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Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Christmas message

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:49am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] “Have a blessed Christmas, a wonderful New Year, and go out and make music in the heart of the world,” Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his Christmas Message 2017.


The text of the presiding bishop’s message follows.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Christmas Message 2017

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says,

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new is come.

At a point in that passage, St. Paul says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself,” and he also says at another point in the same passage, “and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.”

Have you ever gone to the movies or read a story or a novel, and the novel starts with the end, so you know where the story ends, but then the rest of the story or the novel is actually the story behind the story. We know about Christmas. We know about Mary. We know about Joseph. We know about the angels singing Gloria in excelsis deo. We know from our childhood the animals in the stable. We know of the magi who come from afar, arriving around Epiphany, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know of the angels singing in the heavens, and the star that shown above them. Therein is the story.

But the story behind the story is what St. Paul was talking about. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and Jesus has now given us that same ministry of reconciliation. God was reconciling the world to himself by becoming one of us. The divine became human. God entered history. Eternity became part of time. God was reconciling the world to himself by actually living it himself. In Jesus, God came among us to show us the way, to be reconciled with the God who has created us all and everything that is. And God has likewise come in the person of Jesus, to show us how to be reconciled with each other, as children of the one God who is the Creator of us all. That’s the story behind Christmas.

God is showing us the Way to become God’s children, and as God’s children, brothers and sisters of each other. God is showing us in Jesus how to become God’s family and how to change, and build, and make a world where everybody is a part of that family. Where children don’t go to bed hungry. Where no one has to be lonely. Where justice is real for all and where love is the ultimate law.

Know there is a story behind the story, and it’s a story worth singing about, and giving thanks for, and then living.

One of my favorite writers, the late Howard Thurman, composed a poem many years ago about Christmas, and he says it probably better than I:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
Then the work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace to others,
And alas, to make music in the heart.

The story behind the story is that God so loved the world, and so loves you, and so loves me.

Have a blessed Christmas, a wonderful New Year, and go out and make music in the heart of the world.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Historic Philadelphia church takes new approach to serving the oppressed: healing trauma

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:46pm

The Rev. Renee McKenzie-Hayward takes an impromptu boxing lesson as volunteers prepare to start a youth boxing program to add to the athletic offerings in January at the Advocate Center for Culture and Education, a non-profit partner ministry of the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] As the lunch crowd dwindled, three men stood in a huddle and pulled out white boxing gloves. The Rev. Renee McKenzie-Hayward emerged from her office and greeted them.

Soon, the priest was gloved, taking practice jabs and right hooks — and laughing.

“Fighting for the life of this community, we want to maintain the African-American rich cultural history. The Advocate is central for that. It’s a hub for that,” McKenzie told Episcopal News Service the day before, as she sat in her office painted in African violet. “People can come here to organize, and I say you come here to get stronger and then go out to work.”

You have to be tough, yet warm and welcoming, to do McKenzie’s job at George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In that northern area, the church sits in the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood, named after the civil rights activist and local NAACP president. The neighborhood is predominately African-American and Puerto Rican residents who grew up here, but the ever-increasing influx of college students from nearby Temple University is changing the landscape. A Temple graduate herself who values what the burgeoning college population can offer the community, McKenzie has watched the gentrification change the fabric of the neighborhood. She’s also the university’s Episcopalian chaplain.

That’s only one battle of many. Since 2011, McKenzie has dug into the struggles of this church with a long-standing reputation of ardent inclusiveness and a mission to fight for the rights of anyone who’s oppressed. In May, McKenzie earned some recognition that will make these goals more possible.

The Episcopal Church Foundation awarded McKenzie one of five 2017 fellowships. Established in 1964, the Fellowship Partners program supports emerging scholars and ministry leaders who have a passion for forming the next generation of leaders in the Episcopal Church.

It was McKenzie’s proposed Healing Trauma project that earned the financial award of $15,000. She also won a Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal Grant for $43,005.

Since 2011, McKenzie has been the vicar of The Church of the Advocate, a historic congregation known for its efforts for social change, education and the arts in North Philadelphia. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

Donald Romanik, ECF president, said he appreciated how McKenzie’s trauma-informed ministry will be all about developing an understanding of congregational life through the lens of trauma.

“We knew Rev. Dr. Renee McKenzie-McKenzie would make an excellent ECF fellow for her important work on trauma-informed ministry, social justice and uplifting and growing leaders from African-American communities, both in her church and as a model for our church at large,” Romanik said.

Although she’s in the research and planning stage, McKenzie envisions a healing trauma center in which people first meet with a social worker to assess their needs. They might first participate in programs for basic survival, such as food and shelter. Then, they can join programs that fulfill higher needs, such as education, financial betterment, arts enrichment and cultural-political empowerment.

“How can we use the resources that the Advocate already has in place, how can we bring those all together under one umbrella so that we work in a common direction?” McKenzie asked. “People need physical, spiritual, mental and social healing. Asking how we bring that together, that’s basically how the Healing Project began.”

What is this kind of trauma?

In trauma-informed work, there’s individual trauma, such as a person’s experience and the lingering effects of rape, abuse and war.

“But in our community, it’s also about systemic trauma,” McKenzie said. “That’s where the white supremacy piece comes in. That’s where the justice piece comes in for us. Racial inequality. Poverty.”

For Barbara Easley-Cox, decent housing is where she wants to focus on systematic trauma healing. She’s fought for this cause as a Black Panther since the 1970s and was helped into housing herself across the street from the Advocate through the efforts of the Rev. Paul Washington, the church’s legendary priest who served from 1962 to 1987.

“It’s not only a black-white thing,” Easley-Cox said. “It’s all oppression of any color, shape and size. For me, I always want to bring things to a more worldly view. Yeah, the Holocaust was bad for Jews; slavery was bad for us. But what makes you think it’s over?”

These days, Easley-Cox volunteers at the church doing whatever is needed, from sorting clothing donations to cooking savory dishes for coffee hour.

“I come to service every Sunday because I like Rev. Renee’s sermons,” Easley-Cox said. “She gives you the gospel and translates it to modern day and political issues.”

In a November sermon, McKenzie addressed the #metoo movement against sexual harassment, sharing some of her own experiences. It’s yet another type of systematic trauma that needs healing.

“It’s not just women versus men,” McKenzie said. “It’s so many people who have a story of someone who had the capacity to overpower them because of their privilege.”

