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Global prayer urged as tribal violence claims lives in Congo

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 2:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans around the world are being asked to pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo as tribal violence continues to claim lives in the Ituri Province in the north-eastern area of the country. The Ituri city of Bunia is home to one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in Africa as international troops seek to intercede between the warring Lendu and Hema peoples. At the weekend, 26 people were killed when a Hema village 31 miles north of Bunia was attacked by Lendu tribes people. The Rev. Bisoke Balikenga, national youth co-ordinator of the Anglican Church of Congo is urging Anglicans to pray for the country.

Read the full article here.

La Ofrenda del Beato Absalón Jones Asiste a los Institutos y Universidades Episcopales Históricamente Negros

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:53pm

En honor a la celebración del Mes de la Historia Negra durante febrero y al Beato Absalón Jones, el primer sacerdote afroamericano en la Iglesia Episcopal, el Obispo Presidente Michael Curry ha pedido mayor comprensión y compromiso con los Institutos y Universidades Históricamente Negros, conocidos como HBCUs.

El Obispo Presidente invita a los episcopales “a profundizar nuestra participación en el ministerio de reconciliación de Cristo dedicando las ofrendas en las celebraciones de las festividades de Absalón Jones para apoyar a los dos Institutos y Universidades Episcopales Históricamente Negros (HBCU) que quedan: La Universidad de San Agustín en Raleigh, Carolina del Norte, y el Instituto Voorhees en Dinamarca, S.C.”

Los dos institutos de educación superior se fundaron a finales del siglo XIX como empresa misionera de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Estas universidades brindan oportunidades educativas, económicas y sociales a comunidades de escasos recursos, y ofrecen muchas bendiciones en la vida de la Iglesia Episcopal”, dijo.

Las donaciones a HBCUs proporcionarán ayuda muy necesaria para ofrecer becas competitivas y ayuda financiera, atraer y retener a profesores excepcionales, apoyar investigación de vanguardia de la facultad, instalar nueva y mejorada tecnología en todo el campus, y proporcionar un aula de última generación y equipo atlético.

“La Iglesia Episcopal estableció e hizo un convenio de por vida con estas universidades, y son una parte esencial del tejido de nuestra vida compartida”, señaló el Obispo Presidente.

HBCUs
Si bien una vez hubo diez universidades episcopales como estas, hoy en día Voorhees y San Agustín son las únicas que quedan.

La Universidad de San Agustín (SAU, por su sigla en inglés) fue fundada en 1867 por la diócesis episcopal de Carolina del Norte. Ubicada en Raleigh, la Universidad de San Agustín cuenta con más de 1.000 estudiantes que buscan completar sus Licenciaturas en Artes o Ciencias, mientras que estudiantes adultos emprenden estudios avanzados en Justicia Penal, Gestión Organizativa y Estudios Religiosos. La misión de la universidad es respaldar una comunidad de aprendizaje en la cual los estudiantes se preparan académica, social y espiritualmente para asumir posiciones de liderazgo en un mundo complejo, diverso y en constante cambio.

El Instituto Voorhes, localizado en Denmark, Carolina del Sur, es un instituto privado históricamente negro que provee licenciaturas en el campo de las Artes Liberales. El Instituto Voorhees fue fundado en 1897 por la joven afroamericana Elizabeth Evelyn Wright como la Escuela Industrial Denmark. La Srta. Wright, que estudio bajo Booker T. Washington, soñaba con lo que parecía entonces un sueño imposible, empezar una escuela para jóvenes afroamericanos en el condado rural de Bamberg en Carolina del Sur.

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Para más información comuníquese con Tara Elgin Holley, directora de Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal a tholley@episcopalchurch.org

Absalón Jones
Absalón Jones es honrado en la Iglesia Episcopal el 13 de febrero. Jones fue un clérigo afroamericano abolicionista, y el primer afroamericano ordenado sacerdote en la Iglesia Episcopal. Absalón Jones nació esclavizado bajo Abrahán Wynkoop en 1746 en Delaware. Jones se mudó a Filadelfia después de que su amo vendió su plantación junto con la madre de Absalón y seis hermanos. Jones compró la libertad de su esposa Mary y más tarde su amo le concedió la emancipación en 1784.

En 1787, junto con su amigo Richard Allen, fundó la Sociedad Africana Libre, una organización benéfica de ayuda mutua que fue la primera de este tipo organizada por y para las personas negras. El obispo William White ordenó diácono a Jones en 1795 y sacerdote el 21 de septiembre de 1802. Jones sirvió fielmente a la gente en la Iglesia Episcopal Africana de Santo Tomás en Filadelfia, una iglesia que sigue siendo una congregación vibrante.

“A medida que nos acercamos a febrero, el recuerdo del Beato Absalón Jones, el primer sacerdote afroamericano en la Iglesia Episcopal, tenemos la oportunidad única de celebrar su memoria y honrar el testimonio de las dos universidades que continúan formando nuevos líderes”, dijo el Obispo Presidente Curry. “En honor al compromiso de Jones de promover la educación de los afroamericanos y promover el desarrollo de líderes afroamericanos en todos los ámbitos de la vida, la Iglesia Episcopal se complace en designar a la Universidad de San Agustín y al Instituto Voorhees como beneficiarios de las ofrendas de las Festividades de Absalón Jones de 2018”.

Los encartes para los boletines están disponibles aquí.

El Obispo Primado visita congregaciones de Houston y ofrece apoyo en medio de las secuelas del huracán Harvey

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:44pm

El Obispo primado Michael Curry conversa con el Rdo. Andy Parker, rector de la iglesia episcopal Emanuel en Houston occidental, una iglesia que sufrió grandes daños al paso del huracán Harvey. Foto de Carol Barnwell

[Diócesis Episcopal de Texas] Durante la visita del obispo primado Michael Curry a la Diócesis de Texas los días 30 y 31 de enero, el clero y los miembros de la Iglesia compartieron historias de la épica inundación que trajo consigo el huracán  Harvey.

En algunos lugares, Harvey dejó caer más de 127 centímetros de lluvia durante cuatro días a finales de agosto, y su impacto se dejó sentir a través de 41 condados con medio millón de viviendas afectadas y daños que se calculan en más de $190.000 millones.

La tormenta que causó esa inundación histórica parecía difícil de imaginar esta semana en Houston en que un cielo despejado y temperaturas suaves recibían al Obispo Primado y a su equipo. Curry estaba acompañado por Sharon Jones, su coordinadora ejecutiva; Abigail Nelson, vicepresidente de programas del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo y Geoffrey Smith, director de operaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Una vez que retiraron los escombros, las cosas pueden parecer bastante normales, hasta que uno entra en la nave de una iglesia, y mira a través de los travesaños, aulas, oficinas y el salón parroquial que se encuentra más allá y tiene que andar con cuidado para no tropezar con los grandes pernos que sobresalen en el desnudo piso de concreto que alguna vez sostuvieron la baranda del altar. Cinco meses después del Harvey, en muchas iglesias y en miles de casas se sigue percibiendo el hedor de las aguas pútridas que dejó la inundación y el moho sigue buscando un asidero.

La Fundación Episcopal para la Salud [Episcopal Health Foundation] tomó  la pronta decisión de destinar sus recursos a la investigación, le dijo a Curry la presidente y directora ejecutiva Elena Marks en una sesión informativa en la mañana del 30 de enero. La Fundación para la Salud se asoció con la Fundación Kaiser para supervisar la zona afectada y localizar el impacto de la tormenta a fin de mostrar dónde se concentraban los daños y quiénes eran los más afectados.

“No se trata sólo de investigación y mapas”, enfatizó Marks. “Queríamos captar a las comunidades y estamos haciéndoles presentaciones a grupos que realizan labores de socorro con la esperanza de que utilizarán los datos para establecer sus prioridades”.  Los mapas y la investigación resultantes ya han sido consultados más de 30.000 veces.

La investigación revela algunas cosas que merecen mirarse más de cerca. Shao-Chee Sim, vicepresidente de investigación aplicada en la Fundación Episcopal para la Salud, contó que de las 900.000 solicitudes de ayuda que le han presentado a la Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA por su sigla en inglés) la tasa de aprobación para los propietarios de viviendas fue de un 45 por ciento, mientras era del 36 por ciento para los inquilinos. En la lujosa zona Memorial del oeste de Houston, el 66 por ciento de las 2000 solicitudes que se presentaron habían sido aprobadas.

Andy Doyle, el obispo de la Diócesis de Texas, dijo que los datos ayudarán a los episcopales y otras personas a proporcionar un diferente tipo de respuesta al desastre. “Queremos aprovechar la investigación para ayudar a los más vulnerables, para tener un efecto a largo plazo dentro de estas comunidades”, señaló.

