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Love is in the hair

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

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

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

Goodson’s ministry, Have Shears Will Travel, offers free haircuts to folks in need throughout Houston, Texas. What began as a dream in 2015 with 100 haircuts has grown to a goal of 8,000 cuts this year.

Prior to the mobile hair salon, Barbara Goodson carried all the tools of the trade in her truck. Photo courtesy of Barbara Goodson

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

The value of a haircut

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

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

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

Photos of Glenda, a client of Angela House, before and after a haircut from Have Shears Will Travel. Photo courtesy of Barbara Goodson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using your gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cut above

The inside of the Have Shears Will Travel mobile hair salon. Photo courtesy of Barbara Goodson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, builders and volunteers fully endorse the concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hows and whys of a Lego cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construction update, brick by brick

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

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

Repairing the cathedral continues to be a financial challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire article here.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Ecumenical Easter Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oklahoma Episcopal, Orthodox congregations share space in new collaboration

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

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

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

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

An expanding service

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

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

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

‘Right thing to do’

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

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

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

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

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

Journey through history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maundy Thursday foot clinics offer loving care rooted in Jesus’ command to serve others

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:53pm

The foot-care clinic hosted by the Diocese of San Diego at its Episcopal Church Center features foot washing and an array of other services, from free shoes for patrons to veterinary checkups for patrons’ pets. Photo: Diocese of San Diego

[Episcopal News Service] Foot-washing ceremonies, a tradition enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer, are part of Maundy Thursday observances in Episcopal churches everywhere, re-creating an act of service that Jesus performed for his apostles as “an example, that you should do as I have done.”

But such acts of service don’t need to stop at washing feet. Some dioceses and congregations expand their Maundy Thursday activities to include foot-care clinics and free socks and shoes for the clinics’ patrons, who typically are the churches’ homeless neighbors.

Cheryl Eagleson poses amid boxes of shoes that were distributed at a past foot-care clinic at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. The cathedral hosts the clinic every year on Maundy Thursday. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral

“For a lot of people who are poor and homeless, their feet are their primary mode of transportation,” said the Rev. Steven King, a priest at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, who is organizing the cathedral’s second annual Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic on April 18.

Similar clinics are scheduled for Maundy Thursday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, New York, and at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where the annual event goes by the name “Sole Clinic.”

“A lot of this is just talking and hanging out while we’re washing their feet,” Cheryl Eagleson, Sole Clinic’s lead organizer, told Episcopal News Service. The cathedral also offers a hot breakfast, bagged lunches and dozens of new shoes for clinic patrons to choose from.

And in San Diego, several Episcopal congregations work together on Maundy Thursday to turn the diocese’s Episcopal Church Center in the Ocean Beach neighborhood into a full-service stop, offering homeless residents a wide range of free services. Foot washing and shoe distribution play a prominent part, but patrons also can visit a shampooing station, get their hair cut, visit with a dentist or a doctor, take pets to see a veterinarian and listen to live music while enjoying a hot meal.

“It’s epic,” said Hannah Wilder, communications director for the Diocese of San Diego. “It’s just a day about loving people that the world considers disposable.”

In Maundy Thursday services, the Book of Common Prayer recommends foot-washing ceremonies after the Gospel reading and homily. The Gospel readings recount the story of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet in John 13:1-15, and in Luke 22:14-30, Jesus responds to a dispute among the disciples by admonishing them and commanding them to serve, rather than wield authority.

“For who is greater,” Jesus says, “the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

In congregations that take that call to serve a step further on Maundy Thursday, their foot-care clinics often complement well-established feeding ministries, through which volunteers already have established connections with the people whose feet they will wash.

Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal washes feet at Christ Church Cathedral’s Sole Clinic. Photo: Christ Church Cathedral

The feeding ministry at Christ Church Cathedral, in downtown Cincinnati, is called the 5,000 Club, and it typically draw more than 100 people to a free dinner every Tuesday. Eagleson, who serves as the cathedral’s head verger, makes announcements about the Sole Clinic on three Tuesdays leading up to Maundy Thursday, so those interested in participating can register and get their feet sized for new shoes.

The Sole Clinic has been a cathedral tradition for several years. Last year, Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal and several Episcopal clergy members joined more than two dozen other volunteers in serving 92 clinic guests, Eagleson said. They also gave out 280 pairs of socks and 180 sandwiches.