The Healing Trauma project would work in three phases: developing awareness; unpacking trauma; and rejuvenation and empowerment.

“You cannot address the problem until you can name the problem,” McKenzie said. “First, we want to help people to name it and then to understand it. And then to become resilient against it.”

The Advocate’s storied history

The Church of the Advocate is aptly named, fighting for the rights of all people, especially those systematically oppressed, since it was consecrated in 1897.

It’s a landmark in the religious, social and architectural history of the Unites States. Built as a memorial to civic leader and merchant George W. South, the sprawling complex includes a chapel, parish house, curacy and rectory designed in the French Gothic Revival style by renowned church architect Charles Burns.

Historically significant church, political and cultural events have occurred at North Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, which is also built in a French Gothic architectural style, all of which lend to its status as a National Historical Landmark. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

The Advocate was selected as a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.

And it was built in this grand scale specifically for the working class. The founders ruled that no pews could be rented so everyone could afford a seat. In fact, they didn’t even use pews back then, and they don’t now. Lightly cushioned chairs line the nave.

The Rev. Paul Washington commissioned artists Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson to create 14 murals. Under each are written descriptions drawing parallels between the African-American and ancient Hebrew experience. There are no pews in the nave, a practice born from the church founders’ desire to abolish pew rentals and make attendance accessible to all people. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

The church has been key in the civil rights movement and the struggle for women’s rights. The Advocate hosted the National Conference of Black Power in 1968 and the Black Panther Conference in 1970. In 1974, 11 female deacons were ordained as priests at the Advocate. Those ordinations, the first in the Anglican Communion, pushed the then-ongoing debate about women in the priesthood to a new level and led, slightly more than two years later, to the General Convention explicitly allowing women to become priests and bishops.

The Advocate’s sanctuary has another bold, distinguishing feature: the murals.

From 1973 to 1976, artists Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson painted 14 stunning murals that depict the African American experience. Valerie Anderson, a volunteer docent, leads educational tours of the murals. It’s one of the programs McKenzie started three years ago to preserve the community’s culture and history.

Below each painting is a Bible verse and corresponding message, drawing on the parallels of Hebrews and African Americans. The paintings take the viewer from slavery and emancipation to civil rights and black power, Anderson said as she gave a tour.

Some murals convey the grief and loss with esoteric designs and swirls of blues. Others, which include a couple controversial images, depict the anger and rebellion of the oppressed in fiery reds and oranges.

In the nave of Church of the Advocate, Valerie Anderson, a volunteer docent, leads educational tours of the 14 murals depicting the African-American experience, history and culture. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

“I always try to bring it forward to where we are today. It really encourages dialogue,” Anderson said about her tours. She spoke about the danger of internalizing the oppressor, which is when you start to believe the hurtful words said about you, and your behavior changes to reflect that negative message.

“We’ve got to erase that tape,” Anderson said.

Advocate Café

Marvin C., 40, who asked not to use his full name, used to teach at an Episcopal nursery school before he fell into a lifestyle that led him down the wrong road and eventually left him homeless. Then he found the free weekday lunches at the Advocate Café, a church ministry for 34 years. One day, he stayed to watch a documentary. McKenzie noticed him.

“I saw the spark in him, you know?” she said. The vicar immediately persuaded Marvin to teach an adult literacy class and participate in the after-school program.

Now, three months later, Marvin has a catering job while he pursues preschool positions and attends support groups. He’s interviewing at the Advocate Center for Culture and Education to teach wellness classes like calisthenics. Marvin has a home. When he visits the café now, it’s to help others.

“It’s a great purpose to work with the young and old,” Marvin said. “I was really meant to teach. This is a platform, regardless of how I walked in here homeless and just to eat.”

When McKenzie arrived at the Advocate six years ago, the café served about 60 to 70 hot meals a day, five days a week. Now that daily crowd is at 100 to 120.

On this December day, Elsie Vives dove her fork into her salad, concentrating on the day’s lunch of spaghetti in meaty marinara, yam-pineapple casserole, green salad and a clementine.

“I like the way they do the food. They’ve got good food every time. In fact, I come here every day,” said Vives, who walks almost 2 ½ miles to reach the café.

Elsie Vives enjoys the hot meals, such as this butternut squash pasta with meaty marinara, sweet potato casserole and green salad, five days a week at the Advocate Cafe at Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. The ministry feeds about 100 people a day. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

Like many church feeding programs, the café offers so much more than food. More than 5,400 social services requests were fulfilled in 2016. Those services include clothing donations; procuring IDs; referrals for jobs, housing and health care; resources such as computers, printers and phones; occasional musical entertainment and education workshops during the noon to 2 p.m. mealtime; and professional visits from Temple University nursing students and other experts.

Willie Mae Williams has been with the café, in one way or another, for nine years. “I used to come here to eat, and one day, I asked if I could help out, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Williams as she organized the clothing donations. “It keeps me busy. Why stay home and go crazy when I can come here and help out?”

Willie Mae Williams was a patron of the Advocate Cafe, and now she volunteers at the noon to 2 p.m. mealtime, helping sort clothing donations and other duties. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

During a recent lunchtime, Ta Abdullah held a Dunkin Donuts job application as he chatted with others hanging out at the café. He appreciates how staff and volunteers help patrons with their job hunt and offer use of a phone for work purposes.

“You’ve got people coming here from all walks of life,” Abdullah said. “It’s like a gathering. It’s a blessing to some people.”

Advocate Center for Culture and Education

The cultural program began about three years ago for youth in grades 3 to 12, after school and in the summer. It’s housed next door in a three-story former row home, where Adia Harmon, executive director, presides in the first-floor lobby as children pour in four days a week.

There’s a dizzying number of activities, and it’s growing. In 2016, the program served about 600 children.

“I am here solely out of passion,” said Harmon, a Philadelphia native who loves to witness the direct impact these programs have on a child’s life. “I can see it. The blessings come from when you serve people.”

The sports division started with age-grouped basketball teams, which play in the prized gym built in 2004. Marvin plans to lead calisthenics as part of a wellness program that includes drum circles and meditation, and in January, the boxing program will kick off.

