Episcopal News Service

Subscribe to Episcopal News Service feed
The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
Updated: 2 hours 2 min ago

Anglican clinic’s collapse in Gaza prompts call for emergency donations in support of diocese

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 5:22pm

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem released this photo of the ruins of the Anglican diocese’s surgical outpatient clinic at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

[Episcopal News Service] A building collapse at a Gaza clinic run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem http://www.j-diocese.org/ has the Anglican diocese’s supporters around the world scrambling to raise money for repairs at a time when Palestinian relief efforts have been hindered by cuts in humanitarian aid.

The building that collapsed Dec. 6 was a surgical outpatient clinic at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Steel beams, roof decking, plaster ceiling and surrounding walls caved into the room and then collapsed into the basement below, a dramatic implosion that was partly caught on video.

The 120-year-old building apparently was empty that afternoon at the time of the collapse, and no one was injured.

“If the facility had been occupied during that time, there might have been fatalities,” the Diocese of Jerusalem said, according to Anglican Communion News Service. The report said “environmental stress” was partly to blame.

Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani has launched an appeal for donations to rebuild the clinic, which is just one building on the hospital’s campus. Up to 500 patients a month typically use the clinic, and they have been directed to other parts of the hospital for treatment.

Al Ahli Arab Hospital has been ministering as a Christian witness in Gaza City since 1882. The institution was founded by the Church of England’s Church Mission Society and was later run as a medical mission by the Southern Baptist Conference from 1954 to 1982. It then returned to the Anglican Church. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

An engineer and construction team have surveyed the damage and recommended about $150,000 in reconstruction work, the diocese said.

“Their findings provided useful insights about the deficiencies of the bar joists in the clinic that were manufactured between 1900 and the late 1950s, and still being used well after 1960,” the diocese said. “These were the chief culprits behind the catastrophic failure of the building – but so were the infrequent renovations, the latest occurring in 1993.”

The Episcopal Church has supported and remained closely engaged with the Anglican diocese’s work in Israel and the Palestinian territories for many years. The diocese is among the recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Good Friday Offering, which collected a record $414,310 in 2017 to support ministries in the Middle East.

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital is one ministry that benefits from that money, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry personally visited the hospital in March during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Holy Week.

“The number of Christians in Gaza are decreasing dramatically, but the witness to the way of Jesus is as strong as ever because at Al Ahli Arab Hospital healing happens – Muslim, Christian, anyone who needs it, healing happens,” Curry told Episcopal News Service after visiting the hospital. “And that is the way of Jesus. That is what love looks like. That is what the sacrifice on the cross was about.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry hands a toddler back to her mother in March while visiting a session for mothers and their young children at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani is at right. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In November, Curry joined leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops raising concerns about the Trump administration’s apparent decision to end further humanitarian assistance to hospitals in East Jerusalem, including the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Princess Basma Rehabilitation Center.

“These hospitals provide life-saving and, in some cases, unique forms of health care not available otherwise to Palestinians,” the religious leaders said in a joint statement.

The statement did not address conditions at the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, but the situation there is dire, said John Lent, executive director of American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, or AFEDJ.

“All of Gaza is on a timeline that requires urgent intervention, politically, socially, economically. It’s really a completely unsustainable situation that the Gazans are living in, and Ahli’s right in the middle of it,” Lent said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

Electricity in Gaza is intermittent at best, sewer systems have failed and running water is no longer available in most homes, Lent said. The Gaza Strip is governed by the Palestinians but largely cut off from the outside world by an Israeli blockade. It also is home to Palestinian refugee camps. This year, the U.S. announced it was ending its aid to the United Nation program that supports those Palestinian refugees.

The Ahli hospital is the only nongovernmental, charitable hospital ready to treat them and all Gaza residents, Lent said. “Ahli is a very special place, given the people that it serves,” he said. “In some neighborhoods, it looks as though they’re stone age.”

The hospital has struggled just to keep its doors open, Lent said, and maintaining deteriorating buildings only adds to that burden. “When I visit, I can tell you that everything at Ahli is simple, spare, clean and efficient, but very old.”

AFEDJ, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit, is the recommend partner organization for Americans interested in supporting the work of the Diocese of Jerusalem, which is spread over five countries – Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The organization has launched its own appeal to raise additional money to support the Diocese of Jerusalem and the hospital in Gaza. Donations can be made at afedj.org/give.

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

The post Anglican clinic’s collapse in Gaza prompts call for emergency donations in support of diocese appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Bishops from New Zealand and Polynesia issue joint protest on West Papua abuses

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 4:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have expressed their “deep disappointment” at what they say is the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua. The political status of West Papua is disputed. The bishops issued a statement calling for the Indonesian authorities to “halt all state-sanctioned abuse and violation of human rights.” In their statement, they express their “deep disappointment” at the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua, and call on governments within their jurisdiction – New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga Samoa, American Samoa and the Cook Islands – to take a four-fold course of action.

Read the entire article here.

The post Bishops from New Zealand and Polynesia issue joint protest on West Papua abuses appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop named religious newsmaker of the year

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 2:35pm

“Today Show” co-hosts Hoda Kotb, left, and Savannah Guthrie listen Nov. 1 as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks about the power of love. It was one of many media interviews Curry gave this year. Photo: “The Today Show”

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry herald the message of God’s unconditional love ever since he was elected in July 2015. In May, his message went global and viral when he preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and now it has earned him the title of “religious newsmaker of the year.”

The Religion News Association said that Curry’s sermon had “raised his profile as a progressive religious voice.”

That could be an understatement. Curry’s profile beyond the Episcopal Church began to take off the moment his part in the May 19 wedding was announced. Stories attempting to answer the question “who is Michael Curry” abounded.

Then he stepped to the ambo at St. George’s Chapel and began to preach. According to media statisticians, 29.2 million people in the United States and 18 million in the United Kingdom viewed the wedding. And then there was Twitter, where 3.4 million social media users tweeted about the royal wedding. They tweeted 40,000 times a minute during Curry’s sermon, more than the 27,000 tweets per minute during the declaration of Harry and Meghan as husband and wife.

That day “Bishop Michael Curry” was a top “trending topic” on Google with a score of 100 on a scale of 0-100 for daily searches, and “episcopal’ was the top lookup on Merriam Webster.

El Paso pilgrimage shines a ‘light of truth’ on migrant humanitarian crisis at the border

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 11:42am

The Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries, interprets for the Rev. Hector Trejo, who serves three Anglican churches in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] Two thousand people are released weekly by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the hospitality of Annunciation House here in El Paso.

Many of them are families who have waited their turn to cross the border and request asylum. If Annunciation House had space for 2,500, it would be 2,500, said its founder and director, Ruben Garcia.

The asylees receive food, a bed, a shower, toiletries, a care package and help contacting relatives to arrange travel. Within 48 hours they are placed on buses or airplanes to reunite with family members in other parts of the United States.

“The vast majority of people have someone,” Garcia said.

Mostly, they come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but some come from Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, even as far as India. Some are fleeing violence, some come for economic opportunities, others are fleeing religious and other forms of persecution.

Some 30 people representing large urban and suburban Episcopal congregations gathered in Southwest Texas for what they called an “El Paso Pilgrimage.” Here they gather on the Ciudad Juárez side of the border wall separating Mexico and the United States. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

On Dec. 13, some 30 people representing large urban and suburban Episcopal congregations gathered in Southwest Texas for what they called an “El Paso Pilgrimage.” The Rev. Gary Jones, rector of St. Stephen’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, initiated the pilgrimage out of a desire to counter a narrative that vilifies asylum seekers as drug dealers and rapists, when in fact they are fleeing for their lives and their livelihoods.

