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What is the Anglican Consultative Council?

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 12:33pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Consultative Council is one of three of the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion, the others being the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and the Primates Meeting.

The archbishop of Canterbury (who is president of the ACC) is seen as is the “Focus for Unity” for the three instruments.

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

The ACC’s objective, according to its constitution, is to “advance the Christian religion and in particular to promote the unity and purposes of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, in mission, evangelism, ecumenical relations, communication, administration and finance.” And, among the ACC’s powers listed in the constitution, is its ability to “develop as far as possible agreed Anglican policies in the world mission of the church” and encourage the communion’s autonomous churches, or provinces, to share their resources to accomplish those policies.

The ACC is responsible for charting the work of the communion’s committees and networks, as well as that of the Anglican Communion staff and the communion’s Standing Committee. There are currently 10 thematic networks that address and profile various issues and areas of interest in the Anglican Communion.

Formed in 1969, the ACC includes clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, among its delegates. Members are chosen by various means in each of the Anglican Communion’s 40 provinces and six extra-provincial bodies to serve for three meetings of the ACC. The largest provinces are entitled to three members: a bishop, priest and lay person. Other provinces are entitled to two members: one ordained person (deacon, priest or bishop) and one lay person.

In addition, the primates, or episcopal leaders, of the Anglican Communion provinces elect five members to the ACC and the Standing Committee can appoint “up to six additional members in order to achieve balanced representation and to assist the work of the council in achieving its object,” according to the ACC constitution. The latter are known as “co-opted members.” This year, the ACC will also be joined by eight youth members from five regions across the Anglican Communion.

Representatives from the communion’s ecumenical partners also attend and, for the first time, this 17th meeting of the ACC includes eight youth members from five geographic regions of the communion.

The Episcopal Church’s ACC members in Hong Kong are Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, the Rev. Michael Barlowe (who is the executive officer of General Convention and is serving as an alternate to the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings who could not attend the meeting) and Rosalie Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands. This is the first meeting for Barlowe and Konieczny, and Ballentine’s second. Terms run for three meetings.

The roster for ACC17 is here.

The council meets every three or four years and the Hong Kong meeting is the council’s 17th session. The ACC last met in April 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia. It is returning to Hong Kong where it met in 2002 for its 12th meeting. The first meeting was held in Limuru, Kenya, in 1971.

Some parts of the meeting in Hong Kong are being livestreamed here where they will also be available for later playback. The schedule for livestreaming is:

April 27, 5 p.m. Hong Kong Time
Press conference with Archbishop of Canterbury and ACC President Justin Welby, Archbishop of Hong Kong and ACC Chair Paul Kwong, Canon Margaret Swinson, ACC vice chair and member from the Church of England, and Anglican Communion Secretary General Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon

April 28, 11:45 a.m. HKT
Presidential address by Welby

April 28, 5 p.m. HKT
Official opening of ACC-17 with Eucharist at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Hong Kong
Presiding: Kwong; Preaching: Welby

April 29, 11a.m. HKT
Report by Anglican Communion Secretary General Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon

May 4, 5:30 p.m. HKT
Press conference with Welby, Kwong and others

May 5, 4 p.m. HKT
Official close of ACC-17 with Eucharist at St John’s Cathedral
Presiding: Welby; Preaching: Kwong

Note: Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Daylight Time; 13 hours ahead of Central time; 14 hours ahead of Mountain time; and 15 hours ahead of Pacific time

The Twitter hashtag is  #ACC17HK.

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Parts of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong to be livestreamed

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 11:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Some parts of the the week-long 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council,  which begins April 28 in Hong Kong, will be livestreamed here (where they will also be available for later playback).

The schedule for livestreaming is:

April 27, 5 p.m. Hong Kong Time
Press conference with Archbishop of Canterbury and ACC President Justin Welby, Archbishop of Hong Kong and ACC Chair Paul Kwong, Canon Margaret Swinson, ACC vice chair and member from the Church of England, and Anglican Communion Secretary General Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon

April 28, 11:45 a.m. HKT
Presidential address by Welby

April 28, 5 p.m. HKT
Official opening of ACC-17 with Eucharist at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Hong Kong
Presiding: Kwong; Preaching: Welby

April 29, 11a.m. HKT
Report by Anglican Communion Secretary General Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon

May 4, 5:30 p.m. HKT
Press conference with Welby, Kwong and others

May 5, 4 p.m. HKT
Official close of ACC-17 with Eucharist at St John’s Cathedral
Presiding: Welby; Preaching: Kwong

Note: Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Daylight Time, 13 hours ahead of Central  time, 14 hours ahead of Mountain time and 15 hours ahead of Pacific time

The Twitter hashtag is  #ACC17HK.

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Archbishop of Canterbury invites ecumenical observers to the Lambeth Conference 2020

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 3:21pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is inviting leaders of other Christian churches to send observers to next year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. For next year’s event, invitations are being extended to a greater number of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches and bodies than at previous Lambeth Conferences. A Lambeth Conference spokesperson said that this was to “recognize their importance in the changing face of world Christianity.”

Read the full article here.

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Anglican bishops in Sri Lanka advise clergy to ‘prayerfully discern’ whether to hold services

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 3:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishops of the Anglican Church of Ceylon have written to clergy, wardens and lay leadership urging them to “prayerfully discern whether it is prudent to hold the worship” on Sunday, April 28. Their advice comes following the terror attacks a week ago in which around 235 people were killed when bombs detonated at churches and hotels as Christians in the country celebrated Easter.

Read the full article here.

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EJE19 to bring young Episcopalians from Spanish-speaking dioceses together in Panama

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 2:32pm

Members of team planning the Evento de Jovenes Episcopales, or EJE, pose for a photo in March during meetings in Panama, where the event will be held in July. Photo: Anthony Guillen, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is gearing up for a two-day event in Latin America for teenagers and young adults who are leaders in their Episcopal faith communities, with a deliberate focus on young people from the church’s Province IX.

Evento de Jovenes Episcopales, or EJE, will be held in July in Panama City, Panama, and is styled after the popular Episcopal Youth Event  gatherings that are held in different locations every three years. While the church’s triennial youth events typically draw more than 1,000 participants, the inaugural EJE is preparing to welcome about 250 people, including organizers, volunteers and delegations from each of the seven Province IX dioceses, as well as Anglican youth leaders from several additional Latin American countries.

