopped, full-stop, to think,” Vélez-Rivera said. He turned to the parent church of St. James and was offered their space on Sunday afternoons.

On Sundays, the English service is at 10 a.m. in a middle school, and the Spanish service is at 3 p.m. at Saint James, followed by a meal and Bible study. Once a month from June to October, members from both services unite for a joint, bilingual service outdoors at Chapel in the Woods. The family of a St. James parishioner honored her will and gifted to St. Gabriel’s almost 12 acres of land, where the chapel is located. The outdoor altar and benches are made from the land’s timber, milled by the family.

Once zoning and other administrative issues are figured out, Vélez-Rivera has plans to build a permanent St. Gabriel’s structure for everyone to meet and worship. And by everyone, he means the community at large. “I’m so psyched,” he said.

It’s an example of how the old guard is welcoming and blending with the new.

“One of the primary learnings from St. Gabriel’s is that kind of work is lonely work for any leader, especially for an outspoken, Puerto Rican, prophetic leader like Daniel,” said the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s manager for church planting and mission development. “He has struggled to bring along an aging congregation and engage them in ministry with people unlike themselves, and he has done it beautifully.”

St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church members gather for the 2017 annual parish retreat at Shrine Mont, the Diocese of Virginia’s camp and conference center. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Bob and Lisa Cusack have been members of St. Gabriel’s for 14 years, watching membership dwindle and then gradually transform into something new and grow. The older, Anglo members and newer Latino members mingle at special services, such as the Easter service and Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the annual St. Gabriel’s retreat at Shrine Mont in the Shenandoah Valley, they unite at meals, bonfires and hikes.

Communication isn’t much of a problem, they say, because there’s always someone around who can help translate if necessary, especially the children. To collaborate better, they recently added two people from the 3 p.m. service to the vestry, said Bob Cusack, also the senior warden. Longtime parishioner and volunteer music director Peter Schweitzer takes a leading role in the music for the English service and participates in the music as a choir member and flautist at the Spanish service.

“When you’re a church that’s lived out of a box for 14 years, you become a very tight-knit community. Everybody contributes,” Bob Cusack told ENS. He and his wife laughed. “And there’s a lot of food, which needs no language. It’s very relaxed. Everybody’s just trying to learn from everybody else. It’s a good learning experience.”

Lisa Cusack, who teaches Sunday school, agreed: “We share our faith, and that’s the most important thing, and that brings us together.”

The goal is to be as welcoming and accessible to all people as possible, Vélez-Rivera said.

At a recent barbecue fundraiser with music and games, tickets were sold on a sliding scale depending how much the person could afford. The same goes for the children’s summer camp fees. When school has an extended break, St. Gabriel’s sends food home for schoolchildren who qualify for the free and reduced lunch programs in collaboration with Backpack Buddies and Loudoun Hunger Relief.

Children are taught to celebrate their cultural heritage, one of the ways that the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera, gathers into the church family parishioners whose first language is Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

“We are serving the people that other churches don’t serve: the marginalized, the poor, the Latinos, not the traditional Episcopalians you think of when you think of the Episcopal Church,” Vélez-Rivera said. “My goal is for more churches to be all inclusive. Many churches are more clubby, and I’m not a club person. We’re a church.”

St. Gabriel’s growth in the last few years is not just because of the ability to worship in Spanish, but because parishioners can receive pastoral care and support for issues affecting their everyday lives, said Aisha Huertas, director of mission, outreach and diversity for the Diocese of Virginia.

“More and more churches should follow the example of congregations like St. Gabriel’s by creating and nurturing congregations that do not ignore the language, cultural diversity and challenges of the communities that surround them, but rather live into God’s call to love our neighbor,” Huertas told ENS. “It is hard to show our neighbors a Jesus kind of love, if we do not meet them where they are.”

Where are they? Crowded in apartment complexes. To solve transportation issues and provide the comfort of home turf, St. Gabriel’s was granted access to one of these apartment building’s community rooms to operate Educando con Amor, or Educating with Love, part of the church’s social justice ministry.

In that program, Eva María Torres Herrera teaches the U.S.-born, English-speaking children of immigrants how to read and write in Spanish so they can become fully bilingual. That way, they’ll be able to get into better colleges and be more marketable for better jobs.

Maria Diaz, a student of St. Gabriel’s Educando con Amor adult ESL program, plays the ball toss game in which the catcher has to say something in English. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

Sarah Ali Svoboda is the director of Educando con Amor’s adult ESL (English as a Second Language) program, teaching practical life skills literacy in English. She helps each adult with his or her goals, whether it’s tailoring a resume toward management positions, helping someone shop at the grocery store, explaining what to say at a bank, or using role-play to practice sharing symptoms with a doctor and making a medical appointments by phone. One language-learning technique that reduces anxiety is a ball-toss game, in which whoever catches the ball has to say something in English.

“It’s a safe space where no one is going to ask them for papers, and they can learn English without feeling embarrassed,” Svoboda said. “There are no handouts. It’s really about giving them skills so they can help themselves, get jobs and thrive in this country.”

Huertas said she believes that these efforts of radical welcome, justice, and love will prompt growth in the Episcopal Church as a whole.

“The makeup of the United States is changing and we, as a church, must be willing to change in ways that will address the needs of people today,” Huertas said.

“Most importantly, this work is living into God’s dream for human kind, that we will all live together in harmony — even if living in harmony means dealing with the discomfort of doing things unlike ‘we’ve always done them.’”

— Amy Sowder is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She can be reached at AmySowder.com.