The pilgrimage’s first stop was Annunciation House, where participants heard a briefing from Garcia, who has worked on the border for 40 years, witnessing and responding to various migrant and refugee surges over the years.

“The phenomenon of refugees is not an El Paso problem, it’s a U.S. problem,” said Garcia.

“Right now, because of [U.S.] enforcement, we are seeing changes that make life miserable,” he said “The border has become a very complicated place.”

When Annunciation House began its ministry 40 years ago, it was primarily serving men who would come to the United States for seasonal work, return home to be with families and later return for work. In 1996, when the last legislative change in immigration law made it impossible to come and go, the men could no longer go home and instead stayed.

“Once they make the decision to stay, they lose family,” Garcia said.

Writing along the border fence outside San Jose Anglican Church on the Mexico side of the border reads, “We are not delinquents or illegals, we are international workers.” Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

With the mid-1990s change in immigration law, the undocumented population rose from 6 million to 12 million by 2004, as men sought family reunification and women and children began arriving. Today, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States; some have been living in hiding for 20 to 30 years, he said.

Upon arrival, migrants and asylum seekers are faced with pleading their cases to agents at designated points of entry or climbing over walls and crossing rivers to plead their case upon apprehension by agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, Garcia explained.

A couple of weeks ago asylum seekers were sleeping on the bridge so as not to lose their place in line, as typically 20 people are allowed to enter at a time. Then, in an effort to clear the bridge, CBP began issuing numbers, written in magic marker on asylum seekers’ arms to keep track of their place in line, he said.

From there, they are sent to shelters in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border, to wait their turn.

Miguel Escobar, executive director of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, greets children from the Rancho Anapra municipality outside the center of Ciudad Juárez. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal pilgrims arrived in El Paso just as news broke of the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in U.S. Border Patrol custody a day after she, her father and 161 other migrants surrendered to agents after crossing illegally into New Mexico. The circumstances of the girl’s death are still under investigation.

For the pilgrims, though, it was a stark reminder of the perilous journey migrants and asylum seekers face, and the outdated U.S. immigration system and the Trump administration’s response to the current humanitarian crisis on the Southwestern border. The government has sent at least 8,000 troops to the border in an attempt to deter crossings. Still, migrants continue to arrive in caravans.

“I wanted to see with my own eyes what’s going on,” said the Ven. Juan Sandoval, an archdeacon in the Diocese of Atlanta and a third-generation Mexican-American who grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.

“It just seemed instead of the military, you should be sending churches and aid workers, people who can help,” he said.

The Very Rev. Nathan LeRud, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, stands on the Ciudad Juárez side of the wall separating Mexico and the United States at the border in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

That’s where the churches come in. Mostly, hospitality comes from El Paso churches, with the Roman Catholic Church and Annunciation House leading the way. Some asylum seekers receive legal assistance from organizations like the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, the second stop on the pilgrims’ journey.

There, Christina Garcia, who provides legal consultation, explained the complexity of family reunification, which can take 20 or 30 years depending on U.S. quotas and the country of origin, and the difficulty in winning asylum cases. Her agency, she said, won six asylum cases in six years, and, in a major win, seven so far this year.

The current crisis, she said, “is dehumanizing in every aspect and ignores the humanitarian right to access.” She also said El Paso; Atlanta, Georgia, and that state of Arizona are the most difficult places to gain asylum, and here, as in the rest of the United States, judges make arbitrary determinations case-by-case.

From there, they went to St. Christopher’s Church, one of five El Paso Episcopal churches and the one closest to the border, led by the Rev. J.J. Bernal. The Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries, gave an overview of the current situation as it relates to Central America, talking about the failure of trickle-down economics, U.S. foreign policy as it has historically related to Central America, deportation of gang members, security issues across the Northern Triangle, drug cartels, associated violence and the United States’ appetite for drugs.

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been displaced by violence. However, it’s a global phenomenon now affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.

The pilgrimage followed on a Border Ministries Summit organized by Moore and held here in November.

On Dec. 14, the pilgrims departed for Ciudad Juárez, some crossing by car and others using pedestrian access along two of the three bridges connecting the two cities. In Juárez, the Rev. Hector Trejo, who arrived six months ago from Chihuahua, the capital of the state of Chihuahua, took them by bus to two of his three Anglican parishes.

San Jose, or St. Joseph’s, is located along the border in Rancho Anapra, an informal, impoverished settlement on the city’s northwest side, previously a cattle ranching area that squatters settled and that drug cartels have infiltrated.

“Because the people here don’t have property rights it became a place for the criminal element,” said Trejo. “There are safe houses, and it’s a movement center for drug traffickers and people smugglers.

“The challenge here is great,” he added, saying community members come to him asking him for advice on how to get over the wall because they fear for their lives.

The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, right; Miguel Escobar, executive director of Episcopal Divinity School, and the Rev. Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, cross The Paso del Norte International Bridge into El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Diocese of Northern Mexico doesn’t have an established ministry serving migrants; it was one thing the Episcopalians were looking to get involved in and something Trejo addressed. The reality is such, he said, that volunteers need to be trained properly to deal with people who’ve been traveling for weeks and sometimes months, people who haven’t bathed or brushed their teeth in a long time, and who have fled traumatic, violent, abusive situations and encountered the same along their journey. Still, he’s looking for partners in ministry and to build a network of responders along the border.

It was something Bernal, the rector of St. Christopher’s in El Paso, echoed. The Episcopal Church, he said, needs to articulate and establish a vision for its ministry at the border.

“The Episcopal Church is a voice for the voiceless,” he said. “Those of us here at the border feel isolated. We need more active voices and human resources.”

Through its Borderland Ministries, the Rio Grande Diocese is looking to expand its ministry, said Moore.

And that, he said, must take the form of grassroots ministry led by those on the ground through partnerships based in mutual respect, not patriarchy.

On the last day of the Dec. 13-15 pilgrimage, two carloads of pilgrims departed for Tornillo, Texas, the site of a camp that opened to house 360 unaccompanied minors and now houses 2,700. They didn’t quite reach the camp, as Border Patrol agents told them it is private property, but they got as close as possible and gathered at a fence to pray for the children in custody there: for their safety, their grieved parents and their futures.

“I’m really glad we went to the camp – I won’t call it a shelter, it’s not a shelter – it’s a concentration camp for children,” said the Rev. Stephen Carlsen, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana. “I felt I needed to witness what is being done in our names as Americans.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like if the U.S. border is your last hope … how people are [mis] treated and dehumanized. If this is their last hope, what must they be fleeing?”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

The post El Paso pilgrimage shines a ‘light of truth’ on migrant humanitarian crisis at the border appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Church eyes investing in gun manufacturers to press for greater gun safety

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 4:50pm

Episcopalians join a interfaith group of demonstrators outside a Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 14. Photo: Victoria Ix/Diocese of Western Massachusetts

[Episcopal News Service] Shareholder advocacy is nothing new for the Episcopal Church. With an investment portfolio worth about $400 million, the church has long used some of those investments used to influence companies based on Christian principles and General Convention resolutions that set church policies and priorities.

What’s new is one of the investment tactics the church plans to implement in the new year to address gun violence.