Eagleson expects an even bigger turnout this year after distributing nearly 140 tickets to people at the 5,000 Club dinners. She upped the number of shoes purchased and is expanding the washing stations in the cathedral’s undercroft from eight to 12. The cathedral budgets about $2,500 for the annual event, mostly to cover the cost of shoes, supplies and a meal.

“It is a very important ministry to me,” Eagleson said. “Having the opportunity to serve one another in whatever capacity is a great thing.”

King, who serves as director of congregational life at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, said in an interview with ENS that he was inspired to start a Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic after hearing about a similar ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut. He also saw an opportunity to build on the Omaha cathedral’s feeding ministry, which on Wednesdays serves about 100 homeless neighbors, many of them staying at a nearby shelter.

Volunteers from an Omaha, Nebraska, beauty salon tend to the feet of patrons at the Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in 2018. Photo: Steven King

Last year, at the Omaha cathedral’s first Maundy Thursday clinic, the congregation gave away 110 pairs of shoes, and thanks to the publicity the event generated, much of it by word of mouth, King is prepared for turnout to double this year.

Some people just come for the free shoes and leave, but others stay for additional services. A local beauty salon brings some of its workers to provide an enhanced foot-washing station, softening calluses and offering pedicures. A local podiatrist volunteers his time and advises guests on any health issues related to their feet.

Other priests have asked King for advice in replicating the clinic at their congregations. “It’s really not a hard thing to do but both reveals and proclaims a really important piece of our faith,” King said. He described this kind of loving service as “a preview of the kingdom of God.”

It also is a way to “live out Jesus’ example,” said the Rev. Liz Easton, the Diocese of Nebraska’s canon to the ordinary. Volunteering at last year’s clinic was a profound spiritual experience, she said.

“It made Maundy Thursday come alive in a really moving way, and I think there’s something about feet, the vulnerability of caring for someone else’s feet,” Easton said. “Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is an act of service and also of loving kindness.”

The Diocese of San Diego provides the space for its Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic, but it is the volunteers from eight Episcopal congregations who make this annual ministry come alive. The San Diego event is now in its ninth year.

A guest has his feet washed at the Diocese of San Diego’s Maundy Thursday foot-care clinic. The annual clinic is in its ninth year. Photo: Diocese of San Diego

It, too, is connected to a year-round feeding ministry, which provides hot meals every Wednesday night and breakfast every Saturday morning. The Wednesday meals also are attended by nursing students from California State University San Marcos, Wilder, the diocese’s communications director, told ENS, and those students will return April 18 to participate in the foot-care clinic.

Last year, about 40 volunteers served more than 300 patrons. The event starts with a Eucharist at 9 a.m. in the courtyard of the diocesan offices. Foot-washing and shoe distribution run for the rest of the morning, and breakfast is served. In addition to the various services provided, the guests receive hygiene kits and a bag lunch.

They also are invited to simply pray and talk with the church volunteers.

Embedded in such acts of service is the Christian vision of the Beloved Community, Wilder said. “Washing feet is about welcome and respect and dignity and loving neighbors as ourselves.”

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

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Episcopalians remember, reflect, pray for Notre Dame Cathedral

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:00pm

Smoke rises around the altar in front of the cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1516DDAB60

[Episcopal News Service] While the world watched in stunned disbelief as Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames April 15, many people, including Episcopalians, took to social media to post photos of their visits to the iconic church and offer prayers for the people of Paris.

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

The three said members of the Episcopal cathedral – located about three miles up the Seine from Notre Dame – “send our prayers in this week that ends in what we know to be the sure and certain promise of resurrection for the future life and restoration of this monument of Christian faith.”

Notre Dame, the most famous of the world’s medieval Gothic cathedrals, was begun in 1163 on the Île de la Cité the Seine and was considered finished in 1350. It rose on the site of two earlier churches. Prior to those churches, the site held a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. Some of the Roman ruin can still be seen below that cathedral. About 13 million people visit the Roman Catholic cathedral each year.

In New York, members of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine must have watched news broadcasts from Paris with a special sympathy. A fire in the cathedral’s crypt broke out the morning before on Palm Sunday, sending smoke into the 124-foot-high stone nave and forcing the evacuation of about 100 people. The fire began after the 9 a.m. service had ended. The 11 a.m. service was moved outside, as was the Sunday soup kitchen.