Al este de Houston, la zona de Beaumont, Orange y Port Arthur —conocida como el Triángulo de Oro — recibió más de 150 centímetros de lluvia durante el Harvey.

Curry escuchó el relato del Keith Giblin, juez federal y sacerdote episcopal bivocacional, que atiende a San Pablo [St. Paul`s] en Orange, donde el 86 por ciento de las casas quedaron dañadas. Aislado de su congregación durante la tormenta, Giblin navegó en su bote de aluminio por las zanjas de drenaje de Beaumont para rescatar a personas. Él fue uno de los miles de ciudadanos que estuvieron entre los primeros en acudir para dedicar días y noches a buscar a personas atrapadas en ocasiones con el agua al cuello.

“Teníamos que arrastrar los botes en algunos lugares debido a que el agua tenía apenas 33 centímetros de profundidad, y a veces más de un metro”, dijo Giblin. Los autos sumergidos, los enjambres flotantes de hormigas rojas, los cables derribados de la electricidad y las serpientes acuáticas asediaban a los que utilizábamos botes, kayaks y flotadores para rescatar víctimas.

Luego del “caos absoluto” de la inundación, siguió diciendo Giblin, San Pablo, que tenía agua en la iglesia, el salón parroquial y las oficinas, celebró oficios en el patio durante más de un mes. “El servir juntos [durante este desastre] nos acercaría más a todos”, afirmó. “Eso es lo que hacemos, ayudarnos unos a otros”.

Otras iglesias episcopales en Beaumont se convirtieron en centros de distribución de agua y útiles de limpieza. El Rdo. Tony Clark, rector de San Marcos  [St. Mark’s] dijo que después de chequear con la congregación y de ofrecer socorro inmediato a los necesitados, su junta parroquial puso el gimnasio al servicio de la comunidad. “ Éramos un almacén, un hotel y un estacionamiento”, dijo. “ La tienda de segunda mano proporcionó paquetes de socorro. Almacenábamos suministros y albergamos a 75 voluntarios de la Cruz Roja durante varias semanas para que no se fueran a un albergue público”.

El Rdo. Stephen Balke rector de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] le agradeció a Curry el vídeo que él grabó después de la tormenta para ofrecerles [a las víctimas] oraciones y apoyo. “Nos reunimos para adorar y pusimos su vídeo. No puedo decirle cuánto eso nos reanimó el espíritu”.

La congregación ayudó a más de dos docenas de feligreses cuyas casas se inundaron, y cocinaron para toda la comunidad durante semanas.

“Paramos de contar cuando llegamos a servir a 4.000 personas”, dijo Balke. “Cada vez que nuestros suministros escaseaban, se aparecía otro camión. Fue una gran bendición decir ‘sí’, cuando las personas necesitaban ayuda”.

La Rda. Lacy Largent, a cargo de los equipos de auxilios espirituales, enfatizó que el apoyo que llegó de otras partes fue decisivo. Ella puso el ejemplo de Kate Hello, maestra en Lamay, Misurí, que le envió cartas de sus alumnos.

“Le di una carta a un hombre para que la leyera y se echó a llorar”, dijo Largent. “Me excusé por haberlo perturbado, pero él me dijo. ‘No! Usted me ayudó a llorar. Voy a buscarle a mi esposa, para que usted la ayude a llorar”.

Si bien el trauma de la situación que siguió a las inundaciones puede calar hondo, para muchos se ha acentuado con el paso de los meses. “Nadie tenía seguros contra inundaciones”, dijo Giblin. “Esto nunca había sucedido antes y ahora tenemos ancianos que no pueden recuperarse económicamente. Están usando sus cheque de la Seguridad Social para compras planchas de cartón yeso”.

La Rda. Pat Richie, diácona de San Esteban, dijo que ella está viendo más traumas familiares ahora. La gente —especialmente niños— están experimentando alguna especie de choque postraumático. “Ahora cuando llueve, los niños quieren saber si Harvey va a volver. Es una herida que sigue abierta”.

El proceso de reconstrucción se compara a una maratón más bien que a una carrera corta, y Curry afirmó el apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal a largo plazo. “Somos corredores de largas distancias”, afirmó.

Durante una escala en La Trinidad [Trinity], en Baytown, el Obispo Primado escuchó testimonios del guardián mayor Robert Jordan y de una pareja que él rescató.

“Estuve durante cinco días en el agua en tareas de búsqueda y rescate”. Dio la casualidad que él estaba cerca del hogar donde habían vivido los miembros de la iglesia Duane y Lois Luallin durante 40 años, cuando se enteró de que la pareja de ancianos necesitaba ayuda.

Duane se había caído y era incapaz de levantarse, y los servicios de emergencia estaban sobrecargados. Jordan llegó en cinco minutos y transportó a los Luallin a un sitio seguro. Los llevó a su casa donde se secaron y les dio de comer y donde se quedaron durante casi un mes hasta que se mudaron a un apartamento.

“¿Cree usted que el Señor nos abandonó? No, él estaba allí con nosotros”, dijo Luallin. “La gente trajo cajas, cosas empacadas, y se llevó las nuestras para enviarlas a la lavandería y a la tintorería. No hubiéramos podido hacer todo por nuestra cuenta”.

Lois Luallin, a la izquierda, le cuenta a  Curry como ella y su marido, Duane, fueron rescatados por Robert Jordan, guardián mayor de la iglesia de La Trinidad, en Baytown, mientras las aguas del huracán Harvey inundaban su casa de 40 años. Foto de Carol Barnwell.

La iglesia de La Trinidad también le sirvió desayuno a los primeros intervinientes y le brindó alimento a toda hora a cualquiera que estuviera hambriento.

“Obispo Curry, puede sentirse alentado de que el Movimiento de Jesús está vivo en La Trinidad”, le dijo la Rda. Micki Ríos, diácona de esa iglesia.

Durante su visita a Texas, Curry y su equipo también se reunieron con clérigos hispanos de la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo en el suroeste de Houston.

El Rdo. Janssen Gutiérrez, rector de San Mateo, acababa de empezar su nuevo trabajo cuando Harvey derribó cuatro de los seis edificios del campus. La congregación de 300 a 400 feligreses estuvo congregándose en tiendas de campaña durante dos meses y actualmente ha visto acrecido su número, dijo Gutiérrez.

Andy Doyle, obispo de la  Diócesis de Texas, a la derecha, observa mientras algunas personas toman fotos con sus celulares del obispo Curry que posa con miembros de la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo. Foto de Carol Barnwell

El Rdo. Pedro López, vicario de la iglesia de San Pedro, en el sureste de Houston, contó que los vecinos ayudaban a los vecinos. “Nos convertimos en distribuidores de alimentos durante casi dos meses”, dijo.  “La iglesia fue fundamental en ayudar a las personas a encontrar lo que necesitaban. Acudieron millares de personas”.

Curry les agradeció a los miembros de la iglesia que hubieran preparado, la segunda mañana de la visita, un abundante desayuno con pupusas,  hojuelas de plátano y frijoles colorados hechos en casa.

Él les recordó que Jesús siempre alimentaba a la gente antes de enseñarles.

“Durante los momentos de prueba, cuando la Iglesia está abierta para ofrecer apoyo, esa es la alimentación de la gente”, dijo. Cuando ayudan a las personas a arreglar sus autos para que puedan ir a trabajar, eso es alimentar a la gente. Gracias por lo que han hecho. Quiero ofrecerles el amor, el afecto y las oraciones de nuestros hermanos y hermanas de la Iglesia Episcopal. Ellos están prestos a unirse a ustedes en el trabajo de la reconstrucción”.

Curry también visitó la iglesia episcopal de Santo Tomás [St. Thomas] en el suroeste de Houston donde el grupo fue amenizado brevemente por varios estudiantes que tocaban gaitas en el patio. La iglesia y la escuela de 600 estudiantes resultó seriamente afectada por las inundaciones por tercera vez en dos años. A resulta de lo cual gran parte de la escuela tiene que ser reconstruida.

El grupo concluyó su recorrido de la zonas afectadas en la iglesia Emanuel [Emmanuel Church], donde fueron recibidos por el rector, Rdo. Andy Parker. El edificio de Emanuel está desnudo luego de que el campus se inundara cuando dejaron salir el agua de los depósitos de reserva en los días siguientes al Harvey. Han removido todo hasta las bases, y también deben reemplazar el revestimiento externo.

Miembros del equipo del obispo primado Michael Curry, personal de la Diócesis de Texas y miembros de la iglesia Emanuel y del templo Sinaí se reúnen para orar al término de la visita pastoral del Obispo Primado a las áreas afectadas por el Harvey. Foto de Carol Barnwell.

La congregación de Emanuel sigue reuniéndose en el vecino templo Sinaí [una sinagoga] donde no pasa inadvertida la sacralidad de colocar el altar temporal encima de la plataforma desde donde se lee la Torá.