“This has been a dream for many years,” Glenda McQueen, The Episcopal Church’s global partnerships officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, told Episcopal News Service. Young people from Province IX often find it difficult to travel to the mainland United States for the church’s EYE, where English is the primary language spoken, said McQueen, who is based in Panama.

EJE “will give an opportunity for youth and young adults from this area to be present and to be able to speak in Spanish and communicate and sing in Spanish, praise God in Spanish, their own language,” she said.

Several departments of The Episcopal Church are collaborating on the project, including Faith Formation, Ethnic Ministries and Global Partnerships, and they are working closely with the EJE19 Planning Team from Province IX.

“We’re training folks to do this so that in the future – and we hope soon – the next event will be led by Province IX,” the Rev. Anthony Guillen told ENS in an interview. Guillen is The Episcopal Church’s director of Ethnic Ministries and missioner for Latino and Hispanic Ministries.

The Episcopal Church’s Province IX encompasses dioceses in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, and the Central and South American countries of Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela and Ecuador, which is split into the dioceses of Central Ecuador and Litoral Ecuador. The Diocese of Cuba, after being welcomed back into The Episcopal Church at General Convention in 2018, also has been invited to send a delegation to EJE19, though Cuba is joining Province II, not Province IX.

Most Episcopalians in these dioceses and their congregations speak Spanish as their primarily language, which Guillen said is one reason that Province IX has historically been overlooked by the primarily English-speaking Episcopal Church.

“It never really thought about how to be responsive to Province IX,” Guillen said, but in recent years Episcopal leaders have rekindled hope for bridging that geographic, cultural and linguistic divide through events like EJE19. The Executive Council, too, has pledged to hold a meeting in each of the church’s nine provinces during this triennium, including in one of the Province IX dioceses. “There’s attempt to go and do things in Province IX,” Guillen said.

Planning for EJE19 has been underway for several years, and in 2018, General Convention approved $350,000 for the event. It will be held at Ciudad de Saber, a former U.S. military base in Panama City that has been converted to an entrepreneurial hub and conference facility, with theaters, auditoriums, classrooms and dormitory-style lodging for EJE19 participants. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is scheduled to attend.

“EJE19 will be an incredible gathering of young people to learn about and claim their place as members of the Jesus Movement,” Curry said in a press release about the event

Although Panama is part of the Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America, commonly known as IARCA, not part of The Episcopal Church, the Province IX planning team for EJE19 chose this Central American country as the ideal location because of its close proximity to the region’s Episcopal dioceses and the low travel costs.

A detailed schedule hasn’t yet been finalized, but Wendy Karr Johnson, The Episcopal Church’s officer for Faith Formation, said the two-day event will feature a full lineup of worship, workshops and outings, similar to what is offered at EYE.

Panama Bishop Julio Murray has been generous in supporting the planning of EJE in his diocese, Johnson said. He is expected to speak to participants about the historical and spiritual context of the host city: “Why is this location speaking to us, and what does it have to teach us?” Johnson said.

EJE19 is intended for young people ages 16 to 26. The participating Episcopal dioceses were invited to send delegates of up to 15 people, with up to 13 youths paired with two adult chaperones.

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

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Anglican Communion members head to Hong Kong for consultative council meeting

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 9:34am

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] The members of the Anglican Consultative Council are arriving here for the start of an eight-day meeting that will examine the communion’s mission and ministry, and during which some of its internal differences might surface.

The three Episcopal Church members of the ACC say they hope the April 28-May 5 meeting will bind the communion closer together in its mission across the world.

Rosalie Ballentine from the Diocese of the Virgin Islands told Episcopal News Service that she hopes the meeting will focus on the “continuing effort to build relationships, to build the communion, and to deal with those things that are important to the people of the world.”

Those issues include relief and development work, women, families, domestic violence, human trafficking, poverty and hunger, climate change, and indigenous people, according to the draft agenda. Members will also consider more church-related topics such as faith and order work, liturgical consultations, ecumenical and interreligious relationships, theological education and prayer initiatives.

Most of the Anglican Consultative Council’s sessions will take place at the Gold Coast Hotel, about 45 minutes from central Hong Kong. The venue is said to be more economical than a hotel in the main part of the city. Photo: Gold Coast Hotel

The council meets every three or four years, and the Hong Kong meeting is the council’s 17th session. The ACC last met in April 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia. It is returning to Hong Kong where it met in 2002 for its 12th meeting. The first meeting was held in Limuru, Kenya, in 1971.

The theme for ACC-17 is “Equipping God’s People: Going Deeper in Intentional Discipleship.” It follows a call from ACC-16 three years ago (via Resolution 16.01) for a focus on intentional discipleship throughout the Anglican Communion. “Intentional discipleship” is defined as the deliberate prioritizing of individual and organizational actions to live as Christ’s disciples and to bring others into that life.

Blog: The Director for Theological Education at the Anglican Communion Office, the Revd Canon Dr Stephen Spencer, unpacks Intentional Discipleship.
#Anglican #Anglicans #AnglicanCommunion #IntentionalDiscipleshiphttps://t.co/t2nAcfQ0R9

— Anglican Communion News Service (@AnglicanNews) April 8, 2019

The ACC’s objective, according to its constitution, is to “advance the Christian religion and in particular to promote the unity and purposes of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, in mission, evangelism, ecumenical relations, communication, administration and finance.” Among the ACC’s powers listed in the constitution is one that says it should “develop as far as possible agreed Anglican policies in the world mission of the church” and encourage the provinces to share their resources to work toward accomplishing those policies.

Spreading the Gospel and “continuing to further the mission of the church” needs to be at the heart of the meeting, said Ballentine, who will be attending her second ACC meeting.

Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny said he hopes “to see us continue to create opportunities to be in dialogue throughout our communion and find ways for us to not so much focus on all of the tensions and disagreements, but to focus more on the mission which we’re called to do: the building up the body of Christ and responding to the real needs in the world around us.”

St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong is celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2019. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong from 1941 to 1945, the cathedral was converted into a club for the Japanese and stripped of many of its original fittings. Photo: St. John’s Cathedral

The communion’s reach around the world means “we have an incredible opportunity to work together and to find ways to respond to those real, true life-and-death situations,” said Konieczny, who is heading to his first ACC meeting. He wants to explore how to “create more opportunities for those of us in places with some privilege and resources to be the conduit and partners for helping in other places where there’s a need.”

Konieczny added that he wants to understand what work is being done across the communion. “Are we just talking about it, or do we actually have feet on the ground and people actually engaging in doing the work together?”