Bishop Clifton Daniel, dean of the cathedral, told Episcopal News Service that the fire started in an art storage room and was contained to that space. About three-quarters of the art was saved but the fire destroyed a valuable icon and a 16th century chair as well as some prints, drawings and carvings, he said. He credited the New York Fire Department’s prompt response for keeping the damage to far less than it could have been.

The cathedral was open on April 15 but because of on-going clean up, public tours were cancelled as were the three services scheduled for Holy Monday (Eucharist plus Morning and Evening Prayer).

“My first thought, even though I wasn’t here, was oh, God, it’s just like the fire in 2001 here at the cathedral,” said Daniel, recalling his reaction to hearing about the Notre Dame disaster. (Daniel first came to the cathedral in March 2017 as interim dean. )

It was a week before Christmas Eve in 2001 when the six-alarm fire burned through the timbered roof trusses which caved in, destroying the north transept, he said. The 2001 fire also severely damaged the Great Organ and two of the cathedral’s Life of Christ Barberini tapestries. Sections of the cathedral were closed until 2008 for cleaning and restoration.

“My second thought was oh, the trauma, the trauma. It will take years to recover from the trauma. You will recover but it will take time,” Daniel said. “And then I thought, those poor people, all that suffering, all that history, all that hope. It’s going to be a tough time.”

Daniel said some people asked him if the two fires this week were a sign. He told them they showed “we’re in a season of dying and rising.”

Flames may have destroyed art at St. John the Divine and a large part of Notre Dame, “but, you know what, we rise again,” he said, noting that the 2001 fire left the cathedral “a little bit scarred” but still at work among the people of New York.

“I feel confident that Notre Dame will be repaired, restored, renewed and will go on about its mission,” Daniel said, adding that along with the hard work that will be required in the coming years, comes “an opportunity for renewal and strength to move ahead.”

At Washington National Cathedral, a place that has known the impact of disaster since an August 2011 magnitude 5.8 earthquake caused tens of millions of dollars of damage, Dean Randy Hollerith expressed solidarity with another cathedral in what he called “a small sisterhood of globally recognizable Gothic cathedrals.”

Evensong at the cathedral on April 15 included a prayer for Notre Dame and a copy of the prayer was placed in the church’s St. John’s Chapel for those who wanted to light a candle for the church community in Paris.

“Our hearts are breaking for their loss, but we know that this great cathedral has touched and inspired millions of people around the world, and that impact can never be destroyed,” Hollerith said.

The Rev. Broderick Greer, canon precentor at St. John’s Cathedral https://sjcathedral.org/ in Denver, Colorado, wrote a prayer for Notre Dame, which the cathedral offered on its Facebook page “from one cathedral to another.”

The Rev. Vicki Geer McGrath was among the many Episcopalians who post their prayers and reflections on Facebook. She told parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Millington, New Jersey, where she is the rector, that while buildings do not make a church, but “a place that is built to hold and inspire the faith and prayers of believers, and to contain the hopes and aspirations of all men and women, becomes a vessel and vehicle of holiness, no matter how simple or how grand.”

McGrath wrote that she was moved by people – “their faith and hope on very public display” – who gathered in the streets of Paris, praying and singing hymns as they watched Notre Dame burn.

Acknowledging the increasing secularization of Europe and the United States, she suggested that it is time for all Christians “to pray earnestly and daily for the renewal of our faith in Christ and for new life for the church” and “each one of us will be inspired and directed to be God’s agents in a new flowering of faith and life in Christ.”

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

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RIP: Marge Christie, 13-time deputy who was ‘keen for justice, quick with mercy’

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 4:44pm

Marge Christie, long-time Diocese of Newark General Convention Deputy. Photo: Nina Nicholson

[Episcopal News Service] Marjorie “Marge” Christie, a lay General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Newark who worked for the full inclusion of women and other excluded people at all levels of The Episcopal Church, died April 13.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings called Christie, who was 90, “a tireless champion for women in the House of Deputies and The Episcopal Church.

“She witnessed the first women being seated as deputies in 1970 and went on to serve at 13 General Conventions as a deputy or alternate deputy. My ministry and that of so many other women, lay and ordained, was formed and fostered by Marge’s powerful witness and fierce insistence on women’s leadership,” Jennings said. “She could work the floor of the House of Deputies like no one I have ever seen. At last year’s General Convention, for the first time, the majority of deputies were women. Marge’s ministry made that milestone and so many others possible, and I will be forever grateful to her.”