“Research on testosterone points to kids who showed less aggression in school and at home after a program like this, because they had an outlet to release that energy and frustration,” said Johnny Malin, an intern through the Servant Year program in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

This segment of the Philadelphia-based Mighty Writers program operates on the second floor of the Advocate Center for Culture and Education and is divided into a program for high schoolers and one for middle schoolers, or ages 7 to 17. Here, this younger group learns to think and write with clarity so they can achieve success at school, work and life. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

On the second floor, the Mighty Writers program was underway, taught by James Owk. Recent sessions have started with a chapter of the “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It” audiobook by Charlamagne Tha God, followed by writing a paragraph each on three questions and then a discussion.

“I’m not really a people person, and I feel like this program puts me out there to make friends, and it’s something new every day,” said Tori-Ann Kent, a teen student. “It really opens you up to what’s going on in the world.”

On the third floor, teaching artist Scott Bickmore led a class of younger children in an acrylic painting project with an heirloom theme, tying together still-life paintings of salsa ingredients, based on a family recipe. The kids will eat homemade salsa at the project’s end.

“Here’s my tomato painting,” said Jasiya Smith, 10, as she held up her art. “I also did a lime, a garlic, cilantro.” She tasted cilantro for the first time and thought it was “OK.”

Jasiya Smith, 10, painted tomatoes as part of her after-school art class with teaching artist Scott Bickmore at the Advocate Center. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

There’s homework help and tutoring, college preparation, a drama and dance program that uses the stage next door at the church, and gardening out back when the weather allows.

“I’m trying to get these guys to be more plant-based, trying to tie it in with our community garden,” Bickmore said about his art class.

Community Space

The church’s greatest asset and liability is the building, McKenzie said. The maintenance of such a majestic, historic building is a never-ending expense, but those same qualities also draw people inside. She wants room rentals to enable the building to pay for itself. From the outside, it seems like there are enough community activities to fulfill that goal already.

Easley-Cox, the church volunteer, neighbor and former Black Panther, has always enjoyed the church’s cultural festivals and political events. She reveled in the John Coltrane jazz festival, which was a recurring event for a while, and a Rainbow Coalition concert, as well as digging into Mamie’s fried chicken, made by the longtime church cook.

“The church is an umbrella that everybody stands under,” Easley-Cox said. “And it works.”

The Advocate has three resident arts groups: Kaleidoscope Theater hosts four drama performances a year, the August Wilson consortium puts on play readings and the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra performs four to six concerts a year.

Veronica Jurkiewicz is a violinist and co-founder of the 14-member orchestra, an Advocate resident since 2013. The orchestra has no conductor.

“Our model is based on democracy and individual responsibility,” Jurkiewicz said. “We really try to be a part of the social change movement. There’s really a long history of social justice and art and activism here, and we want to be a part of that.”

The orchestra plays at the John Coltrane festival, memorial services, weddings and at the Advocate Café when rehearsing for a performance. In 2016, they collaborated with an ensemble of Arabic musicians called Al-Bustan Takht. And in June, the musicians are excited to perform and premier a piece with Grammy-nominated choir The Crossing.

Divya Nair, a doctoral student in literature who’s working with McKenzie on the Healing Trauma project, first stepped into the church two years ago, to attend Saturday Free School, a philosophy reading group that organizes conferences and symposiums.

“My first time here, with the beautiful architecture and spirituality, I felt this real sense of deep peace,” Nair said. “It’s really exciting to see where this is going to go.”

Meanwhile, the community keeps coming inside. The doors are open.

Activist Gabriel Bryant organized an event, “Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?” on Dec. 8, comprising a series of panel discussions on mass incarceration, immigration and white supremacy.

“They’ve always been super-welcoming to our efforts to gather community,” Bryant said. “This has always been a safe space.”

Nair loves the rich musical legacy of the Paul Washington years, when he hosted musical giants of the 20th century such as jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and Coltrane. The night before his last performance in Philadelphia, Coltrane played in the Advocate’s church courtyard.

“A lot of black artists played here because they had nowhere else to go. It’s a pivotal institution,” McKenzie said. “We can’t just let that history go away. We have to continue to fight.”

— 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

Kevin Brown ordained, consecrated Delaware bishop

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:59pm

Newly ordained and consecrated Diocese of Delaware Bishop Kevin Brown, left, listens to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Photo: Diocese of Delaware

[Episcopal Diocese of Delaware] It was a joyful day in Dover, Delaware, on Dec. 9, when the Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown was ordained and consecrated as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.

Brown was elected on July 15, marking the culmination of a search that began in April 2016, after Bishop Wayne P. Wright announced his retirement.

Despite the snow, approximately 750 people attended and participated in the two-hour service, with the theme of “Come, Holy Spirit,” at Delaware State University’s Education and Humanities Theater.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry served as the chief consecrator, and Wright and West Tennessee Bishop Don E. Johnson acted as co-consecrators. The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, bishop suffragan of North Carolina, and the Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, bishop assistant of Texas, acted as additional consecrators.

The Drum Circle of the Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew signaled the start of the three processionals with synchronized rhythm that immediately set a tone of high energy for the pageantry of the celebration. Accompanied by organ and a tympani and brass quintet, a 112-voice choir, comprising singers from churches across the diocese, swelled in song and heralded the processions of service participants; diocesan, ecumenical, and interfaith clergy; and visiting and co-consecrating bishops.

The Rev. Amanda K. Robertson, associate rector at Brown’s former parish in Charlotte, North Carolina, delivered the sermon, which drew appreciative laughter and murmurs of agreement. She also acknowledged her former boss as an admired colleague and true friend.

She went on to urge Brown, “Remember your authority. As bishop you will be entrusted with oversight that is intended to be rooted in relationship and respect. Even someone as committed as you are to serving alongside and not over, to uplifting others’ gifts and ministries, and giving credit where credit is due, even you must accept the imbalance of power and authority that will exist in most of your daily interactions. You will need confidantes and counselors who are able to speak as freely as you are.”

Echoing the theme, she said, “The Holy Spirit invoked in blessing and consecration is the power by which the raw material of our lives becomes holy. And so it is, that in just a moment’s time, a craft beer- and baseball-loving man from the mountains of North Carolina, a scholar of mathematics and ecumenism, a tree house-building father and fan (along with his younger daughter) of Arcade Fire, will be made a bishop in our Church. Come, Holy Spirit.”

Brown was vested with a stole and chasuble, gifts of the people of the Diocese of Delaware; a pectoral cross, gift of his family; and a ring, gift of the clergy of the Diocese of Delaware. He was also presented with a miter, gift of his former parish of Holy Comforter; a cope, gift of the Diocese of North Carolina; and a rochet and a chimere, gifts of the Diocese of West Tennessee, where Brown had also served. Wright presented him the crozier of the Diocese of Delaware.