General Convention passed a resolution in July that calls on Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to research investing in gun manufacturers to give the church a new voice in how those companies do business. The goal: “to minimize lethal and criminal uses of their products.”

“We’ve never purposely gone out and bought [shares in] what we’d consider a bad actor in order to press the company to change behavior,” said Brian Grieves, the outgoing chair of the committee, which oversees the church’s shareholder advocacy.

The resolution, B007, was proposed by Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher, a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, who will take over for Grieves as committee chair in January. Fisher’s diocese is home to the headquarters of Smith & Wesson in Springfield, and in March he participated in a rally outside the gun manufacturer led by high school students in the wake of a deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Fisher acknowledged a “sense of frustration” among anti-gun violence advocates in response to Congress’ inaction. “The federal government is doing nothing about the public health crisis of gun violence,” he said. “So where can the church engage this big issue?”

Shareholder advocacy already has produced results on the issue, such as the decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods in February to stop selling assault rifles at its Field & Stream stores and to stop selling any guns to customers under 21. The Episcopal Church, as a shareholder, was involved in the effort to pressure the chain based on the Sandy Hook Principles, named after the school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 students and six educators were gunned down six years ago, on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Dick’s shareholder effort was aided by a coalition called Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, or ICCR, an organization to which the Episcopal Church belongs that helps religious organizations pool their shareholder power. The group has recently worked with other of its members to do what General Convention urged: buy stock in a gun manufacturing company to influence corporate behavior. Eleven Roman Catholics organizations invested in Sturm, Ruger & Co. and in May were able to pass a shareholder resolution requiring the company to produce a report documenting how it is mitigating the harmful effects of its products.

Fisher said the Episcopal Church intends to take its cue from ICCR and base its advocacy with gun manufacturers on principles developed by an anti-gun violence campaign called Do Not Stand Idly By.

Such efforts aren’t opposed to gun ownership or the Second Amendment, Fisher said. “We’re really taking the approach of, why can’t gun companies act like car companies? Car companies are already trying to make their cards safer. … That’s good business practice. Why can’t gun companies go down the same path?”

That’s a worthwhile case to make to those companies, said the Rev. Rosalind Hughes, a Cleveland-area priest who has been vocal and active in the fight against gun violence, but she isn’t sure investments are the best way to make that case.

“My personal feeling is that I would prefer that we were not investing in the manufacture of guns in the first place,” said Hughes, rector at Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio. She favors stepping up lobbying efforts to pass stricter background checks, an end to gun-show loopholes and other reform measures. Bishops United Against Gun Violence has backed such measures as well.

“The fact that we’re talking about this on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting doesn’t escape my notice,” Hughes told Episcopal News Service. “And the idea that the best that we can do is to invest in the manufacture of more guns in order to influence the landscape of guns in this country that doesn’t sit well with me.”

Grieves, who will remain on the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility after stepping down as chair, describes actively investing in such companies as just one of the alternatives available to the church as it pursues a range of policy goals.

“One size does not fit all,” he said. “It’s a strategic decision, and we’re going to have to look at how we arrive at those particular positions.”

Even if this approach gets results on gun safety, it may not be the best approach toward one of the church’s other priorities, which include climate change, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, indigenous people’s rights, corporate board diversity and ending human trafficking.

The church already owns shares in Caterpillar and Motorola, for example, and for years has been pressing those two companies to address human rights concerns related to their contracts with Israel in the occupied territories.

“The purpose is to engage in dialogue and try to get the company to move toward making a change in its behavior,” Grieves said.

General Convention, however, stopped short of approving a blanket divestment in Israel, which some critics of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories have called for. Instead, bishops and deputies passed a resolution that calls on Executive Council to establish a “human rights screen” to determine the criteria that would justify divesting from specific companies based on their track records on human rights.

The church also maintains so-called no-buy lists against investing in tobacco companies, for-profit prison companies and companies that earn more than a specific percentage of their business as military contractors.

Fisher noted that affirmative investing is another approach the Episcopal Church takes, such as its support for companies doing good work in the Palestinian territories. The Bank of Palestine is one example.

On climate change, the church seeks out investments aligned with its interest in caring for God’s creation. Fisher’s diocese took the additional step in 2015 divesting from companies that profit from fossil fuels.

It’s one thing to divest from oil to invest that money in alternative fuels, Fisher said, but that approach doesn’t work well in addressing gun violence. “What would you invest in that would impact the public health crisis of gun violence?”

By investing in gun manufacturers, then, the church and its partners may be able to persuade those companies take steps that will reduce the number of gun deaths. One example would be to adopt technology like fingerprint recognition, familiar to any iPhone user, that would lock guns for everyone except the owner.

“Even if you don’t get shareholder resolutions passed, if you stay with it long enough … people start to take notice,” Fisher said. “It’s not something that gets ignored. It gets addressed.”

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

The post Episcopal Church eyes investing in gun manufacturers to press for greater gun safety appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for UK-based international Joint Reconciliation Unit

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 3:44pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called on the British government to establish a Joint reconciliation Unit to work in conflict zones around the globe. The archbishop made his call during a debate he led in the House of Lords on reconciliation.

Read the full article here.

The post Archbishop of Canterbury calls for UK-based international Joint Reconciliation Unit appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Archbishop of Burundi leads march against gender-based violence

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 1:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican primate of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, has led hundreds of people on a march through Makamba in a protest against gender-based violence. The march took place during the annual, international 16 Days of Activism, which concluded on Dec. 10 – international Human Rights Day.

Read the full article here.

The post Archbishop of Burundi leads march against gender-based violence appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Christian, Jewish leaders in Britain speak against anti-Semitism, persecution of Christians

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 1:26pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined other Christian and Jewish leaders to speak out against the rise of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. The religious leaders, co-presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews, co-signed a letter to The Times newspaper on Dec. 13.

Read the full article here.

The post Christian, Jewish leaders in Britain speak against anti-Semitism, persecution of Christians appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Church’s support for historically black universities cited in St. Augustine’s turnaround

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 11:12am

St. Augustine’s University President Everett Ward speaks Dec. 11 at a news conference to announce the university has received a 10-year accreditation. Photo: St. Augustine’s, via YouTube

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s longtime support for historically black colleges and universities was credited this week in a major success story in Raleigh, North Carolina. St. Augustine’s University, a school the church helped establish more than 150 years ago, announced that its accrediting agency had taken the institution off probation, indicating it finally had turned the corner on its financial struggles and enrollment decline.

St. Augustine’s President Everett Ward sounded euphoric at a press conference Dec. 11 to present the good news.

“By God’s grace, I am here today and can report to you that we have saved St. Augustine’s University,” Ward said, according to the News & Observer. In a subsequent press release, Ward touted a “turnaround strategy” that drew support from alumni, faculty students and community partners.

“I would like to especially highlight and thank the Episcopal Church for its unwavering support,” Ward said in the press release. “From Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s letters and encouragement, to the church’s HBCU Committee and their consultants’ foundational, administrative, and advisory support, and to all who offered gifts of prayer as well as financial contributions.”

The Episcopal Church at one point supported 11 HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. By 1976, only three remained, and in 2013, one of those three, Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, also folded.

The two survivors are St. Augustine’s and the much smaller Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. The Episcopal Church has invested millions of dollars in the two schools in recent years while also providing administrative guidance and fundraising support. Voorhees’ accreditation was not in doubt, but in 2016, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ accrediting board placed St. Augustine’s on probation because of concerns about its financial security.

