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Canadian Primate and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, announces plans to retire in July 2019

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 12:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, has announced that he will step down from his role on the final day of Provincial Synod’s next meeting, on 16 July 2019. Last year, Archbishop Fred marked 40 years of ordained ministry in the church – 23 of them as a bishop and 10 as Primate. In a letter to the church, he said that he had wondered “if I might not be coming very close to the ‘best before’ date in the leadership I am providing”; but said that, after a process of prayer and discernment, he “felt more than a little sense of solemn obligation to see General Synod through the next round of conversations over a few very significant matters.”

Read the entire article here.

Two years after Cyclone Winston, Maniava’s rebuilt church is consecrated

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 10:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Almost two years since Cyclone Winston swept through Fiji, killing 44 people, the village of Maniava is celebrating its rebirth. Maniava, in the province of Ra on Fiji’s main island of Vity Levu, sits on a hillside at the mouth of a valley. On the night of Feb. 20, 2016, winds of up to 186 mph destroyed the village. Yesterday, Archbishop Winston Halapua, the bishop of Polynesia, consecrated the newly rebuilt Church of the Resurrection and blessed 14 new homes and a school dormitory. He also ordained two new deacons to serve Maniava’s 168 residents.

Read the entire article here.

South Dakota mission church wants stolen bell back, offers forgiveness to thieves

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 4:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] A century-old bell was ripped from its tower at an Episcopal mission church in South Dakota sometime around the beginning of the year, and Rosebud Episcopal Mission has a message for the thieves: Bring the bell back, and all is forgiven.

“If the thief/thieves would like to return the bell, we would gladly accept it and offer forgiveness – because that’s what we do in the Church,” the Rev. Lauren Stanley said Jan. 9 in a Facebook post seeking help in solving the crime.

The bell was stolen from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just north of Norris, South Dakota. It had been housed in a simple, wooden tower that was capped by a wooden cross. A member of the congregation discovered the tower toppled and the bell missing on Jan. 7 and notified Stanley. The cross also was damaged.

“Right now, the whole community is just in shock,” Stanley said when reached by phone. “We are absolutely shocked that somebody would steal a bell from one of our oldest churches, and we are absolute appalled that anybody would attack a church in this way.”

The church was founded in 1890, and the bell could be nearly as old. Decades ago it was used to summon worshipers to St. Paul’s for the monthly service and a community gathering, which would stretch over multiple days, Stanley said. Church leaders also rang it to notify local residents of major news.

Its use as a communication tool eventually was eclipsed by modern technology, but the bell still is a cherished piece of local history for the community of Blackpipe.

The church, served by the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, is on tribal land but outside the boundaries of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. During warmer months, services are scheduled every third Sunday, and attendance can range from a half dozen to as many as 85, if there is a baptism, Stanley said. St. Paul’s typically closes for the winter, when the congregation worships instead at a church in Norris.

The bell was last seen on Dec. 30, after a funeral at St. Paul’s. It was discovered missing by the congregation’s senior warden on her way home from visiting the nearby cemetery the morning on Jan. 7. She called Stanley that night, and on Jan. 8, Stanley drove over to inspect the damage.

Stanley thinks this was more than a case of vandalism. “This was not a quick job,” she told Episcopal News Service. The bell weighs at least 300 pounds – even more when adding its yoke, which also was stolen. The thieves appear to have cut the tower’s posts with a hand saw and then pulled it down with rope and a truck.

She suspects it was taken before Jan. 3 because snow fell that day, covering up the tire tracks left by the thieves’ truck. Stanley contacted both the county sheriff’s department and tribal police, who typically work together investigating crimes that happen on tribal land off the reservation.

The bell was stolen years ago, and members of the Sioux community back then were able to find it by sharing information with each other and convincing the thieves to bring it back. Stanley and investigators hope the same will happen this time.

“We believe that it’s the community that is going to get it back for us,” Stanley said. In the meantime, she is contacting scrap metal dealers from Rosebud to Rapid City asking them to let her know if someone tries selling the bell, though she doesn’t think it’s worth more than $10 melted down.

Stanley’s Facebook post had been shared 350 times as of midafternoon Jan. 9. Comments on the post have expressed shock, sadness and outrage.

“This theft has to be the saddest of all thefts!” said commenter Audrey Williamstead. “Why would anyone want to take the church bell which has been there forever?”

“I was baptized there,” said another commenter, Rhonda Eagle Bear. “Please return our bell.”

If the thieves bring the bell back, Stanley said she not only will offer forgiveness, “I’ll probably end up buying them dinner. Because what would you take a church bell for?”

Stanley added: “And then I’ll find some people to help me rebuild the bell tower, and the community will turn out for that.”

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

Diocese of Michigan Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr. announces retirement

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:54pm

[Diocese of Michigan] 

Dear Sisters and Brothers of The Diocese of Michigan:

In September of 1999, one of the questions asked of me during the “walk-about” was: “you’re young; you could be a bishop a long time! If you were elected, how long would you be our bishop?” My response was, “as long as I believe God is calling me to be here. I have always been committed to following where God calls me.”

On February 5th of this year, I will begin my 19th year as a bishop in God’s holy Church. I have served as your Bishop Diocesan since November 1, 2000. After much prayerful discernment, I have heard God’s call to move into retirement. Therefore, in consultation with The Standing Committee of the Diocese and in conversation with the Diocesan Staff, I am calling for the election of the 11th Bishop of Michigan. It is my intention to resign effective December 31, 2019; and, in conversation with the Office of the Presiding Bishop, the ordination and consecration of the next Bishop of Michigan is expected to occur in February 2020.

I know that some of you might feel that I am “too young” to retire. At the time that I step down as your bishop I will be three months shy of my 66th birthday and, I will have given nearly 33 years of service as an ordained leader in the Church. The time is right for me to spend more time with family and friends who have graciously shared me with the Church for many years and to enjoy other lifelong passions.

It has been a distinct honor to serve as your bishop. You have taught me so much about what it means to be Beloved Community. My own faith has strengthened as I have served with and learned in partnership with you. This is still very much a ministry I love with the depth of my being.

The Standing Committee recently met with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, from The Episcopal Church Office of Pastoral Development. In this role, Bishop Ousley is tasked with providing support and guidance to dioceses as they journey through times of episcopal transition. While it has been nearly 20 years since the diocese has experienced a transition in the bishop’s office, I am confident that with the able leadership of the Standing Committee you will journey well and faithfully.

Meanwhile, we have two years of ministry ahead of us. We have much to do as we continue to remain faithful to the call of God in our lives as individuals and as part of the Jesus Movement in southeast Michigan. During this time, I ask your prayers for the Standing Committee and all those who will have roles in keeping this time of transition focused. I ask your prayers for the Diocesan Staff who continue to work and minister on your behalf.  I also ask your prayers for Karlah and for me as we travel this time with you; I promise we will keep you in ours.

Faithfully,

+Wendell

The Rt. Rev’d Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.

Archbishop urges churches to commemorate the ‘vile and shameful’ holocaust

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, is encouraging churches, parishes and chaplaincies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. Internationally, Holocaust Memorial Day is held on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army. In the United Kingdom, the day not only commemorates the holocaust of the Jewish people at the time of World War II, but subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is a day on which the victims are remembered, as well as an opportunity for the living to learn lessons for the future.

Read the entire article here.