The Rev. Michael Barlowe told ENS that he is looking forward to sharing with “my siblings in the Anglican Communion” what he said is “is a compelling story of a church doing ministry well and in new ways.”

For instance, Barlowe said he thinks the meeting’s theme “is consonant with what we’re doing with the Way of Love,” although what The Episcopal Church is doing is “more detailed and more geared towards something that both can be used by individuals and collectively as a community.”

Barlowe, who is the executive officer of General Convention, is serving as an alternate to House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, which would have been the last of her three-meeting term. Rebecca Wilson, her spokesperson, said that in order to fulfill other commitments and use the church’s travel budget wisely, Jennings asked Executive Council to name Barlowe as the church’s alternate clergy member for this ACC meeting. Barlowe, who represents The Episcopal Church at gatherings of the communion’s provincial secretaries, was already scheduled to travel to Hong Kong for such a meeting on May 6-9.

All three Episcopal Church members noted that because the ACC is made up of bishops, clergy and laypeople, it is the communion’s most representative body. That diversity, Ballentine said, creates opportunities to model reaching across the theological differences among the communion. ACC members “may come from provinces that have different views about many things, but that person gets to know Rosalie and Rosalie gets to know that person and know at the end the day, it’s all a matter of our common humanity, our common faith, that’s the important thing for us to deal with,” she said.

Of the communion’s 40 autonomous churches, or provinces, and six other national or local churches known as “extra provincials,” only Nigeria and Uganda are not sending members to the Hong Kong meeting. The ACC17 roster is here.

“I think the ACC is the conscience of the Anglican Communion,” Barlowe said, in part because it does include all three orders. “As I’ve discovered, joyfully, in my life in The Episcopal Church, having all orders at the table always is a way of keeping the conscience of the church alive because it’s easy for many of us in a particular order not to see the full picture.”

St. John’s Cathedral in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district will host the opening and closing Eucharists for the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The church is the oldest surviving Western ecclesiastical building in Hong Kong, and the oldest Anglican church in the Far East. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Raising the Lambeth question

Konieczny said the representative nature of the ACC makes it the “appropriate place” to raise the issue of the conflict that emerged after it was learned that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby decided to exclude the same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

Discussion of the Lambeth Conference is now scheduled for the late morning of May 4 as one of three items in the 19th of the meeting’s 21 business sessions. Also on that session’s aggenda are a discussion of ACC finance and organizational matters (carried over from the previous session) and the first of two times when the members will consider resolutions. The session is scheduled to last 75 minutes. The last meeting of the ACC saw passage of 45 resolutions, all of them on one up-or-down consent calendar vote.

“I don’t expect that there’s going to be any resolutions at the ACC asking the archbishop to change his mind,” Konieczny said. “The agenda is pretty tight and in my opinion it’s being monitored” so that tensions are minimized and that effort “may negate the ability to have some conversations.

“Personally, I don’t see how we can go to the ACC, at least given where we are in the church today and with the Lambeth Conference coming up next year, and not at least address, in my opinion, the repeated resolutions from Lambeth, from the ACC and from other parts of the communion that state that we are to listen to all the voices of diversity in our church, and then yet we do things that block those voices from coming to the table.”

Ballentine agreed. “It all comes down to wanting to continue that relationship-building work, and you can’t do that if some people are not at the table.”

Barlowe said that, as a someone who “has been through the debates about full inclusion and has felt the consequences” of those debates, it saddens him that people and individual provinces are “still objectified” because of their discernment about inclusion.

“The story that I know all of us are eager to share with our friends from around the Anglican Communion,” he said, is the story of how The Episcopal Church’s discernment about inclusion has been done “for the mission and ministry of the church.” The result of that discernment is the experience of “how God frees us to be who we need to be to minister in our time and in our place,” he said.

Anglican Consultative Council members who attended the council’s 16th meeting April 8-19, 2016, pose on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

What is the Anglican Consultative Council?

The Anglican Consultative Council is one of three Instruments of Communion, the others being the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and the Primates Meeting. The archbishop of Canterbury (who is president of the ACC) is seen as the “Focus for Unity” for the three instruments.

The ACC is responsible for charting the work of the communion’s committees and networks, as well as that of the Anglican Communion staff and the communion’s Standing Committee. There are currently 10 thematic networks that address and profile various issues and areas of interest in the Anglican Communion.

Formed in 1969, the ACC includes clergy and laypeople, as well as bishops, among its delegates. The membership includes from one to three members from each of the provinces or extra-provincial churches. Where there are three members, there is a bishop, a priest and a layperson. In province with fewer members, preference is given to lay membership.

Representatives from the communion’s ecumenical partners also attend and, for the first time, ACC-17 will include two youth delegates from each of five geographic regions.

The location of this meeting has changed since April 2016 when ACC officials and the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil announced that Sao Paulo, Brazil, would host the 2019 conference. In September 2017, the Anglican Communion Standing Committee said that the meeting would move to Hong Kong because, according to the Anglican Communion News Service, it had been scheduled at what “would be a challenging time for [Brazil] and for the Anglican Church there.”

Concerns were raised about the country’s political and economic instability along with the province’s “discussions on human sexuality and marriage,” which were due to take place at its 2018 provincial synod. Brazil’s Anglicans voted in June 2018 to change their canons to permit same-sex marriage.

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

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Wyoming Bishop John Smylie calls for election of his successor

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 11:47am

[Diocese of Wyoming] The Rt. Rev. John S. Smylie, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, has called for the election of the next bishop for the Diocese of Wyoming. Smylie, the ninth bishop of Wyoming, will remain on board through the lengthy transition process that will result in the seating of a new bishop in early 2021, if all goes according to plan.

Diocese of Wyoming Bishop John Smylie

The process includes many steps and lots of moving parts before the election of a new bishop, scheduled to occur in Wyoming at the Diocesan Convention on Sept. 18 to 20, 2020. Then, all other dioceses in the Episcopal Church must approve of the election before the actual ordination and consecration of the new bishop can occur. Bishop Smylie will continue to remain fully engaged in the ministry of the diocese throughout the election process, and the work and vision of the diocese will continue uninterrupted until he hands over the crozier, the shepherd’s crook symbol of a bishop’s office, in 2021.