When the board met last weekend, the stakes were high for St. Augustine’s. Losing accreditation could have dealt a devastating and potentially fatal blow to the school. Instead, the board decided to renew St. Augustine’s accreditation for 10 years.

“It’s really a wonderful time, not only for St. Aug’s, but the church can be very proud that one of its institutions will continue to provide quality education for students and support for their families and continue to exist for the years to come,” the Rev. Martini Shaw told Episcopal News Service by phone after the announcement.

Shaw, who is rector at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, serves as chair of the HBCU committee of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council. The council established the HBCU committee in 2017 to continue work begun by an HBCU task force that formed in 2015.

The church’s recent work with HBCUs coincides with an emphasis on racial reconciliation under Curry’s leadership, though Episcopal ties to these academic institutions dates back further to the post-Civil War period. Colleges and universities like St. Augustine’s and Voorhees were founded to provide educational opportunities to black men and women who were excluded from white institutions of higher learning because of segregation.

Saint Augustine’s was established in 1867 by the Episcopal Church and opened its doors the following January. The school that later would become Voorhees College was founded in 1897, and the Episcopal Church has supported it since 1924.

About 100 such schools are still open today across the United States, accepting students of all races, and some of the financial and enrollment challenges faced by St. Augustine’s and Voorhees are common among other historically black colleges and universities.

The demographics of those colleges’ student bodies are changing as well. Pew Research Center reported last year that less than 9 percent of black students attended a historically black college in 2015, down from 17 percent in 1980.  Over the same period, historically black colleges and universities have become more racially diverse, with the number of students who aren’t black rising from 13 to 17 percent.

Overall enrollment at HBCUs also has been in decline since hitting a peak in 2010, when 327,000 students attended one of the colleges, according to the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics.

The agency’s Digest of Education Statistics shows that Voorhees increased its fall enrollment that year, to 752 students, but St. Augustine’s was already beginning its downward trend, falling from the 1,529 students it had enrolled in 2009 to 1,508 students.

The decline at St. Augustine’s gained speed in the first half of this decade, with enrollment dropping to just 810 students by fall 2015. Ward was named president that year, after taking the reins as interim president a year earlier.

In 2016, St. Augustine’s logged its first enrollment increase in seven years, welcoming 944 students that fall. The number grew to 974 in 2017 but dropped sharply to 767 this fall, which the university blames on a negative article on HBCUDigest.com suggesting the university was near closure. By easing the uncertainty around its accreditation, Ward and other university officials see further opportunities to expand enrollment and academic programs.

Everett Ward became the 11th president of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April 2015. Photo: Saint Augustine’s University

“The relevancy of any intellectual community has got to be that you grow and advance with the changing society, because we’re producing the leaders of society here at St. Augustine’s and subsequently you have to embrace diversity,” Ward, a graduate of St. Augustine’s, told ENS in 2017 for a Q&A during the university’s 150th anniversary year.

The Episcopal Church’s financial support has helped stabilize the two schools and, in St. Augustine’s case, bring it back from the brink of losing accreditation. General Convention has approved about $2 million to support HBCUs with Episcopal ties for the past several triennia. After Saint Paul’s closed in 2013, the money was split between the remaining two colleges.

The 2016-2018 budget included $1.1 million for each college, and the same amount has been approved in the 2019-2021 budget. Separately, the church’s Development Office has worked to increase awareness of the schools within the church and to help with fundraising.

St. Augustine’s also points to improved internal controls and an increase in alumni giving in allowing the institution to end its 2018 financial year with a surplus. As they build on these successes, university officials will continue to have the support of the Episcopal Church.

“We as the church are going to continue to work very closely with them to assure that they succeed,” Shaw said. “We don’t want to lose another one of our Episcopal schools.”

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

The post Episcopal Church’s support for historically black universities cited in St. Augustine’s turnaround appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Carta a la Iglesia Episcopal del Obispo Presidente, Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 5:56am

Estimado Pueblo de Dios en la Iglesia Episcopal:

Hace casi un año, nosotros publicamos un llamamiento a que la iglesia examinara su historia y lograra una mejor comprensión de cómo hemos manejado o maltratado casos de acoso sexual, explotación y abuso a través de los años. En particular, pedimos escuchar las voces de la iglesia más amplia en la Convención General para que los diputados y obispos pudieran considerar tanto cómo expiar el pasado de la iglesia y formar un futuro más justo. Como seguidores de Jesús de Nazaret, como hijos de Dios con todo el mundo, no podíamos hacer menos y debemos hacer más.

En julio, la Convención General consideró 26 resoluciones y una conmemoración que abordan los asuntos que el movimiento #YoTambién (#MeToo) ha sacado a la luz, muchos desarrollados por el Comité Especial de la Cámara de Diputados sobre Acoso y Explotación Sexuales. Una de estas resoluciones, Resolución D034, suspende por tres años el canon (ley eclesiástica) que impone un plazo para iniciar procesos en casos de mala conducta sexual en contra de adultos por parte de clérigos. No existe un plazo para denunciar mala conducta sexual en contra de niños y jóvenes menores de 21 años de edad por parte de clérigos.

Como resultado de esta resolución, desde 1 de enero de 2019 hasta 31 de diciembre de 2021, los que quieren iniciar un caso de mala conducta sexual contra un clérigo podrán hacerlo, independientemente de hace cuanto tiempo ocurrió la supuesta mala conducta. Las alegaciones de mala conducta pueden presentarse al gestor en la diócesis donde ocurrió la supuesta mala conducta, o, si la alegación es contra un obispo, a la Oficina de Desarrollo Pastoral. Pueden aprender cómo comunicarse con el gestor en una diócesis buscando en su sitio web o llamando a la oficina del obispo.

Esperamos que esta suspensión temporal del estatuto de limitaciones será una manera en que la iglesia pueda aceptar los casos de mala conducta sexual en nuestro pasado colectivo. De aquí a la Convención General en 2021, los laicos, clérigos y obispos nombrados a varios grupos de trabajo por la Convención General de 2018 trabajarán en otras maneras de abordar estos asuntos, incluso un proceso de ayudar a la iglesia a involucrarse en la veracidad, la confesión y reconciliación respecto a nuestra historia de discriminación basada en género, acoso y violencia.

Agradecemos los numerosos diputados, obispos y otros voluntarios en toda la iglesia cuyo trabajo cuidadoso antes de, durante y después de la Convención General ayudan a que nuestra iglesia avance al día cuando, habiéndonos arrepentido de nuestros pecados y enmendado nuestra vida común, podamos ser restaurados en amor, gracia y confianza el uno con el otro mediante nuestro Salvador Jesucristo.


El Rvdmo. Michael B. Curry                          La Rda. Gay Clark Jennings

Obispo Presidente y Primado                       Presidente, Cámara de Diputados

The post Carta a la Iglesia Episcopal del Obispo Presidente, Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 4:00pm

Acolytes and a crucifer from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church stand outside All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Warrenton, N.C., during a closing service on Dec. 8, 2018. Photo: Yonat Shimron/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] On a chilly December morning, 100 years and one week after its sanctuary opened, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, an African-American congregation with a proud history, was formally closed.

Bishop Samuel Rodman presided over the Eucharistic service in an elementary school a block away from the church, where weekly services ended more than three years ago. Several longtime members returned to read Scriptures and sing hymns. Afterward, the group of 100, including history buffs and well-wishers from North Carolina and Virginia, shared a meal of fried chicken and baked beans.

All Saints is hardly alone among mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations. Faced with dwindling members, crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches shutter each year, according to one estimate. More closures may be in the offing as surveys point to a decline in church attendance across the country.