Se celebrará una Conferencia sobre Evangelismo en Cleveland

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 9:33am

Invitamos a la Iglesia toda a asistir a la Conferencia sobre Evangelismo que se realizará entre el 15 y 17 de marzo de 2018. Esta conferencia es para toda persona que anhele compartir y profundizar una relación con Dios que sea amorosa, liberadora y vivificante.

Este evento se realizará en la Iglesia San Pablo en Cleveland Heights, Ohio, y está patrocinado por el Equipo de Iniciativas para el Evangelismo y Forward Movement.

La Rvda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga para evangelismo, reconciliación, y cuidado de la creación, participó de un evento similar que se realizó con muchísimo éxito en Dallas en noviembre de 2016. La Rvda. Spellers declaró: “El evento de Dallas demostró que nuestra gente anhela profundamente compartir, estudiar y aumentar nuestra capacidad de evangelizar. Esta vez esperamos recibir a todavía más personas, y nos enfocaremos en cómo compartir e incrementar el amor de Dios en diversos contextos: rural, urbano y suburbano; iglesias grandes, pequeñas, y nuevas; comunidades seculares y sitios de saturados de iglesias. Este ministerio nos atañe a todas y a todos”.

El Rvdo. Scott Gunn es el director ejecutivo de Forward Movement. “Estamos tan entusiasmados por la oportunidad de asociarnos con la oficina del Obispo Presidente y compartir este emocionante evento con toda la iglesia”, declaró el Rvdo. Gunn. “Esta conferencia sobre evangelismo se centrará en Jesús y su movimiento, es decir, en compartir la Buena Noticia por palabra y obra con todo el mundo”.

El Obispo Presidente Michael Curry será uno de los oradores. Las sesiones plenarias y los talleres serán dirigidos por un grupo diverso de líderes de evangelismo.  Las varias diócesis enviarán además representantes a una conferencia para “catalizadores del evangelismo”. Muchas de las sesiones se trasmitirán por internet y estarán disponibles para descargar en línea; alentamos la participación individual y de grupos satélites.

La inscripción está abierta y disponible en este enlace. El formulario de inscripción está disponible en español. Los participantes internacionales pueden inscribirse a un costo de solamente 50 dólares.

El sitio web contiene información actualizada sobre el programa, los presentadores, patrocinio del evento, recomendaciones de hospedaje, etc.

Para recibir más información, favor de contactar a Sarah Alphin, salphin@episcopalchurch.org  o 212-716-6102.

World Council of Churches begins its platinum anniversary with celebration in China

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 11:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches has begun a year of celebrations to mark its 70th anniversary with a celebration in China. The general secretary of the council, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, preached in one of the oldest Protestant churches in China Sunday – Chongwenmen Church in Beijing – on the theme “Jesus Christ, the Joy of the World.”  And he took with him a message of greeting from what the council describes as “the living fellowship with 348 member churches worldwide.”

Read the entire article here.

 

Presiding Bishop in Puerto Rico exchanges messages of hope as struggles persist after hurricane

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:37pm

Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales, left, gives a toy to a child during a pop-up medical clinic that doubled as a hurricane relief station Jan. 3 in Toa Baja. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, who was on a two-day pastoral visit, helped distribute the toys alongside three costumed Wise Men. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] Bishop Rafael Morales leaves no impression he is still wading into his job. He had led the Diocese of Puerto Rico a mere two months when Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, and since then he, his staff and clergy around the diocese have mobilized relief efforts with a determination that this week earned praise from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during his two-day visit.

Hurricane Maria was and continues to be an unparalleled catastrophe, Morales said, but he is seizing the opportunity for ministry to his fellow Puerto Ricans.

“Our people have a good heart,” he said Jan. 3, on the road to the coastal town of Toa Baja accompanied by Curry. Puerto Rico’s culture is one of thanksgiving, Morales said. “This diocese is a diocese of hope.”

Curry was in Puerto Rico on a pastoral visit, and he preached Jan. 3 in the evening at the Episcopal cathedral in San Juan, the capital of the U.S. territory. The earlier stop in Toa Baja introduced Curry and his delegation to Hugs of Love, a series of pop-up medical clinics the diocese has offered since the hurricane through the health care system it runs. This and other ministries are strengthened by ecumenical partnerships and through collaboration with federal agencies, local nonprofits and the Episcopal Church’s Episcopal Relief & Development.

For the Hugs of Love event in Toa Baja, open-air canvas tents were set up on a vacant gravel lot provided by the local Disciples of Christ congregation, which also sent volunteers. They wore hats and shirts with the message “Ama Como Crist” – “Love Like Christ.”

“Thank you for what you’ve both done. It’s God’s work,” Curry said to the Disciples of Christ pastor, the Rev. Prudencio Rivera Andujar, and his wife, Azalia Gomez.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry greets people Jan. 3 at the pop-up medical clinic in Toa Baja. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Curry walked through the tents shaking hands and doling out hugs to the diocesan volunteers and some of the hundreds of residents who had come for the daylong clinic. They waited their turns to receive blood pressure checks, blood tests, vaccinations, prescription refills and other medical services, all provided free by doctors and nurses from Episcopal Hospital San Lucas, based in Ponce.

Everyone from the San Lucas system gets involved in the pop-up clinics, Jesus Cruz Correa, the hospital’s medical director, told Curry. “We rotate the doctors.” Patients who need further medical attention are referred to the hospital for follow-up visits.

A box truck from the hospital, parked near one of the tents, was filled with food, water and personal hygiene items for distribution to the families. Lunch and music were included in the event, along with activities for the children.

Morales, who spent seven years as a priest in Toa Baja, was an eager host, leaning in for a laugh often and deploying his infectious smile nearly always. He is an Episcopalian who talks constantly about his blessings, his diocese’s blessings, his people’s blessings, even in a time of such deprivation. The church is motivated to engage with the community, he said.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a ministry,” he had told Curry earlier in the day after greeting him at the hotel in San Juan. “We have hard moments now, but Jesus is blessing us.”

Residents still struggle months after hurricane

The scene around Toa Baja, about 20 minutes west of San Juan, only hints at the scale of the disaster still gripping much of the island more than 100 days after the hurricane struck as a powerful category 4 hurricane. It made landfall Sept. 20 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, knocking out power and telephone service for the island’s 3.4 million residents. It caused mudslides, destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and created extreme shortages of food and drinking water.

The official death toll from the storm stands at 64, but a New York Times analysis last month suggests the disaster’s real toll is exponentially higher, possibly topping 1,000 deaths.

The damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has been particularly devastating. The governor’s office announced last week that power had been restored to only 55 percent of customers across the island, and getting the lights back on in remote areas might not happen until May.

In Trujillo Alto, a downed utility pole rests at the side of a road that leads to the Episcopal diocesan offices, in a neighborhood among those still without power. Some stoplights on the town’s thoroughfares have only recently begun working again, but as of this week Morales’ team was based in a building still powering itself by generator.

Some inland mountain communities have been hit even harder. “Roads are completely destroyed,” the Rev. Edwin Orlando Velez said through a Spanish translator while visiting the Hugs for Love clinic in Toa Baja.

Orlando Velez serves two congregations in the west-central part of the island, in the towns of Lares and Maricao. Many people are still are without power or water, he said. Because of mudslides and downed trees, driving is difficult.

The churches are working with the local municipalities to help with cleanup, but Orlando Velez and other priests also have been ministering to hurricane victims through home visits. They often find simply to hold someone’s hand and listen to stories makes a difference.