The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming is made up of 46 churches with approximately 6,500 members throughout the state of Wyoming. During his tenure in Wyoming, Smylie has successfully overseen the empowerment of a shared ministry model that values both lay and ordained ministry. Under his leadership, a seminary training program known as the Iona Collaborative, developed through the Seminary of the Southwest, has resulted in the graduation of over 35 lay and ordained leaders in the diocese. Most recently, Fresh Expressions of Faith, spiritual communities established primarily for the “nones” and the “dones,” has the diocese excited about growing in new and creative ways outside the walls of traditional churches. Bishop Smylie challenged the diocese to adopt a vision that calls for the creation of one fresh expression of faith for every traditional church in the diocese in the next decade, and achievement of that dream is well underway.

Smylie received his Masters of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School in 1981 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1982. He served parishes in New Jersey and New York for a number of years before relocating to Spokane, Washington, to serve as dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper, Wyoming, called Smylie as its rector before his election as ninth bishop of Wyoming in 2010.

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Declaración del Obispo Presidente Michael Curry sobre la violencia en Sri Lanka

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:20am

[24 de abril de 2019] Lo que sigue es la declaración del Obispo Presidente Michael Curry de La Iglesia Episcopal, sobre la violencia en Sri Lanka:

La alegría de la Pascua se mezcló con el dolor después de los terribles ataques acaecidos esa mañana en iglesias y hoteles en Sri Lanka; bombardeos que dejaron cientos de muertos y heridos. Nuestros corazones sufren por todos los que lloran esta semana, y los episcopales se unen en oración a innumerables personas de buena voluntad para que el poder del amor venza las fuerzas del odio y la violencia. Que las almas de todos los fieles difuntos, por la misericordia de Dios descansen en paz.

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Love is in the hair

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 1:23pm

Barbara Goodson, far right, a member of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Humble, Texas, created a mobile hair salon to offer free haircuts to people who need them. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Goodson

[Episcopal News Service] With a comb, a pair of scissors, and commitment to love and serve, Barbara Goodson and her team offer a modern-day type of foot washing to thousands of the homeless and dying, to those just out of prison and others moving through recovery.

Goodson’s ministry, Have Shears Will Travel, offers free haircuts to folks in need throughout Houston, Texas. What began as a dream in 2015 with a hundred haircuts has grown to a goal of 8,000 cuts this year.

Prior to the Mobile Hair Salon, Barbara Goodson carried all the tools of the trade in her truck. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Goodson

“I believe we’re supposed to bring the kingdom of God to everyone we meet. I believe that’s our mission: reconciliation,” said Goodson, a member of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Humble, Texas. “My gift is giving a haircut. Our ministry has been called a modern-day foot washing. Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, we perform our kind of foot washing…We’re not giving a sermon, we’re not preaching. We don’t have a medical center, and we’re not doctors. But I think we offer a healing touch and restoration of dignity.”

The value of a haircut

For many of Goodson’s clients, the service is far more than a trim and a new hairdo.

“We touch the untouchables. Many of these people haven’t been touched with kindness in a long time,” said Goodson. “There aren’t many ministries that actually touch people in the way we do.”

As the ministry has grown, Goodson has brought on four stylists, two full time. They visit more than 40 different ministries with their mobile hair salon, a converted RV. For some of their clients, the haircut is the first in years.

Glenda a client of Angela House before and after photos. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Goodson

Goodson recalled a visit to Angela House, a transitional home for women coming out of incarceration. A woman named Glenda sat behind her, wearing a huge bonnet and watching as Goodson worked on several other clients. Finally, she mustered the courage to ask if Goodson could do something with her hair.

“You could tell Glenda was nervous,” Goodson said. “Her dreadlocks had grown out—it had been years since she had her hair cut, and it was so knotted that I couldn’t get clippers through it. But we kept working and shaping it. When we finished, (one of the staff members) walked in, took one look at Glenda, and said, ‘Praise Jesus!’”

Goodson continued to cut Glenda’s hair and gave her a last haircut before her death from cancer.

The women of Angela House “love this ministry,” said Allison Cleveland, the home’s office manager. When the women get out of prison, they arrive at the home with very few belongings. Angela House provides the necessities, but hair care doesn’t make the cut.

The ministry “is so much more than just a haircut,” Cleveland said. “The stylists that Barbara chooses are always very kind. They’re like mini-therapists, listening to the women, boosting their confidence, telling them they look beautiful.”

Most people take for granted the ability to jump in their cars, run to a beauty salon, and then continue on their day, Cleveland said. “But for some of these women, it’s been a long time since they’ve experienced such a kindness. When they come in here, their spirits are broken. This moment of kindness is one of the first steps in mending that broken spirit.”

Using your gift

Goodson has had a barber’s license since 1978, but she spent most of her life in the oil and gas industry, a single mom working her way up the corporate ladder. In 2015, she attended a diocesan event in which Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle challenged the congregation: “You all have a gift. Now you need to figure out how to use your gift in the community.” The message stirred a deep longing within Goodson. Two days later, she learned that her company’s office was closing, and she would no longer have a job.

Now remarried, Goodson said she sat down with her husband and told him, “I think I’m supposed to give free haircuts. I think this is what I’m supposed to do.” He said, “’well, ok. But you’re not going to get paid for these haircuts?’” I said, “No. It’ll be fine. It’ll work out.”

When she started the ministry, Goodson figured she’d give a few haircuts a week. She called Lord of the Streets, an Episcopal homeless outreach, and they set her up in a basement with a swivel chair and a table. Word started to spread, and invitations kept arriving. In the corner of her mind, in a place where pipe dreams too often have cobwebs, Goodson imagined a mobile hair salon.

She had never applied before for a grant, but she tackled a 25-page document from the United Way—and received a check for $5,000. Then she started soliciting donations from other churches and nonprofit organizations. She found a used motor home that seemed perfect, but it was out of reach at $20,000. After hearing her story, the owner sold it for $10,000. Goodson hired her brother to convert it; in retrospect, her brother probably made $1 per hour, Goodson laughed.

In the end, the mobile salon was fitted with two chairs and a full bevy of salon accoutrements. And Goodson was ready to hit the road. Her budget in 2015 was $15,000; in 2019, after providing more than 17,000 haircuts, the ministry has a budget of $200,000.

In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Have Shears Will Travel was there at the NRG Stadium, giving haircuts to people flooded out of their homes. At a hospice center, attendants held up a stroke victim so that Goodson could cut her hair, blow it out, and curl it. Goodson held up a mirror to the woman, who hadn’t spoken in months. She held up two thumbs, and as Goodson walked out, the woman mustered two simple words: “Thank you.”

David Hill, who started a street-church ministry more than 20 years ago, has seen many outreach programs—including groups offering haircuts—come and go. Have Shears Will Travel is different, he said.