But All Saints is an example of an even sharper decline.

Historically African-American churches across the South are fast disappearing. Some were created after the Civil War when slavery was abolished; others in the crucible of Jim Crow, when whites who had long relegated blacks to the church balcony no longer tolerated them at all.

The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina once boasted 60 such churches. Today, a mere dozen are left and, of those, only three have full-time clergy. Epiphany Episcopal Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., closed two years ago; at least one other is in danger of shuttering next year.

Of course, African-Americans have been welcome in all Episcopal churches for years — and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, who served as bishop of the North Carolina diocese before leading the 1.7 million-member denomination, is black.

At Saturday’s (Dec. 8) closing service, there was a recognition that it was in part progress in race relations that has doomed African-American congregations. But there was as much tribute paid to the sacrificial work of so many pioneering black Episcopalians.

“Jesus provided those saints with the fortitude … to say, ‘We belong to the house of God,’” said the Rev. Nita Byrd, chaplain at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, who delivered the closing service sermon. “We are not aliens in the Christian family. We are not second-class citizens in the Episcopal Church.”

As North Carolina wrestles with the aftermath of Jim Crow — the University of North Carolina’s trustees have recommended that a racially motivated Confederate statue torn down by protesters in August be housed in a $5.3 million museum to be built on campus — there is a sense that these churches slowly fading from view also have a story to tell about the racial history of the region.

Members of All Saints hope that story is preserved.

“Not only was All Saints important to us, but to the community and the nation,” said Wilhelmina Ratliff, a middle school teacher who is one of the last six remaining members.

The church was formed in 1892 — about five years before Jim Crow made it nearly impossible for blacks to remain in white churches. It was not the first black Episcopal church in North Carolina. That honor belongs to St. Cyprian’s in New Bern, which got its start in 1866 and remains open.

But All Saints in particular benefited from, and nourished, a succession of notable black priests. Among them was Henry Beard Delany, who would become one of the first two black bishops consecrated in the Episcopal Church, in 1918. (His daughters, Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany, told about their civil rights struggles in their 1993 best-selling book, “Having Our Say.”)

Henry Delany, who was born into slavery in Georgia, preached at All Saints for more than two decades, traveling an hour by train from Raleigh one Sunday a month.

His daughter Sarah recalled: “When Papa became a bishop, he occasionally was encouraged by a friendly conductor to take the Pullman instead of the Jim Crow car. But Papa would say no. He would be amiable about it, though. He would say to the conductor, ‘That’s OK. I want to ride with my people, see how they’re doing.’ And he’d go sit in the Jim Crow car.”

Delany helped establish a parochial school at All Saints where young African-Americans were educated. Later he worked to raise money for a new church building. Delany wanted the new building, which eventually rose on the corner of West Franklin and Front streets, to honor a late black Episcopal priest with roots in Warren County.

That priest, Thomas White Cain, was the first black Episcopalian to serve alongside white priests with equal voice and vote in the national legislative body of the Episcopal Church, the General Conference. (He died when he was swept away by a 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston Island, Texas.)

Delany was able to raise $1,500 for the All Saints building, which would also be known as the Thomas White Cain Memorial. Of that, $500 was pledged from among black Episcopalians across the country.

Delany and Cain are only two of a dozen trailblazing black Episcopal priests who came through All Saints or the larger Warren County, whose population to this day is estimated to be 51 percent African-American.

“These were people of remarkable achievement working under very difficult circumstances, underpaid, underresourced, willing to travel great distances to minister to far-flung congregations,” said the Rev. Brooks Graebner, the diocesan historian.

Though never large, the congregation was a vital part of the community. In later years, it operated a center for special-needs children in its basement. Scholarships from the church sent local students to college. The rectory next door was used as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“It was a vibrant place, full of energy and enthusiasm,” said Robin Williams, a retired juvenile court counselor who attended the church for 25 years.

The Rev. Jemonde Taylor, rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, another historically black church, worries about what the decline of churches like All Saints might mean for recruiting black clergy.

“More than 75 percent of black priests come out of historically black congregations,” said Taylor. “Those black churches lift people up for ministry. So if we don’t have black churches, will we no longer have black priests?”

The Episcopal Church does not keep records on race, but a Pew Research survey found that about 4 percent of Episcopal Church members identify as black.

The remaining members of All Saints now attend other Episcopal churches nearby. But they are not quite ready to abandon their old home. A group is exploring the possibility of reopening the closed structure to house some kind of ministry for the community, perhaps in partnership with another group. First, it needs some repairs, which is why the closing service was held at the elementary school.

“We have hope,” said Ratliff. “We know this is not it. Everybody’s coming together on the same page. What will the rest of the story be? We don’t know yet.”

The post As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop preaches in East Carolina, listens to stories of Hurricane Florence’s aftermath

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 3:23pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry shares a hug during his pastoral visit to the Diocese of East Carolina on Dec. 8 and 9. Photo: John Bauerlein

[Episcopal News Service – Wilmington, North Carolina] Three months after Hurricane Florence made landfall along the coast of North Carolina, many are living in what feels like a liminal space. The initial chaos of the storm has passed, but the state of disorientation and uprootedness has become the “new normal.”

During his pastoral visit last weekend in the Diocese of East Carolina, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry emphasized that he had come primarily to listen to the stories of those who had been impacted, to bear witness to the recovery work being done and to call members of the wider Episcopal Church to remember that their siblings in East Carolina are still in need.

The diocese includes the coastal third of North Carolina. Over the course of his two-day visit, Curry preached at a Sunday Eucharist and attended two additional gatherings that provided opportunities for community members to share their stories and time for Curry to respond pastorally.

The first gathering was held at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in the evening of Dec. 8.

At this gathering, three individuals from around the diocese shared their experiences prior to, during and in the aftermath of Florence. The thread that was woven through each of these stories was the importance of connection and caring for one another.

The Rev. Cortney Dale from Christ Episcopal Church in New Bern spoke about how her partners in ministry were invaluable during this time and allowed her to supply the essential needs of those in her community. Shirley Guion of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in New Bern shared the history of her parish, highlighting what a rock it had been for so many people, and how heartbreaking it had been to evacuate and return to major damages in her church.

Pam Banta, director of the St. Anne’s Parish Day School in Jacksonville, explained how she had been unable to evacuate, but she was grateful that she had been there amid the storm because it allowed her to begin the process of providing temporary fixes for leaks in school before others were able to return.

Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington on Sept. 14 with 90 mph winds, part of a particularly active hurricane season that left a path of destruction from the Gulf Coast to coastal Virginia. Florence was blamed for the deaths of 50 people.

Hurricane Michael made landfall a month later in the Florida Panhandle as an even more powerful storm with 155 mph winds, killing at least 40 people. Curry has scheduled a pastoral visit in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast in January.

On Dec. 9, Curry spent the morning with the congregation of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Southport. Due to damages to the congregation’s three main buildings, St. Philip’s is currently worshiping every Sunday in the Oak Island Moose Lodge.

Though being away from one’s church building provides a whole slew of headaches and complications, there seemed to be a lot of joy during the congregation’s Eucharist with Curry.

In his sermon, the presiding bishop emphasized the importance of remaining hopeful and continuing to dream, even if those dreams feel out of reach during times when everything around us is in disrepair.