“I would say that they are in pretty good spirits,” he said. “The people in the mountains are used to hardships. Because of that they have had an accepting attitude.”

Some of the diocese’s priests lost their homes. Others didn’t have power in their churches until receiving generators, with help from Episcopal Relief & Development and other church partners, such as the Diocese of Maryland.

In the first days after the storm, with phone lines down and cell service unreliable, Episcopal Relief & Development arranged to get satellite phones to the diocese so Morales’ team could coordinate pastoral and medical relief efforts with far-flung clergy. Episcopal Relief & Development also has paid for food and water, and because of its experience responding to previous hurricanes, it is helping the diocese coordinate with federal agencies and other relief organizations.

Episcopal Relief & Development President Rob Radtke, who accompanied Curry on his two-day visit, called Puerto Rico a “high-capacity diocese.” The diocese has successfully leveraged its health care system as part of relief efforts, he said, and it benefits from well-organized and ambitious leadership with a heartening interest in serving its community.

“This is where the church really has a particular gift. This is true both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere,” Radtke told Episcopal News Service. “It has access to the most intimate parts of people’s lives, and it has a high level of trust that it can call on, in terms of people reaching out to the church and seeing the church as a place that will meet their needs.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joins a group led by the Diocese of Puerto Rico that conducted home visits Jan. 3 to provide medical care to sick residents of Toa Baja. Here, Mariana Cabrera, 83, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers, is checked by medical personnel. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Morales expressed disappointment in the federal response so far. He doesn’t think the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, has shown the same commitment to Puerto Rico as it has to communities in the continental United States that were ravaged by hurricanes in 2017, such as Houston. In areas where the government is seen as falling short, his diocese hopes to step up.

“The blessing is that now we are a missionary diocese,” Morales told Curry over lunch of chicken, rice and beans, as three costumed Wise Men took the lead in handing out bags of food and water to families visiting the Toa Baja clinic.

After lunch, Morales and Curry joined the Three Wise Men to distribute toys to a long line of smiling children and their parents – “the Epiphany in advance,” Morales said.

In face of despair, seeking signs of hope

Curry had another biblical reference in mind. “You have turned the water of the hurricane into the wine of hope,” he told the church leaders in Toa Baja, providing a preview of his sermon hours later.

That evening, at Holy Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Curry spoke of the Epiphany gospel reading resonating for the local church’s mission – how the Three Wise Men of the Gospel of Matthew stumbled upon a miracle, and how Episcopalians in Puerto Rico may find miracles in themselves. Then he invoked the story of the Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus took jars of water and turned them into wine for all of those gathered.

“I’ve heard about neighbors taking care of neighbors,” he said, highlighting examples in Puerto Rico, from the priests who have reached out to people with damaged homes to the doctors and nurses he met at the “hospital in the field” in Toa Baja.

“You’ve been turning the water of Maria into the wine of hope,” he told the congregation.

He concluded with words of encouragement, for Episcopalians in Puerto Rico to keep following the way of Jesus as they minister to their neighbors.

“When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high,” he said. “If you follow Jesus, you’ll never walk alone.”

Such encouragement is welcome. Despair is a constant threat for families struggling after the hurricane, said Damaris DeJesus, who serves as secretary of the diocese’s board of directors and who chauffeured Curry and the other visitors to some of their stops this week.

“For example, that house,” she said, pointing to a damaged apartment building on the side of a road in Toa Baja. “That family, what are they going to do?” At the same time, she credited Morales with emphasizing hope in calling the diocese to serve those in need.

Damaris DeJesus discusses Puerto Ricans’ mix of despair and hope during the drive from Toa Baja back to San Juan on on Jan. 3 with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, and an Episcopal Church delegation. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

DeJesus is a psychologist who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico, and after the hurricane she worked with interns to set up group counseling sessions with families dealing with the psychological trauma of losing so much. She was struck by the perspective of a 6-year-old boy, who was living in a tent with his parents because his family’s home was damaged in the storm.

“At the moment I met him, I saw how happy he was,” she said told Curry and his staff through an interpreter. The boy had pointed out all that his family still had, including each other. “He was thankful to God that he was with his parents.”

On Jan. 4, Morales arranged for Curry to hear testimonials from people who survived the hurricane. After giving Curry and his staff a tour of the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto, he invited them outside to a banquet lunch under a tent, where the generator’s rumble mixed with the sound of live music.

Before the lunch was served, four Episcopalians stood to speak to the crowd of several dozen people about their experiences during and after Hurricane Maria. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo described how she and her wife lost everything – their house flooded, their car destroyed.

“We also had God as our companion,” she said through a translator. And they felt fortunate to have members of the Episcopal community checking in on them and offering food, water and transportation when needed. “We are struggling, but we are standing.”

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo describes her experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria at an event Jan. 4 hosted by Bishop Rafael Morales outside the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla of Loiza said she and her neighbors were similarly thankful for the support of the Episcopal Church. The hurricane “turned our home upside-down. I have lost everything that I had,” Pizarro Parrilla said. “The church said, ‘we are here, present with you.’”

Morales gave his own testimonial, beginning by acknowledging his own despair after the hurricane struck. He came to the diocese’s offices, saw the surrounding destruction and wondered what he could do. He was inspired by the sight of a cross, which was still standing outside behind the main building.

“When I saw the cross, I understood that the Lord was indeed in the middle of the storm and he was here after the storm,” Morales told the crowd gathered under the tent.

The tent had been raised on a large concrete slab in front of the main building, and it served as a symbol of resurrection as Morales spoke of how God has guided the diocese forward. The hurricane destroyed a provisional church building on the concrete slab, which now supported a gathering filled with fellowship and resolve.

“What a hurricane takes away can be rebuilt into something good,” he said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro contributed translation for this report.

UK government begins bell-ringer recruitment drive ahead of Armistice Centenary

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:29am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Two British government departments are working with the United Kingdom’s Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to recruit 1,400 new campanologists ahead of the centenary of the First World War armistice on Nov.11,2018. As part of commemorations in the UK, bells will ring out from churches and cathedrals in cities, towns and villages across the UK. Some 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives in the First World War, and the Ringing Remembers campaign is designed to “keep this traditional British art alive in memory of the 1,400 who lost their lives – linking together past, present and future,” the government said in a statement.

Read the entire article here.

El Obispo Primado intercambia mensajes de esperanza en Puerto Rico mientras persisten los problemas después del huracán

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:38am

El obispo de Puerto Rico, Rafael Morales, le da un juguete a un niño durante una visita a una clínica temporal en Toa Baja que fungió también de estación de socorro para [damnificados por] el huracán el 3 de enero. El obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, que estaba en medio de una visita pastoral de dos días, ayudó a distribuir los juguetes junto con los tres Reyes Magos que iban con sus trajes típicos. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] El obispo Rafael Morales no da la impresión de que sigue inmerso en su trabajo. Llevaba apenas dos meses al frente de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico cuando el huracán María devastó la isla en septiembre, y desde entonces, su personal y el clero de la diócesis han movilizado las iniciativas de ayuda con tal determinación que esta semana le ganaron el reconocimiento del obispo primado Michael Curry durante sus dos días de visita.

El huracán María fue y sigue siendo una catástrofe sin paralelo, dijo Morales, pero él está aprovechando la oportunidad para ministrar a sus compatriotas puertorriqueños.