“Ha sido una bendición cada semana¨, dijo la rabina Annie Belford, aunque ella reconoce que algunos de los miembros de su congregación se sorprendieron de tener una cruz en su santuario. “La colaboración cariñosa es increíble. Es lo que hacemos por nuestros prójimos”.

La rabina Annie Belford del templo Sinaí, a la izquierda, y el Rdo. Andy Parker, rector de la iglesia episcopal Emanuel en Houston posan con el Obispo Primado durante una visita de Curry a Emanuel. Belford se puso en contacto con Parker inmediatamente después de que Emanuel se inundó  —luego que vaciaran los depósitos de agua de Houston en agosto pasado— para ofrecer un espacio de culto en el templo Sinaí.  Foto de Carol Barnwell.

Esa bendición fluye en ambos sentidos, explicó Belford. “En el curso de todo esto, a mi madre le diagnosticaron cáncer y las mujeres de Emanuel le hicieron una manta de retazos de manera que ella duerme todas las noches arropada por las oraciones de la iglesia Emanuel”.

El Obispo Primado le preguntó a todas las personas con quienes se reunió lo que querían decirles a sus hermanos episcopales, Para una persona, todo el mundo reconocía que recibir oraciones y apoyo de los demás les había dado impulsos para proseguir.

Lance Ferguson, recién electo guardián mayor en Emanuel, dijo, “hemos tenido ayuda de todas partes del mundo. No lo logramos solos, y eso les ha abierto los ojos a la gente aquí. Uno puede sobreponerse a cualquier cosa si sabe que cuenta con apoyo”, afirmó.

Algunas encuestas hechas por el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo después de Harvey mostraban que en sólo unos pocos meses, y con el apoyo económico y los suministros enviados por episcopales de todo el país y del mundo, la Iglesia Episcopal en la Diócesis de Texas ha prestado servicios a más de 90.000 personas afectadas por la tormenta.

“Nos alzamos sobres vuestros hombros”, dijo Richie, el diácono de San Esteban. “Es el vigor de toda la Iglesia el que ha hecho posible la labor que se ha realizado aquí”.

Curry alentó al grupo que se reunió para adorar en Emanuel. “Ustedes, nosotros, no estamos solos, aunque a veces lo sintamos así”, dijo Curry. “Somos hechos para Dios y los unos para los otros, e incluso en medio del infierno puede haber atisbos de cielo cuando no estamos solos”, expresó. resaltando las muchas veces que los vecinos han acudido en ayuda de sus  vecinos durante las inundaciones del Harvey y después.

Yendo más lejos, la misión de la Iglesia se orientará hacia la restauración y la reconstrucción, y eso exigirá mucho apoyo, de las iglesias episcopales de la Diócesis de Texas y de más allá. Al Rdo. Stacy Stringer lo han nombrado director de recuperación del huracán para supervisar los centros regionales en las zonas afectadas que ayudarán a coordinar los empeños de reconstrucción que se calcula que tomen de dos a tres años.

“Estamos muy agradecidos de la visita pastoral del obispo Curry y de sus garantías de oraciones y apoyo continuos de la Iglesia de que él fue portador”, dijo Doyle. “Nosotros también seguimos orando por nuestros hermanos y hermanas que se han visto afectados por huracanes, incendios y deslaves. Es en momentos como estos que nuestra comunidad de creyentes resplandece”.

– Carol Barnwell es directora de comunicaciones de la Diócesis Episcopal de Texas. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

This flu season, congregations urged to take common sense health precautions

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] Has the sound of coughing and the sight of runny noses got you questioning whether to shake hands during the peace or sip from the common cup on Sunday?

With this flu season said to be the worst since 2009, you have reason to be concerned for your health, but Episcopal leaders are advising parishioners to use common sense during worship without letting their precautions get in the way of participating fully in the life of the church.

“There are, I suppose, a million ways to get the flu, and it troubles me that we bring so much of our attention to the common cup as a particular danger,” Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche said in a Jan. 19 letter to the diocese, adding there is little evidence that sharing wine during the Eucharist poses a great risk of spreading illness.

“I am concerned that extraordinary practices adopted during the flu season may send the message to our worshippers that the cup is a threat to us – that communion with one another is itself a threat to us – and that those perceptions may be hard to overcome later when the flu danger passes,” Dietsche writes.

The Rev. Thomas Mousin, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, summed up his advice to the congregation with the phrase, “be a good neighbor.”

“If you are sick, or feeling sick, stay home if you can,” Mousin said Jan. 25 in his weekly email message to parishioners. “It is OK to miss a Sunday at church if you have any reason to believe that you might be catching the flu or are capable of spreading it.”

For those who are well enough to attend services, it also is fine if they choose a friendly wave instead of a handshake as a sign of peace, Mousin said, and “since we understand that Christ is fully present in both the bread and wine, you may choose to refrain from receiving the wine until the flu season has passed.”

Mousin told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview that he agreed with Dietsche that fear of infection need not prevent Episcopalians from remaining active in their congregations, especially when celebrating the Eucharist.

“We don’t want to discourage people from seeing this as a communal activity that’s meant to be part of our regular life,” Mousin said. His intent was to provide liturgical guidance to parishioners so they could decide for themselves whether to alter their routine during the flu season.

Peak flu season typically occurs sometime from November through March, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that flu activity now is widespread across the country.

The influenza virus can cause mild to severe respiratory illness that in some cases can lead to hospitalization or death, especially among high-risk populations, such as young children, older patients and people with certain health conditions. Symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The CDC’s top recommendation for preventing the flu is to receive the vaccine, even in years when the particular flu strain may seem more resistant to vaccination. Some Episcopal churches have done their part by hosting vaccination clinics, like the one in October at Grace Episcopal Church in Fairfield, California. Grace Episcopal wanted the community to see the church as a “health and wellness resource,” outreach coordinator Ron Cupid told the Daily Republic.

The CDC’s other recommendations for preventing the flu’s spread include avoiding close contact with sick people, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Episcopal Relief & Development’s website also offers faith-based guidelines for how to respond to large-scale outbreaks of diseases like influenza. For example, clergy members should wash their hands before services. Other guidelines mirror the advice Mousin and others have given their parishioners: Stay home if you’re sick. Share the peace with a wave if you don’t want to shake hands.

“Those who are concerned may abstain from communion or receive ‘in one kind’ (host only),” Episcopal Relief & Development advises, though it also says there is little need for concern. “Use of the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents relatively low risk; intinction should be avoided.”

Cases of flu and hospitalizations are on the rise across the country, and the CDC said last week people are seeing their health care providers for flu-like illnesses at the highest rate since the 2009 pandemic, when the flu season also was dominated by fears of a strain called “swine flu.” Congregations took special precautions during that flu outbreak, too, with some going as far as to replace the handshake with a bow and doing away with the communal cup altogether.

The precautions being considered this year aren’t limited to Episcopal congregations.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, announced in January it was asking parishes to suspend certain rituals of Mass: sharing wine, shaking hands at the peace and holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. In Buffalo, New York, the Roman Catholic diocese issued a similar list of directives, including a command to parishes to drain their holy water fonts and clean them regularly.

Mousin emphasized that the precautions at St. John’s are voluntary, and he hasn’t noticed a decrease in the 75 to 80 people who typically attend the church’s two services on Sunday.

“Our parish has not, knock on wood, been significantly affected by the flu this season,” he said.

Dietsche, in his letter to the Diocese of New York, shared his personal list of precautions, which he followed during the 2009 flu outbreak and is following this year, starting with getting the flu shot and washing his hands often.

“I never failed to drink from the common cup. I never failed to shake the hands of my brothers and sisters as I greeted them at the door. I used a little Purel after those greetings. I washed my hands before I ate food.

“I didn’t worry about getting the flu at church.”

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

Anglican school in Sri Lanka welcomes British royal visitors

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Sri Lankan Anglican school founded in 1872 by a priest working for the Church Missionary Society was this week visited by the Earl and Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. Trinity College in Kandy was founded as the Kandy Collegiate School by the Rev. Richard Collins in what was then British Ceylon. Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, is visiting Sri Lanka with his wife on behalf of the queen as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Read the full article here.

Martyred Ugandan archbishop honored in church’s new finance building

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new 16-story commercial office suite in the heart of Uganda’s financial district will carry the name of martyred Archbishop Janani Luwum.

The building, to be known as Janani Luwum Church House, was first envisioned by Archbishop Luwum before he was murdered on the orders of Idi Amin in February 1977. The building, which is being constructed by the Church of Uganda with the support of the Kenyan-based Equity Bank, will provide an income stream to support the ministry of the province.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop tours Houston-area congregations, offers support in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 5:45pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks with the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in west Houston, a church that sustained major damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] During Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Texas on Jan. 30 and 31, clergy and church members shared stories of Hurricane Harvey’s epic flooding and aftermath.