“For the homeless to be able to go inside the motor home and be pampered, it’s a special blessing from God. It’s like going to a beauty shop,” said Hill. The offering is so popular that he and his team take reservations for the monthly mobile salon visit.

“I think a lot of people might not even need the haircut, but they go in for the loving treatment that they receive…There’s not much love in the street. There’s a lot of hatred. To experience this kind of love is experiencing the love of Christ.”

A cut above

The inside of the mobile hair salon. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Goodson

Arron McLaurin has been barbering for more than 10 years but this past year, since he joined Have Shears Will Travel as a part-time cosmetologist, has been the most meaningful.

“It’s a different thing when you’re doing hair for the money,” said McLaurin. “For a long time, it was a career, but now it’s more of a calling for me to be able to help people. When people come to us, they feel like there’s hope again, that somebody loves them.”

Goodson, now 66, will never forget a haircut that she gave 30 years ago to 9-year-old Kayla. The young girl had one leg amputated because of bone cancer.

“I went to her home, sat her on a stool, and put a cape around her,” said Goodson. “Her hair was straggly from all the chemotherapy. When I was done, we carried her to the mirror, and she began singing, ‘I feel pretty, oh so pretty.’ Every heart melted in that room; they knew what she was saying was true.”

In mid-February one of the barbers had an accident in the mobile salon. Goodson was worried: Would this be the end of the ministry? Ultimately, the other driver’s insurance not only covered the claim but also donated $1,000 to the ministry.

“Getting a new haircut can make me feel like I’m taking a new step, and hopefully that’s the same for our clients. They see this physical change—they see a new person in the mirror—and hopefully it helps empower them to be the person they want to be. Maybe it’s to find a job, or take the next step in a recovery program, to heal from PTSD, or to help remove the shame of being trafficked,” Goodson said.

“When we say our Baptismal Covenant, we say we will respect the dignity of every person. People who are sitting in our chairs don’t believe they have much dignity; what we’re doing is imparting a sense of dignity, reminding them of their worth as a child of God.”

–Richelle Thompson serves as deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists.

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Episcopal Church’s Creation Care Pledge reaches Earth Day goal and doesn’t stop there

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 3:59pm

[Episcopal News Service] A big Earth Day push paid off for the Episcopal Church’s Creation Care Pledge, which met its goal of 1,000 pledges – and counting.

“It’s not too late to share the ways you’re foster loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships with the Earth,” a post on the church’s Facebook page said on April 23 in announcing 1,010 pledges so far. That total had steadily climbed all day April 22, Earth Day, as the church posted updates on social media and encouraged participation.

The campaign launched March 29 with the message that even small steps can make a difference in caring for God’s creation. Episcopalians were invited to use the church’s online form to identify the ways they planned to be better caretakers of the Earth. That form is still active, and those who haven’t take the pledge yet can do so here.

General Convention in 2015 identified creation care as one of the church’s three top priorities, along with racial reconciliation and evangelism. In 2018, General Convention passed 19 environmental resolutions, including support for a national carbon tax, carbon offsets for church-related travel, ocean health and Episcopalians’ continued participation in the Paris Agreement.

The online Pledge to Care for Creation features three parts, representing the Christian call to develop a “loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God.”

Participants are asked to submit one example under “Loving” for sharing the love of God’s creation, a second example under “Liberating” for standing with people being harmed by environmental injustice, and a final example under “Life-Giving” of individual actions they intend to take. Some examples include changing eating habits, increasing use of renewable energy and sharing related information with one’s congregation.

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

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‘Pilgrimage of Hope’ to raise awareness of immigrants’ plight in California’s Central Valley

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 1:53pm

San Joaquin Bishop David Rice, left, the Rev. Anna Carmichael, the diocese’s canon to the ordinary, center, and the Rev. Nancy Key, deacon, right, during a Prayer of Vision, Witness and Justice — an offsite event of the 79th General Convention in July 2018 — near the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a detention facility in Taylor, Texas, housing 500 female migrants and asylum seekers. Photo: Tom Hampson

[Episcopal News Service] Roberta Murrieta-May intends to walk, at least part of the 173 miles from Fresno to Sacramento, California, because more people—and especially undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers—need hope.

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin’s May 4-20 Pilgrimage of Hope  “is a very honorable thing to do, with all the people in our culture today who don’t care about immigrants,” said Murrieta-May.

Murrieta-May, 54, learned of the pilgrimage on April 10 while visiting the food bank at St. James’ Cathedral in Fresno, across the street from her home.

“All of us are immigrants, or related to immigrants,” she said, in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.  Noting that most people in this country are descended from immigrants, she said: “More people need to care about those who are coming here because of danger, because of fear. We need to raise awareness about them.”

San Joaquin Bishop David Rice said the pilgrimage, a march to raise awareness about the plight of undocumented persons and refugees, will begin May 4 after a celebration of the Eucharist and a blessing at St. James Cathedral in Fresno.

From there, pilgrims will walk north approximately 17 miles per day, until they reach Sacramento, the state capital, on May 20, and join with other activists and faith groups in observance of California’s Immigrant Day of Action.

“I’ll be walking every day and every mile,” said Rice. “It’s going to be a lovely outward and visible sign of what we believe. It is not only making a visible statement about what we believe and to whom we belong, but it is also about raising awareness, not only for our larger context, but raising awareness within it, too.”

California’s Central Valley produces over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, attracting undocumented farm labor.

Rice said there are approximately 2.8 million undocumented immigrants in California, more than any other state.

For those who are seeking a pathway to citizenship, it “is expensive, it is time-intensive and results in people living in constant fear of deportation or detention.”

Rice added: “When we become aware of what is going on in our larger context, when we hear the voices of the other, if we don’t respond, then we are complicit in the systems that form those voices.”

Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal congregations will offer hospitality and lodging to pilgrims along the way and, while no formal tally participants is available, Rice hopes “others will join us.”

The Rev. Terrance Goodpasture, a deacon at the Fresno cathedral and a pilgrimage organizer, said he expects partners such as Faith in the Valley to participate in the walk. Faith in the Valley, a Central California grassroots advocacy organization, is part of PICO California, the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state, with more than 485 congregational members.

Some pilgrims will join for part of the walk; others will complete the entire 173 miles, he said. The pilgrims will pause at regular intervals for prayer; those who are unable to physically join them, can pray along as well, with a booklet available for purchase on the pilgrimage website. Cost of the booklet is $10; any funds raised will go toward aiding the undocumented.