“Nuestra gente tiene buen corazón”, dijo él el 3 de enero, en camino al pueblo costero de Toa Baja acompañado por Curry. La cultura de Puerto Rico es de acción de gracias, afirmó Morales. “Esta diócesis es una diócesis de esperanza”.

Curry estuvo en Puerto Rico de visita pastoral y predicó el 3 de enero por la noche en la catedral episcopal de San Juan, la capital de este territorio de EE.UU. En la escala que antes hiciera en Toa Baja, a Curry y su delegación les presentaron Abrazos de Amor, una serie de clínicas itinerantes que la diócesis ha ofrecido desde el huracán a través del sistema de salud que dirige. Este y otros ministerios se han fortalecido gracias a las asociaciones ecuménicas y a la colaboración de agencias federales, instituciones locales sin fines de lucro y el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo.

Para el evento de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja, se levantaron tiendas en un solar yermo de suelo de gravilla que proporcionó la congregación local de los Discípulos de Cristo, la cual también envió voluntarios que llevaban gorras y camisetas con el mensaje “Ama como Cristo”.

“Gracias por lo que han hecho. Es la obra de Dios”, dijo Curry al pastor de los Discípulos de Cristo, el Rdo. Prudencio Rivera Andújar y a su esposa Azalia Gómez.

El obispo primado Michael Curry saluda a las personas el 3 de enero en la clínica temporal de Toa Baja. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Curry anduvo a través de las tiendas dando estrechones de mano y abrazos a los voluntarios diocesanos y a algunos de los cientos de residentes que habían venido a esta clínica de un día de duración. Esperaban su turno para que les midieran la tensión arterial, les tomaran muestras de sangre, los vacunaran, les dieran repuestos de recetas y otros servicios médicos, todos ellos ofrecidos gratuitamente por médicos y enfermeras del hospital episcopal San Lucas, que tiene su sede en Ponce.

Todo el mundo del sistema del San Lucas participó en las clínicas temporales, le dijo a Curry Jesús Cruz Correa, director médico del hospital. “Rotamos los médicos”. Los pacientes que necesitan ulterior atención médica los remitimos al hospital para visitas de seguimiento.

Un camión del hospital, estacionado cerca de una de las tiendas, estaba lleno de alimentos, agua y artículos de aseo personal para distribuírselos a las familias. El almuerzo y la música estaban incluidos en el evento, junto con actividades para los niños.

Morales, que pasó siete años como sacerdote en Toa Baja, fue un anfitrión entusiasta, riéndose con frecuencia y mostrando su sonrisa contagiosa casi siempre. Él es un episcopal que habla constantemente de sus bendiciones, de las bendiciones de la diócesis, de las bendiciones de su gente, incluso en un momento de tantas privaciones. La iglesia se siente motivada a interactuar con la comunidad, afirmó él.

“Es una bendición, es un ministerio”, le dijo él a Curry horas antes ese día luego de saludarlo en el hotel de San Juan. “Ahora tenemos momentos difíciles, pero Jesús nos está bendiciendo”.

Meses después del huracán, los habitantes de la isla aún se enfrentan a dificultades

La escena en torno a Toa Baja, a unos 20 minutos al oeste de San Juan, apenas insinúa la magnitud del desastre que aún afecta a gran parte de la isla más de 100 días después que la tormenta azotara como un violento huracán de categoría 4. Tocó tierra el 20 de septiembre con vientos sostenidos de 249 kph, interrumpiendo el servicio eléctrico y telefónico de los 3,4 millones de habitantes de la isla. Causó aludes de lodo, destruyó casas y empresas, derribó árboles y provocó extrema escasez de alimentos y agua potable.

La cifra oficial de muertes debido a la tormenta es de 64, pero un análisis del New York Times el mes pasado sugiere que la cifra real de bajas mortales es exponencialmente mayor, ascendiendo posiblemente a 1.000 fallecidos.

Los daños a la infraestructura de Puerto Rico han sido particularmente devastadores. La oficina del Gobernador anunció la semana pasada que sólo se había restablecido el servicio eléctrico a un 55 por ciento de clientes en toda la isla, y que el regreso del alumbrado en algunas zonas remotas podría no ocurrir hasta mayo.

En Trujillo Alto, un poste de la electricidad descansa derribado a la orilla de la carretera que conduce a las oficinas de la diócesis episcopal, en un barrio de los que todavía no tienen servicio eléctrico. Algunos reflectores en las carreteras del pueblo sólo recientemente han comenzado a funcionar de nuevo, pero hasta esta semana el equipo de Morales trabajaba en un edificio que aún depende de un generador.

Algunas comunidades de las montañas del interior se han visto aun más afectadas. “Las carreteras están completamente destruidas”, dijo el Rdo. Edwin Orlando Vélez a través de una traductora mientras visitábamos la clínica de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja.

Orlando Vélez atiende a dos congregaciones en la parte centrooccidental de la isla, en los pueblos de Lares y Maricao. Muchas personas aún se encuentran sin electricidad ni agua, dijo él. Debido a los deslaves y el derribo de árboles, resulta difícil conducir.

Las iglesias están trabajando con los gobiernos municipales para ayudar en la limpieza, pero Orlando Vélez y otros sacerdotes también han estado ministrando a víctimas del huracán mediante visitas a los hogares. Con frecuencia encuentran que sostener la mano de alguien y escuchar sus historias marca la diferencia.

“Yo diría que tienen muy buen ánimo”, afirmó él. “La gente en las montañas está acostumbradas a pasar trabajo. Debido a eso tienen una actitud de aceptación”.

Algunos de los sacerdotes de la diócesis perdieron sus hogares. Otros no tuvieron electricidad en sus iglesias hasta que recibieron generadores, gracias al Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo y otras entidades de la Iglesia, tal como la Diócesis de Maryland.

En los primeros días después de la tormenta, con las líneas telefónicas caídas y el servicio de celulares inestable, el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo logró conseguir teléfonos satelitales para la diócesis, de suerte que el equipo de Morales pudiera coordinar iniciativas de ayuda pastoral y médica con clérigos que se encontraran lejos. El Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo también ha costeado alimentos y agua y, debido a su experiencia en huracanes anteriores, está ayudando a la diócesis a coordinar esfuerzos con agencias federales y otras organizaciones humanitarias.

Rob Radtke, presidente del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, que acompañó a Curry en su visita de dos días, definió a Puerto Rico como “una diócesis de alta capacidad”. La diócesis ha potenciado exitosamente su sistema de atención sanitaria como parte de las iniciativas de ayuda, explicó él, y se ha beneficiado de un liderazgo emprendedor y bien organizado con genuino interés en servir a su comunidad.

“Es en esto donde la Iglesia tiene un don particular. Esto es cierto lo mismo en Puerto Rico como en cualquier otra parte”, dijo Radtke a Episcopal News Service. “Tiene acceso a los más íntimos sentimientos de las vidas de la gente, y disfruta de un alto nivel de confianza que puede invocar desde el punto de vista de personas que se acercan a la Iglesia y ven a la Iglesia como un lugar que responderá a sus necesidades”.