In some places, Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain in four days last August, and its impact was felt across 41 counties and a half million homes, with damages estimated at more than $190 billion.

The storm that caused such historic flooding seemed hard to imagine this week in Houston as clear skies and mild temperatures greeted the presiding bishop and his team. Curry was joined by Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator; Episcopal Relief & Development Senior Vice President for Programs Abigail Nelson, and Geoffrey Smith, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church.

Once the debris is hauled away, things can seem pretty normal, until one walks into the nave of a church, looks through the studs to classrooms, offices and the parish hall beyond and has to be careful to avoid tripping over large bolts in the bare concrete floor that once secured the altar railing. Five months after Harvey, in many churches and thousands of homes there remains the odor of floodwaters, and mold still seeks a foothold.

Episcopal Health Foundation made an early decision to deploy its resources into research, President and CEO Elena Marks told Curry at an early morning briefing on Jan. 30. The Health Foundation partnered with the Kaiser Foundation to survey the area affected by Harvey and mapped the storm’s impact to show where damage was concentrated and who was most affected.

“It’s not just research and maps,’’ Marks emphasized. “We wanted to engage communities and are making presentations to groups doing relief work with the hope that they will use data to set their priorities.” The resulting maps and research already have been accessed more than 30,000 times.

The research reveals some things that deserve a closer look. Shao-Chee Sim, vice president of applied research at the Episcopal Health Foundation, said of the 900,000 relief applications filed with Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, the approval rate for homeowners was 45 percent, while it was 36 percent for renters.  In the upscale Memorial area of west Houston, 66 percent of the 2000 applications filed had been approved.

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle said the data will help Episcopalians and others provide a different kind of disaster response. “We want to leverage the research to help the most vulnerable, to have a long-term effect within these communities,” he said.

East of Houston, the area of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur—known as the Golden Triangle—received more than 60 inches of rain during Harvey.

Curry heard from the Rev. Keith Giblin, a federal judge and bi-vocational Episcopal priest, who serves St. Paul’s in Orange, where 86 percent of the homes were affected. Cut off from his congregation during the storm, Giblin navigated drainage ditches in Beaumont to rescue people in his aluminum fishing boat. He was among thousands of citizens who joined first responders to spend days and nights searching for people trapped in sometimes neck-deep water.

“We had to drag the boats in places because the water could be 13 inches deep, sometimes four feet deep,” Giblin said. Submerged cars, floating clumps of fire ants, downed power lines and water moccasins plagued those who used boats, kayaks and pool floats to rescue victims.

After the “utter chaos” of the flooding, Giblin said, St. Paul’s, which had water in the church, parish hall and offices, held services out in the yard for more than a month. “Serving together [through this disaster] has brought us all closer,” he said. “That’s what we do, we help each other.”

Other Episcopal churches in Beaumont became distribution centers for water and cleaning supplies. The Rev. Tony Clark, rector of St. Mark’s, said after checking on the congregation and providing immediate relief to those in need, his vestry put the church gymnasium to good use for the community. “We were a warehouse, a hotel and a parking lot,” he said. “The thrift shop provided care packages. We warehoused supplies and hosted 75 Red Cross volunteers for several weeks in lieu of being a public shelter.”

St. Stephen’s rector, the Rev. Stephen Balke, thanked Curry for the video he recorded after the storm to offer prayers and support. “We gathered to worship and put your video up. I can’t tell you how much that rallied our spirits,” he said.

The congregation helped the more than two dozen parishioners whose homes were flooded and cooked for the entire community for weeks.

“We stopped counting at 4,000 people served,” Balke said. “Every time our supplies ran low, another truck would pull up. It was a great blessing to say, ‘Yes,’ when people needed help.”

The Rev. Lacy Largent, in charge of spiritual care teams, emphasized that support from elsewhere was critical. She gave the example of Kate Hello, a teacher in Lamay, Missouri, who sent letters from her students.

“I gave a letter to a man to read and he broke down in tears,” Largent said. “I apologized for upsetting him, but he said, ‘No! You helped me cry. I’m going to get my wife so you can help her cry.’”

While trauma in the immediate aftermath of the flood ran deep, for many it has become more profound months later. “No one had flood insurance,” Giblin said. “This has never happened before and now we have senior citizens who can’t come back financially. They are using their Social Security checks to buy drywall.”

The Rev. Pat Richie, deacon at St. Stephens, said she is seeing more family trauma today. People—children especially—are experiencing some post-traumatic shock. “When it rains now, kids want to know if Harvey is coming back. It’s a wound that is still there.”

The process of rebuilding was compared to a marathon rather than a sprint, and Curry affirmed Episcopal Church’s long-term support. “We are long distance runners,” he said.

During a stop at Trinity, Baytown, the presiding bishop heard from Senior Warden Robert Jordan and one couple he rescued.

“I was in the water for five days doing search and rescue,” Jordan told Curry. He happened to be near church members Duane and Lois Luallin’s home of 40 years, when he learned the elderly couple needed help.

Duane had fallen and was unable to get up, and 911 responders were overwhelmed. Jordan arrived in five minutes and ferried the Luallins to safety. He had them dry out and eat at his home, where they stayed for nearly a month before moving to an apartment.

“You think the Lord left us? No, he was right there with us,” Lois Luallin said. “People brought boxes, packed things, took our wash and dry cleaning. We could not have done all that by ourselves.”

Lois Luallin, left, tells Curry how she and her husband, Duane, were rescued by Trinity Episcopal Church’s senior warden, Robert Jordan, in Baytown as flood waters from Harvey rose in their home of 40 years. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Trinity also fed first responders breakfast and provided food at all hours for anyone who was hungry.

“Bishop Curry, you can be encouraged that the Jesus Movement is alive at Trinity,” said the Rev. Micki Rios, Trinity’s deacon.

During his visit to Texas, Curry and his team also met with Hispanic clergy from the Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in southwest Houston.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez, rector of San Mateo, had just begun his new job when Harvey took out four of the campus’ six buildings. The congregation of 300 to 400 worshipped in tents for two months and actually saw an increase in their numbers, Gutierrez said.

The Rev. Pedro Lopez, vicar of Iglesia San Pedro, in southeast Houston, described neighbors helping neighbors. “We became a food distributor for almost two months,” he said. “The church was central to helping people find what they needed. Thousands of people came.”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, right, looks on cellphones are used to snap photos of Bishop Curry posing with members of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Curry thanked church members who had prepared a large breakfast of papusas, plantains and homemade red beans on the second morning of his visit.

He reminded them that Jesus always fed people before he would teach them.

“During trying times, when the church is open to offer support, that’s feeding folks,” he said. “When you are helping people get their cars fixed so they can get to work, that’s feeding folks. Thank you for what you have done. I want to offer the love, affection and prayers of your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. They stand ready to join you in the work of rebuilding.”

Curry also toured St. Thomas Episcopal Church in southwest Houston where the group was entertained briefly by several bagpipe students’ practice in the courtyard. The church and school of 600 students was hit hard by flood waters for the third time in two years. Much of the school will be rebuilt as a result.

The group concluded their tour of affected areas at Emmanuel Church, hosted by the rector, the Rev. Andy Parker. Emmanuel’s buildings are bare after the campus flooded when water from the reservoirs was released in the days after Harvey. Everything has been taken down to the studs, and the exterior will also be replaced.

Members of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s team, Diocese of Texas staff and members of Emmanuel and Temple Sinai gather to offer prayers at the conclusion of the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to areas affected by Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Emmanuel’s congregation continues to worship at nearby Temple Sinai where the sacredness of placing a temporary altar over the bema, from where to Torah is read, is not lost on anyone.

“It’s been a blessing every week,” Rabbi Annie Belford said, although she admits some of her congregation wondered at having a cross in their sanctuary. “The partnership of the heart is incredible. It’s what we do for our neighbors.’”

Rabbi Annie Belford of Temple Sinai, left, and the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Houston pose with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Curry’s visit to Emmanuel. Belford contacted Parker immediately after Emmanuel flooded during the release of water from Houston’s reservoirs last August to offer worship space at Temple Sinai. Photo: Carol Barnwell

That blessing goes both ways, Belford found. “In the course of all this, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and the women of Emmanuel handmade her a quilt so she is sleeping every night wrapped in the prayers of Emmanuel Church.”

The presiding bishop asked all of the people with whom he met what they wanted to tell fellow Episcopalians. To a person, everyone acknowledged that receiving prayers and support from others had kept them going.

Lance Ferguson, newly elected senior warden at Emmanuel, said, “We’ve had help from around the world. We didn’t do it alone, and that’s been an eye-opener for people here. You can get through anything if you know you have support,” he said.