A packed house at St. Philip's, Southport this morning, as @Pb_curry proclaimed a message of hope from Isaiah 40: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth.” #episcopal #ecdio pic.twitter.com/SQdv4TrcWS

— Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina (@EpiscopalECDio) December 9, 2018

The final gathering was another storytelling session, held in the afternoon Dec. 9 at St. James Parish, the oldest church in Wilmington.

The Rev. Jody Greenwood of Church of the Servant Episcopal Church,  Wilmington, shared what it has looked like to organize relief and recovery work in the Lower Cape Fear Deanery. Like Dale in New Bern, the relationships Greenwood has built with ministries and relief organizations has helped her connect those with time and resources with those who have needs.

Lisa Richey, dean of the Lower Cape Fear Deanery, shared some of her personal story and emphasized that there are many people in the deanery who have not yet recovered from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Just two short years later, they faced destruction once again during Florence.

– Lindsey Harts is communications coordinator for the Diocese of East Carolina. Episcopal News Service Reporter David Paulsen contributed to this report.

The post Presiding Bishop preaches in East Carolina, listens to stories of Hurricane Florence’s aftermath appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

‘In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void’

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 11:07am

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] In the heyday of America’s space program, the Apollo 8 mission that went aloft 50 years ago this month was a first in all of human exploration, not just that of space.

Humans left Earth’s orbit for the first time and headed to the moon nearly a quarter million miles away. Just shy of three days later, on Christmas Eve 1968, William A. Anders, Frank Borman and James A. Lovell Jr. put their spacecraft into lunar orbit and became the first people to see the far side of the moon. Later that day, they became the first to see the Earth rise over the lunar horizon.

“Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” astronaut William Anders said on Dec. 24, 1968, as he, Frank Borman and James A. Lovell Jr. rode the Apollo 8 space capsule through their fourth orbit of the moon. “The hair kind of went up on the back of my neck,” he later recalled. Anders grabbed a Hasselblad camera and snapped one of the most iconic images of the space age. As Anders saw it, the Earth “rose” from the moon’s side, not over the top as usually depicted. Photo: NASA

The astronauts did not keep secret their discoveries. They conveyed them from space to the people on Earth who were following their mission, and changed the way humans viewed their place in the universe.

As they came around the moon, the astronauts had a new vision of Earth, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told a large crowd gathered at Washington National Cathedral on the evening of Dec. 11.  “I wonder if, at some level, God whispered in their ears and said, ‘Behold. Behold the world of which you are a part. Look at it. Look at its symmetry, look at its beauty. Look at its wonder. Look at it. Behold your world.”

In addition to Curry, “The Spirit of Apollo” program at the cathedral featured Lovell, who also flew on Apollo 13, Gemini 7 and Gemini 12; Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator; Ellen R. Stofan, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and the Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of the cathedral. The five were invited to explore the spiritual meaning of exploration and the unity created by the mission’s Christmas Eve broadcast and the iconic “Earthrise” photo taken by one of the astronauts.

The program at the cathedral is one of a series of “Apollo 50” events leading up to a five-day celebration, July 16–20, 2019, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and on the National Mall to commemorate Apollo 11 and the first moon landing. The museum received $2 million from the Boeing Corp. to help pay for the cathedral event and all of the commemorations.

A view from the Apollo 8 spacecraft showing nearly the entire Western Hemisphere, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, including nearby Newfoundland, extending to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Central America is clearly outlined. Nearly all of South America is covered by clouds, except the high Andes Mountain chain along the west coast. A small portion of the bulge of West Africa shows as well. Photo: NASA

Hollerith suggested that Apollo 8 was “a holy journey not only for what it accomplished, but for what it revealed to us about our place in God’s grand creation.”

Curry said that “some have said that that moment changed human consciousness forever,” adding that the view of Earth from space showed “that we are a part of it, not the sum total of it.”

Lovell agreed, describing how he realized that his thumb could cover up the entire Earth as he saw it through the space capsule’s window. “In this cathedral, my world exists within these walls, but seeing the Earth at 240,000 miles, my world suddenly expanded to infinity,” he said.

“Just think: over three billion people, mountains, oceans, deserts, everything I ever knew was behind my thumb,” he said. “As I observed the Earth, I realized my home was a small planet. It is just a mere speck in our Milky Way galaxy and lost to oblivion in the universe.”

Lovell, who had received sustained applause and a standing ovation as he approached the lectern to begin his remarks, said he began to question his own existence, asking “how do I fit into what I see?”

Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell: “To me this would be a mini Lewis & Clark expedition; exploring new territory on the Moon’s far side.” #SpiritofApollo pic.twitter.com/0rzGMnbK6z

— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) December 12, 2018

As a near-capacity crowd gathered in the cathedral, the same waxing crescent moon hung in the sky that people on Earth saw on that Christmas Eve, and the International Space Station passed overhead during the Dec. 11 event, Stofan noted.

Images from space transform the exterior of Washington National Cathedral the night of Dec. 11 while, inside, hundreds of people gathered to honor the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

On Christmas Eve 1968, the crew spoke to Earth’s inhabitants in what was then the most watched TV broadcast. Anders began by describing the moon as “a rather foreboding horizon, a rather dark and unappetizing-looking place…

“We are now approaching lunar sunrise,” he then said. “And, for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you.

Anders began to read the biblical story of creation. After he recited verses 1-4 of the first chapter of Genesis, using the King James Version, Lovell read verses 5-8 and Borman read verses 9-10.

“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close, with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth,” Borman concluded the broadcast. It lasted just more than three minutes and was heard by an estimated 1 billion people around the world.

The mission commander, Borman, had been scheduled as a lector for the Christmas Day service at his parish, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in League City, Texas, until NASA moved up the launch date. “We kidded Frank about going to such lengths — all the way to the moon — to get out of … services,” the Rev. James Buckner told NBC News in 1999.

“Apollo 8 was full of surprises. We knew we were going to the moon. But hearing the story of creation beaming down to us on Christmas Eve, even the steely-eyed flight directors in Mission Control wept,” said Stofan. “Some of our bravest pilots and sailors, riding atop repurposed weapons of war, delivered a message of peace for all humankind. That was the spirt of Apollo.”

The nave of Washington National Cathedral was was bathed in blue light and stars on the night of Dec. 11. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the cathedral program, images of stars were projected on the vaulted ceiling of the nave and celestial images covered the building’s exterior. The Cathedral Choir performed “The Firmament,” which matched singing with a recording of the historic broadcast.

The iconic photo was a scramble to capture

“Earthrise” has been credited for inspiring the beginning of the environmental movement. It was included in Life Magazine’s 100 Photographs that Changed the World issue. Anders once told NASA that the crew was just starting to go behind the moon when he looked out of his window and, “saw all these stars, more stars than you could pick out constellations from.” Suddenly “I don’t know who said it, maybe all of us said, ‘Oh my God. Look at that!'” as they saw the Earth rise.

The vision set off a scramble to record the scene as the astronauts searched for a color film camera for Anders. The transcript relays the fear of any photographer of missing the shot.

“We came all this way to explore the Moon,” Anders once said, “and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

Curry mused on God’s reaction to Apollo 8. “I wonder if when they saw it, and then later we saw it, and when they read from Genesis, if God kind of gave a cosmic smile,” he said. “And I wonder if God said, ‘Now y’all see what I see.’ God says ‘y’all.’ It’s in the King James version of the Bible.”

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Apollo 8’s Earthrise photograph: “Some have said that was a moment that changed human consciousness forever.” #SpiritofApollo pic.twitter.com/ErHl6edScH

— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) December 12, 2018

Curry urged those gathered to rededicate themselves to exploration, and to the preservation of Earth.