El obispo primado Michael Curry se suma a un grupo de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico que llevó a cabo visitas a hogares el 3 de enero para proporcionarles atención médica a vecinos enfermos en Toa Baja. Aquí el personal médico examina a Mariana Cabrera, de 83 años, que padece de diabetes, hipertensión y úlceras. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Morales expresó  su decepción por lo ha que sido hasta el momento la respuesta del gobierno federal. Él no cree que la Administración Federal de Asistencia en Desastres (FEMA por su sigla en inglés) haya mostrado  el mismo nivel de compromiso con Puerto Rico que con otras comunidades de Estados Unidos continental que fueron azotadas por huracanes en 2017, tales como Houston. En áreas donde se percibe que el gobierno no ha hecho lo suficiente, su diócesis espera  redoblar sus esfuerzos.

“La bendición es que ahora somos una diócesis misionera”, dijo Morales a Curry durante un almuerzo de pollo, arroz y frijoles, mientras tres hombres vestidos como los Reyes Magos repartían bolsas de alimentos y agua a las familias que visitaban la clínica de Toa Baja.

Después del almuerzo, Morales y Curry se reunieron con los tres Reyes Magos para distribuir juguetes a una larga cola de niños sonrientes y a sus padres —“la Epifanía por anticipado”, dijo Morales.

En presencia de la desesperación, se buscan señales de esperanza

Curry tenía otra referencia bíblica en mente. “Ustedes han convertido el agua del huracán en el vino de la esperanza”, les dijo a los líderes de la Iglesia en Toa Baja, brindándoles un adelanto de su sermón horas después.

Esa noche, en la Santa Eucaristía en la catedral de San Juan el Bautista, Curry habló de la lectura del evangelio de la Epifanía que repercutía en la misión de la Iglesia local —como los tres magos del evangelio de Mateo tropezaron con un milagro, y cómo los episcopales en Puerto Rico pueden encontrar milagros en sí mismos. Luego invocó la historia de las Bodas de Caná, en las cuales Jesús tomó jarras de agua y las convirtió en vino para todos los que estaban allí reunidos.

“He oído hablar de vecinos que se ocupan de vecinos”, dijo, destacando ejemplos de Puerto Rico, de los sacerdotes que se han allegado a personas con viviendas dañadas, de los médicos y enfermeras que conoció en el “hospital de campaña” en Toa Baja.

“Ustedes han convertido el agua de[l huracán] María en el vino de la esperanza”, le dijo a la congregación.

Él concluyó con palabras de aliento, para que los episcopales de Puerto Rico se mantengan siguiendo el camino de Jesús en tanto ministran a sus prójimos.

“Cuando atraviesen la tormenta, mantengan la cabeza en alto”, dio. “Si siguen a Jesús, nunca andarán solos”.

Tal aliento es bien acogido. La desesperación es una constante amenaza para las familias que siguen luchando después del huracán, dijo Damaris DeJesus, que sirve de secretaria de la junta directiva de la diócesis y que condujo a Curry y a los demás visitantes a algunas de sus citas esta semana.

“Por ejemplo, esa casa”, dijo señalando un edificio de apartamentos afectado junto a la carretera en Toa Baja. “La familia, ¿qué va a hacer?” Al mismo tiempo, ella le hizo honor a Morales en enfatizar la esperanza al llamar a la diócesis a servir a los necesitados.

Damaris DeJesus explica la mezcla de desesperación y esperanza de los puertorriqueños durante el viaje de regreso de Toa Baja a San Juan el 3 de enero con el obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, y la delegación de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

DeJesus es psicóloga y enseña en la Universidad de Puerto Rico y, después del huracán, trabajo con pasantes en la creación de sesiones de consejería de grupos con familias que se enfrentan al trauma psicológico de afrontar grandes pérdidas. Ella se quedó impresionada por la perspectiva de un niñito de 6 años, que estaba viviendo en una tienda con sus padres porque la casa de su familia se había visto afectada por la tormenta.

“Desde el momento en que lo conocí, vi lo feliz que era”, le dijo ella a Curry y sus acompañantes a través de un intérprete. El niño le había señalado todo lo que su familia aún tenía, incluidos unos a otros. “Le agradecía a Dios el estar con sus padres”.

El 4 de enero, Morales concertó que Curry oyera testimonios de personas que sobrevivieron el huracán. Luego de hacerle a Curry y su personal un recorrido por las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto, los invitó a almorzar afuera bajo una tienda de campaña, donde el ruido del generador se mezclaba con el sonido de la música en vivo.

Antes de que sirvieran el almuerzo, cuatro episcopales se levantaron para hablarle al grupo de varias docenas de personas acerca de sus experiencias durante el huracán María y después de su paso. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, contó cómo ella y su esposa perdieron todo: su casa inundada y su auto destruido.

“También tuvimos a Dios como nuestro compañero” dijo ella valiéndose de una traductora. Y se sintieron afortunadas de contar con miembros de la comunidad episcopal que estaban pendientes de ellas y que les brindaron alimento, agua y transporte cuando lo necesitaron. “Tenemos dificultades, pero estamos en pie”.

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, describe sus experiencias después del paso del huracán María en un evento el 4 de enero preparado por el obispo Rafael Morales frente a las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla, de Loiza, dijo que ella y sus vecinos estaban igualmente agradecidos por el apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal. El huracán “viró nuestra casa al revés. Yo he perdido todo lo que tenía”, dijo Pizarro Parrilla. “La Iglesia nos dijo ‘estamos aquí con ustedes’”.

Morales dio su propio testimonio, empezando por reconocer su propia desesperanza después del azote del huracán. Él vino a las oficinas de la diócesis, vio la destrucción circundante y se preguntó qué podía hacer. Se sintió inspirado al ver una cruz, que seguía en pie afuera, detrás del edificio principal.

“Cuando vi la cruz, entendí que el Señor estaba ciertamente en medio de la tormenta y que él estaba aquí después de la tormenta”, dijo Morales al grupo reunido en la tienda.

La tienda se levantó sobre una gran placa de concreto frente al edificio principal [de la diócesis] y sirvió como un símbolo de resurrección mientras Morales hablaba de cómo Dios había guiado la diócesis para que saliera delante. El huracán destruyó el edificio de una iglesia provisional que se alzaba sobre la placa de concreto, que ahora sostenía una reunión rebosante de fraternidad y resolución.

“Lo que huracán se lleva puede rehacerse en algo bueno”, afirmó él.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él a dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro colaboró con la traducción para este reportaje. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Piedra a piedra, progresan las reparaciones en la Catedral Nacional de Washington 6 años después del terremoto

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:18am

Los talladores Andy Uhl, a la izquierda, y Sean Callahan trabajan en piezas de la Catedral Nacional de Washington que sufrieron daños en el terremoto de 2011. Foto de Joe Alonso/Catedral Nacional de Washington.

[Episcopal News Service] El terremoto que afectó el área de Washington, D.C. en agosto de 2011causó daños a la Catedral Nacional de Washington que se calculan en $34 millones. Más de seis años después, menos de la mitad de esas reparaciones se han hecho, y el trabajo pendiente podría llevar otra década en terminarse.

No obstante, se ha progresado, y la catedral episcopal recibió el mes pasado una donación de fin de año de una fundación que le permitirá emprender esta primavera la próxima fase de las reparaciones. Este último proyecto de $1,5 millones se centrará en la estructura en torno a un atrio interior que es la última parte de la catedral que aún permanece cerrada al público.

“Tomó 83 años construir este lugar. Hemos tenido nuestro edificio casi siempre lleno de andamios. De cierta manera, estamos algo acostumbrados”, dijo Kevin Eckstrom, el director de comunicaciones de la catedral.