Surveys done by Episcopal Relief & Development after Harvey showed that in just a few months, and with the financial support and supplies from Episcopalians throughout the country and the world, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas had served more than 90,000 people affected by the storm.

“We stand on your shoulders,” said Richie, the St. Stephen’s deacon. “It’s the strength of the wider church that allows work to be done here.”

Curry encouraged the group gathered to worship at Emmanuel. “You, we, are not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes,” Curry said. “We were made for God and each other, and even in midst of hell there can be glimpses of heaven when we are not alone,” he said, noting the many times neighbors have come to the aid of neighbors during and after the waters of Harvey.

Going forward, the church’s mission will pivot to restoration and rebuilding, and that will take much support, from Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Texas and beyond. The Rev. Stacy Stringer has been named director of hurricane recovery to oversee regional centers in the affected areas that will help coordinate rebuilding efforts that are estimated to take two to three years.

“We are so grateful for Bishop Curry’s pastoral visit and for the assurances of continued prayers and support from across the church that he brought,” Doyle said. “We, too, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have been affected by hurricanes, fires and mud slides. It is in times such as these, that our community of believers shines the brightest.”

– Carol Barnwell is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Vermont: Burlington’s urban cathedral meets massive change with bold imaginings

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 3:03pm

Members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group are pictured from left to right: John Rouleau, Jenny Sisk, Lisa Schnell, Jeanne Finan, Lee Williams, Paul Van de Graaf, and Josh Brown.

[The Episcopal Church in Vermont] Amid the bustle of construction in the heart of downtown Burlington, VT, there is no denying that the city is changing. To some, the latest architectural developments are outward expressions of cultural shifts that have been remaking the local landscape for some time. With this in mind, members of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul have been exploring the best ways to serve the community as it navigates these shifting internal and external dynamics.

The crux of their efforts has been the Urban Cathedral Study, a research project that has for the past 12 months challenged cathedral members to reimagine the meaning of church and its viability for people who may or may not have any religious leanings. The next phase of the Urban Cathedral project, which begins in February, will empower the congregation to move from imagining to planning.

As published in the January 2018 Urban Cathedral Report, when the members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group began their work a year ago, they decided that planning the future of the cathedral would, in fact, be excluded from their scope. Instead, their aim was “to spend an entire year learning what it means to be an urban cathedral in Burlington by reading, listening and asking questions.” They wanted “to avoid any tendencies toward the prescriptive by remaining open and interrogative” in their approach.

The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan, cathedral dean, explained, “With the Urban Cathedral Study, we wanted to look at what it means to be an urban cathedral in the 21st century, particularly in Burlington. We needed to know more about who we are, not only from our own inside view, but also by asking people in the community, everyone from the mayor to other religious leaders to city council members and so forth.”

In a recent communication to the cathedral, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote, “I appreciate participating in St. Paul’s examination about its future as an urban cathedral. I look forward to seeing how St. Paul’s will become part of the new Cherry Street.”

This positive sentiment has been echoed by Rabbi Amy Small of Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, as well as urbanites outside Burlington who have faced similar challenges and have recognized the wider implications of the Urban Cathedral Study as a best practice, including the Rev. Anne B. Bonnyman, rector of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Rev. Scott Gunn, director of Forward Movement based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Several members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group presented a creative summary of their progress during the cathedral’s Jan. 21 Annual Meeting. In a series of stories titled Bold Imaginings, the presenters described future possibilities inspired by their year-long practice of reading, listening and questioning.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, said, “We are so fortunate that the Urban Cathedral Study Group has worked so faithfully to bring this report and their Bold Imaginings to us.”

“The Urban Cathedral project is a powerful example of what it means to be a missional church in Vermont, where being missional is about changing, adapting, innovating and improvising to move more deeply into the neighborhoods and communities where we live and move and have our being.”

“The next step,” explains Finan, “will be a presentation to the congregation on February 11 where church members can reflect on the Bold Imaginings and the Urban Cathedral Study, ask additional questions of the Urban Cathedral Study Group, and — under the vestry’s guidance — begin planning for the future.”

The Episcopal Church in Vermont comprises 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State that share in the mission to pray the prayer of Christ, to learn the mind of Christ, and to do the deeds of Christ. The congregations live into this mission through ministries of Formation, Liberation, Communication, Connection, and Celebration. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is a member of the worldwide Anglican communion. Learn more at http://diovermont.org.

— Maurice L. Harris is communications minister for The Episcopal Church in Vermont.

Anglican Alliance launches global focus on anti-slavery initiatives in Freedom Year

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance, which helps to coordinates Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and justice, has launched a yearlong focus on anti-slavery initiatives across the Communion. Through its Freedom Year initiative, the Alliance is inviting people to learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, pray for change, and take action to end it.

Read the full article here.

NYC Episcopal churches call for increased mental health crisis training after parishioner’s shooting death by police

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] Deborah Danner didn’t have to die.

In October 2016, the Episcopalian had a psychotic episode at her Bronx, New York, apartment. It wasn’t the first time that police responded to a disturbance complaint about Danner, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago. In the past, 911 calls resulted in Danner taking a trip to the hospital, returning home stabilized.

This time, however, gunshots rang out. And Danner, 66, was gone.

New York Police Department Sgt. Hugh Barry was charged with murder and manslaughter because prosecutors say he didn’t have a reasonable threat to his life and wasn’t following police protocol. His trial began Jan. 30, more than a year later. After a one-day break, the trial is expected to resume Feb. 1.

Deborah Danner

Episcopal church members plan to be in the courtroom every day in a show of support, said the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. He knew Danner for the last 10 years.

On that first day in the courtroom, about 35 parishioners from Manhattan churches, including Church of the Heavenly Rest, Trinity Church Wall Street, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, marched to the Bronx courthouse. She attended all those churches at one time or another.

“It’s hard because the trial is about tragedy, both the tragedy of her killing and the tragedy of mental illness being unaddressed,” Heyd told Episcopal News Service. “And it’s hopeful, because the church is organizing, both to recognize the dignity of her life and to respond and give meaning to her struggle and to support others who are struggling with mental illness also.”

Parishioners and clergy were also there to bring home the point that law enforcement officers, in New York and nationwide, need much more training in handling mental health crises. New York officers can take Crisis Intervention Team training, but fewer than a quarter of the force has. It’s not required.

In 2016, NYPD received approximately 157,000 calls involving people in mental crisis, according to the city inspector general’s January report reviewing how the NYPD handles interactions with people in mental crisis.

That’s about 430 mental crisis calls a day.

“How many times a day is an officer at a door and doesn’t know what’s going on inside and how to handle it?” Heyd asked. “However the trial turns out, the need for more skill and support in this is abundantly clear.”

Nationwide, police officers in 2015 shot and killed 251 people who had exhibited signs of mental illness — a quarter of all the people shot and killed by police that year, the report stated. Alternatively, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that 1,710 law enforcement officers nationwide were assaulted while handling people with mental illness, and two officers were killed while doing so.

“We share your conviction that Deborah’s death was a tragedy that should have been prevented,” the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of the Diocese of New York, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio. “And we believe that Crisis Intervention [Team] training for this officer and for his fellow officers could have saved Deborah’s life.”

Diocesan representatives are calling to meet with the mayor, as well as police, to discuss this mental health crisis issue.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest and director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, also attended Barry’s criminal trial Jan. 30. Churches across the United States regularly minister to people who have mental illness, and often come upon people in a state of crisis who need professionals to help de-escalate the situation, she said.

“Until we have a better health system in New York, our police are our front line for mental health emergencies; if people are trained correctly, we can solve this,” Varghese told ENS. “These folks aren’t committing a crime; they’re sick. It puts police officers in a horrible position, and it puts people who are ill in a horrible position. It makes everyone vulnerable.”

“This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about how do we change this situation,” she said.

Varghese and Heyd said the church can’t handle the problem alone. Increased police training makes the most sense. It’s a cause they’re fighting for so that they don’t lose more parishioners this way.

Heyd knew Danner pretty well while she attended both Heavenly Rest and Trinity.

“She knit baby blankets for both my children,” Heyd said. “She was really smart and kind, and she struggled. All of that was evident to people who knew her.”

 

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

‘We want a local bishop’ say Ethiopian Anglicans

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:39am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in the Gambella district of Ethiopia have expressed a desire that their next bishop be local. Within the Anglican Communion, Ethiopia is part of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop launches TV commercial in support of exiled South Sudanese school students

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:34am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The assistant bishop of Melbourne has produced a TV commercial urging people to give South Sudanese exiles a “safe start” to the school year.

Read the entire article here.