Brown followed the exchange of the Peace with his thanks, saying, “It will take me a while to get used to this hat.” He also commented, “Prayer will change your life if you let it.”

On his first Sunday as bishop, Brown attended an evensong service of Lessons and Carols at Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington.

Brown grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and studied mathematics and psychology at Duke University. He completed his master of business administration at the University of West Florida while in the U.S. Air Force, worked in finance and marketing at FedEx, and launched an investment firm, before earning a master of divinity from the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Before the election, he served as rector at Holy Comforter, where he led the merger of separate English and Spanish preschools into a single groundbreaking school focused on bilingual education and dedicated to access for low-income and immigrant families. He previously served as rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Paris, Tennessee.

Following the election, Brown and his wife, Caroline, an accomplished artist, relocated and now live in Wilmington. They have two college-age daughters.

The Episcopal Diocese of Delaware encompasses the three counties of Delaware and includes 9,300 congregants and 34 worshipping communities.

— Lola Michael Russell is staff writer for the Delaware Communion Magazine.

Anglican bishop aims to raise $1 million cycling across Canada

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Rob Hardwick of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle will spend much of his four-month sabbatical this year bicycling across Canada to raise money for ministry projects within the diocese and beyond. Hardwick plans to cycle from Victoria, British Columbia, to St John’s, Newfoundland, a total of about 4,895 miles over 82 days.

Read the full article here.

How do you talk with your neighbor about gun violence — when your neighbor is the NRA president?

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:40pm

Retired Bishop Christopher Epting, former bishop of Iowa (second from left), leads a closing prayer Dec. 10 at the conclusion of a 3.2-mile walk from the United Church of Christ in Grinnell, Iowa, to the entrance of the Brownells factory. The Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell, is in white on the right. Photo: Meg Wagner

[Episcopal Diocese of Iowa] People of all ages and faiths gathered in Grinnell, Iowa, on December 10 for an interfaith service of remembrance for victims of gun violence. Afterward, they walked more than three miles, silently and prayerfully, to stand in witness at Brownells in Grinnell, the world’s largest supplier of gun parts and accessories.

The service and walk were part of 26 Days of Action Against Gun Violence that has been organized by residents, faith leaders and Grinnell College students and faculty. The organizers hope to engage their neighbor, Pete Brownell, president of the National Rifle Association and CEO of Brownells, in conversation about gun safety and ways to reduce gun violence.

“It’s been an organic process,” said Vicky Springer, one of the organizers of the days of action and a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell. “It started with neighbor talking to neighbor, individuals coming together with broken hearts, really.”

And not every town in America has the president of the NRA as a neighbor. When Pete Brownell was elected as NRA president in May, his neighbors felt like there was an opportunity for conversation.

The Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, rector at St. Paul’s, said, “After Las Vegas, this all coalesced from different places. Someone asked me, ‘Has anyone ever talked to Pete directly?’ And I went, ‘Huh. That would be kind of respectful towards him as a human being. I’ll try.’”

Abrahamson called Brownell’s corporate office and left a message with his secretary to see if he could meet with her and another pastor to work together toward gun safety. Then she waited. After some time went by, she realized they had mutual friends on Facebook, so she sent him a message through Facebook Messenger. Abrahamson said there has been no response.

“I had found it difficult to understand why a conversation was not occurring in this community about the NRA, about gun safety, when we had this person right in our community that we could engage with in this way,” said Eliza Willis, a political science professor at Grinnell College. “I realized that there were other people who shared my view, that this was something we should be discussing, especially because he is the president of the NRA and we have a chance to engage in some way.”

So, she and others in the group wrote a letter to him as a neighbor, as friend to many people in town, and as a respected member of the community. To them, it seemed like a natural thing to try and have this conversation.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders conduct a service of remembrance Dec. 10 in Grinnell, Iowa, for victims of gun violence. After the service, the group walked to Brownells, the world’s largest supplier of gun parts and accessories, to stand in prayer. Photo: Meg Wagner

Janet Carl, member at First Presbyterian Church in Grinnell said, “I’ve never been a part of an organizing effort that has been quite like this.” Members of the group planned 26 Days of Action Against Gun Violence — one day for every person killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, five years ago by Adam Lanza.

The 26 Days of Action Against Gun Violence has included holding discussions, sharing stories, watching NRA videos, making phone calls to elected representatives, and screening “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA” and “Newtown.”

David Wheeler, whose son Ben was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, came to Grinnell for the Dec. 5 screening of “Newtown” along with the filmmakers. Wheeler also wrote Pete Brownell a letter, asking if they could meet and talk while he was in Grinnell. Wheeler said that Brownell did not respond.

The 26 Days also has featured actions that could be taken by individuals and groups, in public and from home, with lots of opportunities to engage in conversation and learn about gun safety and the impact of gun violence.

“What’s been extraordinary for me personally is that I really feel an empowerment and my fear has greatly been reduced just by taking action,” said Springer.

Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe preaches at the Interfaith Service of Remembrance Dec. 10 in Grinnell. His wife, Donna Scarfe, was the sign language interpreter for the service. Photo: Meg Wagner

The Dec. 10 Interfaith Service of Remembrance was held at the United Church of Christ in Grinnell and was led by Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders. At the service, the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, bishop of Iowa, said, “Every valley of ignorance and despair must be uplifted. Every mountaintop of fixed positions and fearful hoarding must be brought low. And every crooked road of legislative cat-and-mouse twisting and turning needs to be made straight so everyone can see the glory of God and the glory of a humanity able to learn war no more — turning its spears into pruning hooks and its swords to plowshares.”

“What could be more Iowa than that?” he added.

After the service, about 100 people joined the 3.2-mile silent walk to the Brownells factory by Interstate 80 in Grinnell. As the sun was beginning to set, they reached the turnoff to the Brownells factory and retail store. There, the group stayed for a while and prayed together. The 26 Days of Action is culminating in Honor with Action, a vigil on Dec. 14 in Central Park in Grinnell.

“The thing that means a lot to me in this is that it is 26 days of ACTION. Because, as everyone else is saying, I’m sick of thoughts and prayers,” Abrahamson said. “I feel like this is prayer — what we are doing.”

— The Rev. Meg Wagner serves as the missioner for communications and reconciliation for the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa.