“My brothers, my sisters, my siblings, may this commemoration be a moment of re-consecration and dedication to mount on eagles’ wings and fly, to explore new worlds, to seek out vast knowledge and then to mobilize the great knowledge of science and technology, and the wisdom of humans to save this oasis, our island home,” he said.

Curry then began to sing “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands,” the song that had been his refrain during his remarks. The Cathedral Choir slowly joined in and, at his urging, many in the gathering began to softly sing along.

The Apollo 8 mission had many dimensions

The mission and the Christmas Eve broadcast came at the end of a very trying year for a country that was “shaken by division and civil unrest,” in Stofan’s words.

The Tet Offensive in Vietnam at the end of January had shown the falsity of official claims that the war’s end was in sight. In April, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and riots broke out in more than 100 U.S. cities. Robert Kennedy was murdered in June after a presidential campaign appearance. Anti-war protests also roiled cities and college campuses.

Officially, the mission was designed to test the Apollo command module systems and evaluate crew performance on a lunar orbiting mission. The crew photographed the lunar surface, both far side and near side, obtaining information on topography and landmarks, as well as other scientific information necessary for future Apollo landings.

The three Apollo 8 astronauts, left to right, James A. Lovell Jr., command module pilot; William A. Anders, lunar module pilot, and Frank Borman, commander, pose Nov. 13, 1968, beside the Apollo Mission Simulator at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo: NASA

It also aimed to give the United States a huge lead in the space race with the Soviet Union. The desire to beat the Soviets to the moon was precisely what made NASA decide, based on intelligence it received in mid-1968, that the U.S.S.R. might be able to send astronauts to orbit the moon by the end of that year. In August, NASA turned Apollo 8 from an Earth-orbit test flight into a lunar mission. It was dangerous, and the three astronauts were, among other things, “Cold War warriors,” Bridenstine said in a press briefing before the event.

“Their Christmas Eve broadcast reached not just almost all of America, but tens of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain where Christmas was still illegal — and they reached them with a Christmas message,” he said during the program. “That is an amazing tool of national power, of soft power. The idea that we can change the perception of people all around the world towards the United States with space exploration and discovery and science, and that’s what NASA did in the Christmas of 1968.”

The NASA administrator said the cathedral program was also about the future of America’s role in space exploration. He noted that President Donald Trump has told the country it is going back to the moon. “I want to be clear,” Bridenstine said. “We’re going forward to the moon. We’re doing it in a way that has never been done before. This time when we go, we’re going to stay.”

He described “sustainable, reusable architecture” that will utilize the resources present on the moon, including “hundreds of billions of tons of water ice at the poles of the moon.” Astronauts will repeatedly go to the moon with commercial and international partners, he predicted, because that water can sustain them, and be used to produce the rocket fuel needed to get home.

Rather than the “contest of ideas” that marked the first race to the moon, Bridenstine said this future effort’s technology will be open-sourced and available to any nation, as well as a company or private individual “that also want to plug into that architecture in a commercial way.” He also predicted that the moon effort would be replicated “in our journey to Mars.”

Artist Rodney Winfield of St. Louis, Missouri, created the design for the cathedral’s Space Window to symbolize the macrocosm and microcosm of space, and to show the minuteness of humanity in God’s universe. It is the only stained glass window in the cathedral that incorporates all three lancets into a single image. The night of the Apollo 8 celebration, the window was illuminated by three spotlights mounted on tall scaffolding outside the south side of the cathedral. Photo: Washington National Cathedral

National Cathedral has a cosmic connection

The cathedral has long honored space travel. Its so-called “Space Window” contains a 7.18-gram basalt lunar rock from the Sea of Tranquility, donated to the cathedral by the crew of Apollo 11 (Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins). The window was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s lunar landing, July 21, 1974.

Hollerith, during his opening remarks, said the cathedral is “blessed to be stewards” of the 3.6-billion-year-old rock.

In January 1986, hundreds of mourners spontaneously came to the cathedral and laid wreaths of flowers beneath the window as a memorial to the scientists and technicians that it was designed to honor after the space shuttle Challenger exploded on liftoff. Then, 17 years later the cathedral hosted the national memorial service for the seven-member crew of space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003.

Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, was honored after his death in 2012 at a public service in the cathedral.

In a more prosaic vein, since 1986 a Darth Vader gargoyle, also known as a grotesque, has reigned over the dark, north side of the cathedral from its perch high on the northwest tower.

Apollo 8 headed home with big news

Shortly past midnight on Christmas morning, after just more than 20 hours and 10 orbits of the moon, the crew made history again when it ignited an engine burn to leave lunar orbit and start for home. Again, that firing had to take place on the moon’s far side, out of radio contact with mission control. People there listened anxiously for confirmation that the burn had powered Apollo 8 out of lunar orbit and toward Earth

“Roger, please be informed there is a Santa Claus,” Lovell radioed.

Read and see more about it

The on-demand broadcast can be viewed here.

The booklet for the Dec. 11 program is here.

The museum’s Apollo 50 page is here.

A NASA gallery of images from the Apollo 8 mission is here.

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

The post ‘In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void’ appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

St. Jude’s known as ‘the little church with the big heart’ in rural Ka’u

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 4:09pm

Bishop’s Warden Cordelia Burt opens the door to Shelia’s Showers at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Ocean View, Hawai’i. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Ocean View, Hawai’i] The lay leadership at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church here in Ocean View has turned the small church in this rural, underserved region of the Big Island into a beacon of light and hope; it lives up to its reputation as “the little church with the big heart.”

Under the dedicated leadership of bishop’s warden Cordelia Burt and a small group of lay members serving on the bishop’s committee, St. Jude’s is more than a congregation. It’s a family, they say, attracting people from all walks of life, from the richest to the poorest, those living on estates, those living in tents.

From left, Cindy Butts, Cordelia Burt and Karen Pucci, three of St. Jude’s lay leaders. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“Everybody comes in, everybody comes in. Until you do something completely stupid, you are in,” said Karen Pucci, a St. Jude’s member.

“And there are those that do stupid things,” said Cindy Cutts, who handles the congregation’s communications.

“But it takes quite a bit,” added Pucci, the women bursting into laughter. “You really do need to get the red flag out there and chase the bull.”

“Me being the bull,” said Burt.

Hawai’i’s Big Island covers just more than 5,000 square miles and is home to some 200,000 people, many of them veterans and many of them living well below the poverty line, according to U.S. census data. It’s home to full- and part-time residents, and others living off the grid, in substandard housing or even tents, St. Jude’s leaders said.

It’s the off-the-grid folks and the hungry, homeless, technologically underserved, lost, lonely and forgotten who’ve inspired much of the congregation’s social outreach, including its shower ministry, named for a now deceased transsexual member of the parish, Shelia, who stopped attending Sunday services.

The rules and regulations for Shelia’s Shower’s are posted outside of St. Jude’s. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“She wasn’t coming to church for a while and we knew she was sick, and her partner said she’s not coming to church because she doesn’t have any way to take a shower,” said Burt. “We’d been looking into building showers and doing this, and so I found out that they had no way of getting water, their landlord didn’t give them a hose. The landlord said if they didn’t buy cigarettes, they’d have enough money for a hose.

“Long story short, when we learned that Shelia wasn’t coming to church because she couldn’t take a shower, we went and bought a hose, and I took a bar of soap over and gave it to them. And for as long as Shelia could make it, she came to church every Sunday, and the sad part of the story is we didn’t get the shower up and running until after Shelia died.”