State of the Union invitation highlights Florida Episcopalians’ work with displaced Puerto Ricans

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 3:46pm

Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario and Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez pose with their son and daughter in front of the National Museum of Natural History during their visit to Washington, D.C., so Ortiz-Nazario can attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Photo: Jose Rodríguez

[Episcopal News Service] When President Donald Trump addresses Congress at 9 p.m. ET Jan. 30 in the U.S. Capitol, Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario will be in the chamber listening.

The State of the Union is a president’s chance to frame the political narrative for the coming year, but if the president were to pause and listen to Ortiz-Nazario, he would find that this 30-year-old from Puerto Rico has a compelling story to share.

It began Sept. 20, when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, laying waste to the island and upending life for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million residents. Ortiz-Nazario’s story continues in Florida, where he and his family relocated in November, joining the many Puerto Ricans who have fled the devastation at home to seek new opportunities on the mainland.

In Orlando, Ortiz-Nazario’s story intersects with the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, which has helped welcome him and other Puerto Ricans by providing them with food, clothes, housing assistance and the spiritual support of an active faith community. It was through the diocese that Ortiz-Nazario was offered this opportunity to visit the nation’s capital and represent fellow Puerto Ricans at the president’s speech.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ortiz-Nazario told Episcopal News Service by cellphone from a car. He and his family were on their way to the Capitol to meet Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Florida Democrat who invited Ortiz-Nazario to be her guest at the State of the Union speech.

His wife, Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez, 29, and their 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter will watch the speech on a TV in Murphy’s office. The family arrived Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C., accompanied by the Rev. José Rodríguez of Jesus of Nazareth Episcopal Church in Orlando, and they have spent the past few days sightseeing, including stops at the National Air and Space Museum and outside the White House.

“It’s been amazing being here with my family,” Ortiz-Nazario said.

Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario takes a selfie with his family during a visit to Univision studios in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jose Rodríguez

Murphy reached out to the Diocese of Central Florida earlier this month seeking help in selecting as her guest one of the Puerto Ricans who have migrated to the Orlando area. Rodríguez suggested Ortiz-Nazario.

“They’ve become part of the community,” Rodríguez said. Ortiz-Nazario and Torres-Rodríguez not only benefited from the diocese’s ministry to relocated Puerto Ricans, he said. They have become active volunteers in that effort. “They came to the church for assistance, and then became part of our offering assistance.”

Their story isn’t the only example from Hurricane Maria’s aftermath to be showcased in the lineup of congressional guests for Trump’s speech. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was invited by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York. Rep. Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, will bring a Puerto Rican college student who is now studying in Orlando. And Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, also a Democrat, chose a woman who has helped lead a task force providing relief supplies to Puerto Rico.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s office released this family portrait of Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario and Cristalimar Torres-Rodríguez and their children.

Murphy, in announcing Ortiz-Nazario would be her guest, said she wanted to bring attention to the challenges facing citizens in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as those who left the islands for central Florida.

“Displaced Americans like Emmanuel and his family have confronted adversity with tremendous courage, and it’s important to listen to their stories and understand their struggles,” Murphy said in a written statement. “In tough times, Americans are there for each other, which is why Congress and the president must act with the urgency this situation demands.”

Hurricane Maria’s profound impact on Puerto Rico is still being felt long after the storm. It initially knocked out power and telephone service across the island, caused mudslides, destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and was responsible for the death of dozens of people, possibly hundreds. But by the time Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry made a pastoral visit to Puerto Rico on Jan. 2, power had been restored for barely half of the residents, and shortages of food and drinking water persisted.

The Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico has been active in relief efforts, partnering with other denominations and with local organizations to address needs not being met by the federal or territorial government. Episcopal Relief & Development has provided logistical support for those efforts, as well as money for supplies there.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, based in Washington, D.C., also has been engaged on the issues of disaster relief and serving populations displaced by disasters.

“The scale of need is simply far too large for churches and nonprofits to address alone,” according to an Office of Government Relations statement released in advance of the State of the Union address.

The statement noted that a bill awaiting Senate approval would provide $81 billion for areas affected by the several 2017 hurricanes to strike the United States, including almost $3 billion aimed at providing education for children of the displaced. The office also issued a policy alert on the issue hours before Trump was scheduled to speak.

“Federal grants, state budgets, and school districts did not plan for hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, including an estimated 10,000 children, to be displaced into Florida schools,” the Office of Government Relations statement said. “The Episcopal Church has a strong commitment to equity in education opportunity and the Office of Government Relations is privileged to evangelize and advocate for our Church’s values to be represented in federal policy.”

Concern for their children was a driving factor in the decision by Ortiz-Nazario and Torres-Rodríguez to leave Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and move to Florida. Schools in Puerto Rico were closed after Hurricane Maria, and crime was on the rise, Ortiz-Nazario said. Their home wasn’t badly damaged, he said, but there was no longer any demand for his airbrush painting services, forcing him to close the business.

“We need to have a better place for my kids,” he said. “Things are going bad back there.”

Estimates vary when tallying how many Puerto Ricans have relocated to the mainland. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office has released a series of updates on relief efforts that cite a figure based on the number of people traveling from Puerto Rico to Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale since the hurricane. On Jan. 25, that count stood at 344,000, which would represent 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane population.

The state’s calculations, however, have been criticized for including all categories of travelers, not just Puerto Ricans displaced by disaster.

University of Florida economists estimate about 50,000 people have moved to Florida from Puerto Rico and, to a lesser extent, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, which also was hit hard by the hurricane. Those numbers are based on requests for state aid and the more than 11,000 school enrollments for displaced children.

Puerto Ricans have been moving to the mainland U.S. in waves for generations, a diaspora that often coincides with the territory’s economic struggles. Census figures show that the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans is found in New York, followed by Florida. Significant but smaller numbers of Puerto Ricans live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Rodríguez, the Orlando priest, was part of an earlier wave of Puerto Rican migration. His family moved to Connecticut in the 1980s when he was 2 years old. He still remembers the red doors of the Episcopal Church in Hartford that helped his family adjust to their new community, and he and his family brought their newfound faith with them when they later moved to Orlando.

Rodríguez said he feels called to minister to Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.

“I lived this experience,” he said, and his experiences are informing his work in launching the diocese’s Episcopal Office of Latino Assistance to coordinate assistance to Puerto Ricans who have moved to central Florida.

A primary focus of the ministry at Rodríguez’s church is its food pantry, which has served dozens of new Orlando residents from Puerto Rico. The diocese also has received crisis grants and donations to provide these families with new clothes and shoes and to cover application fees for apartments.

“As soon as the money comes in, it’s effectively spent. The need is so great,” Rodríguez said.

Central Florida Bishop Gregory Brewer has been a prominent supporter of these efforts, even helping to unload a truck filled with relief supplies just after Christmas.

Brewer also met with and blessed Ortiz-Nazario and his family before they left on their trip to Washington, D.C.

“They haven’t called this attention on themselves,” Rodríguez said. “They’ve come here trying to do what’s best for their family.” In the process, they have been welcomed into the family of Episcopalians in Orlando.

Ortiz-Nazario called it an honor to be able to attend the president’s speech. He knows it’s unlikely he will get to tell his story directly to Trump, but if he could, he would emphasize the need for unity over partisanship when addressing the needs of Americans affected by disasters like the one his family lived through.

“When people work together, people do better,” he said.

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

Compass Rose Society opens new chapter in Hong Kong

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 1:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Compass Rose Society, the charitable foundation that provides substantial support for the work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the international ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has opened a new chapter in Hong Kong. The chapter was formally installed by the primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – Archbishop Paul Kwong, during a service of Evensong at St. John’s Cathedral on Hong Kong Island.

The vice president of the Compass Rose Society, the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, a former secretary general of the Anglican Communion, preached during the service and spoke about the work and development of the society at the celebratory dinner held immediately after the chapter’s installation.

Read the entire article here.

Hymnathons: Episcopal choirs perform marathon-style training events to raise funds

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 5:27pm

Children, as well as adults, participated in a hymnathon fundraiser at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. The singers covered all 720 hymns in the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982. They stayed seated, had water by their sides and took two snack breaks to help them get through it. Photo: Liz Bartenstein

[Episcopal News Service] Fiona Campbell prepared for last weekend’s test of endurance by eating a good breakfast, hydrating and keeping a big water bottle by her side.

The Jan. 27 event wasn’t a 26.2-mile race, a running marathon. It was a hymnathon — a test of singing stamina like no other.

“It’s going to be a looooooong time,” said Campbell, 20, the week before the fundraising event. Campbell’s been a chorister at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, since she was 10. To raise money for the Evensong Choir to sing at historical cathedrals in England this summer, choir members sang the first verses of 720 hymns for almost nine hours straight. They had a 15-minute morning break, a one-hour lunch break and a 15-minute afternoon break.