Christie was a delegate to the Episcopal Church Women’s triennial meetings in 1970 and 1973, which run concurrently with General Convention, and then became a deputy in 1976.

The Diocese of Newark said Christie was “a giant of the church.”

Christie’s family plans a public memorial service in May or early June.

Christie became an Episcopalian in the 1950s after marrying her husband, George, and taking an inquirers’ class in their local congregation. Soon, she joined the women’s group at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Paramus, New Jersey. Those two decisions set her on a journey of service and advocacy based in The Episcopal Church and concerned about the lives of women and other excluded people.

She began her ministry before women could be General Convention deputies. In 2006, she introduced the resolution for the House of Deputies to confirm the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the church’s first female presiding bishop and thus the first female leader of an Anglican Communion province.

When the Diocese of Newark established the Marge Christie Congregational Growth and Vitality Fund in 2009, Jefferts Schori said Christie was an iconic example the activity of a minister of the good news. The 26th presiding bishop said Christie was “passionate about empowering women and others without traditional access to power” and had “the ability to lead others in change.”

In announcing the formation of the fund, now-retired Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith said Christie had “the ability to agitate, and agitate graciously and tenaciously, for the rights of all people” and was “THE model of what it means to put faith into action.”

Bishop John Spong, who was Newark’s bishop from 1979 to 2000, also said at that time that Christie “was a force to be recognized. She had more energy than 10 normal people.”

Tributes and memories began to appear April 14 on Facebook as word of her death spread.

The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, a long-time advocate for the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ people in the church, recalled that Christie “worked tirelessly for the ordination of women who, themselves, were not called to ordination but, rather to an empowered ministry of the laity.”

Kaeton said those “who were privileged to stand on her shoulders will be forever and eternally grateful that she helped us reach for the stars and dare to bring glimpses of the Realm of God into the church.”

Diocese of Forth Worth Deputy Katie Sherrod called Christie a mentor who was “a warrior woman, keen for justice, quick with mercy, and beloved of her God.” Christie was “fierce and funny and one of the smartest people I ever met. I’d say rest in peace, but good luck with that. Say a prayer for God.”

Christie’s involvement at the church-wide level began in the 1960s, when she was elected to the Department of Missions, formerly an all-male group. The Department of Missions was part of the church’s National Council, the precursor to the Executive Council.

She was one of the first women to sit on Executive Council, as a representative of Province II. An early member of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, formed to promote the ordination of women, Christie attended the groundbreaking 1974 ordination service of 11 women in Philadelphia.

In 1976, her first year in the House of Deputies, she cast her vote in favor of women’s ordination. She was also present at the ordination and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Church. (An interactive timeline of women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is here.)

As a founding member of Anglican Women’s Empowerment, Christie worked with Anglicans around the world for greater inclusion and opportunities for women everywhere. In 2012, Christie spoke with Episcopal News Service about her advocacy for women.

“I do think that women bring somewhat of a different perspective to things,” she said. “They tend to be more ready to make partnerships. They are deeply concerned about the outcasts and children. That’s not to say men aren’t, but I think women are more active in that, in living out how they feel about those issues … doing whatever needs to be done in order to assure that women are welcome everywhere and that their perspectives are heard and listened to.”

ENS’ article profiled Christie as she prepared to head to what would be her 13th convention as a deputy. Her 2012 status began in dramatic fashtion when the Newark 2011 convention elected its deputies to the coming meeting of General Convention in Indianapolis. The voting came down to the final position with only Christie and her granddaughter, Caroline Christie, then 17, left on the ballot.

At that point, the grandmother withdrew in favor of her granddaughter and was later elected as the first lay alternate deputy.

Christie’s ministry of advocacy for inclusion reached beyond her attention to women’s voices. She was a founding member of The Oasis (the Diocese of Newark’s LGBTQ ministry) as well as the diocese’s Dismantling Racism Commission. In 1998, she co-chaired the diocese’s nominating committee searching for a successor to Spong and supported the inclusion of Gene Robinson, then canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of New Hampshire, on the list of nominees. He was the first openly gay priest to be nominated for the episcopate. He would become the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion in 2003 when ordained and consecrated bishop of New Hampshire.

She was also concerned about how the church invested its money and in 1977 was appointed to the Committee on Social Responsibility in Investments. That was one of her many terms on a number of Episcopal Church committees and commissions over the years. The Diocese of Newark posted what it calls an “incomplete list” of Christie’s involvement in the diocese and The Episcopal Church here.