Las reparaciones de las torres occidentales de la entrada principal de la Catedral Nacional de Washington concluyeron en el verano de 2017. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Sigue siendo un hermoso edificio y un monumento religioso emblemático en la capital de EE.UU., pero la Catedral Nacional de Washington es también más que las piedras que la integran, dijo Eckstrom. “El personal y el liderazgo sienten intensamente que lo realmente importante del edificio es lo que está dentro”.

El proyecto del atrio es un ejemplo fundamental. Conocido como el claustro, tiene una fuente y un patio y, al reabrirlo, podrá utilizarse para bodas, banquetes y otras reuniones. Hay también otros planes de añadirle al espacio un columbario y un jardín conmemorativo.

Los muros que rodean el atrio no son el problema, sino los dos pináculos que se encuentran arriba y que rotaron durante el terremoto, dando lugar a que algunos pedazos cayeran en el atrio.

“Es un espacio sencillamente encantador y otra entrada a diferentes partes de la catedral”, dijo Joe Alonso, el cantero jefe de la catedral. “El extremo nordeste de la catedral de algún modo se cierne sobre ti”

La obra de esta primavera es sólo una de nueve proyectos, algunos ya terminados y otros pendientes, que componen la segunda fase de las reparaciones del terremoto. La primera fase, que costó alrededor de $10 millones,  se terminó en 2015, y se centró en el interior de la catedral y en los mayores y más viejos contrafuertes de la parte trasera. La catedral estuvo totalmente cerrada por casi tres meses en 2011, mientras las cuadrillas de obreros completaban las labores de estabilización a tiempo para reabrirla en noviembre de ese año para la instalación de la obispa de la Diócesis de Washington Mariann Budde.

El resto del trabajo se está llevando a cabo en la medida en que se recauda el dinero a través de donaciones privadas.

“Estamos comprometidos a terminar las reparaciones del terremoto y devolver este glorioso edificio a su grandeza original”, dijo el deán Randy Hollerith en una declaración por email. “Sin embargo, esas reparaciones no deben anteponerse, y no se antepondrán, al ministerio y la misión que tiene lugar aquí. El edificio es importante, pero es sólo un vehículo para la labor más vital del ministerio. Lo que sucede en el interior es en definitiva más importante que lo que la gente ve en el exterior”.

La construcción inicial de la Catedral Nacional de Washington se terminó en 1990, si bien siguió siendo necesario el mantenimiento y la restauración, aun antes de que la afectara el terremoto de 2011. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

La catedral es una sólida estructura de mampostería, de manera que “la única cosa que la mantiene unida es la gravedad y la física y un montón de argamasa”, dijo Eckstrom. En tanto se repara, piedra por piedra, los obreros instalan varillas de acero inoxidable entre las piedras para hacer la estructura más resistente al próximo terremoto de importancia, cuando este ocurra, si es que llega a ocurrir.

Obreros en 2016 reinstalan un pináculo que quedó dañado en el terremoto. Fue reforzado con varillas de acero inoxidable. Foto de Colin Winterbottom/Catedral Nacional de Washington.

Alrededor del 80 por ciento del exterior de la catedral aún precisa reparación.  Algunos de los arreglos han conllevado apenas el refuerzo de la estructura, en tanto otras segmentos de torres, pináculos, contrafuertes y  cruceros resultaron dañados sin remedio y deben ser reemplazados con nuevas tallas en piedra.

Alonso ha trabajado en la catedral desde 1985 y fue parte de la fase final de su construcción original, la cual concluyó en 1990. La estructura continuó necesitando mantenimiento y restauración en los años siguientes, pero nada como después del 23 de agosto de 2011, cuando tuvo lugar un terremoto de 5,8 de magnitud, que tuvo su epicentro a 135 kilómetros al suroeste de la catedral, cerca de Mineral, Virginia.

“Dios mío, el día del terremoto, fue como un puñetazo en el estómago”, dijo Alonso. Él y su equipo, sin embargo, están haciendo la mayor parte del trabajo en la actualidad, que consiste en limpiar y renovar partes de la catedral que han estado descuidadas durante años, tales como los techos y las vidrieras emplomadas. “El acceso que estamos teniendo como parte de la labor [de reconstrucción] del terremoto nos permite hacer otras reparaciones necesarias”.

El mayor proyecto de reparación pendiente es el de la torre central, cuyo costo se calcula en $5 millones.

“Cuando el temblor alcanzó el D.C., las ondas sísmicas fueron hacia la parte más alta de la ciudad, que es precisamente la colina donde estamos ahora”, dijo Eckstrom. “Y subieron hasta la parte más alta del edificio… que resulta ser nuestra torre central”. Algo semejante ocurrió en el Monumento a Washington, que se espera permanezca cerrado al público hasta 2019.

La torre central de la catedral tiene 91 metros, pero sus cuatro grandes pináculos perdieron de 6 a 9 metros de cantería cuando las piedras se cayeron o tuvieron que quitarlas. Lo que queda está siendo estabilizado con andamios hasta que se inicie la reparación. Si la catedral fuera a recibir suficiente dinero hoy para completar el proyecto, tardaría unos tres años, pero ésta y el resto de las reparaciones que están en lista es probable que se extiendan más allá del próximo decenio.

Andamios en la torre central de la Catedral Nacional de Washington, que se vio afectada por un terremoto en 2011. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

La Catedral Nacional de Washington es una de las únicas dos catedrales en Estados Unidos, y la única catedral episcopal, con una tienda de cantería activa, dijo Eckstrom, y Alonso y otros dos talladores han estado ocupados desde el terremoto. La segunda fase se inició con reparaciones en el crucero norte de la catedral en la primavera de 2016. Otro proyecto, restaurar las icónicas torres occidentales de la fachada de la catedral, se concluyó en la primavera de 2017.

Estos rostros tallados de profetas del Antiguo Testamento eran partes de una torreta que desmontaron en el verano de 2017 y bajaron al suelo hasta que puedan repararla. Foto de  Colin Winterbottom/Catedral Nacional de Washington.

Un aspecto positivo de las secuelas del terremoto ha sido la oportunidad de ver partes de la catedral que de otro modo habrían quedado fuera del alcance. Se debe a que las han bajado a nivel de los ojos para repararlas.

El año pasado, una torreta dañada a la altura de un vigésimo piso tuvo que ser desmontada y descendida hasta el suelo fuera de la catedral, permitiendo una inspección más cercana de sus rasgos definitorios: los rostros tallados [en piedra] de ocho profetas del Antiguo Testamento.

Desafortunadamente, la catedral no tiene un registro que identifique a los profetas, pero “realmente te da una oportunidad de apreciar la labor artesanal que intervino en la creación del edificio”, explicó Eckstrom.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él a dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

 

Church of England unveils £24.4 million ($33 million) national investment in new churches and evangelism

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has announced grants of £24.4 million ($33 million) in the latest [portion] of its Renewal and Reform program funding. The money is being provided by the Church’s strategic investment board, which was created as part of a change in the way national funding from the church commissioners is provided to diocese and parishes. Previously, the commissioners provided support to dioceses on the basis of a national formula. But after a review looking into resourcing the future of the Church, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops agreed instead that all of the national funding should be distributed for investment in the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church.

Read the entire article here.