Working through the Hymnal 1982, they started with hymn No. 1 at 8 a.m. They also devoted two hours to singing all the verses of the special dedication hymns chosen by donors who gave an extra amount for the honor. To fit it all in, they had two timekeepers to help singers average about 30 seconds a hymn, with the goal to cross the finish line by 6 p.m.

Michael Kleinschmidt, the cathedral’s canon musician, was shocked they finished ahead of schedule, by 5:20 p.m.

“It was all rather breathless,” Kleinschmidt told Episcopal News Service after the event. “At one point, we all discovered we were breathing rather shallowly. We just weren’t taking deep clean breaths. After an hour or two, we stopped, stood up and took a deep, clean breath, and some of us said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m dizzy.’”

Michael Kleinschmidt, canon musician at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, was one of the participants who played the music accompanying the 720 hymns during the Jan. 27 hymnathon. Photo: Kevin Johnson

Kleinschmidt’s hymnathon idea stemmed from his experience more than a decade ago, when he worked with music director and organist Richard Webster at Trinity Church in Boston. Webster organized hymnathons in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, before carrying the idea to Boston in 2005.

“Richard is a marathon runner, so he has a special kind of enthusiasm for this kind of thing. He’s done the Boston Marathon a few times. Oh, yeah, he’s hard core,” Kleinschmidt said.

In the same way that hardly anyone, even experienced singers, tries to sing for nine hours straight, few people, even runners, go the full marathon distance.

The marathon was inspired by the legend of a Greek messenger who raced 40 kilometers, or about 25 miles, from the site of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. with the news of an important victory over an invading army of Persians. The exhausted messenger collapsed and died after making his announcement, according to The History Channel. By the 1921 Olympics, the standard marathon distance was 26.2 miles.

While running a marathon typically takes three to six hours to complete, this hymnathon far outlasted the time that even the slowest marathoner spends on the race course. And no one died completing this endurance feat.

“I was amazed how well everyone’s energy held up through the thing,” Kleinschmidt said.

They looked at it as practice run for the hectic singing schedule they’ll have during the British trip.

Choir pilgrimages to England are a tradition during the summer, when U.S. choirs can fill in for British cathedral choirs, which typically take breaks during the busy tourist months of July and August, Kleinschmidt said. At St. Mark’s, choral director Rebekah Gilmore’s Evensong Choir is comprised of about 35 selected singers, from 12-year-old children to adults up to their 60s, Kleinschmidt said. They’re required to sight-read and sing advanced music.

“Being able to dip our feet into this ancient river of sung prayer is a transformative experience for these young children. It’s really life changing,” Kleinschmidt said.

Hymnathons are fundraising endurance test of the vocal cords that Episcopal choirs are taking from coast to coast.

St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, conducted a hymnathon to raise money for the Evensong Choir to sing in England this summer. Participants sang all 720 hymns in the hymnal during the nine-hour event. Photo: Liz Bartenstein

Kleinschmidt organized his first hymnathon in Portland, Oregon, which raised more than $22,000. His goal for the St. Mark’s choir is $35,000. Fundraising isn’t over.

In September, a hymnathon at Christ’s Church in Rye, New York, raised $7,798 for the choir’s pilgrimage to sing in England in August.

Fundraising can take all sorts of creative forms, but a hymnathon is quite a lofty goal in itself, money aside, said Deanne Falzone, mother of Josette, 12, a member of the senior choristers at St. Mark’s and one of the youngest members of the Evensong Choir. The Evensong Choir is a hand-picked, professional-grade choir of older children and adults.

“It seems like a pretty big feat to do,” Josette’s mother said. “There’s been just so much energy from so many people in the choirs.”

Most recently revised in 1982, the Hymnal of the Episcopal Church offers 720 service hymns plus liturgical music. Some hymns harken to centuries-old monastic chants. Others hail from more modern times.

The Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries is also in the final stages of compiling a cancionero, or songbook, as an affordable, accessible Spanish-language songbook for use throughout the Episcopal Church.

The Hymnal 1982 is the latest version of hymnals for the Episcopal Church and has 720 songs to be used for services. Photo: Kevin Johnson

A seventh-grade homeschool student, Josette soaks in the social aspects of choir activities, as well as the music, and last week she said she was looking forward to the hymnathon.

“I think it’s probably going to be the most awesome singing experience I’ve ever had,” she told ENS by phone.

Throughout this daylong choral challenge, Kleinschmidt and the choir members uncovered some hymn gems and others that were, shall we say, less appealing.

“I think everyone found some new favorite hymns, and some new ones that we hope never to sing again,” Campbell said with a laugh. “Some of the worst culprits were ‘adapted’ gospel songs, as we had suspected.”

While some of them would look at each other and laugh during the hymns that they’d have preferred stayed buried, several singers jotted down some of their favorites to remember for later, Kleinschmidt said.

“I’ve used this hymnal since 1990, and I’m still finding new treasures in it,” he said, recalling hymns 383 and 384, the first a well-known version of “Fairest Lord Jesus,” the other, a lesser-known rendition with a beautiful melody. “The melody climbs higher and higher and is a beautiful pairing with the words. That’s a little gem I discovered.”

A dog was one of the supportive elements that helped singers get through the nine hours of singing during the hymnathon fundraiser on Jan. 27. Photo: Kevin Johnson

So, how did the singers feel about crossing their “race” finish line?

“We had compared this to running,” Campbell said. “And there was a similar sort of effect where you expect it to be grueling and difficult, but in reality, the adrenaline gets you through and honestly feels great.

“Overall, I frankly could not be more pleased.”

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

Bishop begins bid to change law on marriage registration in England and Wales

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A change in the law to allow the names of couples’ mothers to be included in the official registers of marriages in England and Wales is a step closer after a Church of England bishop successfully steered a bill through its second reading in the House of Lords – the upper house of the British Parliament. At present, marriage registers include only the name of the couple’s fathers. The bishop of St. Albans, Alan Smith, described this as “a clear and historic injustice” and “an archaic practice and unchanged since Victorian times, when children were seen as a father’s property and little consideration was given to a mother’s role in raising them.”

Read the entire article here.

Former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Canon Colin Craston, has died

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Canon Colin Craston, a World War II naval hero who went on to become one of England’s leading evangelical priests and a past-chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, has died. Craston died peacefully as his home Thursday, Saint Paul’s Day. He was 94. He had served his entire ordained ministry, after his curacy, at St Paul’s Church in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Read the entire article here.

Four catalysts for spiritual growth identified in detailed study released by Forward Movement

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 12:03pm

[Episcopal News Service] How can the Episcopal Church feed Episcopalians’ hunger for spiritual growth in the 21st century? Forward Movement surveyed 12,000 people from more than 200 Episcopal congregations for answers, producing a report released this week that provides a snapshot of the spiritual life of the church.

The extensive research was conducted through Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks ministry, and the report’s findings include analysis of the varying degrees of spiritual vitality and cultures of discipleship found in Episcopal congregations.

“We have learned that there is great spiritual hunger among Episcopalians,” the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, director of RenewalWorks, said in a press release. “And we are discovering catalysts that can address that hunger. Basic spiritual practices such as daily prayer, scripture study, worship attendance, and serving the poor will lead to transformation.”

The research found that 55 percent of Episcopalians can be considered in the “growing” stage of their faith, on a spectrum from “exploring” to “Christ-centered.” Those in the “growing” stage have committed to their faith but may not yet feel that their life bears significant marks of their faith.

The report also emphasizes what churches can do to support Episcopalians’ spiritual journey from one stage to the next. Four key catalysts are

  • engagement with scripture,
  • the transforming power of the eucharist,
  • a deeper prayer life
  • and the heart of the congregation’s leader.

“If we want our congregations to be places where spiritual growth is happening, we need to teach and to nurture spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, study, and service,” the Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, said in the press release.

You can read the full press release here.

An infographic showing some of the key findings can be found here, and the full 17-page report can be accessed here.

Forward Movement is a publications and media ministry of the Episcopal Church known for its flagship devotional “Forward Day by Day.”

Disasters can teach the church lessons about how to respond in the future

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:14am

Rob Radtke, Episcopal Relief & Development president, listens to Diocese Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales, left, and Jesus Cruz Correa, Episcopal Hospital San Lucas medical director, explain their approach to helping islanders after Hurricane Maria. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] How can Episcopalians help their communities respond to natural and even human-caused disasters?

“Preparedness, preparedness, preparedness, preparedness; it actually matters,” said Rob Radtke, Episcopal Relief & Development’s president. “I think we all know in the abstract that it matters, and it naturally falls to the bottom of everybody’s priorities because the urgent always trumps the important” but, preparedness makes a huge difference in the ability of any church organization to respond to human need around them.

What counts as preparedness can take many forms but it begins in discernment.