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

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Episcopalians continue humanitarian response along southwest border

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 12:59pm

People belonging to a caravan of migrants from Honduras en route to the United States walk on a road as they leave Tapachula, Mexico, April 15, 2019. Photo: Jose Cabezas/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] A month and a half ago, asylum-seekers arriving in Nogales, Mexico, faced a three-week wait for an initial interview to enter the United States legally. More recently, those wait times have more than doubled, putting a strain on humanitarian relief efforts.

“The biggest challenge is the wait time. … It’s up to eight weeks now, and we need to keep collecting monetary donations to feed these people,” said the Rev. Rodger Babnew, a deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church just across the border in Nogales, Arizona.

Like other Episcopalians living along the southwest border – which stretches more than 1,550 miles from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California – Babnew’s ministry has turned toward meeting the humanitarian needs of asylum-seekers. Through an ecumenical partnership with the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Babnew coordinates the Diocese of Arizona’s border ministry, which includes a 600-person capacity shelter system (including two homes set aside for people quarantined with chickenpox and measles) in Mexico, where asylum-seekers receive a place to sleep, food, medical attention, clothing and transportation assistance.

Asylum-seekers began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in caravans last fall, many of them attempting to cross through Tijuana to San Diego. Since that time, asylum-seekers increasingly have moved east along the border, to crossing points in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

By definition, asylum-seekers are fleeing violence or persecution in their homeland and seeking sanctuary elsewhere. When asylum-seekers arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, typically they are given a number that guarantees their place in line for what’s called a “credible fear” interview.

If credible fear is established, asylum-seekers are given an electronic bracelet and released from U.S. custody, the majority reuniting with family members already in the United States while they await a formal asylum hearing. Wait times for court hearings now can last up to two years.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents might release asylum-seekers onto the streets and at bus stations, as the government does not provide humanitarian assistance. This is where faith-based and other nonprofit organizations come in, supplying asylum-seekers with shelter, food, medical care, clothing and assistance booking travel arrangements so they can reunite with sponsors, typically family members throughout the country who pay for the bus or plane tickets and offer support during the long wait for a formal hearing. Increasingly, as trust has grown, border agents cooperate with faith-based and other humanitarian groups and release asylum seekers into their care, said Babnew, at least in Nogales, Arizona.

Unlike in El Paso, Texas, where asylum-seekers crossing through Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, have been held in fenced-in areas under bridges while waiting for credible fear interviews, things have gone more smoothly in Nogales, a small 20,000-population city an hour’s drive south of Tucson.

“We don’t have that, we don’t have people sleeping on the border or standing in line,” said Babnew, in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.

At the current rate of 100,000 “migrants” attempting to cross the border monthly, 1 million will have entered over a 12-month period. Asylum-seekers and migrants are not one in the same; the latter is someone who typically moves temporarily for work or other reasons.

“Each asylum-seeker who enters the United States and expresses fear of return or declares an intention to seek asylum is granted an interview with a trained U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer,” said Lacy Broemel, The Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy adviser, in an email message to ENS. “This interview, which is aimed at determining whether the asylum-seeker has a ‘credible fear’ is the first step in the asylum process. If [asylum-seekers are] found to have a credible fear of returning home, they are legally entitled to be able to apply for asylum and present their case to an immigration judge.”

In recent years, asylum-seekers increasingly have joined the flow of migrants seeking economic security in the United States. Many of them are fleeing gang- and drug-related violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence in the Northern Triangle. (Forcible displacement is a global phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.)

“Rates of violent death in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are some of the highest in the world and comparable with those of other armed conflicts internationally,” wrote Noah Bullock, executive director of Cristosal, in response to a New York Times’ editorial that called for building up Central America, rather than building a border wall.

“The optics of death and destruction in the region differ from those of traditional armed conflicts, yet the humanitarian consequences are acute; people are tortured, raped, disappeared, killed; families torn apart, livelihoods and property are destroyed,” he wrote.

Cristosal is a San Salvador, El Salvador-based human rights organizations with longstanding ties to The Episcopal Church. Because of its early work addressing forced displacement, the organization receives funding from USAID and has expanded its operations into Guatemala and Honduras.

For a better understanding of the violence females face in Central America’s Northern Triangle read ‘Someone is Always Trying to Kill You’ in the New York Times.