The idea for the pilgrimage began to take shape in 2017, after delegates to the 58th annual diocesan convention passed a resolution to form an immigration task force, which was primarily focused on education and advocacy issues, said the Rev. Anna Carmichael, the diocese’s canon to the ordinary.

“We wanted people in our pews to understand what our neighbors were going through and how we could be a resource for our neighbors,” Carmichael said. “For us, this isn’t political, it’s responding to the call to love your neighbor as yourself.

“We started to build energy around immigration issues in the Central Valley.”

Then came Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s November 2018 revival. Its theme, “Called to Be a Safe Place for All of God’s People,” emphasized a bold, inclusive vision of faith and love.

“We focused on immigration issues and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals),” she said, adding that the revival included a prayer walk around the cathedral’s Fresno neighborhood.

Other consultations followed, with the Rev. Anthony Guillen, Episcopal Church missioner for Latino and Hispanic ministries, and with the neighboring Los Angeles diocese’s Episcopal Sacred Resistance Task Force on Immigration.

Meanwhile, San Joaquin’s immigration task force had morphed into SJRAISE—San Joaquin Refugee and Immigration Support for Empowerment, and at an Advent conference clergy and lay leaders began to dream of a pilgrimage.

“One where we, along with other faith communities and friends, would walk the diocese, engaging in formation and prayer along the way, regarding the needs and concerns of our immigrant brothers and sisters,” Carmichael said.

“That first day, we’re going to walk about 17 miles, and that will get us just outside Fresno,” she said. “It’s important, because this is our best attempt to make a visible and faithful expression of how we feel God is calling us. It is not meant to be political grandstanding,” she said.

“This is ultimately about calling for justice so that we can fully live into our Baptismal Covenant of respecting the dignity of every human being. I see this as quite possibly one of the most important things this diocese has done since its resurrection.”

(In 2008, the diocese reorganized after a breakaway group, led by a former bishop, attempted to leave The Episcopal Church. It has since gained new life.

“If we don’t stand with those who are being penalized and marginalized, just because of where they were born, just because they don’t have the same kind of documentation [as I do] because I was born here, what are we all about? What is the point of proclaiming to be followers of Jesus if we aren’t living into that call?

“It would almost make me feel hypocritical as a person of faith not to stand with those who are being marginalized and persecuted,” she said.

Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Methodist congregations have been very enthusiastic about hosting and offering hospitality to the pilgrims. “They’ve been awesome, amazing. They’ve all been so positive and enthusiastic and really welcoming about what we’re doing,” said Goodpasture.

Once the pilgrims arrive in Sacramento, Rice said they aim to engage with legislators and lawmakers concerning a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers.

“This is about addressing a system that needs to be reformed,” added Rice, who in 2015 led a bicycle Tour Against Trafficking to raise awareness about human trafficking.

“We are painfully aware that it is easy for politicians and for the faith community to say we’re praying for them and to let those simply be words. We need this. God needs this to be more than words. We are endeavoring to ensure that those words are about action.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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‘Everything is awesome’ as building begins on massive Lego replica of National Cathedral

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 10:41am

Volunteer Matthew Taylor, a lawyer who attends St. John’s Episcopal Church Lafayette Square across from the White House, checks out the inside of the Lego model of Washington National Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel. Taylor said he volunteers at the build site because “it combines my favorite things, Legos and The Episcopal Church.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington] Eight years after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake toppled parts of Washington National Cathedral as if they were toy blocks, people of all ages are spending $2 a brick to construct the world’s largest Lego cathedral to help pay for the building’s remaining repairs.

When they are finished in two or three years’ time they will have used between 400,000 and 500,000 bricks – every single one of them off-the-shelf – to build a minivansized scale model over 13 feet long, 8 feet tall and featuring all the cathedral’s landmark parts, both inside and out, including the rose window, Bethlehem Chapel and the central tower. The completed model will weigh about 1,350 pounds.

“I think it’s really cool and whoever created this idea is really smart,” Claire Babb, 10, of River Edge, New Jersey, said on a recent Saturday afternoon at the “build site,” a repurposed part of the cathedral gift shop.

Bricklaying began March 1 with a blessing of the bricks as some of the cathedral’s choristers sang “Everything Is Awesome,” the theme song to the 2014 Warner Bros. Pictures film “The Lego Movie.” The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, cathedral dean, and “Teddy Roosevelt” (of the Washington Nationals’ racing presidents mascot team) wielded the same trowel used in 1907 to place the first of the bricks into the Bethlehem Chapel floor.

The real Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, laid the building’s foundation stone, which contains rock from a field near Bethlehem, that kicked off 83 years of construction. Then as now, construction began with the Bethlehem Chapel where the stone is embedded below the altar.

Bright Bricks, a United Kingdom-based company, partnered with the cathedral on the project. The company has helped four English cathedrals – Chester, Durham, Exeter and St. Edmundsbury – and one Church of England church – St. Botolph’s – stage similar fundraisers. National Cathedral’s website notes that the Lego Group “does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this project.”

However, builders and volunteers fully endorse the concept.

Volunteer Matthew Taylor, helps Claire Babb, 10, of River Edge, New Jersey, add to one of the Washington National Cathedral nave’s 18 pillars the 100 bricks that her dad bought. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Claire, who had just finished helping build one of 18 columns or piers for the cathedral’s nave, said she liked the idea that her contribution is “actually helping a church.” And, of course, she likes Legos.

“I like that when you get the pieces, you think that they’re all scattered, but when you finish it’s a masterpiece of a building or a car or whatever you built,” Claire said, adding that she has built Lego sets with more than 1,000 pieces.

“But this is nothing like that. It’s way bigger and looks harder to make,” she said. “It’s more intricate.”

It’s not just kids who are into Legos. During an interview interrupted by calls for brick-placing help at the build site, Charles Fulcher, director of the cathedral’s visitor programs, told the story of a couple in their 50s who came one afternoon and bought 100 bricks. “They were so excited to build,” he said. Then they bought another 100 bricks and then 150 more. “Now, that’s not the norm for somebody to come in a spend $700 for bricks, but it shows that it’s not just kids; it’s adults,” he said.

Legos appeal especially to adults because “you can really create anything in your imagination,” Ed Diment, Bright Bricks’ creative director, told ENS from the company’s offices in England. “The more people do it, the more people see, the more they’re inspired by it.”