Radtke, in an interview with Episcopal News Service about what his organization has learned over the years, pointed out that the Episcopal Church is not the Red Cross; it has a different mission. The specifics of the mission need to be locally discerned long before a disaster makes headlines. “What is our ministry going to be when the tornado strikes, when the earthquake comes, when the fires come?” he asked. “What are our assets? That’s a very local question.”

Those questions might include: Does your church have a kitchen? Does it have experience feeding people? Can people shelter in the building? Are you known for your parish nursing program? Does your church have a relationship with vulnerable members of the community such as immigrant populations, homebound elderly or people in recovery?

“I used to think that what is traditionally thought of as ‘disaster preparedness’ was most important – things like formal written plans – and now I realize that the focus should be on building resilient systems, which includes some of those preparedness activities and so much more,” Katie Mears, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, told ENS.

Some traditional disaster planning needs to happen but, Mears said, Episcopal Relief & Development is also encouraging dioceses and congregations to think more broadly before disaster strikes. For instance: What is their posture in their communities? How well connected they are to the vulnerable – and to each other?

Katie Mears, left, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, speaks with Episcopalians during a post-Hurricane Maria visit to the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Diocesan Bishop Peter Eaton stands behind her. Photo: Episcopal Relief & Development

It involves clergy and lay leaders having about “what-if” conversations on a regular basis to start thinking about how they would respond. Often during those conversations, obvious gaps pop up, such the need to set up a text thread that includes all the vestry members, rather than having to do it in a midst of a crisis.

‘Communicate, communicate, communicate’
The other lesson, Radtke said, that Episcopal Relief & Development has learned over the years is “communicate, communicate, communicate,” especially with church leaders. When disasters cause power outages and disrupt telecommunications, often the ability to text returns before more widespread communications does, he says. The organization offered AlertMedia, a cloud-based disaster communications tool that sends and receives messages to large groups of people via SMS, email and voice calls to congregational leaders relaying information and asking for a status report, to dioceses in 2016 as a pilot project. Its roots in Episcopal Relief & Development’s use of it date to conversations between the U.S. Disaster Program team members its diocesan disaster coordinators in California about post-disaster assessments when voice calls might not work. After these conversations, a disaster coordinator in the Diocese of El Camino Real found and tested the platform in his diocese in 2015.

In early 2016, Episcopal Relief & Development started a pilot project for its staff and diocesan partners in San Diego and Louisiana. The system was particularly effective after major flooding in Louisiana that year. As a result, others dioceses became interested so the pilot has scaled up to nine dioceses.

The dioceses of Louisiana and Texas both used the system during Hurricane Harvey. Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Central Gulf Coast, Georgia and South Carolina deployed it during Hurricane Irma.

One particularly important piece of information that AlertMedia has conveyed over and over is details about when diocesan clergy and lay leaders are having conference calls with their bishop to discuss disaster needs and responses. AlertMedia’s success has taught Mears a lesson about how a mix of high tech and low tech “is more realistic to our church culture.” The automated polling-type texts that AlertMedia sends are great but it also “really matters to have that phone call with your bishop; it’s really great to know that at a particular time every day [after a disaster] you’ll be able to meet up with your clergy colleagues and your bishop,” she said.

Mears cautioned that not all dioceses need the bells and whistles of AlertMedia, but it can be helpful after large-scale or major events or when emergencies impact a significant number of churches in a diocese. There are also other communications platforms to accomplish the main goals of checking in with leaders, having regular conversations pre- and post-disaster and making sure that updated information is shared with everyone. “Our team is eager to speak with diocesan leaders around the U.S. church about their emergency communications needs,” continued Mears.

Episcopal Relief & Development has done its part in sharing information. As Hurricane Harvey was barreling towards Texas last September, church leaders were sheltering in place but most still had had internet access. Mears said she and her colleagues realized that they could do some rapid web-based training.

More than 70 leaders from the Dioceses of Texas and West Texas participated in the webinar sessions that Episcopal Relief & Development offered in the first few days of the storm. The sessions covered what she called “disaster basics,” such as things to do immediately. The webinars were also a source of connection among the clergy and between them and Episcopal Relief & Development

In the past, the organization focused on equipping diocesan-appointed disaster leadership but “the beauty of online platforms is it makes it easier to expand people’s ability to connect directly with some of those training opportunities,” Mears said.

A historic change in approach
The work that Episcopal Relief & Development staff members did before, during and after the multiple disasters of 2017 has its roots in a catastrophe more than a decade ago. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and a swath of the Gulf Coast in August 2005, was a high-water mark in the organization’s approach to disaster relief. Radtke, who began as the organization’s president just six weeks before Katrina struck, said the pre-Katrina response was to send grants to disaster-hit dioceses and other Episcopal institutions after the fact.

“It was well-meant but it was not strategic,” he said.

Radtke said that his experience of Katrina and its aftermath taught him that the Episcopal Church was not clear about how to respond to the storm. Baptists had mobile kitchens; the Mennonites are known for their willingness to rebuild homes. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was the Episcopal Church’s response going to be,” he said, rather than doing that same sort of work before the storm hit.

Even being behind the eight-ball in terms of ministry discernment and dealing with diocese that suffered big infrastructure losses, the church “did very well” serving its New Orleans and Gulf Coast neighbors, Radtke said.

“The lesson I learned after Katrina is that we had huge potential as a church in the lives of people,” he said. “And, we’re seeing that play out across all of the impacted regions.” For example, Episcopal Relief & Development helped the Diocese of Puerto Rico get organized after Hurricane Irma’s glancing blow to get ready for the predicted direct hit from Hurricane Maria.

The help that Puerto Rico needed was both typical and unique. Episcopal Relief & Development worked with the diocese in what is now a typical discernment process “to identify the key strengths and assets of the diocese, and we (tried) to leverage those to develop ministries that will support, in this instance, hurricane response,” Radtke said during a recent visit to the island. The Diocese of Puerto Rico has very strong health-care ministries, so he said it seemed natural that diocese would make that work a major part of its long-term recovery effort.

Disaster relief in Puerto Rico was different than helping a mainland U.S. diocese, Radtke pointed out. As an island, it was logistically more complicated to get aid there. “The hurricane hits on mainland United States, you put things on trucks and you drive it. That obviously wasn’t going to be an option in this case,” he said. “So that created particular challenges at the front end.”

That was also true in the Virgin Islands. “The logistics here are a challenge, because you’re dealing with five islands and two countries,” Radtke said during the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to the islands.

Episcopal Relief & Development partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands and Convoy of Hope, a faith-based humanitarian organization based in Missouri, to provide emergency supplies to the British Virgin Islands following the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The supplies included food, two portable kitchens, two refrigeration containers, 350,000 gallons of drinking water, 9,900 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, tarps, plywood and nails as well as hygiene and infant care kits. Photo: Convoy of Hope

The status of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as territories and not states “created bureaucratic complexity, particularly in terms of coordinating with federal agencies” that is rarely the case in U.S. states, he said.

Discernment of assets and gifts in on-going
Radtke and Mears insist that each person or community can be a channel for God’s work in the world. How that work manifest itself will be different in different places and among different people. “Every congregation has different resources and assets, and disasters happen locally,” Radtke said.

Mears has visited Episcopalians in many of the impacted dioceses, and in many places she saw a change in approach to the church’s posture in their communities. “There is so much outreach and impressive ministry happening around the church beyond the church’s usual suspects,” she said. “We’ve heard of really impressive disaster–related ministry from all these impacted dioceses. There are so much more amazing ministries with incredibly vulnerable communities than you would think.”

Congregations all over the church are “making an amazing amount of difference for a relatively small footprint,” she added.

“There are churches in all these places where these disasters have happened where the church very much understands it is not just an organ-playing club,” she said. “They understand that their ministry and role in the community does not only happen between 10 and noon on Sunday mornings.”

“In some places that is a very intentional, strategic objective of the diocese,” Mears said, and in other places “it’s just the way that the church is moving.”

And yet, if there is what Radtke would call a “unifying charism” across the church, it is Episcopalians’ desire to provide pastoral support for disaster survivors and care for the caregivers.

“I think the Episcopal Church cares deeply about people in all of their dimensions. We want to clothe them, we want to feed them, we want to take care of their immediate medical needs,” he said. “But, we’re also interested in their human spiritual life.”

That care happens regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof, and is “a huge need that isn’t being met that we have some unique capacities to meet,” he added.

For example, after Harvey, the Diocese of Texas was looking for more trained pastoral care volunteers. Leaders used Episcopal Relief & Development’s Asset Map to find congregations that listed pastoral care as one of their assets.

“If we’re able to have this living, grassroots-populated map with the information about the kinds of community ministries that all of our churches and other institutions are up to, that becomes enormously helpful in terms of both leveraging those gifts and telling the story of how those gifts are being leveraged.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. ENS Reporter/Editor David Paulsen and ENS Special Correspondent Amy Sowder contributed to this story.

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