Rain can’t dampen spirits of 45,000 Christians singing in Borneo Christmas march

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Around 45,000 Christians from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Evangelical and other churches marched through the Borneo city of Miri on Dec. 9 for the 10th annual Miri Christmas March. Christians from 20 different churches processed to the Miri City Fan, an outdoor venue with seating arranged around four sides of a square stage, where they worshipped despite heavy rainfall.

Read the full article here.

Archbishop calls for tolerance, harmony and mutual respect in Jerusalem

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, Archbishop Suheil Dawani, has called for tolerance, harmony and mutual respect for all in the Holy City of Jerusalem. He made his comments in a sermon preached at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem on Dec. 10, the second Sunday in Advent.

Reflecting on the Gospel story of John the Baptist, he said that his voice “echoes in the wilderness,” calling the people “into ways of justice and peace.”

Read the full article here.

Medieval register of 14th century Bishop of Ossory made available online

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 3:42pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The medieval episcopal register of Richard Ledred, the tempestuous 14th century Bishop of Ossory in Ireland, has been digitized and made available to a worldwide audience. The 79 vellum leaves, bound in red leather – giving rise the book’s evocative name the “Red Book of Ossory” – is one of the most significant medieval manuscripts in the archives of the Church of Ireland’s Representative Church Body (RCB), the executive trustees of the province.

You can see the book – and the rest of the collection – at ireland.anglican.org/library/archive.

Read the full article here.

West Virginia church pays off families’ toy layaway bills, receives praise from White House

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:07am

Members of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, participate Dec. 3 in an Advent procession of lessons and carols. Photo: St. Matthew’s, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal church’s century-old tradition of playing secret Santa for West Virginia children has received national recognition, including a mention this week by the White House.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, made local headlines after it paid the Walmart layaway balances on toys for several families in its community. The congregation had intended to remain anonymous, but word got out after news of the donations spread on social media.

“It’s just such a blessing and I don’t know if words can really describe how grateful we are and so very happy that someone would do something like this,” Nathan Robinson, whose family was one of those benefiting from the layaway payoffs, told WTRF-TV.

The Rev. Mark Seitz, rector at St. Matthew’s, said the tradition is rooted in the grief of a local family who lost a daughter to illness more than 100 years ago. They gave the church an endowment in their daughter’s memory to be used each year to brighten the season for families in need.

“The criteria for this was that the people had to be residents of Ohio County, either Wheeling or Triadelphia, and they needed to have children,” Seitz told WTRF-TV. “They needed to be buying toys.”

The church paid off about $5,000 in layaway balances in late November, helping several families who live in the area. About 50 accounts were paid off by the church, a Walmart store manager told The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, which added that a White House representative reached out to Seitz on Dec. 5 for more information.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recognized the church’s good deeds at the beginning of her daily press briefing on Dec. 7.

“St. Matthew’s Church wasn’t looking for credit and neither are so many others,” Sanders said. “But these stories are important because they remind us what this season is all about, and that’s the greatest gift of all, that a savior was born, and hopefully we can all focus and take time out of our busy schedules to enjoy the Christmas season or however you may celebrate.”

The church pays for the toys each year with interest on an endowment initially established by U.S. Sen. Nathan Scott and his wife in memory of their daughter, Daisy, the Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register reported. Scott, a prominent local businessman, represented West Virginia as a Republican from 1899 to 1911.

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

Church leaders criticise President Trump over recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Dec. 6 announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been criticized by church leaders. With both Israelis and the Palestinians claiming Jerusalem as their capital, the international community has, until yesterday, refused to recognise Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, insisting that its final status must be settled as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Read the full article here.

Australian Royal Commission criticizes diocese and two former bishops over child safeguarding failures

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An official inquiry looking at institutional response to child sex abuse in Australia has heavily criticised the Diocese of Newcastle and two former bishops for their “do nothing approach.” The Royal Commission, an official statutory inquiry, found that by failing to act,  former Bishop of Newcastle Alfred Holland enabled the continued abuse of children by two priests: Peter Rushton and James Brown; and it said that failings by his successor, Bishop Roger Herft, of “weak and ineffectual” leadership which “showed no regard for the need to protect children.”

Read the full article here.


Christian groups raise alarm over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 3:19pm

President Donald Trump speaks Dec. 6 at the White House, announcing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Photo: White House, via video

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is joining a global chorus of Christian voices speaking against President Donald Trump’s announcement Dec. 6 that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing longstanding U.S. policy toward the city.

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Trump said at the White House in remarks that lasted just over 10 minutes. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.”

Leaders of the Christian churches in Jerusalem, including the Anglican primate, released a letter to Trump on Dec. 6 before his announcement warning that the decision “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations followed up with a statement Dec. 6 backing the Christian church leaders in Jerusalem and opposing Trump’s vow to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

“This decision could have profound ramifications on the peace process and the future of a two-state solution, and it could have a negative impact throughout the region and with key U.S. allies,” the Office of Government Relations said. “The Episcopal Church Office is joining with Churches for Middle East Peace and many other organizations in opposing any effort to move the Embassy.”

Trump, in changing U.S. policy on Jerusalem, was taking a step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has strong support among American evangelicals and pro-Israel Jews.

“The Israeli government, its parliament, courts, and prime minister, have been located in Jerusalem since just after the birth of the state,” Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an organization that represents 16 national Jewish agencies in the U.S., said in a statement applauding Trump’s decision. “We agree with the president that Israel, like all countries, has the right to determine the location of its capital.”

The Episcopal Church’s stance on the issue was set by General Convention in a 1985 resolution, in which the church “expresses its opposition to the movement of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, except within the context of a broad resolution of Middle East problems, with the status of Jerusalem having been determined by negotiation and not by unilateral action by any one community, religion, race or nation.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted that keeping the status quo on Jerusalem “is one of the few stable elements of hope for peace and reconciliation.”

The status quo of the City of Jerusalem is one of the few stable elements of hope for peace and reconciliation for Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Lands. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

— Justin Welby ن (@JustinWelby) December 6, 2017

Also earlier in the day, Pope Francis, in his weekly general audience at the Vatican, called Jerusalem “a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.” He raised concerns that changing the city’s status quo could lead to greater conflict.

World Council of Churches, too, expressed “grave concern” over Trump’s move.

“Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches’ general secretary. “It also preempts a negotiated resolution of this most difficult issue in any final peace agreement, which must be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”

Episcopal Public Policy Network issued a policy alert in February opposing relocation of the embassy. At that time, the Office of Government Relations advocated the church’s position to members of Congress in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace, an ecumenical coalition of 27 American denominations that includes the Episcopal Church.

On Dec. 5, Churches for Middle East Peace repeated its objection to changing U.S. policy toward Jerusalem.

“Rather than being a broker for peace, the U.S. will be undermining trust and making the resumption of meaningful negotiations and achieving a viable solution all the more difficult, if not impossible,” said the Rev. Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace.

Trump, in his remarks Dec. 6, affirmed the United States’ commitment to helping facilitate Middle East peace and to a two-state solution that has the support of both sides. But he defended his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by saying past policy has not gotten the Israelis and Palestinians any closer to a lasting peace.

“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past,” he said. “Old challenges demand new approaches. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Trump cited a law Congress passed in 1995 calling for the U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. Every president since Bill Clinton has waived that requirement six months at a time, citing security concerns, and Trump initially followed suit in February. Now, by recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the president is putting embassy relocation plans in motion.

For decades, the United Nations has insisted on Jerusalem’s unique status as an “international city” despite Israel declaring it as the nation’s capital in 1980. Because of that history, 86 countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv, and none now has an embassy in Jerusalem, according to CNN. While most of the Israeli government is based in West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem is considered by much of the world to be an occupied territory, which the Palestinians hope will someday become the capital of a Palestinian state.

The city is considered a sacred place for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, which Trump alluded to in his remarks on Dec. 6. “Jerusalem is today and must remain a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross and where Muslims worship at al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The mosque is at a site known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount, and it was the focus of renewed tensions earlier this year between Israelis and Palestinians after a deadly July 14 shooting between Arab-Israeli gunman and Israeli policemen prompted the mosque’s closure.

It was the first time the mosque had been closed for Friday prayers in 17 years. Protests escalated when the mosque was reopened with new metal detectors, but the scanners were removed days later.

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

Vermont Episcopal Bishop Thomas Ely announces plan to retire

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 2:02pm

The Right Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of the Diocese of Vermont, announced his retirement.

[The Episcopal Church in Vermont — Burlington, Vermont] The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, tenth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, recently announced his intention to retire and resign his ministry, no later than September 30, 2019. He has agreed to remain in his position until a successor is chosen and is in place.

Ely, 65, was consecrated as bishop of the Vermont diocese in 2001, having previously served as a priest in the Diocese of Connecticut for 20 years. In a message to the people of the Diocese of Vermont, Ely said that by the time of his retirement he will have served in the priesthood for nearly 39 years.

“There are other interests and ministries to which I am feeling called to devote my time and energy while my health and stamina are still good,” Ely said, “including family, community theatre, various justice ministries and a bit more golf.”

During his episcopate, Ely has been a leader both within the diocese and throughout the wider Episcopal Church on such controversial issues as marriage equality, the ordination of LGBT clergy, increased gun safety and racial justice. He is also a leading voice on matters of environmental and economic justice.

As part of his global outreach, Ely serves on the board of Cristosal, a nongovernmental agency based in El Salvador that works to advance human rights in Central America. Additionally, he is a co-founder of the Vermont chapter of Kids4Peace, a grassroots interfaith youth movement dedicated to ending conflict and inspiring hope in Jerusalem and divided societies around the world. More locally, Ely is a leading advocate for the Vermont Ecumenical Council and Vermont Interfaith Action.

Ely has been instrumental in the stewardship and revitalization of Rock Point, a 130-acre property in Burlington, owned by the Vermont diocese, known for its natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Each year, nearly 10,000 people visit Rock Point, and Ely is overseeing a $1.7 million partnership campaign aimed at improving facilities, strengthening leadership and expanding public access.

Ely said that he and his wife, Ann, will take up residence in their house in Newfane, Vermont, upon his retirement. In the meantime, he says, “I plan to use these months ahead to continue encouraging full and passionate engagement in our local mission approaches, and I plan to continue my efforts related to a sustainable Rock Point and all that means to our life as the Episcopal Church in Vermont.”

Ely’s message to the people of the diocese can be found at this link.

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

Cuddly bears bring early Christmas joy to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 1:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Seven-hundred teddy bears, which sat on the steps of London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral in early 2017, are now providing comfort to thousands of child refugees who fled their homes in South Sudan for sanctuary in Uganda. The 700 bears were collected by the aid agency World Vision as part of a social media campaign and flown to Uganda by Kenya Airways. “We’re very grateful to people in the UK who donated these bears,” World Vision’s northern Uganda response director, Paul Sitnam, said in a statement. “Thanks to them, Christmas has come a little early for children here!”

Read the entire article here.

Nathaniel Pierce elected to board of Anglican Pacifist Fellowship

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:00am

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce, supply priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Trappe, Maryland, and ecumenical officer for the Diocese of Easton, was elected to the Board of Trustees for the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (APF) based in Great Britain by the Annual General Meeting in November 2017.

The APF was established in 1937 and now has some 1100 members in more than 40 countries, as well as a sister organization, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, in the United States of America. The APF founded the Week of Prayer for World Peace and is a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organizations and of the International Peace Bureau.

Sue Clayton, newly elected chair of the APF, commented: “We are now a worldwide organization; peace and justices issues are of world-wide concern. We felt it was time that the Board of Trustees of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship reflected this new reality.”

Elected along with Pierce were Cloud Mabaudi from Zimbabwe and the Rev. Nathanael Ruess from Australia.

Pierce was ordained a priest in 1973 and has served congregations in California, Idaho, and Massachusetts before coming to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1991. He is the co-author of the book, The Voice of Conscience: A Loud and Unusual Noise – A History of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship 1939 – 1989 (Charles River Press, 1989) and numerous articles published in various national journals.

Pierce was a member of the Episcopal Church’s Joint Standing Committees on Peace (1980-82 and 1983-85) and served as the first chair of the Standing Commission on Peace (1986-88).

Nombradas las delegadas provincial y episcopales para marzo de 2018 Comisión de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Estatus de la Mujer

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 7:13am

El Obispo Presidente y Primado, Michael Curry, nombró la delegada provincial y las delegadas de toda la Iglesia para representarlo en la 62ma sesión de la Comisión de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Estatus de la Mujer (UNCSW) en Nueva York, Nueva York, del 12 al 23 de marzo, 2018.