“We decided that we would name the showers Shelia’s showers because she would have loved to have had hot water,” added Cutts.

Here’s how it works. On Saturday mornings, volunteers arrive at 8 a.m. and put on the coffee and the soup. At 9 a.m., shower patrons beginning signing up to use one of the two showers. Sign up ends at 12:30 p.m. and the volunteers stay until the last patron showers. Before St. Jude’s installed a second shower, it might be 4 p.m. by the time the last patron showered. Now, with two showers, it’s more like 12:30 or 1 p.m., the leaders said.

“One of our first patrons that used the showers, when she came out of the shower, we have two people — male and female — sitting out there dispensing the shampoo, the conditioner, the body wash. Fresh towels, we supply all of that, and she was crying and Beverly [the volunteer] thought, ‘oh my God, was the water too hot?’ And she said, ‘no, this is the first time in 6 months that I’ve had hot water on my head.’”

Additional social services St. Jude’s provides to the community include hosting the county’s senior nutrition program, a food pantry, free veterinary services, free Wi-Fi and electronics charging stations, a computer lab and space for 12-step addiction recovery programs and for community organizations.

St. Jude’s is one of five parishes on the Big Island, the youngest, largest and easternmost of the archipelago’s eight main islands. In May, Kilauea volcano’s eruption and the lava river that followed destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced many other families. Holy Apostles in Hilo, the island’s largest and only incorporated city, continues its long-term response to the eruption.

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

The post St. Jude’s known as ‘the little church with the big heart’ in rural Ka’u appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal delegation steps up church’s advocacy for climate action at COP24 in Poland

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 2:56pm

California Bishop Marc Andrus, center, is leading an Episcopal delegation to the United Nations’ COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland. The delegation also has included Alan Yarborough, left, Office of Government Relations communications officer, and the Rev. Rev. Lester Mackenzie, right of Andrus. Photo: Lynnaia Main

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal delegation in Poland is past the halfway mark of its advocacy on behalf of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the United Nations climate conference known as COP24, including meetings with representatives from member nations to share details of the church’s positions as set by General Convention.

COP24, known officially as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is following a range of “work streams” related to climate change: loss and damage, mitigation, adaptation, finance and ambition.

“Our hope is to not only learn about these important areas, but to help the church connect with them,” California Bishop Marc Andrus, who is leading the Episcopal delegation, told Episcopal News Service in a written summary of his team’s activities. He added that the Episcopal team members will produce reports on those activities afterward that will be shared with the wider church.

COP24 kicked off Dec. 2 in Katowice, Poland, and runs through Dec. 14, and one of its top goals is to hammer out a framework for implementing the Paris Agreement, which was reached in 2015 at the 21st conference.

The Episcopal Church began attending the conference that year, making this the fourth Episcopal delegation. Joining Andrus for both weeks is Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, and Andrus’ wife, Sheila Andrus, an ecological entomologist representing the Diocese of California.

The rest of the delegation is split between the conference’s two weeks, with the first week including the Rev. Lester Mackenzie of Laguna Beach, California; Alan Yarborough, Office of Government Relations communications officer, and the Rev. Melanie Mullen, Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, evangelism and creation care. For the second week, they have handed off to Andrew Thompson, an environmental ethicist at Sewanee: University of the South, and Jack Cobb, the Office of Government Relations’ domestic and environmental policy adviser.

Each member of the Episcopal delegation is tracking one of the COP24 work streams as the team promotes keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius, a more ambitious target than the Paris Agreement’s 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists predict would be necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

“We delegates carry in our hearts the many ways that Episcopalians are already suffering from the early effects of climate change and feel the responsibility to represent those most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” Andrus said.

In addition to making that case directly to member nations, the Episcopalians at COP24 are participating in panel discussions, conferring with ecumenical partners and joining worship and prayer services.

California Bishop Marc Andrus, right, participates in a panel discussion Dec. 7 at the United States Climate Action Center during COP24 in Poland. Photo: Lynnaia Main

On Dec. 7, Andrus served on a panel discussion of the We Are Still In movement. “I was able to talk about our historic commitments around climate and environment at the 79th General Convention, and our movement to reduce the carbon footprint of the Episcopal Church by supporting individual and community sustainability choices,” Andrus said.

Environmental justice is one of the church’s three main priorities, along with racial reconciliation and evangelism. Over the years, General Convention has passed numerous resolutions on the issue, whether supporting federal climate action or pledging to mitigate the church’s own impact on the environment.

We Are Still In brings together the Episcopal Church and many of its faith partners, as well as governments, nongovernmental organizations and companies, in committing to uphold the Paris Agreement despite the Trump administration’s vow to withdraw the United States. One of the Episcopal delegation’s tasks at COP24 has been to draft a response to the U.S. delegation’s effort to block “welcoming” a report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In 2016, the Episcopal Church was granted U.N. observer status, which allows members of the delegation to brief U.N. representatives on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention climate resolutions and to attend meetings in the official zone.

On Dec. 8, the Episcopal delegation participated in a prayer vigil in support of the Gwich’in, indigenous people in Alaska whose traditional way of life faces threats from oil exploration and rising temperatures in the Arctic. The Episcopal Church has rallied behind the cause of the Gwich’in, first through its House of Bishops and then at General Convention in July, when Gwich’in activist Bernadette Demientieff spoke at a joint session on care of creation.

Andrus and his COP24 team also attended an ecumenical worship service on Dec. 9 in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Katowice, and the first week included a reception hosted by the Brahma Kumaris Hindu order and an interfaith Talanoa Dialog, a tradition that originates in Pacific island nations.

The Episcopal delegation’s second-week team has hit the ground running, Andrus said, with plans to host an event Dec. 12 to show video of a sermon that Curry is scheduled to give Dec. 11 at Washington National Cathedral commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 space flight.

“After watching the video, we will be discussing what it means to see the Earth as a whole from outside of itself,” Andrus said. “I feel that those splendid, tender images have changed our minds and souls and contributed to our sense that life is deeply interconnected, and that all of life is mutually responsible.”

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

The post Episcopal delegation steps up church’s advocacy for climate action at COP24 in Poland appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Malawi’s president praises Anglican social ministry on hospital’s 120th anniversary

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 4:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The president of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, has praised the Anglican Church in the country, commending it “for the social services you provide to Malawians” as it marks the 120th anniversary of St. Martin’s Anglican hospital in the Mangochi district of southern Malawi. St. Martin’s was founded in 1898 as a single-nurse facility, providing basic medical care for missionaries and their families. Within five years it had developed and was providing care for 350 patients a month. It has continued to grow, and today, it serves a population of around 40,000 people at its site and through a mobile medical unit.

The post Malawi’s president praises Anglican social ministry on hospital’s 120th anniversary appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

English church receives outpouring of support after arson attack forces cancelation of services

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 4:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Church of England parish church in Hertfordshire was forced to cancel services Dec. 10 after arsonists caused significant damage to the building. Neighboring churches offered to assist – including the independent Trinity Life Church, which invited St. John’s congregation to use its Town Hall base as a venue for tea and coffee. Trinity Life also invited congregation members to join them for their 10:30 a.m. service, as did Melbourn Baptist Church. Neighboring Church of England parishes have also offered support.

The post English church receives outpouring of support after arson attack forces cancelation of services appeared first on Episcopal News Service.