Government of Burundi praises Anglican Church for tree-planting campaign

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:49am

[Anglican Communion News Service]  The Anglican Church of Burundi (EAB) has been awarded a Certificate of Merit from the government’s environment ministry for its ongoing tree-planting campaign. Over the past ten years, more than 12 million trees have been planted as part of EAB’s commitment to preserve the environment. In December 2016, the EAB revealed it had set a “One Person, One Tree” goal – a five-year commitment to plant a tree for each one of Burundi’s 10 million-strong population.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Welfare Association helps Hong Kong respond to the ‘silver tsunami’

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:47am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Welfare Association of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – is working with the government to help respond to a predicted “silver tsunami” – an increasingly aging population. Law Chi-kwong, Hong Kong’s secretary for labor and welfare, said that the “silver tsunami” would bring on a surge in demand for elderly care services in the next several decades. He revealed that the church was planning an innovative project that would provide the elderly with affordable accommodation and accessible facilities; and he said that the government was “proactively considering appropriate supporting policies”.

Read the entire article here.

Q&A: This Episcopalian cultivates community by getting dirty

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 1:46pm

Brian Sellers-Petersen works in a garden in the spring 2016. He’s retiring from Episcopal Relief & Development to continue his food and faith ministry in other ways. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

[Episcopal News Service] As 2017 came to a close, Episcopal News Service caught up with Brian Sellers-Petersen during a brief visit to the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. Sellers-Petersen spoke about how his ministry has evolved, his near-death experience and what he plans to do in 2018 now that he’s moving on after 17 years working for Episcopal Relief & Development. Hint: One catalyst was his book, “Harvesting Abundance: Local Initiatives of Food and Faith,” published by Church Publishing Inc.

Sellers-Petersen is based in Seattle, Washington. For the last several years, he worked as senior advisor to Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. Sellers-Petersen’s favorite way to engage people is through his fusion of food and faith. For example, he was integral in founding the Faith Farm and Food Network at the Beecken Center of The School of Theology at Sewanee in Tennessee. In August 2016, the program’s name changed to Cultivate: Episcopal Food Movement.

What is the connection between edible gardens and the Episcopal Church?

The church owns a lot of land — land not being used. We’re huge property owners … A lot of my work interests run parallel with asset-mapping work. So, I was talking to churches about their asset base. And in suburban, upper-middle class churches, there are multiple master gardeners and gardens, people

Brian Sellers-Petersen


Home: Seattle, Washington
Education: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, B.S.; Fuller Theological Seminary, M.A., theology; Sewanee, The School of the South, fellowship at School of Theology
Positions: Director of the Center for South Africa Ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California; California regional organizer for Bread for the World; special assistant to the president at World Vision; senior advisor to the president, Episcopal Relief & Development.

knowledgeable about landscaping, ornamentals. Yet a lot of [experts] are moving toward edible gardens. There’s also an abundance of commercial kitchens in our churches that aren’t used to their maximum, or even minimum capacity, as far as I’m concerned.

Why didn’t you go directly into farming like your family did?

My family is the first generation off the farm. We were the city kids of all the cousins, [the ones] who came down in the summer and worked on the farm. We were the kids without a farmer tan and calluses. My parents, they’ve never really come right out and said it, but they couldn’t wait to get off the farm. So, there wasn’t encouragement of my interest in agriculture. I mean, I remember distinctly thinking about going to [agriculture] school in Nebraska, where the family farms are. I don’t know if I ever told my parents that, but they would’ve probably convinced me that wasn’t the right thing to do because it’s a really hard life.

What did you do instead?

I went into international development. When I graduated, I had a psych degree, and I didn’t know what to do. I … ended up in South Africa. That was as far away as Nebraska and Minnesota as I could get. I was there during apartheid, at the end of it. I worked in rural areas and kept that connection with the land. I worked for Bread for the World, which is a Christian citizen lobbying group focused largely in the farm belt and on anything hunger related. And then I worked at World Vision, and I developed curriculum for kids and worked in a similar job to what I’m doing at [Episcopal Relief & Development].

How did your work at Episcopal Relief & Development take a turn toward food in particular?

Whenever I’d make international trips, I’d look and really study and learn as much as I could about the agricultural work — small-scale, sustainable agriculture. When I headed up the church engagement department at [Episcopal Relief & Development], we started the curriculum for children called the Abundant Life Garden Project.

It was viewing the garden as a classroom, where children could learn about what Episcopal Relief & Development does in terms of food, water, environment and livestock, and also, they could learn the basics of Christianity. To me … the garden is the best classroom we have to learn about God. And that’s what this curriculum was about.

Out of the experience of seeing all that work around the world, I started looking at church assets in the United States completely differently. Churches had beautiful green lawns, a lot of them. And then I started seeing those green lawns and saying, ‘You know, that acre of land that they don’t use, except for the Easter egg hunt, could be growing food.’  We need to develop a stronger sense of awareness of how important it is to be eating local and seasonal food … the church is the place to help lead in terms of awareness.

Brian Sellers-Peterson displayed copies of his book and some of the honey from his hives after a recent Sunday service in December. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

What instigated your “Harvesting Abundance” book and career change?

Five years ago, I got sabbatical from Episcopal Relief & Development. I took a deep, deep dive looking at church agriculture here in the United States. I volunteered at this biodynamic permaculture hippie farm not far from my house once a week. And I visited a lot of church gardens and talked to people and listened to what made them glad. It was a blast. I went way beyond parishes. All the other entities within the church have agriculture, and some of them were founded on agriculture. The University of the South, Sewanee, used to be a working farm, all the students had to work on the farm. And there’s a separate high school, St. Andrews, that a monastic order founded, where again, all the students had to work on the farm … Camps and conference centers are another example. Gardens are growing all over the place.

Then what happened?

Not long after that, I almost died. I spent four months in the hospital. There’s about a 10 percent survival rate [for people diagnosed with aortic dissection]. So, I just learned about gratitude. I was immobilized, so I had a lot of time laying on my back. I never really understood the depth to which I had gone until I was out of the hospital. I had to relearn everything. I had to learn how to swallow again.

How did this traumatic event change the course of your life?

I had a lot of time to consider, and so during that period, I started finally documenting my sabbatical, and it ended up becoming a book. The process of writing the book led me to the decision that it’s time, after 17 years with [Episcopal Relief & Development], to try something different.

And so, this is how you’ve integrated your faith with your love of all things agrarian?

I’m called to put my hands it the dirt, but not eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, 12 hours a day. Maybe occasionally, but my call is more to be an agricultural evangelist in the Episcopal Church, sharing the good news of our responsibility to care for all of creation. The presiding bishop really has articulated that well, in terms of creation care. I want us to do a better job in our choices around food and caring for all of creation, and that happens in a variety of ways.

Such as, how we can do our part to alleviate climate change?

When we talk about building resilience against climate change, a kitchen garden is a pretty simple way to do it, instead of feeling paralyzed. Every carrot we pull out of our backyard or off our little balcony, if we grow on our balcony, is one less carrot where we drive our car to the grocery store to buy a carrot that’s been shipped from somewhere else. And by extension, farmers markets are vitally important.

I have a chapter in my book about churches with farmers markets. I think it’s a great way of participating in the community … If a church wants to do a garden, if at all possible, put it in the most conspicuous spot on your property. Plant it in your front yard. That serves as a symbol of your values. I think that gardens can serve as invitations. They can serve as porches. They may even serve as a front door.

Why is food considered a ministry?