In late March, President Donald Trump announced his administration would cut $1 billion in designated aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The aid funds programs like those developed by Cristosal that address poverty, gang violence, security and drug trafficking. Some lawmakers criticized the president’s decision, saying the aid cuts would only worsen the situation on the ground.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency to build a border wall, citing an invasion at the southern border. More recently, the president declared: “Our country is full” and called the U.S. asylum system a “scam.”

Trump made curtailing immigration a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and, since taking office, has issued executive orders and has supported policies and legislation to cut legal immigration.

Read The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations statement on cuts in aid to Central America here.

“As we have seen over the past two years, the administration is creating chaos at our southern border in order to advance harmful policies like long-term detention of children and disregarding guaranteed rights of asylum-seekers. The Episcopal Church believes that families, children, and individuals seeking protection should not be condemned as creating a national emergency or crisis, but rather should be recognized as children of God who deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity,” said Broemel, who works for the church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations.

“There are strategies and solutions to process asylum-seekers in a safe and orderly manner, to address the situations forcing these persons to flee in the first place, and to ensure that the U.S. is maintaining its moral and legal obligations when it comes to asylum-seekers,” she said. “The Episcopal Church has official policies passed by General Convention that urge the administration to employ such strategies as increasing aid to Central America, employing alternatives to detention, modernizing our ports of entry, and hiring child welfare professionals to assist with the children and families at the border.”

On April 4, The Episcopal Church joined the National Immigrant Justice Center and other human and civil rights and faith-based organizations in issuing a framework to address the “crisis” at the border. The framework “describes steps the U.S. government must take to uphold U.S. and international law, and basic human rights, in a region that has been increasingly destabilized by the president’s anti-immigrant agenda.”

The Episcopal Church, through General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, has a long history of supporting refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. During the 79th General Convention, the church strengthened its stance on immigration.

In November 2018, the Episcopal Diocese of Rio Grande, whose geographical territory includes 40 percent of the southwest border, hosted a summit that brought together people engaged in borderland ministry to share experiences and practices.

This network of Episcopal borderland ministries has led to increased cooperation across the Southwest. For instance, when immigration agents in the Rio Grande region told Babnew they intended to release 1,500 asylum-seekers over a three-day period, he called Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn, and together they found shelter space for everyone.

The Rio Grande diocese also has responded to humanitarian need in El Paso and in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church recently helped 55 asylum-seekers over a four-day period. When the asylum-seekers were released from U.S. custody, the church provided them with beds, shelter, food and medical care and helped arrange transportation to reunite them with family members.

In El Paso, the Rev. Justin Gibson, vicar of St. Francis on the Hill Episcopal Church, issued a call on April 3 for baby formula, some of it for new mothers unable to produce breast milk to feed their babies.

“Formula – that’s a sign of how desperate the situation is,” said Hunn. “Women are under such stressful conditions that they are not lactating; we reached a different level of humanitarian need.”

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

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La Diócesis de Texas notificada del exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónico

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 4:43pm

[12 de abril de 2019] La Diócesis Episcopal de Texas recibió una notificación del Obispo Presidente y Primado Michael B. Curry y del registrador de la Convención General, el Reverendo Canónigo Michael Barlowe, que la obispa sufragánea-electa Kathryn ‘Kai’ Ryan ha recibido la mayoría de los consentimientos necesarios en el proceso de consentimiento canónico detallado en el Canon III.11.3.

Al dar el consentimiento a su ordenación y consagración, los Comités Permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de que “no hay impedimentos por los cuales” la obispa sufragánea-electa Ryan no deba ser ordenada como obispa, y que su elección se realizó de acuerdo con los cánones.

La Reverenda Canóniga Kathryn ´Kai´ Ryan fue elegida obispa el 22 de febrero. El Obispo Presidente Curry oficiará en su ordenación y servicio de consagración el 1 de junio.

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Bible Challenge connects parish with women’s prison

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:35pm

[Episcopal News Service] On both prison cots and comfy parlor chairs, two communities in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania are taking a singular journey of reading the entire Bible together over the course of the next year.

The Rev. Jennifer Mattson presented an idea to the leadership of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Take up the Bible Challenge — an initiative to read the entire Bible over the course of a year, with 15 minutes each day reading sections from the Old and New Testaments, a psalm, and a proverb. But Mattson didn’t stop there. She wanted to extend the initiative to the local women’s prison, inviting the inmates to participate in the Bible Challenge alongside the people of St. Thomas.