La delegada provincial y las delegadas de toda la Iglesia podrán asistir a los procedimientos oficiales de la UNCSW en las Naciones Unidas y representarán al Obispo Presidente con las delegaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal y de la Comunión Anglicana en su defensa en la ONU, incluida la defensa conjunta con el grupo de Mujeres Ecuménicas.

Las delegadas nombradas por el Obispo Presidente Curry son: Dr. K. Holly Carter, Diócesis de Massachusetts; la Rda. Annalise Castro Pasalo, Diócesis de Hawái; Dra. Damaris De Jesús Carrasquillo, Diócesis de Puerto Rico; Lois Frankforter, Diócesis de Connecticut; María González, Diócesis de Olympia; Stephanie Gray, Diócesis de Arkansas; Claudia Haltom, Diócesis de West Tennessee; Dr. John Harris, Diócesis de Oklahoma; Clare Hendricks, Diócesis de Montana; Pragedes Coromoto Jiménez de Salazar, Diócesis de Venezuela; la Rda. Diaconisa Myra Kingsley, Diócesis de Arizona; la Rda. Dra. Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook, Diócesis de Los Ángeles; Annika Lewis, Diócesis de Colorado; Maire Powell, Diócesis de Iowa; Lydia Simmons, Diócesis de Dakota del Sur; la Rda. Stacy Walker, Diócesis de Chicago; y Amanda Ziebell Mawanda, Diócesis de Minnesota.

Los miembros del personal del Obispo Presidente que acompañan a la delegación son: Lynnaia Main, representante de la Iglesia Episcopal en las Naciones Unidas; Katelyn Kenney, Julia Chester Emery Pasante de la Ofrenda Unida de Acción de Gracias; y la Rda. Glenda McQueen, Funcionaria para América Latina y el Caribe.

El Obispo Presidente Curry nombró a la Rvda. Dra. Deborah Jackson de la Diócesis de Florida como delegada provincial episcopal ante la delegación de la Comunión Anglicana.

El tema prioritario de la UNCSW para 2018 es “Desafíos y oportunidades para lograr la igualdad de género y el empoderamiento de las mujeres y las niñas de las zonas rurales”. Vea más aquí.

Para obtener más información, comuníquese con Main a lmain@episcopalchurch.org.

ONU Mujeres
La Iglesia Episcopal y las Naciones Unidas
Oficina de la Comunión Anglicana en las Naciones Unidas
Alianzas Globales
Iglesia Episcopal

Episcopalians flee fast-moving fire, helping neighbors along the way

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 5:16pm

Emergency crews block a roadway as flames spread from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire near Ventura, California, Dec. 4. Photo: REUTERS/Gene Blevins

[Episcopal News Service] For some, the warning came via an alert on their cellphones. For others, it was a neighbor knocking on their doors with a shouted message to leave.

Episcopalians joined their neighbors Dec. 4 in fleeing the swift advance of the Thomas Fire that has burned from the mountains near Ojai, California, into the city of Ventura on the Pacific Ocean.

“It was like watching the sun rise over the mountains last night,” said the Rev. Greg Kimura, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai. “The whole horizon above the mountains was glowing but it wasn’t the sun; it was the fire.”

Kimura, whose phone lit up with an emergency signal about the fire the night of Dec. 4, spoke by phone with Episcopal News Service on Dec. 5, just after he arrived at a hotel north of Santa Barbara with his family.

The fire began close to Ojai near California State Highway 150 the previous evening and spread into nearby Santa Paula before racing south into Ventura.

A vestry member called the Rev. Cynthia Jew, priest and pastor of the blended congregations of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Santa Paula, to tell her about the fire. Jew lives in Thousand Oaks. She told ENS that some members of the congregation evacuated to Ventura overnight, only to be forced to leave there because of the advancing fire.

The fire quickly blew into Ventura. “An angel who came out of nowhere” banged on the door of the Ventura home where the Rev. Anthony Guillen, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries, lives with his wife, Guadalupe Moriel-Guillen, and their dog and cat. He pointed toward the pinkish-orange glow over the ridge above his home. In the short hour they took to pack some clothes and gather important papers and some computer hardware, that glow turned red and seemed to be advancing toward their driveway, Guillen told ENS.

As they drove both of their cars away, Guillen said friends called him from Oxnard, offering him and his wife a place to stay. Guillen spent the drive calling other friends to make sure they were evacuating as well.

Around 9 a.m. Dec. 5, Guillen had no word on the fate of his home of the last seven years. A friend sent an aerial news clip of their neighborhood. “Our house is not on fire in that shot, but that was a few hours ago,” he said.

Having lived in Ventura since 1999, Guillen said his family is very aware this time of the year about the dangers of fire season, living as they do up in the hills, but this kind of fast-moving fire was “totally new” to him.

The Rev. Melissa McCarthy, Diocese of Los Angeles canon to the ordinary, agreed that Southern Californians are used to wildfires. “This is a little bit out of the box in that it is actually burning in downtown Ventura on Main Street,” she said. “It’s an entirely different situation than our normal wildfire season” when most fires burn in wild lands and might endanger small clusters of far-flung homes or distant suburbs.

“I don’t ever expect the fires to be raging through Ventura, the city of, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

The Rev. Susan Bek, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Ventura, reported on Facebook that the church was still safe and open for those needing shelter.

Those flames over the entire ridgeline above Ventura prompted the Rev. Nicole Janelle and her family to get out of town as well. “Given that we have two small children, we thought it would be more prudent to leave on the early end [of the evacuation] than on the later end,” she told ENS. “I am glad we did because shortly after we left traffic really picked up, and it took some folks several hours to leave the area.”

Janelle and her family went to stay with the Rev. Julie Morris in Camarillo, near Ventura. Morris is a founding member of The Abundant Table, a sustainable working farm for which Janelle is currently the executive director. The farm is not in the direction of the wind-blown flames, although Janelle said those winds can damage crops. The farm grows food for its community-supported agriculture program and its farm store, as well as for several public school districts.

The farm has a weekly Sunday evening worship service and meal, and Janelle said she was spending time Dec. 5 checking in with worshippers and staff, many of whom were forced to evacuate. So far, none of their homes have burned, she said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Thomas blaze followed Foothill Road from Santa Paula to Ventura, taking out homes and winding along canyons in the process.