I look at [the church’s current mission priorities] and all of them can connect to food. I look at reconciliation work: A garden is a great equalizer. The common table, if you can stay off of divisive subjects while at the table and enjoy food together, it really brings people together. And I think that’s an important ministry.

Evangelism: Not in a coercive way, but I think there’s good news in all aspects of food ministry.

Church growth, reinvigoration and church planting: There’s another story in there about a new church … really using the growing of their garden as a metaphor for growing their church.

And, the Navajoland [Area Mission] is doing some remarkable farming and small business enterprise through their agrarian ministry. So, in terms of indigenous ministries within the church, they’re doing it.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yeah, it’s kind of a wild garden. Since I’ve been sick, I haven’t spent as much time on it as I’d like. And since I started keeping bees, the bees have taken more of my time. But my wife is the big-time gardener. We’ve had chickens for many years, but our last chicken got out of the coop.

Considering himself a bee evangelist, Brian Sellers-Petersen keeps bees in four places: His hives at home in Seattle, Washington, at St. James and St. Columba churches in Kent, Washington, and on the roof of St. Mark’s Cathedral and diocesan office in Seattle. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

What are you going to do now that you’re not working for Episcopal Relief & Development?

I’m still trying to figure out how it all pieces together. It is largely going to be surrounding food ministry. Growing food. Preparing food, eating food. Spirituality of food.

Basically, I’m hanging up my shingle. I’ve been in conversation with a number of groups both inside the church and a couple of government agencies and nonprofits in Seattle. My hope is to continue to work within the church to encourage better stewardship of our land.

Is there any kind of action that you’d like people to take after reading this?

Churches should be doing their own composting. I’ve come across a lot of great composting systems that churches have developed. But we’re [not even doing well] at just recycling. We’ve got to walk before we run. So, we can talk about the big things such as insulation and solar panels, but there are the small things too.

Get our kids’ hands in the dirt at Sunday school when they’re preschoolers, to put a radish seed in a Dixie cup so they can see the sprout next week. There could be huge transformations from these very little things. Sunday school kids … put the seed in, which ends up at the food bank, that ends up in people’s balconies or backyards, and these people might even live in a food desert.  And the kid can follow that food chain from a young age and learn about that.

Cultivate, one of their big jobs is to make sure this [grow-your-own trend] isn’t just a fad. We’re at this sort of this critical place where if we don’t hop on it hard now, we’re in big trouble.

Start a conversation in your churches about what your assets are. What can you do, small or large? Sometimes people get overwrought and think it’s too much, and they collapse in on themselves — “Oh, we can’t do it. We don’t have enough volunteers.” Sometimes it’s just planting a seed.

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

Nigerian Primate predicts positive future despite ongoing violence

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 12:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Bishop of Abuja, Nicholas Okoh, has used his New Year Message to predict a “year of optimism and happiness” for Nigerians. Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, made his comments in a New Year’s Message as it emerged that 17 churchgoers were shot dead as they left a midnight Eucharist service at a church in Omoku, about 56 miles north-west of Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria’s oil-rich River State. The attack has been blamed on one of a number of armed gangs which are active in the area, mainly target multi-national oil companies in the region. The local Anglican Archbishop of the Niger Delta, Ignatius Kattey, and his wife Beatrice, were kidnapped by one such gang in September 2013. They were released unharmed a short time later.

Read the entire article here.

Heightened terror risk leads to cancellation of church’s New Year’s Eve party

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 2:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service]  A church in New South Wales was forced to cancel its traditional New Year’s Eve street party because of the increased terror threat. Since the eve of the millennium in 1999, Saint Aidan’s Church in Longueville, New South Wales, has staged a free open-air New Year’s Eve party. Its location on the banks of the Lane Cove River with fantastic views of Sydney’s world-famous spectacular midnight fireworks show made it a popular choice for Longueville residents. Last year, 4,000 people turned up for the church’s eve-of-midnight concert and barbecue. But senior minister Craig Potter explained that security measures designed to prevent an accident are not sufficient to prevent a deliberate attack.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Cape Town calls for replacement of South African President Jacob Zuma

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 2:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has called on South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to be replaced, and for a “carefully targeted cabinet reshuffle.”  Thabo, the primate of Southern Africa, made his comments during a sermon at the Christmas Eve midnight mass in Saint George’s Cathedral, Cape Town. He said that Zuma and his “cohorts of corruption” had been acting as if the South African treasury was their personal property. Thabo’s comments follow the election last month of South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the new leader of the African National Congress. Ramaphosa is widely expected to be the next president of South Africa after the country’s general election in 2019.

Read the entire article here.

Se abre el proceso de concesión de becas para los Ministerios de Jóvenes Adultos y Campus

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:27am

El proceso de concesión de becas para los Ministerios de Jóvenes Adultos y Campus 2018 está abierto. Las becas brindan fondos para las diócesis, las congregaciones y los centros de estudios superiores/universitarios comunitarios/tribales para un ministerio episcopal (o un ministerio ecuménico con participación episcopal).

Estas becas son para el año lectivo 2018-2019. Un total de 138.000 dólares está disponible para el ciclo 2018-2019 de un total de 400.000 dólares que está disponible para el trienio.

Categorías
Hay cuatro categorías de becas:
Beca de liderazgo: para establecer un nuevo ministerio de campus, restaurar uno latente o re-energizar uno actual.  La beca oscilará entre los 20.000 a 30.000 dólares que pueden ser utilizados dentro de un periodo de dos años.
Becas para ministerio de campus: proveen capital inicial para ayudar la puesta en marcha de ministerios de campus nuevos e innovadores o para mejorar un ministerio existente. Las becas oscilarán entre los 3.000 a 5.000 dólares.
Becas para ministerio de jóvenes adultos: proveen capital inicial para asistir en el inicio de ministerios de jóvenes adultos nuevos e innovadores o para mejorar un ministerio existente. Las becas oscilarán entre los 3.000 a 5.000 dólares.
Becas para proyectos: proveen fondos para un proyecto único que aumentará el impacto del ministerio de jóvenes adultos y campus. Las becas son de 100 a 1.000 dólares.

Proceso
El proceso consiste en tres etapas:

• Planeación y discernimiento de la beca (descargue el PDF)
• Completar la solicitud de beca (descargue el documento de Word)
• Completar y enviar la solicitud aquí. La solicitud debe completarse en su totalidad y enviarse en línea. 

El formulario de solicitud de becas e información adicional están disponibles siguiendo este enlace.

Las solicitudes serán revisadas por un equipo que incluye a los Coordinadores Provinciales del Ministerio de Campus, líderes en el ministerio de jóvenes adultos, miembros del Consejo Ejecutivo y personal de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Cronología
La fecha límite para presentar las solicitudes es el 2 de febrero a las 10 de la noche, hora del este de los Estados Unidos / 9 p. m. hora del Centro / 8 p. m., hora de Montaña  / 7 p. m., hora del Pacífico.
• Del 3 al 16 de febrero las solicitudes de becas son leidas y evaluadas por un equipo de revisores.
• Del 17 al 28 de febrero los revisores de las becas se reúnen para discernir y hacer recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo.
• El 5 de marzo se envían las recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo.
• El Consejo Ejecutivo se reúne del 21 al 23 de abril y toma decisiones.
• Del 25 al 27 de abril se preparan y envían por correo las cartas para las solicitudes exitosas.
• El 30 de abril las becas son anunciadas.

Para más información comuníquese con Valerie Harris, asociada de formación en vharris@episcopalchurch.org.

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