Cole Swift, 7, put a pin in Washington National Cathedral’s Builders’ Zone map to show his hometown Mill Valley, California. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Claire said she often reuses her thousands of Lego pieces to “be creative; usually I just imagine something and then I just take some pieces and try to make it.”

Cole Swift, 7, from Mill Valley, California, does the same thing. “We have a scrap bin of Legos and sometimes we just put weird stuff together,” he said during an interview after adding some bricks to the Lego cathedral.

This Lego masterpiece, however, will remain intact at the cathedral after it is finished.

The hows and whys of a Lego cathedral

The Durham cathedral’s Lego model fired Fulcher’s imagination. He visited the church two years ago and set himself on a quest to see if Washington National Cathedral could build its own. Such a project, he thought, could raise money for repair and preservation, and help people develop a personal connection to a building that can seem overwhelming.

The Cathedral Chapter, its governing body, knew that fewer and fewer people were visiting Washington, a reality that usually means even fewer visitors to the cathedral, given its location away from the city’s monuments and museums, according to Fulcher.

A Lego building project – not something many people would expect of such a church – just might call out from atop the tallest hill in the city where the cathedral sits, he said. Chapter members were enthusiastic, he added, but cautious about making the finances work. It takes money to raise money and an existing cathedral donor “who was happy to invest in this possibility to do something new with their giving and to see something very tangible as a result” stepped up to cover Bright Bricks’ design, the material, expert support, site visits and consultations with Magnus Lauglo, a local AFOL, or Adult Fan of Lego, as some Lego hobbyists are known.

The model is being built with “all completely standard parts” that Lego uses in its current sets, Diment said. “It’s a question of being very creative and working out how to create certain shapes using parts perhaps in ways they weren’t intended for,” he explained.

For instance, Harry Potter wands known as “sprues” are serving as railings in one section. Position the sprues or, for that matter, Lego hot dog pieces, in a correct way and “they can look like an architectural detail,” he said.

Harry Potter wand sprues serve as railings outside Washington National Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel. Builders have used Lego droid arms for some of the cames between the plastic stained-glass pieces in the windows. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

There will be Lego gargoyles in the replica of the cathedral known for its 112 hand-carved stone creatures. Most will be symbolic of the originals, as will the sprinkling of some of the cathedral’s 1,200 grotesques, but there is a Lego Darth Vader and so the model will incorporate it in its proper place on the outside of the northwest tower.

Scattered amid the Indiana limestone blocks of National Cathedral are bricks or stones from other places, including other cathedrals and even the White House. Fulcher suggested to the Lego builders at Durham Cathedral that the two sites swap bricks in keeping with that tradition. They agreed and Fulcher is inviting the other model churches to join in. “It will be fun to have this as a touch point for talking about our own stones from around the world, and also to help promote sister cathedrals,” he said.

Irving has been helping build the Lego version of Washington National Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Bright Bricks designers are tackling the cathedral in sections, figuring out how to build them. The designer recently asked Fulcher to photograph the outermost aisles of the nave because, looking at the documentation he had, “he couldn’t quite wrap his head around” that space. The designers create instruction books similar to what comes in Lego sets and then ship the needed pieces and instructions to the cathedral.

“Eventually, there will be the equivalent of a giant instruction book,” Diment said. Fulcher estimated the book will run to “tens of thousands of pages.”  The work-in-progress nature of the design accounts for the current lack of an accurate count of the eventual total number of bricks.

Building is happening in two ways. Visitors to the cathedral can purchase bricks and work with volunteers to add them to the parts of whatever section is under construction. Meanwhile, volunteers also build with bricks purchased online by people who cannot come to the cathedral.

Fulcher said the cathedral is considering additional ways to add to the fundraiser, ranging from corporate support and underwriting to offering groups the chance to pay to privately build certain parts of the model as community-building experiences.

Some people are already connecting to the model in unique ways. Very early in the project, the grandson of a craftsman who helped make a number of the cathedral’s stained-glass windows, including the creation rose window, decided to honor him and others in his family by covering the cost of two Lego windows in the Bethlehem Chapel.

Vanessa Bateman, an engineer who works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington, said one of the first visitors she met was the 82-year-old daughter of an ironworker who helped build the cathedral.

The scale model of Washington National Cathedral needs 18 pillars for the nave. Each comes multiple pages of instructions. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

One day, a blind man came to the build site and felt the model’s pillars. “Then he went out into the church and touched the real pillars” to feel the seaming and the break in the stone columns,” said Anne Stubbs, a cathedral member and volunteer since March 1.

“It’s just so exciting that they get a chance to interact with this building and build it on their own,” said Bateman, who builds Lego creations with her 11-year-old son. “They touch it, they get to build part of it, they get come back and say, ‘Hey, I was a part of this.’”

All of the building effort can also serve as what Fulcher called a “literal and figurative touchpoint” for a visit to the cathedral, which is the sixth-largest in the world and second-largest in the United States.

For instance, recently a 6-year-old boy came with his family to build and after working on part of the Bethlehem Chapel, a volunteer suggested that the family visit the “real” chapel.

They did so and came back to compare it with the model. That was when the boy told the volunteers that something wasn’t right. He noticed there were no flowers on the altar in chapel down in the crypt.

“I almost jumped up and down when the volunteers told me that because what that says to me is this 6-year-old boy moved past just the sense of awe and the sense of mouth-agape wonder [at the building], and he was observing, and he was paying attention, and he was pulled into the details that can so easily be lost,” Fulcher said.

So, the flowers were removed from the model altar and, in keeping with Lent, Fulcher got some small pieces of purple fabric from the altar guild at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in College Park, Maryland, which he attends with his family, to veil the chapel cross. The veil was changed out for a red one on Palm Suunday and remained until Easter when it was removed and the flowers returned, he said.

Construction update, brick by brick

As of Easter, 18,057 bricks had been assembled since the March 1 launch, according to Fulcher. Of that total, 6,258 were bought by 723 residents of the District of Columbia and nearby Maryland and Virginia, the top three locations. At least one person from every state, one United States territory and 49 other countries have donated. Onsite purchases are outpacing online donations 71% to 29%.

This is how the Lego scale model of Washington National Cathedral looked on April 14. When it is finished in two or three years, it will be the size of a minivan, weigh 1,350 pounds and have between 400,000 and 500,000 bricks. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Repairing the cathedral continues to be a financial challenge

The cathedral itself has essentially been a work site since it sustained significant damage when the unusual East Coast earthquake struck near Mineral, Virginia, about 84 miles southwest of Washington, during the early afternoon of Aug. 23, 2011. It was felt from Ontario to North Carolina to Ohio. A second magnitude 4.2 quake struck the same area the next day.