At 11:30 a.m. Dec. 5, the fire had burned 150 structures over 45,500 acres as it was driven by strong Santa Ana winds. About 1,000 firefighters are battling the fire, and there are high wind warnings for the ridgelines in the area, with winds predicted to stay at 35-45 mph with gusts up to 70 mph through Dec. 7.

Damaging #SantaAnaWinds and very critical fire weather conditions today and again late Wed night-Thu. Main impacts include downed trees/powerlines, blowing dust, power outages, and very rapid fire spread. #LAWind #cawx pic.twitter.com/cvUEA2bDc2

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) December 5, 2017

The Thomas Fire – along with two fires that started on Dec. 5, the Creek Fire, which has burned more than 4,000 acres near Sylmar and Lake View Terrace about 60 miles east of Ventura, and another nearby in Santa Clarita – is causing highway and school closures as well as evacuations. These fires have exploded two months after the mid-October fires in Northern California. Those fires killed 43 people and destroyed more than 10,000 structures. This has been the worst year on record for wildfires in California.

After Kimura and his family got the emergency alert about the fire in Ojai, the priest went to St. Andrew’s, which was hosting about 30 overnight guests of the Ojai Valley Family Shelter. The church is the Monday night location for the shelter. Kimura helped get those people to an American Red Cross shelter set up at the local high school. Then he began calling elderly and shut-in parishioners, as well as others he thought might need help evacuating.

Downtown Ojai, where the church is located, was not then under a mandatory evacuation order, but officials “highly suggested” residents leave. “So, I basically went around and knocked on some doors and woke a bunch of people up – and scared the bejesus out of them and drove them to the high school,” he said.

He and Jew in neighboring Santa Paula are worried about the fire’s impact on their communities both now and long after the flames die out.

“I’m concerned for the evacuation and I am concerned that afterwards there’s going to be a tremendous amount of need for rebuilding,” he said.

St. Andrew’s is involved in sanctuary work, and it is part of a rapid-response team to help people who run afoul with immigration agents. “I have to believe that a number of people who are being displaced are people who are feeling vulnerable for a number of reasons,” Kimura said. “I am very concerned about the humanitarian response afterwards when we get a better sense of how many people have been displaced and lost homes.”

“Our main concern right now is the homeless,” Jew said. The fire burned over Steckel Park in Santa Paula, the site of a homeless encampment.

Jew said Episcopalians might be called on to provide tents and sleeping bags to homeless people who might have lost their belongings in the fire. Some homeless in Santa Paula, which has a high percentage of Hispanic residents, left their belongings at the church but walked away. “I am not quite sure where they went,” she said. “I think they are hiding out.”

Meanwhile, if the need is there, she will open the church “to provide emergency shelter for people who are unable or unwilling to go to the shelter because they fear deportation. Right now, that’s not what’s happening, but I am definitely willing to take that action.”

McCarthy confirmed that homeless people and undocumented people are the two “priority populations” in the diocesan response to the fires.

“We’re trying to identify and help and protect both homeless populations, which in Ventura is not a small number and where it’s burning is where they live, and also our undocumented people” who right now are afraid to go to shelters, she said.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

African Anglicans host discussion on how to support bishops in their ministry

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 1:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] How can the church offer support and training to bishops as they both enter into and develop in their ministry? That was the question being discussed at a round-table meeting organized in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa and the Anglican mission agency USPG. The discussion arose from an impact report on work undertaken by USPG in its Episcopal Accompaniment program, which found that being a bishop can often be lonely and challenging.

Read the full article here.

Anglican priest leads local earthquake relief efforts in Mexico after losing her home

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 1:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in Mexico are continuing to support the victims of September’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake. And in the Morelos-State town of Jojutla, parish priest the Rev. Ericka Fierro is spearheading the support, even though she lost her house in the quake and was advised to leave the town and take shelter in the diocesan office. Fierro rejected the offer of sanctuary and stayed behind with her 8-year-old daughter, Kissel. 370 people were killed in the earthquake – 228 of them in Mexico City.

Read the full article here.

Brian Lee Cole ordained and consecrated as fifth bishop of East Tennessee

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 10:28am

Bishops lay hands on the Rt. Rev. Brian Cole to ordain and consecrate him Dec. 2 as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee Brian Lee Cole during his Dec. 2 ordination and consecration service at Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tenn. Photo: Ed Barels

[Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee] The Rt. Rev. Brian Lee Cole was ordained and consecrated as the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee on Dec. 2 at Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Three former bishops of the diocese participated in the service: the Rt. Rev. William E. Sanders, first and founding bishop; the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, third bishop; and the Rt. Rev. George D. Young, fourth bishop. The Rt. Rev. Robert Gould Tharp, second bishop of the diocese died in 2003.

During the course of the service,  Cole received gifts from friends, churches at which he previously served, and the Very Rev. John Ross, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee. The gifts included a pectoral cross, bishop’s ring, mitre and crozier. The bishop’s family participated in the service. Son, Jess Cole, served as a lector, and Cole’s wife, Susan Weatherford, played the recorder during communion.

Around 1,000 people attended the ordination and consecration service, and more than 6,700 participated by live stream. The entire service may be viewed on the diocesan website here.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, led the service as chief consecrator. The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner, author, and associate professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, was the preacher.

Cole was seated in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair symbolic of the bishop’s office, in a service at St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville on Dec. 3.

He was elected July 28 on the fifth ballot out of a field of four nominees. He succeeds Young, who served the diocese from 2011 to 2017. Cole served as the rector at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky, from 2012 until his election as bishop.

Previously, he served as sub-dean at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville for seven years, and as vicar at Church of the Advocate, a worshiping community for homeless in downtown Asheville, for 3 years. He received a Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with additional studies in Anglican church history in 2001. His Bachelor of Science is in Business Administration, received in 1989 from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.

Cole has served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, and has five times been a featured preacher on the popular multi-denominational Day 1 weekly podcast/radio broadcast. Cole taught in the religion department at Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina, Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston Salem, North Carolina,, and Luther Seminary, St, Paul., Minnesota. He served on the program staff of the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC) in Berea, Kentucky, for seven years before his ordination as a priest.

The Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee is approximately 14,350 square miles in area, comprising 34 counties in East Tennessee and three counties in North Georgia with the Cumberland Plateau as the western border. There are 50 congregations and worshiping communities servicing nearly 16,000 active members. The population of the diocese is concentrated in the major metropolitan areas: Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities area, which includes Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City, areas totaling more than 2.4 million people according to Tennessee state government statistics.