“This is a congregation truly willing to try new ideas,” says Mattson. “Their commitment to inclusion and love blows me away. Reading scripture is foundational to discipleship, to having a relationship with God. There is something so profound about being steeped in God’s Word. When you do that as a community, I think there’s something transformational that happens.”

In a congregation with an average Sunday attendance of 100, 60 people of all ages joined the Bible Challenge. And the congregation made a commitment to the prison as well, purchasing thirty Bible Challenge books for the women’s spirituality group there.

“These are ladies who have been isolated, rejected, for all sorts of reasons,” says Stacey Catigano, a chaplain at the prison and postulant for the diaconate. Doing the Bible Challenge with the people of St. Thomas “reminds them that community is beyond walls, beyond barbed wire, that God is with them. This practice is a divine thread, connecting them to the larger community.”

The path to this shared journey of engaging scripture wasn’t straight.

Catigano didn’t plan on ministering in a prison. After a career as an assistant chaplain in the Army, she thought she was called to hospice ministry. But for one reason or another, things weren’t working out, and the niggling idea of volunteering at a prison kept resurfacing.

It was difficult at first. Hot. Lots of angry people. Not the type of ministry Catigano thought God was calling her to, until one day, she looked at the prison roster and noticed a bunch of women with the same first name as hers, even spelled the same.

“God converted my heart that day. I had been ‘othering’ the women in the prison, and I realized that I am them and they are me, and we are all children of God,” says Catigano, her voice tight with emotion. “I see beautiful things happening here. God is definitely here.”

Like Catigano, the Rev. Jane Miron had no desire to visit prisons. She lived out her diaconal vocation through food banks and clothing closets and other hands-on ministry, but something about the locked doors of a prison scared her.

But Catigano’s repeated invitation to help with a Bible study in the prison wore down her resolve, and she made her first visit.

“During that time with the women, something changed for me,” Miron said. “The honesty and realness of the women keeps me balanced and focused…I can get so caught up with doing ‘God’s work’ and being busy in the church that I forget that we are called to go out into our communities—all of our communities.”

Miron and Mattson alternate leading the women’s spirituality group at the prison, along with Catigano. Perhaps because of their commitment to this ministry, the people of St. Thomas were very receptive to the idea of taking on the Bible Challenge within the congregation as well as in the prison community.

People have covenanted to pray with and for one another throughout the year, Mattson said. In the congregation, affinity groups are developing: parents with kids under the age of 13, the Wednesday lectionary group. In the prison, the women are engaging the Bible Challenge in a variety of ways, from lectio divina to adventure/comic book Bibles.

“God speaks to people in different ways,” says Catigano. “Overall, what I’ve noticed is that the women know that I am reading the Bible and that the people of St. Thomas are reading it with them. It broadens the sense of community, and that’s very important to the women. For me personally, this process connects me to God and connects me to God’s community in a very profound way.”

The women’s spirituality group and the people of St. Thomas are part of a much bigger community: More than 1 million people have participated in The Bible Challenge since it began in 2011, says the Rev. Marek Zabriskie, founder of the program.

“We’ve experienced enormous spiritual hunger in the Episcopal Church as well as other mainline churches,” says Zabriskie, now rector of Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Members have been eager to engage scripture and to develop a daily spiritual practice of reading the Bible in a prayerful manner that leads to spiritual growth and transformation.”

Zabriskie said this is the first such prison/congregation partnership for the Bible Challenge, but other creative partnerships have flourished, such as with schools and book clubs.

“It can work wherever there is a willing spirit,” he says.

For Miron, the Bible Challenge is both an opportunity to dive deep into scripture—and to live out the words.

“Whenever we yoke with other groups that are in a different place or different part of our community, I think there’s something really powerful in that,” she says. “It’s so easy to get isolated in our individual parishes—any time you partner with different groups and focus on what we have in common, on God’s word, then it strengthens your spiritual foundation and leads to our collective spiritual growth.”

– Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church committed to inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists.

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Lambeth Conference 2020: Over 500 bishops in 39 Anglican Communion Churches register

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Organizers of next year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have announced that 502 bishops and 382 spouses have so far registered for the decennial event, with the numbers rising each day. Registrations to date come from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 45 member provinces and extra-provincial churches. “In comparison to the 2008 event when registrations had not started at this point, this is a most encouraging position to be in,” Lambeth Conference Chief Executive Phil George said.

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