Cathedral officials said repairs would cost millions, in part because of the building’s handcrafted stonework. Many churches, including the cathedral, discovered after the quake that their insurance did not cover earthquake damage. The building suffered further a week later when Hurricane Irene’s high winds caused loose masonry to fall and further displaced some of the pinnacles.

Then in September 2011, a 500-foot crane erected to stabilize damaged sections of the cathedral’s central tower collapsed four days before the cathedral was due to reopen to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The cathedral finally opened Oct. 5, 2011, for the ordination and consecration of Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

The cathedral has raised and spent $15 million for earthquake repairs, and allocated the money toward stabilization, engineering and design, cleaning and resealing stained glass windows, masonry repair and repointing, and overall maintenance, according to information here. Fulcher said there’s still $19 million worth of work to be done. Based on $2 per brick for between 400,000 and 500,000 pieces, that means between $800,000 and $1 million, which he said will make “a small dent” in that $19 million. “

However, the cathedral hopes that the build will, in Fulcher’s words, “continue to shine a spotlight on the need and bring in support from other avenues as well.”

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

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Supporters of author Rachel Held Evans pool funds to cover medical costs

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 5:35pm

[Religion News Service] Friends, family and supporters of prominent Christian author Rachel Held Evans are pooling funds to help cover her medical expenses after she was hospitalized over the weekend and placed into a medically induced coma.

Among other things, Evans has chronicled her journey from an upbringing in conservative evangelical Christianity toward the mainline Episcopal Church.

Sarah Bessey and Jeff Chu, authors and faith leaders who co-curate the Evolving Faith Conference with Evans, called on her supporters to create a Twitter prayer chain on April 19 as news was spreading on social media that Evans, the mother of two small children, was admitted to the hospital to treat an infection.

According to a statement posted on her website by her husband Dan Evans late last week, Evans began exhibiting unexpected symptoms while in the hospital, at which point doctors discovered her brain was experiencing constant seizures.

Evans was eventually placed into a medically induced coma while doctors determined how to treat her.

Support for Evans poured in online throughout the weekend. By Monday, Bessey, Chu and collaborator Jim Chaffee worked with Dan Evans to create a GoFundMe online fundraising page to help cover the family’s mounting medical costs. Within hours, the campaign was trending on GoFundMe and had raised $25,000.

“At this time, we anticipate a long road ahead,” the campaign description read. “As her friends, family, loyal readers, and people who love and care about her, this is one way we can help to support, Dan, Rachel, and their children as their lives have been upended. Medical costs are mounting. We want to help with those as well as all the accumulating expenses that even decent medical insurance won’t cover.”

Dan Evans also posted an update on Evans’ blog about her condition on April 22.

“Rachel is still in a medically induced coma,” his post read. “Drs are working to balance her treatment in an attempt to avoid negative effects of the constant seizures but also avoid possible negative effects of any medications used to sedate her and control them.”

Evans is well-known in religious circles — particularly among progressive Christians — for her blog and best-selling books, which include “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” and “Searching for Sunday.” Her most recent work, “Inspired,” was published in June 2018.

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Bishop’s defiance as terrorists kill more than 200 in Easter Day church bombings

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 4:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Ceylon, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has defiantly expressed his faith in God as terrorists attacked Churches in Sri Lanka. On Sunday afternoon, London time, the death-toll stood at 207, with hundreds more injured. “If God gives me permission to live, I shall live. If he gives me permission to die, I shall die,” he told the Archbishop of Canterbury in a telephone call on Easter morning.

Read the entire article here.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Ecumenical Easter Letter

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 4:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Justin Welby’s Easter letter to churches around the world

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice
Rejoice, again, I say, Rejoice!

These words, the refrain of Hymn VIII of Charles Wesley’s “Hymns for our Lord’s Resurrection”, express the joyful cry of the human soul at the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection is a cause of joy. It is the source of ultimate joy, for in the resurrection Jesus won victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15. 57). The resurrection happened at a particular time and in a particular place but its significance is eternal and universal. God purposed the salvation of this fallen world and creation looked towards the day that darkness would be put to flight. God willed the salvation of this fallen world and from that day the Church has lived in the radiant brightness of our triumphant King. In the sixth century the priest and poet Venantius wrote:

“The light, the heaven, the fields and the sea duly praise the God ascending above the stars, having crushed the laws of hell. Behold, He who was crucified reigns as God over all things, and all created objects offer prayer to their Creator.”

From the first Easter Day Jesus’ disciples have made known the Good News of the Resurrection. The risen Lord told Mary Magdalene not to hold on to him, but to go to tell the disciples. She did so, proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20. 17-18).

On the mount of the Ascension Jesus addressed his friends, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28. 19-20).

The disciples (followers) thus became apostles (those who are sent). The Church has stood in that apostolic tradition ever since: both as those who profess the faith of the Apostles and as those who share in their task of evangelism.

I send this letter at a difficult time in the lives of many peoples and nations. Creation suffers from the effects of human neglect and selfishness; people continue to suffer as a result of war and terror; political and economic systems creak under the twin threats of extremism and apathy. Our world is in desperate need of hope. As Christians we have a message of sure and certain hope to proclaim. On Easter Day in Churches throughout the world Christians will sing, “Christ is Risen! Christ has conquered! Now his life and glory fill you!”

Our proclamation of the hope which is ours in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be both confident and humble. In our complex and plural world our evangelism must not be forced on others, but as followers of Christ we have a duty to bear witness to our faith: to speak of hope for the world in the Resurrection of Christ, a message seasoned with gentleness and respect. Our actions of love, compassion, respect and gentleness confirm that the message we share is indeed good news.

I started this letter with a quotation from Charles Wesley (1707-88). Along with his older brother John, Wesley devoted his life to the service of the gospel – preaching the good news in season and out of season and transforming both the church and the lives of those who heard the message. In another hymn he echoed the call of Christ to Mary Magdalene which is, in turn, the call of Christ to each of us:

“Go tell the Followers of your Lord, Their Jesus is to life restored.”

May God bless you this Eastertide and may the resurrection joy that we share spread throughout the world.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oklahoma Episcopal, Orthodox congregations share space in new collaboration

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

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

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

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

An expanding service

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

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

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

‘Right thing to do’

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

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

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

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

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

Journey through history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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